‘Keep back! She may look tamed, but you don’t want to take any chances.’
Quennel said calmly, ‘because I sez it will.
‘My gratitude makes me lie awake at night,’ the Raven said.
TL G-Wooster wrote:OneThe wind whimpered down Londlow’s narrow cobbled streets. It caught at the thatched or tiled roofs of the houses, rippled the surface of a new puddle in the gutter and nipped the noses of the three small boys standing at the head of the queue outside the printer’s shop. Behind the boys, listening to their talk and sudden loud laughter, Gilbert dug his hands into his coat pockets and wished that he had a better scarf than the darned and faded blue one wound around his neck. The wind lifted a corner of the poster that was tacked unevenly across the shop window. It looked at odds with the sign that hung above the shop door: Eldon Kennard, Printer. The garishly illustrated poster was what had attracted Gilbert’s attention in the first place. It showed a creature that seemed to be a mix between a bird, a dog and a human. It was covered in dark fur, had dark wings and was crouched on all fours. Above the picture were the words, ‘The Raven – the Only Hybrid in Anglisca. Half-An-Elf and Half-A-Human,’ painted in slightly smeared, thick red letters. Written in smaller, clearer letters underneath was, ’Admission sixpence, private viewing one shilling.’Gilbert’s cold fingers touched the sixpence in his pocket. It had seemed a ridiculous amount to pay – almost two hour’s wages – but so many people had brought back lurid reports of the new freak that he had felt that he had to come. Thewlis Carter had seen it, and Perkin had taken his girl as well. The girl, so Perkin said, had screamed and almost fainted, and had to be revived by the printer’s wife who tutted and made remarks about ‘that unnatural creature’ that was being shown in her husband’s back room. Gilbert had heard the stories about hybrids of course, like everyone else. Hybrids ate their children and walked on all fours. They were mad and hideous to look at (‘It scared ’er into ’ysterics, it did,’ Perkin had said. ‘It were that ugly an’ all. ’Orrible.’) Heavy accent here. It's hard to read. Elves were strange enough, but an Elven-human hybrid had never been seen before in Londlow – or the whole country of Anglisca, for that matter.Gilbert looked back at the rest of the queue. He thought that there were about six people there; a roughly-dressed young man with a young woman beside him, two middle-aged gentlemen and right at the very end, a little old woman in a dirty, patched dark dress, crooked bonnet and a grey shawl. Gilbert wondered why she had come. Freak shows didn’t seem the place for old women without escorts this late in the evening. The shop door opened and the previous lot of viewers streamed out. Some of them were pale, some looked sad, others disgusted. One young woman had her hand over her mouth, silent tears dribbling down her cheeks. A man stood in the doorway ushering them out; he cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed, ‘Last viewing! Last chance to see the Raven, the Only Hybrid In Anglisca!’ Gilbert could hear the capitals. What does "could hear the capitals" mean? ‘Last chance to see the only hybrid that’ll ever be in Anglisca! You've contradicted yourself. First you say only elf/human hybrids haven't been seen, now you say no hybrid has been seen. Half-An-Elf and Half-A-Human! Last chance! Only sixpence! Moving on tomorrow, never to be seen again hybrid!’ There was a pause. The showman counted the queue, his eyes bright in a face flushed with shouting. ‘Seven, eight, nine… All right, we’ll squeeze you all in as one group. Come in.’ The small boys in front of Gilbert darted forward but the showman collared one and demanded, ‘Money?’ Took me a minute to realize who was talking here.Scowling, the boys handed over their money and the man smiled graciously. Gilbert gave him his sixpence and stepped into the shop. It was small and plain with a counter at one end and some framed samples of the printer’s work on the walls: ‘And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.’ ‘Time stops for no man.’ The whole of the Ten Commandments done in curling black script with decorated capitals. The mention of God and the Ten Commandments here bounces me right out of the story, even though I know that it's alternate history.The showman led the little group through the door behind the counter. Gilbert wondered where the printer was. Beyond the door was the back room. It was completely bare with a dark red curtain strung across the width of the room. Another man sat on a stool in one corner, a tin whistle held loosely between his thin fingers. His pale eyes flickered over the group like an insect skittering over water. The showman took up a stance in front of the curtain, one arm raised as though for silence, even though no one was talking. Took me a minute to realize he was raising his arm for evrybody to be quite. He paused. Then – ‘When we think that the world is within our grasp, that we know all – only then do we realize just how little we do know.’ He said the words like a song, pausing on certain syllables, caressing others, drawing them out long and low. ‘As human beings, we know the difference between good and evil. We can realize truth and lies. We are masters over nature. The fear of man hunts every living thing, governs their every action, their every instinct, every little detail of their lives. Even the Elves, who understand the thoughts of animals and control the air – even they are in awe of mankind.’ The musician in the corner blew softly into his whistle, creating three long, high, humming notes. Gilbert ran the tip of his tongue over his lips. ‘But the hybrids?’ The showman spread his hands wide, slowly shook his head. ‘They have no place. Nature refuses to accept them, rejects them from the clockwork of her order. So they stay in Carathara, the land south over the seas, where they live in complete isolation. No one goes there, no one leaves there, for everyone’s safety. There they live in the disgusting, horrific monotony that passes for their existence. Now… behold the only hybrid ever to set foot in Anglisca, the only hybrid you’ll ever see. Behold… the Raven.’ He flung the curtain aside.The small boys went, ‘Oooh!’ The gentlemen frowned, and one muttered something to the other. The young woman’s hand tightened on the arm of the man beside her. The old woman huddled down deeper inside her shawl, as though she were cold. Gilbert, after the first automatic automatic what?, expected shock, felt disappointed. More than that, he felt cheated. The creature standing before him looked nothing like the animal on the poster outside. It had no fur, no wings, no vicious rabid eyes. If he didn’t know, Gilbert might have taken it for any other human child. It was very small and skinny, with oddly jointed limbs that made its knees and elbows stick out at the sides. Its skin was blotched brown with, Gilbert assumed, some type of dye, and it had blue painted tattoos curling in strange, smudged designs over its skin. A dark feather was tied into its short, fine black hair, with more feathers tied around its wrists and ankles. It wore a stiff brown leather waistcoat and short, tight trousers. A leather collar was fastened around its long, thin neck. Gilbert felt the absence of his sixpence in his pocket and wondered angrily whether they really had cheated all of Londlow and passed off a mere human child in strange clothes as a fantastic, outlandish hybrid. ‘Turn!’ the showman ordered, and the creature began to turn slowly, so that the crowd could see it from all angles. Gilbert shifted a little closer, and the creature, instead of staring straight ahead as it had been doing, flicked its gaze up and for one moment stared right into his eyes. It was only for a moment and the hybrid looked away almost immediately, but in that one second, all of Gilbert’s ideas about cheating showmen and fake freaks vanished abruptly. No human child could ever have eyes like that, could ever have such an animalistic, abnormal face. The hybrid’s yellow eyes – wide and slit-pupiled – were outlined in dark eye-paint and seemed huge in its clear, pointed little face. ‘Down!’ As it dropped down onto all fours, the showman began his commentary again. ‘See, ladies and gentlemen, the way that the Raven is made. Arms and legs all the same length. Pointed ears, a sure sign of her Elven blood.’The small boys had got over their initial awe and now began pushing slyly forward, grubby fingers outstretched, but the showman rapped out, ‘Keep back! She may look tamed, but you don’t want to take any chances.’ They retreated, half sulky, half wary, and he turned his attention back to the hybrid. ‘Stand up!’ It rose and turned around once more. The showman spread his arms wide, as though he were embracing the audience, inviting them to share his secret. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. This freak, this abomination against nature. See her. Imagine her back in Carathara, living the normal life of a hybrid. Cannibalism. Bestiality. Inbreeding. Murder. That is the pitiful excuse of an existence that hybrids have. They have no dignified thought, no concept of right or wrong. They are animals, living only for their own desires with no feeling or empathy for their fellow creatures. Fear them, ladies and gentlemen, fear the Raven. Boys and girls, be wary. This isn’t like the bogey stories your parents used to tell you to make you behave; this, my friends, this is the real thing. A very real danger. A horror. A freak. A hybrid.’ ‘Hey, mister,’ the young man called out. He shot a sideways glance at the girl on his arm, as though he hoped she were noticing this. ‘Does it ’ave the Sense, like what the Elves’ve got?’ ‘Ah.’ Quennel nodded gravely. We hardly have a mention of the showman's name. Either add his proper name in more often above, or delete this reference. ‘Every Elf has the Sense, true. But hybrids are different. For some, their Elven blood runs strong and thick, and for others it has been watered down by generations of inbreeding. For some direct crosses, the human blood is strongest and there is no Sense. But for others…’ He turned his hand and unfurled his fingers as though he were offering the young man a gift. ‘For others, the Elven blood pounds hard through their veins, bringing with it the power of air, the awareness of nature, and above all… the Sense. The Sense that allows them to read other’s thoughts, to feel life and living movement, to feel the emotions and moods of the people around them. To bond with another living creature – a Sense-familiar – to share souls and minds and thoughts and feelings in a way that we can only dream of. The Sense, ladies and gentlemen, one of the greatest natural wonders.’ ‘But ’as it got it?’ the young man demanded, not very impressed. Annoyed by his irreverent manner, the showman gave him a patronising glance. ‘Of course it has, my dear boy. Just because the Raven has no Sense-familiar doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have the thing itself. She just doesn’t show it, that’s all.’The musician in the corner piped those same three notes again, let them slither out of his whistle and writhe into the air in snakes of sound. The showman clapped his hands and bowed extravagantly. ‘And that’s it, ladies and gentlemen, all you get for your money, all you get for sixpence, and I think you’ll all agree ’twas money well spent.’ Gilbert blinked, slightly dazed by the abrupt ending, but the rest of the group were already shuffling towards the door. The boys lingered until the showman put a firm hand on the leader’s shoulder and almost shoved him out. At the door, Gilbert paused, looked back past over the gentlemen’s feathered hats. The hybrid had crouched down again on all fours, its long, thin fingers wide-splayed on the cold boarded floor, watching the viewers leave through those huge, blank eyes. ‘Move along there, young man,’ the gentlemen grumbled, pushing past, and Gilbert went through into the front room and out into the street. The wind descended with a gleeful whoop, and turning up his collar, he hurried away down the street. * * * Quennel shut the door, smiling. ‘Now that, Morley,’ he said, ‘was a good day.’ Morley looked up at him, then down, his pale eyelashes flicking like dragonfly wings. ‘Almost fifteen shillings in all.’ Quennel stuffed his hands into the pockets of his coarse homespun trousers, his fingers bumping against the coins in his pocket. ‘Maybe we should stay here in Londlow, then,’ Morley said. ‘Carry on while we’re doing well.’ ‘When we’re doing well is the right time to leave. Keeps the people wanting, makes ’em eager when we come back.’ ‘But Selseaton’s days away. The Raven might not travel well. It'll get sick in the cart.’ ‘It will travel well,’ Quennel said calmly, ‘because I sez it will. Selseaton being the capital and all – the money we’ve made here’s nothing compared to what we’ll get there.’ Morley shrugged and wiped the mouthpiece of his whistle. The Raven swayed from side to side on her hands and feet, like a spider in its web. Quennel came and stood behind her, looking down. ‘Good little Raven,’ he said. His hand patted her head, then stroked the side of her face. The Raven whipped her head around and hissed at him, baring her tiny, pointed teeth in feral snarl. He only laughed. ‘I don’t care how much you hate me, Raven. I’m the only one who keeps you alive.’ ‘My gratitude makes me lie awake at night,’ the Raven said. He smiled. ‘You’re a freak. An animal that just happens to have the ability to be sarcastic. I can accept that, but out there,’ – he waved a hand towards the door – ‘how many people out there would let you think even one thought of your own?’ ‘None of them.’ The Raven’s voice was flat, reciting the words – the facts – that Quennel had hammered into her head from the moment she had entered his possession. ‘No one would let me do anything. No one would care if I starved to death in front of them. People would kill me. They fear me. I shock them, make them sick. I’m a freak, a hybrid, a slave, a mistake. I’m yours. I am the Raven, the only hybrid out of Carathara.’ ‘Good little hybrid.’ Quennel pinched the top of her ear gently, and this time she let him. --- If this seems like the other chapter one, it's because it's like the other chapter one. Is the Sense thingy too confusing? Does third person work? Impressions of the Raven?
It caught at the thatched and tiled roofs of the houses, rippled the surface of a new puddle in the gutter and nipped the noses of the three small boys standing at the head of the queue outside the printer’s shop.
Behind the boys, listening to their talk and sudden loud laughter, Gilbert dug his hands into his coat pockets and wished that he had a better scarf than the darned and faded blue one wound around his neck.
The wind lifted a corner of the poster that was tacked unevenly across the shop window.
It was covered in dark fur, had dark wings and was crouched on all fours.
He thought that there were about six people there; a roughly-dressed young man with a young woman beside him, two middle-aged gentlemen and right at the very end, a little old woman in a dirty, patched dark dress, crooked bonnet and a grey shawl. Gilbert
Freak shows didn’t seem the place for old women without escorts this late in the evening.
The shop door opened and the previous lot of viewers streamed out.
Moving on tomorrow, never to be seen again hybrid!’
The showman counted the queue, his eyes bright in a face flushed with shouting.
Scowling, the boys handed over their money and the man smiled graciously.
His pale eyes flickered over the group like an insect skittering over water.
Even the Elves, who understand the thoughts of animals and control the air – even they are in awe of mankind.’
The musician in the corner piped those same three notes again, let them slither out of his whistle and writhe into the air in snakes of sound.
The wind descended with a gleeful whoop, and turning up his collar, he hurried away down the street.
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