Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I understand the nature of Halloween, it's origins and how they run contrary to Christian faith. But, like most holidays, I feel it's been degraded to a point of comerciallization that I don't think spending 20$ and putting together an interesting costume once a year means anything. How else would my wife put up with me creating authentic Samuarai armor out of cardboard? (last year's masterpiece) Or this year my mummy costume? I hope that by the time I die I'll have a venerable stable of costumes to dress in and that they'll be improved upon by future generations and worn for years. Next year I want to make a verion of my armor that allows me to sit. Not sure if real samurai had that problem, but metal has alot less give than cardboard so I have to imagine so.

November is upon me, so I must put a temporary stop on all things Mynfield and Mysterious. My good internet friend Bekah has asked that I revisit my first Nano story, and I am planning on complying. Thus 1001 will get the rewrite it so richly deserves. I'm a more mature writer with a much more mature story idea this time around filled with a desire to complete this project at least to its first installment. I think it will go well.

I know it has been a while since I last posted, but my hands have not been idle, I assure you. Chapter four is finished and most of chapter five. I've done extensive editing to a few previous chapters in order to bring everything more in line with how I want the finsihed story to read and went back and did some world building so that I have few continuity problems. Reading through a discworld artbook, Terry Prachette talked about having teh same problem with his city, Ank-morpork.

In the first few books the city was a city, a blob in the imagination that was used to hold events that happened and give venue for plot. As his stories progressed the city became more and more fleshed out until actual minatures of the city could be created down to how many steps it would take (or minutes) for a character to travel from one location to the next. I'm not that far along yet, but it is good practice that if Adder Street crosses Python Street at some point, it should always do so and the historic Statue at that juncture should stay static and not drift listlessly.

I'm posting chapter 4 now, because I'm happy with it and have chapter 5 in the pipe for the end of November. I won't be posting much 1001, unless it is requested.

Wish me luck in the 50K marathon, I have a good outline, I'm fairly sure I will succeed given a good start and some inspiration. Until then

John, the Writer.

Chapter four

All in all the day had so far went ok. There was a prospect of iminent death, to be sure, and the day had already held the means for an early demise, but any day where death is cheated was counted as a good day in the books of Jonas Mynfield. He also felt much wealthier, having the bars in his vault, coins from betting on himself and a small amount coming from Juris labs. Jonas frowned as he made his way back to his offices; that was the small dark spot on the day. He had met briefly with the men on the ship after they had sufficently contained their monster, and they had been less than happy. Things could have gone wrong, they said, and there would be property damage to contain. Jonas had pointed out that he doubted that anyone else would have done as well or worse and that, really, Mynfield Investigations wasn't equiped to deal with their type of problem. The three men, all short birdlike creatures with ruffled feathers and a way of holding thier short yellow beaks higher than needed had scatched thier feet in anger and Jonas had sighed, settling on half of what they had promised to begin with. The rest would go to the watch and the the Royals to smooth over any damages. Jonas couldn't argue that, at least they had agreed to deal with fairweather.
With the coins in his pocket, Jonas had decided to walk the long way back to his offices, by way of bachlor street so named for its many taverns. The close street wound it's way from the South East corner of the docks in a serpatine way all the way to the edge of the business core. It was a walkable distance from the low town businesses, the docks as well as the university and as such was populated by sailors, laborours, students as well as middle class businessmen, all with mouths close to drinks and spilling out of teh many taverns and intot eh street. the hour was half past business close and the next tram out to Green Way housing development would not leave for another forty minutes; a convient amount of time for any who not naught but a nagging wife and screaming childern at home. Moving into the press of bodies fromteh docks, Jonas closed his eyes and let the turbulance and noise wash over him with a deep breath.
"I do so miss this." He murmured to himself and set off to find a corner in a pub with room. Past the street opening layered with ladies of the night come out a little early dressed in an assortment of lace, leather and in some cases moss was the Bended Knee, it's patrons crowding out not only the front door but the second and thrid floor windows as well. Jonas stopped and chatted pleasantly with the women but skirted the Bended Knee along wth everyone else with sense. The bar was owned by a family of Horizian Royals and it was well known that the Knee was a good place to go if you wanted yours broken. Similararly Jonas passed by the Body Market, Headstone and Silvertounge until he came to a smallish building only two stories among it's taller cousins. there was a squat looking man with a squarish head and several stitching scars across his brow and a nose that looked lik it had been broken several times and set back by a cross eyed man. he broke into a wide grin when he saw Jonas approach.
"Its been a spell since I've seen teh likes of you down this fair alley, son." He said, tapping his left arm. "I still haven't thanked you properly for helping out me and the misus this spring. I owe you a drink, that I do, and you should have come to get a long while back!"
Jonas smiled, "I have been busy Tony and, I must confess, I'm here more on business than on pleasure. I've come into a spot of coin you see and..."
"Well Hilda will be right happy to hear that." Tony nodded, "she's in the back, like she is most times. Its good crowd tonight, don't take too much of her time, you hear?"
Jonas smiled and tugged at his colar, "I wouldn't dream of it."
"See that you don't." Tony said grimmly, "a man with no head makes a dismal drinking companion and I still mean to buy you a flagon or two. You're months behind on the rent, you know."
"I know." Jonas' smile fell a touch, but he stood up straight and made his way into the smallish building with the tall door, over which a side was hung with a picture of a mounted man with a bow and arrow. It had been a long while since Jonas dared show his face in the Huntsman.
Inside was heavy air and the smell of close bodies. Students from teh university frequented the Huntsman, the founder of the pub eighty-three years ago had been a retired Professor that had fallen out of line with his royal family over his theories and been forced to find other means of income. Hence the Huntsman always had a fond nostolgic smile for any student that entered her doors; extra smiles on wendsday between four and eight where studnets drank for half price. Ownership of the Huntsman had passed from the original owner's hands since it's founding, and through theivery, gambling and murder the deed had found it's way into the large hands of Hilda. Jonas saw her as soon as stepped through the door; it wasn't hard, she stood three feet taller than any other and her blonde head peered over the deviding wall that separated the back room and kitchen from the common room. She saw him as soon as he walked in the door. Pulling a thick cigar out of her mouth she gestured for him to come into her office. Jonas shivered and then complied.
Hilda was a giant woman, dressed in a dark brown suit with teh arms of teh shirt and jacket ripped off. It wasn't a fashion statement; her arms would not fit. Despite her bulging muscles, her face was pretty, and she had yards of golden blonde hair that she kept tied up in a long braid. A bat the size of a sappling was leaning in the corner in arms reach, she was rumored to have hit an unruly man over the alley with that bat. Jonas believed that truthfully the man had flown much farther.
"Sit down Jonas." Hilda said, pointing to a chair across from a long wide desk that was filled with papers. A monkey wearing an accountants visor was pounding away happily on mechanical typewriter at the other end, it hardly looked up from it's work as he ran the figures through his method.
"Of course." Jonas sat. "It's been a while since I last frequented this particular local."
"You're due." Hilda said, "of course, thats nothign new, you're always due." She shuffled the papers on her desk, following on column of numbers with a massive finger. "lucky for you, I like you. Not why most of teh girls like you, but I lilke you. You're likable."
"I try my very best."
"Also business is good. the betting, the rings all the tenants, its all been very good this year." She continued, for the most part ignoring JOnas in his chair, "I don't need your money. I have all kinds of money, some of it's even legitamate money. The young royals, they're mad for gambling. They'll give you money for anything. Cards, dice, fights, races, they don't care. And most of them are stupid, so I keep their money and they dip a little further into the trust fund."
"I'm familure with their kind, unfortunately." Jonas said, images of the Taras childern coming unbidden into his mind. He doubted that Randal gambled with anything so trival as money, but he must be intoxicated by the risk in his acesension to power.
"You're not like that though. You don't hae anything and whatever it is you do happen to have, well thats something you've earned." She finally looked up at him, "I heard about your romp near teh docks. Giant turtle was it?"
"Red tortiose, actually. Mutant." He had almsot said 'gaint' but thought better of it. This visit was going rather well.
"They look the same." Hilda said, "I heard you got some coin as well, betting. We're in the same business it seems, only I bet on people losing their money and you always bet on yourself."
"Seems the logical choice, in my expierence if you bet on others, you're setting yourself up to fail."
"Logic. thats you. You were smart to come here first. I hear alot. I'll take it all, you don't charge enough rent on that collapsed building of yours to pay me the morgage. I don't know why that is."
"It is a problem for me." Jonas said carefully. A larger problem for his tenants that, without him, would be on teh streets for the Urchins to find. The thought of Mrs Harp and her children at the mercies of the street people was not one that gave him pleasant dreams.
Hilda squinted her eyes, "maybe you're a saint?"
"I very much doubt that." Jonas said. He handed her the bag of coin. Hilda hefted it without ceremony and threw it in the direction of her accountant who looked up sharply and caught the bag with quick reflexes.
"It's garbage currancy, about six hundred. It helps on your tab, gets one of your quick little feet out of the hole you've dug around yourself. Here." She leaned under the desk and pulled out a glass tumbler that looked small in her hands and unscrewed the top of a glass bottle, pouring some brown liquid into teh cup. "On teh house. It's for your trip."
"Er... trip?" Jonas said, "I wasn't aware I was going anywhere."
"Oh you're going. Expedition later, and a coach ride now." She gestured to the back door, "I like you because of the other business you give me too, you help me make money so I'm not so concerned that you're so behind on your bills. You're going out the back, there's a car waiting for you there. I wouldn't try running." She tapped the bat. "Have a good day Jonas Mynfield."
Dumbfounded Jonas took the tumbler and nodded a thanks. "I should go now then?"
The monkey stopped his tapping long enough to look up and raise an eyebrow, then went back to his work.
"Er.. right."
The back door opened to an alley with the normal garbage bins, refuge and rats. Standing out like a parka in the middle of the desert was a white and silver coach, the driver holding open one of the back doors. There was elegant wood inserts on the door and a at the crest of the hood, a silver bull stood proudly, horns curling up and out. The Taras family mascot. The driver was dressed in a long overcoat and smart black hat with an easy smile.
"If you'll just step right this way Mr Mynfield, there we go. You need't have brought your own liquor there's a cabinet in the back, fully stocked." He said amiably, "there we go, and then we'll be off."
The inside of the car was unnaturally dark, even after the shadows of the alley. Jonas squinted a little and shuffled over into the middle of the bench seat, unconsciously admiring the luxury of the car despite its probably hostile nature. It has a large truck, Jonas said to himself, I'm sure large enough to hold your dead body. But these were royals and though they often had people killed, they rarely bothered to bloody their own hands. Jonas was safe enough, so long as the car did not open it's doors in some abandoned quay populated by undesirable men. Slowly Jonas' eyes adjusted.
The man sitting across from him was small, olive skinned and had memories of black in his white hair. The piercing eyes, the curl to his white locks and the face were familure, Jonas had seen them all earlier that day. The wore an incredibly handsome white suit with a red flower blooming from his front pocket and though his face was creased with thin lines, Jonas knew he wouldn't have any trouble attracting younger, beautiful women. His smile was that of a fox, a quick upturn at the corner of the mouth and nothing else.
"Hello Mr. Mynfield."
"Hello Rupert Taras." Jonas said confidently. The man nodded.
"You are clever, maybe even half as clever as they say you are. That's good. But you're a royal, or so they say, so I'm wondering how clever you really are?" He leaned forward and tapped a long thick cane on the glass between the driver and passanger compartments and the car slid down the alley, smooth as silk. "I'll drive you back to your little apartment complex, if you don't mind entertaining an old man a few moments."
"Not at all." Jonas said, taking a small sip from his drink, "I find there is much wisdom to gain from those of superior years. So long as you don't mind me drinking .. whatever this is, we'll get along smashingly. In so far it has been a long day and I could use a little numbing."
"Hilda's drinks will do that." Rupert Taras said, keeping his eyes fixed tightly on Jonas.
A slience descended until Jonas broke it with an uncomfortable throat clearing. The car had already made it's way half way through the alley and was nearing the turn that would take them past the Markets and into Steph Downing. Past Steph Downing it is was minutes to Starfields and Myfield Manors. Rupert's gaze continued to be unforgiving until sudenly, as if he had reached a decision, he turned and gazed out the window.
"It wasn't always like this you know. The fighting used to be civilized, there was a certain art to it; a flair." Rupert told the window. Jonas felt nearly guilty listening in, but gulped down some more his tumbler. A small fire was building in the pit of his stomache. Whatever Hilda had poured him was not what she fed the Students on the cheap night.
"Family was sacred, you didn't touch them, no matter what they did, how they moved to stop you. And at every turn they would try to stop you, every turn. It's a hard life, a royal's life, they say it's the assasine's knife that kills a Royal, but it's the politics that does. Gets in your bllod, works it's slow poison. Family was different, it was all teh same blood afterall. You never liked your family, but you always loved them." He turned his eyes back to Jonas, "I love my family, Mr Mynfield, but things don't work the way they used to work."
"I thought this might have something to do with your ... family." Jonas said carefully. The man might have been old, but he had danced with assasins, royals and politicians and was still breathing to tell about it. However grim and obtuse his son had been, surrounded as he was with guards and his stewart, Jonas felt more ill at ease here with this old man. Outside a butcher shop passed by, the bulbous man under the awning swinging his cleaver hard. The market district passed by. "I had the pleasure of meeting your family recently, your childern, but I think you know that already."
"Still being clever I see? Yes, of course I know, its why you're here. I won't ask what it is you're doing for them, I have suspicions that will be confirmed very soon. I know Randal doesn't trust you. Likely as not he'll kill you after your contract is complete. It's how he's opperated in the past." Rupert shook his head.
"I suspected that as well." Jonas admitted.
"His mind he got from me, but I'm afraid my late wife filled him with ruthlessness. That's how he thinks, if you use something, you use it all, every ounce of it, and discard it afterwards." Rupert said with the same fox smile, "He'll use you in the same way, though I doubt he's smart enough to use all your resourcefulness."
"I will take that as a compliment." Jonas said returning the smile and taking a sip.
"I should, I'm sparing with my compliments." Rupert said.
Jonas nodded, beleiving him, "A question, if I may?"
"Of course."
"I have the feeling of being a pawn, currently. Two kings moving a piece across a board. In my expierence, a pawn can not be governed by two kings."
"It can happen, but it rarely lasts." Rupert said, "and that was not a question."
"Ahh.. yes. The question would be, how do you differ from your son? Are your assets so easily discarded?"
"Ahh, they tell stories about you, about how you can talk. A silver tonuge they say." The old Taras smiled, "entertaining. No, I reward those deserving of it. If I kill you, there will be a good reason. If I pay you, you will have earned it."
"Good to hear Sir."
"Sir? Respect, I like that." Rupert said, then leaned forward a little with his fox grin, "of course you knew that and that is why you said it. Honestly Mynfield, do I frighten you?"
"Honestly, Sir, this drink was full of something out of Hilda's own stock when I sat, and now all I have is a trembling tumbler that wants to be filled again." Jonas said slowly.
"Good, good. I think you are clever. Only a clever royal would survie as long as you have without wealth or power. Usually there is one or the other, sometimes both. It is difficult without either."
"I like to think ability comes into play, and cunning." Jonas said, allowing a small smile of his own, "that's how I've always been. Though it usually works better in business than in romance."
"Hah!" the old man chuckled, then slapped his knee, "Hah! I heard this, you sent letters to my dear daughter, asking her to a meeting. I know how you would have liked to have met her. She wouldn't even consider it, though, she's clever as well. Even if your family were still around. Careful of her, she's dangerous."
"Dangerous... I thought Randal..."
"No. Randal has his plans, his ambitions, he has powers and influence in his own right, but do not turn your back on my dear, sweet Samantha." Rupert's smile turned blank, "She will play her part to whatever tune she needs to, but at the end of it all, even in the midst of the battlefield with the world ruined she will be there, standing in a white gown, perfect, untouched and ahead of everyone else. She is the deadlier of the two, be warned."
"I... thanks for the warning." Jonas said, falling quiet for a time. The car was passing through Steph Downing and soon he would be home.
"I have certain... well, expectations of my clients. Confidentiallity and all that." Jonas said finally, "It's part of why I've been able to survive. I'm trusted and deemed a toothless threat, useful but not dangerous. It is a dificult line to tred upon. As much respect and fear as I have for you, I have a contract."
"I know." Rupert leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, "as quiet as they think they are, I still hear my little mice scribbling around. It's my birthday fast approaching and I think they mean to surprise me. They mean to take control of the entire family through my death, it would happen too. All that keeps royals in line are stronger royals, and the two of them one day will have what it takes, but not yet. It isn't that I'm not ready to step down, its that they aren't ready to step up. One day I will leave this dance, but it will be on my own terms. Do you understand Mynfield?"
"I think I do Mr Taras." Jonas nodded. His tumbler wasn't trembling anymore and the car slid smoothly to a stop at the drive by Mynfield Manor. "It has been a pleasure talking to you Sir."
"Likewise." Rupert Taras tapped his nose, "just remember what I told you, and don't die Mr Mynfield, I should like to have another conversation with you. Take care to bundle up when you leave tomorrow, the Frillda Uplands are frightfully cold this time of year."
The driver opened the door for Jonas and gave him another big smile, wishing him well and hoping that his good health continued. The car pulled away near silent and left Jonas standing somewhat bewildered on the curb with an empty tumbler in his hand. It took a moment to fully appreciate what had just happened to him.
"The old Bull is playing the game with them. He thinks its a game, like it used to be." He muttered, almost astonded. "They think they're being brutal and smart, trying to kill him but he knows their every move. And now I know he knows and if I tell the other Taras, he'll know and probably have my head cut off. But if I don't and follow through with what I'm being paid to do, Randal will undoubtedly find a way to put me at the bottom of the bay just so I won't be a lose end."
Jonas stood another moment, "Hung if I do, hung if I don't... hung many different ways by many different people." He looked down at the glass in his hand, then to teh street curb where he realized that there were two police cars pulled up next to the manor. His shoulders slumped and he let out a long sigh.
"I'm going need to fill this up." He muttered and then he went inside. "Probably twice."

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