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 -