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Old 08-30-2009   #11
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Re: Warriors of Love

An intriguing exchange with the author of 'Jane' (the first novel in 'The Warriors Of Love') when making my comments on Book Two, Chapter 4 here:
http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2009...f-jeffery.html


PFJ: I’m not sure who you mean by “Lucy-Anne Flight”. I’ve searched the chapter for all three elements of the name. Lucy and Anne drew complete blanks. Flight brought up only flights of stairs.

DFL: As to Lucy-Anne Flight, I can't explain that. I'm sure I read about a character called that. Or did I dream it! I am seriously mystified.

PFJ: I think that the only Lucy in “Jane” is Jane's mother's cat. But I have now identified Lucy-Anne Flight. She is actually Lily-Anne Flight, and is the junior lecturer on the bus, the young woman sporting gravehouse fashions. The searches I did yesterday should have revealed the name. The only explanation (of which I can think) that would account for my failure to identify the character is that I was searching the wrong chapter. I counter-commented on four chapters yesterday, which goes a long way to reveal why I was in danger of doing such a thing. So, you were only slightly wrong in writing “Lucy” for “Lily”, while I was barking up the wrong chapter.

DFL In many ways, it's a shame you've sort of found her! There's something intriguing about finding characters in a book who aren't actually there at all.

PFJ: Even more intriguing would be characters who only visit a book for a single reading. Perhaps a book like Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree, a Faraway Book, in which characters arrive then move on.
[...] Perhaps I could bring her into "Daisy" (which will be set at the University about twenty years after the action of "Jane"). By that time, I imagine, Lily-Anne Flight will have settled into her academic career, delivering largely dull lectures on arcane subjects.

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Old 09-02-2009   #12
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Re: Warriors of Love

I have just posted (here: Notification Registration) an extended counter-comment on "Jane" which (I hope) clarifies my view of the relationship between the author and the text. Perhaps some of the issues raised may be of wider interest.

My notes are written for you, and for anyone else who cares to read them. They are also written for me, I need to think about some of these things with a view to writing subsequent volumes of “The Warriors of Love” (although they are not immediately relevant to Volume 2 Chapter 6, on which I’m currently working).

I think that a substantial proportion of my commentary on Book 2 Chapter 5 codifies matter contained in, or strongly implied by, “Jane” up to this point. My remarks, though, do also draw on the later chapters of “Jane” and (to a lesser extent) on the draft for “The Warriors of Love” Volume 5.

Here and there, my remarks draw on observations of the world (weak bladders and toilet queues) I claim no especial expertise in these matters. Any person is free to disagree. The reason I advanced for the rise of Surrey’s new military elite is pure speculation, based on no direct evidence in the books, but it seems likely enough.

I don’t claim any ultimate expertise on these novels even though they are my work. Right now, I suppose I am the leading expert on them, having devoted more time than anyone else (in the nature of things) to writing, reading and thinking about them. In time to come, perhaps someone else will come to know them better than I ever managed to do. Who knows?

Not only do I wish to disown the idea of authorial omniscience, but of omniscience on the part of my narrators. I have deliberately decided to present the world of “The Warriors of Love” through the eyes of three fallible narrators. While I think that the women who narrate the stories all respect truth (Jane is apt to write of “the goddess’ good truth”) they can sometimes be mistaken (wholly or in part). The earlier fiction from which I’m developing “The Warriors of Love” contained footnotes, which sometimes indicated that the (then single) narrator was wrong on some points. This now seems to me unnecessary, and perhaps counter-productive. The reader, I think, should be left to judge how far the narrator is correct.

Leaving aside the question of whether the narrators are mistaken, there is also the question of their editing what seems to them reality. It is not to be supposed that they set down everything they can recall. This raises questions about their motives in setting down some things and omitting others. There are questions such as: “What was the purpose of setting this down?” and: “To whom was it addressed?” In the case of “Jane”, the answers to these questions provided (within the book) are complex. By Jane’s account, composition started as a cover for her spying material (prepared in the office) for Nurse Daley. I imagine that this would have been an early draft for part (most? all?) of Book One. We never see this draft, as such. In the next chapter (Book 2 Chapter 6), if I recall correctly, Jane reveals the second stage of writing: essentially as a literary exercise. A third stage of writing, quite different from either of these, is revealed towards the end of Book Three.

In my comments, when I treat such matters as “What is Her Majesty like?” or “What is Lady Jenna like?” I assume that Jane is providing us with accurate pictures. Ultimately, I would prefer to leave a question mark over whether this is so. The text of “Jane” seems to have been written before Jane’s seventeenth birthday. Her judgments are those of a young person, but not necessarily unsound.

It will be a strength of “The Warriors of Love” that it has three narrators. All three will have met Her Majesty, and some of the other important characters. In so far as their impressions coincide, the presumption gathers force that they are essentially correct.

In these regards, I hope that the books will gain qualities we encounter in evaluating material concerning the world in which we live. Each of us lives in her or his own private interpreted world. Our realities are essentially subjective. There is an objective reality, to be sure, but it is not fully knowable. Taking evidence from more than one source takes us on the way to objectivity, but we can never arrive at that destination.

I hope these remarks will show how far I am from wishing to claim authorial omniscience. But I am, just now, the person who knows best the world of “The Warriors of Love”.

I hope that “The Warriors of Love” is (and will be) readable at many levels. One can read it as a fairly simple story, or as something enormously complex (with many kinds of sub-text). I don’t think that reading it at one level is better or worse than reading at another (or not in any absolute way, different levels may be better or worse for individual readers). My main hope is that people will enjoy the novels.

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Old 09-02-2009   #13
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Re: Warriors of Love

Let me say that I consider the previous comments by 'Odalisque' (originating here: http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/archive/314.html ) as very important in a consideration of literature and the authorial process.
I honestly can't stress this enough.
des

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Last edited by Nemonymous; 09-04-2009 at 04:17 AM..
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Old 09-22-2009   #14
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Re: Warriors of Love

Here's a passage from the draft for chapter 9 of "The Warriors of Love" Volume 2 "Margaret".

Nanny Spencer’s stories, and ones that I found in the library, sometimes depicted girls as choosing their husbands. None of my cousins seemed to have enjoyed such a choice, and neither – it appeared – would I.

“Mother,” I said, hesitating to voice my thoughts, “in stories…”

“Margaret, we live in real life, not in a story book. Things are as they are. But I might remind you of the Warriors of Love story. It had a Sir Gaylord whose head is full of silly stuff from tales.”

“Are you saying, mother, that even people who invent stories know how silly they are?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying, Margaret. I think that our business is done for today.”

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Old 09-27-2009   #15
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Re: Warriors of Love

My counter-comments on "Jane" Book 3 Chapter 3 are now posted here:

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Old 10-04-2009   #16
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Re: Warriors of Love

I endorse the passage below by Odalisque that he has posted in 'conversation' with me on the latest Chapter of WoL that he has counter-commented my own comments there:

<<I agree that it would be interesting to know the view of someone coming to “Jane” entirely afresh.
Life is complicated, and so is “The Warriors of Love”, in all sorts of ways. The text has a prehistory that haunts you and me, but will be unknown to new readers. How that would seem (to a new reader) is a matter for which I have only intuition as a guide.
The quotation beginning “We are all a mixture of the praiseworthy and the blameable…” seems to me to say something that lies at the heart of “The Warriors of Love”. Indeed, I think that the same thing is summarised succinctly in the series title. “Warriors” suggesting harsh deeds and “Love” suggesting gentle ones. Yet love is often harsh, and warriors can be gentle. The novels (I hope) generally have a moral tone, but it is a complex morality, often in shades of grey rather than black and white. Or, more properly, good and bad intertwined – and often interdependant.>>

That passage is posted here:
http://weirdmonger.blogdrive.com/archive/321.html as a comment by Odalisque.

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Old 10-30-2009   #17
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Re: Warriors of Love

Yesterday, I completed Chapter 13 of Margaret (Warriors of Love Volume 2). Here's a snippet:

“While, in some ways, your majesty,” Cornelius Lock said judiciously, “one might have preferred less delay to your plans, the proposed date is not without its compensations. For one thing, had the Crown Prince decided to arrive a month earlier, we would have felt obliged to waste money on Lifenbud decorations.”

“Back in Margaret’s mother’s day,” father replied, perhaps a little sadly, “we would have just sent a few slaves out into the gardens to pick flowers for Lifenbud.”

“If you look at the ledgers from those days,” Cornelius Lock objected, “you’ll see that gardening cost a fearful sum – simply fearful. Bulbs, plants, tools all had to be bought. And nobody bothered to keep account of the money needed to provide and feed all of the gardening slaves. Working in the open air, I’m sure that they ate even more than their greedy indoor colleagues.”

“Yes,” father replied a little absently, “it all adds up.”

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Old 11-03-2009   #18
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Re: Warriors of Love

I'm having a break from writing. Today, I've written the last 10 pages of "Margaret" Chapter 14. After this visit to the Internet, I intend to make a preliminary revision of the chapter with a silent read through. Then, tomorrow, I intend to polish the chapter properly. That means reading it aloud, pausing on anything over which my tongue trips, changing anything amiss, re-reading it, changing it again if necessary, and so on.

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Old 11-04-2009   #19
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Re: Warriors of Love

Today, I polished "Margaret" Chapter 14. Here is an extended extract:

Perhaps a quarter of an hour later, the men clattered off to the Blue Tower. As the echo of their footfalls died, I returned to my rooms, thoroughly pleased to be excused my prospective husband’s prying fingers. My delight increased when I found that Fliti had laid her hands on a pristine box of beauty products. We passed several hours in applying cosmetics to one another’s faces, achieving a range of effects varying from the alluring to the alarming.

“These are great,” I said. “Where did you find them, Fliti?”

“They were in the number four revenue confiscations storeroom, mistress.”

“That sounds very official.”

“It is! The revenue confiscations storerooms are where Cornelius Lock’s men keep goods seized in lieu of taxes. The number four one, mistress, is for things that’ll deteriorate if they’re kept too long.”

“I suppose they let you have the things because they’ll be useless once the lipsticks start to dry out, and the...”

“There is that, of course, mistress. But they wouldn’t give them to just any slave. I said you needed them to please the crown prince.”

“Talking of that, Margaret” Inqui asked, “where is old whisker face this afternoon?”

“In another one of their stupid councils of war, Inqui.”

“But he didn’t want you to… err… I can’t think of a delicate way to put it.”

“That’s because there isn’t a delicate way to put it. And, no, he didn’t want me to… err… Or perhaps I should say that Wilfred Addal didn’t want me to… err…”

“Is it the snooper’s business, Margaret?”

“If you’d been the palace as long as I have, Inqui,” Fliti said, “you’d know that everything here is the snooper’s business.”

“Wilfred Addal,” I explained, “didn’t like a female with a pair of working ears sitting in on a council of war. So he’s found a couple of deaf girls for the crown prince and the earl. I believe they’re to be blindfolded, in case they can read lips.”

“Deaf whores?” Inqui asked.

“Whether or not they were already whores,” Fliti replied, “it looks as though that’s the way our mistress’ father is using them.”

This conversation left me feeling guilty. My pleasure on being released from the crown prince’s attentions had taken no heed of the plight of the young woman who would take my place. Now that I, belatedly, gave the unfortunate some thought, her sensory deprivation brought tears to my eyes. The world of sound already denied to her, the blindfold would deprive the girl of sight, reducing her universe to little more than the touch of my prospective husband’s hand.

Descending for the evening meal, I found that both the crown prince and the earl had their arms about girls who hadn’t previously met my gaze. The young women were smartly and respectably dressed, their eyes – no longer blindfolded – seemed bottomless wells of desolation. Clearing, my throat, I tried to think of something to say to them. Then, recalling that they were deaf, abandoned the search for comforting words.

“No, your highness,” the crown prince said, as I made to take my accustomed place. “Tonight I’d prefer to sit with this deaf wench.”

“Deaf wench, your highness?” I asked. “Doesn’t she have a name?”

“Who knows, your highness? Who cares?”

“I wouldn’t bother to give my hound a name,” the earl added, “unless he answered to it.”

“A girl is not a dog, your grace,” I said, giving him what I hoped to be a withering glance.

“Too true, your highness,” the earl replied. “Of the two creatures, the dog is the higher, although…” he landed a loud slap on his deaf companion’s bottom, at which she yelped – possibly as much surprise as pain. “…a girl also has her uses.”

Any response to this seemed beneath my dignity, and also might result in another slap for the unfortunate girl. Without another word, I stepped to the other side of the table, taking the seat next to Jenna. My cousin awarded me an unexpectedly warm smile, and squeezed my hand. Distrusting these welcoming signs, my reaction was less friendly.

Serving slaves placed the first course before us – a thin but tasty soup in which noodles swam. My bread roll slipping from the plate, I bent to retrieve it. While my eyes remained below the surface of the table, I saw that the crown prince was lifting his companion’s skirt, presumably to allow access to her sex. Straightening, I wondered whether I’d deliberately dislodged the roll in order to check on my prospective husband.

“Crown prince, earl,” Mr Addal said genially, “you seem pleased with your girls.”

“Yes, thank you, spymaster,” the crown prince replied. “You chose well. In fact, I was wondering whether there would be any trouble about our bedding the wenches tonight.”

“Trouble, your highness, what kind of trouble had you in mind?”

“Well, spymaster, the pox for a start…”

“Have no fears on that account, your highness. My information is generally reliable, as his majesty would confirm…”

“Certainly,” my father confirmed, “Mr Addal is a paragon for accuracy.”

“Thank you, your majesty. I do my best. And, as I was about to say, your highness, your grace, my information is that both girls are virgins.”

“I thought as much!” the crown prince replied. “My fingers know a virgin’s crack when they brush against it.”

“Then they’re not whores?” the earl sounded surprised.

“Indeed not, your grace. While their fathers aren’t gentle, let alone noble, both are respectable men. One girl is the daughter of a prosperous merchant, the other of a boot maker.”

“I’d wager a diamond to a bent ha’penny,” the earl said, “that mine is the boot maker’s girl. I can smell the leather.”

“You are perfectly correct, your grace. Her father’s standing in society seemed a trifle below that of the merchant, and I was mindful of your ranks as an earl, and as a crown prince.”

“Most proper,” the earl agreed.

“Regrettably,” the crown prince added, “Dawzet is a country of insolence. My father, I’m afraid, is not always sufficiently harsh. As a result, it is not unknown for the common people to object when lords seize their daughters. It gives me pleasure to see that Lundin is, in this regard, better governed.”

“Their fathers are businessmen,” my father said. “And it’s a rare member of that class whose accounts are entirely free from error. Were Mr Lock’s fiscal inspectors to conduct an unusually rigorous audit…”

“We would discover some discrepancy,” Cornelius Lock completed father’s sentence.

“If you’re so certain of that, Mr Lock,” the earl asked, “why don’t you systematically audit all of the businessmen in Lundin? Then you could bring every one of the villains to book.”

“In a word, your grace,” Cornelius Lock replied, “prudence. Such an action would, in the short term, boost the exchequer wonderfully. But, the following year, who would be left to tax? We take action only in the worst cases, or where a man annoys the state in other regards.”

“Such as failing to oblige with his daughter?” the earl’s question was probably intended as rhetorical.

“Quite, your grace,” Cornelius Lock answered, unnecessarily as it seemed to me. “Better to supply a daughter for the greater good than to face charges of fraud or tax evasion – felonies for which the whole family would be enslaved.”

“Whole family?” the crown prince asked, clearly much interested by this. “My father, in his absurd leniency, enslaves only the person most directly responsible. Of course, others of the family will – like as not – be enslaved for debt sooner or later, but, all the same…”

“Perhaps,” Sir Toby Slack suggested, “in Dawzet, slavery is regarded as a purely legal state.”

“Well, Sir Toby,” the crown prince seemed disconcerted, “slavery is legal, isn’t it? The law provides that…”

“The law most certainly provides for slavery, your highness, of course it does. Without such a provision, society would crumble. But that wasn’t my point. It’s a question as to whether slavery is a purely legal, or a genetic condition.”

“Genetic, Sir Toby? Well, surely, in any society, if a she-slave bears a child, then the infant is also a slave?”

“Exactly so, your highness. But – for those who regard slavery as a purely legal condition – that can be nothing more than an application of the usual rules of inheritance. Because your father is a king, your highness, you were born a prince…”

“I sincerely hope that you intend to cast no doubt on that, Sir Toby.”

“No, of course not, your highness. How shall I explain? If one were to take the legal view of slavery, the enslavement of a felon is a punishment.”

“Well, Sir Toby, what else would it be? A reward?”

“Almost, your highness. We, in Lundin, consider that the commission of a felony demonstrates the slavery of the culprit. That being so, enslaving the felon is no more that restoring him – or her – to his rightful place in the scheme of things.”

“So, a felon was already a slave before committing the crime – that’s fascinating. And the wicked deed proves the wretch’s slavery?”

“Exactly so, your highness. And, as you have already stated, a slave’s children are also slaves… and, of course, a slave’s parents…”

“And a slave’s spouse, Sir Toby?”

“Not necessarily a slave. But the genetic view of slavery certainly encompasses parents and children.”

“But suppose Princess Margaret committed a crime, would that mean his majesty was a slave? Surely not!”

“Your highness, you have pinpointed the requirement for the institution of personage in absolute. Such a person as her highness has a pedigree sufficient to demonstrate that she is not, and cannot ever, be a slave.”

“Unless seized by Surrey slavers, I suppose.”

“Such a possibility – although scarcely likely – proves the wickedness of our enemies, were such a proof needed.”

“Quite so,” Sir Garrafad agreed. “By rights, we should march into Surrey and enslave every girl Jill of them.”

“Eventually, I trust,” father said, “we will do just that. In the meantime, we work within the realm of the possible.”

“And the affordable,” Cornelius Lock added.

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Old 11-18-2009   #20
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Re: Warriors of Love

Yesterday evening, I polished "Margaret" Chapter 17. Here's an extended extract:

With Fliti’s guidance, we were able to walk quickly through quiet backstreets. Arriving at the river, we found that hundreds of others had already taken their stations to watch Flight and his men make their crossing. It took a while to find a vacant place that commanded a good view, but we managed it at last – amid some arches and tumbled masonry, the former function of which was not immediately clear to me. Once in place, we settled to wait.

“So this is Black Flowers?” Jenna asked. “Somehow, it’s not what I’d imagined.”

“This is Black Flowers, right enough,” Fliti confirmed. “There’s a good view of the river, as you can see, but it’s not the nicest of places. If you like, we could shift a bit further downstream. We might not see the ship crossing as well as we would here, but…”

“No, it’s fine,” Jenna replied.

“I wonder what these arches were built for?” I asked, not really expecting an answer. “And the fallen stones?”

“According to Clement Allan’s map,” Jenna replied, “it’s the remains of an Old Time bridge.”

“That’s what they say,” Fliti agreed, “but I’m not sure I believe it. Bridges from Lundin to Surrey don’t seem very likely.”

“Bridges in the plural?” I asked. “Not just one?”

“Unlike some of you,” Inqui said, “I wasn’t strapped as a schoolgirl, but – even so – sometimes listened to the teachers. In the Old Time, they built a lot of bridges to join Surrey and Lundin. Some of them came down during the Intermediate Period. Just one of them lasted until the third battle of Lundin.”

“That’s what I was told, too,” Fliti confirmed, “Lydia Lionheart had it demolished when she realised she’d lost the battle.”

“The way I was taught,” Inqui contradicted her, “Osrick had it demolished when he realised that he couldn’t win.”

“It comes down to the same thing, really,” I fudged their disagreement.

“Let’s not argue,” Beddibelle said, “how are we going to pass the time until the fun begins?”

“I’ve got a set of calendar bones in my shoulder bag,” Jenna replied.

“I don’t know how to play,” I objected. “Grandfather hated gambling, and wouldn’t allow calendar bones in the Belle House.”

“Besides,” Inqui added, “neither Fliti nor I have any money to wager – and I don’t suppose that Beddibelle does, either.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jenna insisted, “we can gather a few pebbles and use them in place of money.”

“But how do you play?” I asked.

“Well,” Jenna replied, “you see how the bones have a month symbol marked on each side.”

“Not on the two short sides,” I said.

“Of course not on the two short ends – I mean on the four long sides.”

“Sorry. Was I being stupid?”

“Yes you were – now attend! What are you giggling about?”

“Sorry, Jenna. It’s just that you reminded me so much of Miss Lace.”

“Miss Lace?” Beddibelle asked.

“Our Belle House governess,” Jenna explained. “She was no laughing matter. I don’t know why Margaret was smirking. Perhaps she needs a good old fashioned dose of the schoolroom strap.”

“Or your peccalalo?” Beddibelle pressed.

“As I was saying, attend!” Jenna said, frowning – evidently not wishing to be distracted too far from the subject of calendar bones.

“Yes, miss,” I replied, hoping to distract her.

“You roll them like this,” Jenna continued doggedly, “and hope that the three months on the top surfaces form a season – that would be worth twenty. What I’ve actually thrown is a cusp – Cornsprout, the last month of spring, plus Litnight, the first of summer… the third bone is Chillflurry, which doesn’t connect at all. A cusp is worth six – I can stick with it or re-roll, but…”

“The trouble is,” Fliti explained, “that she’d only want to re-roll one of them – Chillflurry. Re-rolling all three would cost just one point, but re-rolling only one costs five.”

“Why ever is that?” I asked. “I would have thought the more bones you re-roll the more points it would cost you.”

“Ah, but if you re-roll all three you only have the same chance of something good as you had on your first attempt. If you re-roll just one bone, you’re upping your chances.”

“I think I see,” I replied doubtfully, feeling that I’d follow this better had Miss Lace succeeded in spanking into me greater arithmetic ability.

“And, if I re-roll, and still only have a cusp,” Jenna continued, “that would be six for the cusp, minus five for the re-roll, leaving only one point.”

“The best she could do on re-rolling one bone would be a quarter,” Fliti told me, “which is worth twelve, but it would be minus five for the re-roll, so her score would be seven.”

“What’s a quarter?” I asked.

“Three consecutive months,” Jenna said, “that don’t form a season. It would only score one more than sticking with the cusp, so it’s probably not worth re-rolling.

“Apart from Chillflurry, that bone should be marked with Drizzlemoon, Glarehaze and Mistream,” Fliti explained in more detail. “Drizzlemoon or Glarehaze would give her a quarter – and, as I said, twelve minus five equals seven. But coming up with Mistream, or re-rolling Chillflurry, would leave her with a score of just one.”

“You see?” Jenna asked.

“Perhaps,” I replied, more doubtfully than before.

Almost an hour later, I was just beginning to understand the game when the troops appeared. They were preceded by a band – resplendent in scarlet and yellow tunics. The music didn’t carry well, the wind being in the south east, but I recognised such tunes as Let the Surrey Foe Beware and Heroes of Ampsher. Although feeling an urge to cheer, seeing Jenna’s scowling face, I resisted the impulse – we seemed the only ones failing to give voice to enthusiasm.

“Why are you two girls not cheering? Your slaves, too, if it comes to that?” asked an old man. “If it’s treason in your hearts…”

“Don’t talk soft,” a white haired woman replied, probably his wife. “Expect they’ve got sweethearts on the boat. Worried their beaus will be killed.”

“Agnes – it ain’t a boat, it’s a…” but he never finished the sentence.

Suddenly, the cheers turned to screams. A spectator perhaps three yards from us toppled into the river, transfixed by an arrow. Everywhere panicking bodies attempted flight. The old man who had wanted to know why we weren’t cheering – I could almost have touched him – sank into the human tide, trampled under foot, his blood spattering the stone only inches from my feet.

Agnes found herself swept away in the surging crowd, like a twig in a torrent. She yelled Henry, Henry – presumably her husband’s name. My concern focused upon her – perhaps to avoid my own danger – desperate eyes seeking the old lady in the panicking throng. No trace of her was to be seen.

A woman with a screeching baby tucked under one arm dug a sharp elbow into my side as she ran past. With an involuntary movement, I clasped the point at which she had made painful contact, my fingers returning sticky with gore. At the time, my assumption was that an arrow had caught me a glancing blow. Later I became calm enough to observe that my blouse wasn’t torn, nor my skin broken – the blood must have been the woman’s or her baby’s.

Inqui tugged me roughly, and I found myself in the shelter of an arch, once part of the bridge – Jenna, Fliti and Beddibelle already crowded into the place of refuge. A sense of slowed time fell upon me, so that seconds seemed stretched into minutes. Unheeding what was before him, a young man kicked a little boy – whether by accident or design, the child rolled to safety under a flight of wooden steps. A woman, mouth formed into an almost perfect O, staggered with an arrow protruding from her shoulder, a dress that had been white streaked with red.

It was now clear that several persons had been skewered by arrows – and a larger number trampled. The slaughterhouse stench brought the taste of blood to my mouth, and then I was sick. Vomit was added to the blood that already glued my blouse to the skin beneath. In the increasingly rich blend of stinks, I now detected piss and ####.

A comparative calm descended – those who had succeeded in flight were now elsewhere. Perhaps twenty bodies lay motionless, probably dead, only about half a dozen showing signs of receiving arrows. Eight or ten more persons, and one or two slaves, limped or crawled away. A few others shuddered in alcoves or arches.

Where the crowd had been, the ground was littered with abandoned belongings, as well as bodies. The largest possession was an infant’s carriage, lying on its side with no sign of its former tenant. Bright pink, a girl’s hair ornament contrasted with the mud on which it lay. A scattering of coins and other small objects may have fallen from an open bag as its owner scrambled for safety.

My focus fell upon a child’s doll, lying on its back, wide eyes staring at the sky as though in terror. Tiny hands reached upwards, legs splayed oddly, reminiscent of broken limbs. The plaything’s dress had been white, but mud now spattered its folds. At first, I thought that it was also bloodied – but, on reflection, decided that its miniature garment had been decorated with a little red stitchwork.

“What happened?” I asked in bewilderment.

“Terrible…” Fliti murmured, her shoulders shaking.

“The opening volley from the Surrey archers caught the crowd,” Jenna replied in a matter of fact voice – sounding not in the least confused or upset. “Well – they’re off.”

Following the direction of Jenna’s gaze, I saw that the ship had cast off and was turning its nose in the direction of the south bank. Arrows rained upon the decks and the area about the Pier Victoria. Several great splashes puzzled me. Only when a large rock hit the ship’s rail, spraying the river with splintered wood, did I realise that the Surrey troops deployed a catapult.

Nearer to hand, a little girl – her face, and once blue dress, liberally smeared with mud – emerged from under the planking of a jetty. Darting forward, she seized the doll on which I’d previously focused. Seated on a rock, the child clasped the toy, tears trickling down her cheeks, forming pale tracks through the dirt. Rocking rhythmically, she produced a series of strange whining noises, to something vaguely akin to a lullaby tune.

As the man o’ war moved out into midstream, sailors launched a stone from a catapult mounted on the foredeck. The recoil had the ship lurching violently, dipping a yardarm into the stream and seemingly threatening to capsize the vessel. Arrows from the Surrey shore scattered the catapult crew, killing at least one of them. I wondered why the Surrey warriors didn’t allow them to launch more stones, and very likely sink the expedition.

A few minutes later, the ship was on the southern shore, discharging men and horses. Banners and plumes – as well as the gleam of their armour – had clearly suffered during the short journey across the river. Several soldiers within my range of vision fell to a hail of arrows, but none struck the horses – no doubt the Surrey warriors hoped to secure the animals for their own use. After all, a trained warhorse could buy at least two hundred slaves – and would cost less to feed.

Wild haired, forehead gashed, a dishevelled woman clattered down the slope to my right, hurrying in the direction of the river. She wore what had obviously been a gaily printed summer frock, now fallen into a sad condition. Spinning on the sole of one foot, she snatched from her rock the little girl with a doll. In another moment, the mother – if such she was – scrambled back into the shadow of dark warehouses, child tightly embraced.

Then – turning my eyes toward the south bank – I saw Flight, on his white horse, vanishing into the Surrey-held streets. Soldiers who had avoided the arrows followed him. On the shore, sailors carried six or seven wounded guards back on to the ship. Then, as far as the few of us watching from Black Flowers were concerned, there was nothing more to see.

“What happens to the ship?” I asked.

“If Flight and his men return, it’ll bring them home.” Jenna replied. “If not, it’ll belong to Surrey. For now, its job is done – and no one but you is interested in it.”

“And I’m not very interested,” I said. “It feels like time to head for home.”

“All the same,” Fliti added “I wonder what will become of the wounded guards they carried on to the ship.”

“They’ll come home as heroes, if they live, and Flight wins,” Inqui said.

“Some chance of that!” Jenna snorted.

“And assuming the Surrey girls win,” Beddibelle added, “they’ll be prisoners.”

“Enslaved?” I asked.

“I imagine that it depends,” Beddibelle said, “on how badly they’re injured – whether they’re worth enslaving.”

It occurred to me to wonder what would become of the wounded men, were they too badly hurt to serve as slaves. It seemed unlikely that they’d be returned to their families. Would they simply be killed? Perhaps I pondered this question to distract me, a little, from the slaughter of civilians close to hand.

“Anyway, let’s go,” Jenna urged, already shifting.

With a sense of anti-climax, I started to climb the steep slope toward the warehouses that line this part of the north bank. It was clear that, clambering upwards, all five of us took care not to step on any of the corpses left by the arrows and the panic. At least as far as I was concerned, watching my step had more to do with disgust than with respect for the dead – in spite of a healthy regard for Mortalia’s power. The sun rode high in a cloudless sky, birds sang from the rooftops.

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