Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clog post 11 with Rock Melee



First Clog: "Despatches from the front and sides..."

Greetings from Pseudopolis! Well, from the suburbs of Pseudopolis. All right, the suburb. Though the city is growing fast these days, they say. Of course, I've never been here before, but it's not what I'd call a megalopolis, so there's plenty of room for growth. Nowhere near as sleepy and boring as Quirm though! We spent a few weeks there after I got back to myself, as it were, but Cert thought that moving on would be a good idea and he was right. I found it very strange, being in a place I'd been in for most of my life but never been to before; everything was familiar -- too familiar -- and yet all different. No Oolstacky Fried Albatross, for a start. No underground resistance fighters either...just everyday life and the semi-invisible hand of Ankh-Morpork's renowned commercial empire in every shop and market. Also, the place is full of tourists. And buskers. Some of them singing my songs!

The last time I saw A-M, the other A-M, it was just starting to rise again, phoenix-like, from the post-RPI ruins. I definitely want to go back (if spending a few heart-stopping minutes dashing in and out of doors in Empirical Crescent counts as going there in the first place) and see it as it's always been in this reality, but as we were relatively close to Pseudopolis, that's where our resumed journey took us first. Pseudopolis has always seemed like a place where people are from rather than of, and no Pseudopolitans I've ever met were at all keen on going back. So here we are, and there's what amounts to an undeclared festival going on in the city: a busking competition and a Thud tournament, plus all manner of Olde Folkwayes activities -- yes, that includes Morris dancing. We're staying at The Plains Hostel, an inn about four miles from the city walls, because it's cheap...the trouble with falling back through a magical rift in the multiverse is that you can't take it (any "it") with you, especially not money! Cert was odd-jobbing in Quirm while he waited for me, a spell here and a potion there, but we're now fairly hand-to-mouth and I don't like relying on him anyway. Luckily, there's a branch of Goatberger's in Pseud, so I should be able to get some royalties Clacksed through there.

Speaking of the Clacks, I have news from the old travelling gang! A number of messages got forwarded to Quirm while I was "away". It seems quite a lot has happened to my erstwhile companions since we parted company, and since the recent drop in C-mail rates means people no longer have to abbreviate and leave out little things like punctuation, no translation is required. I've had my imp copy them across into this post. There's one from Listeria Curtsey...

My dear girl, I hope this finds you in good health and good voice. I had a simply fascinating time in Genua. How the days flew by! So many exquisite poisons, so little time. But as I promised, I have "made it" to Ankh-Morpork and all is well. My cousin made good on her promise of lodgings, and thanks to my dear niece Anaglypta I have a trustworthy young lady to help me with my little items of specialised shopping. So very much to do, my days are quite full and I'm quite the "busy bee", as they say. I have a small teaching position at that ancient institution of learning, the Assassins' Guild, and another part-time position teaching at that institution of ancient learning, the Seamstresses' Guild. I seem to be ever so popular with the young men and young ladies of both! Who would have ever thought they would have so much interest in a maiden lady of the "old school", eh? I seem to have stumbled upon a little "side line" as well, making potions for some of my young charges. I do hope your young man won't be jealous!

Do drop by when your travels take you here, as I know Ankh-Morpork is on your itinerary. I look forward to having another "warble" with you, my dear, and I am sure you and I have much to talk about. Oh, and if you happen across any samples of Krullian Nightshade or Widow's Friend, please do drop me a line. This may be the Disc's leading centre of commerce, but some essentials are in mysteriously short supply!

All the best, your friend,
Listeria Curtsey (Miss)

...and one from Elena:

Darling Aliyushka -- or should I perhaps say dahlink Alice? -- for I do not think you recognise me without the accent! But yes, it is I, Elena Lassinova, still alive and still on the run. My family have unowned me with the greater vigour, so now I stay with yennork underground and with others sympathetic to my cause. The cause I am hoping did not give you too much of inconvenience when the villagers with their pitchforks and the reactionaries among my race arrived, yes? I believe in having the choices when it comes to females and the bodies, and I am thinking you do also. I am sending many rousing pamphlets to the young of werekind, also with the slogans, "Raise your paw for free choice!" and "Litter-sisters, you are more than just a puppy farm!", and hoping of success even though some say I am just the uppity bitch.

I miss you and am thinking with fondnesses of our happy times together. If you reply to me at this Clacks office, someone will forward to me the message. But I must go now. I can smell the scent of burning pitch coming nearer. Take care, Aliyushka, and thank you for the biscuits.

Elena x x x

...and some fascinating news from Mr Kakhand and Semolina back home:

Hello Alice, I hope you're keeping well. Your harp is untouched in the storeroom of the Loser. Much activity here in Lost Wages since you left, I think your songbooks and your famous Clacks log have something to do with that, a lot of people are asking for you and I don't think you owe any of them money. Maybe when you get back you still wouldn't mind taking a booking or two for old times sake. I've refurbished the inn and several other things of interest happened, but not that interesting really. Well, that's about all, I'm not much for writing things down apart from bulk beer orders.

Yrs trly,
Z. Kakhand

Alice sweetheart, Papa probably hasn't told you because he's not much for writing things down apart from bulk beer orders, but LW is absolutely hopping now! That's right, LW is returning to its former glory, and Papa has a piece of the action! He's reopened the old casino across from the Loser and it's like a licence to mint pennies. Not that I'm lacking in pennies these days, life at the Seamstresses' Guild suits me just fine. I think Papa is a bit cross because I hardly ever have time to help him behind the bar now, but really, having a Guild house here is a lot of the reason why customers are flocking in. As I told him, after they come to me and come they come to him. I don't think he gets the joke, but we're all girls together so I know you do. Oh, and he's grumbling about me not getting married and making babies, it's always "but who will take over the Loser after I'm gone?" Not that I wanted to anyhow. What I have my eye on now is the top job, one day I want to be "Mrs K" and I don't need a husband for that kind of Mrs! But for all Papa grumbling, he misses you lots. Don't forget to C-mail us when you're coming back, the girls and I will throw you the best party ever! Hope you're having fun and meeting lots of juicy lads. Best wishes, dearie! p.s. how good is my C-name? "Odalisque" is Quirmish, I think, or maybe Brindisian, but it doesn't half sound exotic, beats Semolina the Barmaid hands down!

Semolina o_O

...and a very surprising one from, of all people, Rudney Urch. For an obnoxious 14-year-old nerd we gave to the Litigian bandits as a slave, he's been rather enterprising:

The Urch is back! Haha. I bet you thought you'd never hear from me again? Well, you were wrong! I am now an INTERNATIONAL SOURCE OF INFORMATION ON ALL THINGS and I am AWESOME. Not even 16 yet and a TYCOON! You might want to check out the Ask Rudney network. I might even give you a discount, haha again.

So how, do you ask (and it won't even cost you), did I escape from the bandits when you lot voted to leave me with them? Well, I didn't. I walked away a free Urch. After I taught them about the campaigns of Tacticus and the Brindisian hill clans' tribute system and how to build better weaponry, they were so successful that King Hans offered to adopt me as his heir! But I decided to make my own way in the world so I took a bag of gold instead (I learned some things myself, as a bandit slave) and went to A-M and contacted Carlton/Winton/Emery (the GNU) and we worked out a new way to speed-clacks packets of information and now I am RICH. So all that time I spent indoors with my nose in a book made me ALL WIN, haha.

Anyway, no hard feelings, haha, and I even hope you're having a good time and haven't done anything stupid like getting captured by pirates or getting lost on the Counterweight Continent! If you are ever in A-M look me up. I'm the first big mansion on the left in Scoone Avenue. And remember, ASK RUDNEY!

Be cool,
The Urch

...while Mr Num, unsurprisingly, hasn't changed much at all:

Sister Alice, I hope this message finds you hale and whole and that you have opened your heart to the Word of Om. After many travails among the heathens of Circadia who heeded me not and were as the harsh grains of desert sand beneath the tender hooves of blessed St Bobby, I have moved on to carry on my ministry in the holy land of Omnia itself. For I was sore vexed with the unheeding, and as Holy Ossory himself said, "Woe unto him who raises his hand unto his brother, dealing with him as unto an Infidel" (Ossory, Precepts XI, verse 16), and though indeed we be all brothers I found great difficulty.

Here in Omnia there are many confusing interpretations of the Word of Om. But yea, it is not for me to judge, for that is the province of Om :"We are judged in life as we are in death" (Ossory III, chapter VI, verse 56). So I shall continue, even unto death when I shall be judged.

Yours in the Word,
Versus Num

...and not forgetting the Verdants -- Lothar, Tessica, Athelred and
Rumbustia -- who sound as if they're getting on well down in Genua:

Greetings, Mlle Lancrevic! Life in Genua has been kind to our little enterprise... yes, we are doing very well for ourselves... expanded our little haberdashery shop & Tess has gone into the fashion business...our Zom-B-Cool line of casual wear for the modern Genuan is all the rage... Athelred is doing well for himself, may well be marrying into the local gentry... this climate encourages one to let down one's hair and unbutton one's collar, but there is far too much to do.. if you are interested in our new spring catalogue, let me know by return mail, it is a bargain at AM$1 plus postage... yours sincerely...

Lothar and Tessica Verdant, proprietors

Hey babe, you OK these days? I bet you want to hear all about me. I've got my foot well under the table here. Ella, that's the Baroness, has a smashing circle of friends. I'm getting a lion's share of posh nookie, no surprise there really. Sling me a line and we'll do lunch. Got to fly now, more admirers, you know how it is, 'k? Ta-ta for now.

Stay loose,

Hiya Hot Licks! What goes? I guess you know by now that I'm a fully qualified lady of the night, and what with brother dearest bunging all that gentrified trade my way, I'm often as not a lady of the knight too. Know what I like about Genua? All these hot men, and I get paid for it! What's not to like? I heard you got captured by pirates -- come on, you can tell me, were they sexy ones? Did they ravish you? Nothing like a good ravish to get the blood flowing -- and did you ever make it to Agatea? I hear those Auriental men can do things our men don't even know how to dream of. Oh, and Genua has some hot ladies too, and the other night there was this booking that -- well, I don't know if I can tell you because the Clacks lines might catch fire if I did! And to think I'd always been told that being a Seamstress was hard work. Maybe other girls don't have their minds at the right level, hey?

Don't forget to write and make it juicy! That's all for now, I've got some leather and chains to oil and Mrs LeClerc wants to go over my roster to see if there's any customers I can give away to the other girls because I'm getting the most work. Oh well, it can't all be fun and games.

Miss you much,

So our original party of nine have seen some interesting times, that's for sure. When I answer these, I think I'll skip over the whole lived-and-died-in-another-world thing and just stick with the parts of my travels that were less...complicated.

Suppertime soon. There's music on at the inn tonight and I've been asked to do a turn, but I don't think I'm quite ready to go back to Barding just yet. It's...complicated.

Here endeth this post.

* * *

Second Clog: "As I walk though the Valley..."

Went to the Thud tournament yesterday. Amazing stuff. No so much the game itself, which seems to be a cross between a sort of chess with extra added violence and the old standbys Cities at War and I'm Tacticus, but the players...! Growing up in the mountains as I did, I never thought I'd see the day when dwarfs and trolls would gather together non-violently under one roof (or in this case, one marquee tent in the city square), or ever hear dwarfs speaking Trollish and trolls speaking Dwarfish. And so many players. There were dozens of tables -- it was an early allcomers' round -- manned, or I suppose, personned or beinged by all the major two-legged species, even a couple of gnolls...there were trolls and vampires swapping sunscreen recipes -- lots of handshakings without axes or clubs involved...simply amazing. Things have truly changed since the revelation of the Secret of Koom Valley, and it makes this mountain girl proud to see it happening in her own lifetime...

There was also beer, naturally. Lots of beer. Dwarf beer and troll beer and Pseudopolitan beer and imported genuine Ankh-water beer and even faux Blutwein for the Black Ribboners. But -- another surprise -- the players were only drinking sparingly, to keep their wits sharp I imagine. So plenty of "battles" but no fights, no belligerent singing of contentious anthems, no thrown axes...hey, I remember some "friendly" games of I'm Tacticus back at the Sore Loser that were far less civilised ("friendly" meaning "more insults with every round of drinks consumed"), ending in punch-ups and wrecked furniture, and those players were nearly all from the same species! Not to mention some games of Cripple Mr Onion where the crippling part got taken rather literally. Mind you, there was plenty of competitive spirit in the Thud tournament itself. The audience, supporters and insolent bystanders, did go for some rowdier egging-on, but the organisers had the sense to station armed dwarfs and trolls around the perimeter so nothing got out of hand. I bought a t-shirt (KOOM VALLEY ANNUAL TOURNEY: EVERYTHING BUT THE BLOOD) from a trollish trader called Shave-Me-Own-Lichen-Off Dolomite, and stuck around for a few hours just watching. Thud is a slow game! But a group behind the main tent were playing Speed Thud, so I did get to see a few complete matches. Real Thudmeisters and other serious players don't think much of Speed Thud because they say it's for poseurs and lacks elegance; there was more quaffing and less silence though, so it makes for a better spectator sport...

Back in the main tent, there was a stir when two of the most famous Thudmeisters, Haakon Hammerslinger and Big Topaz, arrived to watch the round. There were cheers from the main supporters' groups -- the Shaftproppers, as they're known, and the Luglarrs -- and did I mention the friendly insults? It's amazing to see and hear dwarfs and trolls cheerfully throwing around epithets at each other, the sort that any one of once could have started a full-scale species war, and doing it with affectionate grins (hard to see through the dwarf beards, but there's no mistaking the flash of a full set of diamond troll teeth). Haakon had a club taller than he was, Topaz was wearing a dwarf battle-axe on a chain around his, well, where his neck would be if he had one, and they were buying each other rounds and encouraging the players in very strong language indeed. Priceless.

* * *

I ended up doing a gig last night after all. But not at the inn -- at the tournament! I'd somehow got to talking with Haakon, and it turned out that some of the players recognised me from that beery night at the mine propping convention in Burnt Hedge and others recognised me from that wild night in DownTown, so I got introduced to everybeing who was anybeing there and later in the evening I sang for hours and then backed Haakon and Topaz as they sang a memorable duet I'd helped them write:

    Me with the dwarf bread, kickin' ev'ry troll's head
    Axe swingin' high and a whole lotta street cred
    Wave your axe if you do follow Tak
    Are we digging? - dwarfs, they can!
    I throw (dwarfs!)
    You shove (trolls!)
    Mister Shine, him diamond
    I've got the Kruk, gonna show a lot o' hole
    Say, "Mister Shine, him diamond!"

    I'm a knee-level shyster, just call me Thudmeister
    Ev'ry move, ev'ry play
    King Rhys, can you hear me?
    Wukwuk "rocks", do you fear me?
    I feel lucky today

    I don't wanna "rock" melee
    But I'm such a success at Thud
    It ain't gonna stop today
    I'm a dwarf and I'm out for blood!

    Shakin' down a rockface, groovin' like a Slab case
    Ice-cold head, just call me "hard place"
    Got a coolin' helmet, I'll be nicely bright
    So when I block the flight
    Me box you tight (Right!)
    You can't think tough? Then you're with the wrong side
    See, Koom is just a valley
    If you can't make a shove but your best trolls tried
    Say, "Koom is just a valley!"

    I'm der champion species, capturin' pieces
    My Gahanka is loud
    Kzad-bhat, can you hear me
    Diamond King, are you near me
    See me doin' you proud

    I don't wanna Kruk doomsday
    But you makin' me raise der fuss
    You can say "Gr'duzk" all day
    But your piece all belong to us!

    Thud play ain't simple --
    Some shortarse wimp'll sneak up and smite

    Thud rules ain't simple
    But when you're feelin' it, feelin' it, feelin' it

    Play all night!

    (lots of lute breaks here)

    I don't wanna "rock" melee
    But I'm such a success at Thud
    It ain't gonna stop today
    I'm a dwarf and I'm out for blood!

    I don't wanna Kruk doomsday
    But you makin' me raise der fuss
    You can say "Gr'duzk" all day
    But your piece all belong to us!

...and so on. And as we finally ground and thumped and twanged to a stop:

    TOPAZ: "AaDb'thuk?"

    HAAKON: "Ggroohauga!"

    ALL: "T'dr'duzk b'hzg t't!!!"

* * *

And then there was beer.

* * *

Tomorrow, Ankh-Morpork. I've already done the world...

-- Alice

Note for Roundworlders: the original lyrics for Rock DJ can be found at

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