Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 2007

by Lady Anaemia Asterisk


... or perhaps, I should say, the stars of magick. This month, my dear Astropossums, I've procured the assistance of some very special Guest Astrologers. In fact, not so much "assistance" as "they hustled me out of my orrey and insisted on doing the whole star-crossed Horoscopes themselves". Mind you, it's good to give my sextants a little break now and again! And, since most of our Guest Astrologers are far more at home with Omniscopes than Horoscopes, I think I can promise that the results will be entertaining. So I shall stand well back out of spell-casting range and proudly present those wonderful wizards of, um, wizardry, as they tell you what's in your stars for the next month...

The Adamant Hedgehog 21 Mar - 20 Apr

Mustrum Ridcully, Archancellor, Unseen University

Well now, it looks like I'm the one to start off with this star-prediction business, and so I should, being Archancellor. Never mind that I've never had much of an interest in the damn' things; in my opinion, they're more the province of my brother Hughnon, since he deals with the gods-bothering and celestial thingumbobs -- can't see the point of 'em myself, they don't make good eatin' and they're too far away to hit with a crossbow bolt. But young Stibbons has given me one of them astolobial thingies and showed me how to cast horoscopes. Wouldn't let me near that Thinking Engine of his, oh no -- says he needed it for his casting. Pretty inconsiderate of him, considering the size of the stipend we give his Technomancers for ink, teddy bears and pizza. Anyway, the old-fashioned ways are best, I always say. Let's see... this month, the star charts say here, you should avoid Distressed Pudding and eels, do less shouting than usual -- that sounds wrong, "can't ever have too much shouting" is my motto -- always take the widdershins turn at unfamiliar crossroads, be especially kind to subordinates -- hang on, that doesn't sound right at all -- beware of the colour yellow in bathrooms, especially on Mondays -- deuced specific, these stars -- and double your regular sacrifices to the dog of your choice. Wait, I read that last one upside down... no, it still says 'dog' the other way around. Damned odd. Must have a word with Hughnon about that. Oh, and if you were born on the 3rd, 7th, 13th or 20th of the month, stick a chicken in your nose at new moon. I'm not completely certain about that last one, those calculations were taking rather a lot of time and I was late for shooting, so I tried combining Megrim's Accelerator and Pelepel's Temporal Compressor on them, and the astrolabium melted.

Gahoolie, the Vase of Tulips 21 Apr - 21 May

Big Mad Adrian Turnipseed, UU Department of High Energy Magic

Well isn't this a turn-up! I actually get my go ahead of Stibbons. Mind you, just because he's Head of Department means he always gets to bloody hog the bloody Thinking Engine, so no doubt all his astral calculations will be bang on the money. As if he was the only one that ever fed the mice and the ants and the bees -- and can I just take this opportunity to mention that it's my bloody FTB that keeps HEX running? And my ram's skull! But no, to watch him in action you'd think he invented every widget and add-on and plug-in himself. Oh, and of course he gets to go off on all those adventures, and represent the Department at all those posh civic banquets -- I bet they put bloody lobster on the pizzas at those, none of the catfish sushi we have to make do with on ours. Huh, I remember when we were all noobs together, he was no better than the rest of us. Well, okay, he was usually the one off in the corner doing the actual studying while the rest of us played Barbarian Invaders, but ... what? What? Oh, the horoscope. According to my astral calculations, which I had to do on a greasy serviette from Harga's I'll have you know, you're going to have a bloody miserable month. As a matter of fact, your bloody constellation is going to crash into the House of Hoose -- because the gods have been using Gahoolie in a game of table football again -- and totally ruin your day for the next four weeks. Might as well stay in bed all month. Hmmm... maybe this spot here is just a grease stain and not the Cue of Blind Io, in which case you'll have a wonderful month. Oh well, that's the sort of thing that happens when your Department Head uses all the uptime on HEX. Bloody typical.

Herne the Hunted 22 May - 21 Jun

Igneous Cutwell, Wizard First Grade (UU)

It Is Written. It is written in the heavens. And I, as Royal Recogniser of Her Extremely Royal Majesty Queen Kelirehenna I of Sto Lat, Master of the Queen's Bedchamber, Ipississimuss Diviner of Mysteries and Premier Calculator of the Horoscope Royal, do pronounce -- oh, bother that, it takes too much time to pronounce! And too much saliva. Let's just say that all this astral business is written in the heavens, and what the heavens say is that this is a good month for nits. Sorry, knits. We haven't had nits here since, oh, since the Coronation. Get your needles out this month, and you'll be amazed at how those scarves and bootees and woolly jumpers just flow effortlessly out of your hands. In fact, it's a good month for all handicrafts. Scrapbook those iconographs! Bead those chokers! Your friends will be amazed at all the clever things you can do with toilet roll centres, sticky-tape and a wodge of tinsel.

This is the month to finally make those hooked rugs for the scullery, and inspirations for humorous decoupage greeting cards will fall into your head like shooting stars. It's almost as if someone's opened a tin of fresh, bright reality just for you! The stars also favour music from the 11th to the 22nd, so you'll shine at choir practice and sing-songs down the pub. Planetary imbalances mean that you might be susceptible to ailments of the lower body at mid-month, so be sure to stack up on salves and philtres from your local practitioner of magick. The 14th is a good time to experiment with a new hairstyle; why not use your newfound brilliance at crafts and crochet some Howondaland dreadlocks? Social opportunities, especially for social improvement, will present themselves in the third week -- do try to use these to advantage by gatecrashing royal or high-society shindigs -- but as this overlaps your period of propensity to illness, don't forget to bring the salve. Trust me, you don't want to spend the evening in the privy! Beware of elephants and young men carrying scythes. And remember, like I said, It Is Written.

The Wizard's Staff and Knob 22 Jun - 22 Jul

Ponder Stibbons, Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, UU

Traditional astrology? That is so Century of the Fruitbat! Not that there's any doubt about the stars influencing our lives and destinies -- hey, it was astral alignment that accounted for me getting the easiest final exam in UU history, not counting the famous Elementary Necromancy exam in 1602 when the corpse sat up and said "I ain't dead yet, you buggers!!!" -- but all this cludging about with orreries and astrolabia and handwritten calculations of constellationary positions is absurd when one can get one's Thinking Engine to do all the time-consuming messy work. And anyway, half of traditional astrology is about the astrologer's own interpretations and the other half is about making stuff up. So I'm going for the win with what will be the only ineffably precise and correct predictions in this month's Horoscope, and the rest of you Guest Astrologers will be totally pwned. Over to you, HEX:

    1st: rain of frogs; carry umbrella
    2nd: good day for gardening; plant at dawn, second breakfast or teatime
    3rd: accosted by tall, dark Brindisian thief; pay up Thieves' Guild vouchers in advance
    4th: bad sausage inna bun; carry bucket
    5th: Clacks scam offers holiday in Agatea; do not accept
    6th: reign of Ogg; stay indoors and accept no frothing beverages [made of mostly apples] from old ladies
    7th: close encounter with mountain of mashed potato in Klatch
    7+1th: plague of pineapples; stand on head
    9th: romance beckons; carry bath
    10th: day for dark rituals; do not meddle in the affairs of wizards
    11th: Opera House follows you home; carry earplugs and hatstand
    12th: declination of Androgyna favours financial decisions; sell house and invest in weasel farm
    13th: total reversal of Disc's magical field; turn twice widdershins hourly and sing Hedgehog song
    14th: aroogah aroogah frog custard whoops Mr Jelly!
    15th: +++ OUT OF CHEESE ERROR +++

Bilious, God of Hangovers 23 Jul - 23 Aug

GUEST ASTROLOGER: Alberto Malich, Head of All Wizardry, Archancellor of UU When it Actually Meant Something, Hah!

Ah, the existential wossnames of the influence of the heavens on the lives of you unfortunate full-time mortals. Brings a tear to me eye, it does, to see all your desperate hopes and fears and the way you put so much into "planning for the future". Believe me, I've seen your futures and they're sand all the way to the bottom. O'course, when you've got 29 seconds of mortal existence left in your lifetimer, planning for the future gets really important. I used to sneak a few grains of mundanes' sand every now and again, but the Master caught me at it and didn't half give me a telling off. It seems that mixing up all sorts of other peoples' destinies and stellar and planetary influences plays merry hells with the continuiniunuum of the multiverse and could rip a hole in what the UU kids of today call the rubber sheet o' reality. Speaking of my old alma pater, back when I was founding the University you could hardly turn around without tripping over astrologers -- time was when it was almost as popular as alchemy, and a blessed sight less messy and dangerous. No-one would even think of casting a major spell without casting their horoscope first. But things tend to change after a millennium or two, and now it's all about Feng Shooey and technomancy and as far as I know the only use old Ridcully had for the stars is triangulatin' on 'em for target practice.

Still, if you really do think your immediate future's worth planning for you should know that your stars favour new enterprise on the first and second Octedays of the month. And that you'll come into some unexpected money on the 13th, but Chryoprase will want it back on the 14th. Same thing for romance, pretty much, so don't splash out on any engagement rings. Oh, and' it'll be a good idea steel yourself against a near-Death experience on the 27th, but you didn't hear me say that. That's all I've got time for now -- some of us have porridge to fry.

Mubbo the Hyena 24 Aug - 23 Sept

Dr H Dinwiddie, Bursar of UU

What ho! Or perhaps that's what ho-ho-horoscope! Yes, the medication and meditation and mediation are working nicely of late, with the only side effects being a tendency to inappropriate jollity and another tendency to float about neat ceilings when I'm concentrating too hard or not hard enough, so my fellow Faculty members have voted to allow me the excitement of sharp pencils and set me to cast a Horoscope for the Sign of Mubbo. That's a very portentous-sounding phrase, don't you think? "The Sign of Mubbo"? Definitely sounds mysterious and filled with portents.

Persons born under the Sign of Mubbo are known as Mubboons, and that rhymes nicely with spoons, balloons, baboons, runes, raccoons, goons, moons, prunes, poltroons, cartoons, buffoons and, for that matter, boons, which means that quite a lot of doggerel and Tin Lid Alley music-hall songs get written about them. Who doesn't remember the modern classic 'I'll Marry my Mubboon in Grune", as sung by Slugg and Angelina? A portentous and poetic Sign tends to attract prophets and poets -- heh, poets, hee hee! -- and by coincidence this is a good month to practice prophecy and poetry, especially prophetic poetry. And pottery. Not to mention piety, parody, puppetry, parquetry, persiflage, and the preparation of partridge in parsley. Oh my, I feel quite giddy after thinking that! On the subject of the letter P, Mubboons whose names begin with this letter and who pray purposefully. or even porpoisely, to Patina and Petulia have reason to expect good results. A curious squiggle on the cusp of the Small Boring Group of Faint Stars indicates good fortune and pleasant outcomes when contacting rarely-visited relatives. Then again, I should imagine they're rarely visited for good reason, so perhaps you should just ignore that giddy oh my giddy pencil sharp ceiling wahoonie custard embrasure whoops! Dive Dive! Pass the winkles, there's a good lass.

The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars 24 Sept - 23 Oct

Double UU Professor Devious H Collabone

Er. Um. I... er. As the Century of the Anchovy's first tenured Professor of Transoceanic Thaumaturgical Studies, I have to admit that I've never known much about the stars; in truth, I spend far more time staring down at the bottoms of lagoons than up at the heavens. In fact, I rather agree with the Archancellor's general views about the irrelevance of stars, although I believe he puts it more like "them pesky twinkly sky things that're always hangin' back out of crossbow range". However, um, I've observed several species of Widdershins Rock Lobsters which only mate under the light of certain constellations, so there must be something to this astrology business. Let's see... the second week of the month is a good time to encourage shell growth. Be sure to check the health of your digging foot during the first three days of the crescent moon. If you were born with your primary planet on the cusp of Hoki, the 18th and 21st will be good times for mating rituals, Beware of undertow on the 9th. Did you know that the Senior Faculty awarded me a lifetime supply of breath-mints with my Chair? Very kind of them I'm sure, but silly, really -- it isn't as if I can even smell crustaceans' breath underwater. Um. Excuse me, I must go check my barnacles.

Androgyna Majestis 24 Oct - 22 Nov

Bill Rincewind, Archancellor, Bugarup University, Continent of XXXX

G'day mates and sheilas, it's a pleasure to have been asked to write this horoscope thing. I haven't been this bloody excited since the EcksEcksEcksEcks national football team beat the All Blues from the Land Of Fog. It's like having a year's worth of Didjabringabeeralong Cup Days all at once, only with fewer horses. And even more beer.

As Archancellor of the best bloody university bar none, people sometimes come to me asking for advice about the future. I say to them, no worries mate, she'll be right. There are few problems that can't be solved with a beer and a wizard's staff. For all you civilians who aren't wizards, you poor bastards, you need all the help you can get, and that's where the stars come into it. A good horoscope can make all the difference between life serving you up a nice drop of Rusted Dunny Valley Semillon (Year of the Drongo was a particularly good vintage), or something like Dave-o Mate's Death Adder Wine ("The Piss With The Hiss").

For those born under the sign of Androgyna Majestis, this is a good month to practise those show tunes, but then for "Andies" every month is a good month for show tunes, heh heh heh. Not that there's anything wrong with blokes wearing stiletto heels and singing Prancing Dame. It's also a bloody good month for sheep-shearing and famous last stands outside the Post Office. But the stars aren't so kind this month to pastry chefs and horse-breeders, that is to say, people who breed horses, ha ha. Lock the stable door before the horse ends up in one of Fair Go Dibbler's famous meat pie floaters.

Great T'Phon's Foot 23 Nov - 21 Dec

Coin, unaffiliated Sourcerer

I wasn't very impressed with the configuration of your stars for this month, so I changed them -- oh, you want me to cast your horoscope? Hmmm. I suppose I've had enough transcendental spirituality for the day. Let me see... apparently you've hit a perfect month for forming lasting relationships. I've no idea what those are. Also, you'll have excellent luck when shopping for bargains, but I've no idea what "shopping" and "bargains" are either. I do know what "luck" is; I prefer to make my own, which tends to annoy the Lady, but what's she going to do about it?

The first Thursday of the month is a good time for a flutter on the horses. I met a horse once, but I don't think it fluttered... hold on... no, I just made a horse and gave it wings, but it didn't flutter, it just fell out of the air and splashed. So I suppose I've no idea about that one too. Where was I? Oh, it says here that your family will astonish you on the 11th with a shocking demand, no, no idea what a "family" is, but I seem to remember I used to go around making a rather lot of demands. Do you know, the past all seems a bit hazy to me, I think there was something to do with a staff and a half-brick and a sock, and quite possibly melons... hold on... mmm, I just made a melon and it's rather nice. Beware long-distance haulage carts, whatever they are, and delay all decisions about higher education until the moon is gibbous, or until you moon a gibbon -- it's all terribly strange to me. I think I'll go change the stars again and see if I like them better. And make stronger wings for my next horse.

Hoki the Jokester 22 Dec - 20 Jan

The Librarian of Unseen University

Ook ook ook eek ook eeeeek! Ook [grunt] ook ook eek!

[Original text is a series of ooks interspersed with eeks, grunts and hand motions indicating that there's more to life -- and payment -- than banananananas. Translation is as follows... we think.]

Primordial forces moving in the pages of the heavens are bringing changes to the influence of Hoki. When the left foreleg of T'Phon is raised across the ecliptic of the Boule Flambee system, signs are auspicious for the safe restoration of ancient tomes in ancient tomes. The fourth Octeday of the month favours the acquisition of excellent quality foolscap and binding materials. Do not eat library paste during the waning moon, as it will make you sick. The 6th, 7+1th and 26th are good times to take advantage of a chance meeting in the stacks of your local library. Bookshop owners and bibliophiles will want to take especial care of first editions and rare galley proofs on the 20th, when a small comet passing through Hoki will bring malign vibrations.

The second week of the month is a good time for book sales. Oil your encyclopaedia covers on the 18th. The influence of Hoki on the book-aware is strongest at mid-month, so do not fail to return any borrowed books before the Ides, especially if you're a first-year student at Unseen University. Now pass me that bowl of nuts and leave me alone -- the grimoires are getting restless.

The Rather Large Gazunda 21 Jan - 18 Feb

Windle Poons, deceased.

Funny thing, Life. I thought I'd had a good long run, and that I had a good long run of being not alive or apparently undead, and then I thought I could finally get some permanent rest, but it seems that being a zombie is something that's hard to get rid of, like verrucas or unwanted houseguests. Of course, being dead for some while before being undead again gives one a certain sense of perspective. A rather unusual sense of perspective, what with all the conversations with earthworms [they don't answer, but you have to talk to somebody or go mad] and what with Death occasionally popping up and saying WHAT, YOU AGAIN?, but because I could think clearly without all those confusing glands and hormones in the way, I've spent a lot of time contemplating the stars. Lovely things, stars. My education tells me they're just huge monstrous flaming balls of gas, but they do look lovely, expecially when you have eyes like gimlets that can gaze through six feet of dirt, and considerate gravediggers who place you with them focussing conveniently upwards.

So how can these lovely, distant, twinkling things possibly influence the daily lives of the living? Well, being hit by a huge flaming ball of gas will certainly be influential [or, for that matter, being hit by waves of non-flaming other sorts of gases; believe me, the less public level of a graveyard is no place for sensitive noses], but more importantly, every astral body has sort of pulling quality that sort of pulls on every other thing in the universe. And when you have things that pull on things that can be noticeably pulled on, such as bodily fluids, you get tides. Tides. You may think you're a tightly-wound ball of everyday stresses, but what you actually are is a raging miniature ocean, although usually with fewer whales, but full of neap tides, ebb tides, storm tides, tidal bores, tidal waves, standing waves, soliton waves, rogue waves, ship-eating whirlpools, huge deep currents and the occasional hurricane thrown in for special effects value. The best you can do is locate your own safe harbours and tropical calms. So the next time you contemplate the influence of the stars, remember that: tides. And your tide table for the month indicates that you should do a lot of staying at anchor, I mean in bed, and watch out for gas.

Lesser Umbrage 19 Feb - 20 Mar

Simon, boy genius and specialist Technomancer (UU interdimensional)

For thousands of years, mankind has wondered how the stars affect us. But has anybody considered whether we affect the stars? Oh, from time to time a particularly energetic wizard or careless sourcerer pulls a star down from the sky, but in fact even the rudest, most non-magical person has a reciprocal affect on the stars: As Below, So Above. The proof is obvious, so I shall only sketch it here.

Given Knuttt's Enormous Theorem, we can assume without loss of generality that curl(δx|δy) is first order isomorphic to Ψ(λ) and hence use Crowley's Interchangeable Lemma to prove that {Δ,χ} is positive homogeneous, and therefore that the tensor product of Ω and Langdon's delta is strongly chromatic. That naturally implies that epsilon prime is malicious, in the thaumatic sense, and hence by way of contradiction we can prove that δQ must be strong (modulo π) and its octo-derivative is irreducible. Hence it is a simple matter to derive δy{Q++} = [-j,i,χ^^y] from Ogg's Incontinence Theorem, giving us As Below, So Above. Q.E.D.

The consequences of this simple little proof are as astounding as the proof was trivial. We're well accustomed to seeing the life and death of the great princes (by which I include kings, emperors and wizards) reflected in the stars. Is it not said that the fall of a star means that a great king has died? But now that we can see that the lives of even the meanest beggars are also reflected in the stars. So for the milk-maids and labourers and cobblers out there, no star will fall from the heavens if they have a bad day, but we can be sure that the stars will not remain untouched by their passing.

[Editor's note: due to the vagaries of the Anternet, HTML, Unicode, character glyphs and other elements of Technomancy, Simon's proof may not always render correctly in browsers. For those mathemagicians who are interested in this sort of thing, you can see it as it was meant to be seen by clicking here.]

Clog Post 4 with Zombie Barman Trade


First Clog: "Rolling on the River...not"

Well, here we are on the Vieux (masc.) River! The River of Romance. The lazy, winding river of genteel steamboat travel and long, cool Mint Juleps and old-fashioned courtliness and hazy semi-tropical afternoons and quaint regional cookery and all that. Except it's not quite as lazy and genteel and stress-free as it's cracked up to be...

Of course we broke down. You were expecting anything else? I've been getting to the point where I'm not sure if constant breakdowns are a natural part of the traveller's landscape or if I'm under some sort of Alice-specific geas; whichever it is, we didn't get far, after we transferred (at the joining of the Blut and the Vieux) from our Zoon barge to the famous Delta Princess, before the paddles started to come adrift from the paddlewheels (the captain assured us that this was almost unheard-of). And then, another half-day's travel downriver, the boiler stopped boiling (the captain assured us that this was heard-of, but never on the same run as loose paddles). It was a stroke of luck that we have a student Technomancer in our travelling party -- Cert did some hydrothermal spells while Mr Num took the opportunity (and captive audience) to distribute some of his dour dire Omnian tracts to the passengers and I provided the entertainment. I sang We're All Going on a River Holiday and We Aren't Sailing and Silence in the Stream and other songs about rivers and breakdowns and breakdowns on rivers. I'm getting good at this!

Before I forget -- I promised I'd write down the tale of DownTown and the kinky boots and what happened to Elena, so here goes, in no particular order... all the time I'd been thinking Elena was some sort of, you know, Bad Girl, a spoilt rich Werewolf brat who'd offended a family member or even committed some dreadful breach of etiquette [they take these things seriously in Uberwald], but it turns out she was something far worse: a social reformer! Eek! A Doer of Good! Specifically in her case, an activist for population control, oh dearie me. Remember the Sonky protests some years back in A-M? When the Gifts from the Gods cult kicked up a violent stink about Sonky's "unnatural" Hygienic Protectives and burnt one of his factories [and "stink" was literal, considering what burnt rubber smells like]? Well, the Uberwald Werewolf community gets at least as upset about the S word [spay] and the N word [neuter]. But against all legal advice and good manners Elena opened an S&N clinic in Bonk's mean back streets and was hounded, ha, that's a good one, hounded, and condemned as a Traitor to the Race by the more lupine-supremacist factions -- you might say they were, wait for it, up in legs about the issue -- and abhorred by the vampire community for the faux pas of Upsetting the Traditional Balance of Power. But that wasn't the worst of it: some villagers decided, as a stag night prank, to drug the bridegroom and drag him off at Elena's clinic, and this was during a new moon, and yes, you know exactly where this is going, don't you. When the ugly [and non-fruitful] truth came out, the We R Igors public relief fund -- yes, there's an L in that P word, which is a shame when it comes to potential for rusticated humour -- offered to, um, replace what was taken... but due to a clerical error, the replacements turned out to have a certain lycanthropic quality to them, and when the somewhat mollicated [up to then] bride gave birth to a healthy litter of pups, Elena had to head for the hills, which is to say for other hills. And when the various mobs caught up with us, she had to leave again in rather a bigger hurry. We last saw her all furred on all fours, a charmingly lithe silhouette by flaming torchlight, pulling ahead of her pursuers while we hastily explained to the rest of said various mobs that no, we were barely acquainted and didn't even have infertile pets. I wish her gods-speed.

As for DownTown, perhaps it's best to pull a veil of discreet silence over the goings-on down there. But you know I won't, so... it's amazing how fast word travels underground on the underground Underground, and word of my triumphant gig at the mine propping convention in Burnt Hedge had travelled ahead of us so quickly that everywhere I went in DownTown I saw lots of leather mining coats with WHO THE HA'AK IS ALICE? lettered on the back in rivets. And so many autograph seekers! [I was careful about what I wrote for them, since Dwarfs are a very touchy race when it comes to written words.] And I had to sing Copperhead Lode so many times that I lost my voice even with all the lubricating beer. And after a few days of this, I got taken -- with a lot of whispering -- to Madame Metalbottom's. Which is a Dwarf pole-dancing club, in a darker than usual corner of a back alley in DownTown, run by some ex-pat A-M Dwarfs who've returned to the Low Country. Dwarf pole-dancing -- how radical can you get? -- is not for the faint of heart. Especially the bit about what they do with the axes. I was treated to the gyrations and clankings of Ratonna Stycke, Anthracite Dynamite, Avalanche Thundergust, and the star performer, Ketchhhup. It was all a bit unnerving, with the possibility of being raided by the Low King's Kruk Squad at any moment, but afterwards the, um, girls took me to Lars Ironsoles, Bootmaker to the Unsuitably Fashionable, and hey, I got my kinky Dwarf boots! At a discount! So I'm not complaining. And that's everything brought up to date.

Meanwhile, back on the river, we had breakdowns near Gummy, and after Little Respite, and then at Risen Dam we somehow got stuck on our moorings or possibly belayed by our anchor. I was ruining out of songs so I went to the gaming room with hopeful heart for a few rounds of Cripple Mr Onion, but no joy... in recent years, I was told, no card players will have any dealings with any woman who wears a lot of black --- which I do -- or appears to be indisputably over twenty-one -- which I am -- but no-one would say why, although they did seem strangely relieved when I said that I didn't own a pointy hat... somewhere after the river port of Dry Rot, everything finally settled in and we started making good time until the river broke down.

That's right. The river. Broke down.

They call it scuddzu. It's a weed, originally imported from the Brown Islands as an exotic houseplant, that accidentally got loose near the Vieux (masc.) when fire destroyed a riverside mansion. It's said that scuddzu is sentient. It's said that it has a life of its own and that you should never fall asleep near a scuddzu patch -- just think along the lines of "nothing left but a pair of empty boots with eldritch smoke drifting out of them". It's even said that the fire that set it free couldn't possibly have been set by any human agency. All I know, though, is that we rounded a bend and there it was, a gently heaving mat of green stuff blocking the river from bank to bank! And when the boatmen started pushing it aside with bargepoles, the green stuff heaved up gloopily [and smellily] and swallowed the sticks, and one boatman, poor chap, and then began oozing up the sides of the Princess. At this point Cert was already running to get his advanced spell book and Mr Num was calling down curses from Om with rather more emotion than his usual denouncements and then Miss Curtsey got a funny gleam in her eyes and got this tiny phial out of her knitting bag, and then things got a bit confusing and there was a lot of octarine smoke and glooping noises. When the smoke cleared, the river was unblocked and each bank was decorated with the biggest pile of sauteed spinach I've ever seen in my life. Mr Num droned a prayer of something, possibly thanks but more likely complaints that more sinners weren't smited, to Om, and Cert looked oblong at Miss Curtsey and Miss Curtsey winked and said, "It pays for a lady to be prepared when she's travelling alone." She also finally told me her first name, which is Listeria. I'm liking her more and more as this journey goes on. But I'm still not having tea in her cabin...

Next stop Circadia. here endeth this post.

* * *

Second clog: "The 102nd thing to do with a dead hedgehog, or
'I never knew a cocktail shaker had so much life in it!'"

Mrs Gogol taught me how to make zombies! And her zombie bartenders taught me how to mix Zombies!

We finally made it as far as Circadia, a province just on the upper outskirts of Genua. More like on the upper petticoats, because Circadia is swamp country and the entire province is stretched out across the vast estuarial marshes of the Vieux -- a network of little islets of damp land, each dotted with mangroves and surrounded by brackish water, which I'm told looks from the air like a huge swath of frothy lace. Well, frothy lace in desperate need of a wash, but that doesn't sound as romantic. There are no carts as such in Circadia, only dinghies and rafts and punts and rowboats and canoes and the occasional barge small enough to make its way through the narrow root-choked watercourses. Native children learn to swim before they can walk. Natural selection has also provided the natives with a perfect sense of direction; this is a good thing, because when you're living in a country where moss grows enthusiastically on everything, you can't rely on the sides of trees to tell which way is Hubwards. And natural selection has also given the inhabitants of the remoter parts of Circadia -- who are known as Circajuns, by the way -- a curious herrydeterry trait: by day they are perfectly normal overly-inbred swamp dwellers, but as soon as the sun sets they become genetically Undead. You know, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, bogeymen, revenants, shades, general monsters -- and zombies [although not so much with the zombies, because they're a bit of a special case -- as I found out! There are only two ways to successfully make a zombie, and both involve either a hatred of being alive or an indomitable will to go on living, and both of these are things that require already having lived for a number of years to develop]. This means that an adventure holiday in Circadia can be more adventurous than the brochures tend to advertise. It also means that, along with the usual jungle clothing, mosquito repellent and water wings, tourists doing Circadia have to remember to bring silver, garlic, fluffy blue blankets, assorted religious symbols, a potato on a lanyard, Ionian incense, holy water,unholy water, small ceremonial crocodiles and any other mystical, folk- legendary or otherwise protective bits and bobs they can think of. Of course, having come from the Uberwald leg of my travels, I was well prepared, so I've had an excellent time wandering around the swamps with Listeria while the others carried on to Genua proper.

Now, about making zombies -- damn, Gimpy says he's running out of ink and the local Clacks tower sank in a patch of quicksand yesterday so it's shortmouth again -- met Mrs Ggl, famous Voodoo witch & Mum of crrnt Baroness Ella Sat, gd wmn w/gumbo, v. nice, big on hats, makes Zmb's as hobby, hd copy of 101MTtDw/aDHh, askd me 2 sgn it 2 Erzulie & Baron. ReciP 4 Zmb's is abt certn fsh livr & certn roots & u mx at mdnght in grvyrd & bggr bggr argh outta ink

* * *

Second clog, cont.

Actually, I'm in Genua now. We hitched a lift with a Cidcajun rum runner and sang traditional Circajun swamp songs all the way. Miss Curts-, erm, Listeria has quite a good voice -- we're thinking of starting a band when my Grand Sneer is over, haven't sorted out the details yet but as I've been thinking of moving to A-M and that's where she's going to be for a while, there are plenty of possibilities. Also, she knows all the officials in the Seamstresses Guild [somehow, I'm no longer surprised], so when I get there I'll have a free place to stay until I get settled in. Brilliant!

Genua is absolutely amazing these days, and I have so much to say about it, but first I want to get back to Mrs Gogol and the whole making zombies thing. As I was saying before the ink ran out, I got to meet her -- she has a shack that wanders around the lower reaches of Circadia -- and discovered that she's something of a fan of mine. Maybe fan is too strong a word for a powerful Witch like Mrs Gogol, but she certainly ladled out the gumbo like an old friend and she has a copy of 101 More Things to Do with a Dead hedgehog which she asked me to sign. It seems that in the New New Genua [newer than ever since the rebuilding after the Krullian Fish Flood of two years ago], with its rollicking and abundant nightlife and cafe culture, zombie bartenders are very much in demand, and Mrs G is the primary supplier of high-quality Undead bar staff. We got to talking about the reliability of well-trained zombies and about public service industries in general, and after a few good hours and a number of bottles of rum and most of the last of my emergency travelling supply of aged Lost Wages scumble she told me the secrets of zombie making because they also make great roadies... and no, I've not the least intention of sharing the secrets with the world, ha ha. She also told me where to find the best bars and nightclubs and restaurants [although I couldn't believe any restaurant could make gumbo as good as hers, though she tells me that the Palace cooks are pretty close] and gave me a sort of letter of introduction for the Baroness. Actually, it was a trained announcing crow, but down here that's pretty much the same thing. Genua has changed beyond all recognition in recent years: all the fairy-tale shiny-white clean sterile stuff that marked the reign of Evil Lilith is gone now, and like the Circadian swamp draping everything in moss if it stands still for enough hours, the natural laissez-faire-ness of Old Genua has crept back in and covered the city with a picturesque icing of sensual and stylishly cheerful decay. There are buskers on every corner, the whole city seems to be open all hours, and the new Seamstresses' Guild branch is the largest and most powerful on the Disc [after A-M and HungHung, of course]. And there is rum. So much rum. So very, very much rum.

I've already been given a handful of bookings for gigs while I'm here, including one at the Disc-famous House of Booze and one at Puttin' On the Grits. So my song of the moment is an appropriate one for the time and place again:


    Hey mister, dead mister, dead mister, dread mister
    Hey mister, dead mister, dead mister, dread...

    I met Zombie lad in a Genuan bar
    Struttin' his stuff after dark
    He said, Hello, hey, yo, you want fish liver and roots?

    Getchyer, getchyer Zombie bar tab
    Getchyer, getchyer bar tab here
    Got a lotta macho Houngans
    Green and oozy Zombie lad

    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars -- bizarre!
    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars...

    I sat in the lounge bar while he frothed my cup
    I drank all that black herbal wine
    From the backwater creeks, brewed with Circajun mystique, yeah

    Getchyer, getchyer herbal cocktail
    Getchyer, getchyer health drink here
    Vino frappacino gaga
    Gogol's crazy Zombie lads

    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars -- bizarre!
    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars...

    Crust on his skin feels like funky goo
    Colour of compost and clay
    Hey, that salvaged suicide
    Leads a fuller life
    Than a corpse, corpse, corpse

    Now he's dead cold, workin' every night
    Livin' the great afterlife
    But still he longs for some peace
    Permanent sleep:
    Snore, snore, snore

    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars -- bizarre!
    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars
    Loony Voodoo shades in the bars -- bizarre!
    "Tea 'au lait', me Zombie lad!"

Well, that's all I have time for now. It's Fat Tuesday soon, and the whole city is gearing up for the best celebration of the Century of the Anchovy, so Listeria and I have some rehearsing to do. My next stop, if we can ever be moved to leave here, is either Brindisi or Krull, depending on who's going when we want to. Everything here is very laid back. It's the rum.

-- Alice.

Note for Roundworlders (with apologies to Patti Labelle): lyrics for Lady Marmalade, the original song, can be found at