Roots of Rookeri 35

Citadel Lecheni
Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy

Week Twenty-Eight

Boddy had already spat every -at word he could trawl—Ghats and rats and shats and splats!—but it wasn’t enough. No words, no chinking words would ever be enough. Just what in the name of every Founder was happening here? Threatened with death, just for intruding? No! Never! So where was the warning? Where did it say KEEP OUT, TRESPASSERS KILLED? And he hadn’t wilfully intruded. He had called up the stairs but there’d been no reply. No one had said, “Go away or we’ll kill you.” And who in all of creation was this Gowen Sivator Hadd to issue such a final sentence for some unintentional blindly done misdemeanour? And who was this malodorous wretch that kept pointing at him, shouting ‘death to intruders’? And where had they taken him?

The holde-men had finally stopped jabbing him—that was an improvement. And the lunatic no longer ranted. Hay-la! So now he could take in his surroundings.

What place was this? If there’d been less of a commotion around him he might have worked it out from the signature paintings as they brought him in through the doors. All he’d caught was a glimpse of two beasts facing off. Yet it wasn’t the Law Court. He’d seen that just before he’d taken that noleless step into the tower. He had briefly mistaken the Law Court for Shore House—its painted panels displayed aquatic creatures. Then he’d remembered what Ryal had said, that the Law Court was circular. Though this ‘aquatic’ House wasn’t circular, it did have a circular entrance that gave onto a most intriguing circular courtyard. So if that was the Law Court, this place they’d now hauled him into was what?

He was led through the core chamber (all light with marble), and into another (dark—the sun was strained through green and blue glazing set high in the wall). It was a cavernous chamber, excessively long, with the ceiling extravagantly high. He couldn’t imagine finding its like in Luban. Not even the brick-built Council Houses could equal it. At the cavern’s far end—

His face slammed into the carpeted floor as the holde-men dropped him. Yet in that instant he had briefly seen . . . a chair. The Chair. The legere-chair. Low and round and deeply padded, overhung by a circular canopy.

So that’s where he was. Two Boars House. He knew it by what Disa had said. He was in the great chamber of Breken Lafard-Legere. He groaned. Yeah, great. The outlook was looking increasingly grim.

When that maniacal malodorous manservant had first confronted him he had thought, yeah, fine, they’d a slight problem here, a misunderstanding, but given the chance, he could talk his way out. Even when the holde-men, with their pikes, had arrested him, he’d thought, confusing, yeah, but, fine, he’d straighten it. Then that death-like red-stained goble started spouting on about death to intruders, like some chanting corpse.

Put a bow in his hand or even a stiletto and he’d willingly fight and die—for a cause. Yeah, like his life, that was a good cause. But not to die and have no chance and all for a lily-loo whimsical charge. This wasn’t right.

He tried to raise his head, enough to take a look about him. But some leather-flapper in very hard boots knocked it back down. He could taste the blood. Something in his nose or his mouth had broken. “Be sensible, Boddy,” he muttered to himself, “be content to look at the carpet.” Jasckte-wool, hardwearing, it didn’t take the paler dyes. He couldn’t quite figure its colour, only that it needed a scrub. It wouldn’t hurt, either, to lift it and take it outside for a thorough beating. He almost chuckled, hearing Gammer Haspra voice in his words.

Yeah zo! Listen to him. These could be his last moments alive and he was being picky about the carpet. Yeah, right, but rather that than to think about Disa. How distressed she must be. Had Jonesi yet found her? Did Jonesi know where he was? Could Disa maybe free him? After all, wasn’t it into her ward-holder’s House that he’d been accused of intruding? Accused? Natzo, by the way he’d been treated, he’d say he’d already been found guilty. But he was guilty, he couldn’t deny it. But, Ghats and rats, where was the sign to say KEEP OUT?

Roo, he said, can you magic me out of this?

Alas, Boteras Felagi, this isn’t one of your plays.

~ ~ ~

Sifadis, Shore House Heiress

Sifadis lifted the tawny brocaded-silk kirtle, only to trip on the amber silk under-shift. Och, and here she’d been wanting to fly down the stairs—to straddle the balustrade as she had when a child. How troublesome were these woman’s dresses after the freedom of wearing the brecks. But she must hurry: Seleman Rokke had said it was urgent.

“Urgent, I’d say, Bel Hade—though, in truth, the little black man was that agitated it was not easy to understand him. He said his name was . . . Jonesi? That you would know him? But, Bel Hade, he seems not to be Rothi.”

“Ay, Rokke, he is not Rothi. But he is safe to be left alone with me. You need not attend.”

Sifadis could see him, now. She expected him to be pacing. Most people impatient paced while waiting, but Jonesi did not. Nor yet was he impeccably still. His movements were altogether erratic. Then she realised what he was doing. He was following the black and blue swirls on the otherwise white floor. He looked up as she swept into view, announced by her shoes’ soft whisper on the bare marble stairs.

“Sifadis, Bel Hade Femella.” He bowed respectfully deep before spilling the news. “It’s Boddy, it’s terrible.”

“Boddy?” Her hand went to her mouth while still clutching her kirtle. “Nay! Please, Jonesi, don’t say he is dead.” Her hand moved from her mouth to her heart, trying to still it. “Tell me, Jonesi, he is alive?”

“Yea, alive five minutes ago, Bel Hade Femella. But I don’t know for how much longer. One of those Runman men—he was the one who called for arrest—he’s ranting, ‘death to the intruder’. If he were Lubanthan we’d say him possessed.”

“Kalamite,” Sifadis said immediately weary. “Ay, you could say he’s possessed—with the notion that your Sturan Elect intends to attack our citadel. But what are you saying of Boddy? He’s been arrested? Why?—Other than I know that Kalamite wants him dead.”

Jonesi held out his arms in a loose shrug and waggled his head. “I’m not Rothi, I don’t understand. I know only that they arrested Boddy in one of the towers.”

Sifadis groaned. “Och, don’t tell me that, Jonesi, don’t. To be caught in a tower is certain death. But what, Jonesi, what was he doing there?”

Jonesi held up his hands and again waggled his head. “If I had answers I would give them, Bel Hade Femella. I tried to discover—at your neighbour’s there, the one with the big silver bird in the yard? That’s where they’ve taken him. But, hey, I’m a stranger here and they turned a deaf ear. It’s like I’m not here, I have just disappeared. Please, Femella Bel Hade, Sifadis Lafdi, they’ll answer you—you’re a lafdi and heiress and . . . and all.”

“Of course I will go, Jonesi, you’ve no need to plea—as if I would not. But, cruds, Boddy, what has he done?”

She cursed the tears, beyond her control. She wasn’t a weak woman, she couldn’t cry now. Boddy needed for her to be strong. But though she tried to brush them away, to stem their flow, still they came. Och, and now she was shaking, too. Och! What a state. But why was Boddy in the runmen’s tower? It made no sense. It wasn’t a place one could mistakenly wander to. All four towers were always locked.

It wouldn’t have happened if they’d waited for Boddy like she had wanted. But that brutal Lorken – how she hated him – had threatened to kill Boddy if he came any place near her. Bah, nix! Why accuse him, it was her own fault. If her thoughts hadn’t been rambling ahead to a blossoming tree, she’d have sent her own people to look out for Boddy as soon as she returned here. Had she really thought he’d turn around and return to Raselstad? But, dah! these accusations now were useless. Whatever he’d done, and whosoever the fault, it was left now for her to rescue him.

She called for her woman Ember to fetch her cloak. Jonesi tried to hide it, but she saw how he stared, his eyes fair popping. He had tried not to look, too, at the garnished straps of her kirtle—and her belt, more ornate at the back where he couldn’t see it—and her head-shawl, dripping with garnet-and-gold (and if he thought that overly tift, he ought to see her ceremonial headdress!) If she hadn’t been to Luban and seen how they dressed, simply though colourfully, she would have been puzzled by his reaction. After all, weren’t her clothes fashioned from the same Lubanthan textiles? But she knew their opinion of wealth, and her cloak displayed it to excess, the black-coffee silk heavy with gold, embroidered in knots and sprays and floristic festoons, and clusters of topaz, garnets and citrines, then lined with ginger minever.

He shook his head slowly. “Bel Hade Femella, if you want not to frighten our Boddy Felagi, I would say to bring him slowly to these.”

“He already knows,” she said—and crud and crusts, the tears were starting again. “We have talked of my wealth—and willingly I’d wear the scholar’s coat if it so pleases him. But first we must keep him alive, and scholars’ drab will not do it. But, please, will you accompany me?”

Jonesi looked at his own clothes – trousers of some indistinct colour, dark, much dirtied and torn with the travel, and a cotton shirt too thin and threadbare now to be warm. Yet both the shirt and his body looked that morning freshly washed, and his hair had been combed and tied in a tail.

“That pack,” she said, looking at it still dangling from his hand, “it might be safer to leave it here.”

He laughed, self-deriding. “As if I’ve anything worth the stealing. Food is all, and some herbs for healing.” Yet now she’d mentioned it he clutched at it fiercely, as if it were worth the world.

She called Seleman Rokke to her. “I will have my chair—the double,” she ordered. It might be best that the citadel’s tongues didn’t see her yet in the company of Jonesi. Not that she was ashamed of him. It just was best till she had sorted this thing with Boddy. If she could sort it. By the gods, what had be been doing in the towers? He couldn’t have mistakenly managed to venture in there.

~ ~ ~

Jonesi thought the chair-ride a great treat, at least he was laughing and hey-ho-humming. For Sifadis, though they’d not far to go, the berenan-pair who carried the chair weren’t trotting half fast enough. They set the chair down at Two Boars House with her side door opening onto the steps of the official entrance. The keefer berenan offered his hand. Sifadis accepted. Loh, only the one day returned to Rothi life and look at her.

She was still arranging the drape of her cloak when she saw Gowen Hadd stride into the courtyard. She called to him and gave a discreet wave of her hand. He ignored her, not even a smile. Then she saw who accompanied him: Lorken and Kullt, one either side of him. She couldn’t believe it. They were her ward-holder’s spies? Had he betrayed her so entirely? She stepped away from the chair and stood in his path.

“Bel Hade, Sifadis Lafdi.” He dipped his head respectfully. “I am pleased to see you safely returned. I have been hearing of your adventures. Breken Lafard will require your report, but this is not a good time for it. Please, turn around, go home. I will visit you later.”

“Nay, Gowen Hadd. I am needed here, in the Legere-Chair’s House. This charge of Kalamite’s against the intruder is pure lanterloo. I know the man and, though Luban, he is no danger. Yet you know Kalamite, he’ll want the man killed.” It was true, Boddy had trespassed, but that was a trespass against Runman House. What had that to do with Breken Lafard—unless Kalamite was pointing at Boddy, accusing him of a planned attack?

Gowen rested an avuncular hand on her shoulder, and moved to be between her and the holden guarding at the House.

“Peace, Disa, peace,” he said quietly. “This is no place for it. Go home as I said. I shall visit you later. You can tell me everything then.”

“Nix! Listen!” She clutched at his cold bony hand. “Hadd Leef, you must tell them. There is no plot to attack the citadel. And none to kill Breken Lafard—of that, I do swear. The man they’ve arrested, Boddy Rookeri, is innocent. There is no such interest in Luban. None! Not in any town, and certainly not in Raselstad—as Lorken can tell them. And besides that, I want to see him. I’m here to see Boddy.”

“Disa, sweet child, they will not allow it,” he said. “It is a closed court. I am here only because I was summoned. Now go back to Shore House before they arrest you, and your companion.”

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 36: 9th September

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ABSOLUTE BLACK

Another theory from Iris Einstein

Here I am again, stirred to another theory, thanks to a book I recently nabbed off Crimmie, all about ‘the evils of 21st century life'; their effects on our health. You know the kind of thing: hypertension, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, adrenal fatigue, diabetes II, obesity, etc, etc.

It’s typical of Crimmie to buy such a book, a health freak since the year dot—won’t stop playing doctors and nurses. She even has a diploma, would you believe, in Nutritional Therapy (had by post!). It entitles her to use the initials N.U.T.S. after her name. (I wonder why she doesn’t use it?)

Anyway, in this ‘Evils of C21st Living’ book there’s a chapter on Insomnia. Aha, I thought, I’ll read this, cos, well, hyperactive brain me, I do often find sleep elusive (a subtle contradiction, that: if I found sleep, it wouldn’t be elusive.)

So, in this chapter on Insomnia the author advocates sleeping in ABSOLUTE dark. Like, ZERO LIGHT. According to the author, this is Man’s natural sleep environment, and the only way the brain can produce the necessary melatonin.

Up for anything, I tried it.

It was the very, very worst night I ever have had. Notice I didn’t say ‘night’s sleep’. It wasn’t a night’s sleep. Sleep didn’t even venture near. It was more like torture, like-like sensory deprivation.

Okay, some people cope with it—but apparently not me. Some people are trained to it—but apparently not me. I don’t mean I sleep with all lights blazing. But what with the moon, the stars, street lights, etc, it’s nigh impossible to exclude every glimmer of light. It might seem velvety black when I switch off the bedside lamp, but the eyes soon grow accustomed, and hey-ho, it’s then not black but grey. But not on this night. This night it remained unrelieved black.

Held in insomnia’s familiar embrace, my mind started working. It started asking questions. It asked: when, during the long evolution of humankind, did we ever EVER sleep in this absolute blackness?

It wasn’t while we were roaming the Savannah. There we had the moon shining brightly upon us. Okay, not every night for (though many authors seem to forgot it) the moon spends half its cycle pale in the day-sky. But even with an absentee moon there’d still be the stars. The artificial lighting we blast into the night sky obscures all but the brightest of those. But away from the cities, the towns, the industrial complexes, the rural communities, the combined light of those stars can cast even the moon into darkness (poetically speaking).

Neither was it during our nomadic, hunter-gathering days with our temporary stick-woven huts huddled around a communal fire. We needed that fire to fend off nocturnal predators. They had eyes evolved to see in the dark. We did not. And the smoke from that fire kept the insects at bay. Even when we found a convenient cave, the thick deposits of soot on the cave-roofs attest to our continued use of fire – set in the entrance to keep away predators.

And then we built houses. But windowless, note, no light creeping in there. No, but they did have some kind of door-hole (dumbo!), which weren’t yet sealed by a solid plank door, not this early in Man’s carpentry achievements. Perhaps a hide-hanging was used? Yeah, but you reckon that would defend against the combined moon and stars? Their light could easily sneak around it. And, of course, there was the fire.

We might have cooked our food outside (there’s nothing new about the patio BBQ) yet we made sure there was always a glowing hearth inside—to keep the predators away while we slept; to keep the roof, walls and bedding bug-free; to keep our toes warm before the advent of tog 8 duvets.

And so, with only a few minor adjustments (cooking became an indoor sport), the situation remained—through the medieval period, through the Tudor era (though I’m here talking of England it was much the same throughout urbanised Eurasia), through the Georgian period and into the Victorian.

But even during the Victorian period we didn’t sleep in the dark—the proof of that is the ubiquitous bedroom fireplace. And it wasn’t only the posh houses of the wealthy who had them. They also graced the houses of the most humble (myself have lived in three separate examples, all C20th builds, one even post WW11).

The bedroom fire was made possible by the advent of coal. Coal had been mined since Tudor times, but it wasn’t until the Victorian period that it gained so much in popularity—in cheapness and availability—that it ousted completely the wood or turf fire. A coal-fire was long-burning, and safer. It didn’t suddenly flare and dangerously spit a shower of sparks to catch alight the carpets and bedding.

But the avid Victorian industrialists found yet another use for coal—leaving aside the plastics industries. In converting coal to coke (needed to fuel the ‘Satanic Mills’ of the north) they released another excellently useful resource—coal gas. Stored in whopping great gas-holders, the gas was piped through the streets, not only to fuel the domestic lamps that soon replaced wax candles, but also to fuel the newly-installed street lights.

Gone, then, was the darkness of night—at least in the towns and cities.

I grew up in a rural region. I was into my teens before we had street lights. Yet there was always the moon and the stars, else the light seeping through ill-drawn curtains, to illumine my way home from Crimmie’s folks’ house.

So, tell me, during our long evolution from the Savannah to the streets of Manhattan, when did we experience this absolute dark that, apparently, our melatonin requires?

I say it never did happen.

I say it’s not natural to sleep in absolute black.

I say that’s why kids don’t like it.

I say that’s why we use the word ‘dark’ as synonymous with ‘evil’.

I say ABSOLUTE BLACK ain’t natural.

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Let Battle Begin

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, alerted by Ardhea to the approach of Eld Freilsen, with weapons and men, Kerrid forms a plan.

Now out in a boat on Pranodalshum River, with the Asaric heron Ardhea and the woman Mutupthe, they have first to battle the river’s spirit. Next episode, The Power of Belief, ready now.

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Roots of Rookeri 34

Citadel Lecheni

Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin
aka Boddy

Week Twenty-Eight

“Hey!” Boddy called after the bent and gnarled man but the man didn’t wait. Boddy guessed he was one of Gowen Sivator’s servants – he’d come from the tower. Boddy started after him—until he saw movement within the tower’s dark gate. He hastened to there instead. But whoever it was had disappeared.

Boddy pondered for perhaps a second—before the open door became just too inviting. He pulled it wider and poked his head in. There weren’t any windows, that he could see, yet inside wasn’t as dark as the deep shadowed gate. The circular chamber was empty, except for a ladder hiked up to a hole in the bare raftered ceiling.

“Hey!” he shouted up through the hole. “Yoo! Hoi!”

Though he listened intently, there came no reply.

He lifted his foot, the toe of his boot on the bottom rung. But, natzo! It was too impolite. Besides, if his supposition proved correct and this was the home of Gowen Sivator, his uninvited intrusion wouldn’t make for the best first impression – and he needed to do everything possible to win his approval. Boddy had no illusions: he didn’t suppose for a moment that Disa’s ward-holder would immediately favour him. He removed his foot. He retreated – knocking his arm on the sudden doorway. In turning, he caught a glimpse of the garden.

It was guarded behind a black iron grille but that did little to hinder the view, or to spoil his appreciation. He could feel the smile growing as his eyes roved over the fire-juice tree, and the several fat po-plants, and—yeah, Disa had said all of this. He took the time to study them, their growth, their flowering. He named them, counted them, his head the while nodding. His smile slowly spread to a grin. Hey-zo! Now they’d have something besides Disa to talk of. He could—he would—compliment Gowen Sivator on providing the sharp sandy soil, a must for fattening Daabian plants – and hey, just at their fatness. They looked lovingly tended, the best he’d seen since his father’s demise. Yeah, great, he shook that thought away. He further planned their conversation.

He might tentatively touch on the contrast between these Daabian plants and those the Avatar had brought. He could remark—in a complimentary manner—on how the juxtaposition of Daabian plants and the flower-painted tiled tower accentuates this. Then to ensure he wasn’t miss-taken as Murky-Cursed, he might add how the Avatar’s flowers complemented the tower and enhanced its ethereal nature. Yeah zo, he’d soon have Gowen Sivator’s approval.

He looked again at the gaping door set into the dark depths of the gate. He might venture there now, now that he had an excuse for intruding. ‘Ghats, man,’ he’d say, all innocence and wide-eyed, ‘but I only came for permission to see more of the garden, to touch, to smell, to enjoy the exotic plants of my child-days.’ And if Gowen Sivator didn’t believe him, then he could call upon Disa to vouch the truth of him. Yeah zo, who could refuse him – especially when he added a smile! Hey, he was Boddy Felagi, disarmingly charming.

The door banged in the breeze. He steadied it while he again peered into the circular chamber. It seemed darker in there than when he first looked. He could only just make out the ladder. He allowed the door to close and headed there. He’d only one foot on the ladder when he found himself climbing.

Boddy Felagi, you oughtn’t to be here, warned his little god Roo.

Yea, yea, he knew that. But I have my excuses ready.

The ladder gave onto a second circular chamber, again without windows. Yet here he could see the source of light. It streamed through slits in the walls and spilled its tiny shards across the empty floor. Boddy guessed the slits were gaps between tiles—which meant the tiles weren’t laid upon anything as solid as plastered wattle. Instead, the tiles must have been laid upon wood. Boddy approved it. It was a mark in favour of Gowen Sivator, to have built his hall of wood not of stone.

He climbed the next ladder. Hey-zo, what else could he do? It was too inviting; he couldn’t resist.

Boddy Felagi, I’m warning you, you ought not to be here, Roo repeated. You come too soon.

“Yeah, yeah, I hear what you’re saying,” he said, not bothering this time to hide his voice. “But sweet Disa is waiting and, hey, how good it’ll be when I go to her to say, ‘Loh, your ward-holder agrees we should wed’?”

Yet at the next ladder, with his foot on the rung, Boddy paused. Roo was a god and gods didn’t give warning without good reason. Boddy had his excuse rehearsed, repeated and knocked into good form. It hovered now upon his lips awaiting the chance to be said. But what if Gowen Sivator lived here as a recluse? What if he whopped and whipped any intruder? Boddy looked up to the next floor. He looked down to the previous. Up or down, which way to go?

Ghats, rats and shats, you’d never get anywhere if, you didn’t occasionally take a chance.

Again, he raised his foot to the rung—and the door at the bottom banged with an eerie dry hollow sound. Boddy paused, ears keened to listen. It could be the ancient servant returning. He hoped so. If he explained his presence to the servant, the servant could then introduce him to Gowen Sivator. No need yet to mention Disa. And, Ghats and rats, he must remember to use her full name. The thought of her—yezzzah, he couldn’t wait to see her, to hold her, to kiss her. By every grim god, what was he doing wasting his time in climbing towers?

There was no sound of a servant returning.

“Roo, my trusted guide and companion, I’m beginning to think something here is amiss. That bang seems, perhaps, some kind of warning? Would you agree?” Though he spoke aloud, it was softly said.

I have already warned you, Roo said.

“Great, yeah, right, I ought to go. Jonesi will be waiting for me. He’ll be getting worried. And, maybe, yeah, he’s already found her for me.” Boddy grinned. Just the thought of her. He clattered hurriedly back down the ladders.

At the bottom, the first chamber, the lobby was entirely dark. He felt for the door, found it and pushed it. It would not give. Perhaps he should pull it—though he was sure he remembered it opened outward. It wouldn’t open inwards either. Perhaps there was also a catch. He fumbled and found it. But lifting it made not a jot of difference. In frustration, he dived headlong and bashed with his shoulder.

“Hey, Roo, the door is stuck. You reckon someone has locked it? Ghats! Natzo! Don’t tell me I’m trapped here.”

I did warn you, said Roo.
.
“You knew about this?”

I knew you’re not to be in here yet.

“Now you tell me.”

I did say. You ignored me. Roo’s voice seldom carried emotion but he now sounded hurt.

“Soz, Roo. I mean, I really am sorry.”

There was only one thing to do—to keep climbing the ladders, if need be all the way up to the top, and hope—hope—he’d encounter someone who’d help him out. If not, ho-hum, he’d just have to cross to the central tower and there beg Gowen Sivator’s help. Hey-zo, another excuse for them to meet!

He climbed the ladders. He counted the floors. Fourth floor, fifth floor, they were monotonous in their sameness, each one empty but for the next ladder. They were a waste of space, these floors could have been used for storage, and for the servants’ sleeping quarters. Servants, he caught himself mid-ponder. Servants, how easily he’d slipped into Disa’s talk—her jaw. Would he slip as easily into her way of life? But how could he live so deep into Murky’s pollution? Were there rites to cleanse him of it? None that he knew of. They ought to have spoken of that instead of laughing and loving.

He smiled at the memory of her saying of the Lubanthan, that they were nuggets for growing fruit in their orchards. Yeah, and what else would you grow in an orchard? “Read the Holy Book,” she’d told him. “You’ll find the answer. It’s cabbage.” Yeah, ‘cos. And she’d said the Lubanthan were nuggets? Duh!

She’d asked if he was an author, and he’d said yea—well he wrote plays didn’t he? So she asked him what he ‘made grow’. He shook his head, remembering how her question had thrown him. She had laughed and said to look in the Holy Book. Her and her Holy Book. An author, so she said, is an originator, literally ‘one who makes to grow’. She’d said it with such a wicked glint to her eyes.

“Great, yeah, funny. But that’s your Rothi Holy Book. We’ve already established you use a late copy. Our Good Book says no such nonsense.” But then he’d had to apologise when, later, he’d looked up the word in the Good Book and there found the same quote.

Memories, they haunted him all the way up the  ladders. By the time he reach the ninth floor his loins fair-ached for her. But that was fine, they’d soon be married and then . . . he sighed. Then he must live with her wealth. He didn’t yet know how he’d manage that. Could he undermine it from within? Nah, he’d use it to build hundreds and hundreds of mega-huge flower-houses. He hadn’t been jesting when he’d said of holding hands in the Daab. That was his plan.

Now on the top floor of the tower, he could feel the sway of it, battered as it was by the wind. And ahead, a door invited him on.

He braced himself. If the tower was swaying, what then of the fragile walkway. He wished he’d studied it longer while still on the ground.

He took a tentative step on the slatted-wood of the bridge. There were railings to either side of him. He appraised the wood-grass structure with a knowledgeable eye. Short of total collapse it ought to be safe. It was only the joints creaking and groaning as the wood-grass moved in the breeze.

Natzo! He soon discovered it wasn’t a breeze, it was a ratting hurricane. He shivered. How cold would it be up here in the winter? He was glad she had Shore House to live in, down there, out of the wind; glad, too, that they weren’t to live with Gowen, her ward-holder. But Disa, too, had said of the cold. Snow, she’d said, and he’d thought that something found only on mountains. Winter, that’s the season they’d go to the Daab.

Though the cold was biting he’d no other problem with being up here. He made the most of it, scanning around him. He was fascinated to watch the sea. There were boats, he could see, beyond the spit. He corrected himself, remembering what Disa had said. If they go to sea, they’re ships not boats. She had listed the types. He’d kissed her to stop the long list from multiplying. He would eventually get his head round it all – once he had tired of them going to bed. Judge Madir’s words returned to him—and his reply. “Yeah, but what’s a marriage without a rumple? What better expression of the Magnificent Maker? Without it the Destroyer would reign.” Boddy laughed. He’d make it his personal mission to keep the Destroyer at bay.

The wind buffeted the walkway, and him along with it. He looked again at the railings. But with their fancy infilling lattice even a toddler could walk safely along here. But, Ghats, it was cold. The wind whipped straight through his shirt. He understood now why everyone here wore buttoned-up coats. He could have spent days in gazing from here yet, to be out of the cold he willingly hurried his step.

He opened the door to the tall central tower, his speech amended and ready to give. Someone, some time, was bound to greet him. The place couldn’t be totally deserted. Could it?

He was greeted by a fancily carved alabaster screen. That for the moment flummoxed him. But logic pulled him out of the mental mire. This tight space was only the entrance. One wouldn’t expect the door to open immediately onto the halls—zups, he meant the chambers. A cursory look confirmed it. To the right the screen paralleled the curve of the outer wall, itself as much a flower-fest as the tiled exterior. To the left—

There stood a man in shabby coat, his red-stained hair hanging in ropes, a disgrace for any Rothi, even Boddy knew that. But maybe this was common for servants. The other man he’d seen was equally dishevelled.

“Ah!” Boddy launched into his speech. “Yeah, you must be Gowen Sivator’s servitor. I’m seeking permission, if you would take me to your master.” Natz, that wasn’t the right word. “I mean, if you’d take me to your keefer.”

The man drew in a deep breath as he drew himself up. “It is death for a stranger to enter here.”

“Yeah, right, fine, I know I’m intruding but—hey, man, I only want permission. Fine, I’ll leave. Hey, now look! There’s no need to get so upset about it. I’ve said I’m leaving.”

He would have left, too, of his own accord had that shabby old gaffer not followed behind him and stopped him from opening the door. He pushed at Boddy, jabbing him sharp in his back—as if he would tarry with that stench of the man behind him. But he’d have liked to have seen more of the paintings on the tiled wall. He wanted, too, to peep through the screen. He wondered what was hidden within. But the Stench Man behind him kept him moving.

Roo, I believe I’m in trouble, here, Boddy said, discreetly keeping it sotto voce.

I would say you are, Boddy Felagi. You were not supposed to enter here yet.

You know something you’re not telling me, yeah? Boddy asked him.

I am a god, the god said.

But you’re my god, Roo. You’re supposed to share what you know.

So I do, he answered. When you ask me directly.

Well answer me this—How do I get out of this?

For now, Roo said, I’d advise you to go along with the man. His beam is not what we’d call stable.

Yeah zo, Roo, you’re now mastered the Understatement.

A man couldn’t be in his right mind and look and smell as ripe as him. As to complying, what choice had he but to go along with Stench Man – unless he cared to turn and fight him. But that wouldn’t make a good first impression.

The man pushed Boddy around the tower till they came to the next door along to a walkway. “Open it, jert,” the man growled at him, and prodded again to ensure swift compliance.

Across the walkway, down nine flights of ladders, at his every slightest delay another sharp prod in his back. “Aiya,” the man kept saying, “hurry it, hurry it. Drip-head. Jert.” The Magnificent Maker and the Maintainer must have loved this man, for Boddy was a sliver of a spit away from punching him and yet the gods protected him. Boddy’s fists, though tight, stayed close to his sides. Perhaps the Destroyer didn’t want to take him. Not even His hallowed halls could smell so foul.

At the bottom, Boddy waited in the dark chamber while Stench Man fumbled for the key. Boddy couldn’t wait to be out. Fresh air! He’d gulp it down then go find Jonesi. By now Jonesi ought to have found Shore House. The man pushed open the door. Glorious, the drench of sweet air!

But what was this? Four guards, the citadel holden—their pikes all pointing at Boddy.

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 35: 2nd September

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Utterly Useless Facts #2

(Iris Einstein does it again)

We all know that Crimmie is a logophile,—though logomaniac might better express it—yet she didn’t know these words and their meanings. (Duh!)

Blissom
“To bleat with sexual desire.”

That’s got to be ‘bleat like a goat’.

Marmalise
“To give someone a thrashing.”

Is that the same as being marmaladed?

Hemipygic
“Having only one buttock.”

You could say that’s a half-arsed idea!

Eye-servant
“Someone who only works when the boss is watching.”

Yep, I’ve known a few.

Charette
“An intense flurry of activity to meet a deadline.”

A specialty of the eye-servant.

Nikhedonia
“The pleasurable anticipation of success before any work has actually been done.”

We’re still with the eye-servant here.

Ear-worm
A song that gets stuck in your head.

I’ve had an ear-worm these past few years.
One Way or Another‘ (I’m gonna getcha)
Reckon I’ve got her with my offering here!


Crimmie (aka Crimson of Crimsonprose) answers:

Iris isn’t so clever. She lifted the words and definitions from ‘1227 Facts to Blow Your Socks Off’, a publication spawned by the QI series on British TV (check it out on YouTube), which, if she could but remember it, was my Christmas present to her a couple of years back.

The song she mentions, ‘One Way or Another‘ was by Blondie, released in 1979, it wasn’t one of her highest charting hits reaching only 98 in UK. It did better in USA at 24, and Canada (wow) it peaked at number 7.

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What Odds?

The Eld versus a Heron and a Sky-Spirit

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, Ardhea alerted Kerrid to the imminent arrival of Eld Freilsen, with men, and with weapons.

Now the battle is about to begin. Next episode, Long Range Weapons of Defence, ready now.

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Roots of Rookeri 33

Citadel Lecheni
Eshe Parlan, Femella

Week Twenty-Eight

Eshe didn’t understand the process: why the water so quickly turned to slime, but the water in the bucket needed changing again. She groaned and slapped on her hat.

She didn’t like these new lodgings. She missed Lauschen and his wife. She missed their talk of rocks and ores, their locations and their associations. She even missed the hard graft of grinding. No doubt her mysterious benefactor had saved her from sharing Kilda’s fate, but this ‘female friend’ to whom he’d delivered her was a tailor. And what did she know of tailoring?

“I am trusting you,” the tailor had said – which was somewhat belied by the fact that after two and a half weeks she still hadn’t revealed her name. “The key to tailoring is in the pressing. And here I am instructing you to it.”

She wouldn’t trust Eshe with her name, but the secrets of her tailor’s were readily given.

The tailor showed her the bucket for water. Made from the cartilage of a marine amphib, it weighed very little, even when full – which was as well for it was Eshe’s job now to continually refresh it from the well outside in the yard. And that yard, giving onto the wide Western Way, did nothing to instil in her a sense of safety.

The tailor then slapped a long fabric roll into Eshe’s hand. Made of fine-weave hemp, it was packed with sand. Too quick for Eshe to take them in, the tailor showed her an array of other stuffed shapes that she called ‘hams’. Eshe assumed they were named for the said joint of meat which they closely resembled.

“The garment is laid over the ham. So.” The tailor showed her. “See how the seam now sits high. Open it—so—with your thumb. All along. But you cover only a little each time with the pressing cloth—and it should not be wet, but wrung out and damp. So.” It was that pressing cloth that caused the slime, requiring a constant supply of fresh water. “Then select the required flat iron.” Easy enough for the tailor to say, but there were five different sizes and widths, each kept hot on an ‘iron stove’.

Tailoring, as Eshe soon discovered, was ruinous of a woman’s hair. Eshe’s was naturally a nest of curls – and that was task enough to untangle on a windy day. Now it was a frizzy mess. The tailor gave her a hat to cover it, and to hide the fact she’d no man’s plait. But she couldn’t wear it while pressing. It was far too hot. And so it was always ‘on’ and ‘off’ as she went to fetch water and returned to more pressing.

The tailor also provided Eshe with men’s clothing. Nothing elegant. Coarse jasckte-wool brecks that scratched her legs and itched like crazy when, in the humidity of hot irons and damp cloths, she started to sweat. And a drab maroon shirt that was more of a smock, the cotton imported from Luban. Eshe had then to bind her breasts despite they weren’t bigger than poached eggs.

It struck Eshe as odd that in the two and half weeks she had been with the tailor she had yet to see the benevolent man who had warned her and brought her to here. But then, when visitors called, Eshe was shooed out to the back room.

She’d not seen Trefan, either. Her feelings were divided on that. If Trefan didn’t know where she was then neither did Kalamite. Yet she longed for the comfort of Trefan’s arms.. On those occasions she ended up fretting. He had forgotten her, he didn’t care, he had only been toying with her. At such times she felt alone and deserted. It was then that she’d ask why she still was there in Lecheni-town. Was it really because one deranged man wanted her dead? (He couldn’t be sane.) But it seemed so long now that she’d even forgotten why he’d pursued her. Wasn’t it something to do with a conspiracy with Trefan? Yet according to Kilda, Trefan had been released.

Kilda: Kilda was dead—killed for having helped her. When her thoughts arrived at that there always followed the same conclusion. There was something happening here, something more than she’d been told, something she’d somehow become tangled in

And another bucket of water slopped by her feet. She ought to be quick and take it in, to hide again in the black thatched house. Yet instead she turned back. A second look towards the gate. Something, out there on the road, had snagged at her eye.

She told herself, no, it couldn’t be, as soon as she’d asked it but . . . was that Jonesi? But what would Jonesi be doing here in Lecheni? Yet that black hair—not unknown in Rothi yet certainly rare. And with the white wings at the temple, it was distinctive. So too was that short scrawny body. Eshe left the bucket and ran to the gate.

But, so confused her emotions, she was slow to call out though she waved with both hands high in the air. “Hi!” she shouted. Boddy was with him. “Boddy! Yoo! Boddy! Jonesi!”

A hand clamped over her mouth. Vicious fingers dug into her flesh. The tailor though short was deceptively strong. She pulled Eshe back from the gate and pushed her, fingers prodding into her back, back into the house.

“Cruds and termites, woman, you jert! Hide you, he says, and I risk my throat, whilst you—nix ‘n’ nay!” She threw up her hands in exasperation. She turned round several times. “Why not stand in the Way and declare you are here? Nicky’s Curses couldn’t be worse. I tell my friend, now, to take you away.”

Eshe accepted the tailor was right to reprimand her. But Boddy, what was Boddy doing here in Lecheni? Had he come to find her? Was her father now worried? No matter what the tailor had said, she must go seek him. After all, why this disguise if she remains hidden? But she’d be quieter this time. No waving her arms and shouting. And no one will recognise her, not dressed as a man. But she would wait. That’s it, wait till the next time she went to fetch water. Then sneak away.

.

Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin
aka Boddy

Jonesi looked up at the warison. “Citadel Lecheni, meet Boddy Felagi,” he introduced them with appropriate flourishes. “Boddy Felagi, meet Citadel Lecheni.”

‘Great, yeah, fine, I’m impressed. And I’ve seen the scars in our Ridge where they hacked out the stones. And this is to be my new home?” He couldn’t help the sourness. He sighed. Heavily. He hoped Disa would be worth it.

“Oh Boddy Felagi whines, forgetting how strange to Rothi eyes his Raselstad’s Hub with its skirt of shrines.”

Boddy stretched his mouth to a smile. But his lips were elastic and they soon again pursed. Yet Jonesi was trying. Yeah zo, but wasn’t he trying too. Yet to live in a citadel stinking with Murky’s Curse? Natzo. And anyway, as if this Breken Lafard-Legere would consent to the wedding. He may as well turn and go home.

And where is your home, Boteras Felagi, if not here, Heir of Shore House?

Spew on it, Roo. I was happy enough before I knew it.

You were not! You barely balanced.

So I must come to here? Else what? I’ll fall off the beam?

Boddy heaved a second sigh. “Yeah, right, Jonesi. So now comes the job of finding her House.”

“Hey-zo? Wasn’t Ryal Holde bold-er ’nuff to tell you?”

Boddy winced. “Curses, Jonesi, you’ve left your best rhymes in Luban. And though Ryal listed the Houses, he didn’t tell me how to find hers.”

“Mayhap the red lafdi’s secluded bower is in that sparkling white tower.” They’d seen the tower from a distance, above the warison. But close to, now, and that same warison hid it.

“In one of the five white towers,” Boddy corrected him. “But I‘d say the tower is more likely her ward-holder’s hall – this Gowen Sivator she spoke of. She said of him tending Daabian plants in the Tower’s garden.”

They entered through the west gate. Barely through it and Boddy stood, transfixed.

“Yeah zo! Accursed or not, that tower has elegance. Delicate too, despite its construction. Yet looking around me . . .” Boddy turned, and turned, his opinion developing on his face. “. . . that tower is out of place here. It’s like someone has planted it in an ill-suited garden. Yeah zo, it would sit more at ease in Raselstad.”

His eyes followed the line of the tiled curtain wall. He assumed the structure ran the full circle. Above the wall, his eyes found the central tower and tracked up it. And up it, and up it. The tower rose to some incredible height. Buttressed, he supposed, by those—were they wooden?—arched struts. But, wowzah, how precious and magical those towers would look at dawn in the sun’s golden rays . How mysterious, too, when bathed in Medusa’s red light. Truly, he didn’t want to move on. He just wanted to stand there, no eyes for the other buildings in the citadel close. Though fancily painted they were dull in comparison.

Jonesi nudged him. “Gawking won’t find you the lafdi, Boddy Felagi.”

“Hmm.” With a sigh of reluctance he tore away his eyes. “Pictures of hinds, that’s House Eland. Trees, that’s Greystone House. So, great, yeah, fine, Jonesi. We need only to find a House painted with shores.”

“Yea,” Jonesi said. “And when before did you see a shore?”

“Luant estuary: that looks to me like a sea.”

“Ho-oh, Boddy; he likens the estuary to the sea. But he’s not seen the sea to know if it’s like the estuary.”

“Yeah, fine. Point taken,” Boddy conceded, defeated by the abundance of seas. “So we’ll look for the picture that doesn’t fit the others.”

“To quote a playwright of my unmistaken acquaintance: ‘Yeah, great, fine.’ So tell me,” Jonesi asked, “what are these others? Only, Boddy Felagi, you keep much to yourself. All these days walking when you could have been talking.”

“Yea, yea, yea, moan, moan, moan, moan. Leave it for another day, hey. What, you think I’m been missing Uncle Elect?” But all the same Boddy listed the Houses as Ryal had given them. “Shore House, yeah, you know that one. Rams House, Two Boars and House Eland. Runman House and, behind us there, Greystone—and don’t ask why the trees, just Ryal said it was so. Um, how many is that? Six? So there’s another six yet. Ah, yeah. There’s Dormir House, Witan House, the Law Court—not really a house—the Treasury which apparently once was a house—how many is that?”

“There should be two more.”

“Yeah zo, what have I missed? Ah, the Guard House – which is also the barracks. I suppose we’ll know that, it’ll be painted with weapon. And . . . rats, what’s the other one?. Well, anyway, let’s split the task. You circle one way, I’ll circle the other, and, hey, we’ll meet the far side of this massive white feast.”

But before either had taken more than two steps, Boddy stopped. “Jonesi . . . have you noticed how quiet it is here? I feel like we’re trespassing.”

.

Kalamite
Keefer-Papa of the Runman Order

Aiya, was a man never to be allowed his prayers? I beg your forgiveness, he beseeched his mother, his lover, his queen, for my ill-temper.

“What?” he snapped at Honning.

“Begging forgiveness, Papa Hadd, but that babbling old holde, Matikkas, he seeks an audience. He says it is urgent, to hurry, to please come.”

“He said no more than this?”

“Nix, Papa Hadd. No other words.”

“Aiya, aiya.” Kalamite huffed in irritation. “So tell him to meet me by the Red Tower’s gate. Run, if it’s urgent, sprat—run.”

It would be less private at the gate than in his subterranean cubby but, unless Gowen Hadd was displaying his ghastly plants to some gawking visitor, they ought to be unoverheard and undisturbed. He had a feeling—nix! more than a feeling—that he knew why Matikkas sought him. This was the last of the Maiden’s days, thence began the Witan’s. That left eleven days more for Murag’s agent to appear and declare. Aiya, he would lay good gold on him having come early, enticed—winkled out, so to speak—by Lecheni’s continued hold of the spy.

Satisfied that his machination was playing out as planned, Kalamite wound his way around the tower. Twelve flights up, aiya! He wasn’t so young. These were three too many when in a hurry. Before he’d reached the top he already was gasping. Then out onto the walkway. So high above the shielding warison, the wind blew strong. But Kalamite had traversed the arching walkways every day since a toddling child. He was used to its sway. Still, he held the skirts of his coat close about him. Then down and down the nine narrow ladders.

Aiya, how fast Honning’s feet, that he could tread the same route, and farther— to the runman’s Purple Chamber—and fetch the reporting Matikkas, and be back here at the Red Tower, waiting for him. And Honning was no lean man; he was flab-bound.

Kalamite nodded for him to leave them. He drew Matikkas deeper into the shadowed arch.

“Papa Hadd.” The ancient holde lowered his head.

Humh, belated respect from him. “Spill,” Kalamite prompted.

“Your man has arrived.”

“Are you certain?” But, aiy, he had already known it.

“I heard him talking to his companion. He said of Raselstad. And then of the citadel: ‘Soon this will be my home.’ I heard him make mention of Ryal, too. You were right, they are conspiring together. And – mayhap this makes some sense to you – he said of Wood Tower being some red lafdi’s bower.”

Kalamite all but swooned, his hand held to his red-stained lips. “Tell me, quickly, what is his colour?”

Aiya, how the old holde tarried, scratching his head as if to disturb the answer there. “He was dark, Papa Hadd. Dark as a Javan.”

“Nixnixnix! That’s not what I meant—unless there was something unusual in that.”

“Aye, well,” Matikkas said, unperturbed, “he weren’t as dark as some Javans seen.”

“His clothing, drip-head, what of his clothing?”

“For clothing?” Aiya, must Matikkas take so long with his answer. “Your man wears only a shirt and brecks—he must be freezing for that shirt looks to be silk.”

“The colour, your lorellish drip-headed jert, the colour?”

“Peace, Papa Hadd. Getting agitated is bad for the bladder—or I’m told. His shirt, you ask? That was red—a distinct colour red. I tell you what, it were the exact same colour as the Shore House woman—her hair, red as her hair. Did you know that woman returned here last night?”

“I thank you for the information, Matikkas, though, aiy, I do know.” He would deal with her later – he still was waiting for inspiration. She oughtn’t to be here. A certain person would shortly be short of his gonads. “Now hush a moment,” he told Matikkas, “while I think.”

There was no doubt of it, the red-shirted stranger was the expected one, the intrusive Raseltop, as foretold by the Events Map. And he, unless stopped, would join with Rubel.

Nix! Not with my lover, my mother, my queen!

He could feel the bristles along his back rising. His lip curled into a savage snarl. Was he shapeshifting into a hound? Aiy, he had heard of such a phenomenon. Happily he’d assume that form, a hound, a guard upon his lover. For this red-shirted stranger, this Raseltop, this Murag’s agent, wasn’t to have his beloved Rubel, his queen, his lover, she who, incarnate in human form, had given birth to him. Aiy, sweet red Rubel, who day and night gave him suck upon her red nippled beads. Communion, ecstatic, erotic – and his alone to savour.

This other, this intruder, this red Raseltop, steeped in Murag’s blood, must die. For no other would ever touch his lover.

“Aiy,” he told Matikkas. “It is him. Nix, don’t rush away. I have just the way to be rid of him.”

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 34: 26th August

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