Verline fussed over him. Youll need a dose of birchet to set you to mending. I will fetch some from Master Craumpalin right away! You lie still, now. Ill return as soon as I can. With that, she swished away.
Master Craumpalin was the foundlingerys dispensurist. This meant that he made most of the medicine and potives the marine society needed. From what Rossamünd could gather, Master Craumpalin had once served in the navy, just as Master Fransitart had done, though not always on the same vessels or for the same states. The old dispensurist had seen half the known world, and cured the rashes and fevers of a great many vinegaroonsas sailors were calledbut that was all anyone seemed to know of him. He talked even less of his past than Master Fransitart did. Nevertheless, he let Rossamünd sit with him for hours at a time while he dabbled and brewed. Most of the time Craumpalin worked in silence and the boy would just learn what he could by watching. Occasionally, however, the dispensurist became talkative and would instruct him on the uses of potives, showing him how to pour and blend and stir and store. One of the greatest thrills for Rossamünd was to watch the wonderful and often violent reactions between ingredients as Craumpalin mixed and matched them.
Red goes with green and makes purple, blue powdered in yellow makes off-white with olive spots, black boiled in white makes vermilion with orange vaporshow wonderful! These moments were so exciting, Rossamünd would hop about and usually get under the dispensurists feet. At this Craumpalin would yell, Pullets and cockrels, boy! Get out of me way before I spill this on ye and melt ye to a puddle!
Rossamünd smiled woozily at the thought. Now he wanted to sleep but his aching face would not let him. He stared dumbly at the ceiling, obscure with shadows that seemed to creep and lurch. It had been a long time since he had been in the dormitory on his ownhe had forgotten just how weirdly unnerving it could be in here, alone.
Such glimpses of the oppressive dark naturally led his thinking to GoslingGosling Corvinius Arbour of the Corvinius Arboursa powerful family with ties to some of the most ancient bloodlines of Boschenberg and Brandenbrass, far away to the south. He was notorious at Madam Operas for many reasons, but the chief of these was the vigor with which he strove to make everyones life a misery. He would cut the hair of sleeping girls, glue shut the eyes of sleeping boys, put earwigs and dead things in unguarded shoes or untenanted beds, blab any secret he might discover. Punishment, no matter how severe, proved useless, for Gosling just did not care. He had been abandoned at Madam Operas foundlingery by his family. It was said that his parents had given him up so that they might afford to keep a pair of racehorses. Such a pathetic tale of rejection had not stopped Gosling from declaring to everyone just how important he really was, that he was not some ordinary fellow with only one name, but that he had three: a first name, a forename and a family name!
This grim line of thinking led Rossamünd to brood over his own, single and unfortunate name. He had spent his entire life beneath the high, peeling ceilings of Madam Operas Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls. He had arrived when he was little more than a wailing pink prune, left on the doorstep with an old piece of hatbox lining pinned to his swaddling. Upon this bit of card had been written one word, scratched awkwardly in charcoal:
With that word he was named. The fact was officially sealed with its entry into the grand ledger that all foundlingeries possessed, and which gave all foundlings the family name of Bookchild.
Excerpted from Monster Blood Tattoo. Copyright 2006 D.M. Cornish. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Penguin Group. All rights reserved.
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