Thursday, October 20, 2016

Story for the day: The Blue Farmhouse

War ruins all promise of decency, and when the Gallieisians invaded Frewyn during the Second War, many small villages along the Menorian Mountains were ravaged by pillaging parties, and when one such village was particularly ungrateful to Tyfferim Company for having saved them, Boudicca ends up asking herself: what is it all for? Jaicobh, as always, has an answer. An excerpt from our newest novella on Patreon. Join the campaign here for the full story:

The rain continued, and Boudicca watched her footprints drown with eyes low and heart sinking. The sound of heavy footfalls neared, the shuffling of scudding heels stopped beside her, there was
sidelong glance, and the worn workboots and stained overalls told her who had approached. The chair in the corner of the porch creaked as it moved, and someone exhaled as they sat down. A large form slumped into the seat, and the chair groaned as it craned backward, a head leaning back on the rest, the force from well-planted and heavy thighs holding it in place.
                There was a pause. The soft scroop of hands rubbing against overalls reached her ear above the incessant lumming. Someone tapped their feet.  
                “What’s all this bein’ long in the mouth for, darlin’?”
                Boudicca’s shoulders withered, and she sighed. “I know I have said so before,” she began, with chest low and voice solemn, “but people really are atrocious, father.” She stared at the puddles beside her feet. “They do and say things completely without conscience.”
                “Talkin’ about the tall lad with the mare’s legs?”
                “No,” said Boudicca, with a hint in a smile, “not him, father. We are rather friends now that I’ve relieved him of his back teeth.”
                “Aye, well,” Jaicobh sniffed, “good friendships gotta start somehow. Near gave yer Uncle Shayne a wallopin’ first time I met him. Had to just to bring him home from the Seidh Maith. It’s good for a friendship, getting’ all the fightin’ out in one go.”
                A pause here, and Boudicca’s smiles faded.
                “I was talking more about the selfishness and discourtesy of some,” she continued. “The ingratitude we just witnessed was worse than any I had ever received from rival farmers in town.”
                “Well, not everyone’s from Tyfferim, darlin’.” Jaicobh lounged with his hands behind his head and gave a shrug. “Sure, we got it hard with all the work we gotta do durin’ the year, but we like it that way, ‘cause we’re all workin’ hard together. We’re farmers, darlin’. We’re all lookin’ after one another. If one of us is doin’ poorly or taken bad, we’re all sufferin’.”
                “That is certainly very true,” Boudicca quietly conceded.
                “But some folk in other towns got it hard, and they’re all alone. They don’t know how to accept help ‘cause nobody they know is lookin’ to give it, and they act ungrateful ‘cause they probably think we’re expectin’ somethin’ in return they don’t wanna give up. Some folk just don’t know how to be helped.”
                “The rudeness is really insufferable. I absolutely cannot understand it. We saved them from being murdered by marauders, and they refused to part with rations that were promised us days ago. I would expect that type of treatment from our enemies—“
                “Who’s our enemy, darlin’?” Jaicobh interposed, glancing at her. “The Galleisians? Ask a farmer and he’ll tell you we got bigger enemies than a few lads from across the way. We got floodin’, black leaf, carrot fly—those are real enemies, the ones you can’t fight. You can spray the milk and water on all yer crops, and they still might get the blight, and there’s nothin’ do but cut the stalk and pull the roots. There’re enemies everywhere, darlin’, and some you just can’t fight.”
                Boudicca hummed and sighed and wondered whether it was worth helping anybody.   
                “Some folk ain’t so bad, darlin’,” said Jaicobh, with a conscious smile.“Yer Uncle Shayne can sure do my head in when he wants to. Sure put me in a way the other day, takin’ himself off to the Seidh Maith for one too many pints.” Here was a shrug. “But I just shake my head, call him a dunnard, and drag him home. Sure he sulks a bit and blodders like a trod cabbage, but it passes and he’s himself again.”
                Boudicca could not but laugh. “As much as I appreciate your sympathies, father, Shayne is not an entire village.”
                “Well, maybe they all need a bit o’ draggin’ through the rows to show ‘em whose lookin’ after ‘em.” Jaicobh sat up in his chair and spied his daughter with a glint in his eye. “Folk don’t change much, darlin’,” said he feelingly. “Most are gonna be the way they are. If yer helpin’ ‘em and they’re makin’ a song and dance out of it, you just gotta remember that they’re angry ‘cause they don’t want you to see all that sad they’re hidin’. Let em kick about in a circle like a gelding. They'll hush up eventually. You just keep doin’ what’s right and do on ignorin’ what bad they do.”
                “I suppose I simply cannot understand the mentality of isolation,” Boudicca conteded, shaking her head. “I have never been told to leave a village I just saved.”
                “Ach,” Jaicobh scoffed, waving a dismissive hand at the rain. “Some folk’ll hollar at anythin’ just to make a noise. Nothin’ for it darlin’. Think of the pigs. We feed ‘em everythin’ we got and there's no thanks in it for us.”
                Boudicca raised a brow. “We do eat them later.”
                “They don’t know that, and I sure ain’t gonna tell ‘em.”
                “Are you comparing ungrateful villagers to pigs, father?”
                “Seems about right.”
                She bowed her head and laughed heartily to herself, and the spark in Jaicobh’s eye scintillated.
                “You just keep helpin’  others, darlin’,” said Jaicobh, with an affectionate look. “Not everyone you save is gonna thank you for it.”
                “Can I simply resolve never to help anyone again?”
                “Sure, if you want to, but that don’t do no good to anyone. It only hurts those who would appreciate what you’re doin’.”
                Boudicca stared at the ground and shuffled the mud around with her boots. “There are decidedly few of those.”
                “There are a lot more of ‘em than you think,” said Jaicobh seriously.
                Here was a penetrating look, and they exchanged a conscious understanding, each meeting the other in silent conversation, bespeaking a commiseration that both must acknowledge but neither was willing to admit.
                “War does bad by everybody, darlin’,” said Jaicobh, in a desperate hue. “Folk get all wheelbarrows and spoiled milk ‘cause they get afraid about survivin’, and when you take away all the other things that they think are botherin’ em’, fear is what’s left under all that show.” He paused, and one corner of his mouth curled in a smile. “Really oughta blame yerself, darlin’.”
                “And why is that, father?” Boudicca asked, half amused.
                “You ain’t afraid of anythin’.”
                Her instant response of “That’s not true” was lost under the severity and constancy of father’s expression.  His familiar features, his proud jaw, wide cheekbones, and knowing smile, silenced all immediate replies, but the blue eyes, the amiable person, and quiet countenance served to quell any lingering qualms. She was always perfectly easy around him; the experience of many years, betrayed by the lirks around his eyes and wikes about the mouth, always advised her to what was best, but his assumption of her not being afraid of anything was not exactly right. She was afraid of something, but it has already come to pass. The worst thing in the world had happened, and it had taken her from her father’s house and brought her into the forces: she had lost her father. A small raiding part from Gallei had razed their house, ruined their land, and murdered the one person she was afraid of being without. All the trepidation and anxiety she had left had gone in that moment, and as she sat on the stile and reveled under her father’s admiration of her, a sudden sensation prevailed.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Save A-Level #Archaeology

The AQA Exam Board have decided to remove Archaeology from the A-Levels, a most untoward and foolish decision.

A certain professor emeritus would like a word:

To the AQA Exam Board:

I have just been told the most hideous news, and by this letter, I am hoping that someone in your organization can make this business intelligible to me. I have been told that your little collection of
directors has decided to remove archaeology from the A-Levels. If I have heard rightly, and I suppose I have, because everybody seems to be undermining education these days, you can be very sure I will refute this nonsense, and I will not yield nor will I bend to the officious and nothing-meaning excuses of budget cuts or needing to make way for what your set deem to be more lucrative subjects until this decision be reversed. What can you mean by removing archaeology from the A-Levels? A student does not get into archaeology because he wants to learn how to make money-- that is what the law is for-- he gets into archaeology because he wants to discover what the annals of time have dismissed.

Archaeology is not an optional subject, it is not antiquated piddle-paddle-- it is a necessity! Its grand scientific arms reach every corner of our existence, and it does so whether you care about it or not. It is a science, and like all sciences, it is integral to the understanding of life. Archaeology is the study of where we have been as a species, and history is its grand partner in the scheme of pedantic pursuits, and by doing away with one, you negate all veritable claims to the chronicles that countless men and women have compiled throughout the centuries. By removing archaeology from your curriculum, you are disparaging every archaeologist and historian that is currently working in the field and you disgrace and discredit every exquisitive scholar. It is degradation unconscionable to deter any young person from wanting to pursue knowledge, and by removing archaeology or any subject from your invented syllabus implies that you would rather a child learn how to be useful than intelligent. We have enough people who think themselves useful; we do not have enough of those who actually are, and by dissuading those who are genuinely interested in sciences from learning them, we will have more directors than we do noetic specialists, and the world would do well without the interference of those who would not know the importance of a science if it leapt up and smacked them in the mouth.

Directors, especially those on academic boards, very rarely do as their profession recommends: they hardly direct anything at all. They do not so much direct to as they do veer away from, and in my experience, the only thing a director does is create idiot momish children by saving pennies that would be better spent on the very thing they have been commanded to take money away from. Archaeology is not merely a curiosity; it is an irrefutable absolute of life, and considering your country is in possession of some of the world's most exquisite archaeological sites and artifacts, I cannot believe that no one on your board of academic do-nothings does not see the value of learning how to study them. It is unconscionable! It is ignorance run mad in an academic system that been creeping down the path of dilapidation for the last ten years. Archaeology is not a commodity, to be bought and sold at haphazard, to be shown and locked away again when someone who could not find the merit in a ham sandwich grows tired of it. It is your national inheritance, your standard of integrity, to be cherished and bequeathed to future generations, not be to looked at and pushed aside like some lolling lace-mutton. Archaeology is humanity's birthright, and to deprecate it is to tarnish your country's scholars with the stain of academic illegitimacy.

Knowledge is the currency of the future. Do not dare cheapen the intelligence of the young by telling them what they should learn, or their interests will be as diminished as your vision of education is. 

P.E. Bartleby Crulge, Academy of Marridon

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Happy #NationalComingOutDay: The Two Carpenters

There are many across the Two Continents who are proud to express their inclinations, and while Nidello and Arkestino, Vathrasta and Hathanta, and many other such couples are glad to openly proclaim their affection for one another, there are none so proud as Ujaro and Brogan, the two carpenters on Captain Danaco's ship:

Danaco took a small book from his vest pocket and held it up, and instantly Bartleby was interested.  His ears twitched, his eyes blazed in grim curiosity,the tip of his nose quivered, and he had quite
forgot about the slight that Rannig and Brogan had laid against him. He sniffed and sniffed again, his eye following the direction of the scent, his mind everywhere awake to the joys of a book unblemished. He inhaled, the dust of knowledge untouched pervaded his senses, and as he turned and reached for the volume, it was swiftly retracted and hidden behind Danaco’s back.
                “An unread book?” said Bartleby, with beseeching aspect, frantically snuffling about with eyes closed. “Where is it? Where is it? Let me see it, captain. I know you have it.”
                Bartleby’s nose led him to Danaco’s hand, and the captain moved away, gliding back with an insinuating smile.
                “No, my blithesome share-penny,” Danaco crooned, holding the book away from him. “You shall never have it unless you promise to leave my carpenters to their work.”
                Bartleby opened his eyes and stopped sniffing. “But they will mend my ceiling wrong,” he impored, dithering toward the captain and reaching for the book in tremulous desperation. “They will make it so it creaks just to plague me, because they are low and illegitimate and like to harass me as a great joke, and I will not have any creaks!”
                “Aye, you’ll get plenty o’ creaks fer callin’ me and Ujaro two-arsed sheetdancers,” Brogan murmured.
                “You are what you do, sir,” Bartleby asserted, “and when all you do is make merry with a bed-jig every time you are not on deck, you cannot be anything more than two undulating bottom eels, slithering against one ano—“ He was silenced by the scent of something familiar. His nose wiggled, his neck itched, and his skin began to prinkle. Another sniff, and the old man turned to the captain with furious fervour. “You have a volume of Attenburrow in your hand-- is it Attenborrow or is it Ambrys?” He sniffed. “No, it is Attenburrow. I can smell his handwriting—his curled Os and his ridiculous Hs that go on for half a page—It is a manuscript.” He sniffed, lifting his nose in the air. “A manuscript on his discoveries in Gallei. Yes, that’s it. The one about his journey through the mires, with all his studies in mycology. How did you get it? All of his manuscripts are locked away in the vaults at the Grand Marridon Library. Did someone steal it and ask you to retrieve it? Did they give it to you for your collection? How did you convince the curator to allow you to keep it?”
                “I shall answer no questions, Bartleby, until you agree to leave Brogan and Ujaro to themselves,” said Danaco, waving the book at him.
                “How long have you had that manuscript?” said Bartleby, in a desperate accent, his feet going where his heart must follow. “Let me see it—delicious, delicious book-- You know what an admirer of the man I am. Why have you never shown it to me before? Have you been purposely hiding it from me, captain? I will know—I will know why you have kept it hidden from me—such an exquisite, sumptuous-- It is cruelty, absolute cruelty, to keep such a secret from me. Tell me this moment how you got it!”
                “I shall tell you the whole story, and what an excellent tale it is, if you will only come away from the hole.”
                The captain opened the book and fanned the pages at him, and Bartleby instantly flung himself into a violent panic.
                “NO!” he cried, in a fever of agony. “You will brush the dust off the foreedge! A man does not joss an ancient manuscript about like some nanny’s poppet! It is madness- madness!—to fan dust so old off a foreedge! You will spoil the vintage, if you faff it about like that! The ink is fermented to a fine hue and the pages have rotted to a perfect fritinancy pitch when plucked properly. A manuscript must not be glaumed like a cheap dratchel’s petticoat-- it must be caressed like a well-tuned harp—and the corners, captain! You will ware down the corners! A manuscript cannot have rounded and callow corners like any common calfskin. It is preposterous for a manuscript to have anything but sharp and cut-inducing corners! Give that manuscript here to me, captain, and I will handle it properly.”
                Bartleby lunged for the book, and as the old man careened forward, the captain swiftly moved it out of his reach and to the other hand, leaving Bartleby to meet the deck with his cheek.
                “I think I have quite done with holes in my deck, Bartleby,” said Danaco, raising a brow, “and if you have just made one, I will be using your nose to mend it and gibbeting the rest of you on the mizzenmast.”
                “Mmf mmp -- give me the book!” Bartleby bibbled, lifting himself from the deck. “I can smell the opening remarks from here! ‘Some madness must have gripped me to send me to the south!’”
                “How can he smell someone’s handwriting?” said Ujaro, taking a few pegs from the woodpile and began carefully measuring them against the breadth of the plank.
                “Bartleby can smell the vintage of a good book just the vinter can sense the ages of his wines,” said Danaco, lifting the book as the old man jumped for it. “It is all operated by subliminal communication. A clouted old sauce can easily distinguish a bosom friend, Bartleby and this manuscript are one in the same: fusty, crumbling, and about seventy.”
                Brogan laughed into his teacup, and Rannig chortled into the front of his shirt.
                “Non—sense!” Bartleby huffed, jumping to reach the book between his syllables. “This—book—is—much—old—er—than—I—Oh, captain!” stomping his foot and shaking his fists at his sides. “Will you stop all this ragtaggery and give me the book, because I am reaching the very end of my—oh, thank you.”
                The book was handed over, and all the old man’s snarling qualms were instantly quelled.
                “You are far enough away from my carpenters now,” said Danaco, delicately guiding Bartleby away from the hole, “and you will keep far away from them, if you should like to keep that volume long enough to read it,” but Bartleby was hardly listening; he was too busy cradling the manuscript and lavishing it with the unbidden affection of a fawning adherent.
                “Oh, happy, happy manuscript!” he crooned, crushing his wrinkles against the cover. He held it to his nose, gave it a firm sniff, and kissed the book from his heart. “It is beautiful, captain,” he cried, in a reverie. “It is so old—so very, very old!” He crushed the book against his nose, inhaled, and sank to the ground in dollop of shuddering ecstasy. “Look at the gold leaf on the edges!” he languished, caressing the gilded pages. “Look at the watermark on the frontspiece! Look how the stitching in the gutter has been preserved-- Is this the original cover? Yes, it is. It looks only as though it has been restored. The cover has been kept, but all the glue has been stripped off and redone with a new lining-- Oh, isn’t it wondrous, Captain!” he breathed, holding the book to his lips. “How I will love you! How I will take you back to my room and peel your over pages with a feather pin! How I shall fall asleep over your delicate little spine—“ He stopped, a grim realization surmounted him, and all the wrinkles that had been suspended in a smile began to sag. His shoulders tensed and he turned back toward the hole. “That is, I would do all these things,” said he heatedly, “if a giant and two pudding-plungers weren’t so busy hammering away at my room!”
                “Puddin’-plunger?” Brogan said, confused.
                Ujaro could not help laughing. “Well,” he simpered, “the sound is similar.”
                He gave Brogan a suggestive look, and while the two carpenters laughed to themselves, Rannig stared in confusion at the floor, wondering about the musical prowess of pudding.
                “Now, now, old-un,” said Feiza, who was walking over from the dice game and could not but hear. “Us’n don’t like to be hearin’ that kind o’ talkin’.”
                “And I am equally as sure that nobody likes to hear your kind of taking,” said Bartleby sharply. “When you find your Gs and put them back in the proper places, then you may speak to me, you pulicose knuckle-scaper.”
                Feiza frowned and looked offended. “Don’t know what that meant, but sure you meant it mean-like.”
                “Of course I meant it mean-like, you soiled cabbage. Your barn of a drawl makes my ears bleed. Every time you open your mouth and say Us when you mean to say I or Me, you should be slapped with a sea wrasse and tied to a drying wrack until you can remember there are more many pronouns available for use in Modern Common.”
                “He’s from Glaoustre, auljin’,” said Brogan, putting his tea cup down, “they’re not born with pronouns.”
                “Us’n sure knows a few,” Feiza pronouned. “Learned my lessons at the church same as the rest.”
                “Yes, well, there is the problem,” was Bartleby’s grumbling answer.
                “Just like to use the easy fer shortenin’ and tidyin’ the talk a bit.”
                A sudden noise caught Rannig’s ear, and his nose scrunched. “Ye hear that, boss?” said Rannig, looking curiously about. “Sounds like a flour mill’s grindin’ somethin’.”
                “There are none of your great flour mills here, Rannig,” said Danaco. “That is the sound of a fractious old man using his teeth as a quern.”
                Danaco glanced at Bartleby, and shrill shrieks of agony cried out from between his clenched teeth, with the phrase “Hang your querns,” just intelligible amidst the attrition of frothing indignation.
                “Here, Bartleby. Is this any way to behave by Attenburrow? You have barely had him in your hand these three minutes, and you greet him with such discourtesy. I could not have believed it of you, to be so begrumpled when your old friend is at hand.”
                “I am not begrumpled,” said Bartleby instantly, and after a pause, he added, “and if I am begrumpled or miscomfrumpled or whathaveyou, it has nothing to do with me. Nothing at all. These three woodfrotters are standing in my living quarters. Where am I to read my book now, captain? I ask you, where am I to read now?”
                “You might read on the upper deck, if you can endure the squalls of the gulls from the wharf. Only take care that they do not mistake your hat for a house of office.”
                He lirks around Bartleby’s eyes revolted, and he gowled. “Fubbery! A man does not crack the pages of a manuscript in the open air! Madness, absolute madness, if he can think of it. I must be inside somewhere, if I want to read this, and the room must be cleansed and prepared for such a venture. A table must be laid out, all the reading instruments polished and cleaned, you understand, and there must be a few napkins about, to keep any dirt and grime from the fingers from getting on the pages. It is a serious thing, captain, inspecting a manuscript, especially one that has not been thoroughly read through these many years. Read it in the open air—ha! Where Mr Malley and his mop can disturb me whenever they like?”
                A sudden cry of, “Aw down’t loike bein’ called a mop!” echoed from the crow’s nest.
                “Aw think he meant the cleanin’ mop, Moppit,” Mr Malley called out.
                “No, I meant the draggletail scout,” said Bartleby.
                There was a tootling sound from above, and Moppit returned to his business in in the crow’s nest, murmuring, “…Better than what the ole git called me last time…”
                “You may read your book in the hold, if you will be such a putterpout about exposing the pages to the sea air,“ Danaco continued. “There is a bunk next to Rannig’s where you might set up shoppe, and there are tables and chairs enough for your project, I’m sure.”
                “Read a manuscript in the bunks, captain?” Bartleby exclaimed, aghast. “And tell me how is it to be done in peace with the rigmutton and him rompingstall posting away on one another at all hours?”
                “It’s he talking about us?” Ujaro quietly asked Brogan.
                “Aye,” Brogan replied, climbing into the hole, “he’s talkin’ about us. Don’t know what a rompin’stall is, but guess that’s either me or you.” He canted his head and inspected his partner. “Probably you.”
                “Oh. What’s a rigmutton?”
                Brogan shrugged and took up a mallot. “Dunno, but sure sounds delicious, whatever it is. Could do with a bit o’ mutton right now.”
                He pressed his chest against Ujaro’s back and blew gently on the back of his ear.
                “No, no, no!” Bartleby cried, waving at the carpenters. “There will be none of this nate-mandering while you’re standing in my room! You have a bunk to do that in. You will keep your marriage music there in the hold and lock it away. No one wants to see or hear about your cubicular theatricals—nobody at all-- just as no one should ever want to see any mating rituals of any species without any idea of cataloguing them.”
                Brogan grinned at Ujaro, and Rannig had little idea why any two persons in love should not like to have their affection for one another canvassed and recorded by so esteemed a historian.
                “Nay, my old friend,” said Danaco subrisively, “say you should like to catalogue the mating rituals of two such exquisite specimens, and Brogan and Ujaro should be happy to perform for you.”
                “Aye,” Brogan chimed, “and we can do it right here in yer room, so you’re close to all yer measurin’ instruments and such.”
                Inpalo,” said Ujaro, in a dreadful hush, “not that I want to disagree with you, but if you don’t stop teasing him, he’s going to poison you.”
                “Rubbish!” Bartleby cried. “The only thing you two ursine mancoddlers will be doing in front of me is fixing my ceiling, and I’m sure I don’t care about your mating rituals or fundamentals or what have you.”
                “Well, if he’s gonna be such a hoe in the bucket about it,” Brogan humphed, returning to his work. “If somebody told me I’d be gettin’ a showin’ o’ you, mho ludhan, I’d be in the front row with a trough and a piggin.” 
                Inpalo,” said Brogan, colouring and looking demure.
                “There, you have made my carpenters crimson over, Bartleby,” said Danaco. “There shall be no mending of any deck or ceiling if you do not leave them at their ease. Get you into the hold, and take a lantern with you, that you may have enough light for your book. The evening is nearly over, and the moonlight will not be enough for you to read by alone.”
                “Can us play Luninata, cap’n, the moon bein’ come out?” asked Feiza, his nose wriggling.
                “Only if there is no frog pelting as there was the last time.”
                “Us’n meant no ‘arm by it, cap’n, no harm innit. Just a bit o’ gamin’ fer the dinner. Good batch o’ frogs’ legs Us caught that time.”
                “There’s good eatin’ on those,” Brogan agreed.
                “Very well, you may play your game,” Danaco conceded, and the moment Feiza called out their next round of evening gaieties, Danaco added, “Come, I want in. Magochiro positively thrashed me last time, and I will have my reprisal.”
                Feiza sidled the captain, and said, in an audible whisper, “Want one o’ my special throwin’ rocks, cap’n?”
                “No,” Danaco replied, with a careless sigh. “I have no need of them as of yet. I do get by tolerably well on my own. I have an amazing accurate throwing arm, but between our three Ruvani, Magochiro always finds a way to conquer us all.”
                They went to the railing, to line up their throwing rocks and, in Feiza’s case, to change some of the collected stones for some of his own, and the rest of the crew joined them, to skip their stones across the lunanata reigning over the water and cross the ripples made by them to score points, and Bartleby was left to either join them in a game and leave his book for a later hour, or descend to the hold, where he might begin the long endeavour of debate with Attenburrow about fungi long expired and argue himself to sleep.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Story for the Day: The Hole in the Deck

We have two new books coming out in October: The Ship's Crew, the third in the Marridon novellas featuring Danaco, Bartleby, and Rannig, and I Hate Summer, a side project I have been doing about my abhorrence for the past season. If you have not read The Baracan, the second in the Marridon series, it is now on sale HERE, and at all major online retailers. So much writing to finish, so little time...

  Read an excerpt of the Baracan HERE

The rest of the evening passed agreeably: the crew had their games on the main deck, resigning
themselves to Sirs and dice now that dancing was out, those who would go ashore to enjoy the dining halls and tea houses went after their matches were lost, and those who remained either took themselves off to an early rest or remained with the musicians, to sing out the remainder of the evening by way of a few round songs, calling out verses in melodic dissonance, singing the history of Good Marrie the Whore and though there were “Ten hands in her purse, there was still room for one more!” Bartleby, clinging to his leaf flute, was still raving about the destiny of his poor bedchamber—and he was sure he did not care about how many hands Marrie had tucked away in her purse—Rannig, together with Ujaro and Brogan, was mending the deck under Bartleby’s watchful eye, and Captain Danaco was standing by, joining the dice game and throwing in another mark to the betting pool.
                “Five to start and ten more after you roll your first die, Shanyi,” the captain declared. “There’s for your roll, and you had better roll above a three, and that is all.”
                Shanyi blew on the dice. “I will do my best, captain, but you know how odds go.”
                “I know someone who should tell you to hang your odds.”
                Here was a sagacious look, and everyone in the dice game made a sly glance at Bartleby, who was invigilating the reconstruction of the deck with feverish animation.
                “What are you doing there with that beam?” the old man frothed, glaring violently at the top of Brogan’s head. “And why do you have a sanding stone in your hand?
                “Roundin’ the edges o’ the board,” said the top of Brogan’s head, his copper hair bobbing up and down through the hole in the deck. “Gotta shave ‘em down a bit so’s I can slot it in to joint. I don’t round ‘em down, they won’t fit proper.”
                “Properly, you barleychild,” said Bartleby sharply. “Properly. If I am going to be made to listen to your agronomist cant all evening, I will have you speak properly.”
                Brogan’s head vanished momentarily. “That a fancy werd fer a famrer?” he murmured to someone below him.
                There was a short silence, and then, after a few shrugs and some musing, Ujaro’s voice said, “I suppose so, in that context.”
                “Ain’t no harm in bein’ a farmer, auljin,” said Brogan presently, the top of his head returning to the hole. “My talkin’s what it is. Only learned it from the farms ‘cause I grew up on ‘em. Sure, everyone talks like this where I’m from. I sound just fine to me. Yer the one with the funny accent.”
                Bartleby snuffed. “I, the one with the accent? Ha! I learned how to speak properly from first-rate masters at the Academy, you soilspawn. You learned your elocution from a potato patch.”
                “Pretty sharp patch, then, ‘cause it musta taught me to read and write too.”
                A whisper from the hole quietly begged Brogan not to agitate the old man, but it was far too late for warnings; Bartleby was in the first ardours of a capital rant, his nostrils throbbing and furnishings standing at attention, the exsibilations of air being hissed through clenched teeth the overture of the grand display.
                “Listen here to me, you sullied pea-poddy,” Bartleby raged, his fists shaking at his sides in strained fury. “You will fix the hole that you and the boy have made in the deck, and you will do it without noise and without remonstration. Nobody wants to hear your farmstead bibble-babble or anything else you have to say—nobody!-- so be quiet and finish your work without comment.” Brogan was about to say that he was being quiet when Bartleby had asked him a question, prompting him to speak, when the old man continued with, “--And if I hear one word out of turn—one word about my being the one who has the barbarous drite of an accent-- I will wait until you and your pillowpartner are in the violent throes of flesh-frotting one another and have you tarred together!”
                There was a pause. Brogan’s hair flounced as sounds of subdued mirth echoed from below.
                “What are you sniggering at?” Bartleby demanded, his whiskers bristling.
                Brogan’s hair jostled as he laughed. “Yer actin’ like we wouldn’t like bein’ stuck together.”
                “Yes, well,” Bartleby sniffed. “You make a very good show of your affection—no, don’t mouth-maul him now! There is a hole to fix—“ There was a strange pause, and the tops of two heads below turned toward Bartleby to give him a chary look. “—Hang your insinuations! You know very well what I meant. Do not twist my meaning, however you might confuse it. No one is amused with your fledgling japes, no one at all, so you may stop laughing this moment and continue fixing the deck you broke. Get on with rounding your planks or whatever it is you were doing and mend this monstrosity. I want it done before nightfall. My bedtime is coming on— gah!“
                A hand emerged from the hole, and it gripped the front of Bartleby’s hat and pulled it down over his eyes.
                 “He is mauling me, captain!” Bartleby wailed, pulling up his hat and failing about. “The southern savage is absolutely mauling me!”
                “What is happening there?” Danaco called out, looking over from across the deck. “Brogan, are you slashing the old man?”
                Brogan’s head emerged from the hole. “Just pulled his hat down so’s he’d hush up his racket, cap’n.”
                “He will make a noise, I grant you, Brogan, but ripe old date-palms will rattle louder when agitated.”
                “He abused me, captain!” Bartebly cried, stabbing a finger at Brogan’s head. “Did you see how this barm-barbarian lunged at me and glaumed my hat?”
                “He did not hurt you, surely. He has only ruffled your feathers, my little cucubate, that is all. Well done, Shanyi. I needed those twos for my score. Now a seven, if you please, and I will not take anything less than that.”
                The captain turned back to his dice game, and Bartleby gave a firm tut.  
                “A man does not touch another man’s hat,” Bartleby grumbled, rearranding the sit of his hat. “It not done. It is scandalous to touch what another man wears on his head.”
                “Dangerous too,” said Brogan’s voice, from the hole. “Now my fingers smell like dead moths.”
                Bartleby snarled and his wrinkles crimsoned. “There’s for your ruffled feathers,” he hissed, kicking his foot at Brogan. “You see how this cumbering smatchet speaks to his elders, captain? And you still have not punished him for manipulating me.”
                “You will please not to be so severe on my carpenter, Bartleby,” said the captain, looking over again from his dice game. “He has not hurt you, surely. Brogan is all love and milkiness, as most Frewyns are. Where has he hurt you? I see no marks on you, and I shall not dissemble and say I see them.”
                “But he has hurt my feelings, captain,” Bartleby avowed, his hands trembling in violent agony. “My feelings!”
                “Well, he does no wrong there. You feelings are so easily injured, my old friend, I should wonder how they have not died long ago. Shanyi, man, what do you do there with those dice? Did not I tell you I need a seven to win? And here you have rolled a five.”
                “I am sorry, sir,” said Shanyi, who was sitting by his knee, “but despite what we all might like, I cannot roll twos and sevens every time.”
                “You can very well with Feiza’s dice.”
                “Yes, sir, I can, but so can anyone who uses Feiza’s dice.”
                “Quite so,” said the captain, smiling.
                Feiza protested against having any such designedly surreptitious dice, and if his dice did roll sevens every time, it was no more than they were meant to do, for, as Feiza reminded the party, “It weren’t right to be tellin’ the dice how to roll ‘emselves, if they’re wantin’ to roll a seven or a two, sure’n us’nt gonna tell ‘em what to do.”
                He made a firm pout and pretended to be morally wounded, but wry glances went round the party, and while Feiza was flurning and petting his slighted dice, which he was disallowed using in the current game, the captain was exchanging smiles with the rest of his men, all of them inclined to admit that while the challenge of a game of chance always held a charm for them, the powers of Feiza’s dice were sometimes welcome.
                “Very well,” said the captain, “I will not cheat when there is anything like a wager on the table. Here’s for the pot,“ putting a few gold coins down, “and you will roll a seven this time, or I will have the tatti-pratti man peel you and put you in his vats.”
                Shanyi held the dice in his hand on considered this. “Well, I would be rather crisp after a good fry.”
                “Go on, man, and throw the dice,” the captain laughed, “and we shall see whether you end up  peeled and pobbled.”
                The dice game went on, sevens were rolled, and another winning combination brought about regales and gapes as Brogan and Ujaro continued their work on the hole in the deck. Bartleby still mantled over them, investigating their progress with a suspicious eye, and Rannig soon joined them, to bring round their evening tea and help mend the hole he had made. He came from the galley by way of the dice game, to see whether anyone should like their evening cup, and after approaching the hole and giving the last two cups to Brogan and Ujaro, Rannig lay his trey aside and climbed down the hole, to continue the work that Brogan had begun on the planks.