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?