Tag Archive: vegesaur


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

Bloomsday, 14 Vernuz

Earned 39 / Spent 5

Savings 18,269

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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.

‘…Hello?’

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.

— RSR

Knot, 24 Torp

Earned 0 / Spent 41

Savings 17,549

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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.

— 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

Fallsday, 05 Frost

Earned 19 / Spent 12

Savings 16,975

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When I run, I run hard.  The drakeroot keeps me going, but some days it’s not enough.  It’s easy to stagger and fall on a long run.  The distance gets too much, your muscles try to give out on you but you won’t let them.  The union works me hard, runs me ragged.  I just chew more root, dust myself down, keep going.

Can’t keep going forever.

Am I to run for my whole life?  There’s more to existance than work, than a few seeds.  A heap of caraways and a nut or two will keep me in rent and food for a week, but what then?  Run more packages, earn more seeds, rent and food and chew more root…

Things are getting a little easier at the union.  Sometimes they make an effort, something I gave up on a while ago.  Keep things sweet and reinvigorates your work muscle, keeps things from getting on top of you.  In Kernal that’s too easy.  In the end, your nerves are frayed and it only takes a glimpse of a few feral cauliraptors to put you into full meltdown.

It’s Frost now.  The winter’s setting in.  The jungle never dies, but it shrinks.  The leaves grow small and tight.  Vines coil inward towards the warmth and security provided by the trunks.  The birds and reptiles hunker down during the cold nights and only fly close to noontime, when the sun is at its highest.  The Disc is a threat to them.  One eclipse during this time and the birds get a full day without heat.  I run past them, watching them sleep.  Lizards die clinging to branches and become like shrivelled dry leaves, orange and crunchy, ready to fall off at the slightest breath.

Am I good at what I do?  I’m not a board member of the union.  I’m not on the top Kernal league table.  People do what I do every day, running up and down Capital Hill, through the industrial districts, skirting The Den and the jungle and buzzing the stagecoaches on the lower paths.  I do the work.  I put in the hours.  I chew the root. 

—RSR