Sunday, August 28, 2011


I'm leaving the country in a week and everything suddenly seems to be falling apart. I'm sure it will seem better in the morning, but you'll have to forgive me for not having an episode this week. Much to look forward to as we're back to Helen and her father, goblins and airships. Okay, the goblins might not be real -- then again, her father could be right...

Sunday, August 21, 2011


"She's gone out." Eduardo sat with his paws neatly together, drawn up to his tallest seated position. He even had his fez on.

Maggiormente looked around the room. It seemed entirely empty of occupants apart from his familiar. "I see."

The Venetian lion sighed. "No, she's gone out of the house."

"Ah." Even better that. Maggiormente sat down and contemplated his table of beakers, cylinders and unguents. It would be a lot to have to pack up and move, he realised. They had gotten rid of the crates in which they had brought everything from Rome. Then there would be a cart to arrange as well.

Suddenly he felt very very tired.

"We don't have to move," the lion said, looking a little too pleased with himself. He stretched his wings out to their full size and then folded them back down again.

The alchemist looked at him with an eyebrow raised. "What?"

"I said, we don't have to move anymore."

"We did before?"

"You were thinking it."

"True enough. So why don't we have to do so now?"

Eduardo grinned, showing his big teeth. While the alchemist was very accustomed to this display, many were understandably intimidated by the gleaming choppers, a fact Eduardo chose to be aware of only some of the time. "I solved our problems with the concierge."

The alchemist had a momentary image of the lion eating the poor woman, but doubtless he would be lying down to digest a meal of that size and he was looking far too alert and pleased with himself for that—which was a relief to say the least.

He was not pleased with Mme. Gabor, but he would not wish her to become Eduardo's supper.

"How did you solve our problems?"

"I reasoned with her." The lion looked even more smug now, shaking his mane to emphasize his pronouncement.

"How exactly did you do that? You worry me, Eduardo."

His familiar barked with laughter, which seemed an entirely unsuitable sound for a lion to make. "What can I say? I made her an offer that she could not reasonably refuse."

Maggiormente did not like the sound of that. "What sort of offer? Did this involve pigeons?"

"Only as an example," Eduardo said with a small growl.


"What? She was trouble—and it was only likely to get worse. You need to work. I need to eat. It's a fairly simple equation." The lion coughed and a couple of pigeon feathers wafted out of his mouth onto the floor.

Maggiormente considered the situation. "Well, I suppose anything is worth not having to move again."

"And the pigeons are really fat here." Eduardo licked his paw as if a taste of his feathery meal remained there. "We need to get back to work before the Exposition, piccolo mago. It's just around the corner after all."

"And I have nothing to show for it!" The alchemist threw up his hands. "The linseed oil has gone nowhere. I need sand. What if I should be working with magnetism after all?!"

"I think steam more likely to be effective for air travel. The locomotive is the model to follow after all. More certain."

Maggiormente shook his head. "No, the answer lies in alchemy. A chemical reaction that will take the place of inefficient coal. If not linseed, some other fuel from which I can release its explosive powers."

Eduardo huffed. "More smelly fluids."

The alchemist waved his hand, a faraway look evident in his eyes now. "The secrets to efficient air travel lie hidden in the smallest elements. I must delve deeper and explore the unseen world." He stroked his beard, lost in thought now.

The lion burped. Another feather floated down to the wooden floor, but the alchemist failed to notice its fall.

"I must review my Hitchcock, and perhaps Madame Atwood, too," Maggiormente muttered.

Eduardo laid down and rested his head on his paws and almost immediately slept.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


"Perhaps you should talk about something other than the colour," Maggiormente suggested as his friend stared forlornly at the page on which he had scribbled moments before.

"Its texture?" The poet squinted at his friend while he sipped some more wine.

"Did you actually feel its texture?"


Maggiormente stifled an eruption of irritation. "How about shape? That offers a chance to employ some, ah—sensual detail."

The poet's face brightened. "Oui! Curves, curls, tumbling down…" He bent over the page again, scribbling furiously.

The alchemist downed the last of the wine in his glass and poured more of the bottle into Gustave's glass. The poet seemed to be operating under his own steam now. "I shall leave you to your task," Maggiormente said as he rose to his feet.

"Hmm? Yes, yes," the poet muttered as he continued to scratch away in the notebook. "Bountiful, yes, that's good, yes."

The alchemist smiled and turned away. It seemed his friend would not notice his absence now. While Maggiormente pitied his friend's struggle, he knew that the poet would be up to the task for certain. Now that his muse burned brightly, there would be no stopping him.

The alchemist started to walk away from the restaurant, raising a hand to wave farewell to Philippe and then wondered what direction he ought to head. He had been wandering in the general direction of the river in hopes of retrieving some sand, but now he wondered.

What was he doing?

It was an important question that had a lot more to it than geography. What was he going to do? What if they had to move?! Oh, that was a thought too horrible to countenance. The problem of the concierge was a complicated one. However, he had every confidence that ignoring the problem was likely to make it go away.

Surely problems always went that way?

The alchemist walked toward the river. Even if he didn't really care about the sand anymore, it would offer him a good excuse. He pondered the options before him. Either he gave in to the concierge's interest or he struck off in a new direction.

Sadly, a new direction might mean a new location—just when he had arranged his workshop so neatly. The alchemist sighed. Surely it wasn't possible; his concierge wouldn't make him move just for—

Just for what?

Maggiormente pondered. Did she really have the kind of madness that the poet exhibited? No, he was sure not. But then again, what did he really know—about her, about the situation, about any of it?

Not much!

The alchemist frowned. It wasn't so much that he dismissed the attentions of an interesting older woman. In fact, he couldn't think of much that would be more gratifying. However, his concierge's interest didn't seem to be so much in him as in the uses he could provide.

Which rather made him feel like a prize chicken and not a human at all. I should go back to the house and rescue Eduardo.

After a moment, the alchemist retraced his steps and bent them toward the familiar steps of the little hotel. He had been pleased to find it initially as accommodating as he had imagined from Italy.

Who knew the concierge would offer an interesting twist of her own?

When they had come from Italy it seemed to be everything he had wanted: spacious, slightly remote, with a non-residential feel to it that promised plenty of elbow room for experimentation. They had had a few breakthroughs that gave him hope.

And Eduardo liked the number of pigeons. He was sadly consistent in that.

"It needn't be like this, "Maggiormente told himself. But then he pondered the concierge again. She might disagree with that.

"I do need sand," he told himself, but then bent his trails back to a more classical approach. "Perhaps I ought to be checking on Eduardo. We can explore the sands together.

The alchemist reversed his path. Concierge or no concierge, he was going to be brave about this.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Maggiormente laughed. "Now, now—you mustn't give in to despair. You've only just begun."

Gustave grinned weakly.

"Have you written down the eyes yet?"

Dutifully the poet scribbled away. "I added limpid, too. That's a good word."

The alchemist found his grasp of French struggling against its limits. "What does that mean?"

"Pellucid," the poet said, a far away look in his eyes.

Maggiormente raised one eyebrow. "I am no closer to understanding. It must be something different in Italian."

"Clear, undimmed, without obstruction. Her eyes were green and limpid."

The alchemist coughed. "Well, I suppose ocular health is important."

The poet winced. "It's not about her health, it's about the clarity of her eye colour. Its perfection."

"Ah." Maggiormente considered this for a moment. "At least you consider something of hers to be without imperfections."

"I am doing my best to remain on a flattering path. But what more about her eyes?"

"Perhaps you should move on from eyes. What's next?"

"Off the top of my head, I'd guess perhaps lips."

Maggiormente frowned. "Haven't you written love poems before?"

"Well—" Gustave looked sheepish. "I have…for other people."

"But not for yourself."


Maggiormente grinned at his friend, who looked suddenly pink. "That makes this so much more important, amico mio. You must go with the truth. From here," he added, thumping his chest with a fist.
The poet rubbed his chin. "Hmmmm."

"So what did you notice first?"

Gustave closed his eyes. Maggiormente supposed he was remembering every detail of the encounter. At least the poet's face showed a flickering montage of expressions as his eyes moved under their lids. At last they flicked open and he stared at his friend.

"Her hair!"

"Perfect. Her hair was red, yes?"

"Fiery." He wrote the word down in his notebook, then frowned at it. "Perhaps that's too strong." Gustave looked up at the alchemist. "She could take that the wrong way."

Maggiormente considered the issue. "Is there another word that conveys the excitement of the flame yet sounds less…combative?"

The poet mused, tapping the pencil against his teeth. "Incendiary?"

The alchemist nodded encouragement. "A word for the colour? Red? It seems too mundane. Is there something more, ah, poetic?"

"Crimson? No, inaccurate." The poet looked skyward as if he might pluck a word from above. "Not red, not brown, in between. There's a word for that…"

"Burnt sienna?" Maggiormente suggested, remembering his encounter with the painters.

"No, auburn, that's it!" He wrote the word down hastily as if it might escape before he did so. "What's this 'burnt sienna'?"

"I just learned it recently, in fact I was thinking of making my own range of burnt colours but it took so long to find someone who knew what the sienna was that could be burnt, so I got distracted because there was this linseed business that I was hoping would prove a useful fuel source but so far it has not provided more than explosions which I'm afraid have not been easy to control."

Gustave blinked at him. "Perhaps I should go with auburn."

The alchemist frowned. "But she is an artist. Perhaps she would appreciate the knowledgeable reference to her expertise. That would be a good thought, surely."

The poet grimaced and ran a hand through his hair again. The wild tumble suggested confusion. "This love is a perishingly difficult business, my friend."