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12 July 2006

Songmark Notes # 1
Dorm members: Class of September 1934
-by Simon Barber-
A list of dormroom-mates for one year's class at Songmark Academy.
More views of the students are at
the Songmark Art Archive.

Jasbir Sind's dorm in a winter storm. Songmark Academy characters by Simon Barber, drawn by Kjartan.
Jasbir Sind's dorm attempting to set up camp in a Spontoon winter storm.
Jasbir, Li Han (in background), Sophie D'Artagnan, & Irma Bundt.
Art by Kjartan.

Songmark Notes #1: Class of September 1934 *
edited by Simon Barber

*Editor’s note: at Songmark, the class is given as the date they started, not graduated, and by its original class leader, despite the fact this may change. Some dorms are rather volatile. Both Adele Beasley and Irma Bundt were in Prudence’s dorm briefly in the first year, but the final line-up was soon worked out by the staff. Songmark dorms consist of groups of four, never more and hardly ever less (but see Missy K’s for an exception.)

Amelia Bourne-Phipps’ Dorm

(Mature image) Kjartan shows her dorm-mates waking Maria by dumping her out of bed.

Amelia Bourne-Phipps

Species: Feline (house cat.)
Appearance: Average height, plain pale ginger body fur, blonde head-fur generally worn in a permanent wave.
Origin: South-Western Britain, from the country of Barsetshire (adjoining Mummerset.). Amelia is the only daughter of General Bourne-Phipps of the Royal Engineers and spent most of her life at boarding-schools before starting at Songmark, which helped her cope easier than most new students. Her mother is never mentioned in her diaries, and is assumed to have died when Angelica was a kitten (1918 influenza? Zeppelin raid victim?) She has an older brother, who is in the Army.

Amelia finds herself the undisputed leader of 3 extremely strong personalities in her dorm, possibly because the others realise they would never consent to any of them being in charge. She was nominated as leader rather than asking for the job, but took up her responsibilities willingly. She is generous-hearted, initially slightly naïve and believes strongly in the principles of team spirit and fair play (even while cheerfully admitting she may be the only one in a room of desperadoes who does.) A good communicator, in fact more than somewhat chatty, nevertheless she knows when and on what subjects to keep her mouth firmly shut.
    Various folk have commented that as she leads a dorm of what in the wild would be very definitely termed Alpha females, she must be a Double Alpha. Amelia herself would be puzzled by the idea no matter how it was explained to her – Molly, Helen and Maria are both friends and her team, and she has a duty to see that they all pull their weight. Play up and play the game!
Likes: Home-built aircraft, healthy sporting exercise, fresh air, industrial-strength curry.
Dislikes: Underhand behaviour, sneaks, Poi (generally.)

Helen Ducros:

Species: Tigress.
Appearance: Fairly small for a tiger, Helen is athletic and powerful. Standard reddish-black tiger pattern, with no prominent mop of head-fur.
Origin: Helen is an orphan; as with Amelia her mother is never mentioned. Her father was “Lucky” Ducros, a Texan oilfield fire-fighter of outstanding reputation who took his daughter with him from a tender age and expected her to be useful and independent in the field. Her life before Songmark was a rough one of travelling between oilfield camps and boom-towns, dangerous places even when not on fire. As a result, she never received much of a formal education, but by the age of 10 could speak the basics of five languages and strip a rotary aircraft engine for maintenance. Unlike Songmark, a regular University would probably be completely unimpressed.

Songmark is the most permanent home Helen has ever had, and indeed she is planning on settling down based in the Spontoons after graduating. She has been Tailfast continuously to Marti Hoele’toemi (brother to Jirry, who is Amelia’s boyfriend) and despite her earlier fear of becoming “domesticated”, is hoping to “have the ink wet on both mah Graduation and Marriage licences.” This will not slow her down as a career Adventuress, she expects.
Likes: Nootnops Blue, “five-alarm chillies”, hard exercise.
Dislikes: Sea travel (she gets hideously seasick despite being perfectly fine in the air), “book-learning” especially maths, and Poi.

Molly Procyk:

Species: Red deer.
Appearance: Tall, slender, long ears, glossy black bob of head-fur not quite shoulder-length. Alternates between grimly determined and wild-eyed fanatical expressions.
Origin: Molly is a bootlegger’s daughter, and was brought up to regard the 1920’s Chicago gangster scene as a perfectly normal way of life. Her Mother is vaguely mentioned as having been a show-girl, and departed the scene rather than died.

Having been brought up with the mixed expectations of being either the cherished “Boss’s Daughter” or a hard-living gun moll, Molly decided that Songmark was the ideal middle route. Her ideal of gaining respect without having to be “respectable” certainly needs a lot of hard work. She has various unfortunate character traits; a love of firearms, explosives and such is blended with a deep-seated pyromania. Asked to produce four alternate plans for any sort of mission, at least one of them will involve widespread arson (she knows that most people, particularly Amelia, will squash the notion, but is ever hopeful.)
    Her disturbingly suave boyfriend Lars Nordstrom has for a long time put her talents to good use. Considering he’s an international smuggler based on the notorious Krupmark Island, it may be just as well that Molly doesn’t tell Amelia everything she gets up to on her “trips” there.
Likes: Anti-tank rifles, saw-backed bayonets, big fires.
Dislikes: Poi, “respectable” society, police.

Maria Inconnutia:

Species: Italian alpine breed cow.
Appearance: Medium height and solid, stocky figure, pale red-brown body fur with black curly head-fur not hiding her short horns. 
Origins: Maria’s original claim to fame was being the niece of Il Puce, the “Purple Emperor” who is the controversial ruler of Italy. She is a strong but not uncritical supporter of her Uncle, and is less likely to complain about what he is aiming for, than how he is going about it.
    Maria has hinted that one of the reasons she wanted to study on Spontoon was its extreme neutrality – though Italy has an excellent aircraft industry, she knew she would be treated with kid gloves and never allowed to fail a test there due to her connections. This was not the sort of challenge she wanted. Initially rather a tearaway, she has calmed down as her course progressed, and is learning to be a journalist – or at least, someone who is very keen on gathering information. Exactly what information she telegraphs back to Italy in code using one-time pads, she has not revealed. It may possibly be that the Songmark diet is so unspeakable that reports on it have to be encrypted before transmission over a public wire service. Or not.
    Although she rarely mentions them, Maria is the only one of her dorm with a full complement of parents. She has numerous sisters, who are apparently “full of all the domestic virtues” and she is content to let them look after the farms and families while she lives a bold and heroic life. Before leaving Italy she moved with a fashionable and fast-living set of the rich, who instilled her with a love of fast cars, boats and aircraft. It took some time for the Songmark tutors and the rest of her dorm to get her to un-learn her bad habits. Flying under bridges and power cables for the sake of it, does not make for a long and profitable career.
    She has also coped rather well with leaving luxury behind. Getting up at six in the morning with no servants, cleaning one’s own boots and the like have been quite a shock. The extremely hard Songmark beds may help early risers.
Likes: Fast cars, planes and boats, high fashion and fast living.
Dislikes: “Domestic” drudgery, getting up in the morning, Songmark beds, and Poi.

Miss Akroyd’s dorm

Prudence's dorm assists Angelica -- Art by Freddy Andersson
Prudence's dorm 'assists' Angelica Silfverlindh on SilverAngel Art by Freddy Andersson
Songmark Synchronized Swimming Team (Prudence, Ada, Belle & Carmen) by F. Andersson
(Mature image) Kjartan draws Miss Akroyd's dormroom talking things over in informal dress.

Prudence Akroyd

Species: Canine (lurcher/spaniel mix?).
Appearance: Long ears, tail and muzzle, mid-brown fur. Tall, slim figure.
Origin: Lancashire, England. She comes from a long-established manufacturing family who made their money in cotton-spinning and wool-twirling.

Prudence has maintained her position of class leader, having been recognised as having the main reserves of common-sense by the rest. She is generally solid and quiet, and full of surprises. “If in doubt say nowt” is her motto, and indeed she has a lot to keep quiet about. Her family would be surprised if she came back married, especially the one she plans to, as of Winter Solstice 1935 she has been officially Tailfast to Tahni (a spotted Hyena girl from Main Island.) They plan to marry after her graduation; this IS legal on Spontoon as early as the 1930’s.
    Naturally good at languages (even before leaving Lancashire she was also fluent in standard English and knew several words of Yorkshire) she has picked up a lot of Spontoonie, and like the rest of her dorm it is rumoured that not all the times they vanish with the consent of the Songmark staff it is to head out to party. Prudence was either the first or second dorm leader in her year to adopt Native dress, and her dorm loyally followed her lead.
    One of her great joys is the South Island formation swimming team, which all her dorm take leading roles in. They train constantly, and are the only qualified team of their kind in the Spontoons. Visiting film producers have taken note, and (Songmark permitting) they have featured in many island-filmed extravaganzas. It is surprising how many script-writers can hurriedly include a “Bushby Barklay” swimming extravaganza once they hear there is a suitable local team available at reasonable rates.

Ada Cronstein

Species: Canine
Appearance: Upright pointed ears, light brown body fur, shoulder-length head-fur. Fairly short tail, medium height with an attractive figure.
Origin: Sealth City, NW coastal USA. Her family are into finance: she has mentioned her father being the only financier in town who was willing to issue a pawn ticket for a whole steel mill in 1918 with the post-war slump: in the Wall Street Crash he completely “cleaned up” on bankrupt businesses.

Ada is a vivacious and mischievous sort, whose idea of fun is one continuous party. She is a hard-working student and a top-class pilot in the week, and one of the leading lights of the formation swimming team.
    Ada’s friends tend to make fun of her admiration for aloof, powerful women who are highly unlikely to return her interest. If Ilse Klensch ever finds out about that picture of her on Ada’s wall there is liable to be trouble…

Belle Lapinssen

Species: Rabbit
Appearance: Upright and highly mobile ears, light brown head-fur and golden-brown fur elsewhere. Slender figure.
Origin: Mid-Western USA, from a small maize-growing town in the Bible Belt. (Main exports; maize, belts, bibles.) She grew up watching the “barn-stormers” compete, and was immediately hooked on the freedoms offered by flight.

Belle is only marginally less vivacious than her great friend Ada, and between 8 to 10% perkier (natural bunny species bonus.) Her one great fear is she will have to go home, where for some reason they would disapprove of most of her favourite hobbies…

Carmen Velasquez

Species: Mixtecan anteater
Appearance: Tall, slender, with a very strange silhouette when she looks up courtesy of her record-breaking snout length. Has difficulty getting off-the-shelf hats and flying helmets to fit.
Origin: Mixteca. Her family run silver mines.

Carmen is certainly the most reserved of the four, and had most work to fit in with Songmark (her English is much better than when she arrived, and she is learning Spontoonie as are the rest of her dorm.)
    If Carmen has any current problem it is a severe caffeine addiction: the Songmark cuisine serves a reasonable amount of tea and coffee rather than an unreasonable one. Give her a bottle of concentrate “Camp coffee” and she will not only drink it neat but lick clean the insides of the bottle. Anteaters are proud of their special features, and Carmen puts hers to many uses.

Missy K’s dorm

It is not known why there are only 3 in this dorm; the dorm rooms are all the same size and it presumably makes group exercises hard to balance. Amelia’s diary speculates that Missy K weighs twice as much as the smaller members of her dorm, but this makes little sense. When Soppy Forsythe “resigned” she was immediately replaced from the long list of hopefuls on the waiting list; for some strange reason the staff chose Beryl.

Oloueha’he Kahaloa (Missy K)

Species: Bear
Appearance: Tall, very broad and powerful, initially rather overweight (but the very strenuous Songmark course burned a lot of that off.) Grey-brown fur, dark brown head-fur worn to shoulder length.
Origin: Spontoon, Main Village.

Missy K is not called by her full name as she claims nobody but a Spontoonie can pronounce it properly, and it irritates her greatly hearing it said wrongly by everyone, even including the staff.  As the first Spontoonie to study at Songmark (most of her aviation-minded friends and relatives find the Technical High School on Moon Island perfectly adequate) she is determined to show what a “mere Native” can do, and is a fanatically hard worker. That said, she is bad-tempered, intolerant and suspicious; in her first year she disapproved of the other dorms learning the local language as she likes to keep secrets in it.
    Before starting Songmark she became engaged to Tabodo, a mink from her village who she loves to show off to her envious classmates. Exactly how she squared things with the tutors is not known, but she is on permanent one-month notice to postpone graduating for a year (pre-booked maternity leave.)
    Missy K is by no means a typical, let alone stereotypical Spontoonie. She has very rarely been seen in “native” costume, indeed some of her classmates (notably Amelia’s dorm) wear it far more often. Similarly, although she has not been noticed to follow any outside religion, Amelia’s Diary has never mentioned seeing her at any Native religious ceremony. One of the earlier entries in the diaries mentions her being Tailfast, but she has not appeared at any of the solstice rituals Amelia attended to renew it.
Adele Beasley

Species: Lop-eared Rabbit.
Appearance: Slender, athletic figure, light brown fur.
Origin: East coast USA. Her family are academics and archaeologists, specialising in investigating Native burial mounds. For “Archaeologist” read “Treasure-hunter”, an embarrassing fact she did not admit till into her third year.

Adele is something of a problem to her tutors, who took her on for her superb flying skills and were convinced that with the right training she could break her streak of bad luck. In the air she is unbeatable; on the ground every accident imaginable homes in on her unerringly. If her entire class walk along a jungle trail and one branch falls on it all day, it will hit her. What really puzzles the Songmark staff is that none of it is her fault; her techniques are as good as anyone’s but the consequences tend to be painful. She is quite used to it, and rarely complains much as she is led away (again) to the Matron.

Charity “Soppy” Forsythe (Autumn 1934 – Easter 1935)

Species: Grey squirrel
Appearance: Medium build, very average features, generally sour expression.
Origin: North of England, allegedly (but see below.)

“Soppy” claimed to be from Lancashire, the same as Prudence Akroyd; Prudence always said her accent was odd. She also claimed to be from a Quaker industrialist family; to convince the tutors to let her into Songmark she must have been quite convincing.
    Whatever information records have on Charity (including her real name) is bogus, as she turned out to be a secret agent! She was last seen being rescued by a Royal Navy boat, and heading back to London to wreak revenge on all and sundry.

Beryl Parkesson (Easter 1935 onwards)

Species: Mouse
Appearance: Short but athletic, big ears, grey fur, and mischievous grin at most times.
Origin: English. Her parents are both career criminals.

Beryl came to Songmark from a famous boarding school that threw her out (the first expulsion ever in a history that has grand theft, murder and arson most terms) on discovering she had forged her criminal record. Beryl wanted to get into the famous Saint T’s school (full name unknown) but claims getting caught by the Law is a sign of incompetence. She is a cheerful and mischievous type, able to tell the most outrageous lies quite convincingly, then adding unlikely but true facts just to confuse. As she has said, “A truth that’s told with ill intent / Beats alls the lies you can invent.”
    A natural thrill-seeker, her natural haunts are casinos and shady night-spots. She has been banned from the main Casino on Casino Island, but has plenty of smaller venues to refine her gambling “system.”
    Beryl thinks of fraud and confidence tricks as a perfectly acceptable way of combining business with pleasure: she is rumoured to have sold a tourist the Rainbow Bridge before she finished her first-year, and convinced a class of newly arrived Songmark first-years that the Spontoon national anthem is “Althings bright and beautiful”, and that they should sing it before every meal. Given that the Songmark intake is vastly less gullible than the general population, this is an achievement she takes pride in.
    Her main partner-in-crime (what in other folk would be a romantic interest) is Piet van Hoogstraaten, son of the famous “International Businessman.” Unromantically enough, Beryl and Piet spend much of their time swindling each other, to their mutual enjoyment.

Jasbir Sind’s Dorm

Jasbir's Dorm -- Art by Kjartan
Jasbir Sind's dorm at home (Jasbir Sind, Sophie D'Artagnan, Irma Bundt, & Li Han)
(shown above) drawn by Kjartan
Jasbir Sind's dorm attempting to set up camp in a Spontoon winter storm.  *
Jasbir, Li Han (in background), Sophie D'Artagnan, & Irma Bundt.
(link to) Art by Kjartan.

Jasbir Sind

Species: Indian mongoose
Appearance: Tall, sinuous but surprisingly strong, grey fur with black facial markings.
Origin: India, the Native state of Utterly Pradesh. Contrary to common belief, many large parts of India were never under Colonial rule except as regards foreign policy and kept their own customs, military forces etc under their local rulers.

Jasbir is the oldest daughter of Indian nobility: she is indulged by her parents as the only one of her siblings with a passion for new technology (when you’re a Maharaja, there is enough fun to be had already in traditional ways.) She has several interests that would not go down too well at home were they known; she is quite “stage-struck” and has a burning ambition to dance in the tourist shows at the Coconut Shell or other big venues. Her Tutors discourage this, but that has not discouraged her.
    More respectably, she is one of the leading lights in the Native dance school on Casino Island, having been brought up watching and performing in Hindu dances which are not wholly different.
    She is quite aware that when she leaves Songmark she will be returning to a far more structured, formal way of life where every eye will be on her. There will be little scope for adventure of any kind once she goes home, so she is determined to seek it on Spontoon while she can.

**  Jasbir Sind does some venturesome research on Gull Island (art by Kjartan)  **

Irma Bundt

Species: Bovine
Appearance: Large, muscular frame, small horns, red-brown fur.
Origin: Geneva, Switzerland.

Irma’s family are in the Swiss Defence Force, and she has inherited her national traits of common-sense, stability and determination. Although not the brightest of her class, she makes up for it with hard work and determination.
    Her religion is a matter of some comment, as her family are devotees of the famous Dr. Rudolf Steiner, and attend the “Goethearium” dedicated to the philosophy of Goethe. There are none in the Pacific area so far.
Sophie D’Artagnan

Species: Otter
Appearance: Sleek, agile, grey-brown fur with no prominent head-fur.
Origin: Bearn, a small department in the French Pyrenees.

Sophie tends to make light of having a famous ancestor, pointing out that ten times as many folk do great deeds than get remembered for them (and her family has enough heroic traditions for it to read as standard). She has the usual otter traits of playfulness, agility and a love of water.

Li Han

Species: House-cat.
Appearance: Small, delicate, bobbed black head-fur and tabby markings. She is the smallest in her year; despite being a mouse Beryl is taller (counting the ears) and a few pounds heavier.
Origin: Kuo Han.

Han fits many people’s idea of a shy, reserved Oriental, and indeed she is by far the quietest and least boisterous in her year. However, when sport or flying comes up all bets are off and she changes gear entirely, becoming a small whirlwind of energetic action. She is trained in various martial arts, and is almost unbeatable in terms of speed and agility.

Madeline X’s Dorm

Madeline X (full name not recorded in Amelia’s diary.)
Species: Canine.
Appearance: Long snout and tail, long ears with curly head-fur. Average figure.
Origin: 1éme Arrondissement, Paris, France, and she won’t let anyone forget it!

It is a common speculation in her year as to what sent Madeline to Songmark, as she spares no effort in looking down on it. Why the Tutors let her in is ten times the mystery, given the large number of applicants who would do almost anything (and the substantial number who would do absolutely anything) to get in. Her family name is said to be a famous one, and may well be that of one of the main French aircraft manufacturing firms. She kept it secret from her classmates till well into her first year.
    Madeline is bright, witty and cultured, and scores highly in all her classes. Having said that, she is aloof and intolerant, and about as unsympathetic to “primitive Natives” as one can get. She is the only one who actually complains about seeing Natives in their traditional costume, but then her family have a large contingent of missionaries.

 Susan de Ruiz

Species: Desman (Pyrenean water-shrew.)
Appearance: Short, dark brown fur, long shrew-like muzzle with long ears and flexible tip.
Origin: Spanish, from Navarre (up near the Pyrenees: she and Sophie D’Artagnan were born within 50 miles of each other, on opposite sides of the mountains.)

Susan is an averagely athletic and acrobatic student with one great plus; she is a mathematical genius. Given a page of complex navigational formulae she can just “see it” as if the result was already there; certainly examinations hold no terror for her. What most people need paper and slide-rule for, she can unerringly do in her head.

(2 other students)

On internal evidence from Amelia’s diaries there should be 2 more in Madeline X’s dorm, as Amelia said that only Missy K’s dorm was less than four. Furthermore, she said Carmen and Belle were the two she knew least – which leaves a mystery. By elimination we can only say they are not Spontoonie, English, Italian or German as the Diaries have mentioned the number of those in Amelia’s year.

Simon Barber
July 2006
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