A Rough Day

It has to be admitted that after a particularly hard day, people may not necessarily be at their best. Also people chose many different ways to relax. I suppose it’s lucky we’re not all the same. I’m also well aware that we shouldn’t be judgemental in these things. Still I am of the school that suggests that relaxation is a placid occupation. One sits, one contemplates, one might even doze. Laxey seems to agree with me in this.

Maljie on the other hand is of the school where relaxation is merely energetic busy-ness, but a different sort of energetic busy-ness to that in which she is usually engaged.

Now it happens that the Shrine of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm has vague ownership of a small lake (or large pond) which lies on the boundary of at least three small estates on the edge of Dilbrook. I have often pondered as to why it belongs to the shrine and the conventional answer is that it was a generous donation by a liberal supporter of our establishment. But closer examination and discussion with the inhabitants of the nearest village have convinced me that, in reality, matters were more nuanced. The lake (or pond) was owned by Thamis Shabbytone, a cordwainer and pastry cook who was left the pond, with associated boathouse and a narrow access lane, in the will of a client as final settlement of a debt. The chap hadn’t paid for a pair of shoes for forty years!

But it seems that the landowners on either side had claims on the pond, and regularly tried to put pressure on the owner by blocking the access road. Old Thamis bided his time, kept up his boundaries and then left the pond, track and boathouse to us. He left instructions as to how the pond was best maintained. He was of the school which insisted that occasionally dropping a stick of Nodrak’s No. 4 blasting wax into the pond was an excellent way of clearing out the mud and ensuring that there were some deep pools for the fish. Also if you were ready with nets, you could gather enough fish to cover the running costs of the property.

Obviously when the neighbours knew that the pool had been bequeathed, they stepped up their campaign of intimidation. They blocked the lane with a barricade of old farm machinery. Unfortunately for them the first person on the scene from the Shrine was Maljie with a number of mendicants and rather more Nodrak’s No. 4 blasting wax than was probably necessary. In less than five minutes she had not merely cleared the lane, she had redistributed the barricade promiscuously over several neighbouring estates. Since then the Shrine has had no more problems with the neighbours. But still, Maljie is assiduous in the performance of her duties, and at times of stress she would take mendicants, nets and blasting wax to the lake and engage in some restful and therapeutic mud shifting.

Then we have the parade of ‘Ridiculously dangerous contrivances.’ It appears that some people relax from their otherwise stressful occupations as usurers, clerks, counting house computers, and men of business, by tinkering with that which man was not meant to know. Men (and it is largely men) spend their evenings and other free time wearing overalls like rude mechanicals, and playing with boilers, sprockets, valves and gear trains. Every few years, the city would be persuaded that there should be a parade of these contrivances. Then under their own steam, these mechanical monstrosities would perambulate around the city.
Now let us be fair here, the parade is limited to Dilbrook where there are two or three roads wide enough. People will come from miles around to watch the parade. Most will stand on distant hilltops and watch through spyglasses. Bolder souls will gather nervously to watch the procession pass from a comfortable chair in the gardens of a friend. There, safely ensconced behind a temporary wall built from heavy baulks of timber, they can watch in comparative safety.

Now it was Laxey’s connection with the syndicate known as the Tree Pirate Timber Fellers that involved him, peripherally, in this matter. At the insistence of the Sinecurists, the Tree Pirate’s yard was the starting point for the parade. Inventors would leave their contrivances there, and in the week before the parade the yard would be full of gibbering and gesticulating madmen capering round their mechanisms. Still given the size and location of the yard, it was felt that anything exploding could do so in its own time and would cause little inconvenience to respectable people.

Laxey’s stressful day fell during the lead up to the parade. One of the Tree Pirate Timber Fellers had been left with the job of taking out a load of firewood to a customer. Left on his own to do the job he looked at his options. He could push the heavily laden handcart a considerable distance on his own. Or he could fire up one of the mechanical monsters in the yard and tow the cart behind that. For somebody living on the cutting edge of artificer thinking, there was no need to pause. One of the machines was started, tied to the handcart and the cart was loaded. Then with a thunderous rumble of steel clad wheels on cobbles, the wood was delivered.

As these things are measured, it was a tremendous success. Nothing had exploded and the job had been done. So successful had it been that when our tree pirate was taking the engine back to the yard, he felt the need to detour via a favoured watering hole to celebrate. The celebrations over, somewhat unsteadily he made his way to the machine, fired it up again and took it back onto the road.

Unfortunately there is a sharp corner prior to the yard which he failed entirely to negotiate, and in spite of the resistance offered by the hedge, a tree a foot in diameter and various flower beds, the contrivance ended up on its side in the garden of a most desirable residence.

Still our hero didn’t panic. With the clarity available only to those who have drunk a large amount of middling ale, the solution was obvious. He walked back to the yard, collected another machine and drove back to the site of the accident. He would use this machine to put the other back on its wheels and he’d then get both back to the yard before anybody was any the wiser. Unfortunately as he manoeuvred the second vehicle he misjudged matters and managed to back it through a remarkably solid wall and down into a garden some feet below. At this point people say he panicked. Actually I feel that it was at this point he started thinking rationally. He fled.

Thus when Laxey dropped in to see the Tree Pirates, he was confronted with a road blocked by farmers with heavy horses, watchmen with notebooks, and the leader of the tree pirates attempting to pacify people. Laxey was welcomed as the token adult and after a particularly stressful morning he felt the need of a quiet afternoon.

Laxey has a love of fishing. But not for him sitting on the bank exchanging banal conversation with those passing by. He has a small boat. Well actually it’s a kind of canoe. The disadvantage is that it is a bit low in the water, but the advantage is that it has a cup holder and a rod holder. So he can sit and doze, secure in the knowledge that he will neither drop his rod nor spill his coffee. His vessel’s habit of allowing water to come on-board he can also deal with. He has acquired one of those waterproofed canvas suits often worn by divers. Thus he can sit; snug, dry and warm, and relax.

Now I was not a witness to the situation that unfolded. I was merely sitting drinking white wine with Lancet Foredecks when excited mendicants burst in to tell us what had happened. Lancet merely painted the picture their description of events had created in our minds.

It seems that Laxey in his canoe had drifted quietly into a large clump of reeds. There, invisible to the outside world, he was deep in spiritual contemplation. It was probably unfortunate that Maljie had decided, after a difficult day of her own, that she ought to do something about the lake. I can see her point, when you are hoping to clear out the mud, the obvious thing to do is to take out the big clumps of reeds.

Because they were going to go into the water to net fish, Maljie and her party had divested themselves of much surplus clothing and the mendicants were readying the nets as Maljie tossed a quite a generous quantity of Nodrak’s No. 4 blasting wax into the pond, aiming at the reeds. Laxey was awakened to discover he was no longer in a canoe but instead was in a world of rapidly moving mud and water. Protected by his canvas suit he made his way to the shore.

Thus, Maljie and the mendicants were somewhat surprised to see a mud and weed covered aquatic man-creature, uttering foul oaths and brandishing a tree branch it had recovered from the bottom of the lake, make its way out of the water and head towards them.

It was felt at this point that a lot of embarrassment and convoluted explanation could be avoided if they just left.


It may well be that you want to know more about the antics of Laxy, Maljie and others.

So in paperback or on kindle

And as an ebook from everybody else


As a reviewer commented, “Maljie and Tallis start by taking action to protect their incumbent from being involuntarily removed from her post in order to serve the ambitions of Battass Droom. They then have to go on to protect each other from being elected Patriarch, which is, by definition, a job best done by somebody who does NOT want the appointment.

The efforts to achieve their aims become steadily more and more tortuous, including an attempt to delay a key meeting by employing such diverse methods as elaborate food poisoning and a trebuchet with an unusual payload, a race against time involving a one way balloon ride and having, temporarily, two Patriarchs (or are they non-Patriarchs?) with too much time on their hands.

Along the way, Jim takes delight in lampooning bureaucracy and its devotees, with some jaw-dropping moments that challenge the way things work. What would be non sequiturs anywhere else are hilariously believable in Port Naain and make you consider “real life” in a new light.

Do NOT read this book anywhere that full volume belly laughs are not socially acceptable.”

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