Tag Archive: jungle


Skeinsday, 4 Anthuary

Earned 32 / Spent 9

Savings 21,423

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The Disc created an eclipse last week, stranding Kernel in darkness. 

Sometimes the Disc appears to disappear behind the Sun, and other times it flits across its surface like a semitransparent lens, between it and Terrene.  How does it work?  Some people claim not to even see the Disc, but this we attribute to the madness that infects the worst of those locked up in The Den, or those we feel should be in there instead of out here in the muddy thoroughfares of Kernel proper.

As the shadows melted into one another, I leant out the window of my small place on Capital Hill, chin in palm.  The town is a strange place at night, a bowl of dirt surrounded by jungle.  The stillness of the empty streets is a stark contrast to the rustling, shifting wall of leaf and vine at the town’s edge.

You see in black and white at night.  It’s all black shadow and faint white reflections of the moon on the thin surfaces of every leaf and rooftop.  The jungle’s edge is like a massive scaled surface, and within are the flornae that thrive in this cool lowlight: the vegesaurs and cauliraptors, and the carnivorous pitchers and traps that wait for wandering mammals to pass into their toxic jaws.

I spent a few days watching the courtship of two xylem on the balcony outside my window.  The little things have wandered up from the houses on either side of mine, meeting in the middle to perform their leafy little dances around each other.

These were small for xylem – I could hold either of them in my hand – but what they lacked in stature they make up for in energy.  They tottered around on their two stems, smoothing back the branches atop their heads like little bouffants.  Some days they chased each other (the one with the darker bark was the male, I think) and they played games, teased one another.  They had very similar branching structure (I’m told that this is a good indicator of mating in the wild, a natural reinforcement of genetic material through breeding) and matched one another’s movements as though they were reflections.

I knew in my heart that nothing would come of it.  Both of these were domesticated xylem, probably since plantation, and they belong to other people.  Their owners soon put a stop to the playful courtship by bordering up their fences to stop them getting out.

It’s probably for the best.  These small things come and go, but for the xylem to inseminate and produce pods would not help anybody; wild xylem are a nuisance to the seed growers on which our economy relies.  Even domesticated ones are a reminder of the ancient pact they have with the maréchaussée.

Still, I feel for the two who are kept apart, knowing that they belong together.  Meanwhile the eclipse goes on.

— RSR

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I found these pages of my journal, which I wrote on scraps in a café in Bracken a few weeks ago.  Having written in my book since I must stick them here, but when I look back at these words (if I ever do) I will see the date and know where it belongs in my personal, private timeline…

-RSR

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Skeinsday, 16 Vernuz

Earned 37 / Spent 4

Savings 18,338

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Slowly, our plan of action comes together.

After speaking on the brineline our common goals came into synchronization.  The plan was for me to meet Foist in Metrodon, and from there we would travel the whole of Terrene together. 

Some places were high on Foist’s list; these might be lower on mine.  We both made sacrifices.  But the key places, the important places, were the first ones that we agreed.  Now we have a fine plan, and my map is covered in red dots and dashes, arrows and annotations.  We’ve tracked zeppelin routes and primary train lines, marked the border gates where a certain visa, pass or faith is required to cross.  We’ve researched all the recommendations when it comes to bribes or sacrificial offerings (which it often will).  There will need to be other arrangements: tour guides, translators, equipment, and most of all, seeds.

I have fair savings.  So does Foist.  She’s not been slack in saving either, and together we will have just enough to travel on.  Bless her, she’s been giving up her luxuries one by one.  The brineline was the only strictly unnecessary expense she’s made in months.

The itinerary comes together.  Soon we had a plan.  It’s all written there, in the pages of my notebook, on slips in this journal, or in tiny neat letters in the blanks spaces of the map.

I will leave Kernel, waving goodbye to the Den and the muddy thoroughfare and the endless running.  I’ll pass through Becken by stagecoach, then overland some other way to the edge of the jungle.  A sequence of trains will take me, in days, to Metrodon.

From there Foist and I are together again for the rest of the adventure: a zeppelin flight to Tinder, the land of spice, then by rail and longmule to Shangri-La in the mountains.  It will be cold and the next borders are patrolled by militia, closed to all visitors.  There the maréchaussée will be all over the hills and desert, drawing lines from the Umber Plains to the Jade Reefs. 

The varied landscape of the Jade Reefs will be our home for a few weeks as we move to the east coast, then south.  Beyond Embassy is the stretched coastal landscape of the Lower East, Namma, and turning back west through the deeper forests we’ll make our way to the Regency of Golden Statues. 

By then it will be Torp, maybe even Vernuz.  A few weeks later will see us down the continent’s tapering peninsula to the Scattered Isles, where the sun burns the white sand to glass under your bare feet.  We’ll fly to the Redland and, from there, to the Zeauk islands.  Maybe under those dense canopies I’ll begin to miss Kernel, almost a year from now.  Maybe I won’t.  I’ll see Hollystar before I see these vegesaur-infested jungles again.

The trip will see us from Senescence this year right through the winter into late Pollinary.  Those months will be long and rough and dirty, full of stuffy trains and difficult horses, cramped zeppelin cradles and layers of culture shock.  We’ll require jabs from the apothecary and the courier’s Union will need to know that I’m leaving for half a year.  I’ll be saying goodbye to my life for over six months, but it’ll be worth it.

— RSR

Knot, 12 Torp

Earned 0 / Spent 8

Savings 17,361

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I thought it was a dream.

The jungle north of Kernel is a thick place, dense with vegetation and teeming with unclassifiable wildlife.  Trees wider than I am tall reached up and up all around me; everywhere a tree seemed to block the way.  There was no clear path.

When I moved, branches clawed at my face and clothes.  Sometimes I found that they’d closed a fist on my tunic and I had to tear it to get free.  Terror is beyond the usual definition of emotion.  It is a kind of fever that comes, temporarily, to debilitate you past the capability of useful function.

I screamed but the jungle was too close to give me an echo.  Like a pillow of finest mellowbird, it muffled all the sounds I made.  I ran in silence.

At some point I became aware that the Earthen Crustaceans had awoken.  The heat of their bodies wilted the thick leaves of the bonyik trees, shrivelling vines to gnarled twists of fibre.  I couldn’t see their faces because of the dripping canopy, but their limbs punched through the foliage like gargantuan shivs ten times the height of my shack on Capital Hill.  Their presence is massive, their mass incomprehensible.  To them, I am an ant.  To me, they are gods striding across this dark and frozen country.

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You know when it’s Torp in Kernel.  The ground is as hard as granite, caked with rimy frost soon worn smooth by arctic winds.  These slick white runners curve across the face of the town like blanched muscles, ribbed and sculpted, in some places dirtied by the blood of those who have slipped.

Winter here is nowhere near as harsh as, say, the Red Republic to the northeast, or at the uninhabited poles.  The cold snaps bring in wild shili from the wet regions to the south, and they stride into the fringe towns on their impossible legs, dropping rain from their dehydrating bodies high above.  These towering fish-things congregate near the water tower, sensing the moisture within its copper shell.  At sundown their skin and scales begin to freeze over, and one by one they saunter down to water again to rest their limbs in the depths.  A warmly-dressed observer could witness their bodies floating on the surface like rubber ducks, with long legs trailing behind them like jellyfish tendrils beneath the surface.

When running you can hear the frost crunching as it manifests in the creases of your clothes.  In the stagecoach the snowflake patterns spider across the glass.  Looking through it, the world is a dusted fairyland.  It is a stark contrast with the summer fertility of the rainforest.  In the month of Torp at least its relentless growth is stymied – temporarily. 

And on the other side of Terrene there is Foist, who I imagine in the warmer climes, dressed in skirts and  shawls the colour of terra-cotta.  She smiles in the bright sunlight between patches of refreshing shade.  It is the other side of the world.  On days like this I feel the distance between us and miss her terribly. 

In a few months it will be Spring, and the month of Pollinary will come with a burst and a flourish, brightness and warmth, and I will wake to the sunshine and have to close the curtains at night so that it’s dark enough to sleep.

— RSR

Bloomsday, 08 Torp

Earned 26 / Spent 13

Savings 17,310

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It’s not good business to argue with a customer, but sometimes they’re asking for it.

Today I took the jungle route to Beckon with the PMU’s negotiation package.  The path had been worn by the constant rain to a slimy brown trail between the stumps of trees.  I passed Kernel’s two rotormen, who were busy keeping the rainforest at bay: mechanised exoskeletons buzzed and licked at the thick branches.  Metal teeth burred through wood, sending showers of green leaves and droplets of sap over me as I ran beneath.

Every day we attack the edges of the unrelenting jungle; every night it regrows, pressing in on Kernel and the surrounding districts that grow beside us like secondary infections.  If those rotormen bought it I don’t know what we’d do.

Deeper into the root of the verdent archipelago I went, trying not to smell like vegesaur food.  Once or twice I thought I heard the bass clucking of cauliraptor chit-chat, and pumped my muscles all the harder to break out the other side and back to civilization.

Beckon is a wide expanse of low valley-and-hill, where rainwater from the jungle trickles into great lakes that have collected in the bowls of these rambling dales.  Where three lakes point towards the north-east, there is a country home built by pre-Displacement natives – a house, a small kirk, some stables. 

They were peculiar people, the natives: intelligent and at home in the wilds of Terrene, they evolved to Victorian-era tech long before Kernel was conceived of.  Much of the estate is steam-powered, and I heard it before I found my way out from the trees – belching steam and the clunk of turbines and wood-powered motors.

The natives were also deeply suspicious, and protective of what they had.  Escape tunnels run beneath the hills, wide enough for horse and carriage; a zepellin pad is hidden in plain sight, painted (I’m told) to look exactly like another pond.  One of the lakes is now a reservoir for Beckon and Kernel, and rumour has it that a brass microchosm sits on its bottom, complete with lounge and kitchen and bedrooms, and coral gardens on three sides.  They fear thieves and they fear invadors, though no-one from Kernal has ever shown them the slightest discourtesy.

The estate owners have been good clients of the PMU for years, but now they want another courier service.  ‘Haven’t we done our best?’ we ask, but those people at Beckon who know the answer are stricken with the moss, and are no longer involved in the running of the country house and its grounds.  They may not be long for this world.  Their replacements are harder, more akin to the ancient natives, disguised by their huge mustaches and coats of coarse gitten hair.

They speak better Context than I do native, but I had to strain my ear to understand them.  Still tired from the run from Kernel, I had to hide my panting as I offered them our negotiation package.

‘You cost too many seeds,’ said one. ‘Last year we gave you oyster pearl.’

A pearl to these people is worth a lot, equivalent to a handful of walnuts in Kernel.  They have more in common with the weird crab people of the Jade Reefs that the Kernelites, with their water-based interests and seal-skin shoes.   

Another said, from behind his walrus ‘tache, ‘We have other courier units at us.  They talk about…’

Some whispering between them as they searched for the right word in Context.

‘…Transparency.’

‘Transparency?’ I said.

‘Want to know what the fee is for.  How it … breaks down.’

The first of many little issues, niggling matters introduced by the sneaky salespeople of the other couriers.  It’s hard to look like you’re considering a matter seriously whilst running on the spot, but they’re used to couriers being like this.  And the moist air helped my root infestation, calming down the thrashing tendrils.  The greeting room was filled with steam; the brass panelling and windows dripped with condensed vapour.

After three hours I was glad to leave.  They have the package from the PMU, they have our arguments.  If they’re going to move units then we can’t stop them, only cross our fingers.

On the busy days, I forget about the Disc.  But when the sun sets and I catch a breath, I find the air heavy and warm, and I am stifled.

 

— RSR