Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Marzipan 2: I-3

Marzipan 2 Master Post 

While I decide whether or not to give GTA IV a second go, or just write about it I'll just be posting up another chapter of the fantasy novel.

This is the first point at which I knew that it was going wrong. I like some of the stuff I wrote here, but the chapter just doesn't work in any way. The problem is, while I knew it didn't work it set up some of the later plot. Re-writing it would mean working out a different way to either get all of the plot points in, or changing the way things went later on, neither of which I wanted to do. I just typed this chapter up and told myself I'd look at it again later, that this was a rough draft.

The problem was that later I still didn't know what to do with it, and I'd written more that sort of depended on some if this stuff happening. Yet, every time I re-read it I became more convinced that polishing still wasn't going to make it work, and that I would have to find another way of getting Nina where she needed to be.

Felicity Conditions

Bright morning sun glittered on the calm sea that surrounded the island, except for that which lay in the fat shadow of the dead volcano that rose up in its centre. In the streets of the capital remnants of last night’s festivities blew coldly about, hindered by sick. Nina awoke, not for the first time, grimy and stiff and hunched up in a backstreet behind a bar. The paving stone beneath her head was discoloured and had been etched with a strange filigree pattern, the action of the gallons of stomach acid that had been spilled upon it over the years.

There was a thin stream of yellow-green liquid that ran from the rusted corner of a great sheet metal bin attached to the wall of the inn. The liquid ran past her aching feet and collected in a pool just above a blocked gutter resolutely upwind of her. She had nothing in her stomach to consider vomiting, a worthy addition though it would be to the ambience of her makeshift homestead, so the vinegary stench of mixed and stagnant alcohol made Nina want to die.

The feet were a problem. The sleep that she had managed to coax out of her exhaustion had obviously not been sufficient to rest her completely. Her feet told her the story, though she ignored it as best she could, of everywhere she had been and the time and the manner it had taken her to get there. Nina was strong though, and for a while she was almost able to pretend that she had awoken somewhere nice for a change, as long as she kept her eyes closed. Even if it was somewhere nice that smelled horrible. But it was early and there was only a gentle breeze coming in off the ocean, and everyone else was too hung over to be on the streets giving her trouble yet.

There was dried blood on her, Nina had opened her eyes and could see. It was easier to look at herself than it was the oppressive architecture of the alleyway. She must have been in a fight last night as the blood was mostly not her own, which was a blessing at least, although it was quite heavily caked into her clothes, making them feel stiff and heavy against her skin. There was at least one point where she could feel the cloth rub deeper still, which meant that the blood was her own and she hadn’t cleaned the wound before she had collapsed, which was a really stupid thing to have done. She tried not to think how stupid. She tried instead to lever herself upward and away from the pavement. She tried to concentrate on the pain of the wound and let its purity clear her mind, but it was already just another dull hatred amid the litany of hatreds that her body had lined up for her in the morning.

Sitting, still, but at least upright, Nina continued to survey herself. She hoped desperately that the stale and smeared blood gave her an air of warrior princess that might open doors and hearts, or at the very least inspire fear and longing rather than pity and hatred, but she knew deep down that this was unlikely. She did not own any armour, revealing or otherwise, and with the whore’s clothes that she had had to wear she knew that she looked more like a drunken hen night gone badly wrong. For a moment she wondered why everyone always thought that blood was in any way like wine, then she thought about how appealing being drunk would be right now. And then the sour alcohol smell hit Nina full force and sent her stomach reeling horribly once again.

It should have been a lovely morning. The gulls were in the air already and on the beaches fighting over the harvest of cuttlebones washed up overnight, but even that should not have ruined the mood. There was no work to be done and so, early as it was, the dockers were not even out of their beds yet, let alone into their first pints. Of course this meant that it would be much harder for Nina to get passage on the first fast ship out of there, at least if she wanted to do so before the delegation of guards that would certainly be sent to arrest her arrived at the docks and began questioning people in a heavy handed manner. They were probably trading light-hearted insults with the barrack master right now and comparing the size of their hangovers as if it was a competition, while Nina remained hunched in the alley.

Movement was what she needed. She had to keep moving, or get moving, or all else would be lost. No matter how seductive it was to stay still. Precisely because it was so seductive to stay still, to be still and alone and so far from anyone else’s view. But that way of thinking was the enemy. There was nothing in her stomach. That was good thing to concentrate on, Nina decided. That should get her moving again.

Not that she had any money with which to buy food, anyway. But then again there was always robbery – the streets were deserted and the guard were after her anyway. She tried not to think about her encounter with the emperor last night. Foolish, foolish, overconfident, cocky, foolish. He was exactly the sort who would never let a slight go unpunished, and who would chase her across continents to do so – the irony of this was lost on Nina at that moment – and all when she had had no quarrel with him to begin with. It was stupid. Pointless, big-headed and stupid. She rubbed at her injury until the flesh felt raw again and the pain at last focused her mind.

She had to get going again.

The mark moved through the empty city streets with a kind of easy wariness, always keeping to safe spots and maintaining a low profile despite being the only person in view. Nina almost felt ashamed that she was trailing this woman except that it was taking all of her concentration just to remain doing so. She would have just mugged someone else, but it had already taken her so long to locate this woman in the strangely silent metropolis that the option had been taken away from her by necessity.

She didn’t feel up to breaking and entering either, as it was much more likely to go wrong. You had no way of knowing what was waiting for you once you got into a place, no way of knowing what were your best escape routes in advance, and not even any certainty of what you might be able to get for your trouble. And anyway, Nina had had enough of that last night to last her a long time. No, simple was the way to go. A quick blow to the back of the head in a well chosen alley and she would have clean clothes and maybe even a little bit of money. She could always tie her hair up in a scarf and a splash of water would deal with the worst of the mud, and anyway most of the city folk had a bit of dirt on them as it was – there wasn’t much fresh water this far out to sea. And anyway, the way this woman was acting, the subterfuge and evasiveness that permeated her being, made Nina pretty certain that she had something to hide – which in turn made her feel much less guilty about stalking her. Stalking the weak and coddled urban masses was an expression of her proud and noble tribal ancestry – a memory of the Great Plains that she was supposed to be keeping alive.

The streets were confusing. The only order that they seemed to conform to was radial, but there were two centres – the palace of the Emperor which she didn’t want to go anywhere near again anyway and the harbour itself. And where these two sets of radiating roads met they broke into a strange static interference pattern made manifest in wide industrial boulevards and tiny alleys that seemed to go nowhere while actually taking you to unexpected places. Not that Nina would admit to being confused, she was just lost and she was at least certain that she wasn’t being followed. She just needed the correct angle of approach. Her stomach and her legs seemed to be draining all awareness from her brain.


And Nina did. She froze, making sure that she was still hidden from view, and she watched as the mark slowly turned around.

Good morning,’ the woman said. Nina said nothing, but she gripped at her knife. ‘My name is Felicity,’ the mark continued. ‘I know that you’re there.’

Surrounding them were empty warehouses, scheduled for demolition. The place should have been crawling, with rats and with those for whom a roof was a more important consideration than the presence of rats when they were looking for somewhere to sleep, but it was empty and quiet and stark instead.

Felicity said, ‘this is the best place for people like us, really. Wouldn’t you say?’ She was a small woman, with bushy hair and a quiet demeanour. She wore plain, dark clothes. She looked unremarkable, except for a strange, fierce intelligence that was kept tight under control. Nina said nothing.

Of curse, I am assuming that you are people like me, so to speak,’ Felicity continued. ‘Otherwise why would you be out and about, and crucially not at your prayers, on this day. The day of our glorious Emperor’s ascension, or the day that he was spirited into his changeling’s crib at least.’

Nina looked quizzical, to herself at least.

Felicity kept talking. ‘Oh I know, you can be forgiven for wondering why I am saying all this out loud to someone who may not be there, or who may be a guard or who might just want to mug me and leave me naked to my fate, but I do know what I am talking about.’ She paused, for emphasis. ‘And there isn’t anyone who wouldn’t be praying right now unless they either didn’t know what it was that they were praying for or they were just a truly treasonous bitch. So I have to assume that you are a revolutionary, like me. As I cannot see you, and so your truth to me is unknown, in flux, then I can only hope that by saying it that it will be true.’ In the distance a bell started ringing.

It looks like life will be starting up again in a minute,’ Felicity said with more confidence. ‘All the people will be back on the streets. All the bumbling guards will be being despatched from the palace and of course, all of the fast boats to the continent will be getting ready to weigh anchor and go. You had better be fast.’

No comments:

Post a Comment