Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chapter 91: Kvornan Shouts Down the Avalanche

Fri, December 11, 2074 11:07 am-- Camden Municipal School; Camden, Pleasantview

The last time Kvornan set foot in a school, it had been to tender his resignation. That was nearly seventy-seven years ago. Treading over the endless linoleum of Camden Municipal, he was struck by just how little had changed about the institution. Electric bells still sounded the end of the class period. Students still scribbled away in their copy books while teachers still droned from that nether-region located between their desks and the chalkboard.

Kvornan did not know what he thought he would see. To his mind, this was a brave new world and he was a lost relic in it. Feeling out of touch was meant to be a constant. Alexei always said that the world was inherently more boring than overwhelming, and that if Kvornan expected to be surprised by it at his age then he was asking too much. He had to modify his own behavior, his own way of thinking. If he wanted to find something new in familiar places then he had to be the catalyst.

Kvornan stopped at the end of the hall and knocked on a door plated with the words Mr. Amin Bruty, Upper School Administration. A voice from within told him to enter.

A wavy-haired Townie man was seated inside the office, somewhat obscured by his cluttered desk. Grinning broadly, Kvornan took the seat opposite him and bowed in greeting.

"Peace be with you, Administrator Bruty." Kvornan spoke in a much thicker accent than what came to him naturally. It could have been the idle thought about Alexei that sparked his sense of fun or his curiosity at the fact that school was still so tediously school-like, but he felt inspired to be the source of his own surprises. Amin clasped his hands and bowed in return.

"Mr. Randall, I take it? I am very pleased to meet you." Amin extended his hand for Kvornan to shake. Kvornan clasped it with both hands.

"Yes, very pleased! It has been not easy road," he said.

"I couldn't agree more. The journey has been difficult for us all. The children especially so." Amin was a soft-spoken, delicate thing. He struck Kvornan as a warm but sober man. Kvornan leaned back in his chair. He thought that Amin's sincerity would allow him to take greater liberties with the Vincent Randall that he was fabricating second by second.

"Children? Oh no, children are fine. They sleep in the car more longer when I make wrong turn." Amin furrowed his brow.

"You mean that you got lost on the way here?" Kvornan looked off to the side as though it was the silliest question he had ever heard.

"Yes, it is what I say. 'Not easy road.'" Kvornan's feigned exasperation seemed to amuse Amin. His eyes glittered with a fondness that people usually reserved for children and the elderly.

“So you did. My mistake. I just cannot tell you how relieved I was-- How relieved we all were here at Camden Municipal when we heard the good news about you adopting the Mindelsohn children.” Kvornan gave Amin the same adorably serious pout that Elise made when she was considering something grave.

“Agatha and Li were like family. Sad to grow apart. Very sad.”

“Yes but I am certain that they would be happy to know that their children will be in the care of a trusted friend.”

Ai, Deus ir hosanish! My heart, it broke when I hear about Little Vince occupying his sisters and brother with no other family for the doing of this. But of course, I should not say ‘Little Vince’ now. He is not so little on these days. Fourteen! He will have his spúrtzi in Veronaville when we return.” Amin who had been nodding silently throughout this garbled monologue took a moment to pause.

“Ah, forgive me. What is a spe-yort-see?”

Spúrtzi is a ceremony in temple."

“I see.”

“Vince, he swallow bees in temple and then he will be a man.”

“Bees, Mr. Randall?”

It was all that Kvornan could do not to laugh. The incredulous horror in Amin's eyes made the entire exchange worthwhile. Still, Kvornan did not miss a beat.

“Yes, forty bees. Make him a man. He will be first human to have royal princess at his spúrtzi.”

Live bees?

“Ai, of course! No point if they are dead.” There were a few seconds of silence. Kvornan thought that he must have stumbled upon a phobia of Amin's. He had not considered the position of power that he was occupying until this instant. He resolved not to make any more wild claims while Amin aligned the pencils on his desk.

“I'm sorry, I... It is just a little shocking for someone who didn't grow up with these same traditions.”

“Yes, is very old rite. Very sacred.”

“Well, I... I have the paperwork all set-up. I'll just need you to initial the bottom right hand corner of each page and sign the last page as 'parent or guardian'.”

“Of course, of course.” Kvornan skimmed through the release forms. On paper, the children were being withdrawn from Camden Municipal and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Amhurst, a secular school just a few miles from Kvornan's home at Ethelden. In reality, all but Elise would be attending RA of A, that bastion of the terminally over-priviledged. Kvornan did not know how they would get on there but this was their social position now.

When he was finished authorizing the document, Kvornan clapped the pen onto the desk in a gesture of finality. Even though it was part of the act, he really did feel relieved. This was the last puzzle piece. The children were now free to go with him. Amin reached across the desk to shake his hand.

“Congratulations, Mr. Randall, to you and your new family.”

“Thank you, Amin Bruty.”

“I hope that you and the children will keep in touch. Let us know how things are going.”

“Yes! We send you nut cake for Volithxen. 'Winter Festival', yes?”

“We will look forward to it. Have a wonderful day, Mr. Randall.” Kvornan nodded enthusiastically.

Laoniq Deus in nos vedden proximus.

"You too," Amin said. Now Kvornan's smile was genuine. This guy really did not speak a word of Ashkay. Kvornan stood to go then stopped at the door, both remembering something and pretending to remember.

"Is something wrong?" Amin asked. Kvornan turned around, thumping his forehead in mock-realization.

"I get it now! Yes, a very difficult journey for children. Very difficult! Thank you, Amin Bruty!" Amin chuckled. Kvornan thought that Amin would go home to his family that night and regale them with the story of how he met Princess Tara's consort, that strange reclusive painter who never appeared in public.

Kvornan closed the door behind himself with barely a sound. The hallway was deserted. He walked out of the view of Amin's door and leaned against the wall, suddenly finding it difficult to breathe. Every muscle in his body tensed to prevent him from sobbing. He thought time and distance had obliterated what he was feeling now, but it clawed through him without warning. He emptied his mind to regain composure. He had been walking around for the past month with a wound that was starting to hemorrhage. As much as he wanted to deny, dismiss and repress his emotion like he had spent the better part of a decade doing, those options were lost to him now.

Alexei had been close enough for him to touch. Alec. His Alec.

December 22, 2050 10:18 pm: Mithra Station; Lloren-On-Acheron, Veronaville (Nineteen Years earlier)

"Will you just smell that air? Being by the river is so invigorating. I love it this town. Everything about it is so quaint, you know? Like stepping back in time." Alexei was struggling to keep up. Kvornan did not feel the need to remind him that they were not on a Sunday stroll. They had a train to catch. Kvornan was going home. Alexei had offered to see him off as far as Amhurst Station, and Kvornan agreed only because they would probably never see one another again. After spending several weeks accompanying this man from one side of the country to the other, part of Kvornan thought that he had all that he could take. Still another part of him would be disappointed to lose his prattling acquaintance.

"This station was built during the reign of Queen Pehkhet II. It was originally a butchers' market. Can't you just imagine the stone masons chipping away at all these blocks by hand?" Alexei's enthusiasm was legible through his every movement. "Okay, I'm not blind. I know Lloren-On-Acheron is a slum. I just appreciate the history of the place." Alexei often held entire conversations on his own in this manner, responding to thoughts that Kvornan was not even having. Sometimes Kvornan kept quiet just to hear Alexei's assumptions. "When I'm in a place like this, I like to think about whose footsteps I might be walking in. Politicians, movie stars, musicians, philosophers, lion tamers, tax dodgers…" Alexei's sentence fizzled away. At first, Kvornan thought that he had run out of phantom pedestrians but then he realized that Alexei was listening. There were people talking nearby, at least two. Kvornan could not make out what was being said. Alexei sped up. Being taller than Kvornan, Alexei managed to surpass him altogether. He was headed towards the voices before Kvornan could stop him.

An elderly couple was waiting for a taxi. They looked up at Alexei as he approached at full speed. Kvornan hung behind, puzzled.

"Oh my god, this is extraordinary. How have you been?" Alexei exclaimed. The couple exchanged glances. "It's me, Al! Al Garrison from Pleasantview? Don't you remember?" Alexei shook their hands one at a time. They smiled politely.

"Are you Miss Vicky's boy?" The woman inquired. Alexei frowned. He looked crestfallen.

"Well-- Well, no. I-- I saved your life!" The couple seemed bemused but no more or less than anyone else on the cusp of senility.

"Well thank you," the man said. Alexei patted him on the shoulder.

"Don't mention it. Gee, you really don't remember me do you? It's no big deal. Look, give the kids a hug for me. It was really nice running into you. I'll be on this side of Veronaville for a while. We should get together and play some pinocle."

"That sounds lovely." Alexei took the woman's hand and kissed it.

"Y'all take care of yourselves now, you hear?" Alexei reached over and shook the gentleman's hand once more for good measure. He walked by Kvornan as though he were invisible and now it was Kvornan's turn to keep up the pace. Alexei threw his arm around Kvornan's shoulder.

"What was I talking about just now?"

"Who were those people?" It was the first thing that Kvornan had said in over an hour but curiosity drove him to it.

"Beats me. Never met 'em before in my life." Alexei delivered that information in a way that was so plain and so matter-of-fact that Kvornan was forced to do something out of the ordinary-- He laughed. He laughed until he began to hiccup. Alexei raised his eyebrows in concern. "Are you okay? You're making noises I've never heard you make before." Kvornan shook his head. He could feel the color flooding his cheeks.

"What… is… wrong with you?" Kvornan spoke between hiccups.

"What do you mean?"

"That was tasteless. Absolutely tasteless. Don't you think that it's a bit grim, picking on people their age? You're old enough to be that man's father." Alexei waved it off.

"They'll have forgotten about it by the time they get home tonight."

"And that makes it alright?" Alexei's shoulders shook with laughter. The two of them passed into an archway under the railway tracks.

The green lanterns lighting the path made Kvornan twinge with nostalgia. He was in Veronaville. He was home.

A train roared above their heads as it neared the station. Alexei hooted, attempting to match the train for pitch.

"Do you ever do this? Try to be heard over the whistle?" he shouted. Kvornan shook his head, still hiccuping. An idea that puerile might never have occurred to him. Alexei threw back his head and called at the train once more. He tapped Kvornan on the chest with the back of his hand. "Now you try," he urged. Kvornan held his breath to rid himself of his affliction.

The train got closer, causing the rafters above them to shudder. When the whistle started up anew, Alexei hooted and Kvornan joined him, figuring that there was nothing to be gained or lost by it. Soon, neither man could be heard over the din. Kvornan was shouting down the avalanche of dust that fell from the ceiling as it shook. He was shouting down the train, the bridge, the sky above.

When the train came to a halt, his throat was hoarse and his ears were ringing but the hiccups were gone. Alexei pushed his hair out of his face. He tried to say something but physically could not. Kvornan refused to even make an attempt at speech. Their voices, he knew, had left their bodies as vapor and escaped into the night.


  1. Spúrtzi /shpyürt-sē/ noun (Ashkay):
    1.     A short steel rod used for removing tires from wheel rims; a tire iron.

    I'm sorry about the wait. I left town for a few days and came back sick. By the time I managed to crawl back into the office, I had amassed a hefty pile of work. Boring story short, I intended to have this chapter completed a long time ago. My apologies to anyone that may have been waiting.

    The experience of writing it was a mini-emotional roller coaster. When I first imagined it, there were bits that made me laugh out loud (and in public on one occasion) but when I sat down to write it, Kvornan's thoughts refused to gel. Then yesterday, I revisited the chapter and as I started playing around, I realized what the issue was: As silly as the scene was, it had to be heartbreaking for Kvornan. That element had been missing from the original draft.

    Seeing Alexei face-to-face back in November had been easy. At the time, Kvornan managed to divorce himself from the moment via his trademark jackass filter. As far as he was concerned, he was just sitting down to talk to an old friend for a few minutes, someone whose presence made him feel guilty and awkward. That was all. Since then, the pain of seeing Alexei has been resurfacing again and again. Only now is he finally willing to acknowledge how hurt he is.

    Simming Note: Part two of this chapter was taken in the new Windows game. Now that I have that set-up to a degree, I might start stretching some skeletons. Until then, just imagine that Alexei is tall, as always. :p

  2. Ha! Kvornan was having a little too much fun there, methinks :P How does a person even make their own accent stronger?

    Is he actually adopting the kids? I thought the palace household was just taking them in... and no one would argue because, y'know, it's the palace.

    He really does need more closure on the Alexei front.

  3. Oh I'm glad to see this story updated :D I've been curious to see what antics everyone's getting up to as things have progressed in regards to family relations and how things have gone on with Alexi and such as he seems to be a character of interest of late in this story. It took me about a couple of weeks just to read what all you had before hehe. This story is excellent.

  4. Van:

    HA! At first I thought, "As a speaker of standard North American English, I have no idea how you thicken your own accent". Then I remembered that I personally have a few different registers in English so there are definitely times where I make my English more standard than others. Kvornan used to have a really impenetrable accent. He has spent 90ish years trying to lessen it. It probably wasn't hard to sound like a caricature of himself. Then I think he based his sentence structure on people he knows.

    "Vincent Randall" is adopting the children. In the palace, it will be understood that Kvornan is their primary guardian. Although, there may be some conflict when it comes down to whose authority trumps whose-- Kvornan's or Elise's. Which Mahadeva do you answer to? Do you listen to the 13-year-old girl or the vampire?

    Closure is exactly what he needs. Next stop, Dramaville. Population: Kvornan and Alexei.

  5. Jean:

    Hey, welcome to the story! *balloons* I'm glad that you're enjoying it. I'm happy to get back to Kvornan et Al (pun intended) as well. It's been a few chapters since we last saw the K-man and Alexei and the Mindelsohns. There are one or two more chapters featuring Kvornan and Elise before December 17, 2074 (which is when they are scheduled to leave for Veronaville). Between then and now there should be some:

    Jack Attack
    Sita and Orion
    The Battle for Fiorello Vineyards
    and the royal family

  6. [Previous comment edited for clarity and might I add, *facepalm*]


    Kvornan is jumping through administrative hoops as a private citizen for Elise's security. He doesn't know who he can trust at the palace, even among people that he thinks he knows. After Antoine jumped ship, Kvornan became more guarded.

    There are only nine people alive in the world who know the true identity of the Ib-- The Garrison family, Kvornan, Tara and the Mindelsohns themselves. The palace does not know where he is or why. Since Kvornan's disappearing acts are so frequent, no one has even batted an eyelash.

    The Dissenters know that Kvornan has been in Pleasantview recently and may still be there. They have long suspected that the Ib was born in Pleasantview (and Kvornan has Antoine to thank for that). They know that he is probably in contact with the Ib and they deeply suspect that he will bring her back to Ethelden. They have decided that so long as Kvornan is probably in the company of the Ib, they are going to back off because obviously, they can't take on Kvornan. Meanwhile, Kvornan has no way of knowing that they have decided to back off so he is playing it safe. No one (especially at the palace) can know the identity of the Ib until Kvornan knows for sure that she isn't going to be abducted by fanatics.