The boot and my arse connected in perfect harmony, and my trajectory was thus rather spectacular. Such is my sense of bodily self-control that it was my face that contacted the cobbles first. Damn and bugger.
I was literally spitting curses.
“You professional hooligan! You should never have been left out of your mother’s womb! Let alone whatever pit you were scraped from.”
He started after me, so I took the only reasonable course of action. I ran. After all, he was much bigger than I was.
A plea to creative readers: as I look upon this, my eyes grow bored by the uniformity! I crave inspirational images, but alas, my hands fail me in that regard. I am not a ruddy artist. Are you? If you are inspired to articulate your (related!) imagination, then please, send it to me, and I will refresh this blot with its vibrancy. And you never know; I may even share some of the winnings.
When I had found a place to cower with dignity, I noticed that my eyes were struggling in the bright sunlight. When did that happen? I could have sworn I entered that damn hostel in the early evening. When did it get light, already?
No wonder my credit expired if I’d been in there that long. But still – they do call themselves a ‘Hospitality Hostel’. The treatment that had befallen me was hardly hospitable.
Damn and bugger, I’ve prattled on without even telling you my name. Poor form. If you’re still reading at this point, then I applaud your persistence. I’m fairly sure that I would have stepped aside by now. Good show, I say. Good show.
Damn and bugger – done it again. But I’m not re-doing this ruddy thing. That’s not my style. And besides; parchment and ink are expensive, and I’ve just been thrown out of a brothel for dry credit. You can see my problem, can’t you?
My name is Beagle, and this is my blot. So you may want to call me ‘Beagle Blot’ – ha. No? Beagle’s just fine. And in case you didn’t know, a blot is a rather new-fangled idea which is hitting the streets. This is the short explanation:
Inspiring, creative, and interesting individuals jot down their thoughts, experiences, ideas, and opinions, and these then get posted on a big old board in the town square. There, these masterpieces can be sampled and savoured by the oafs of this world, with the overall aim of improving the general level of social quality. Small changes contributing to a greater good.
And I’m in on the action!
Now of course, doing this blot has nothing to do with the one hundred gold that waits as a prize for the most inspirational piece. No, indeed – that is just a fortunate consequence of my genius. It is of course only a matter of when.
Damn and bugger! I still haven’t actually started communicating the real target of my blot. I have been blathering on for too long, but only because I am an eminently interesting person. If you are still reading, then you truly are remarkable.
Now, you may notice from my smooth articulation that I am not your average toe-rag – no indeed, I am a very elite class of toe-rag. Perhaps not ruling class elite, but my family has a long Mandari lineage, and I can point to several marriages into the upper echelons. So you see why I am such an interesting person: firstly, I am well educated and broadly philosophised; and secondly, I have no need for ruffian’s labour, which means I’m freed up for far more exciting endeavours! You’re going to enjoy this journey every bit as much as I am. You just wait and see.
So – where do we find ourselves journeying? Now, for many blots this may be just a metaphysical point, but for us – no, no, no. We are journeying in the physical sense too. I find myself at a point in my life where I wish to spread out through this land we call … whatever it’s called (we’ll cover that as we make our way through it), and I want to take you with me. Many of you will not have the breeding to see all the corners of the world, and so I see that the least I can do is share my findings. You’re coming with me!
So – where do we start? Well, we start here; in Callij. My home. My ruddy home.
As I stand here, I just need to check that the impact grazing on my face is not too severe or embarrassing, and we can reflect on where I’ve just come from. Well, I’ve said it already – I was in a House of Hospitality, which to you and me, is a sex house. And it appears I was there a bit too long. Whoops.
A strange place to start a tour of Callij you might say, but I counter that. As I walk out into the sun, we (yes we – as I said, you are coming with me) find ourselves down a wide avenue; immaculately flagged; and flanked by two rows of pristine white-stone architecture – I should know, I’m a failed architect. The delicate stonework and gilt edging may seem incredible at first, symbolic of the very finest the world has to offer, but in Callij, this is commonplace. Callij is the centre of the Mandari world, a hub for wealth and affluence, and as such the standards are high. Very high. And these standards are broad, too, applying to all of:
- Architectural presentation (including a minimum number of stories);
- Clothing (obviously): there are actually ‘fashion’ officers strolling the streets;
- Public behaviour: must be maintained within a very strict set of guidelines;
- Pleasure: oh yes, the Mandari of Callij are very serious about pleasure. Along this avenue alone, I know of at least a dozen ‘Hospitality Houses’. In fact, I am banned from ten of them.
And that is what Callij has become – a play-pen for the outrageously wealthy. Nothing of actual substance happens here, but wealth flows in, and it is spent loosely at a generous rate. Of course, Callij has more than its fair share of ‘moonlight’ workers who fuel this fire of pleasure, but they reside in ‘dark Callij’, a place that only exists in privacy. The number one priority for Callij is pleasure. That’s it.
I ruddy love this place. I shall miss it.
But of course, it was not always this way. As I walk out towards the sharp edge of the city – no scraggly slums allowed here – I come across a series of weather beaten old posts preserved along the main avenue. They represent the outer wall of Old-Callij, the boundary of the wood forged town which was erected when the Mandari were still a glint in Dara si Mahan’s eye. This is where the Mandari cause started, where the world conquering domination spread out from, and this is also the place that has come the furthest. Pleasure above all else – that is Rhanna’s mantra.
Though I’m not entirely convinced that it is, but that does seem to be the current Ranji interpretation. And there is only one interpretation of Rhanna’s word – the Ranji interpretation.
We are approaching the edge of the city – no protective walls here; the place hasn’t seen conflict in a thousand years. As the glorious scents and colours of the food market engulf my wandering person, I am transported. It is impossible to walk this avenue without dribbling. I kid not. No really; I’m going to have to leave you for a few moments.
Of course the beauty of parchment is that you, the reader, have no concept of time other than what I’m telling you. So believe me when I say that it was only the briefest of deviations. Just enough to keep my legs powered.
The stalls are packing up now, slaves to the sinking authority of the sun; Rhanna’s flame. Her proper name is Mailajnn, and to the rest of the world she is known as Ero (or Mother Bright to the uneducated). But to the Mandari, she is the embodiment of Rhanna’s power. He who lights the way.
Except when night arrives, and darkness spreads; as it does now.
Hang on – damn and buggery! I’m sure most of you have already twigged my failing, but I will not spell it out, just in case. Think of it as a mind-puzzle. I truly am value for money. Fabulous.
As the deepening flames dip over the horizon, their reach is exaggerated, and great beams of warmth spread across the city, casting it in glorious silhouette. A remarkable moment in which to take stock, and think on Callij objectively. As I stare at the sunset views, I am truly awed.
Callij is built in the neck of two great mountains of the Adunas Mahija, cascading along the side of a steep river valley. The positioning presented many technical challenges in the earliest of days, but such challenges were considered necessary when the position of the city was the difference between life and death. When the pre-Mandari people were forced from Old-Callij, Dara led them into the mountains, and it was in the mountains that roots were laid.
Since those days, the city has spread elegantly down the valley, expanding its belt as it nears the base of the mountains, and spreading across the plains in a strict concentric circle. Looking back upon the flood-like profile of the city, I am staggered once more. It truly is wondrous to behold – a fitting locale for the centre of Society – and I am fleetingly humbled by its permission. But only fleetingly. Once you’ve been here, it is harder to forget the darker undertones; just the faintest whiff of decay.
There is one simple rule of social standing in Callij – the higher you live up the valley, the more important you are. My family residence is half way up, which is remarkable in itself, but right at the peak, in the very neck of the mountains, is the Mahan residence. A sharp palatial profile against the jagged mountains either side. Spires and towers dominate the silhouette, and it is befitting the family who sit there. They are the esteemed rulers of Society – of the civilised world – and they rightly frequent paradise. The palace dominates the skyline.
With a single exception.
To the right of the palace as I look upon it, eyes south-west, is the House of Rha. One absent sweep of the city will trick your eyes into thinking the place doesn’t exist, but as soon as you focus upon it, it is impossible to miss. Hunkered alongside the southern mountain, it is a pyramid of such scale that it may even ceiling with the hilltops themselves. In the late dusk, its outline merges with the surroundings, but as soon as your eyes train upon it, it is obvious. The matt material of which it has been built is highly polished – though never buffed – and four white dragons climb the vertices. Its beauty (and authority) is in the simplicity of the piece. Stunning.
The top of the pyramid is truncated, and tonight, a red light glows at the peak. The residents of the House, the Ranji priests, claim that it is Rhanna speaking to them that gives rise to the crimson glow, but there are many other rumours flying around. I will not elaborate here, for such conjecture would not help sell my work to the judges!
My beautiful Callij – how much pleasure have you given me? Perhaps too much. No, one can never receive too much pleasure. That is ludicrous. But I must leave, that is for certain, and now is as good a ruddy time as any. I check my leather purse – which I keep hidden between my cheeks – and despair at the sad tinkle of coinage. I probably shouldn’t have indulged as I did.
But then, I was leaving the hub of indulgence, so it only seemed right. From here, the road will grow darker as I venture to the fringes of Society. What use will money be there?
We shall soon find out.