This is a post I recovered from a previous blog-project I’ve since re-named “fragmented fiction.” It has been restored here as part of an effort to unify more of my writing in a single place for deeper enjoyment. This is a collection of one week’s worth of writing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are simply clockwork, friend. Clockwork driven by the pitter-patter of Verdo\’s famous brass steam mule engine. What\’s that? You\’ve never heard of the brass steam mule engine? You must be new here, indeed friend. A new arrival to the Ersatz, yes? So it\’s this little miracle of modern science made possible by the vast energy reserves of the Ersatz itself that drives all of Asgarth and makes all this happen. Imagine a city without the hiss-and-hum of the steam mule. You cannot. I dare say, it is impossible. Had the Barlon not revealed this sheer genius invention we\’d not one of us be here where we currently are. An impossibility. A simple matter of impossibility because, simply, the mule makes it all possible. Clockwork machines powered by the pitter-patter of Verdo\’s famous brass steam mule engine. He discovered it, he did. He built the first one right here in Asgarth. He built it here to move the first buckets that drove the raw ore from the mines far up the coast. He needed to, you see my friend, because in the beginning there were so few people but so much to do. So much to build that it would be impossible to have it any other way. The tanks and the clockwork, simple yes. The tanks and the clockwork were thing he knew from before the Barlon did. He had built engines in the priorlife, he tells us. He had been a scientist and a tinker and an engineer all rolled into one whole. He built clockworks and engines, steam powered behemoths powered by fire and wood and coal. But the steam mule was different, of course. There is no wood or coal here, and if there was some to be found we wouldn\’t have wont to burn it. No. Not burning. Far too valuable, yes my friend, far too valuable here. You would need many skullfish in your net to be so wasteful of wood in this place. But the Barlon found something better. The Barlon was smart and kept his eyes open. He still does, my friend. He is still very watchful. But in the beginning he saw the Tempest and the potential. The others wanted to study. Yes, that\’s right. Study. They didn\’t suppose there would be a use. Maybe. Maybe they just wanted to study. Not everyone is as enterprising as the Barlon, friend, no. Not everyone. They wanted to study and know where the heat was coming from. Why are the Tempest hot, they wanted to know. Why is it so? But Barlon Verdo was not concerned about that, and he collected them, he found more, he figured out how to get them, some even suspect he figured out how to make them. And then he put them in the mule engine. Crude, at first, yes. Simple and hammered into rough shapes with stone and simple tools. You can visit them in the museum, friend, if you would like to know more. Visit. There is an impressive sight, yes. Simple engine parts with a space for fresh clean water, another for hot steam, and a spot for the Tempest essence inside. And, friend, that\’s the basics of it. Verdo\’s famous brass steam mule engine is just so simple. A simple machine that fires the city of Asgarth and all the Ersatz, too. Clockwork driven. Pitter-patter and hiss-and-hum. And now your existence depends on them, friend, your very being cannot exist without them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It is, of course, a well known fact that the patronage of one Barlon Verdo is singly responsible for fending off the encroaching grasses of the glades surrounding Asgarth-proper. Without the diligent work of both Barlon Verdo\’s Bladeworks and also the Stalk Patrols, Asgarth would suffer a most heinous plague of unwanted vegetation and horrors better left beyond the reach of even the most strong-stomached imaginations. The Ghen and Gaben, Publishers, recently had the rare privilege of speaking with Barlon Verdo for a few moments as he was inspecting the Ringess Prime Blades Facility.
Ghen and Gaben, Publishers (GGB): Barlon, sir, first let us say what a rare honour it is to be speaking with you today. May we ask what brings you to Ringess Prime this morning? Nothing troubling we hope.
Barlon Verdo: Yes, yes — of course you may ask. Nothing troubling at all, I am happy to report. Of course. No trouble whatsoever. It is all running smoothly as usual. I keep a most diligent inspection schedule, as many know. Ah, well. It is of the utmost importance, especially in these regularly worrisome times to ensure the smooth operation of each of these facilities. What with even the most unbelievable reports of the creatures that are roaming the Gardens closer and closer to our fair city, well, it helps bring reassurance to the people of Asgarth that Family Verdo is looking out for their safety and well being.
GGB: Unbelievable, Barlon? Are you implying you don\’t believe the reports of increasingly more creatures are roaming the Gardens? There is suspicion that Scribblefly is active once again. Do you have any thoughts that may reassure the people of our city. Is any of that true?
Verdo: Not a word. Not a word. (He laughs.) But we do what we can to alleviate the worries of the people, yes? I have nothing but the safety of Asgarth, my home and honour, at the heart of my motivations. Ah, well. Yes, I\’ve been accused by some of turning a blind eye to the reported — and in my opinion, fabricated — horrors of the glades, but paying homage to these stories only strengthens their power to constrict trade and the well-being of this city. We patrol, yes. We hold back the grasses, yes. But that should not lend credo to myths and legends. Scribblefly is not a legend, this I admit. But to his activity. His ability to bring harm to the city? No. He works by fear, and fear alone.
GGB: What do see as the most troublesome part of these rumours?
Verdo: Ah, well. I find there is only true trouble when something threatens the harmony of this fine city. Asgarth was founded on the scientific ideals of hope and with the intention of peace, no? Each of us is here of our own choosing as we sought to find something of a paradise after having lived a full life in the priorlife. This in an imperfect place, however, and we need to do what we can to maintain a certain level of harmony for all of us living here. Scribblefly or no Scribblefly, Asgarth will endure.
GGB: Very well put, Barlon. Indeed, very well put. As many people know, before you yourself came to the Ersatz and helped to found Asgarth you were a scientist and explorer in the priorlife. How do you see this past having influenced your work here in the city?
Verdo: It is no secret that I was one of the original colonists to this city. My work with the Dark Steel Society, however, was neither as influential nor as important as the work I\’ve done since arriving in Asgarth. The three explorers from that group, my colleagues and friends, who arrived here… oh, so many years ago now, each went on — rest their souls — to do remarkable things for this place, the Ersatz, and especially the city of Asgarth as an independent state. And as many know — though it took many, many years for we early arrivals to discover — the others who arrived in those first weeks and months from the Society, having made the trip with less intention than others, found themselves divided among ourselves in Asgarth and the other two colonization points. We founded Asgarth, city of politics, art, and a thriving modern economy. Across the glades and on the other coast of this continent, the settlement of Tribulation was built, now a city floating on their air ship heritage. And in the Southern Canyons, there was set the settlement of Greeneshale, hung into the cliffs and the only of us few who have ever discovered how to tame the creatues of the glades. Ah, well. How did early work that influence my life, because it is about my whole life, here in Asgarth? Honestly, I\’ve felt responsibility for not only the people of this city, but for maintaining the link between my old friends and the things they have helped to build. It will be my legacy, for whatever that is worth.
GGB: It shall be worth much more than any can ever repay, to be sure. Skrip uncounted, to be sure. After what is nearly two thousand years in the Ersatz, hundreds of thousands of new colonists, and what now must seem like many lifetimes of truly benevolent rule in Asgarth, Barlon Verdo, what do you see as your greatest achievement?
Verdo: (Chuckling) Ah, well. Our constitutional monarchy would be envied even in the priorlife, I think.
GGB: You did mention some of the other earlier colonists. Among those the people of Asgarth continue to speculate on your friendship with Winston Marcella…
Verdo: (Interrupting) I prefer not to speak of Dr. Marcella. It has been a long time since we lost both he and Lisa Frobst. Let’s not spoil their memories with speculation.
GGB: Indeed, Barlon. Indeed. And we will not keep you any longer from your busy schedule. Thank you for this rare opportunity to speak with you today. May the grasses favor you.
Verdo: And, may the grasses favor you.
Pan-Steamed Skullfish with Herbs
- One Medium Skullfish, Skrip removed, Filleted, De-boned, De-veined, Bitter Gob Removed and Set Aside
- Four Handfuls of Grated Lewin Root
- Oil of Smickler
- One Whole Preserved PodLikeLikeLemon
- Four Pekoe Leaves, Fresh
- Sea Salt, Pinch (to Taste Only)
- Heat your pan over high heat with Oil of Smickler coating the base. You are going to want a fairly even coating of the oil because Skullfish tends to stick to metal surfaces and readily combust causing release of toxic fumes. When the Oil begins to form a soft, jelly-like consistency it is heated sufficiently to begin cooking.
- Slice PodLikeLikeLemon into thin slices taking care to remove any pits or burrowing MogWorms you find. The preserving process should have killed all MogWorms or MogWorm larvae, but be sure to place in pan first and cook for at least four minutes before proceeding to the next step. Arrange to cover bottom of the pan.
- Atop the softened, heated PodLikeLikeLemon slices place half of the Grated Lewin Root. At this point move at least twenty paces from the pan for at least a minute. Cooking Lewin root releases hallucinogenic fumes that may impede the timely preparation of the rest of this recipe. (See Gehn and Gaben’s Guide to the Ungrasses, for more information on the many uses of Lewin root.)
- Squeeze the Bitter Gob with your hands into the pan and then quickly add the prepared Skullfish fillets to the mix. Skullfish flesh, when cooked, will quickly loose it’s sickly green tinge and transform into a far more appetizing shade of reddish-brown depending on the season and freshness of the catch. The more red in the flesh, the more tasty the fish.
- Place the whole Pekoe leaves on top of the fillet and cover with the remaining Lewin root. Cover and leave the room for at least one more minute while the root cooks. The Skullfish fillets will take only a few more minutes to finish cooking in the steam of the herbs.
- Serve immediately with warm PodQuick Ale. Two servings.
Libby Lewin had found her escape.
Buried amidst the stonecrop, peeking from the tight leaf formations of the rock-covering plant, small bursts of green protruded with careless indignity into the sky. At first, she though them more grass invading the rocks that broke up the otherwise vast expanse of garden-groomed lawn to every horizon. But then she dug a little deeper. Pushing away the loose bits of stone that was packed around the base of the plant, pulling back bits of the stonecrop with her hands, all revealed a tapered stem disappearing into the rock. When she nudged it with her fingers it was firmly planted. But a small amount of working the stem gradually loosened something that she had not expected. When pulled from the ground what Libby held in her hand was a tuberous root roughly the shape of a large, bulbous carrot — but a carrot with the eerie colourlessness of a sinuous, fibrous noodle. The root itself was firm to the touch, but nearly translucent, catching the midday sunlight and giving the flesh the appearance of jelly or or gelatinous element.
Libby was unsure at first. Her first inclination was to taste it, but years of scientific training slapped her aside the face with the foolishness of such a scheme. She might poison herself dead, or worse, incapacitate herself with illness to die in the parching heat of the gardens. It was far too risky. It was far too dangerous. It would only be in sheer desperation — hunger nearly starvation, and they all knew that was increasingly unlikely — that she would dare place a slice, a bite, a sliver of the root into her mouth.
She was depressed, but not that far. Yet.
Thus lead to her discovery. Reasoning that by burning the tuber she might possibly discover some of the deeper chemistry of the root, she grated small bits from the tip with a sharp stone and carefully, with precision and care, heated and charred the colourless slices.
At first there was nothing, just a sputtering bit of smoke from a weak source of heat. The root itself contained far too much moisture to burn outright — and nearly too much to sustain a weak burn. But what little heat was there managed to dry the shreds of root, and over the hour of patient efforts by Libby the bit of shredded root that she had prepared and set aside, drying in the sun, then added to the flame caught with ease and released a warm, pungent smoke that filled her lungs.
Libby Lewin had found her escape.
A dreaminess fell over her, washing across her eyes, her face, her body like a warm gush of water. It was a pleasant feeling mixed with a rush of falling into space, and she fell back into the the thin vegetation covering the rocks, the stonecrop catching her from harm as she collapsed into a kind of euphoria. She dreamed of home. She dreamed of before the Ersatz. She dreamed she was dreaming and falling and wandering in grasses to her knees that curled their stalks around her ankles with tender caress and loved her, wanted her, needed to be one with her. She dreamed of chocolate. She dreamed of warm air and soft water on a temperate beach back home. She dreamed.
Libby Lewin had found her escape.