Work in Progress
A Few Teasers
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
Chapter One: Down and Out
Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his flesh is fish-bait made
Those were girlies in his eyes
Nothing of them but doth rot -
A rusted crown is all you've got.
Sir Ishmael Leapwake, Storm in a Teacup
'Unwanted puppies. Drown you in a bucket.'
'But murder us!'
The Recorder of Glories stopped, flapping his arms and shifting from heel to heel, torn between the need to hurry and the need to make her see the point of hurrying. Diamonds of sweat formed a cheap tiara in his receding hairline; a liquid pearl danced at the tip of his nose, then jumped, winking in the candlelight as it fell. He took a deep breath and adjusted his faux-leather codpiece.
'Be realistic, Majesty. What else are they going to do? Imprison you and run the risk that you might escape? Exile you to the Colony and run the risk that you might raise an army among the Anglophiles? A pair of helpless nubs like you and your brother would only attract dangerous sympathy. You are living symbols of the House of Wind. You are continuity, tradition. Two quick stabs of the dagger, a little of that infinitely precious royal haemoglobin staining the nice Axminster carpets, which, by the way, are actually made of nylon microfibre by a Mughal firm in Watford, and can be scrubbed clean by the serviles in five minutes, but be that as it may. Bingo - they put out a Media Reminder about your traitorous association with the Mesopotamian Extremists, and they control the whole Angle.'
'Or Mexiberian Anti-Social Elements. Or the Fisher Captain in Rome. Or quite possibly Kiltish Separatists in league with the Fisher Captain in Rome. Whichever group of miscreants and malcontents they are, they'll claim you are in cahoots with whichever group they themselves are not and can therefore plausibly shift the blame onto. Don't you see?'
'Gull, really. No one’s going to believe that kind of nonsense.'
'Many people will believe that kind of nonsense. It is a story so tailor-made for the newsblabs that all they have to do is add exclamation marks. And a story in the newsblabs with added exclamation marks is one of the few reasons the lower classifications believe anything.'
He turned, pointing the way forward, but she stood her ground. 'I refuse to think the average Angler is that stupid.'
'There is no such thing as an average Angler, Majesty. There are royals, crats, and ignobles.’
He pursed his lips as if worrying at a fragment of food. ‘They don’t really count. The point is, even some of the crats, despite all those expensive years of flogging, malnutrition, cold baths, ridicule, and other character-building exercises at the best private edification camps - are as easy to influence as a beeve with a brass ring through its testimonials.’
‘But - ’
‘Madam, I have said this before but since you were exercising the royal prerogative of not listening, I will say it again: the body of our nation, in all its unprecedented magnificence, stands tall on two strong and hirsute legs. One is the dignity of the Crown - embodied in your own person, as of this afternoon, if we ever get to this afternoon, which becomes less probable the longer we stand here talking. The other is an unthinking subservience to that dignity on the part of all classifications. No one's mental perhapsibility has anything to do with it.'
'So. Since I'm about to be murdered by foreign Extremists, or else crowned Queen of the Whole Angle and its Glorious Empire, on which the Fish Never Feeds, Empress of Pike and Perch blah blah blah, and since no one ever tells me a fucking thing - '
The Recorder flinched.
' - tell me who is behind this.'
His eyes made a little shrugging motion. Deep lines spread away from them towards his temples. He was an oddity, a freak of nature, one of those rare individuals who, however useless at practical things, still had most of his wits at, what was he, fifty? It was commoner for igs and viles to last that long, but it seemed especially sad in a man with the gift and curse of scriveling. She had asked him more than once about when he had first known that he could make marks on paper speak for him. His eyes had shrugged then, too. It was something that amazed and repelled all normal people: there was something uncanny about it.