Trying a fake biography this time with the Animas stories, concerning a certain politician that’s cropped up a lot in the previous ones. (Can you guess which historical politician she’s based on? This should be obvious for Canadians.) This will be another multi-parter. Enjoy!
Sir Stonild Lark was not a handsome woman. There was no equivocating this. You never forgot it when you heard her charismatic speech or when the sunlight struck her mop of curly hair just so. Her nose was a beak of a thing, looking capable of breaking open a tin can. She seldom smiled with an open mouth, for fear her teeth would scare children. Her chin would take the concentrated effort of a detective to find.
Most people possessing such ugliness would count it as the drawback it typically is. Lark was the only one I knew who made it into a sort of brand. Almost every time a caricaturist practiced their art across the pages of the newspapers of the nation, the citizens would see that ugliness and recognize it and react to it, for how could any artist resist scribbling that nose rather than the decidedly ordinary nose of, say, Abel Bellamy?
I ventured to ask her about this observation one evening, as she sat at her desk and sifted through an ungodly number of papers. (Occasionally, I saw her sneaking glimpses of the lit fireplace, as though she were wrestling with the urge to simply chuck the whole of her paperwork in it. I am still unsure that she never did give in to this urge.) “Do you think your appearance aided you in your political career?” I asked.
She put down her pen and gave this some thought. “Very likely,” she decided finally. “Perhaps it was a hindrance at first – I lost my first election, did you know? I imagine there were other factors, but the fact that my opponent looked as handsome as a god of old can’t have helped. Be distinctive, Mr. Fryer, that’s my advice to you. Give yourself a dashing scar if necessary.”
Sir Stonild Lark has passed on now, of course, with her ashes scattered across the lawns of Parliament (“They’ll never be rid of me; I shall always be underfoot to torment them,” she told me, by way of reasoning.) I never did acquire that scar and my lack of success in terms of acquiring and retaining high elected office seems to have proved the truth in her words. I have built a satisfying career elsewhere in the realm of politics instead. And as I approach my own middle years, it occurs to me that other anecdotes and examples of wisdom Lark imparted to me during my tenure as her secretary might prove of use to others.
I have written and published this work with the full knowledge and approval of the late prime minister’s surviving children, Commander Roberts Catherson and Dr. Hippolyta Lark. Every sentence has been subject to their perusal and I am happy to report that they have had little in the way of objections. May it prove entertaining and informative to the reader.
I shall start properly with what Lark told me of her childhood. These incidents were to most difficult to pry out of her – one had the definite impression that it was not a subject she was over-fond of.
Stonild Rosebrook Lark was the fourth of the five children of Gundred Lark and Claud Rosebrook. The third, a brother, died in infancy. The whole of the family had been born in Vesperia, but parents of the brood were merchants of the failed sort. When their business failed, they fled their debts across the ocean to the infant city of Eleheim, ‘city’ being an apparently overly-generous word to describe the settlement.
“I am convinced the old queen chose the spot for a capital as a sort of joke,” she told me one day as we walked through the city. (Trains, she enjoyed, but she could never abide a carriage unless she was so indisposed as to be unable to walk safely. Perhaps that was because a carriage starkly limited the chances to interact with her constituents.) “None of the streets were paved and if there was any rain, you’d be walking in mud up to your knees. The assembly house was not much better than one of those schoolrooms out west, where they cram the village’s children of every age and ability. In fact, I believe it may have once been a schoolroom. I sneaked in their once as a child and found an old chalkboard in one of the desks. It still had someone’s cursive practice on it.”
“And the smell! My god, Fryer, the smell! All the combined waste of humans and animals were mixed in with that mud. I always went about barefoot and in shorts when I could get away with it. At least that way, I could rinse myself off in the river when I returned home and be clean for the rest of the day.”
Stonild’s older brother and sister, Barkley and Finn, were considered too old for schooling and so, assisted their mother and father in their latest, only ever moderately successful venture. Stonild herself and her younger sister Avery received some education during the day, but were otherwise left to their own devices.
Avery Rosebrook Lark was never mentioned much to me by her famous sister, save for particularly melancholy evenings. The reason for this is simple and tragic. One day, when Avery was eight years old, she disappeared.
That’s the end of Part I. If you enjoyed it, please consider throwing a tip my way via PayPal or Patreon. Again, if there’s some little aspect of the world you want to know about, put it in a comment and I’ll see if I can’t write something about it. Part II is scheduled for Thursday. Cheers!