Home > The Trials of Koli

The Trials of Koli
Author: M. R. Carey







There come a time, by and by, when I feared we was not going to get to London at all.

The going had been slow all the way along. On our best day, we made five miles by the drudge’s reckoning. And that wasn’t five miles straight. It was five miles of trudging this way and that, stopping whenever the sun come out or even threatened to. Five miles of ducking for cover if something moved, watching where our feet come down in case of mole snakes or melt-bugs, and not ever saying a word in case the sound brung something up out of the ground or down out of the sky to pick us off. It was not easy on the nerves, and on a long march your nerves work as hard as your feet do. Harder, even.

We had some supplies with us – biscuit and oat mash and jerky – but mostly we et what we catched. With Winter coming on, there was some days when that was nothing at all.

There was three of us, or else there was four, depending how you counted. Five, at the most.

There was me, Koli Faceless. I put myself first on account of it’s me that’s writing this, not for no vaunting reason for there is not much I got to vaunt. My name tells you what my fortunes was at that time: cast out of my village, which was Mythen Rood in the Calder Valley, with my name stripped off of me and nothing left to do now but walk the world until the world swallowed me down and et me.

Then there was Ursala-from-Elsewhere, who you might call a healer except that healing was the smallest part of what she did. In the world that was lost, she would of been called a scientist. She used to live in a place called Duglas, where there was lots of people like her that was keeping safe the knowledge of the before-times. But by and by they was attacked by some terrible enemy, and Ursala believed she was the onliest one from Duglas that was left.

And there was Cup, a girl we rescued from the shunned men of Calder Valley. Well, rescued or catched, according to which eye you shut when you looked at it. She was not that happy to be with us anyway, though we did not mean no harm by taking her. I guess we never do though, when harm is what we’re working.

I’m putting the three of us together because we’re what you would of seen if you was looking at us, say from the top of a hill or from the broke-off stump of some building somewhere, as we made our way along. Also you would of seen another thing walking alongside of us – a big lump of shiny metal that went on four legs and looked kind of like a horse with no head on its shoulders. And like a horse it did the carrying for us, being roped about so high and so heavy with sacks and packs and baggages that the big gun builded into its back could hardly be seen from some directions. This was the drudge, and it was not alive. It was tech of the old times, belonging to Ursala and doing only and always what Ursala said it had got to do.

And then there was one more of us, who you would not of seen at all. Nobody got to see Monono Aware, excepting me, though she was as alive as any of us. As real as any of us. Monono was tech too, like the drudge, but also she was a person. She was like a person living inside a piece of tech called the DreamSleeve, which played music and could sometimes make big, loud bells go off inside your ears. It’s hard to explain and I do not mean to try – or at least not right here and now. You will just have to bear with me a while if you want to make any sense out of it.






Why was we going to London? Well, we was following a signal from someone called Sword of Albion that said we should come. Outside of that, these wasn’t just the one sole answer. It’s more like there was a different reason for each of us, except for the drudge, who didn’t have no mouth to speak an opinion with and didn’t seem to have one in any case.

I guess it was my idea before it was anyone else’s. What I wanted, when I was first throwed out of Mythen Rood, was just to be let back in there again and be back with my family – my mother, Jemiu, and my sisters Athen and Mull. I missed them so much it was a hurt inside of me, like something hard and sharp that I had swallowed down without meaning to. But there wasn’t no chance of going home. If I set one foot inside the gate I would be hanged, and my mother and sisters alongside me. All I could hope to give them was more shame and hurt on top of what I already brung down on them.

London was no more than a story to me. A place where tech of the old times was so plentiful it was just lying in the streets. Where the Parley Men used to keep their court for the good of all, and where their treasures was still to be found by them as was bold enough to look for them. It was the place where Ingland was ruled from, for so many years nobody could even count them, until the Unfinished War brung Ingland into ruin. So it seemed to me, since I couldn’t go home no more, that there was reason enough to go to London, just for the sake of seeing it before I died.

But besides that, I had got a plan. A kind of a plan, anyway. I’m not saying it was a good one, but it got into my head and would not come out again. The plan was to bring all the people that was still living in Ingland together in one place, and by such means keep them from dying. I thought London might serve, if we could find it, for the old stories said it was so big that when the sun set on one side of it, it was rising on the other.

People was dying on account of not having babies, or the babies not living long after they was born. Ursala had teached me a word for this, but it was a really long one and I did not use it much. The fact that they was dying was the thing that mattered, to my mind. That and the cause of it, which was that there was not enough people to make the babies properly. You would think that only two people was needful, but you would be wrong. You needed what was called a gene pull, and two people on their own did not have one. Two hundred people, even, did not have one. But if you was to take two hundred here, and two hundred there, and keep on piling them all in, then by and by a gene pull would be there and the babies would be born strong enough to live.

So that was the biggesr reason why I said we should go to London. We needed to find out if the roads was still open, so we could tell everyone else to come.

Ursala didn’t care so much about finding lost London, but she did want to find where Sword of Albion’s signal was coming from. The signal was tech of the old times that had been kept safe for years on years, and she thought there might be other tech along with it. She was looking for parts and tools to repair her healing machine, that was called a dagnostic, so she could fix the babies before they dropped into the world or even make women quicken that could not do it on their own. I thought my plan to build a gene pull in London was better, but I liked this idea too.

So we made up our minds that we would journey into the south, and we took Cup with us because Ursala was not happy with letting her go free and I was not happy with killing her. All of this was decided on the day we left Calder Valley, but in some ways it had got to be decided again every day after, for we could not move a step without some argument about it. Most of the arguments was between Ursala and Monono. There was no trust between the two of them. Ursala thought Monono was a kind of a monster, and should not be allowed to live. Monono thought Ursala was a scold and a busybody and a hundred things besides, who was setting herself up to judge a thing she didn’t even understand.

I tried my best to lay down a bridge between them, like in a song Monono played me one time that was about troubled waters. Three days out of Calder, I found a quiet time when we was walking along a dry stream bed. There was no trees near, and the ground was too stony for mole snakes and suchlike beasts to burrow in, so we had got less to be afraid of than usual.

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