Sunday, December 23, 2007

Eleanor's Illness

So many months since Eleanor has been able to write! All this time I have visited her, and she has not been near her Machine, and cannot tell more about me. In my visits I have seen - oh, horrible things. A huge machine with a gaping mouth through which incurious people fed her, despite her fear and trembling. Terrible places, full of boxy machines that controlled her heartbeat or put their transparent, pointed snouts into her bloodstream, doing I know not what. For much of it she was in pain, and sometime early on I came to her just as she was lying on a hard cot, staring at a harsh light overhead with the silhouettes of people looking down all around. Just after that, she spiralled down into the dark and I lost her.

I have been frightened for her, watching this.

When she finally came home she was so sick that she vomited and lost her hair. Once I came when she sat, trembling, by the window, and watched your strange machines crawling by below - so like my Beetles! - too tired to do anything else. I saw her phantom in the glass of the window, pale and shadowed and too thin.

Then, for awhile when I came, she would be outside in the darkness, walking through the autumn evening: walking and walking, a warm hat pulled over her naked head. Her hair began to grow back, and she grew stronger, but still she did not go near her writing Machine.

Tonight, for the first time, I find her here, staring at the Machine. Outside, there are colored lights everywhere - some kind of Midwinter Festival? - and it is snowing. The hard streets of this place drizzle with light and movement, and there is a feeling in the air

Monday, August 20, 2007


All that day, I wandered the house and yards, until my mother leaned out her window and told me irritably that she could not write with me mooning about so. I moved on to the Museum, trailing my hands over the cases and peering in at the familiar old Machines, but found no comfort there.

At noontime, I was not hungry, and pushed my food around until my mother said, "Tsk" and sent me outside again. Then she leaned out her window again and told me to go put away my Beetles in the Labyrinth.

Glad of the orders - for staying busy was better than the endless hanging minutes - I went downstairs with the first Beetle in my hand. The evening of the Midsummer Festival, when all the feasting had done, my father had taken me aside and pressed the key to the many sections of the Labyrinth into my hand, saying that with the Beetles I had become a true Curator-to-be. He was proud of me, he told me smilingly, and looked forward to teaching me all the arts of Curatorship. I held the large key in my hand, warm from his pocket, and thanked him with all my heart, for I could not imagine a better thing than to be like my father at that moment.

Now, however, the key was cold, hanging in its place on my belt. My innards felt much the same way, as if they had been hanging somewhere cold all day; and the dark stairwell of the Labyrinth did not warm me. Cautiously, I walked to the bottom and opened the first door. All was silent; dim corridors stretched away in three angling directions as if waiting for my presence.

I have always wandered the Labyrinth, at first with my father and then later alone, and yet have still not reached all its parts. The near parts are familiar to me, never before causing fear or hesitation, only curiosity; yet today, with the coldness in my belly, the corridors seemed too aware of me. I moved into the first one with a sense of dread.

My father, when he presented me with the key, had brought me down here ceremonially, both of us yawning from the feasting and the lateness of the hour. He had twinkled his eyes at me, gesturing for me to open the first door myself, with my own key. I thought that was the whole of the thing, but in silent glee he had taken me further in.

"I remember when I made my first festival Creations," he said. "My father brought me here afterwards. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I am pleased to do the same with you." He linked his arm with mine, patting my hand as we walked along between the clean, dry stones. The Labyrinth, being under the Museum and the Palace itself, is never cold or damp, only cool and quiet. The perfect place to work and to keep Machines safe. It is much more than that, of course; but the near parts we use daily, with no thought of those other uses.

We walked toward my father's work-room, a place I had always loved: large and spacious, with many shelves around the walls full of odd and interesting things. That night, however, we walked on from there, past Ennis's small work-room, which was designed to look like an annex of my father's, in case we were found out. On the far side of this space was another large space, unused and unkempt for many years. Tonight, however, it was transformed. The wide floor was swept and polished and the walls whitewashed. The single tiny window, looking up through a thickness of stone to the ground, above, was clean and bright. Tools hung along one wall above a workbench, and shelves hung on two other walls in the same manner as my father's space. The ceiling was high and clean. It waited for me to come and Create.

"Oh, Da!" I cried, and hugged him awkwardly. I was nearly as tall as my mother now, and did not know how to fit my grown body to his so well.

He kissed me and chuckled. "I hope you come down here often," he said. "I am very proud of you."

I swore to him with tears in my eyes that I knew of no better place than this one he had made for me.

But this day - only one day later, though my joy seemed years away now - it seemed to me that something waited there, in the corridors. I did not want to be there, and brought my Beetles down hurriedly, dumping them on a high shelf in my silent and empty work-room. I had left the last one on the bench and was coming swiftly past Ennis' work-room, when I stopped. I wanted to see where he had worked.

Ah, I feel the sun comi

Monday, August 13, 2007


All the things which have been happening since the Festival are now crowding in my head to be told.

To start with, Ennis was sent to gaol.

It is impossible to express the outrage that I felt when he was sent for, very nicely indeed, by the constables. My mother came in looking unusually flustered and told my father that Ennis was being marched away. I ran outside before she had spoken four words, and just saw them turning the corner farther down the street, the constable gesturing politely for Ennis to go first. I must have looked quite stupid, standing with my mouth open as I did, my breath coming in disbelieving little gasps.

Whirling around to get my father, I nearly collided with him. He was standing behind me with an identical expression on his face. We looked at each other in horror: had we not given him the space to work, he would not have been sent off like this.

Seeing my emotion, he composed himself and spoke gently to me. "I cannot believe that our King is so cruel as to imprison a young man for Creating such a wonderous a thing. It may be that he merely wishes to speak with him. Have faith, my little Ned; have faith," he said to me, holding me by the arms and giving me a gentle shake. Then he held me in his arms and stroked my hair, a thing he did less nowadays than before. "Nevertheless, I will go and see what I can discover."

When I clamored to come with him, he shook his head, smiling sadly. "You will be more hinderance than help with me in the Palace," he declared. "Better to stay here and wait."

So, with beating heart and tears in my eyes, I stood by as my father came out in his best clothes and his most ceremonial Curator's girdle, his Curator's staff in hand, and kissed me goodbye before walking briskly off the same way the constables had done.

When I went

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Annual Miracle

Now that my telling of the Midsummers' Festival is done, I can write of what has been happening since.

Oh! But before that, I must tell you about the Steam Beast's appearance at the Festival. I had not been in the Labyrinth for many weeks before then, and so had not seen its last changes. Father had told me that I would be surprised, and so I was: for the Steam Beast did not make its appearance until the sun had set that evening. The entry of the Steam Beast into the Festival is not done by men, but by the Beast itself, which has a telling of the hours and seasons within it; and so its arrival is heralded each year as a miracle. My father's job is only to unlock the door of the Labyrinth and leave it open, so that the Steam Beast can come out when it is ready.

We were all feasting, and the musicians (and music-machines) tuning up for the dancing, when a great and melodious sound was heard from the direction of the Museum, and everyone went quiet and turned to look. The sound came again, a long questioning cry, like a song or a fanfare. There was muttering in the crowd, but quiet descended as we waited, for all of us expect miracles on Midsummers' Eve. It is the time for miracles.

As we watched, a lick of flame showed between the buildings. There was the sound of some large Thing treading toward us, and around the corner came a thing so large and yet so delicate, so brilliant and frightening, that there were gasps from the crowd. It was the Steam Beast.

It approached us, a thing of silver and fire. Puffs of smoke and steam wreathed the many long, dancing pipes that stood from its body. Each pipe had what looked like a brazier at the end, from which billowed occasional tongues of flame. It looked like a Dragon with many necks, each one spouting flame and singing as its necks wove intricate patterns which made the flames leave images on our eyeballs from their trailing fire. The song changed from deep, vibrating into our bones, to trilling, depending upon the different tongue of flame that pushed the sound from its throat. It was magnificent, and people stood back as it passed around the square, nodding a blessing on people as it passed. The song went on, with stirring, lilting notes; we stood unmoving, listening and watching, until it had gone on, moving down the North Street and disappearing. Its song went on, skirling in the distance with flashes of brightness, then was silent.

We all sighed for awhile, before the dancing commenced again. The arrival of the Steam Beast every year is like a visitation from the Gods, and we all take it as a yearly miracle when it comes. For who knows what makes it wake every year, and re-make itself? The mechanics of the ancient Brilliants will always be a mystery; only the Gods know when the Steam Beast will cease to make the journey.

Ennis was praised mightily, clapped on the back and given drinks all round. My father, beaming all over his face, embraced me for my Beetles, as he called them, and shook Ennis' hand with nearly enough joy. I was afire with pleasure that he had finally Created.

Especially because my father and I had worked so long on our secret together, before I was swept off in the Creation of my Beetles. Our secret, which we set like bait in the trap: a workshop, set partway inside the Labyrinth, which we led Ennis to by a series of breadcrumbs. He took the bait, and built what is considered one of the finest Machines for a hundred years - all in the place my father and I made for him! To say I was proud, of him and my father and myself, is only part of the joy of that day.

Since then, however, there has been uproar among those of the Blood, for a simple stable-boy should not be able to Create such a thing. It is so stupid!!! I cannot ee m as - o dear -

Monday, July 30, 2007

Midsummers' Festival, Day of the Feast

I see Eleanor's hands shaking tonight. I cannot see why, but she seems ill. I will finish this, and let her rest.

...At midday the parade began, the royal caravan coming from the castle to the North, along the Wide Road and into town. People shouted and called, and the Machines arrived from the Museum road, rolling or stalking or creeping, waving downy tendrils and colored flags, their interiors alight with fire and gleaming metal, beads of color jumping and leaping, and every manner of lovely movement. Soon the King's caravan was surrounded by a gleaming, dancing battalion of beautiful machines. It was wonderful to see.

I stood on the roof of the Museum stables, looking over the back wall, where the Wide Street went by. My machines stood around me, waiting to be released, while I watched for the right moment. It came, finally, after all the machines had been brought forth, and the oohing and aahing had gone down a little. I knew that at any moment the great cheer might go up which signalled the start of the Festival, so that was when I set the little ones going.

Over the side they went, a gleaming blue wave of beetle-like carapaces. Quickly I climbed down the ladder and ran into the street, in time to catch the gasp of amazement as the crowd caught sight of the effect. It did look wondrous: the twelve little machines ran along the wall in a curling dance, their color shifting on cue from deep blue to green to red and yellow. They moved, spiralling, across the wall and down along the street, climbing other walls in ones and threes, spreading color around the street.

The King, speaking with my father, saw me and called me over.

"You did this?" he asked, his white beard fine and crisp against the crimson of his suit.

I bowed. "With many people helping me, I did, Sire," I said, hardly more than a whisper. The King had never spoken to me before - had never even noticed me before.

He craned his head to look at the swirling motes on the buildings around. "Then you will make a fine Curator, perhaps even a Master Machinist," he said. His sharp blue eyes held me for a moment, then moved away. I knew I was dismissed, and walked away hardly able to breathe. I wanted to jump and scream.

I walked that way for awhile, following the caravan, but seeing very little around me. Then we came to the square.

In the middle of the square, standing on a plinth, stood a glass woman, glowingly white, as if made of mist. Within her misty limbs darker things moved, as she raised her arms to the sun. The parade, tumbling into the square in a hurdy-gurdy tangle of color and shouting, stilled, all the sounds dying away save the snapping of the flags in the quiet breeze.

The woman stood, her arms to the sun, and opened her mouth and sang, with a voice like a water bird, like warm honey. It was echoing and sweet and made the hairs stand on my arms. I do not know what she sang, but as the liquid notes dropped down, the people sighed. It was wonderful.

And when she was done, out from the crowd stepped Ennis, and bowed low before the King.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Midsummers' Festival, 5

I must finish this, things are changing quickly here.

Suffice to say that Ennis did help me.

Oh, by the Gods, I must speak more elaborately than that. I see that.

I told him of my failure, and he sat with me and spoke of it for awhile. After a time, I am not certain how long, I began to feel hope, for he showed me that the thing missing in my formulae was the pressing of the folded areas of the feet into the inequalities in the walls. The ideas flew between us, and we found ourselves standing at the table, trying different things, as the torches burned lower and the stars wheeled round above, his hands working next to mine.

Finally we discovered what seemed to be a way. By altering the feet so as to incorporate a plunger-style mechanism which pushed a viscous liquid into the folds of the foot-coverings I had fashioned, the feet actually did cling to things. By working well past the double bells, we had finished one of the machines and started the mechanism up.

IT WORKED!!! With only two days to go, Ennis and I had solved the riddle of walking on walls. The thing skittered across the ground and up a stone wall, crossing around the courtyard with ease, the colors on its back changing faster as it crept. It was only as it tried to creep up onto the ceiling of the portico that disaster struck: the thing lost its footing and fell, breaking its carapace on the floor below. It seems that the hairs in the Gycko's feet serve some function, after all.

He said goodnight, kindly and as near his old self as I have seen, and I went to bed, my head whirling with ideas and with his nearness, which had a strange effect on me.

The next two days were a flurry, trying to fix the broken machine and tan enough stomach-leather for all the feet on all the machines - as well as fashioning the feet themselves. I was up til all hours both nights running, though Ennis came only once, to help me stitch feet the last night. He was silent then, and did not sit near to me, his face turned away; but he seemed only thoughtful, not angry. I wondered, then, for the first time, if he had his own machine for the Festival. I remembered the fallen bits of machine-metal on that day so many weeks ago, and wanted to ask him of them; he seemed so thoughtful, however, that I could not bring myself to interrupt his ruminations.

The day of the Festival dawned bright and warm. The flags were all up, all around the town, and many hundreds of strange people came and went from the inns and the camping-places by the river. Brightly-colored carts made their way into the square, setting up around the edges with much hustle and bustle. A whole city within the city, of carts and stands and cloth-covered booths, had bloomed in the night.

I stood on a

Monday, July 16, 2007

Midsummers' Festival, 4

Ah, my Eleanor, my Hands, how I have itched to finish this story of the Festival! Things are happening now that I would tell you of.

So: let me speak quickly.

My father's idea about the cow's stomach did indeed seem valuable. I looked at one through the Vial, and found that he was right about its deep structures. I experimented feverishly with the tanner's caustic, and found that the stomach must be half-dried for the caustic to work; fully-dried and it lost its pliability. Then it was a matter of how to apply the caustic, as it seemed to shrink with the direction of the brush-strokes. But these details are of little interest.

Ennis came and watched me work, but went away without saying anything. I longed, now my eyes were opened to the clarity and learning of his mind, to speak with him of all the things I wondered about; but his face, though gentler, was still closed to me, and I dared not. So I worked on with little sleep, and at length, but four days before the festival, I had something that I deemed might work. It lacked the infinitesimal hairs of the Gycko's feet, so I could only hope that this would not hinder it.

After some experimentation, I was able to attach some of the material to one of the machine's feet, but the experiment was a complete failure! I was devastated, unable even to come down to dinner. My father came upstairs to comfort me in my room, but could not; all he could do was love me and insist that I not give up. I still had more than three days.

So I sat, the dutiful daughter, in the courtyard and stared at nothing in the evening light. Nothing came into my head, no further plans or ideas. It grew dark, and the women lit the lamps, and still I sat. Most people went to bed; my father came and looked at me and went away again, leaving me alone. I sat and let the tears trickle down my cheeks, until a rough, long-fingered hand touched my arm, making me start.

It was Ennis, his tea-colored hair falling over his eyes, looking down at me with surprising tenderness, which of course made me cry all the harder. I threw my sleeve over my face and bawled, and he put his strong hand on my back, of which I know not what I felt.

At the end, I was reduced to hiccups and trying to recover my dignity, which was likely ruined anyway. I looked up to find him sitting next to me, looking at the mess of my labors. We sat in silence for awhile.

Oh, I can feel -

Monday, July 9, 2007

Midsummers' Festival, 3

Ah, me, all the interruptions. This telling takes so long to tell, while the rest of my life slips away untold...luckily these weeks are dull ones, for me. This year the summer is hot, and we stay inside during the heat of the day, coming out like forest animals in the early hours and the late ones. So there is plenty of time to think, and dream, but not much happens; it is a drowsy time, with long, full days of harvesting, eating the harvest, fixing buildings, cleaning, and so on. There is always much to be done, when the days are long; it is a time of creation and repair.

In any case, my trip to the tanners was quite enlightening. Ennis showed me how the drum-makers paint their hides with caustic to shrink them. The drum-makers kindly showed us how, if the hide is not stretched, the caustic will make it ruck up as it shrinks, into folds very like the ones on the Gycko's feet. Examining the crumples in the hide, I asked Ennis if he thought it would do.

"Probably not," he said, in that stiff way he has. "Look at it under the Lense Vial first, and see. It may only be a start."

A start! When there were only five days left until the festival? My anxiety knew no bounds.

But I thanked the drum-makers and walked back with a silent Ennis, who bid goodbye as soon as he could. Then I unlocked the case with my father's Lense Vial in it and set to work.

Ennis was right. The folds were of the right type, but the surface of the hide was much too pitted and full of pores to be of use. What good did it do? I threw away the bit of hide in despair, and went to help my father in the Museum.

My father was busy directing the white-washing of the Museum rooms, showing the men what to do, directing ladders and getting out cloths to cover the machines with. I helped to spread the cloths, fetching water for the white-washing and trying to note to how my father conducted his business. He took time to explain things to me, as he always does, since I will be the Curator when he is passed; but eventually he looked at me, and took me by the shoulders into another room.

"My dear," he said, "You have been looking strained recently. Is it your machines for the Festival? I do worry you have looked large in that department. When I was your age, I simply created a sort of cart with a fan that opened and closed. It's not necessary, you know, to create the universe again."

I smiled at him, for I love my father. He is a kind and generous man, as well as being brilliant with machines. I am not supposed to ask the Curator for help in my first Festival presentation, but I am allowed to ask my father for advice.

"Perhaps you might suggest something for me then, Father, as I am struggling so to re-create Nature's wonders! I am working with smoothed hide, but even that is too rough for what I need. I need a skin of some sort that is absolutely smooth, even under your own Lense Vial."

He looked at me strangely, but I could see his thoughts at work, behind his dark brows. "What is it that you are trying to accomplish?"

I explained to him about the pleats, and his eyebrows went up. "That is indeed ambitious for a first project. Are you certain you wouldn't prefer to simplify it?"

"I will, Father, if that is what is required. But I wish to try." I tried to keep the stubbornness off my face, but he still saw it and laughed.

"Let me think about this. I do not know of a hide that is so smooth as to be able to fit against the imperfections of glass! What you need is something already pleated, something complex and soft..." here a faraway look came into his eyes, as always happens when he is imagining the workings of things. Then his brow cleared, and he said to me, "What of the inside of stomachs? Have you looked to see? They are much like the surface of tongues, with flower upon flower, down too small to see. You could even, if you wished, use the tanner's caustic to shrink it further. Try these things, and see if they will help you."

Did I not say my father is brilliant?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Midsummers' Festival, 2

So many things to describe! It is difficult, during my limited time with Eleanor-of-the-Hands, to put down all that happens. I try, and then just at an important moment I find myself receding, falling away from her and her small screen, and I know the last part of what I say is lost.

I believe I was writing of Ennis' willingness to help me, of how I called out to him to ask his help.

When I told him what it was I needed to discover, and of the discoveries I had made about the Gycko's feet, he scratched his head, frowning. I watched him, thinking how his frown was so much less fierce these days.

"The problem is," I told him, "I understand how the Gycko's feet look, but not what they mean. I don't see how they allow the creature to stick to the walls. It is not simple suction, for my father says they can run across coarse surfaces as well as smooth."

Ennis was silent for awhile, while I tried hard not to fidget. "I believe it is an effect I heard spoken of once," he said finally, "discovered by a man from the Low Country. He said that all things are attracted to each other, but that various other forces intervene, so that we do not always see the effect of this force."

I stared at Ennis, astonished, for he had never said such a thing to me. Our conversation had always been joking and friendly, or sad and brief; never one of deep philosophy, or the arts and sciences. Listening to him speak, I saw suddenly that I had been thinking solely about what he was able to do, not how he thought. I felt, as he said these few sentences, that my sense of myself was shaken, for if I could be so little understanding what was in Ennis' mind, then what else had I got wrong in my world?

But Ennis was unaware of my shock, and went on. "The reason that you and I are not able to walk up walls is mostly because the surface of the wall is rough, and therefore little of our foot or hand can really touch it. Instead, the points and lumps that are in even the smoothest surface - even glass - offer us only minor contact. It seems to me that these Gyckos, with those pleats upon pleats on the soles of their feet, must be able to settle the surface of their feet so well into the roughness of the surface that they can use the Lowlander's force - the attraction of their feet to the wall - to keep them aloft."

At this point he stopped, as if suddenly aware of how much he had spoken, and how much I gaped at him. I watched his face shut up like a shutter, and the grim line came back to his mouth, which had before been curving beautifully.

Finding my own mouth open, I closed it. "Many thanks," I stuttered, completely undone. "I - I do not know that I would have thought of that."

In the face of my consternation, he relented a bit. "You would not know," he said, "unless you had read every book in your father's library."

And with that, he turned on his heel and walked away. I watched him go, and wondered that I had never seen this man, so young and so harsh, in the light of his mind before. I felt I had opened a door through which a wind had come, and blown away all I knew.

It was a late hour of the day, so I went back to my mother to help with the evening meal as if my eyes, indeed all my senses, were flayed. The whole world seemed to come rushing in at me with a new sharpness, a painful awareness. I saw that my mother's eyesight was worsening; I saw the worry lines in my father's face; I saw how the scrubbed table in our dining-place was much larger than we needed; and I wondered how many other things that spoke of secrets, of unknowable changes or unspoken realities, there were in my life. It seemed that I was surrounded by doors that opened to places I had never imagined. Every person I knew had a head full of unknown knowledge, unspoken longings, unwritten histories. It made me want to weep.

In the night, as I lay awake in my bed, I wondered at his remark about my father's library. Had he read all the books therein? It was all of two hundred books, full of knowledge I had never thought to learn. Had he? If so, it must be one of the best-kept secrets in the kingdom. And once again, I felt that wind whistle through the newly-opened doors of my mind.

But by the next morning I was somewhat righted, as if I had learned to walk in this new and unexplored world, and I went through my chores and learning-sessions with my eyes open and the Gycko's foot in the back of my mind. There were but a few days left until the Festival, and I was worried. I even began plans for what I would do if I could not make the color-machines walk up the walls, though it made me feel terrible.

I did not see Ennis that day or the next, for he had tasks of his own to accomplish for the Midsummers' Festival. I struggled with the problem of the gycko's feet all alone, never questioning that it was the answer to my need. On the third morning, Ennis was waiting for me in the courtyard, standing like a prisoner next to my work-table, staring apparently at nothing.

I approached cautiously, wondering at the set of his shoulders, and the look he had of wishing to be elsewhere.

"Come with me, " he said brusquely, so I followed him. We walked out of the Museum compound and past the stables, down the river-path toward the foundries and the dyers' house. He did not stop here, but continued onward toward the tannery, where he turned into the gate.

Several apprentices looked up in surprise, bending quickly back to work at Ennis' glance. Bewildered, I followed him toward the side-yard where the drum-makers work.

"There," he said, and pointed. "That's what you need, I reckon."

I couldn't see what he was speaking of at first, but then as li jfos ns

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Midsummers' Festival

Where to begin? So many things have been happening!!!

I am glad, for Eleanor is in fine form tonight. The sun is setting outside her window, and her hands feel nimble and ready to tell my story. Thank you, Eleanor, my Hands, my friend.

I will start where I left off.

As I went to the Labyrinth to find my father, the day after my last dream of this place, I saw Ennis coming up the stairs from the rooms below. I stood back in the shadows of the colonnade and watched him emerge. He was dusting something off his trousers and he looked - not happy, but - less grim than he has since the fire. His sleeves were rolled away up his arms and I could hardly see the scars there; and as he rolled his sleeves down a small thing fell out and rolled away. He did not appear to notice, so when he had gone I went quickly over and picked it up.

At first I could hardly see what it was. Then I saw: a tiny spring, no larger than my little fingernail in all, worked in the finest brass. I was staring at it in wonder, trying to fathom how it came to be rolled in his sleeve, when I heard a small sound, like a footfall. It was Ennis, come back for the thing, I suppose. I could feel my face go very red as I held it out to him, and he stared at me a moment without expression before taking it, putting his finger to his lips as if to silence me, and then turning away. I simply stood there among the stone columns and watched him go, wishing that I could fall through the floor.

When I came to the top of the stairs I bent to see what he had been brushing away, and what I found was many small crumbs of brass, tiny shavings. such as those the blade of a gear-turnier's tool makes, carving the teeth into small brass gears.

I think Ennis is Creating again!!!!

The next day, I was out in the courtyard as usual after lunch and my noontime chores, trying to understand how to adjust the balance of my machines. I had taken the covering off one the feet and was examining it, trying to see why the tiny hooks had not grasped at the crucial moment, when my mother called me into the kitchen. There was a package for me, she said.

On the table was a strange package, a small wooden box tied all round with string, and an envelope hanging off it. I tore the envelope open and found it was from Master Ravenor! The note said, "Please examine these feet. Perhaps it will help you to find your way with your own Creation."

Inside the box, when I nervously opened it, was a jar with what looked like a small lizard floating suspended inside. The thing looked terrible, pale and strange; but the flesh was as soft-looking and pliable as in life. I looked at its feet, and saw only wide, squashed-looking toes with pleated bottoms, and wondered what he wanted me to see. I could not fathom it; but then my father came into the kitchen, looking for something, and exclaimed over the jar and the package, reading the note and giving me the rather odd look he has been turning my way recently. He told me it is a gycko, a creature that can walk up walls and across ceilings. He was greatly astonished that Master Ravenor should send me one of his prized jars, and went away upstairs muttering.

Armed with this information I went to my father's study and found his Lense Vial, and removing the thing from its bath trained the armature on its feet. Much to my astonishment, I found the feet looked much the same, no matter how closely I looked: the pleats were pleated into smaller pleats, moving crosswise; and these pleats were in turn pleated crosswise again, and so on for as deep as the Vial could look. It looked, at the smallest levels, as though there might be tiny, miniscule hairs, though I could hardly see them through the glass.

That night I couldn't sleep, thinking of ways to make feet like that for my machine. I lay for hours, trying fruitlessly to imagine it. Finally, exhausted, I fell into dreams of Master Ravenor sitting on the bed, pleating my linens, trying to show me something that I could not see.

The next morning, I moved stupidly through my chores, dropping hot water on the cobbles of the front court, which led my mother to scold me for the noise from the high window of her work-space. Giving up, I went and had a cup of tea in the side portico, drawing and drawing different ways to make Gycko feet but getting nowhere. I spied Ennis coming along the outer wall - just his head bobbing past as it does with tall people - and nearly turned away, my scalp tingling with embarrassment.

But I thought, suddenly: what if I should approach him directly? Speak to him of the help I needed? Since that day I saw him coming up the stairs, I had been shy of him, but not so feared of his fierceness. Watching him go by, it was such a joy to think of him making machines again, I forgot my own feelings and called out to him.

His head, above the wall, swiveled to see me, then came on around the corner, the rest of him appearing by degrees and approaching me cautiously. When I told him I needed help, I saw his eyebrows go up.

"Help from me? I will certainly offer any aid I am able," he said formally. I had to suppress a feeling of irritation. I explained what I was trying to do, and showed him one of my machines, which made him nod against his will.

"I've been watching you work with these," he said much less formally, with an unexpected candor that took me aback.

I told him about the Gycko and he sked ould tak ook at ar

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Conversation

Thank the stars, Master Ravenor is gone! I do not think I could have stood his scrutiny any longer.

Two days ago he came on me working on my colour-making machines. They are nearly ready; I have put together twelve of them, and am only having difficulty with the attachment for the feet, which will allow them to go up walls without falling over backwards. I cannot make them climb any higher than my shoulder before they peel away from the wall. Something about their balance, I think, and a difference between their front feet and their back.

I was pulling a foot apart when he came and stood over me, I know not for how long, for he stood quietly, watching me work. After a bit I reached for a tool and saw his shadow, which sent me starting up, knocking my stool over behind me. I do not know why I was taken this way, though the suddenness of my awareness startled me.

He apologized, and turned away to walk in the portico along the Eastern wall, but I stood for awhile after he rounded the corner, my heart pounding.

Later, I saw him speaking with my father in the great room at the back of the Museum we call the Whisper Chamber, for it is used for nothing that I know of, and the sound inside is very strange. You can hear a person across the room from you, but not the person standing beside you. There is not a stick of furniture in this room; not a hanging nor a candle. At night it is spooky, with odd sounds coming out of the darkness. My mother says it was designed so that people could speak to the spirit world, but my father scoffs at that.

They stood slightly to one side of the center of the room, in the safest spot, for no-one can hear you when you stand there, unless you stand directly beside the person you are speaking to. Master Ravenor was gesturing, touching my father's arm and speaking urgently, and my father looked puzzled and surprised. I stood behind a pillar for the best part of a half-hour, trying to construct what they were saying from the gestures, and finally had to conceal myself as they walked past me and outside. I still don't know what they were speaking of, though I have seen my father looking at me with an odd expression on his face once or twice since.

Now Master Ravenor has packed his many trunks, full of the specimens he took of the bones and rocks and stones around the town. They have been loaded on the waggon, and we have all stood politely out in the forecourt and waved goodbye. At last, I can relax.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Master Ravenor

My father's old teacher, Master Ravenor, is visiting this sevenday. He is a strange old man, given to flights of speech, but he always has something interesting to say. I find him fascinating, and a little frightening. He looks at me as if he wanted to take me apart and examine all the pieces, and I am conscious of his gaze; it makes me uncomfortable. I do not look at him much, but stay in the background and listen.

My mother tells me this is because he is a Natural Philosopher, always interested in the why of things. She says he finds it interesting how like my father I am, yet in a female body. She assures me he has no prurient interest, but is simply like that. I suppose she should know, she has known him for two and twenty years and more, but being scrutinized by a man, even in the best of intentions, still makes me feel odd.

My sister told me, before she left, that he has a whole room full of glass jars in his home, each full of some natural monstrosity: two-headed babes, and giant worms from the belly of a woman who starved to death, though she ate and ate; a severed arm and a strange monster from the deeps of the sea. And more; though my sister did not know what else.

This seems so unnatural to me that I am doubly disturbed when he stares at me: I do not want to be one of his displays!!!

I saw him speaking quietly to Ennis outside the stables three days ago, and did not see Ennis again until today, when he was very thoughtful. He hardly noticed me standing so obviously at my machines, and did not help me. I wonder what Master Ravenor said to him?

My project is moving apace. I asked young Asker, the jeweler's apprentice, about the coloring of metals, and he was very helpful. He hadn't learned all the techniques yet but he introduced me to Ailen, one of the journeywomen, and she is a fountain of knowledge! She sat with me for two days, trying to see a way to what I was attempting to do, and finally we uncovered a very neat solution. I was very pleased. However, now I am working on the machines' mode of travel, and in this I could use Ennis' help. It is too bad he is so distracted. If I could only

Monday, June 4, 2007

Working and Playing

This has been a really difficult week.

I am learning so much about what it means to be a Machine Artist, but every time I think I understand, I find I cannot make anything work. I am thrashing about in my own ignorance.

Ennis has silently come and helped me twice now, with no sign of satisfaction on his scarred face. I always thank him politely, and he always puts down the tools and stalks away, as if I have offended him. I wish I could help him! And I wish I didn't feel so that I am the cause of his misery.

I know that it was the fire and the pain of his flesh that hurt him, along with the loss of his lovely creations, but still, the way he behaves toward me - it's as if he wants to do something to me, I can't think what. He appears as if he is unwilling, and helps me as if I am an ignorant fool, and then goes off as if he can't wait to get away. Why doesn't he just stay away, if that's how he feels!!!!!

My sister came back again with her new daughter. Everyone is fawning over the baby, which looks a bit like a side of beef, and my sister hardly has time to talk to me. No matter: I am always outside, in wind and in sun, trying to get my blessed machinery working. I told my father that I didn't think I had the right mind for this work, but he just smiled and patted my shoulder and said not to worry, I was ages ahead of where he had been at my age. I don't believe it at all!

This Thor's day we went to the Meadows for a picnic, my only break in the misery of my learning. My mother packed an enormous lunch into the back of the waggon and we all walked or rode the five miles to the great stone tables cut there from the living rock. We spread out cloths and dishes and sat, feasting, for hours in the gentle sunlight under the vines which cross from tree to tree, a natural arbor. Ennis sat across and a little down from me and did not look at me once, though he did speak with my father some. I could not help staring at him. It seems to me that his scars are fading, becoming less thick and red: or am I becoming used to him? I could not stop looking at his rolled up sleeves, and the marks on his forearms. They did not seem bad to me at all. Why is he so unhappy?

Monday, May 14, 2007


I have begun working on my Machine project, and it is far more interesting than I bargained for. I had a sort of idea of a machine that would change color, and climb about on buildings. It seems to me that most of the machines stay close to the place they are designed to work - in the street for a parade, or around the feasting-tables, or in the throne-room of the King - but it seems to me they should be all around, like flags flying. Think how it would look, with these colorful machines clinging to the buildings, changing colors! The whole village, the whole palace could look as if it had put on feast-clothes!

The tricky part, for now, is understanding how to create a carapace with a changing color. It's a new idea, putting a carapace on the machine. It goes against tradition, and may be greeted with horror. I'm not certain what the reception will be like. I think perhaps the Hands - my fine writing friend Eleanor - are to blame for this idea of mine, for I had never conceived of machines with clothes on before I came to your world.

In any case, not only am I imagining a sort of shell, or flag, or banner on the back of this Machine-creature, but I want it to be able to change colors. Do I make it change at a signal from me? Or change according to something around it? Or is it simply a decision the Machine makes, a random thing? And how do I effect the change?

So I have been sketching and reading about this.

Yesterday morning, as I was deep in the midst of temperature and color-changes in metals, I felt a presence behind me. It was Ennis. He was looking at what I was reading, and I caught, for the first time in months, a look of interest on his face. But immediately afterward his expression closed up like a fan and he turned away, the angry set back in his shoulders.

Since then, he has walked through the courtyard where I work far more often than usual, but I have not caught him looking. Still, I think my plan is making progress.

The King has returned from a trip to Alyr.. 7 .. SORRY I'M ..xb

Monday, May 7, 2007

In the Labyrinth

I am so happy to see Eleanor, my excellent Hands. I have been thinking of you, and wondering.

For the past three days I have been in the Labyrinth with my father, working on our secret. Each day, on the way to where we are working, I stop at the Steam Beast's lair and marvel at how it changes. I cannot see how it is done. My father has the only keys to the Labyrinth, and I have been with him all the time recently.

He claims the Steam Beast does it itself. I know the Great Machines are capable of many things, but I cannot see how a machine could recreate itself. My father, who has faith that I seem to lack, says that the Great Machines have their own minds, built long ago by the great craftsmen, and that they sit in their places, dreaming of what they will be next. They live, he told me, for their yearly unveiling. To me, this seems a form of sorcery, but my father says it is not, only a very great skill that has mostly been lost.

He is already drawing up plans and setting out his workshop for the next great festival, the Midsummer's Feast, planning a new version of his Fireflower Machines. This new secret, the project we are working on, will only take up his time for a little longer, and then he wants to spend his free time in the workshop. The Curator always gets a good place in the Festival Machines, but they are not always as skillful as my father.

So: now I have to think of a Machine-project I want to work on. It will be my first, as I am only just through my Passing Ceremony, and I will need help with it. Plenty of drawing out plans in public places, I think, and some judicious, obvious cursing - and perhaps a little poor work with the cogs and gears ought to do it; a certain someone is bound to try and help me. I'm excited to see what happens.

But more of that later. Let us see if I'm successful before I disclose any further.

Hieram has, thankfully, gone back to his family's manor, three days' ride to the West. I hope they will keep him busy enough to stop him interfering. I was heartily glad to see him go! Any longer, and I feared someone would offer me to him in marriage, he was so persistent. And yet I cannot see him wanting a Curator for a wife.

But then, I think it is not perhaps a wife he wants. I wish I knew more about men!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Help from Ennis

I have had an idea.

Yesterday, when I was cleaning another of those blasted machines from the museum, I had to take part of it apart to get into it properly. When I went to put it back together, I was horrified to find that there were several parts left over. I'm usually good with machines, but this one was quite complex, and I'd clearly misunderstood some part of it.

While I was gazing at the pieces, and peering into the machine to try to understand where, among the cogs and springs, they should be put back, Ennis came by, leading some horses to be put on the King's carriage. I could feel him looking at me but I was suddenly struck by an idea: I ignored him, instead taking a tool and starting to undo the fastenings, cursing under my breath (but loud enough so he could hear I was upset).

To my disappointment, he went on, leading the horses around the corner and out of sight. So I went on as well, taking the thing apart as far as I had before, and then putting the pieces back carefully, piece by piece, trying to see where the extra pieces fit in.

Suddenly a hand reached in and stopped me from working anymore. It was Ennis! He silently took the tool out of my hand and gently pushed me aside, and then swiftly - and so deftly! - put the pieces all back into their places. I watched carefully, and it made perfect sense. I felt a little foolish then, as I thanked him and he looked over my shoulder, but also I was gleeful inside. He may not have been friendly, but at least I had made him curious.

Then, with a nod, he was gone. I stood there for ages, wondering about it, before I rolled the machine on its platform back up the ramp and into the museum.

I think, perhaps, I might have the beginnings of a plan.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Passing-Ceremony

Hieram has started his advances again. I do not know what to do. I dare not offend him, for fear of his family, but this is unbearable.

It was all right until my birth-celebration, which was a large one this year as I turned fifteen. For girls in our part of the world, fifteen is a special age, when we have our passing-ceremony as well as the birth-celebration. Each girl has a great party to celebrate her stepping into the world of adults. For one day, she is the center of the world, and everything is done to make her happy. Aunts and cousins come, and there is feasting, and she is the guest of honor.

Preparations began three days early. My mother and Asta, the helping-woman and occasional cook, had conferences in the kitchen, and local children kept running in and out. It is the custom for children to be given sweets in honor of Kalil, the goddess of growth and learning, on a girl's feast-day, but all children, since the beginning of time, it seems, begin trying when the preparations begin. I watched them and remembered doing the same when my sister had her passing-ceremony. I remembered Asta giving me apples to quiet me - and sure enough, there they came with apples, juice all over their hands. They saw me and giggled, and I felt myself turning red.

I was and am unused to such attention. Usually my lot in life is to wander through the courtyards and echoing rooms of the museum as if I am some part of the architecture. In the village, and even in Lethiam, the larger market-town where we go once a month, I feel unimportant, unseen. True, there are a number of people who say hello, but only in passing. No special attention is paid to me. For those few days, though, people turned to me with broad smiles, saying, "There she goes!" and "She is growing, is she not? What a fine young woman she makes!" and so on. I was like to die with shame.

Which was unexpected, because I've been so looking forward to this moment!!! All my life, I've dreamed of being fifteen - being able to go where I like and just, well, be a grown person. I've dreamt of the celebration: what I will wear, how I will do my hair, how many cakes I will get to eat, how all the young men will look at me, and so on. Yet once the time arrived, it felt all wrong. All my childhood I imagined when this moment came I would be a different person. More popular or more easygoing, more adult. A person who enjoyed the attention. But I'm not: I'm still me, used to being left alone, and easy with my freedom to slip through the world without being noticed.

Worst of all was Hieram's attention.

It started on the day when my mother was meeting with the Asta. I was outside cleaning one of the Machines from the Museum, which Axel had helped me move out into the North courtyard on a cart. My hair was tied back, I had smudges on my cheeks, and my sleeves were rolled up. The machine had a million tiny crevices which all desperately needed wiping out, and I was wet and cursing when Hieram walked into the courtyard.

I didn't notice him for a moment, but after a particularly ferocious curse, I heard him say "tch, tch" behind me. I turned around fast, and there was his smiling, smug face and his immaculate clothing. He waved a finger at me as if to say "naughty, naughty" and then went on smiling as I went back to work.

He wouldn't leave!!!!! I grew more and more annoyed, what with that terrible machine and the feeling of his eyes boring into my back as I scrubbed. Finally, I lost my temper and turned on him.
"If you want to admire my work, you can come back when I'm done," I told him. "I've no mind to work my fingers off with you standing there sniggering."

He looked surprised, as if he didn't expect me to have a temper, and then sloped off to some other part of the Museum.

The next day I went to the village to see about

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Hands Named

A view from the Museum Tower

My benefactor has a name! I saw it on the screen when I came to her this eve. There was a letter, with the words "sincerely, Eleanor" at the bottom, and my host was just writing it when I first looked through her eyes.

Eleanor. I like that name. I can feel her smile as she writes this.

I am always surprised, coming to her, how little she looks about. Her gaze is so focused, so narrow. It is as if she has lost interest in looking at the world, or has grown so used to the familiar sights that they are merely a code to her, a sort of summary; as if instead of looking at the cat her mind supplies the word "cat" and puts it in his place. I cannot imagine living in such a small world! I love waking up in the morning and seeing how the light plays on the tree outside my window on any particular day. The world is always different!!!!

Perhaps this is why adults so often lack understanding, because they cannot see that each moment is a different moment; each time you see something it is new. Looking out at the world through Eleanor's eyes I notice she skims over so many things that I would stop to look at. I do not think this is merely because I find her world strange, and want to look at it. It is as if her world is a patchwork - or perhaps a map - of known, dull things, and she has ceased to look at anything carefully, unless it changes or something new appears. It makes me shudder. My father says ignorance is the lowest form of misery, and I see now what he means.

Still, Eleanor, please don't be offended. I know you are ..with.. * ...too far

Monday, April 2, 2007

Mourning for Ennis' Losses

Tonight the Hands are tired; they shake and have difficulty writing. Still, I have so much to talk about, I hope they will bear with me.

I saw Ennis, finally. He was mostly silent and nearly sulky in his mood. I had gone with my father, who was there to offer to give him a small room on the edge of the Labyrinth to work on his machines, but Ennis declined, claiming his hands were too scarred to work on fine machines anymore. Father persisted in extending the invitation, saying that if Ennis felt ready, the space would be there in any case. When Ennis would not come see where it was, my father explained to him where it was, while Ennis hung his head and looked away. I do not think he will make machines again, and I do not think he understands the risk my father runs of offending someone by his offer, for many people would frown on a stableboy being given space in the Labyrinth to tinker.

Yesterday Ennis was to return to the stables to begin working again, but when I went to say hello, he went on working and would not come out. He seems angry all the time now, and I worry that he is unhappy with me for seeing him in pain, with his skin peeling. He walks with a limp now, and the skin on his arms and hands is so tight it makes it hard for him to use a shovel or a pitchfork, but he does it anyway, with his mouth in a grim line; it must be quite painful. The beauty that was once his is dulled, and he turns his head so that people will not look upon the scars on the side of his face.

I went home and cried in my room, after that visit. Everything that once made Ennis so special is gone now, and I am afraid it will never come back. He no longer smiles, or pursues his secret art; the Ennis that made dry jokes which passed over people without so much as ruffling their hair is lost or gone. His grace and fiery strength, all lost. I fear that he will grow old this way, like Lukas Orn, who is twisted and grim, though he is respected by all.

My father says it is a terrible shame, and a crime, that he may not even offer a place for talent to grow without fear of censure. He shakes his head, and claims Ennis to have the potential to be the greatest gear-turnier since Alloway, who invented the Pneumatic Salamander two hundred years ago.

Hieram returned from his hunting trip three days ago, but I have not seen much of him, thank the Gods. I was afraid of a return to the cat-and-mouse game we had been going around and around in before he left, but he has largely left me to myself, for which I am immensely grateful. Things at home have been lonely; my sister is back with her family until the lying-in, my father distracted with a commission by the King for an Exhibit in the Palace, and I have much to do, while carrying this grief in my heart. My mother, as always, lives in her own world, abstracted; when she is not tending to the management of the household, she is upstairs in her study poring over mathematical equations which she says may help explain the universe, though I cannot see how.

I must stop. The Hands, that unseen woman, is taking longer and longer to write. I wonder if she is ill? I have thought about her visit to the horrible place last sevenday, and wondered if it was some kind of examination place. Yet she sees no-one; no-one visits her here other than the cat, which I have now seen twice. It comes in by the window-sill.

I would like to find a better name for my benefactor than the Hands.

And away...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Last time I saw the Hands they were unable to write for me, for they were not near the writing-machine. Instead, I saw a nightmare world of flying, crawling machines. Your world is so ugly! And your machines are everywhere, neither beautiful nor pleasing, nor built for the Spirit. Instead they are overrunning you, everywhere telling you what to do, where to go, when to do it. At one place I saw a great black and white beetle-machine chasing a man, who ran away in fright, while the machine told him in a loud voice to stop. When he would not stop, it made the most horrible noise and started flashing at us all, as if to tell us how angry it was, while it went off after him around the corner. I shudder to think what happened to the poor man when it caught him.

So many people! And such large buildings, boiling with life, like a maze of beehives, people-bees zooming in and out as fast as they can go. I did not see the sun at all, though I could see its glow behind the great brick beehives.

The Hands went into such a building, riding in a small machine-room to a place colored like the inside of a pig’s stomach. We waited for a long time in that dull room, with a lot of other people who seemed downcast. After a time, a woman in ill-fitting white garments came and took us to a small green room, where the Hands changed into a horrid garment all open down the back, designed, I think, to humiliate him or her. I can think of no other reason.

The room held several frightening-looking machines, all clothed in metal or horn, with staring silver glassy bits, which stood threateningly around the small, high bed. They were not made to add comfort to the Spirit, only I think to add to one’s sense of inferiority and fear, as was the precarious-looking little bed.

Then another woman came into the room, and shook hands with the Hands. She was all business, and asked questions like a rattle of beads. I really heard the Hands’ voice for the first time then, as I had been too overcome earlier to hear anything. It was light and melodious and not much old, as I had assumed. And the Hands are a woman.

The other woman made the Hands lay back, and began doing things to her private areas. I was horrified, and stared through the Hands’ eyes up at the terrible light coming from the ceiling, wishing I could wake then and escape the torture. I found I wanted to know what the Hands were thinking, but her mind was inaccessible, as always. However, her body was not rigid, as I would have been, so perhaps I was misunderstanding the situation.

After the woman left, writing something on a small tablet in her hand, the Hands got dressed again and left that terrible place, riding the little room back to the outside. I was pleased to see the sky again, though it was only a small slice.

I am used to large buildings. Our Palace I have been in and out of more times than I can count; and the Museum where I am to be Curator someday is vast and complex. But the buildings in your world were not built to be grand, or beautiful; only to hold many, many people. They are like the underground homes of rabbits, or as I said, beehives: small passageways and rooms, layered in tightly, with no sense of space. They would make me ill, I think.

I found myself missing home after a very short time, for this world is loud and ugly. The people walk angrily, or like they have lost hope. The machines flash and bark and roar in every part of your life - in your homes, in the stores, on the streets: there is no rest. It is a wonder you have not all gone insane.

I wanted to -

Oh here it co es

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Steam Beast Uncovered

I spent the day in the Labyrinth with Father, learning to strip the Steam Beast today. We do this every year, strip it down to its skeleton, so that it can grow into its new guise for the next year. No one knows how this is accomplished, though many people suspect the Curator of creating each guise; but my father swears it happens by itself. He says he will show me this year how the Steam Beast begins to grow, adding gears and wheels and clockwork springs in no known order. By the night of the Festival, it is ready, but it is not clear what the true nature of the Beast will be until it is wound up and sent off into the streets.

To tell the truth, the thing frightens me, particularly in its skeletal state, although working with my father this day dismantling all those delicate workings did help me with my fear. It lurks there in the Labyrinth as if it were alive, which I suppose it must be if it grows there throughout the year.

We set the Beast’s parts on the shelves in its room, ready to hand should the Beast want them. Father says every year there are a few more of them, and he has no idea where they come from. I wondered to myself, if one were to keep an eye on the Steam Beast, what one might see, but Father seemed to know what I was thinking, and chided me for not allowing myself to enjoy the magic of the thing. He says that sometimes it is better not to know.

I have tried, with the Hands’ help, to draw the thing as it stood when we were done with it, though I fear I have made a poor job of it. It is one thing to keep a flow of words moving to the Hands, whose skill with the machine in front of them is high; but to make them draw, when they are clearly unused to it, is another matter.

Ennis has moved in with his sister, who is better able to take care of him. I have not seen him for some days, for whenever I go to her house, she tells me he is sleeping or bathing and to come back some other time, and I do not know if this is a polite way of telling me to leave him be, or if I simply have poor luck in my choice of visits.

Still, if he does not tell me himself that he wants me to leave him alone, then I shall keep tryng. I cannot forget that glimpse of him working, in that dim workshop with all the lovely things. Someday I hope to help him get back his workshop. I cannot bear for him to feel that all is lost, and he must go on being a stablehand forever, and never make machines again.

Tomorrow, my sister Hemila will go back to her husband, as she has not had the growing-sickness for some time now. Her belly grows larger by the minute, and we have all been madly sewing so that she will not go unclothed when her dress grows too tight. Father has made her a new trunk to take all her new clothes home in, and she sings while she packs it. She has a sweet voice, like her nature. I will miss her, though I can see she is rejoicing to return to her own house and husband.

Hieram has been out these last few days on a hunting trip, and the place has been blessedly quiet. I asked my father today how much longer Hieram must stay, and he told me at least another month. Another MONTH!!!!! When I asked him why, he quieted me and told me not to be ungenerous. It seems Hieram’s father is in trouble with another lord to the South, and Hieram has been sent here for safekeeping until the trouble can be resolved. I believe, from the way my father said it, that Hieram may be the source of the trouble. What a silly person he is!

Before he left on his hunting, he found me out in the laundry-house, cleaning out the

Monday, March 5, 2007


Today was my sister’s birth-day. For the occasion, her husband Enoch came to stay from his parents’ house. Father brought out his gift to her, a pair of beautiful blue-spode horses, well-matched and gleaming. “You will have to get a carriage yourselves,” he told them in that dry way he has. “I have not the means; but this is a good beginning, la?”

Hemila was delighted with the pair, but Enoch fell in love with them straightaway, and swore he would have a carriage for them within the month. My father patted his arm and told him not to be hasty, they had a baby on the way and he could not afford to be buying every little thing that came into his head.

Ennis is healing, finally. The infected cuts are clean now, thanks to Amira’s remedy, and she says there won’t be too much scarring. Thank the Gods that the infection was not in his face or his arms! It would be terrible if he could not see or use his hands ever after, with the skills he has.

I hear people talking about him in whispers, about the burnt machinery that was found in the barn after the fire. It is not well looked-on here to hide an ability with machines; but at the same time, I find these whispers terribly hypocritical, since most gear-turniers are not of Ennis’ station. If these same people had known that Ennis was making machines, they might have spoken ill of him for aiming above his place - so how was he to choose the right path?

I sit by his bedside and tell him stories to pass the time, for he must lie on his stomach and not move, or the crusts on his back might break and become infected again. He still does not speak, but I can tell he is listening. The awkwardness I felt with him the last few months is fading, at least on my part. I can’t tell how he feels about me visiting, for he is unfailingly polite. He lies with his head turned away from me and it is only the most subtle clues which tell me when he is feeling impatient, or tired, or ready for more stories.

At times there are these waves of something coming off of him, like heat off the rooftops on a sunny day, and it is only yesterday that I discovered it was anger. He is very, very angry about something, but does not speak of it, and I only hope he will not hurt his healing with angry thoughts.

But I wonder about it. Is he angry at the loss of his machines? Or angry at his injuries? Or is there something else to be angry at?

This sevenday

Monday, February 26, 2007


Ennis’s back became infected. He tossed and raved and it was all we could do to keep him held down so he did not do something terrible to his injuries. Amira, the medic, told me not to pick the maggots out of the worst parts, for they help to clean the wound, though they look horrid. Instead, she packed the rest of the burns with a foul-smelling compound made, I think she said, from minerals found by the bogs to the North, mixed with a few herbs for relief. He screamed when we applied this, before the herbs numbed his pain, and I held his arm with my teeth clenched. It was not until the herbs had stopped the pain and he was sleeping that I found that my face and the front of my dress were wet. I must have been weeping unnoticed.

Amira took me aside afterward and complimented me on my fortitude. She charged me with the care of the infected parts, giving me a solution with which they must be bathed every four hours; and the maggots were not to be disturbed in their work.

Sure enough, today the wounds are looking cleaner. Most of the maggots had crawled away and cuccooned themselves in small, brown pellety things, which I brushed away, and the blood was coming clean and bright. I applied some of the salve Amira had left, and Ennis groaned. He opened his eyes and looked at me, and his gaze was clear.

He said, “Here she is, my heart is easy,” and closed his eyes, and did not open them again.

Monday, February 19, 2007


These Hands are shaky tonight, and ill-looking. pale and chapped with saggy tips, as if their person was not drinking enough water. When they were beginning to type for me, I saw a cat’s tail curled near the screen. I did not know the Hands had some company; it makes me feel better for them. Oh Hands, who are you? How may I help you?

I will not write long tonight: the Hands are not moving well.

Suffice to say, there has been a terrible fire. Ennis’ wine-barn and all in it have been burned to the ground, and Ennis badly burned with trying to save his things. His secret is found out. He is in grave condition, with burns on his arms and face and back, and I sat out the Festival of Elementals next to his bed, though my sister came to take me home. I refused her. I will be fifteen in a few weeks, I can stay if I please, and help his father care for him. I think his father may be grateful for the assistance...but oh! Ennis’s poor skin...

Father came to tell me the Steam-Beast wept this year.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Festival of Elementals

Tomorrow is the Festival of Elementals! I am terribly excited. Every year, with the coming of winter, we celebrate the Elements: Fire, Water, Air, Flesh, and Metal. Every gear-turnier will be out with their best inventions, inviting everyone to notice how well-tuned their creations are to the Great Arts.

My father, who has some knowledge of Machines, will bring out the great Steam-Beast from the Museum, as he does every year; and as with every year, the Beast will show us some new delight. My father swears that he does not tinker with the Beast between-times, but no one believes him. He says the Gods bring the Beast forth each year in a new guise, and we all humor him, because it is such glorious fun - and a little awe-making, too.

I escaped Hieram for an afternoon and walked out to the wine-barn where Ennis has his workshop, but he wasn’t there. The door was locked, but I could see through the corner of the window that he has some large Thing bundled away in there, and I have high hopes that he will show everyone his wonderous skill - even winning the prize for best Machine!!!

Though how he has found time to work on it, I don’t know. I have seen him, in the town and around the Palace, working extra hours to get the younger horses used to the Machines before the festival. They have a Thrummer and a Banger, which makes a loud report, out in the field, and are spending a lot of time walking the horses back and forth in front of these and other Machines, to get them used to noises and flashes of light. It is not an easy job. The poor horses are terribly nervous and liable to jump and flinch, and lose their heads. Many grooms have been injured at this time of year. I will pray for Ennis.

My sister Hemila is here for a visit. She is pregnant with her first child and is staying with our mother, as is custom, while she goes through the first bit of nausea and weakness. When she is stronger she will go back to her husband, but for the moment we are enjoying having her here, as her unease seems only to strike for part of the day. The rest of the time she spends helping our mother and making jokes about my future as a Curator, and generally being her cheerful self. She has us all wrapped around her little finger, and none of us mind. I envy her this easiness she has.

I love Hemila, and she is fun to have around, but she does not take to studying like my father and I do. She does not understand why the Museum is so important. When I

Monday, February 5, 2007

Stupid, stupid

I am getting better at feeling when I will wake and leave the Hands. Last week I could feel it - a swimming sort of feeling, as if I was rising through water - so I did not try to finish my thought. Perhaps I will be able to avoid broken sentences in the future.

Hieram is a menace. He follows me about, lurking in doorways, trying to catch me unawares. He thinks, because he is a young man of the Blood and I am not, that he can force his will upon me; yet he does not quite have the courage to do so, because I am the Curator’s daughter, someday to be Curator myself. This puts me in a category of which he is not entirely certain, so he alternately watches me threateningly and tries to woo me, in the knowledge that any young woman not of the Blood is bound to be lacking in morals - or perhaps simply stupid.

After the shoeing, therefore, when I went looking for Ennis, all I found was Hieram. He followed me, despite my entreaties and my testy remarks. When I found Ennis, Hieram was in midstream, telling me how my eyes were like two pools, etc.

Ennis of course only raised his eyebrow at me, and I rolled my eyes back at him, but it was embarrassing anyhow, and I left, with Hieram in tow. I was nearly able to talk to him, and Hieram has spoilt it. Hieram will never get lucky with me. Why can’t he see it? Stupid, stupid.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ennis and Hieram

For the sake of the Lady! Last week was terribly brief, la? My sister came and woke me to tell me our father is much better, and I was very annoyed with her!!! Why she felt she needed to wake me I can’t say. She could equally have waited until morning, though I was grateful for the news.

My father is sitting up again, though his skin is still faintly green, as if he were having a hard time with his stomach. But he talks to us, and even jokes a little, and that is very heartening. I sit by his knee and count off the records to him so that he can keep track of what has been happening since he fell ill. We have three new stone heads, found in a field near Eeling, and a sword that belonged to the Red King, back in the lost days, which someone gave us when their father died. We are lucky that the people take the Museum so seriously; for many of them, the Museum has religious significance, and by giving things of value to our displays, they can win favor with the Gods. My father works not only with the things in the Museum but with the people, as an advisor. People treat him with respect, as he has his own kind of access to sacred ears.

Ennis came today to shoe the horses. It was a cold day - winter is touching the air these last few days - and he was bundled in a thick jacket, with the shoeing apron over his legs, and once again I did not recognize him at first. I went to watch the shoeing, as it has interested me since I was small, and after a time of measuring and trimming, Ennis straightened his back and shot me a sidewise smile which pierced me to the core. I was suddenly certain that he knew I knew his secret.

I went on watching, wondering what I would say to him. Should I apologize for following him that day? Or should I make light of it? I stood there, uncertain, until the Duke’s son Hieram, who I didn’t get to tell you about last week, strode into the courtyard and made a coarse joke about poor Ennis, bent over under the horse.

I was drawing my breath to protest - Hieram never fails to raise my hackles - when Ennis answered him quietly, perfectly placid. I was amazed by his indifference, until I grasped the joke in what he said, and snorted.

Hieram stopped suddenly - as if he had been shot - for he saw the joke only a beat after I, and turned around, all threat. But Ennis went on placidly working, looking like a dull groom about his work, while Hieram watched him narrowly. I suppose he was soothed by Ennis’ apparent humility, for after a moment he relaxed and went away inside.

“Gone to strengthen his Blood, la?” Ennis said to the horse’s hoof, and I snorted again, and was rewarded by that quick smile, which warmed me through. The smile told me we were conspirators, so when my mother called me to lunch, I went away with a light step, knowing he was seeing me all the way in.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Too fast

I do hate how the Hands take themselves away while I am still shaping a sentence. Last sevenday, I was still considering what to say about my father’s illness and my place as nurse - when I was whisked away, back to my own bed. I must find some way to make the Hands stay until I am done with what I must say.
Who are you, out there? For whom do I write these things? I wish I could see you, oh owner of these aging Hands. Who else reads these things I write? I wish that I could know.

And yet, if I did know, would I be able to speak so freely about what is so close, so private, to my heart?

Hieram, the Duke of Aneth’s stupid son, has

Monday, January 15, 2007

Unfairness and Discomfort

My father has taken ill. Although he is back in the King’s graces, I feel certain that there is someone else determined to do him harm. He became ill after eating a number of fruits that were sent here in a gift-basket for him; he cannot resist figs, and there were a number in the basket.

I had eaten some of the apples and one of the pears, and nothing came of it; but he was ill so suddenly after eating them that I suspect the sender knows he is fond of figs, and tried to poison him.

It is all so petty! Why would someone want to hurt him, except for silly political intrigues, or because he behaved in a way that was not perfectly correct? I am tired of the Lords of the House - they demand nothing short of slobbering flattery from those who are not of the Blood. Think of the sleep my father lost and how he was nearly ruined, simply by defending the King’s possessions from a greedy lord!

I have not seen Ennis all this week. My discovery of his secret has made me both grateful for his absence, so I may take time to know how I feel, and somewhat impatient for his return, for on examining my feelings, I find I wish very much to talk to him about his talent. I will find a way!

In the meantime, I must nurse my father, so

Monday, January 8, 2007

Ennis' Secret

I'm afraid I don't know what I said last time. I have nothing to look at to confirm what I wrote.

...Oh, yes - I was talking about Ennis' secret, la?

I followed him, and I didn't know what to do. He seemed so impossible to reach, so much possibility for embarrassment!

I was torturing myself with all the horrid possibilities when he turned into a small. old, unused lane. Curious, I followed. It seemed so strange that my childhood friend could be hiding something; I didn't believe it. Still, I drew back behind a tree when he came to an old wine-making barn, decrepit and filthy, and looked around. I feel sure he did not see me, and when I dared to look he was nowhere in sight.

I felt a shiver creep down my back, but I crept out and looked all around the place. It looked just as falling-down as before, but I saw a footprint on the doorsill, and I knew he'd gone inside. So I peeped in at the windows.

They were all so dirty I couldn't see through them - except one, which had a small corner clear. Carefully, I peered through.

At first, I couldn't see anything, but I saw something moving off to the left. I thought it must be Ennis, walking back and forth. Then things became clearer, and I saw that he had removed some kind of covering which was letting light in through the ceiling. Before him was a large old table, covered with something lumpy. I looked and looked, trying to see what it was - and then he pulled at it and I saw it was a cloth covering something else.

When he paced by, pulling the cloth back, I almost lost my breath. On the table were several machines, some of the most beautiful I had ever seen. Different metals had been used, and they gleamed black and silver, coppery and yellowy-gold. Wooden knobs stuck out like a backbone from one, and some lovely and transparent things, like billowfish spines, rose from another. I could see the inner workings, and more innards scattered over the table. He was creating these machines, in secret.

Why he hid them, I can't say. I have not seen him since. I watched for awhile, but looking at someone's back while they file and drill and screw things together is dull, and after a time I gave up.

I have spent four days now thinking about this. I felt odd about Ennis before, confused and unhappy, and to this now is added some other strange emotion. I can't understand what it is. It is like excitement, or glee, or fierce happiness, but I am scared to death to come face to face with him, for I fear it would show in my face. I fear he will see it there and know I have been spying on him. I am so proud of him! How can I tell him so without letting him see I followed him?

The King has forgiven my fa