Tag Archive: maréchaussée


Bloomsday, 8 Pollinary

Earned 32 / Spent 4

Savings 18,794

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There is a pagan holiday that comes every Pollinary.  The day falling the weekend immediately following the appearance of the first buds on the bonyik tree.  The next Budsday is a bank holiday, and all the shops and shutters of Kernel close to the cool morning and people fill the streets with banners. 

The long weekend was welcome, but today it was back to work as usual.  I awoke surprisingly easily, a few minutes after dawn, but only reached a low plateau of consciousness as I washed and cleaned and set out down Capital Hill to the thoroughfare.

The sun was low in the cloud-scuffed sky, drawing long shadows from my drakeroot-infested feet.  The golden needles are helping keep the ‘root at bay, and I can feel that it’s almost gone from me now.  But it only takes a single sight or smell to remind me of the shadow cast by the Disc in the heavens, the presence of which draws out the thrashing tendrils of root from my hard and cracked shins. 

A semi-feral xylem crossed the road in front of me.  The pint-sized tree-man moved stiffly but quickly through the dried mud from last night’s rain, climbed up the kerb, and turned its faceless head to the sun to photosynthesise for a moment.  Then it ran on, past my legs with a rustle of twig and tiny leaf, and around a corner.

They’re simple creatures, kept as pets by some and tools for the maréchaussée – trained sniff-hounds and translators for the suspicious goons behind the helmets.  The sight of a wild one going about its business, a small and scurrying shape as alive as I am, brings a twinge of darkness and pain to me from the psycho-sympathetic drakeroot inside me.

It’s Pollinary but not yet Spring, with the month of Frost still too recent a memory.  But this week comes with the traditional Pollinary showers; the clouds dump their heavy loads during the night, flooding the thoroughfare and making a mire of the mud and woodchip beneath the stilted huts of the Den.  Close by the jungle you can hear it beat the upper canopy like the tattoo of a furious water god. 

On all sides of Kernel the jungle is coming alive again (not that it ever stays still).  Flora big and small flourishes in the fast and frequent downpours.  A path I took on Skeinsday was overrun by thick, twining vines by Fallsday, impassable.  The trunks of the biggest bonyiks literally groan as they fill and distend. 

On Fallsday I heard of a caulirator that rampaged through the township.  Flushed with rainwater, scales bright red and green about its snout, it swept down alley and street in a delirious frenzy brought about by the storm influx.  Only the gods know what would have happened if that had been a full-grown vegesaur, which are no doubt soaking up the moisture in saturated fugues in their dens somewhere deep in the forest.

My jog took me past Anchor Point, as it does every morning, and I saw where the rotormen were frantically trying to keep the jungle at bay with their immense machinery.  They’d felled a massive sprouting bloodwood that had threatened to infect that part of the forest, and I had a clear view over the lowlands to the coastal hill.  The Castle in the Mist remained as impassive as ever, overlooking the harbour’s construction in its serene air of permanence.  I realised that a path was being cut to join the harbour to Kernel – more work for the rotormen, who were now entering their busy period.

Guitarróns twanged nearby, but I couldn’t tear my gaze from the Castle.  Even so enthralled and moved, I knew that I would see even grander sights once I left with Foist for our trip around the world.  Who knew what grand landscapes we’d see on the majestic Umber Plains, or the wonders we’d witness in the Regency of Golden Statues? 

I’ve yet to tell Grouter that I’ll be taking a long leave of absence. I dread the day that I have to tell him, but that day is a few months away yet.  There’s yet to be a twang of doubt in me about the trip, but as though I needed to steel my nerves I came across eight members of the Chaiyya on a pilgrimage from the Castle.  There these spiritual leaders of the braves operate and maintain the Castle’s lighthouse function, turning the mirror every second of the night whilst a fellow devotee tends its eternal flame.  Two of these travellers plucked at guitarróns, whilst another pair sang in low, ululating voices. 

The leader pulled back his green hood and smiled at me. ‘Are you on your way to better things, my son?’

‘I hope so,’ I said, and I meant it.

— 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

Budsday, 19 Frost

Earned 24 / Spent 15

Savings 17,130

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You know the maréchaussée are out in force when you never see any of them.

The weather drives everybody out of the streets.  Kernel never could cope with rain.  It’s the proximity of the jungle, pressing in close at the edges of the town: all that water makes it alive, alive, thrashing with life and the things that live in it … Hundreds of birds, some as big as a man, and lizards in flickering lounges that sometimes dash out from the protection of the trees – out across the mud to snatch at waterlogged insects.  Vegesaurs thunder through the forest, agitated by the weather.  They hate it.  Cauliraptors stalk the boundary of the jungle as they wait for the rain to let up.  You’ve never seen so many cauliraptors.

Yet I haven’t seen a single member of the maréchaussée this week.  That makes me nervous.

Rain comes when you need it, I’ve found.  You look up and realise the sky is as grey as your mood.  The Disc is close to eclipsing the sun.  When you feel like crying, sometimes the sky does it for you – long and hard, the sound of clouds overlapping coming like wracking sobs

Running has worn me out.  Yesterday in the cold Frost dark I wound my way to the alchemist.  I walked.  They named the month right: it was freezing.  Up past the Den I went in the rain, watching the trees lean out over the ramshackle town of treehouses.  The people of the Den are crazy most days, but in the rain they scratch themselves with anxiety with the jungle towering over them, growing greener and thicker.  I swear I saw vines curling over the suspended walkways like grasping fingers.  Xylem were tearing about the place, little mischief makers in the downpour.  They just soak it up into their branches and hunker down in the slippery earth to digest.  Rain doesn’t bother the xylem.

It was a new alchemist, and ex apothecary, but she was sure and fresh.  She wore the hood and hemp of the trade, rough material surrounding her smooth face.  I tell her about the root, I tell her about the running.  When she asked to take a sample, she surprised me by finding a thread at the side of my neck, under my ear: a tiny root tendril that has growth through the skin.  One of the earliest sign of Drakeroot addiction. 

She pulled on it and I screamed; the extraction was agonising, drawn out, and I sobbed through the process as the thread was pulled out from under the skin like a tapeworm, tugging the muscle of my neck and shoulder and chest.  Eventually she had the whole thread.  She ran it through her fingers and said she could help, prescribed a totem painted in two halves, blue and blue, that I’m to strap to my stomach and touch three times a day.

Blue and blue, there’s irony there – but you don’t care much in the rain, even when the rainforest presses in. 

In the sky, the sun is almost completely covered by the Disc.  That hasn’t happened in six or seven years.  There are whispers of another Displacement. 

I’m not sure we can handle a second one.

— RSR