Tag Archive: RSR

The following is a recovered document, found by maréchaussée in outside waste recepticle near the property of RSR.


Knot, 6 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 6

Savings 19,576

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

I don’t often see Papa Michelle, and although we arrange to meet every six months or so, for the last ten years I’ve probably only seen him ten times.  He’s changed in that decade though: larger, greyer, a gentler giant.  He draws in his travel-weary visitor and we sit and small-talk and eat a rich meal of braised gitten.  Late in the night, after chatter about not much at all and once the large oak table was stained by vine poteen, I retired to a bed under an array of exposed beams with the foreign stars casting their light across the room.

There is a clearwater lake not far from the chalets and first thing in the morning I hurl myself into it.  The cold depths rush to swallow me, and half a minute goes by as I let the water sting my open eyes.  They take in the mossy rocks, with long tendrils of weed caught between them like food between teeth, and the trout propelling themselves lazily over smooth pebbles.

When I breach the surface I draw warm air into my lungs and wash the hair from my eyes.  I haven’t swum in years.  The lake isn’t all that cold now, and the water soothes my drakeroot infestation.

Papa Michelle and Mama Jeanne-Stempe keep domesticated promicrocera in a hutch around the back of the main building.  We went to feed them, then took an old one that no longer laid its leathery eggs and wrung its neck.  I kept my hands away from its snapping jaws and then broke off its useless forearms and tail, which popped off like a gecko’s, and helped Michelle tie its longer back limbs to its body with twine.  Trussed up, we scraped away the scales and washed the grey underflesh, then left it in the oven for hours as we read and wished that the Disc wasn’t occluding quite so much of the sun outside.

Once the promicrocerus was done I watched him hack it apart with a cleaver on the kitchen table.  The metal tray, running with thin pinkish blood, was drained into the sink as I brought out the mincer.  We fed the pieces into the machine and turned its crank; fine meat exuded in lumpy laces from the nozzle.  We made burgers and sausages, full of herbs and fruit, which we left to ‘cure’ for a day or two before they were ready to eat.

Jeanne-Stempe does at least half the meatwork, talking in a singsong voice and enjoying this mucky business.  We chat and joke, stopping intermittently to wash our hands, until it’s time to open another bottle.

It was interesting watching Michelle work.  The great figure moved around the table unencumbered by his weight.  He tossed the creature’s fibrous bones into a bowl for burning; these and cauliraptors’ and vegesaurs’ make great firewood, especially when left to soak up fatty fuel. Not much went to waste; in his years of rural exile he’s picked up many local customs. 

Their poteen comes from a local vineyard; their eggs come from their promicrocera.  An orchard to the south, which catches most of the day’s sun, bequeaths them apples and pinenuts and valuable walnuts, which they keep for trade.

One night we sat under the ivy-choked gazebo and listened to the crickets bray, eating gitten cheese and bread and promicrocera paté – then with port, for desert, cracked open a few of the walnuts and ate them.  Each one is almost a week’s wage for a courier like me.  Michelle and Jeanne-Stempe are not rich, but they are not wanting.  Unlike most people in Kernel, they own all of their property and only pay for their fuel and heating, and to replenish supplies for the chalets.

On my last morning I went for a long walk between the neighbouring farms, stopping to pet the gittens who bleat in my wake, and stare up at the clumps of mistletoe feeding off the branches of nearby trees.  If I could have climbed up there and get some, I could have returned to Kernel a little wealthier: white mistletoe berries are as good as seeds back home.  But a weariness had taken over me, and I lay on the hot tarmac where traffic seldom comes and imagined Foist lying next to me, beautiful and young, and wondered what it would be like to age slowly in a place like this away from everything.

We ate the burgers that night, not talking much.  There was no point mentioning Kernel, or my mother, Michelle’s first wife.  Those are times long gone that don’t sting anymore, only loiter in the memory as an unseen shape seen from the corner of the eye, there but not quite there, not mindfully there, only a shadow burnt into the lining of the mind a long time ago.

Dawn came.  I awoke under the beams of my room, testing my eyes for reactions against the low morning light.  I showered, ate a quick breakfast of pastries and yoghurt, and then packed for the carriages.  They towed me the zeppelin hangars, and I caught myself looking back toward Farm Jeanne-Stempe just as I’d looked back at the carriage that brought me here.

I pondered this on the airship home, back over the farmland and out of Rureau, to the carpet of luscious green that is the rainforest between the countries, and at last to Kernel, where the shadow of the Disc follows me always.  It was raining as I dashed back into the house on Capital Hill.  The place was silent as I shook the rain off my jacket and hung it on the hook.



Bloomsday, 8 Pollinary

Earned 32 / Spent 4

Savings 18,794

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

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.


Budsday, 25 Vernuz

Earned 40 / Spent 5

Savings 18,578

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

I went to the library to check the medical tomes.  I had to pass through a corner of the Den to get to it, where it sits in a glade set deep within the denser jungle.  The freaks of the Den ogled me as I ran between the stilts of the elevated shakes, dipping in and out of the shadows cast by the ramshackle walkways. 

Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll join them one time soon: these poor souls whose person Displacement to Terrene meant total madness, and disassociation from everything we call civilized or sensible.

The library smelled of dusty paper and rot.  You get used to it after a while, but the only other time I came I lingered too long in the stacks, and came out with a weird respiratory anomaly that wouldn’t let up for weeks.  Finally I hacked up a clump of dark, wet fungus.

I flicked through the books until the sun slanted through the mouldy skylight rather than the east-facing windows.  This was for evidence of foreign disease, which I’ll need to be on the look out for once Foist and I leave.  The illustrations in the journals and tomes are sickening livid: Bursting Encephalitis, the Purple Pin plague, thyphilious transmogrification sickness, and other freakish contractions known to the Jade Reefs and nearby regions. 

The locals are immune to some of these – The crabpeople of the reefs are genetically proofed against stinging roids and leaping sun spurs, for example – but they can be distressing, sometimes fatal, for travellers.

I made a list for the apothecary and steeled myself for jabs.  After months of the golden needle though I feel adequately prepared.

And I’ve noted the abatement of the thrashing drakeroot infestation, which now does not react when the Disc is in view, and do not miss chewing the root as my running slows.  Things have been easier – is this because I know that I’ll soon be gone?  Has it been my outlook that affected me so badly these last few months?

If I’ve done it to myself, then I can do the opposite.  With Foist, around the world, we can do anything.


Bloomsday, 14 Vernuz

Earned 39 / Spent 5

Savings 18,269

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

Foist and I plot and plan.  Our letters to each other have never been exchanged so frequently.  Volatus, the mail man, noticed the change in me and wondered if I’m now writing to two women, three maybe?

‘You won’t have to haul my letters much longer, Volatus,’ I said, snatching the envelopes out of his hand. ‘In a few months, I’ll be gone.’

He blinked. ‘You’re leaving Capital Hill?’

‘I’m leaving Kernel,’ I said, and closed the door.

Foist is excited.  Her words tremble on the page, or is that just my eyes?  She’s thrilled to be leaving Metrodon, where she’s lived for too long, and that she will see and experience something new.

I unrolled a huge map across the floor.  Hundreds of miles away, I knew that Foist was doing the same.  We traced invisible lines across the whole of Terrene, from Kernel to Metrodon and beyond, moving east, east, across mountain ranges and continents, across rivers and oceans and islands.

But it got too hard to understand one another, in our long, rambling letters.  We talked as though we could look through one another’s eyes.  We misunderstood each other, wasting paragraphs, and started scrawling ungainly maps and diagrams onto scraps of paper to fill the void in our understanding. 

Then I was at the Union distribution centre, waiting for the next packet to deliver (the Queen over in Torment has prepped PMU for an alarming number of impending pick-ups and runs) and Steph Jarvie came to me, expression unreadable, to say, ‘Brineline.  For you.’

The brineline.  It hadn’t sung in a week, and it’s never sung for me.  I climbed the steps to the overseer’s office and found the door open, Grouter leaning back in his chair with his eyebrows raised.  Written all over his gnomic face was some emotion, or mischief, and as always I couldn’t quite read him.  He pointed to the brineline receiver, which was out the pool and waiting.

Silently I picked up the receiver and peeled back its petals.  The veins were wet and pulpy in my hand, and the cord dropped on my feet and the floor.  I’d never used the expensive brineline before but I knew how it worked: breathe into the hollow stem and millions of water cells unfold into a resonant crystalline formation, through which a person’s voice can carry over tremendous distances.


There was a pause.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was still surprised to hear the voice on the other end of the line.  I could almost hear her smile.

‘Hello, Reks, baby.  Let’s talk properly and finish our plan, shall we?’

Foist.  I hadn’t heard her voice, except in my head, for months.

I smiled.

‘Let’s,’ I breathed.


Odosday, 9 Vernuz

Earned 44 / Spent 5

Savings 18,104

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

What is Kernel to me now?  It’s almost a memory.  As it sprang up for me after the Displacement, now it fades when I’m not looking, just a temporary screen thrown between me and the future as a mild distraction.

Foist wrote:  It’s time for me to go and see her, in Metrodon.

It’s time!

It has been fifteen days since I last wrote my journal.  The Disc has gotten closer and closer, and deeper runs the drakeroot infestation in my legs.  I began to feel that hope was dying within me.  At first, like a dark spot of ink, the desperation is noticeable but very small.  But sometimes the ink falls on blotting paper.

Then, as I read her letter, delicately perfumed and sprinkled with detritus from her carpelwork, my hands began to shake.  At regular intervals lately the infestation flares up and dies down, like the turning torch of a lighthouse.  Almost rhythmically I feel the root fingering through the bones of my legs and pelvis, active for days, then relatively calm.  A week or two later comes the rooting again, and I wonder if it’s reached my spine, and whether there are fibres growing in the musculature of my arms, taking deeper hold throughout all my body.

I don’t imbibe the root anymore.  When I run, I do so at my own pace.  The Union can get fucked; I’m burned out.  I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to work as a courier again, or whether I’ll leave and try something else, something completely different.  Will the anxiety stay with me once I’ve run my last, or will it be a slow walk to freedom and peace?  I expect that, like all unconquered fears, I will have to live with it forever.

But the letter, Foist’s letter, is certain: now is the time.  Prices in Metrodon have fallen; the zeppelin companies are in direct competition now that a monopoly has been lifted.  There is no longer an embargo between the neighbouring states, with their strange peoples and traditions.  Passage to Metrodon is available again, and all these months of saving have made travel viable. 

So many seeds, hoarded in my house on Capital Hill – and in that sea of valuable woodchip there drowns nuts and the occasional fruit stone, riches in my riches.

There are moments of uncertainty, now.  I could cash in the seeds for something else – my own house, or passage on the Bridge, or even start my own business.  Is it really the best time to stop running?  Maybe it’ll get easier and the PM Union will become bearable.  If I left for Metrodon then I would have to cancel membership.  The chances of them allowing it to continue until my return are slim. 

Because they recognise, perhaps, that I won’t return.  At least not to them.

I look at the seeds, in their waterproof jars in the cabinet-space under the floorboards.  Nearly twenty jars.  Over 18,000 seeds, nuts and stones! 

Foist!  I’m coming!


Knot, 24 Torp

Earned 0 / Spent 41

Savings 17,549

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

I awoke to pre-dawn Kernel to find it in snow.  The township was blue in the non-light, glittering with the faintest traces of dawn that were being sketched across the clouds closest to the horizon.  This is Torp in Terrene, where the freeze comes suddenly and without warning: a cold snap biting at your heels even when you’re surrounded by jungle. 

The air is naturally full of moisture all around the rainforest, and when it gets cold enough you suddenly remember this fact.  The air crystallises.  You might wake in the night to the sound of thousands of trees bending and groaning under the weight of their new snow-white coats.  You can almost hear the deliquescing ice tinkle like glass across the vanes and veins of giant fern.

The giant fauna in the jungle go quiet during these times.  All those cold-blooded reptiles, be they giant vegesaurs or tiny bumbling promicroceras, go to sleep waiting for the rime to recede down the trees until it’s thin enough to be melted by rainwater.

Today is Knot, which means it’s my day off.  But a courier never stops running, even at the weekend, so I put on my best-gripping shoes and took off across the slick pavements and slushy thoroughfares of Kernel.

I saw stage drivers de-icing the wheels of their coaches.  Someone else was taking a sick-looking xylem across town in a wicker cage, presumably to the tree vet.  The creature squirmed unhappily in his temporary home, pawing half-heartedly at a scrap of blanket.  A person from the Jade Reefs, looking particularly uncomfortable in the cold outdoors, was shovelling snow away from his or her restaurant.

As I ran I tried not to think about the Disc.  On days like this, the air is clear and the sun visible if one dared to look; but so is the Disc, at the other side of the sky, turning (if indeed it turns) like a hole that bores itself into the heavens.

Another letter from Foist came yesterday.  I always relish them, these moments, and cling tightly to the memories I make myself create.  Breathe it in, savour the feeling.  She is happy, and has become more determined for us to be together in Metrodon.  In turn she has galvanised me into saving harder; together we make plans and await our reunion.  I’ve saved 17,549 in seeds, including a few nuts.  Every one is still fresh (I pay for food and rent with the old seeds and save the new).  But I need much more – almost twice as many.

In her words I sense Foist’s dedication to us, but the waiting between each letter gets longer each time.  She is telling me that I am too close, even here in Kernel; that she must not be smothered if she is to grow.  I know that I can step back if I must.  The feelings will not change, but she’ll recognize that they are felt even if they aren’t constantly put into words. 

When the moon passes in front of the sun, it casts a shadow over Terrene.  But when the Disc is low with the light behind it, there is no shadow that you can see, only the feeling of its uninterrupted presence.


Budsday, 19 Torp

Earned 18 / Spent 8

Savings 17,445

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

A typical Budsday – back to work, back to running, back to being out in the cold, back to chaos.

The stagecoach to South Kernal didn’t arrive; or rather, it arrived at the wrong terminal.  Forty people shuffled around the gaol and the post office to the second terminal; those who would have gotten the best seats stood by the hooks and pleats, helping to keep the canopy in place as gales tore at the trundling stagecoaches between The Den and the south.

The Union buzzed with activity.  Workstations were being reallocated, another attempt by the Union chiefs to save space / cut costs / irritate the members.  Gods knows how many parcels were lost in that reshuffle, which took hours.  How many couriers had their toes stepped on, meaning valuable seconds lost on deliveries this morning?

I repositioned my gear.  Carpeltea and book of contacts; delivery rota for my regular jobs; daguerreotypes of luminescent Foist and an example of her carpelwork, one of the few things I have of hers.  The chasm between seeing her last and now gets wider every day.  I like to think that in equal proportion, the time of our reunion in Metrodon gets closer.  But I see the record of my savings and think I’ll never get there. 

How long am I supposed to wait?

Another courier, Steph Jarvie, leaned in with a whiff of his rain-damp tweed and whistled. ‘Hot one, Reks.  Out of your league.’

Everyone says that Foist is out of my league.  It’s because she is.  Only her natural modesty prevents her from realising it.  I dread the day that she does, and writes me from Metrodon to explain how she’s found someone better.

The chaos settled eventually and people got back to it.  I took a few moments to rest my drakeroot-infested legs.  If I concentrate hard enough, I can will the infestation deeper into the leg, pushing it towards the cured tissue in the centre.  I take the needle every day, daring it to eradicate me of the root.  It’s a long, hard road.  And when you’re thinking about the infestation, you’re goading it to try harder.  It will fight you every step of the way. 

Not much got done.  People made a lot of noise but didn’t really get anywhere.  I think about Foist, about Metrodon, about her delicate carpelwork, about the ache between the two of us when we aren’t together.  Her letters tell me that she feels the same thing, that exact ache.  But no-one can ever be sure of what another person’s thinking.

The Union chief took us into The Den.  He wanted to know what progress we’ve made, but he isn’t my chief, he’s got nothing to do with my union.  Other couriers expected me to go and so I went.  The Den is a maze of tumbledown shacks and walkways, suspension bridges and ladders, ramps that bounce when you run up them like drumskins.  The chief worked us hard. 

One time as I ran past, my arm brushed the wet leaves of the rainforest behind the Den barrier.  I saw the yellow almond eye of a cauliraptor observing me from behind the branches.  Jerking away I tumbled, nearly fell from a walkway but caught a tattered bit of knotted rope.  The ‘raptor slunk back into the depths of the jungle with a growling purr. 

The chief watched, unimpressed, critical and domineering.  I respect people I’ve worked with who have earned that respect.  His title affords him some benefit, but that’s as far as it goes.  His habit of using cringeworthy management speak does him no favours.  Let’s get back in the game, he says; Let’s round-table this and compile a workable agenda.

Let’s not, chief.  That’s old-world, it’s pre-Displacement. 

The best thing I ever did was step away from that world, into Kernel.

Budsday, bloody Budsday.


Knot, 12 Torp

Earned 0 / Spent 8

Savings 17,361

~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

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.

~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

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.


Bloomsday, 08 Torp

Earned 26 / Spent 13

Savings 17,310

~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

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?’ 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.



Fallsday, 06 Torp

Earned 32 / Spent 14

Savings 17,243

~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~

I take the gold needle every day.  My nervous hands feed the syringe into the fissures of my petrified shins, deep and deep until I feel the nip of the needle against the secret flesh within my leg.  Close to the bone.  The outer two inches of my legs are stony wood now, grey and unfeeling.  Amazingly, I can still flex my toes and ankles.  The petrified wood creaks and complains when I do.  I am unforgiving with the long, glass needle.

Does it make running any easier?  When I pass through the muddy thoroughfares of Kernel, past The Den and along the edge of the jungle, I don’t notice much of a difference.  But has the infestation of the drakeroot slowed a little?  Are the writhing tendrils, which are at their worst first thing in the morning before the sun rises, a little less vigorous? 

It will take another month for the gold needle to build its cumulative effect and start to defeat the infestation.  Meanwhile the Disc moves back and forth across the sky, sometimes breaching the edge of the sun’s radiant circle.  Other times it disappears behind a cloud and, although I can still feel its gaze burning into my chest, I can almost ignore it.  It will be long into Vernuz before I settle on the gold needle dosage.  By then I’ll know whether the alchemist will have to up the amount.  At least I’m not fiddling around with blue totems anymore.

She warned me of side effects.  Nausea.  Loose bowels.  Impotence.  I remind her that I’ve taken the gold needle before and that it beat my infestation.  I never felt for a second that the drakeroot hadn’t been completely scorched from my system.  But maybe it hadn’t been; perhaps a lingering tendril of the invasive little plant still remained, deep in the marrow of my bone.  

Of course, like the most frightened of cancer victims, I carried on sucking in smoke.  The drakeroot infestation took hold again.  Sometimes you’re just too scared to do anything else, and the root is part of my life.  I can’t run without it, even though it’s destroying me.