Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Woman's Place is in the Resistance: the #WomensMarch

Sethshire Cottage, 
First Month, Twenty-First Day 
1011 Clans United

To the citizenry of the Third Continent,

While my Lord and Master, Our Good King Alasdair, has already made his feelings about hope for the future known to you, I was asked to offer something by way of a statement. Carrigh of course prepared something, but considering my particular situation, having been part of a resistance myself on more than one occasion, and have defeated all those who threatened to expunge our rights as Frewyns, it was roundly asserted that I should be the one to address you. I am no speech-maker in general; I much prefer to act and talk about it later, but my saying something to you about the success of our rebellion might encourage you to keep the Flame of Moral Insurgence alive. It will go out quickly, if not continuously kindled, but you have those amongst you, a certain public official for one, whose anger spurs what oppression might extinguish. Cling to those who fight; they are always the best suited to lead. Alasdair fought with us during the Galleisian War, and though the velitations of a courtroom cannot equal the bloodshed of a battlefield, he knows what it is to give his life to a cause than most.

The person he opposed was his brother Allande. Frewyn enjoyed sixty-eight years of peace and prosperity under our beloved King Dorrin, but when Allande became of age and was not allowed to sit on the throne, because he was a fractious and foolish child, he did what anyone incapable of ruling on his own would do: he made an agreement with our enemies. Gallei has been Frewyn's great antagonist since the beginning of our two nations, and rightfully so: Frewyn believes in peace and equality, and Gallei enforces servitude and repackages it as morality. They like selling absolution: they need do nothing for it except tell all their women that they must stay at home and serve their families, and if they should think of doing anything so unforgivable as gain employment or read a book, they should be flogged in public by their church and never allowed out again. You might think I'm being facetious, but every year hundreds of Galleisian girls are left at our borders, abandoned by desperate women who would rather leave their daughters to the mercy of an enemy nation than sell them to Sesternese slavers. Frewyn has always been an equal society: the notion of it being anything else is unconscionable to a nation that has just as many female Gods as we do male Gods, and in general, we disregard both equally. We were forced to when, over a thousand years ago, our Gods left us in favour of a more celestial life. The clan wars were becoming a bit too raucous for them, and we were left to learn how to get along by ourselves. It was work, but we did it, and since then, we have been great friends. Nothing unites a people faster than a common enemy, and when a people is faced with an obvious antagonist, they will stand like stone to the gales.

I have seen your antagonist; no one can miss him unfortunately. He is so busy talking about appendages and parts that do not belong to him, he has no idea how disproportionate his own are. Allande was rather the same in this respect, but I will not bore you with needless remarks on his person. Allande's fits at not being given the throne were enough to prove that he should never be allowed any position of power, and when his grandfather had decided to pass the kingship to Alasdair, Allande retaliated by letting the Galleisians into our courts. They killed King Dorrin, and Allande claimed the throne for himself. Here the resistance began: Vyrdin and Brigdan, along with the Royal Guard, began their schemes to save the kingdom and put Alasdair on the throne, but Allande, urged by his Galleisian friends, began to make changes in our kingdom, changes that would defraud us of rights that King Allun the First and the Gods gave to us. He altered the Dearbha, our constitution, he increased our taxes, he diminished government funding to health and education, and when the riots against his leadership began, he undid the agreement that King Breian made with Frewyn farmers five hundred years ago and enforced mandatory tithes in proportion to their lands. My father and our farm were directly affected by Allande's nonsense: we grew poor and desperate, and just when the farmer's of Tyfferim and Sethshire planned to march against the throne, Allande's friends became enemies: the Galleisians breached our borders, and the first insurgence began. To save himself from being killed by his own people for the crimes he committed against us, Allande declared war on Gallei, but Vyrdin and Brigdan and the resistance were already moving. We formed Tyfferim Company and various other rebel contingents within the Frewyn Armed Forces, and while we fought the Galleisians, we also fought against Allande, whose tyranny came to an end when a member of our resistance found him on the battlefield and sunk the love-end of a blade between his shoulders.

Allande the Vain, the whinging strain on democracy, was dead, and it was upon the people of Frewyn to rebuild everything we had lost. In just three years, Frewyn had gone from being a glorious aegis of liberty to a mire of misery and subjugation, and while it would take us at least ten years to regain ourselves, we would rally again. Many fought and died for our freedom, and we would have lost against the raging beast of tyranny had our resistance not been in place. Vyrdin and Brigdan's effort saved our kingdom, but as you well know, they left it to us to set everything to rights.

Rebellions cannot last or be successful without a collective effort, and the one you have all shown today is an attestation of your ambition to maintain your freedom. You must never lose that ambition. Vyrdin, who was born angry, never lost his will to destroy his enemies; he would put down anyone who dare obstruct the good of Frewyn Values. Equity, acceptance, kindliness-- these are the statues imbued in the foundations of our kingdom, they are our birthright, and if anyone deigns to take them from us, be they king or magistrate, it is our equal right to defend ourselves to the last. Your country must be treated with the same vigilance.

Hold fast to one another, and stand like a stone to the gales.

We come by aurora,
with a heavy and sovereign tread,
with the might of matriarchs to furnish our shoulders,
with the apricity of light to crown our heads.

H.C. Boudicca MacDaede
Royal Commission

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Story for the Day: Doing Science -- Part 2

Peppone is a great mystery of human composition. He is double-jointed, slightly imp-like in appearance, and can compress himself into very small spaces with almost no effort. According to Bartleby, he is semi-mycological, and considering his cell make up and fungal prowess, Bartleby might actually be right. 

Presently Barlteby turned to Peppone and returned to his question. “This is a microscope,” Bartleby cooly replied. “And before you should ask, because I know it was at your tongue’s end, because none
of you on this ship can keep quiet for more than five seconds together, it does precisely what its name says: it is a scientific instrument that amplifies small things—a small-seer, you understand—magnifying whatever is put under its lens by several hundred times. I control the amount of magnification with this knob here, which controls the lenses in the neckpiece, and anything here on the stage is immediately brought forward. And no, you cannot see it or play with it, because I know you were going to ask to put you eye against it. It is a delicate device, and if it is handled incorrectly, any one of the lenses could crack, and the device would be rendered completely useless—do not look at the slide either,” shooing him away. “It is in place, and if you move it now, the change could be catastrophic.The adjustments to the stage and lenses are very sensitive-- even breathing near it could offset the placement—oh, look what you have done.” He tutted. “You’ve knocked my slide by half an inch. I had it safely under the pins, and you neared it and did some subliminal--- go away, and don’t touch it.”
                “I didn’t touch the slide,” Peppone kindly insisted. “I couldn’t have done it. I’m too far away. You touched it when you turned to me just now. Your sleeve caught on the corner of the stage and pulled it.”
                “Oh, pbtth!” Bartleby jutted his lower lip at him. “You presume to tell me what I’ve done, you shiftless shadowfogger. I know how to mind my own sleeves.”
                “One of them is caught right now on the corner of the desk.”
                Peppone pointed to the corner of the desk, and Bartleby instantly pulled his sleeve away from it.
                “It wasn’t caught,” Bartleby persisted. “It was simply hanging there, to keep the fabric off my wrists. And stop simpering this moment, Rannig, or I will let my night beetles out to visit you.”
                The soft chuttering from without instantly stopped, and the psithurism of the brush passing along the wooden slats above continued.
                “If you are just going to linger and make unwanted commentary,” Bartleby flouted, speaking to Peppone from the side of his mouth, “you may go away and try to work out the physics of your throwing knife by yourself, or you may lurk about the galley and keep the mice away, or quinch and fester, or whatever it is you campernoylean assassins do.”
                “Don’t worry about him insultin’ ye, Mr Vase Imp,” said Rannig’s voice, his head appearing from the hatch above, his copper hair flouncing. “If Bartleby insults ye, it means he likes ye.”
                “No, it does not,” the old man contended. “It means the person won’t be got rid of and I want them gone, and by verbally pointing out their failings, they might take themselves off and throw themselves down a well instead of coming to bother me whilst I am busy making scientific discoveries.”
                Rannig looked askance. “But I won’t fit down a well, Bartleby.”
                “No, but this hapless latibulater might.”
                Peppone glanced at Bartleby and then Rannig, whose eyes were peering at him upside down from the hatch above. “Does the scientist often use complicated words?”
                “Aye,” Rannig chimed, his eyes smiling. “He thinks we don’t understand him ‘cause Bartleby’s a genius and all.”
                “Ha,” the old man snuffed, and staring into his microscope, he quietly added, “Genius in that context is just a pretty word for unmarriagable.”
                Peppone smiled and folded his arms. “Now I understand why you’re so surly. You’ve never been with anyone.”
                “What? What?” Bartleby cried, looking up from his work in sudden vexation. “Who said that? Did I say that? No, I did not. I have been with a significant other before, and now chose to be agmous and productive. I said that geniuses are umarriageble because they are. Nobody likes to be with someone whose life is devoted to the improvement of the world. Relationships are selfish things, made for those who do not know how to spend their time usefully when alone. I am happily employed now—well, I am when I am not being absolutely plagued by a giant and bodycarver—and who would not be happy with my books and my desk and my skin samples—do not say ‘who would’, Rannig. Do not say it, because you know the question is rhetorical and does not need answering.”
                Rannig’s eyes narrowed and sunk behind the hatch, whispering to himself, “….Who would?”
                “They can’t really comfort you,” was Peppone’s answer.
                Bartleby snurled and humphed to the side. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course they can. Your skin samples are so irregular, they will leave me with days worth of study and research—weeks, possibly. Only think of how long I will be able to sit at my desk studying them—and do not say how long!”
                Rannig’s muffled voice said he would not ask how long, though in saying it, he realized he just did.
                “I meant your books,” said Peppone, shaking his head. “They can’t give you the same comfort that a companion can.”
                “Codswallop! Books are better than any dratchel draping over you when you are trying to sleep. Two pages open onto your chest is better than any set of busy limbs moving at all hours. No one wants another body in the bed when they might have a book. Literature cannot kick the blanket away. Books may do for anybody what bookends do for them: furnish the world with knowledge and promote education. The redemancy of reading, the limerance of the written word, are the only real comforts anyone needs in life. If more people spent less time pretending to care about one another and more time being in love with books, like any sensible person would be, we would have fewer natalitious mothers and more resources to go around.”  
                Bartleby peered into the microscope, determined not to concede to Peppone’s ideas—famigerous nonsense as ever he heard talked, books not being to give as much comfort as a companion could do—it raised his mesentery to hear him speak of  the powers of literature so slightingly, it offened all the books in his library—but while he was rapt in his own musings, adjusting his slides and decrying the importance put on relationships nobody should be having, Peppone sidled him and said, in a softened voce, “But don’t you feel lonely? I know I would.”
                “Fah!” Bartleby scoffed, looking into his microscope.“Lonliness is what people have when they have no purpose. It is also what happens when people give way to feelings. I am a scientist, sir. We do not have feelings. We have facts. We all begin with emotions and slowly replace them with reason over time. There is no time for lonliness when the wonders of the universe are before us-- By my microscope,” he suddenly exclaimed, “your skin cells are positively bacterial.”
                “Oh.” Peppone’s eyes darted about. “What does that mean, according to Science?”
                “That you are either a walking spore lurk, ready to sprout new fungal life at any moment, or you have new microbiota never yet recorded.” Bartleby saw that Peppone looked as though he were trying to work it out, and said, “Your epidermis and follicles will probably sprout mushrooms very soon.”
                “And that’s not usual?”
                “Not unless you are made out of arboreal material. Anything may be infected by a fungus, but your epidermal cells are so fraught with yeasts and moulds, you might as well be a walking brewery. If you were not standing before me and someone told me this sample came from a human being, I should think you were some mythical creature made entirely from cheese.”
                “Well, I’m not mythical,” said Peppone complacently. “I’ve now been Scientifically proven.”
                “Yes,” Bartleby mused, thrumming and rubbing his chin. “I cannot rightly understand it. Usually those with this amount of noxious microbes have some sort of serious fungal disease, but you appear perfectly unharmed. You should be a harbinger for ringworm or dermatitis, but you skin when I look at you has not a rash anywhere.”
                “I can remove my pants, if you want to give me a thorough examination.”
                Bartleby’s brows thrunched, and he spied his subject from over the rim of his spectacles. “I don’t think that will be necessary, thank you,” he decided, somewhat hesitantly. “I am almost tempted to ask you for a bone sample, merely to see whether your ostial structure is made out of fungal stalks.”
                “They do bend easily,” Peppone observed, looking down at himself and bowing his legs.
                “Of course they do, sir. They have joints that make them bend.”
                “I meant the bones bend where they aren’t supposed to.”
                He wiggled his legs, and his shins seemed to arch, though Bartleby knew that was entirely impossible.
                “Move about,” said Bartleby, removing his spectables and narrowing his gaze. “Let me see that again, please.”
                Peppone proceeded to walk in a circle, forcing his leg down with every step, pressing hard into the floor to bow his legs. His shins and thighs arched slightly, and then straightened.
                “Remarkable,” said Bartleby, scratching the side of his head. “Some sort of osteomalacia, I suspect, but you are in no pain, and your bones rather bend than break.”
                “How come his bones bend and all?” said Rannig, canting his head to look at Peppone right side up.
                “Some sort of inherited condition rather than any type of mineral deficiency, I believe. Tell me, were your parents afflicted with the same complaint? Were you ill much as a child?”
                The strange and unusual condition had subdued the old man’s fractious spirit, and seeing him in his domesticated state, all examination and wondering, Peppone could not but like him.
                “Actually, I wasn’t ill at all growing up,” Peppone admitted. “I don’t know about my father, but my mother was always unwell. I don’t know what she had, because we never talked about it, but it was difficult for her to move around. She died when I went into the guilds.”
                “Oh, that is a pity. It would help if you could remember anything about her condition, any symptoms other than generalized pain and so forth. And your bones have always bent like that, you say? And they have never caused you any difficulties? There is no joint pain or muscle soreness?”
                Peppone shook his head. “It’s actually always helped me get jobs. I can fold myself and hide in small places for long periods of time. Even my joints are flexible. Here, I’ll show you.”
                He stood beside Bartleby’s desk and opened the bottom drawer, which was mostly empty, save a few loose papers, and after he had carefully stacked the papers onto Bartleby’s desk, taking care not to touch the microscope, he stepped into the drawer and sank down, pressing his calves to his thighs and forcing his sitting bones down.
                “No, no, don’t wedge yourself in there,” Bartleby began, “you will warp the wood and ruin the shape of the—oh, yes, I see. You simple bend that way and you fold your limbs over like that. Quite interesting.”
                It was not two minutes before Peppone was completely lodged in the drawer, his toes sticking out from the face, his fingers draping over the cradles, and his head sprouting from the back. He was perfectly creased, his knees bent over themselves and jutting up to meet Peppone’s chin, the rest of his carriage having vanished into the base of the drawer, and Bartleby was in scientific raptures.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Story for the Day: Doing Science

Science is the greatest export from Marridon. Whilst many other nations on the continents have their strengths and weaknesses, Marridon has all the joys and horrors of scientific discovery to call their own. When the Adiethians left Adieth and abandoned their worship of Myrellenos, they replaced religion with science and did rather well for themselves. Allied nations like Frewyn embraced natural sciences without relinquishing their Gods, but countries like Bellatrim would never dare accept the evils of knowledge into their ranks. It might lead the masses to revolution, once they become touched by the virus of education. While sciences of every denomination are embraced in Lucentia, Peppone has never seen applied science in its full bloom, and who better to show him how the thing is done than Bartleby Crulge?

Read about Peppone in The Ship's Crew

The first round of games for the evening were over, and after the dinner was finsihed and the plates cleared away, the crew of the Myrellenos were perfectly prepared to spend the rest of their evening rapt in all the gratulation of their usual gaieties until the letter from Prince Lamir that was to bear
Captain Danaco away from the ship was come. It was promised to arrive in the morning, allowing for communal jollity until sunrise, and set dances were called for and dice games were rolled out, all in celebration of their newest crewmember. Rather than parade himself about the main deck, however, Peppone, though the latest joined, was the first to retire for the evening, not to retire to his bunk in the hold, which he was shown by the captain immediately after dinner, but to Bartleby’s library, where he had the pleasure of invigilating the old man while he worked. He was Doing Science, a foreign practice to one whose ideas of physiology involved disassembling his enemies to study their limbs and organs, and as this Science involved ceaseless study and hours of quiet inference and calculation, it naturally intrigued Peppone as something he should like to see done. It was easy to study anatomy from eviscerated foes; it was much harder to do it from a desk with no severed heads about.
                After inspecting his bunk and noting that he had been given one within perfect view of the door, Peppone emerged from one side of the hold and went down the hatch on the main deck to the other, where a few stairs conveyed him to Bartleby’s lair. His ideas of laboratories had little to do with books and everything to do with frothing carafes braised over controlled flames, but when he descended and saw Bartleby sitting at a desk, collocated by stacks of papers and bookcases, he owned himself somewhat disappointed. He had expected more from such an old eccentric, had expected experiments strewn about and dissected victims hung along walls; here was no dungeon with racks and gibbets, here was a phrontisery, the librarious hideaway, a sacred place devoted to knowledge and understanding, replete with bookshelves groaning under the weight of wisdom, notebooks stacked in neat corners, and wax candles melded to metal stands. It was more of a record room than it was a laboratory, and the resident laboritorian was at work preparing his samples for study. He was mantling over a mechanical instrument, an odd looking metal apparatus Peppone had never seen before, and was placing the collected skin samples onto thick glass plates. The plates were pressed carefully together and slipped it under a lens attached to a long looking glass, which hovered precariously over a flat stage. Bartleby peered into the eyepiece and looked downward, flouting and miffling about what he saw at the end of it. The sample was not refined enough, a lens was out of focus and must be brought into alignment, some adjustments were made, the stage was raised and the neckpiece was turned, and a few deliberations were hummed out, and an “Oh, yes, that is very good, all the cells are perfectly intelligible…” meant Bartleby was deep in the throes of Science, performing all the operations of empirical prowess with methodical fervour, looming over the device and peering into it as it for life, frowning and straining, tootling to himself his “Oh, how very odd, yes, quite interesting,” whilst recording his discoveries in a notebook beside him, writing at haphazard on perfectly tailored lines, his gaze unwavering from the eyepiece.
                Curiosity will work its powers on anyone with a proclivity for professional prying, and Peppone was sincerely interested in this Science. What was the old man doing, gaping into a long lens with one eye closed, looking at something nearly indiscernible? How could he see anything at all in such a small space? He inched closer, trying, by way of standing on tiptoes and craning his neck, to get a more comprehensive view of the old man’s methods: he was adjusting the instrument, he was turning the neckpiece, he was moving the slide about, he was fiddling with the height of the stage, and the more Bartleby doctored and fussed and recorded, the more fascinated Peppone became.
                “Do not try to skulk about me, you hulver-headed huggermugger,” the old man grumbled, without looking up from his work. “I can see you very well from the corner of my eye. Peripherals, you know.”
                “Well, I’m not trying to hide,” Peppone observed, “so I hope you can see me.”
                Bartleby replied with a careless, “Mmm, yes, well…” and seemed well-inclined to ignore his intruder. He turned again to his device and began studying the slide, when his furnishings sensed something and stood on end. “Why are you standing so close to me?” he hissed, drawing back in his chair. “Go stand over there, if you must stand anywhere.”
                Peppone did as he was told and went to stand in the corner closest to the stair, but his smiling interest, his eager penetration made him seem more present than he was before. He canted his head and pointed to the device Bartleby was looking into. “Is that Science?”
                “What do you mean is that science?” said Bartleby, with unanswerable dignity. “Fff! Of course it is science! Everything you see is science, but you’re Lucentian or Sesternese or whatever two nationalities flung together, neither of which prizes scientific understanding. Science is the system by which we collect information and acquire knowledge by testable hypotheses, which are then proven through quantifiable and certified evidence. There are natural sciences, formal sciences, social sciences, applied sciences, domestic science, and so on. Everything from the batting of an eyelid to the frightful indentation in your head can be explained by science.”
                “Not everything, Bartleby,” came a voice from without.
                “Quiet, Rannig,” Bartleby sniffed, glaring at the ceiling. “I was speaking to the imp, not to you.”
                Peppone browsed the dent in his skull with his fingertips. “It doesn’t make me look like an imp, does it?”
                “You need more than what science can offer if you think a misshapen skull is why you look like a man who has been use as the back end of a barge mallet.”
                 Peppone considered this and the, shrugging, he decided, “I don’t mind how I look.”
                “No,” said Bartleby, in a careless hue, staring into his instrument, “nor should you. Appearences are the great trick of existence. They mean nothing where intellect is concerned. The brain and all its processes are more important and reliable than anything an outward pageant could imply.”
                He mumbled something about the folly of youth, putting grave importance on the ephemeral, and returned to his work, and Peppone crept quietly closer to the desk.
                “Can I watch you do Science?” Peppone asked, with a crooked smile. “I’ve never seen Science being done this close before.”
                “Point of fact you have, sir, this very day, though you didn’t know it,” Bartleby humphed, taking down a few notes. “You threw a piece of bent steel with angle and rotation enough to have it cut down a flag from forty feet up and have it return to you. A sublime example of applied physics as I have ever seen one, and you had no idea of it. To you, I suppose you just threw your murderer’s tool, or whateveritisyoucallit, but you performed a mathematical wonder, throwing your blade on a pefect angle, taking into account wind resistance, aerodynamic lift, gyroscopic procession, and so forth.”
                Peppone was surprised and pleased all at once. “I guess I did. But how did I do that?”
                “How else would you do it without knowing the significance of what you were doing? Practice, sir. That is the only way the illiterate stumble into scientific accident. If you are determined to stay and invigilate as I study your rind, as you seem to be, you will stay where you are and come no closer, and you will learn to be silent. This is my library and laboratory, and if you want to remain in it, you will behave yourself, do you understand? You will not glaum anything or climp anything, you will not breathe on my books ir sniff on my slides, and you will not speak unless I have given you leave to do. And you certainly do not have permission to drape over me like an unwanted sallow or hang about me whilst I am working--”
                “What is that device?” Peppone asked, pointing to the looking instrument.
                Bartleby straightened, and his eye twitched. “Did not I just say, not a second ago--?”
                “You said not to distrubn you while you were working, but you were looking up and talking to me just then.”
                Bartleby’s mouth opened and then closed again, his remonstrances failing him, and when he opened his mouth again to make some sharp answer, a familiar laugh echoed from without, the stifled reboation raising the old man’s spleen and making his lips purse.
                “Rannig,” he called out, “you are supposed to be varnishing the deck, not trinkling on other people’s conversations. We have talked about your espial habits at length already.”
                “I’m varnishin’, Bartleby,” Rannig insisted, from above deck, “but I can hear ye through the wood anyhow.”
                “Yes, well, ask Panza to deafen you with a song. That should cure your earwigging.” There was a pause. “There. You are quiet now because I have mentioned earwigs.”
                There was a soft, “….Well, they got pincers and all…” whimpered out, and Rannig was silent under the sussuration of a brush being scraped in circles long the deck.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Year, and New Books!

The beast of 2016 has at last been defeated, and though it was a vomitous year for many reasons, we did manage to provide readers with three published books, patrons with twelve novellas, and fifty free stories for all readers. Don't even ask me about the year's word count. I really could not tell you. I have been so busy with edits and re-writes that I lost my word count somewhere in October and have no inclination to recover it.
Now that the Ship's Crew is out in all formats (see HERE), what is to be done next? Two new books are already finished and awaiting publication, the first being the fourth in the Marridon novellas, and the second being an auto-biographical account of my difficulties, in which I poke fun at myself, harass wanton plumbers, make war with arachnid hordes, and despise the one thing I hate more than ripened socks: Summer. The book is slated to be released at the end of January, and even though it's not a fantasy book, I hope you will enjoy it all the same.

Happy New Year to all our readers!