My dearest Zann,
It’s been I am compelled I feel I must I need to write to you, after all this time. It’s been more than two years since the Great Nap!
Maybe I should start by telling you about a couple of unusual things that happened to me yesterday.
Recently I’ve been working down at the Crideon docks, loading and unloading riverboats and foamcraft. I don’t like it. I’m strong enough to do it, these days, but it’s easy to hurt yourself and it doesn’t pay very much. Wande is always after me to look for something better, that I’m young enough and bright enough for a much better situation. She’s right, I know. And… well.
There were a couple of light green clouds above as I walked down to the docks. I know you don’t know about that, but light green means that there will be mists of laughter in the afternoon. I don’t mind that; they never make me laugh too hard.
Sometimes the wharfmaster assigns me to a large job, where a dozen of us spend hours loading or unloading one of the big corporate barges, and sometimes it’s a series of small jobs that I can do by myself or with another fellow. This time it was the second kind.
Late in the morning I was rolling barrels onto the most broken-down foamcraft I’ve ever seen. Most lauran-built things are works of heartbreaking crystalline beauty, but this one had obviously been neglected and damaged. The foam that rose up out of the water to form its substance had been tainted with some kind of brown algae, and so it was streaked with brown and dark green all over. It made groaning noises as I stepped onto it, and I’ve never heard a foamcraft do that before. Even its sail was sagging.
The lauran who owned it waved me over when I brought the first barrel aboard. He was sitting in the bow, holding his head, looking upriver. He had a package on his lap. His braids were coming undone and two of the three belts of his robes were trailing on the deck. His wooden mug of pop was spilling all over because his hand was shaking. I had never seen a lauran in a state like this before.
“Lord,” I said.
“I’m leaving. Getting out of all this. I’m finished.”
“Just a moment.” He vomited over the side. I tried to look away, but I did see that whatever had been in his stomach had been blue and glowing. “Now then. Supplies,” he said, gesturing at the barrel at my feet, and the other barrels and crates on the dock. “Don’t want to have to talk to folk any more than I have to. Find room in the hold. If not, near the prow there.” He put a penny on the barrel, said, “Buy me a song at your tavern tonight,” and closed his eyes. It was curst decent of him; most of these owners and boatswains never give you anything.
I touched my heart, said, “Yes, lord,” and got back to loading his low-rent foamcraft.
His business was none of mine, and I knew he didn’t want some dockworker gawking at him, so I kept my eyes on my work. But I did glance at him as I brought the third or fourth barrel up the gangplank, and I saw him deliberately drop his package overboard. Strange thing to do. After that he turned away from the water and sat, looking down, with his elbows on his knees.
I finished up, collected my pennies from the wharfmaster, and had a small nuncheon at the little cheese-frying place that’s there at the corner. But when I was going back to work, I saw the lauran’s package that he had thrown overboard. It had washed up on the bank just beneath Wharf 7. If he had wanted to get rid of it, he hadn’t done a very good job.
So I climbed down the ladder and picked it up. Small. Wrapped tightly in oiled cloth. Something hard inside, not very heavy.
I thought of returning it to the lauran, maybe offering to get rid of it for him if he wanted, but the foamcraft was gone. Must have set sail while I was eating. So I opened it.
All that was in there was a book. A small thick notebook of fine paper; the package had kept it dry. I leafed through it but all the pages were blank. Nothing printed or written in it. Why would he throw that away?
Then, between two of the pages, was a coin. It wasn’t a lauran silver cup or a Crideon penny; it was old and dark and worn. Maybe very impure copper? I could hardly make out the design on it. A goat, perhaps, or some similar animal. It was too faint. But long ago someone had drilled a hole through it to run a string through, and scratched some letters into the other side: CABARDIS.
I looked at the coin for a long time. What did it mean? It didn’t look valuable. Where was it from, what was it doing there?
It’s hanging around my neck now, and I’m writing to you in the notebook. That was the first unusual thing. I’ll tell you about the second one next time.
Your Yours Love,
4 thoughts on “Spring 35: first entry”
[…] I posted here the first entry of my new story, tentatively titled Palace Guard. There’s more information […]
It’s great to see a new story from you! I loved Sliced Bread 2. 😀
Thanks, all! Just getting started.