April 27, 2012
I’m still playing around with my newish steampunk fantasy setting. Hopefully I find something really nice through all this digging around.
Anyway, I hope you’re enjoying everything, sharing links with your friends, that kind of thing.
See you all around!
Paritha scratches his beard absentmindedly and looked out over the city of Kaaaardorr and marveled at how the sunlight seemed to stop at the edge of the black smoke haze that hung above it. The boy next time elbowed him in the side and lifted his chin toward the city. “Why’s it called Kaaardorr, Par?”
The old man looked down at him and frowned slightly. “Well, Saras, every time the city burns down they rebuild it and add another A. It started as Kardorr. It burned down once during the Imperial Interdiction Misunderstanding and since the advent of Alchemical Engineering it’s melted a few times.”
The boy cocked his head to one side as if listening to the wind. “If the extra As are from the town burning, then what about the two Rs? It’s old-tongue, right?”
He chuckled and cleared his throat before saying in the most noble affectation he could summon, “There are two stories behind that, m’boy. The Imperial story about shining Kaaardorr is that it was once a bulwark against the city-state of Aresha, long ago when their dervishes still could rend stone with their blades. It is said that it meant ‘terror’ in the Old Tongue and was chosen to strike fear into the Aresh before they even set foot upon Imperial lands.”
Saras rolled his eyes and chortled. “All right, old man, now without the bard voice.”
He scratched his beard again and peered into the sky. “Well, my favorite rumor of how it happened was a simple typographical error. It should have been Kardom, the word for splendor, but someone misread it as having two Rs instead of one M and the city’s been Kardorr ever since. Doesn’t really mean anything ‘sides itself now.”
The two headed toward the city down the winding road out of the mountains of Imperial Reshay, toward the Empire’s greatest trading and inventing town. It was well known for grease and steam, and not just of the conventional alchemical variety. This was in full force as they approached the gate, watching as quick-fingered and even-handed guards collected official and unofficial tariffs on incoming goods on behalf of their employers, the Council of Equals. The lines themselves were long but the guards had generations of practice and there was hardly any slowing as the crowd filed into the city. When a sergeant approached Paritha and Saras, flanked by two guards in Imperial plate-and-mail with their customary great helms opened, he grinned politely and waited.
The old man grinned oddly and produced three coins from his sleeve and reached for the gatemaster’s hand. They shook soundly, the man’s grin not fading as he quickly pocketed the money, and smiled placidly at the boy before asking, “What is your business in the grandest city in the east?”
The old man reached down from the horse he was on and patted a large oil-cloth wrapped bundle on the donkey between him and the boy. “Bards, my man! Musicians! We play the steam-harp and we plan to make a bit of coin with some new tales from beyond the Northlands.”
The man smiled broadly and nodded. “We here in the Imperial trade capital are ever supportive of the arts. Please, sir bard, enjoy our fine clean streets and charming alehouses.”
Par tipped his hat and lead the donkey and the boy into the bustling city. Once they were a hundred yards past the gate or so, he lifted the oilskin up a bit and looked at their cargo – a young woman in light maille with a sword and shield belted to her back. “It’s all right now, Varana. We’re passed the guards so you can slip off that thing if you want.”
She slid to the ground and started walking slowly, working out her muscles. “I’m amazed that they didn’t discover the damn donkey is mechanical. I couldn’t hear anything but the croaking of the old oilpump in it.”
Saras giggled softly. “I don’t know if you’ve been around many donkeys, m’lady, but they all make that same croaking noise. Nature’s given them bad oil pumps regardless of meat or metal.”
She rolled her eyes. “Thank you both for your help, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get in here. With the enmity between the Empire and the remnants of Varshiva and all.”
The old man nodded, “Pleasure’s all mine, Varana. You’re on a mission from the holiest of holies. I can’t stand in the way of that.”
She sighed and looked at the soot-stained sky, then down to her boots. She sighed and fell into a normal gait beside the donkey. “I’m afraid that I’m not up to the task. The prophecies are all a knot of riddles and the only thing I have to go on is that I’m supposed to meet some kind of scholar here that will help me make sense of it all. I still don’t know what happened to Barsoom.”
“Well, we’ll be at the Brass Horse when you need us, if you need us. Given what you told us when we met, you should start at the Academy. It’s the only building I know of that breaths fire regularly.” Par nodded to Varana and turned his horse at the intersection they were at and started heading to the right. Before following him, Saras pointed toward a twisted jumble of smoke stacks that looked halfway like a tangled oak tree, halfway like a multiheaded snake. “That’s the Academy. See you later, hero!”
Varana tried to sigh again but it caught in her throat, bundled up with soot, ash, and what she could only describe as the unique gravy that came out of moist air full of the wonders of human work, refuse, and coal.