Friday, May 23, 2008


My father is sick, again. Once again, it is the figs. I fear for him.

Hieram is still here. I do not know who to talk to. He is not who I -

Oh -

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hieram, Again

Hieram is here again. My life feels as if one of the Four Lords of the Deep Dark had taken hold of it and steered it toward misery. There is no place the cretin cannot find me, save the Labyrinth! One years' growth has brought him neither wisdom nor selflessness. He has set his desires on conquering me - and there is no Ennis now to help me foil him.

Today I was helping Asta wash out the great, round, copper dye-tubs in which we dye our wool, for it is the season to pick arpe, the flower-buds of the canper plant, and they must be brewed immediately into dye or the lovely blue color is lost. The dye-tubs must be immaculately clean or the dye will be ruined. I was in the courtyard with my old green leggings and short tunic, bent and scrubbing, when he came - as he is certain to do when I am unable to defend myself. Asta watched in disapproval while he laughingly tried to grasp my legs. I moved away around the tub, unable to scrub as I avoided him, yet knowing that the harvesters would be bringing the buds in at any moment. The cobbles were running with dirty water and I flicked my dripping metal-fleece at him irritably to make him go away, but he only laughed and moved closer, his lavish tunic stippled with dark water-spots. I could see his crooked teeth as he smiled.

Luckily, my mother happened to look out her window at that moment.

"Hieram!" she called sharply, "For shame! Neddeth will be Curator someday - she is not a silly chambermaid for you to ravish. You overstep your place, and it will not do to anger the Gods."

Hieram stood back, bowing sarcastically to my mother. "As you wish, Madam," he replied, pretending gallantry. But as she nodded curtly and went back to her writing, he lifted an eyebrow at me. "Until later, my love," he said, and grinned when I reddened. Then he turned and went back toward the Palace, stepping carefully through the water with his stupid, heavy gait, like an overstuffed rooster. My love, indeed!

Asta shook her head when he had gone. "That young man is a horror, just like his uncle," she said, "Don't let yourself be alone with him for a moment."

She had an odd look on her face, and I wondered at it. Hieram is a bother and rather stupid, but I can't think of him as dangerous. Still, I would not choose to be alone with him in any case. He makes me uncomfortable and angry, and -

Oh - someone is aking I m ..

Thursday, May 15, 2008

News From a Quiet Time

Eleanor has a companion.

The last three times I have come to her in my dreams, she has been speaking with someone - a man, I think, though I cannot see what his relation is to her - and I have had to be content to sit within her mind, and listen. The conversations were rich and varied, and I learned many things about this strange world you live in. Your arts are strange to me: there are no Mechanisms, no Gear Tourniers. I wonder how a civilization can be filled with machines, and no-one reaches for the art in them? I shudder at the number of machines I have seen which are created solely to do the work which should rightfully be done by people. How different our worlds are!

The man she speaks to is awkward; there is no Body-knowledge in him. He does not use his hands much. I wonder at that: how can someone so far-reaching in his speaking be so silent with the Gods? Perhaps the Gods themselves are silent, here.

In my world, things are moving slowly. I made, with less effort than I would have thought, a small set of leaping Clowns for the Spring Festival, which is supposed to be about joy and life. Our traditional Clown Engine was to be there, as usual, spinning and falling over and making great silly rollie-pollies and hand-stands to delight the audience; but I decided to make it an entourage. I carefully crafted the gears, enamelling them with many colors so they would match the Clown Engine, and housing them in elegant cut-brass carapaces. It was great fun working to make them wobbly and silly, instead of the other way round, and the leaping mechanism is quite cunning. I am proud of that.

So when the Clown Engine came out, surrounded by six leaping, tumbling children, a great roar went up from the crowd. Even I, who had seen it a hundred times before the Festival, was laughing at their antics. It buoyed my heart, and I determined to write to Ennis to tell him about it. I have heard no word from him since he went off to the University in Wurzen, though my father tells me he is well, and I have been thinking of how to write him in sisterly affection without seeming too stupid.

In two days' time, Hieram comes again, to stay for a fortnight or more. I heard this from Asta, who is close to the Greenswoman at the Palace - the person in charge of vegetables and fruits for the King's tables. This Greenswoman despises Hieram because he comes through the pantry and squeezes the fruit, looking for the best ones. Sometimes, she says, he takes bites to sample them, and then puts them back with the bites hidden. Once he did this to a bowl of fruit destined for the King's study, and the Greenswoman only found out at the last second. When Hieram is around, she locks the Pantry, but he is stealthy. It is like a war between them. What a childish mind he has! I don't look forward to his visit.

There was a great uproar last week at the College of Art and Metallurgical Philosophy, in the Western part of the city. They had a fire - not a large fire, and quickly put out, but it burned through

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Mother and Her Mathematical Books

Things are difficult. My mother has been arguing with a small round man, by the name of Eggfeld, who publishes her books. And as always after these rows, she stays in her room sulking. This happens every time she has a book ready to publish: she gives the finished work to this man Eggfeld, he tells her which parts need to be changed, and she sulks for a week or more.

And we all bear the brunt of her misery.

Eventually, she relents, realizing that Eggfeld is not as stupid as she hoped, and begins to make small changes, eventually becoming obsessed. She locks herself in her room all day until we worry she will starve. After a week or more, she emerges with glowing face and gives the changed text to Eggfeld, who goes away for a day or so and then comes back all smiles, with a bottle of wine for her. She makes a special meal and we all celebrate; Eggfeld merrily tells us stories of his travels in the East, his dealings with writers, and all types of gossip. We all go happily to bed with our heads buzzing, relieved to be done with the whole thing.

For awhile my mother is a changed woman, smiling and helpful and everywhere about the house and town (perhaps too much) for about a month. We all hold our breaths, and try to remain patient with her meddling, as we have come to depend on our freedoms and her inattention, and when she begins to get a look about her eyes - I cannot describe this look, except to say it is not the look of someone listening to what you say - we try not to fidget, while my mother becomes increasingly irritable. One day she goes up to her room, leaving the bread to burn or the laundry to cook dry, and does not come down until dinnertime. At which we all sigh, close our eyes, and thank our Gods, for things are normal once again.

My father laughs and says her Creating is hampered by her leaping and twisting mind, which climbs ideas like ladders and will not be still enough to settle properly into her hands and her movements. We can not all naturally be easy in our bodies, my father says, and he is grateful my mother puts her (very capable) hands to the world at all.

So here we are in the sulking phase, trooping dolefully around and wishing she would make up with Mr. Eggfeld. We miss her beautiful cakes and soups and the wonderful way she doctors the animals. My father, too, misses speaking to her of his work, for she is very perceptive, and can offer him great insight sometimes.

All this, and the Spring Festival preparations have begun. I try to fill my mind with thoughts of my new work, my mother's mood infects me and I move through the days curled around a strange ache. Ennis must be far along the way to Wurzen by now, I think. Later, I think: now he has arrived at the university. I imagine him making new friends, listening to his masters' explanations, watching the some of the best Gear Tourniers in the Greater Lands at work.

I want to be there, with him, learning what he is learning, talking to him about what we are seeing and hearing. I feel left behind, too young, useless. Father says -

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eleanor Changing

Eleanor grows much better. The last visit I saw that she was seeing more clearly, and her fingers were eager to spell my words. I am pleased that she has passed through her ordeal and is here again with me.

She seems to be packing. I do not know if she is going away, or moving from one house to another. All the many things that lay around her household are cleared away, and there are no less than three boxes packed neatly in the corner by the bed. Perhaps she is simply ridding herself of the useless things which have collected around her. Where do you go, my Eleanor, my Hands, my only and best company?

The streets outside seem softer, somehow, though the snow still comes down tonight. I wonder

Friday, March 7, 2008

Learning My Work

We are preparing for the Spring Festival, and the King appears to be unruffled by my father's requests, so we all move a bit easier. I am of the feeling that the King holds my father's word to be be truer than the Duke's. However, the Duke has far more power and influence among the Blood than my father, so the King does not protect my father as much as he could.

Which my father understands. He is not only a great Gear Tournier, but a high authority on spiritual and educational matters, bound to uphold not only the Creating of machines, but motion and beauty and the importance of the human body. To move is to live. Economy of motion, the use of our hands, and Creating things are what we live by; therefore, my father stands as the King's closest advisor and the keeper of our History. His sphere of influence is within the universities, with teachers and Gear Tourniers from all around the country. They work to keep these traditions and tenets alive, and keep the citizens educated in these things and in everything else. He works very hard at it.

And because his position is in benefit to the general populace, he is... well, popular. It is this, I think, which the Duke despises or envies in him. The world loves the Curator, or at the least they love my father - to hear stories of the Curator before him, a man to whom he came through his natural ability rather than heredity, he sounds a cold and prickly man, though my father loved him. I suppose, then, that the Curator is as influential as his abilities with people, though he always deserves immense respect.

I have set to work with a will, learning as best I can from my father. Bereft, I see with new eyes. If I am to be Curator in his stead, I must use all the knowledge I have soaked up as a Palace brat, all the many hours of my father explaining things as I grew. I realize now he has been training me, all my life, without my knowledge: working it into the edges of things, into my lessons, into our discussions around the kitchen table.

I always knew I was likely to be the next Curator, as my sister was never of a mind for it. Yet somehow I resisted it, did not like the idea of doing it, simply because it was hoped-for. I felt somehow that everyone was telling me who I must be, what direction I must follow. But since Ennis has left me I see beyond myself: there are greater distances inside me. I see that my father, who was not the son of the previous Curator but one who came to the task naturally, is a different person than the Curator before him.

So may I be a different person, a different Curator than my father. I hope, when the time comes, that I will be as good at the work as he.

This Feast-day I hope to

Sunday, February 3, 2008


I stood in that room for an hour or more, afraid to move, to disturb the beauty of that moment; if I moved, perhaps the air would change, the the ray of sunshine leave me. I looked around at the tools lined up so carefully, the worn wood of the workbench, the boxes of machine-parts laid so carefully on the shelves, laid there by his hands. I saw them all with new eyes, with clean eyes. In every place there, I saw his hands, his fingers, working. Cutting the gears with the same care, that surety, which I myself had just felt as he took my arms.

The moment hung there, fresh and shining, the fulfilment of so much longing, so much watching. My skin still marked with his touch, I stood, afraid to move, not wanting life to begin again and sweep it away, push the minutes forward again. Push me away from this.

It seemed to me that I would never be able to breathe again, to sleep, to eat; instead I would be all on end, waiting. Standing on the edge, holding myself still for this moment to come again.

And yet, the moment was an accident, a strange fluke. My skin might be marked by his hands, but he remained unmarked, he was the same Ennis he had always been, the laughing young man, the angry man, the unseen, unwanted journeyman Gear Tournier; he didn’t know me the way I now knew him. How was I to see him out there, being his untouched self, knowing he did not see it or feel it, that one true, shining moment? I could have wept, if I were not filled with such impossible joy.

It was as if I had suddenly seen something in myself that had always been there, unknown and unseen by me; as if I had discovered my own true nature. I could not go back; I could not go forward; I could only stand and look at all the places his hand had touched. Everything in that room had been placed by those hands, with care and precision. Those hands, those long fingers and strong wrists: the same hands which had left the traces of truth on my skin.

I didn’t want to go, be woken from my dream. I went to the wall and touched the shelves, the drawers, the places he had touched, and it seemed to me the wood breathed to me of his reverence, his care. I stood still again, on the verge of weeping or laughing, my hand out, feeling I would die happily right then.

And gradually, as I moved again and went around the room, the feeling faded: the things became merely things again, arranged carefully. Looking at them made me happy, because he had made them that way; but that was all. It was gone, and I was left only with the sense of truth, the certainty: there would be no one for me, ever, but Ennis. It was there in my body, in the way he laid down his tools, in the last traces of sunlight from that moment. I was doomed, and joyful in it.

I walked back through the passages of the Labyrinth, absently trailing my hand along the smooth stone of the wall, climbing stairs as if I were floating, opening the door into the courtyard, stepping out into the late light as if emerging from a wonderous dream. The facade of the Museum seemed so ordinary, so full of details that I had never looked at before. I saw every stone underfoot with new eyes, and when I went into the kitchen my mother seemed to me different, beautiful, strange. I knew, looking at her, that she had been here, in this strange afterglow, and survived it.

And this revived me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


While my father was at the Palace, I was back at our compound behind the Museum, pretending that life was going on as it always did. My mother was uncharacteristically edgy, peering vacantly out her window instead of working, coming downstairs to fidget with the kettle.

I think my father going to visit the King over one of his own transgressions made her nervous: we lived a life of small transgressions, my father flexing the power he had as Curator in ways that would benefit the art; but we were always careful not to point this out to anyone at the Palace. This was a new thing, this discussion with the King. It might be the end of a comfortable existence.

After a time, I got tired of making the motions of work and crept away to the Labyrinth, going through the small door and down the many stairs, choosing my turnings without thought, with only the determination to get away from the world above.

The high sunlight trickled into those passages as a soft glow, only now touching the sills of the occasional small light-wells which came down from ground level. The walls of the many interlocking passages swept along, the sandy stone cool to my touch, as I counted out the turns to the workspaces. Along the sides, small chambers opened out which stored old Devices; old tools leaned against dusty corners, the remains of ancient Gear Tourniers and their methods.

As I came into the room with the Steam Beast, the light followed me, the sun poking into the gloom, touching the mirrors that ran along the far wall and illuminating it. I stopped, curious: it had already begun its change. Several parts and small mechanisms lay around its feet, and one of the tiny Devices that seemed to live in its room came up to explore my foot, which made me smile. I had no fear of the Steam Beast any longer - nothing which made such delicate pets need frighten me.

As I stood in my workroom looking around, I heard a step along the corridor, and a bright head of hair moved past the doorway to the next room. My chest collapsed on itself, my heart seeming to labor under a press, and I stepped over the little Device to follow.

I heard a sound in Ennis’ workroom and tiptoed toward it, almost unable to breathe. Who had found their way down the confusing flights of stairs to this part of the Labyrinth? I was terrified, and confused, and curious, and a little outraged, so I rounded the corner quickly to confront whoever it was.

And came face to face with Ennis, putting tools in a bag.

I must have looked stunned, for he laughed, glancing over as he reached for another of his precious tools. He looked more relaxed than I have seen him in a long time.

I am forced to admit, I could think of nothing to say. He went on laying tools gently in their places in his bag, and then tied it up and turned toward me, smiling. I had not seen him smile like that since he was burned, all those many months - nay, more than a year - ago. It brought him back to me, all in a rush. I saw him as he had been, as he was, as he would be: the boy who made me laugh, the angry youth who would not speak to me, the person who helped me.

“I have been saved,” he said to me, nearly serious. “Your father was my salvation. He took himself to the King and brokered for my freedom. I am to be allowed to pursue this Gear Tournier life, but I must do it properly, and am being sent to a college in Wurzen to learn my trade. By the time I get back, the Duke will have forgotten about me, and I will have a legitimate degree to allow me to work.”

I tried to smile at him, but I could feel the edges of it wavering. “In Wurzen? For five years? But - but there are colleges here in the Capital! Must you be gone so long?”

I was so intent on my distress that I did not see him looking at me kindly, nor notice that he walked over and put his bag down; but the next thing I knew, his hands were clasped warmly on my arms.

“It won’t be so long,” he said gently, “I have already learned so much, la? Maybe a year, or a little longer.” He looked down at me, and I could see the small traces of his scarring along one cheek and down the edge of his mouth. “I will miss you, and your wild ways.”

I stood confused, while a long finger of sunlight found its way into the little room, touching the boxes on the shelves behind him, catching the top of his head in a flicker of gold. Wild ways? Me? But when I looked up, he was leaning down to kiss my cheek, like a sweet older brother. His hands were there on my arms, and then not. He picked up his bag and smiled again. “I will come and see you, when my time is up,” he said, and touched my hand. “You watch over your Da for me.”

And with that he was gone, and I was left there with the little shaft of sunlight, struck by my own ignorance, and his.


While Eleanor was sick I had plenty of time to think of the many things which had happened to me. I feel a thousand years older than the girl who worked so hard to make the Beetles for the Midsummer Festival.

My father was gone for the better part of the day at the constabulary, trying to convince them to let Ennis go. At the end of the day, he came home to find us sitting around the kitchen table drinking cups of late cha with Ennis' mother and father, who sat stiffly at the table and stood up quickly as my father walked in.

He shook his head tiredly. "They will not hear reason," he said. "There is someone of consequence who has insisted on this, and they cannot go against it, though they are very polite."

"Did you see Ennis?" asked his mother Elsa, a short, lined, impatient woman with a mad sort of humor who had had Ennis later than most.

My father sat down, while my mother brought him a cup of cha.

"I did," he said. "He was doing well enough. They are very kind to him there, treating him with great respect. They told me they had never seen a Festival Device like his."

Ennis' father Mokul, a tall man from the far Eastern mountains, looked as if he did not know whether to look proud or stern. "Yes, well," he said, his face going redder, "I don't know where he got the makings for that. It were, indeed, a wonderous effort. But I'd just as soon that he stayed in the stables, if he's gon' to go and get himself in gaol."

My father cleared his throat. "Well, hmm, I'd meant to talk to you about that. I gave him the tools and the makings for that Device. I saw in him the makings of a great Gear Tournier, and I suppose I became carried away. I apologize for that," he said.

Ennis' father and mother both stared at him with their mouths open, and I saw my father blush, for the first time in my life.

"He did so seem to need it..." he faltered. "In any case, I felt it was my duty to try to get this cleared up."

Mokul stood up, looming over my father, a slow flush spreading across his face, and I was somewhat amused to see a fleeting look of anxiety cross my father's face. But the big man simply seized his hand and pumped it up and down. "Always looking out for him, you was," he said, smiling, his sharp nose wrinkling with glee. "I do have much to thank you for."

My father, looking bewildered now, smiled back. "Well, let us see if I can winkle him out of jail first, shall we?" he said kindly, returning the man's clasp.

"I have no fear for that, sir, no I don't," said the stableman, and with a bow he took his wife and left.

We were all left looking at one another doubtfully.

The next day, my father went to the Palace. Once again, he was gone for most of the day, and we waited fretfully, for it is rare for my father to ask for an audience with the King, though we live so near and my father works so closely with him on the Festivals. This time (I had from him later) he waited a long while, an unusual circumstance. He spent most of it sitting in a small lounge outside the King's personal study while the King met with someone inside.

My father said he heard raised voices inside the room, speaking back and forth for awhile; and then the door opened, the guards stood smartly to attention, and out came his old enemy the Duke of Aneth. He looked at my father with dislike and swept out, leaving a strong smell of fennel behind him.