|[Original Fiction]: YAVNC, Chapter 14
||[Jan. 16th, 2009|01:56 am]
13,020 words. More of Stani's viewpoint. Also mildly gratuitous Latin and Old English.
It was a bright, lovely day. The horses were picketed and peacefully cropping grass, while the three of them sat on a blanket beneath a tree at the foot of a green mound, with a jug of Mistress Hopkins' best small beer and the remains of a platter of sandwiches and fruit between them.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Dermot said.
"Hmm?" Stanislava said, not knowing what else to say. After all, 'I was just thinking that I truly wouldn't mind if you and Ashley started kissing each other,' simply wouldn't do.
"Only a penny? I don't think you should accept less than a shilling, my dear," Ashley said. She grinned brightly.
Interesting. I've not thought about it before, but her canines are slightly longer than normal. It looks cute, really, Stanislava thought. She shook her head. "Surely they're not worth ten times the going rate."
"Perhaps you're right, and we're not offering near enough," Dermot said. "A florin for them, would you say, Ashley?"
"Yes, I'm sure they're worth at least that."
"While I should keep on until you silly people have bid up to at least fifty dollars," Stanislava said, "my ancestors would be ashamed if I extracted that much money from you and then said 'If.. if dogs wrote operas, would... would the stars be mostly poodles, or basset hounds?' So I'll not."
"Well," Ashley said, "we deserved that for the pressing of you, my dear."
"Oh, don't be silly. You weren't pressing me." Forcefully, Stanislava shoved down the image of herself lying on the blanket, face up, with Dermot laid across her on his belly and Ashley face down over his back. She herself would be giggling and pretending to struggle, and Ashley would be tickling her feet, which would be, for some reason, bare. Ashley's feet would have to be bare as well, of course--her friend was far too sporting not to take her own boots off first. For that matter--with an effort, she stopped herself thinking about what else she'd like both Ashley and Dermot to have taken off before they began to press her.
"Are you cold, Stanislava?"
She blushed. "Umm... no. Why?" I thought a sportsbra was thick enough, damnit. Has she got x-ray eyes?
"You shivered slightly," Ashley said. "Would you like my jacket? I really don't need it just now."
"Truly, I'm fine. It was nothing. Only a passing chill."
"Well," Ashley said, "it was a bit impolite of us to make a picnic beside a barrow and not make any offering. Excuse me a moment, please." She took up her leather mug in both hands, and walked a few steps up the mound to kneel at its top. "Ye that rest within, and ye that heaped up this eald enta geweorc, be ye blessed all. May your own holy ones on you smile. May ye rest with your people and know your honest foes as friends. And, when the Last Trump sounds, may ye know the Mercy of Christ that never heard His word in life. And though we know not what offering ye would have made when ye wore flesh, may this small gift please you. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, amen." Stanislava and Dermot crossed themselves, reflexively. Ashley rose to her feet, bowed and sprinkled beer to the four quarters, and knelt again for a moment before returning to them.
"There, I think that's done it," she said. "My parents raised me to be courteous to the ancient dead. I... I hope you don't think it's heathenish of me. Or too presumptuous?" The hieratic calm was gone from her, and suddenly she looked quite a bit younger than sixteen.
"No," Stanislava said. "Of course not."
"Never," Dermot said.
"Thank you," Ashley said. "You're both far kinder than I deserve."
"Hardly," Dermot said.
"It's only common friendship," Stanislava said. "And that's the least of what you deserve."
"But... what if I were a monster?"
"You're not one."
"Are you sure?"
"A monster wouldn't take the time to be polite to anyone, let alone someone dead a thousand years," Dermot said.
"And a monster wouldn't worry afterward that her friends wouldn't approve," Stanislava added.
"But what if I had a... disease? A horrible disease that gave me vile cravings?"
"Then you'd not be a monster, but a person with a disease," Dermot said. "A very dear person who dealt bravely with her disease and managed to live a full life in its despite."
"Yes," Stanislava said. "And if nobody's told you that before... well, they're absolute stupid donkeys with candlewax where their brains should be."
"No," Ashley said, "my parents have, and my doctor has, and even Father Mac Giolla Muire at my old parish said it, but... I've never quite been able to believe them. Other children at school always knew I was a bit off, right?"
"Wrong, actually," Stanislava and Dermot said as one. Almost as if we'd rehearsed it, she thought in some corner of her mind. "Come here," she said. "Both of you." And moments later Ashley was sandwiched tight between her and Dermot. "Is this all right?" she said, moments later. "We're not pressing you, are we?"
"No," Ashley whispered. "It's lovely. Thank you."
Coinage--the American colloquial retention of the English term "penny" to name what is legally and numismatically called a "cent" is, in this world, not only official but sets a pattern which is extended to other coins. I think that either a) their world's American dollar was first defined as 100 pence, with a decimal shilling of ten pence, or b) that the shilling was the base, with ten shillings to the American dollar and ten American (decimal) pence to the shilling.
In any event, a shilling is the equivalent of a dime (I thought of using "shilling" as the equivalent of a nickel, with twenty shillings to the dollar and five pence to the shilling, but decided that with decimalisation ca. 1800 that this was less likely than with decimalisation in the 1960s.)
A florin, of course, is a two shilling coin, but the UK florin wasn't struck until after American independence, which I didn't realise until after I wrote it in; I've kept it for now because I wanted a rough equivalent to a quarter, can't quite imagine the American revolutionaries keeping the name of the half-crown or the crown in use, and couldn't think of a good alternative name. "Constitution" doesn't sound right, and "Eagle" is the name for a ten dollar gold coin that the US mint struck from the 19th century up until the Great Depression, and would therefore IMHO be too confusing.
Plot and timing--I'm almost thinking that both this and the previous segment of dream and waking should be seen as taking place a few weeks after the session in Stani's living room, once the three have known each other for a while.
Anyone have any thoughts on this, and how to deal with it? I'm tempted to write a short segment to go between the Dermot viewpoint and the first of the Stani viewpoint which would somehow make clear that weeks have gone by and the three have become increasingly close. Anyone have any thoughts? I'm sorry to be such a beggar, but plot is one of those things that I'm trying to get better at and really haven't much natural gift for. Thanks!
Landscape features--For anybody who's never seen our world's equivalent of Shawnee state, and is wondering if this is actually a burial mound, or if Ashley only thinks it is... well, it really is. Both rounded hill-shaped burial mounds and geometric earthworks are fairly common in Ohio, which is very roughly the geographical equivalent to Shawnee, and would be more common if it weren't for idiots plowing them up (which practice some scholars would link to the acceptance in the later part of the 19th century that they were built by American Indians, rather than by some mysterious (and presumably white, or at least "civilised") lost nation of "Mound Builders."
In Ohio, they're colloquially called "Indian mounds," or at least they were about twenty years ago.
In Shawnee, or at least the part where Dermot and Stani and Ashley live, they're called "barrows," although something gives me the feeling that in other parts of the country (or possibly the state) they might be called "howes" (could be an Orcadian influence combining with Scandinavian) or something similar. Also, far fewer of them have been plowed up or built over--a large percentage of the Europeans who first settled in Shawnee were rural Irish and Scandinavians who retained traditional attitudes of respect and caution for elements in the landscape which might house Good People, trolls, hogboon, etc. and who passed those attitudes on to their descendents. It didn't hurt, either, that there were several widely reported cases where somebody did deface a mound and bad luck soon followed.