"A post! A post!" squealed the nearest of the cubs, nestling into the soft folds of Barnabaris' vast chest. The old muta smiled slyly and shifted his pale bulk upon the warmth of the trash heap. The wound in his hind limb pained him yet. His tail twitched, coiled around another club's kicking foot, and was still.
"A post?" asked the ex-pathfinder, his yellow eyes dampered to dim sparks in the darkness. Let them ask again. The tunnel walls on either side sweated great pearlescent drops of moisture, though they lay above the flood. He groaned in mock distress and closed his eyes further. More squeals of excitement arose at this well understood ritual; the conurbation of tightly packed bodies squirmed and quivered all around the greater island-like bulk of the story teller like the movement of the waves.
"I might have a tale, yet to tell, I reckon," said Barnabaris. His eyes slowly opened, swelling like pools of reflected light; forming bright caves above the long greying muzzle of his face. "If you'll have another..."
The cubs clamour and their excitement echoes down the branching passages; some of the dark furred children are unable to contain their anxiety and blindly nipp at their mates, their patron, and even their own twining tails. The lame once-pathfinder ignores their sharp teeth and waits for the seething mass to slowly quiet once again. Their barks diminish. His eyes swim open to their fullest aperture and he begins.
"Come closer my lovelies, and cuddle near, for up above your dreaming empty heads, the City is a shifting shoal, awash with new events and strange affairs borne on tides and turns of the current which never sleeps, no more than do the stones on which the City stands. And down it seeps to refresh us all - oh, but my throat, my dearies, if only the mould and nitre did not dry it so -"
And thus the cycle gets underway and small thimble sized libations are brought tumbling forth from paw to paw from what secret hoards and purloined skins, none likely even themselves the bearers later can recall. But the medicine does its customary work and the tale, the most important tale of all, their tale and that of the wonderous and frightening metropolis in whose lower lime scaled and sloshing chambers they make their home, grinds on.
And so does mine.
The Invisible City and its ensemble cast grow ever less occluded as the days go on.
I've now hammered down the final structure of the novel and its plot - and I'm about two thirds of the way through filling each of its seven parts with the stuffing that changes it from mere dramatic framework into a book. Many cracks remain - but my trowel is a silver blur.
As I've noted, less and less updates will now appear until the final chapters are written, dusted, and sent off to the lucky agent. But the beginning of the bit that comes just before the start of the end, and definitely isn't just the start of the middle, and is a long way from the mere beginning itself or even the middle of the first and second parts, is now in sight.
With luck and a lot of damn writing, this will mark the end of the summer and then September shall bring a change in direction, as well as in the weather. A book, perhaps not in its final form, but a book no less for it, will have been born.
Best wishes and enjoy,