July 3, 2012
Here’s some more work for you in my Cattlepunk setting.
Please share my blog with anyone you know who might be interested! I could really use the views and the interaction of some new readers!
Fifteen years after the Famine came, when the castles and kingdoms were forming into towns and trade networks, a curious man started arriving at the Thirteen Towns, one by one, in a large, colorful cart pulled by two steam-spewing mechanical buffalo made of brass and bronze. He was tall and thin, whip-like even, and had a face that was long and straight with harsh angles and a hooked nose. Wrapped around his thin-lipped but wide mouth was a goatee as pointed as a rail spike and a mustache as wide as his face and with curls the size of ducat coins on each side (and with enough wax in it to keep the hairs as stiff and firm as the earth itself in a sandstorm). He appeared harsh and vile, scary and scornful, and his smiles always looked as if they were patronizing and insulting…but he was, in truth, a gentle if eccentric man. He was a great Doctor of the Arcane Sciences and was trained, and helped form in the years after the Famine, the great University in Towers (which is, in case you may not be educated, the hub-town of our nation of once-great kingdoms. It’s where the herds are born.) He went by the nomenclature of Doctor Reginald Q. Leramie and would gladly hand you a business card if you but asked.
Once the Good Doctor arrived in town, he’d pilot his cart right up to the center of town and pull a lever, whereupon the cart would unfold in one direction and show off a whole menagerie of interesting devices, spells, and potions to solve common problems from headcolds and bedsores to getting laundry done and keeping pots clean. He would mend broken devices and help the women and men with medical problems both common and bizzar, and he would gladly inspect children who might have a promising future among the Arcane University’s many programs for doctors, scientists, engineers, and wizards. He would assist in the repairing of crops and herd animals, the tending of buliding and engineering, and was instrumental in the Brewery and Distillery that every town has now. But these things are the least of his creations, the smallest of his contributions to the life on the plains, and the least important things he could have done compared to the legacy he has left behind.
While he offered these great things to the people for good prices, he also offered them what is called The Deal by all of us children of the wonders he left behind. He would set up his cart and he would call everyone in town together and give them the following speech…
“Good people of the fallen kingdoms, good fellows of the thriving towns! Gather ‘round and listen closely! I am the good Doctor Reginald Q. Leramie! I come to fix your pots and mend your colds and repair your fences and put back together any broken children or animals you may have! I bring the latest advances in sciences and mystics and shall assist in the construction and design of any manufacturing necessity such as that of a wheelhouse or pipehouse or brewery! All of this I shall do for fees of far less than I could charge and far, far less than you would hear from any other! But, most importantly, I offer you A Deal! This Deal is for one of my majestic metal people, formed of burnished bronze and brass and boiled leather! They are unappatizing to the Flyers and they work twice as hard as the hardiest worker and twice as long as the most resilient worker! I call these marvels of modern magical manufacture the Backbreakers! They can fight for your town, fix what things are broken, and are pre-programmed with hundreds of designs for thousands of useful and timely engineering designs! A Backbreaker will gladly dig an outhouse as it will mend a fence or put up a hotel! All that I ask for your town to have your very own Backbreaker is a Deal, a simple Deal, that shall be in effect so long as your Backbreaker continues to function. First, should I or one of my students arrive in town, you shall extend your hospitality, housing, and food to us for three days. Any longer is up to your own feelings on the matter, or if we might pay for it, but three days as payment for the maintenance and upgrading of the Backbreaker is necessary. Second, no student of mine or I myself may be turned away at the gate for any reason! Lastly, as a town you will chose one child of exceptional skill and curiosity to petition for entrance into the University once every ten years! This is so your town may have its own engineer of my training that can train and maintain the Backbreakers long after I depart.”
This deal was taken up by ten of the Thirteen Towns and two of the Tweener Towns. The Good Doctor refused to offer it to any of the Cattle Barons or to the Outlaws, but did extend it to Trappertown and Dust, the moving merchant city. They still have their Backbreakers today, in fact, and are known throughout the land for the curious and capable wizards and engineers that they give birth to. The largest contingent of Backbreakers, though, is also where their caretakers are trained and where their original construction was honed to perfection – the Arcane University in Towers.
Those automatons brought civilization to the Wasteland. They let towns grow and become strong against the odds, against the harsh realities of the new world the people lived in, and they’re well loved by the towns that have them. And, once a year, in those twelve places with Backbreakers, you can see a young man or woman in a brightly colored frock coat, jaunty top hat or leather cap, and tool belt unfold a metal platform and stand in the center of town then introduce themselves.
“I am the Engineer Trisha Marigold and I am a journeyman in the disciplines of the Good Doctor Leramie! I am here to tune, repair, and adjust your Backbreaker! Please guide me to my room, my meal, and tell me what other ways I may be of assistance to you!”
A Man’s Game
“I know how you feel about your cards, Bill, but you can’t hate the kid. She’s just the best there is. There aint no shame in losing to a prodigee, Bill. ‘Specially when she gives you your money back if’n you lose too much. She’s a good kid, Bill. A good, honest kid.”
Such was the story that made of all of little Catrina Rosa Nuestra’s life. When she was ten, her father had threatened to marry her off to the local Cattle Baron for food for the family, for protection, and to get her out of his hair. Her mother had died during a Famine Flyer attack when she was younger still. At twelve, as the “marriage” was approaching, she followed a gang of Lawkeepers out of town. They say she wasn’t found until they got to Towers, but knowing the Lawkeepers in the Wasteland, chances are they didn’t have the heart to find her. In Towers, she learned to steal when necessary, talk when necessary, and she learned how to win at cards. All kinds of cards. She’s as sharp as a desert wind, as bright as the noon-day sun, and as shrewd as a wealthy trapper. She’s also got two of the fastest hands this side of the Lawkeeper’s fort. There aint yet been a man that could pull and fire ‘fore she could put a ball of lead between his eyes. Or between his legs, if’n she doesn’t want him dead.
Little Cat, as the adventurous sorts are wont to call her, blows in and out of Towers all the time with different parties. Sometimes leaving with a pretty little engineering student she’s taken a shining to and returning a few weeks later with a dashing Lawkeeper she found on the trail. Always, though, she did what she wanted and excelled at keeping herself fed. She doesn’t steal lest she has to (and, frequently, she has no need) and she’s a popular attraction at the many saloons and gambling halls in and around Towers thanks to her exceptional prowess at the table.
Y’see, that’s what she’s really known for. She’s an adventurous sort, a great shot, and a lover of men and women the world over with nothin’ but a good smile and a quick word needed to have her turn her shine to you (no matter what others may think of how you look or sound or are) and she’s a quick wit and a hearty drinker. But her real charm is her skill at cards. She knows every version and variation of poker, every one of the old card games and rummy games, and even pinochle and thirteen. There isn’t a single cowpoke or gamer or drinker or dancer that can outplay or outfox Little Cat when she’s in her element.
Legend says she’s only lost one game and that was to a Lawkeeper. No one knows what she lost with that game since she’s not slowed down a beat that I’ve seen.
So chin up, Bill. Not everyone gets to even play a round with Little Cat. Losing is the best you could hope for. Least you still got your manhood and your dignity.