The Old Time and Its Fall

The Old Time, our age, is mentioned fairly frequently in The Warriors of Love, but people seem to have little concrete information on the era.  Everybody seems agreed that it was a time of wickedness and blasphemy.  Here, we have the view of the Old Time in Jane and Daisy.

“It’s a bit of a raw night,” the carter agreed.  “For them in the back, there’s an awning – but no fire or heat pipes.”

“You couldn’t have a fire in your cart,” Liberty pointed out.  “It would set it alight.”

“True,” the carter nodded her agreement, “and heat pipes would need a boiler, which would need a fire, which would…?”

“Set your cart alight,” Liberty replied.  “Isn’t there any way to heat your cart without a fire?”

“Not without blasphemy, I shouldn’t think.”

“Can you heat carts with blasphemy?”

“Back in the Old Time, they say, it was done with something-trickery.  But, the way things were in them days, it must have been a blasphemous kind of trick.”

“Was everything in the Old Time blasphemy?”

“Liberty,” I said to my nine year old daughter, “stop pestering the poor carter with questions, and get your coat on.  Don’t you want to visit your granny?”

“Of course I do, mummy,” Liberty said, thrusting an arm into a coat sleeve.  “And I don’t mind which granny I visit – they’re both lovely.”

“So is your mummy,” my mother responded.  “Very lovely.”

“But you don’t make me do hard sums, granny.”  Then, repeating her question to the carter: “Was everything in the Old Time blasphemy?”

“I’m not old enough to remember,” the carter replied.  “I dare say they had a day off from blasphemy every once in a while.”

“Come on, sweetheart,” I urged her, “hurry it up.”

“I haven’t tried it myself,” Lisa-Louise added, “but I expect that blasphemy is very tiring.”

“More tiring,” the carter asked, “than little girls’ questions?”

“That,” Lisa-Louise said, “would be pushing it.”

“Perhaps,” Eaquellety suggested, “they only did blasphemy for an hour at a time, and then relaxed with a glass of raspberry fizz.”

“I expect,” the eight year old Faith said, “that the goddesses were jolly cross with them, after a whole hour of blasphemy, and stopped their raspberry drinks from fizzing.  Serve them right, too.”

When and how our age is to fall, will no doubt seem important questions to twenty-first century readers.  To those living in the age of the Warriors of Love, such considerations are to do with ancient history, and consequently are much less important.  Indeed, it is not clear whether anyone has much idea of what happened.  Evidently a cataclysm, or more likely series of cataclysms, brought our age to an end.  The Warriors of Love contains a few hints, but no more.

Whatever befell in Britain, the end in continental Europe was evidently more drastic.  This is from Jane and Eaquellety.

“Well, in a few years, I’ll retire from the sea… maybe set up home with a nice girl…  Might even settle in some such place as Victoria’s Land.  It has a promising future, and…”

“Is it nice there, captain?”

“Pleasant enough, for a woman with a taste for wilderness… of course, if you prefer big towns…”

“It’s an empty land, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t say empty, Miss Brewster.  There are forests, and wild beasts… some settlers too, these days.  Remains of ancient cities, here and there… queer places.”

“Spooky, captain?”

“I wouldn’t use that word, Miss Brewster.  I’d trust my marines to see off any spook.”  The marines smiled at this acknowledgement; the sergeant placed a hand on her sword hilt.  “But you can’t help wondering what happened to the people… at the end of the Old Time, I suppose.”

“I think that, even here, most of the people died around the fall… the end of the Old Time, and start of the Intermediate Period.”

“On the other side of the sea, it must have been worse, Miss Brewster, looks like nobody survived.”

“Perhaps,” a coastguard suggested, “their wickedness and blasphemy was worse than that of our ancestors… and the goddesses smote them down.”

“In my experience, Miss Clarke,” the captain disagreed, “the goddesses don’t work in such a direct way.”

“The goddesses,” the marine sergeant asserted, “may favour my sword, but they don’t kill the wicked kings’ men on my behalf.”

In Daisy, young women are trained to explore the places we know as continental Europe and Ireland, here called Victoria’s Land and the Green Isle.  The question naturally arises: why haven’t colonies thrived in these regions?

“Yes,” Sally agreed, “if we’re to explore new lands, we should know why previous settlers didn’t thrive.  They can’t all have been eaten by wolves or lions.”

“I believe,” Liz said, “that there was something in the Green Isle air… or maybe the water… or who knows what… that made men infertile.”

“And Victoria’s Land?” I asked.

“Something else, I should think.  It’s in the opposite direction.  You were there, Daisy.  How did it seem to you?”

“Westmarsh seemed very much like a small Essex town.  Nothing remarkable.  It has a gynogenesis clinic – that’s fairly new, but…”

“Healthy children?” Liz posed the question.

“Perfectly, as far as I could tell.”

“There you are, Daisy, probably nothing to worry about, apart from wolves, maybe, and bears.”

A history lecturer settles the question.

“You see,” Sally said, “we’re both thinking of working overseas after we graduate… Daisy and me… Victoria’s Land, maybe, the Green Isle, or even the far south.”

“I can see how that’s personal, but not where history comes in.”

“Historically, I believe, Miss Sherrin,” Sally continued, “that overseas settlements have never thrived.”

“Miriam Coles wrote a book on the subject – Overseas Settlements in the Era of the Democracy – you’ll find it in the library.”

“Of course, Miss Sherrin.”

“Your face, Sally!  You’re really looking forward to doing a bit of research, aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry, Miss Sherrin, if…”

“Never mind.  As a matter of fact, comparatively recent developments throw new light on Miriam’s chapters on the Green Isle.  It seemed impossible to conceive children there.  The cause remained doubtful, and – to some extent – it still is.  But several thriving gynogenesis clinics have demonstrated that the problem was with male fertility.”

“Thank you, Miss Sherrin, so we don’t need to worry about that.”

“Nor with Victoria’s Land, I would think.  The problem there had to do with male children.  More than half were stillborn.  Prince Elbert of Kent, I believe, survived longest.  With extensive medical care, he lived into his sixth year.”

“But that was only boys?”

“Indeed.  Unless you were thinking of doing that thing with a man…”

“Miss Sherrin!” Sally’s voice shook with alarm.  “Don’t even joke about it!”

“Sorry,” she apologised, “you’re both decent girls, I’m sure… but, taking an historical perspective can help you to see things differently.”

It seems that some residue from the cataclysm or cataclysms at the end of the Old Time are inimical to the human Y chromosome.  Perhaps Britain was the only place where people survived to breed, but this is never clear.  How could anyone know with most of the world unexplored?

Even in Britain, there were human mutants, known as tom-men, and possibly mutant forms of other species.  The matter receives some discussion in Jane and Daisy.

“I was thinking about the night things,” Sally said, “maybe they were a bit like the tom-men.”

“Tom-men?” Kate sounded a little confused.

“Yes, you know,” Sally continued, “ugly half human things.  They used to infest all sorts of places.”

“The Essex ones,” Tuerqui told us, “were called nazemen.  Do you think, Sally, that the night things were something of the sort?  When I was little, my nanny said: Most tom-men are mild compared with savage nazemen, but those of the Grey Plain are a whole lot more dreadful.  They have huge teeth with which they’d bite off a child’s head as easily as you’d eat a strawberry.  Their claws are long and dirty and full of disease.  The slightest scratch would give you the nidgering-plague.”

“If those were real,” Daisy said, “which I don’t believe for a minute, they could easily have been the night things.”

“No, my love,” Sally replied, “if there were ever tom-men on the Grey Plain, I’m sure they were nothing like the ones Tuerqui’s nanny invented.”

“Real or not,” Tuerqui demurred, “I doubt whether Nanny Spencer, or anyone else, invented the Grey Plain tom-men.”

“Unless they were real,” Heather objected, “somebody must have invented them.”

“Not necessarily,” Tuerqui argued, “traditional stories are passed on by word of mouth, each teller forgetting a few details, and adding a few extra.  They spring up almost organically.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “like jokes.  Who invents jokes?  Nobody seems to.”

“Anyway, my Welsh floozy,” Daisy asked Sally, “if the Grey Plain tom-men were a product of grannies’ tale-spinning, are you saying that the night things are the same?”

“No, sweetheart,” Sally said.  “Whatever the truth of the Grey Plain monstrosities, some tom-men were real enough.  I have an idea that they were created by terrible events around the end of the Old Time – descended from people, but horribly changed.  Maybe something of the sort happened with the young of other creatures.”

“So,” Daisy suggested, “the night things might have been huge tom-dogs?”

“Maybe.  Of course, we’ll never know for sure.”

After the fall of the Old Time, there was an Intermediate Period.