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Story: "Finding the Library" (Part 4 of 4) - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Story: "Finding the Library" (Part 4 of 4)
Below is Part 4 of my Aether Dancer story, "Finding the Library."  (Begin with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

"Finding the Library" (Part 4 of 4)

Sesha gulped cider to wet her dry throat.  Then she yelled, "Get your clockwork out of here!  This is a concert, and your gear is messing up mine."  If the serftakers suspected her, she could get in serious  trouble.  In any case, best not return here any time soon.

The audience shouted at the intruders, annoyed at the interruption of their show.  The leader pushed his way forward and said, "Shut that thing off.  We're hunting a runaway."

"Well I'm hunting my supper," Sesha shot back, "so unless you plan to pay for it, get out.  I was here first, and so were my friends."  She waved at the audience, who roared again.  Surreptitiously she flicked the controls of her instrument.  Another squeal cut through the air.  The clockwork hounds whimpered and slunk away.  One of them collapsed near the door.

"Looks like that old dog won't hunt!" someone shouted, and the room shook with laughter.

"You did that on purpose," the leader growled.  "Turn your flashy gadget off before I bust it over your head."

"It is  off," Sesha said, killing the amplifier but not the clockwork scrambler.  One of the hounds chased its tail in a circle, leaking oil on the floor.

The serftakers stalked closer.  Sesha ducked her head out of the mandolin's strap and calculated how long she could wait before drawing a knife.

Suddenly the tavernkeeper interrupted.  "Did rocks fall on your head?" he snapped at the serftakers.  "You men get out of here, or everyone will hear about how you dawdled in the tavern instead of chasing your quarry," he said.

"We're just here to stop what's messing with our pack," said the hound mechanic.  He had no luck reviving the clockwork construct on the floor. 

Someone promptly sloshed a mug of beer on him.  "Have fun with that  story!"  Laughter rippled through the crowd.

"It's against the law to interfere with a hunt," the leader said.

"It's also against the law to interfere with business," the tavernkeeper said.  "There's no serf in here; I don't allow them.  Get yourselves back to work.  Outside.  I've got drinks to sell and an audience getting bored.  You don't want these men to get bored, they like to start fights sometimes."

"Our Lord won't take kindly to you lot making our job harder," the leader said.

"Well then he can haul his lordly ass out of his five featherbeds and come tell me that himself," the tavernkeeper said.  "Meanwhile, you're none of you nobles and you're putting off my custom.  Jug, show these fellers out the door."

An impressively muscled bouncer loomed over the quartet of serftakers.  Several of the larger men in the audience stood up from their benches.  The leader of the serftakers flexed his hands.  Sesha closed her fist around her knife hilt, quivering, not wanting to draw first.

"Oh, I am not  being paid enough for this,"  the hound mechanic said.  He started dragging the defunct hound out the door.  The other hunters followed, snarling curses at the bouncer who was right behind them.  Jug stooped to pick up the leaking hound, then slung it into the street.  It twitched but did not get up.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" the tavernkeeper said to Sesha.  "Get back to work!  We really don't want this crowd getting bored."

"Mug's empty," she said as she resettled her mandolin and turned the amplifier back on.  A waitress hurried over with a jug of cider.  Sesha launched into a bawdy song, singing all the real lyrics as few women would do.  The men around her leered and clapped and soon lost themselves in the rhythm.

Already her ears were ringing a bit from the noise, but if she drifted off-key at this point, nobody would notice.  Even with the amplifier, the increasingly drunken crowd nearly drowned out both her mandolin and her voice.  Sesha knew that if she left the amplifier and the clockwork scrambler on all night, she'd wind up with a miserable headache.  But it would be no worse than using the thing to repel vermin -- which it also did quite well -- and it would likely get lost under the hangover anyhow.  She cranked up her gear another notch and began a new song.

If Tomo made his way to freedom, it would all be worthwhile.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: July 20th, 2012 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed this! Clockwork hounds intrigue me.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 20th, 2012 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I enjoyed this! <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> Clockwork hounds intrigue me. <<

One thing stipulated in the source already is that the rain of meteorites brought new materials to Earth, which contributed to the rise of clockwork technology. Among the main characters of the Aether Dancer airship is Pandora, the first sentient clockwork construct. From that I extrapolated that earlier attempts must have produced some other things with limited lifelike qualities -- you don't go straight from an engine or a prosthetic limb to a whole person. The clockwork hounds, therefore, are caniform constructs that can tirelessly track prey. But everything is vulnerable to something, so the right clockwork signal can scramble their operating system, kind of the way howlback can mess up acoustic systems if you don't shut it down.

A smart serftaker will have clockwork and flesh hounds.

A smart hera will plan to counter both.
2 comments or Leave a comment