The People

There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the Empire. The ordinary people, 95 per cent of those inside the wire. preferred to keep their feet firmly on the ground and their heads out of the clouds, remaining stubbornly in their 18th century; they rode in  horse drawn cabs and not solars.

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Their interests and concerns, which were very much down to ‘earth’, were made clear and, because they had no time for what we call ‘bad language’ and over use, expressed with some eloquence.

A Teenage Ambition Signs of Serpent
Na had kept looking, but there had been no sign of Min or his boat. Not many of the islands Seren had suggested remained to be ticked off – if Wrecker was taking her round them. For all she knew they could be circling the same clusters of islands, … Na had come to the suspicious conclusion that her companion was not only devious, but far more interested in the many girls who stood on the shore waving eagerly to attract his attention.
“Haven’t you got a serious girl friend?” she had asked after one group had blown kisses in his direction.
“One of them! Nah. I’m going to marry a rich widow, and have young mistresses on the side.”
“You’re disgusting,” Na had told him, and Wrecker had grinned for the rest of the day.

 Learning the Hard Way A Sprawl of Serpents
Brun’s thinking was interrupted by a commotion behind him.
“Them’s jomungs,” he heard a small boy say.
“No, they ain’t,” he heard the sound of a slap, “Them’s woggums. What are they?” That must be a big and bossy sister.
“Jomungs. Ooh.”
Another slap.
“That hurt. I’ll tell ma.”
“And I’ll tell ma you ain’t learning your lessons. What are they?”
“Jo-“ Then the defiance came to an end. “Woggums.”
Brun looked round. The two children were standing on tiptoe, tracing a row of very worn symbols carved into the stone wall under the vandalised faces. Brun walked to join them.
“Jomungs or woggums? How can you tell one from the other?” he asked. The girl scowled and became tight lipped.
“Woggums ain’t got no wings. Jomungs fly,” her little brother said. His big sister glared at him.
“Ma’ll bash you up for talking to strangers. And jomungs ain’t creatures. They’re priests.”
Her little brother was staring at Brun.
“He ain’t no stranger. He’s sarjint.” Then they were both silent, and edging away.
“Now children. Time to go home.”
“Yes, Brother Gabber, we’re going.”  The sister grabbed her little brother by the arm, and yanked him towards the door.”
“I hope they were not bothering you.”
The monk, his head almost as bald as an egg and glistening with some scented oil. had approached. His robes made of fine-spun wool were tailored to fit his plump body. He carried gloves in a hand adorned with glinting rings.
“I was bothering them. Asking questions. Jomungs? Woggums? Strange words, are they not?” Brun suggested.
“Child-speak,” the monk explained, “The young make up their own language.”

Housewives’ commentary Brun;s Plod
“And how well did you know those girls?” Gramps asked.
“Peena? Not worth knowing. Chaffa? Not well enough. She could come on wild and sexy. A proper teasy flirt. I would have liked to known her a lot better.”  Fiens was leering.
“Pay him,” Gramps, cold white with rage, said. “Pay him as promised. Then give him something for his bad thoughts.”
A couple of women came to watch Fiens struggle to lift himself out of the gutter, lean against the wall, and try vainly to wipe away a little of the fresh blood trickling from one corner of his mouth.
“Dab of vinegar would stop that going septic,” one said.
“He ain’t worth the vinegar,” her friend told her.
“Who was that?” Fiens managed to ask.
“Gramps,” he was told. “Sort of relative to that girl you said you fancied. Not that she would have looked at you.”
“Not even a starving granny would look at you now,” her friend added.