Authors: Law of the Wolf Tower
When I write, I go to live inside the book. By which I mean, mentally I can experience everything
I’m writing about. I can see it, hear its sounds, feel its heat or rain. The characters become better
known to me than the closest family or friends. This makes the writing-down part very simple
most of the time. I only need to describe what’s already there in front of me. That said, it won’t be
a surprise if I add that the imagined worlds quickly become entangled with the so-called reality of
Since I write almost every day, and I think (and dream) constantly about my work, it occurs to me
I must spend more time in all those other places than here.
I stole this. This book.
I don’t know why. It looked… nice, I suppose, and nothing has been nice for years. Well, not often.
It was in her stationery chest, out of which she sometimes makes us—mostly me—get her a piece of silk paper or thick parchment. Then she doodles a few stupid lines of
“poetry.” Or a foul painting, like used washing-water in the Maids’ Hall with something dropped in it—lime juice or jam. And then we all have to applaud. “Oh! How clever you are, Lady Jade Leaf. What bright-shining genius!” Because she’s royal. And we are not. Oh no. We couldn’t
anything wonderful like
Frankly, I think I could spit in a more interesting pattern. As for the poems…
Here is the latest example:
I drift like a petal all upon the air And the roses b
Drift like a petal… She’s more like a hippopotamus in the river. I don’t mean fat—Lady Iris is fat, but she’s also glamorous and graceful. Jade Leaf is slim. But the way she moves…
If the roses bowed, they did it because they fainted with fright, screaming: “Don’t let that great thing bash into me!”
(Having said this, I feel I should add that hippopotami are graceful, too, underwater. Besides, a hippopotamus has never picked up its little ornamental cane and cracked me across the palms of my hands so they bled. Which Jade Leaf has done so many times, I can’t remember the number.) If you found this, and are now reading it, need I ask you not to tell anyone? But hopefully you aren’t. I’m just imagining you.
And there’s someone banging for real on the door, which means I have to go and do something so much more important—that is, attend Jade Leaf.
I’ll write my name here. After that, you’ll know it’s me.
Vile day. Daisy broke a vase, and Lady Jade slapped and slapped her till Daisy cowered on the floor.
Then Lady JL kicked Daisy with her silk-slippered foot. Daisy has bruises and is also expected not to be given any dinner in the Maids’ Hall for nine nights. Pattoo and I put some of our food in a napkin and gave it to Daisy when we went to bed. Pattoo and Daisy are sleeping now.
I’m so tired I have to stop, too.
No, wrong. There was a dust storm yesterday that blew in from the Waste, and the slaves ran to work the fans and pull up the slatted roofs over the best parts of the Garden. In the House all the windows and doors were shut, and everybody was cooped up and bad-tempered.
LJL had a tantrum. She screamed and yelled and threw things. Then she was ill and had to lie down, and we put cloths soaked in cool scented water on her forehead. If it dripped in her eyes, she screamed again. We all had headaches, but no cool water-cloths for
I hate this place.
Except Pattoo and I were prevented by the Maids steward from putting aside food for Daisy. She cried with frustration (and hunger), but now she’s gone to sleep.
Perhaps I should say, we share this tiny room in the Maids’ Hall and have three narrow mattresses and one mirror and one chest. These are
our possessions, you understand, but things
us, like our clothing, by Lady J and her mother, the Princess Shimra.
Sometimes we steal two or three flowers from the Garden and put them in a jar in the narrow window.
But flowers don’t last, do they?
Any news? Well, today was the Ritual of the Feeding of the Red Birds.
We went to the Red Aviary, a birdhouse full of feathers and trills and tweets. They fly about freely here, between the trees that grow up through the floor into the glass roof. They look, the birds, like flying flowers of crimson and scarlet, but the squeaks are sometimes piercingly loud, and also droppings fall on everyone, despite the parasols we dutifully hold over our ladies‘, heads.
The birds today are fed special grains and seeds, dyed to match or to coordinate with bird colors.
I like the birds a lot, but the smell is pretty overpowering.
Later there was an ordinary storm. Colossal bangs of thunder as if gigantic trays were being dropped in the sky. Lady JL is loudly afraid of the thunder and the lightning, but I ran off and watched from an upper window. Next, summoned back to
, she asked where I had been, told me where—she was wrong—then that I was a lazy slut, and predictably cracked me over the hand with her cane. Only one hand, though, the left one, so I can still write this.
Oh, and Daisy, who has been eating so much at dinner every night, making up for the nine missed ones, was violently sick all over the Maids’ Hall floor, which had just been cleaned.
Because perhaps you don’t live in the House or the Garden but have somehow come from somewhere else. This seems unlikely, but then you aren’t real, are you? Just some wonderful intriguing imaginary person I’ve made up. My fantasy.
So, I’ll pretend you’re keen to know… Shall I?
That’s a grim thought. But I can’t even really feel much about it, because I never knew them. There are so many Rituals. The House and the Garden live by them. What else is there to do? But the Rituals are taken entirely and stonily seriously. They’re immovable. And if you profane a Ritual—if you break one of the idiotic rules of this place—you’re punished.
Sometimes they’re only slight mistakes and the punishments aren’t too bad. (Lets say you miss lighting every single candle in the Lighting of the Candles Ritual, or do it in the wrong order. Then you might only have to stand in the Black Marble Corridor for a few hours, something like that—though your lady would probably beat you, too.) But for profaning some of the most important Rituals and rules, the punishments are fierce. The worst punishment, of course, is to be exiled to the Waste.
Its a death sentence. At best, if you
survive, a living nightmare. Hell-on-earth.
The Waste is the worst thing in the world.
This is what they tell you.
It is always stressed how grateful we should be that we were born here, the House, the Garden, this earthly paradise, and not out there in the Waste. I can recall them drumming this into me when I was a child, a baby, and crying for my mother and father. To be an orphan, and the maid of a (cruel) lady in paradise, was better than existing in the Waste.
The weather there is unthinkable. White-hot heats, freezings, rains of
, gales that tear up the dry starving landscape. There are terrible mountains of black rock, and the dust storms that sometimes pass over the Garden come from there. In the Waste you go hungry always, and thirsty. Water is poisoned.
Nothing grows, or if it does, its horrible to look at and disgusting to eat.
No wonder the people and
that survive out there are peculiar and dangerous. Madmen, murderers, and monsters roam.
From a couple of the highest towers of the House, if you’re willing to climb hundreds and hundreds of stairs—I have—you can just glimpse something beyond the edges of the fortressed Garden walls. That must be the Waste. But you can’t see much—only a sort of threatening, shimmering vagueness. A pale
Once a lion got into the Garden. A monster lion from the Waste. This was in the year before I was born.
It was an ugly and lethal beast, foaming flame, they say, from the mouth. So they killed it.
But why have I gone on so about all that, the outside world, which I’ve never even seen?
Because my parents profaned one of the greatest Rituals. (I don’t know which one.) They were promptly exiled to the Waste.
Tomorrow is the Ritual of the Planting of the Two Thousandth Rose.
We have to be up extra early, before dawn.
I feel strangely guilty, since I think I’m going to stop writing in this book. Which makes me aware that I’ve mistreated it—the book, I mean—taking it and then spoiling it with my writing. And then worse, stopping.
But what is there to say? I’m sorry, if you’ve read this far. But then you haven’t.
I have to organize my mind, which feels as if its whirling about, and my heart is bird-flying and flapping around inside me. I keep laughing out loud.
I’m not in our room. I’ve climbed up to another place. I’m sitting here, but inside me everything is jumping and spinning. How can I start to tell you?
Let me go back, back to the morning, and begin again.
The Garden stretches for many miles in all directions away from the House.
We walked slowly down the green, closely cut lawns, Pat-too, Daisy, and I. And then down lots of mossy steps, with mossy statues standing by them.
The Gardeners keep everything perfect, and the slaves attend to all the cunning mechanisms that keep the Garden watered and nourished. The Garden is even kept warm, when the weather turns cold, by a system of underground furnaces and hot-water pipes, quite like those used in the House.
Aside from maintenance, the Garden is also very artistic, to please the royalty. Here and there, areas may even look a little overgrown, or there might be a pavilion a bit ruined. But the overgrowings are always carefully clipped to just the right amount of wildness, and the ruin will be clean and gleaming, with ivy trained up on wires. Even decay is planned here, and controlled.
The House, which is the center of the Garden, showed from the steps every time we took a left turn. I’ll describe it quickly. Its a terraced building with columns, white and pink, and with sloping roofs scaled in dark green and gold.
Above, through the leaves, the sky was that breathtaking blue that sings. The sort of sky that makes you feel something astonishing and marvelous is about to happen—only it never does.
“Oh, come on, come on,” panted Pattoo. She’s always nervous. She likes to please. Which is sensible really. She’s seldom beaten.
But Daisy snapped, “I can’t go any faster. I’ve already spilled some of this filthy stuff. Do you think they’ll notice?‘ she added to me.
Perhaps they wouldn’t. There are twenty or so Ritual oils that have to be brought to any special planting in the Garden, each of them highly scented and sticky.
Daisys flagon of oil was noticeably low, and besides you could see the mark on her dress where most of it had gone.
(We were wearing melon green today, to coordinate with Jade Leaf’s deeper green dress. And our hair was powdered
green. The ladies generally insist their maids complement their own choice of colors. An order arrives before every function. The dresses weren’t comfortable, either. For the past month or so, the fashion has been for stiff-bodiced, ankle-length silk tubes, which is all right in a way if you’re not big, though Pattoo is rather. But when it comes to walking, you have to take mincing little tiny steps, or you [a] rip the dress, or [b] fall over flat.)