While reading a few posts in The Ark Stealth mode I came across this piece on Holly’s blog and it reminded of something that I wrote ….
This snippet is from book IV with the current working title of Oh Little Town of Brothelingham, of the comic fantasy series The Mining of Lif
The King of Sunniclimes, Infidel Castrol read the latest construction reports. He was fuming.
This current bout of ‘down-time’ was costing him a fortune.
And more importantly, time. He wanted to see the train; his train pulling into the newly-constructed station at Menfis.
It was delay after delay after delay.
The line was originally supposed to have run direct from El Stan-Bull to Menfis. The route would have meant it passed through Mount Horibilis.
The King saw no problem with this. In fact, he quite liked the idea of a fifty-kilometre tunnel.
However this idea was metaphorically burnt at the stake when it was pointed out that Mount Horibilis was of great religious significance. Many people believed Mount Horibilis was also the legendary Mount Sinaisitus, where the Prophet Mo Sez was supposed to have met the One God.
As Mo Sez was held in high regard by several nations, and revered by some it was deemed unwise to ruffle any theological or political feathers.
King Castrol had no feelings either way regarding prophets. Although, he had very definite views when it came to profits.
Nevertheless, he was advised not to go making holes in things that were already considered holy.
The outcome being, that the railway line would now follow a route around the mountain…
‘Besides, Your Majesty. The phrase, she’ll be coming round the mountain has a certain poetic and timeless quality about it. Whereas, she’s coming through the mountain just doesn’t have a ring about it.’
‘She? Who the hell is she?’
‘Why, the train, sire. The engineer is emphatic that a thing of such beauty could only be a she, sire.’
‘So, what’s the damn problem this time,’ King Castrol asked.
‘The employees are demanding wages, uncle.’
‘What the hell are they?’ yelled the king.
‘I believe they’re a form of remuneration for work,’ replied the king’s nephew, Shane Guava.
‘I know what wages are, you half-wit. I was referring to employees. Since when do I have employees building my railway-line? They’re slaves.’
‘Oh, right. Since last week, apparently.’
‘Apparently! Apparently! The king bawled. ‘You’re Senior Overseer, for crap’s sake. Just execute a few of them.’
‘Could prove awkward, uncle. They’re organised,’ Shane tried to explain.
But the king was having none of it and vented his anger with a string of invective that included a suggestion that eyes would be the first organ he would have removed if the building of his railway was not back on track immediately.
‘They have an agent provocateur. A woman.’
King Castrol knew what a woman was. He wasn’t sure about the other person: this agent provocateur. But he didn’t really care.
‘So what? Execute them as well. Execute ‘em all, if necessary. We’ll get more.’
‘It’s Emily Pankreas, Uncle.’
A small frown creased the king’s brow.
‘The name rings a bell. Isn’t she a notorious leper or something?’
‘A suffragette, Uncle Fiddey.’
‘Same thing, isn’t it?’
Shane sighed. ‘She campaigns for woman’s rights, amongst other things.’
‘Women’s rights, women’s rights,’ the king mused trying to recollect where he had heard the term. ‘Isn’t that one of those hideous cloth things they use when…?’
‘No, uncle. It’s not,’ Shane interrupted. ‘It’s about equality and the right to vote.’
The king had a vague notion about voting, having heard the term mentioned by several of his wives. It had something to do with scissors paper and rocks and whose turn it was to share the royal bed. The thought of sharing anything, let alone his bed with a creature as hideous as Emily Pankreas was enough to make him shudder.
He focused on the word equality.
‘Equal rights for what?’ he asked suspiciously.
‘To be treated the same as men, uncle,’ Shane explained patiently.
‘You mean standing up to pee, farting and belching. Things like that?’
Shane gave up.
‘The thing is, we can’t get rid of her. She’s here to emancipate the slaves and she won’t go until this happens.’
‘With all the bananas and rice they eat I would have thought they were emancipated enough already.’
It took a few seconds.
‘Not constipated, uncle. Emancipated. She says they should be free.’
‘Free?’ Castrol frowned once more then quickly brightened, a smile spreading across his bearded face. ‘But that’s exactly what I want!’
‘No, no. That’s not…’
‘And what about the other one?’ the king interrupted.
‘Other one?’ Shane replied. Now it was his turn to frown.
‘The agent provocateur. What about him?’
Shane took a deep breath, shook his head then tried another tack. He hated it when his uncle tried to be devious. He was easier to deal with when he was merely losing his temper.
‘Never mind him for now. The point is, before I left, she lay down in front of the train and chained herself to the tracks. She is refusing to move unless we free the slaves and begin treating them like human beings.’
‘Lay down in front of the train, you say?’ The king had a calculating look in his eyes.
‘Good,’ Castrol said triumphantly. ‘Run over the bitch!’
Shane was almost at his wits end. ‘We can’t. She is the Queen of Judysear’s cousin.’
The king sobered very quickly after this announcement. Anything royal-sounding would mean an entourage. He never travelled anywhere without at least fifty people in his retinue. ‘Ah,’ he said nodding his head and rubbing his scruffy, tobacco stained beard. ‘So it’s political.’
At last! The Old Fart gets the picture, thought Shane.
But alas, the mighty ruler of Sunniclimes, His Majesty King Infidel Castrol thwarted his nephew yet again.
‘So build the track around her,’ he said with finality. ‘There. Sorted.’
Shane cradled his head in his hands. His shoulders shook. He might have been laughing or crying. It was difficult to tell.
Shane had already considered this option but Emily Pankreas had promised to kill herself if they attempted to bypass her. And manhandling a cousin of the Queen of Judysear was asking for trouble. Even if they succeeded, and she refrained from killing herself he suspected she’d probably find some way to lie down on the track again. In his mind, Shane tried to imagine what several hundred kilometres of railway line would look like with Emily Pankreas-shaped diversions every few hundred metres.