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Monday, September 19, 2016
Throughout Danaco, Rannig, and Bartleby's adventures in Sesterna, two caiques have been following them around. and while they've been in the marketplace for sometime, no one knows who trained them to dance or why-- until now.
|Manochei at his stall, by Twisk|
Manochei took his pen from his apron pocket and began writing a small message, merely to inform Prince Lamir that contact with Lord Danaco had been established and to relay Danaco’s tatti-pratti and screening himself with the shade from the broad palm leaves above him.message, and Calepei stood by, eating his
“Do Sesternese caiques usually dance?” Calepei asked, canting his head.
“Not that I know of,” Manochei replied, finishing his letter. “Why?”
“Because those two birds are dancing.”
Manochei looked up, and hopping along an upper bough of the broad palm were two caiques, both seemingly in raptures over something, kicking up their feet, flapping their wings, and raising their beaks to the sky. “That’s a strange thing,” he observed, folding his arm and watching the birds scuttle back and forth.
“Do you think they’ve been trained to do that?”
“It’s possible, but who would go through all the trouble of training them?”
“Me,” said a familiar voice.
Manochei and Calepei turned toward the square, and coming up from the adjoining lane was the old clothier, who was just returning from her business with the moneylenders in the merchant’s row.
Calepei righted himself, standing at his full impressive height, and he glanced at Manochei from the corner of his eye.
“Don’t worry,” said Manochei. “She’s the one who helped me get Lord Danaco’s attention.”
“And you’re sure she can be trusted?” said Calepei charily.
Here was a conscious smile. “I’m sure.”
Manochei bowed to the old woman as she neared, and though Calepei was still suspicious, he followed his friend’s conduct.
“So,” said the clothier, with subrisive looks, “got what you wanted?”
“Yes,” said Manochei. “You did your job perfectly.”
“Always do,” the woman humphed. She held out her hand and cleared her throat.
“Of course,” said Manochei, taking a few coins from his pocket.
He placed two silver marks in her palm, and the old woman beamed and cooed.
“That’s more than we agreed on,” said she, smiling.
“It is, but His Highness always rewards those who serve him well. We hope your people will remember that when His Highness calls upon them for assistance.”
A low bow followed, and Calepei, confused and apprehensive, stared at the old woman with severe misgiving.
“Your people?” he repeated, looking to Manochei for an explanation. “What do you mean your people? Who is this woman, Manochei?”
Manochei smiled in surprise. “Who is she? Can’t you tell?”
Calepei looked and looked again, trying to descry something that would give him an idea, but the faded hues of age and disuse shrouded her heritage, and Calepei had not the smallest idea who she was.
“Look closer,” the woman beckoned, curling a finger to draw him in.
Calepei leaned down, and two blue eyes peered out from under a heavy brow. He stared for a moment, allowing his mind to conjecture and acknowledge what Manochei already knew, and once it struck him, Calepei started and bowed low.
“We are honoured to have your family allied with us, my lady,” said Calepei, in a fevered hush.
“Ha! My Lady!” the old woman rasped. “No one’s my ladied me in a long time.”
Calepei looked askance. “If you would prefer we don’t—“
The woman quieted him with a dismissive wave. “It’s been so long since I was last in the palace, I doubt anyone would believe you.”
“Do you think Lord Danaco knows?” Manochei asked.
The woman humphed. “Of course he does.”
“Does anyone else know?”
“My son, of course, but he’s in Livanon, finishing the work I started in the lower quarter. If you’re worried that anyone visiting from the Livanese court would recognize me, I can’t say they would.” She tucked her grey hair under her headdress and rearranged her robes. “I don’t exactly look like a consort anymore. The Livanese nobility don’t notice anyone who resembles a heap of rags.”
“I wouldn’t call yourself that, my lady,” said Calepei anxiously.
“I would,” the old woman chuffed. “I do it purposely, to keep anyone in Livanon from finding out where I went.”
“But surely, my lady, the Grand Prince knows where you are,” said Manochei.
The old woman shrugged. “I write to him once in a while. He’s a grown man and knows what he needs to do. He doesn’t need me anymore.”
“Excuse me, my lady,” said Calepei, with a grave expression, “but sons will always need their mothers.”
Calepei coloured and hemmed, and Manochei thought his friend never looked more endearing in his life.
“You’re a nice boy,” said the old woman, reaching up to give Calepei’s arm an affectionate rub, “but mothers, as much as we love our children, need to let our children to get on with things. I spent a long time being locked away at the palace. I’m free now.” She held out her hand, and the two caiques flittered down from the high bough, perching themselves along her forearm. “General Telnis was always a good friend,” said she, nuzzling her birds. “My son will make sure that the Butheanas support Lamir’s ascent.”
“And the caiques, my lady?” asked Calepei.
“Mine from the royal menagerie.” She crooned to the two caiques, telling them what pretty creatures they were and what a nice dinner they should have, until she felt the stares of subdued hilarity upon her. “What? I like them, and so what that I taught them to dance. That’s more than most people do.”
“I cannot argue with you,” said Manochei, suppressing a laugh.
“Better not,” said the old woman, with a bold look. She took a copper coin from her pocket and gave it to Manochei. “I’ll take one,” nodding toward the tatti-pratti. “Smelling that pepper you gave me made want one of those.”
Manochei arched a brow. “Are you sure, my lady? Once you have one, you will be at my stall every day.”
The old lady was quite pleased with that prospect, and once her birds had shifted their perch to her shoulder, she crambled over to the stall, to watch Manochei at his wares, and to sample the flavours of Lucentia that Calepei and the captain had been so ardent to defend.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Next week sees the release of our next novella, The Baracan, will be available in digital format. Until then, the Leaf Flute digital version will be on sale for everyone. Below is the second excerpt from the upcoming novella. Enjoy:
Sesternese faces greeted him with unaffected smiles, a polite nod or two was sent his way, and merchants beckoned and patrons pleaded for better prices over the last of the day’s wares. To ease his agitation and satisfy his self-imposed despondance, Danaco imagined Lucentian features and voices, his mind recreating his home from memories to make up for everything he had lost. He liked Sesterna, was pleased to see it attracted such a superfluity of people from surrounding nations, and though he did not have a decided preference for Lucentians as friends and associates, he must miss them, he must long for their particular sensibilities; the easy manners, the playfulness of conversation, the quickness of wit and strong opinions so decidedly Lucentian were found nowhere else. He missed his people greviously, missed the yudaro makers and rumani mongers, missed his guildmates and the servants in his father’s house, he even missed the nobility, with their snurling aspects and unforgivable airs, but he had the conversation of the Lucentians amongst his crew to look forward to, and there was some alleviation. His father’s influence, however, the good humour and dry wit of Lucentia which he was used to practice with everyone at home was a legacy never to be supplanted or suppressed. “I am alive and well, and yet I must lament,” he said, seemingly to himself. “It is but the hunger affecting me, but I really must own, there are times when I am so abominably Lucentian. Yes, I know my father is responsible there, my little minnow,” patting and looking down at his sword, “and you may tease me all you like, but I am rather shocked that my mother’s influence should have been so suppressed by my father’s heritage. Everyone can see that I am Lucentian, but the moment I open my lips to speak, all the Marridonian comes tumbling out. Being so long from home has had its effect, I perceive. I begin to wonder if anyone outside of Lucentia will be Lucentian enough for me.” He touched a hand to his brow and closed his eyes. “I must find something to eat,” said he, turning down an adjoining lane. “I can feel the headache coming on. Oh, do not plague me about my habits,” tapping the hilt of his sword. “I had business this afternoon, consequently important business. Perhaps it is being in this country too long that pains me. It is grown damp this time of year.” The corners of his mouth curled, and the soft line aroud his eyes deepened. “I hear you, my sheathed pocketpiece,” he murmured, smiling at his sword. “Being around Bartleby for more than an hour together is enough to make anyone tremble, but I am quite resolved not to let you have your way with him, and so you shall keep your sentiments tucked away in a place where only you might cherish them.
The sword rattled in its sheath, and Danaco turned into the main square of the market, still trying to reconcile himself to being away from Lucentia’s shores for so long. He wondered how it might have been if he had not been forced to leave home: he should still be in his father’s house, lord of the kingdom’s most prominent guild, serving as the king’s right, performing the same office that his father had done as an agent of the regining family. He would not distress himself by thoughts of how it might if only his father and General Telnis were alive; they were gone, and he was exiled, and though he must confess himself fortunate to be alive when Reneldin would have him otherwise, he must allow for bitter lamentations. If only Reneldin had not been allowed to take the throne… The greatest wish of Danaco’s heart was that young Prince Lamir, Lucentia’s most deserving successor, should rise to distinction and claim his birthright, to remove Reneldin and renege his ill-made judgments, to avenge General Telnis’ death and rebuild Lucentia as the prosperous and celebrated nation that it once was, to reconstruct the kingdom’s alliances, revive her economy, and restore her to all her former glory, but how it could be done, how Danaco or Prince Lamir might bring about such alteration without Reneldin putting down the revolution was the question.
These reflections accompanied the captain to the merchant’s row, the same row of the market where he and Bartleby and Rannig spent their morning, and all the remnants of the holiday that reigned over the better part of the afternoon were rapidly clearing away. The shawled parishioners were ambling off to teahouses, stalls that had been shrouded in the shade of tall buildings were now well lit with amber evening light, and the food vendors with their carts had arrived, to offer an evening meal to those who had spent the day in quiet jejunation. Vendors wheeled by, offering rose-flavoured jelly, lavender licorice, fried dough asperged with cinnamon, maize cakes stewing in savoury broth, buckwheat strands simmering in garlic and oil, olives stuffed with aged cheese—it was a chorus of aromatic melodies, and Danaco’s eye fell everywhere, his gaze guided by a stomach charmed, until a familiar scent, carried to him by the gentle breeze of a passing vendor, drew his immediate attention.
“There is a spice I can never forget,” Danaco declared, his eyes blazing in a fever of exultation. His ears twitched. “Someone is making something with chujaro, and I will find them out.”
The faint tinge of Lucentian red pepper wafted across the row. He followed it, hastening down the lane with joyous alacrity, his heart leaping in feverish expectation, but the scent was soon lost under the influence of a fish cart wheeling by. He stopped to find the trail again. He inhaled, his nose raised and busy, and tried to distinguish the scent the scent he had so lately lost, but instead of recovering it, he suddenly found himself across from the clothing stall, the same stall he had purchased his sash from that morning. The old woman who sold it to him was still sitting behind her counter, threading a long piece of needlework and seemingly uninterested in anything else, and without noticing any patrons who passed by her stall, and without any apparent disguise, she glanced up from her work and gawped at the captain, her hands still at work, her eyes beckoning him to come and speak with her.
“Ah, there it is,” Danaco thrummed, smiling to himself. “I knew I should find you out at last.”
Thursday, September 1, 2016
The Baracan is the famous boardwalk in Lucentia's capital, known for its exquisite brocades, fine market, and rare commodities, but amongst those in a different rank of life, the Baracan is the word for the Lucentian underground, managed by the current ruler of the kingdom, with agents in every corner of the continents. It is also the title of our next release, and its events will immediately follow those of The Leaf Flute. I wonder which meaning of the Baracan Danaco misses most.
The sun descended by smooth gradations toward the horizon, the apricity of day beginning to wane, and the blaze of ocher light began to slip between the sails of the Good Ship Myrellnos as CaptainDanaco walked along the pier, watching his crew regale in all the pleasures of early evening. Their animation and high revel, their willingness to include everybody in their games—even Bartleby—was a recommendation to how good-natured and amiable they all were regardless of the nothing-meaning impressions that their appearances might give. They were all engaged in setting up a round of Chiago, now that Mr Bellstrode was gone. He would have stayed the whole evening, to play at Creep-Colour and Pallisades until the rest of the day had worn away, but the vessel that was to take mr Bellstrode home to Marridon was leaving rather earlier than expected. The weather had proven to be uncommonly mild, and with moderate wind and a languid undulation in the water, they might be home in Marridon before morning. The threat of brigands and Livanese pirate vessels were nothing where saving half a day’s travel was concerned, and home to Marridon Mr Bellstrode was to go, his seal in hand, and all his limbs arranged in the proper order.
Danaco watched him from the pier, Mr Bellstrone saying his goodbyes in all the misery and disappointment of being to leave to soon. “Only think how terrified he was of them only hours ago,” Danaco mused. “I knew he should be monstrous fond of them in time, but they always are. Everybody who comes to know my men absolute dissipates over them, and they still put me in a passion betimes. They are all my affection-- Bartleby most of all, to be sure. He is such a petulant little skipjack. I quite rave over him, when he deserves it.” Here was an amourous sigh. “How I do dote on them,” said Danaco, shaking his head, “and how I sincerely hope I shall never be rid of them. Goodbye, Mr Bellstrode,” waving to him as the royal merchant hopped from one part of the wharf to the other. “Give my love to Marridon when you arrive. She has been a fair substitute for home these many years, and while I shall be seeing her sparkling seas, verdant downs, and delightful tea houses in time, business and dinner keep me longer away from her and all who reside within her arms than my desire for pleasant and civilized company should warrant.” He gave his hair a little flourish. “I should never like to be wholly domesticated, but I will be a vagrant while I can.”
He made a slight bow to the vessel that was to carry Mr Bellstrode home, and with a wistful air, he watched the Marridonian frigate flee its mooring and glide out of harbour. “I daresay we made his stay here more tolerable, did not we, my precious pet?” speaking to his ship. “We always do well by friends. I should not at all be surprised if, after being home and idle for week, Mr Bellstrode were to send me a message, begging to be my cabin boy. We are behindhand in having a frock on board, and he should made a fine piece. You shall not mind it, I know,” speaking again to his ship. “I have little to lament over in general, but I must have a somebody to look at from time to time, and as much as I love every one of my darling men, a change in the furnishings is always pleasant.”
Danaco stood at the edge of the pier and watched the Marridonian vessel begin to fade into the distance. The ship drifted into the rising mist, the keel charging through the brine and barm, and Danaco marked its departure with a greiving heart, sighing out his affection for Marridon and all those in it until he could distinguish the figures on the deck of the frigate no longer. The sails luffed in the gentle breeze, and a stream of low clouds led the Marridonian home.
“There goes a cabin boy, I am sure,” said Danaco, in a fond accent. “He might make a poor servant at first, but a few evenings with Brogan and Ujaro will straighten him as to many things. A solid thrashing by two such men will do as well as any other punishment would do.”
The Myrellenos creaked and swayed, and Danaco gave the bollard his ship was tied to a loving tap.
“You are fiendish quick to suppose I meant any such thing,” Danaco laughed, spying his ship’s figurehead with playful reproach, “How you will conjecture, my pernicious plover, but I can make allowances for you. You will get yourself into a designing strain when we are far from home.”
Home… the word forever tainted by anguish of forced separation, the captain felt a pang as he said it. Lucentia was home, it would be his home forever regardless of the many years he had spent being divided from its shores, but he had learned to consider other places as a possible replacement for the life that he had lost. Marridon, being his mother’s home, offered a something like comfort whenever he was ashore, and with his friends and family connections there, all of them residing in good style and enjoying the many pleasures that a life of privilege in Marridon might offer, it made a tolerable substitute for Lucentia during the warmer months. Livanon had its charms, and he had come to consider Frewyn as not such a bad place, for it had amiable people with a cheerful prospect on its vile winters, but the one place where he felt as though he were in his father’s house again was the Myrellenos. His home on the seas, his nautical throne had become a standing example of Lucentian hospitality. Everyone he had welcomed under her sails was now a member of his intimate acquaintance, and all those who came to him looking for work and and a decent wage received ever so much more than what being a mere crewmember on a trade vessel might imply. The Myrellenos was a home for all those who had hearts to cherish: the court of the seas, the Lord and his Peers, and Danaco had the pleasure in thinking that he might be soon adding a few more to his collection. Bartleby his shameless and unfeeling treasure, Rannig his darling, and all the rest of his crew his most valued trinkets—it was a fascination of men, a flush of living artifacts hailing from farthest reaches of every kingdom, and Danaco kissed his hand to his glorious prize, his love for the Myrellenos greater than his attachment to all the relics in her gallery. He raised his eyes to the figurehead, the depiction of Her Lady Myrellenos, and sunk himself in all the ingratiating praise of his goddess, lauding her charms, extolling her exquisite features, and luxuriating in all the blessings she had granted since his exile.
“My Lady favours me,” said Danaco, bowing to her effigy.
He surveyed his ship, his eye examining her tall masts and proud bow jutting fiercely out over the wharf, and a sigh escaped his lips, his heart wracked by the sorrowful gratitude that anyone in his situation must suffer. His place as Captain of such a crew was just as evanescent as the rest of his life, and while he and his men were all collected together now, being of the same character, the same mind, having the same predilections and ambitions, there was no saying when it might be over. He might be called away on urgent business, or his crew might grow anxious for a more settled life, Rannig might wish to return home, or the Director of the Marridon Academy might finally die off, bringing Bartleby back to Marridon for the promotion he so dearly deserved. He exhaled, reveling in the pining sigh of impermanence which living in such uncertainty must produce, and he turned away from the port, the prospect of the docks with its trawl and netting laid out, its covered walkways and mercantile stalls, wits dockmaster lunting about, its clear view of the sea and sky melting into the infinity of the horizon reminiscent of the Lucentian Baracan, and he moved toward the markets, peering at the Myrellenos from over his shoulder with a conscious backward glance, the gradient of evening hues weaving through a weft of listless clouds.