Monday, April 30, 2007

Clog Post 2 with Copperhead Lode



First Clog: We're on the road to well, noplace much, as it turns out. Or to put it more poetically:

This is the way the road ends
This is the way the road ends
This is the way the road ends
Not with a bang
but a THWACK!! wobble wobble wobble clank clank BONGGGG!!!!!

Yes, the adventure-seeking I mentioned so enthusiastically in my previous post got off to a less than promising start. In fact, as promising starts go, ours barely showed vague hints of commitment, much less promises -- the cart threw a wheel only five miles out of Lost Wages and we ended up spending the better part of the morning standing at the roadside, arguing about whether it was or wasn't better to trek back to The Sore Loser until repairs happened. Hmm, maybe it wasn't a better part. It was certainly a large part in any event. By lunchtime all were cross and hungry and things might've gone very badly if it hadn't been for Mr Kakhand having the foresight to send Semolina along with a basket of pub lunches (note to self: must Clacks a thank-you note to him for convincing me to go halves on that crystal ball so everyone can see where you go and what you get up to -- what a shame he didn't look in it before we left the premises). By the time Burk, our driver, and his assistant Dennis had unloaded the cart and assembled the spare wheel and calmed down the horses and put the wheel on and re-set the suspension (suspension? We have a suspension? So, like, what would this bone-shaking kidney-crunching skull-rattling cart be like to ride in if there wasn't a suspension?) and packed away the broken wheel and stood around watching us re-pack our belongings and made us wait while they took their regulation drinking-eye-watering-liquid-from-a-suspiciously-tiny-bottle break and compared the circumstances of the thrown wheel and its changeover to all the other thrown wheels and changeovers they'd ever had (and I swear, if I say it once I've said it a hundred times, Smith's new bellows just doesn't get the forge hot enough, wheel-bands used to be a lot less brittle before he got the new bellows, I dunno, smiths today), it was well into the afternoon and we were still only five miles out of Lost Wages. Definitely not promising in the annals of starts.

Our route takes us -- was meant to take us -- along the Middling Road to the Uberwald border, via Nut Loaf, Probity, Lower Boddis, Boddis Undun, Yeast, South Yeast and Yeast Widdershins, with an overnight stop at Burnt Hedge but owing to our delays we've ended up staying the night in Nut Loaf. More on that presently. As you'll have gathered, I have travelling companions, and I might as well take a moment now to describe them to you because with a bit of luck none of them are going further than the border (I hope!). What with Lost Wages being on the tourism map, we get all sorts coming to visit, some sorts staying for quite a while (especially if their luck holds at what's left of our once-thriving casino culture), other sorts just passing through, and other other sorts "locals" attempting to escape (I suppose I'm a combination of C and D). No locals this time, self excluded (see previous set of brackets), but an odd lot nonetheless.

There's Miss Curtsey, a former governess who's travelling on money she inherited from her now-late employers, though given that 1) she's going to Ankh-Morpork to visit her cousin, another Alice as it happens "Alice Band'" and 2) that Miss Band teaches at the Assassins' Guild, you can't help wondering exactly how her inheritancing came about; Rudney Urch, a born stamp collector who's about fourteen and wears bottle glasses and knows more than I ever wanted to be told about the manufacture of wheel-bands; Elena Lassinova, a veddy posh young woman returning to Uberwald after a holiday of taking the mountain air (though what with my having gone to school with Angua and knowing the Signs, has probably actually been sent away for eating the wrong neighbours); and a sour, dour, taciturn, totally expressionless Omnian clerk called Mr Num ("The 'b' is silent). And then we have the Verdants. Family of four: Lothar and Tessica and their offspring, Athelred (good-looking and knows it, congenital snob, smarmy) and Rumbustia (nubile, noisy, probably oversexed). They do most of the talking, or more precisely, Papa Lothar holds forth on the intricacies of commerce (he's a haberdasher, it seems. I keep wanting to ask him the proper way to dash my habers, but I doubt he'd get it. That's all right, I don't get it either.); Mama Tessica witters on about the latest A-M fashions and how she counts the Dowager Duchess of Quirm as a Personal Friend; Athelred sneers at everyone and makes occasional contemptuous wordless snorting noises; and little Rumbustia, all right, not so little, I've seen smaller you-know-whats on a prize Lancre Creamy heifer, makes simpering noises that appear to have words in them but don't correspond to any known language -- and I should know, since I'm polyglot (no, that doesn't mean I can't do work after sunset on Octedays). There's also a fine trade going on in non-verbal communication, though most of that consists of Rudney almost-audibly lusting after every female with the possible exception of Mrs Verdant, and Elena and Rumbustia exchanging the sort of glances that could melt cold-forged octiron.

Anyway, back to Nut Loaf and its charming hostelries. Hostelry. All right, hostel and I think you'll find that's misspelt. Nut Loaf is a dump. No, wait, that's unkind to dumps. Nut Loaf is the sort of place you get when you take a ghost town and remove the ghosts, and then cross it with one of those dangerously silent whatchyew doin here, stranger? Saloons that always get portrayed in the clicks and always include a free-for-all bar fight then ends up with someone getting thrown through a plate glass window and someone else shooting the sheriff. It's got no stars in the BONK THYS tourist guide, but that's just because no-one figured out how to give stars in the negative. But we had no choice, so we spent the night in the Nut Loaf Hostel and Funeral Goods Mercantile. Notice I didn't say we slept there. I'm pretty sure the only sleep going was had by the fleas and bedbugs because they were so full of our blood that they had to lie down and take a siesta, not to mention the lack of blankets, since Burk and Dennis commandeered the only blankets for the horses. And I think I'll say no more about Nut Loaf because it's depressing me. Nut Loaf: just say no.

Here endeth this post.

* * * *

Second Clog: Over the river and through the woods, almost

Quick entry because tired, so dictating in shortmouth. Threw another wheel, this time on outskirts of Lower Boddis. Took five hours to repair. V. frustrating. Rudney has encyclopaedic knowledge of cart suspensions. Thinking of gagging him. Made it to Boddis Undun at sunset. Bloody freezing. Sleep now!

* * * *

Ahh, that's better! It's morning now, and I've just had a look around Boddis Undun. It's beautiful! What a contrast to Nut Lo-, to that place I won't mention again (except to say in passing that I have bruises -- bruises! -- all over from those accursed bedbugs). It's a small but thriving village on the banks of the Undun, a tributary of the Smarl (which, for the benefit of foreigners, is the mighty river that forms part of the Lancre-Uberwald-Borogravia border). We're at the Wander Inn, and Mrs Wander is making us breakfast as I speak. Real eggs! We did manage to purchase something that we had to call breakfast at That Unmentionable Place, and it did include round things on a plate, but from the taste and texture I'd say the round things on the plate were other plates. Or something far worse. But here we have the smell of fresh-baked bread, and friendly people looking at us like customers instead of prospective mugging victims, and it really is a lovely river. Much bad poetry have been written about the Undun, so I'm not going to add to it, but do stop by here if you ever get the chance. Just don't throw a wheel anywhere near N-, That Place on your way.

* * * *

They WERE real eggs! Tasted like chicken!

* * * *

Third Clog: There shall be music

I did my first away gig last night! At the Bordering House in Burnt Hedge! And it was a roaring success!

Oddly enough, it was Miss Curtsey's suggestion that started it. It seems she's read 101 More Things to Do with a Dead Hedgehog and is quite taken with my poetry (I suspect, more than ever, that she's also quite taken with dead hedgehogs. And dead things in general. Note to self: don't leave food or drink open anywhere near Miss Curtsey.), and mentioned this to the landlord who straightaway asked me if I'd entertain in the evening, as there was a part of Copperhead dwarfs coming in for a mine propping techniques convention. So I unpacked my lute -- amazingly not road-damaged yet -- and gave a recital of my better-known songs. You know, Morporkian Pie and Sweet Home Agatea and Lancre Queen and We Didn't Steal the Fire and especially Dwarfish People and Glod Only Knows -- playing to the audience, for sure. And beer happened as a result. So much beer. So very much beer.

I've met the occasional dwarf in Lost Wages, and there were some dwarf girls at Miss Marm's -- well, they'd have to be dwarf girls, as it was a girls' school, and I was very sure that their beards were silkier than the ones you see on standard dwarfs, which is to say who-can-tell ones but these convention dwarfs were real mining dwarfs, antique woodcuts in the flesh. Rumbustia was coming on to all of them, so they were probably all male. And I've never seen so many axes in my life. And dented helmets. Very resilient, your mountain mining dwarfs; I can see how they do so well in fights with Big People. And Io, can they drink! I've always heard that with mining dwarfs it's all gold, gold, gold, but now I know it's also all beer, beer, beer. And singing. And did I mention the axes? And the beards? Also, I want the name and address of a good dwarf bootmaker in Ankh. Cobble me some kinky boots! (Note to self: set aside some boot money.)

Rudney has an encyclopaedic knowledge of dwarfish axe-forging techniques. They made him an honorary dwarf for the duration of our stay. Cheeky brat.

So the gig was a rouser. I made some influential, if very short, new friends and learned quite a lot of Dwarfish swear words (although I can't pronounce them very well yet, so Gimpy can't transcribe them properly for me) and some traditional dwarf mining songs (mostly, I admit, Gold, gold, gold, gold). One of the party, a young dwarf called Thorfinn Glodssonssonsson, even taught me a dwarfish folk song that hardly has any mention of gold in it at all! In his honour, I'm going to put the words down here, exactly as he sang them -- except for the bits where they were in Dwarfish, but hey, I'll try:

    (as told to Weird Alice Lancrevic)

    Well, my name's Glod-Glod Glodssonsson
    Same as all Glodssons since our family's begun
    You hardly ever see Glods outta the mine
    They only go to Bonk around assay time
    We dig a hundred tonnes of ore all shiny and cold
    But everybody knows we've a nose for gold
    Now the Bura'zak-ka said "You've gotta mine coal."
    For thirty generations gold mining's all we know
    Since the olden times this tale's been told:
    "You'll never get slack from Copperhead Lode!"

    My Daddy ran the hoppers down at Pithead Ten
    Dug a lot of silver for the Low King's friends
    Glodssonsson AaDb'thuk' graven on his axe
    (Also on his helmet in candle-wax)
    His shift was just ending when the props came down
    I still remember them stumbling round
    Well the Kruk came around in the middle of the night
    Heard Mother cryin 'bout curs-ed anthracite
    But every son of Glodsson takes the down-mine road -
    You can smell a golden fortune in Copperhead Lode...

    I volunteered for the adit on my birthday
    They take the Dr'zka first round here anyway
    I did ten years of digging in Pithead Nine
    Then I got wise and I left the mine
    I buy pyrites and geodes and volcanic glass
    I sell 'em in the market at Copperhead Pass
    Well the family says it's like pissing up a rope
    I wake up screaming like I'm back in the stope
    I learned a thing or two from mining, and I know
    I'm never gonna dig that Copperhead Lode!
    Copperhead Lode
    Copperhead Lode
    Copperhead Lode!

* * * *

Right, Elena wants to shout me a drink before we head out, becausz you amuzzed me viss your singings lazst night, dollink, so that's my lot for now.

Next stop Uberwald. Land of my eightfathers. I'm strangely excited.

-- Alice.

Note for Roundworlders: the original lyrics to Copperhead Road, by Steve Earle, can be found at

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