Imogen, daughter of the king of Britain, has no time for distractions. Hers is a nation at a threshold, though whether of enrichment by the Roman Empire or independence from it remains yet unclear. But nightmares haunt her, and a suspicion — is Imogen plagued by simple dreams, or an unthinkable memory?
Complicating matters is the brilliant engineer who has gained the king’s ear, with an eye on his heart — and who may have the answers to Imogen’s fears… or be their root.
Innogen and the Hungry Half re-imagines Shakespeare’s Cymbeline in a steampunk universe grappling with great divides. New chapters are posted weekly. Check back, follow via RSS or click here to subscribe for email updates (a button on the left will take you to a WordPress widget page).
09. But he fled forward still (coming soon)
Imogen is the third child of Cymbeline, king of Britain. Her two older brothers were kidnapped when they were toddlers, and she has spent her life in the shadow of their absence. Though she is a princess, and though she cannot rule in her own right as queen, she has forged herself into a skilled politician whose advice and good opinion is eagerly sought by the British chieftains who report to Cymbeline and by the Romans who administer the empire’s business.
Imogen has a recurring nightmare about herself and her dearest friend, Posthumus. She finds her mettle tested when the horrors of her dreamscape begin to intrude on her waking life.
Posthumus Leonatus is an orphan who was taken in by Cymbeline and raised at court alongside his daughter. His father, Sicilius Leonatus, was a Roman of great repute who was posted in Britain and married a local woman. He died of a broken heart after his two elder sons fell in the service of their adopted country. Shortly after, Posthumus’s mother died giving birth to him, hence the name.
While Posthumus is a gentleman, he is, unfortunately, a poor one; he wants to support himself and find an occupation, but he cannot settle on a trade any more than he can bring himself to live apart from Imogen, though he’ll never say as much.
Rigantona is a polymath: a brilliant inventor and engineer, a political savant and a woman as rich in charms as in intellect. The current Minervan Exposition has emerged as the platform for her triumphant comeback on the world scientific stage. She thrilled the empire at the last British exposition, seventeen years ago, but suddenly toppled from favor shortly after, and vanished from the public eye, without explanation.
Rigantona and Cymbeline are old acquaintances, and she accepts his standing invitation to the palace for conversation and consultation. Her work, she claims, is always, always for Britain, though sometimes, admittedly, it may coincide with the needs of the human heart.
Cloten is Rigantona’s son, though understanding how such a child came from a woman like her is beyond the patience of all who meet him.
All these characters come from William Shakespeare’s late romance Cymbeline. Though this story is meant to act as a prequel, and thus requires no knowledge of the source text, it’s a strange, outlandish and wonderful play. Those who wish to read it can do so thanks to MIT’s complete online Shakespeare archive. Click here for the full text, and enjoy!
Process and Progress
Each week I post a preview of the upcoming chapter, featuring one song that suits it, two links that inform it, and three lines to whet your appetite. Below is the complete set, if you’re so moved to investigate.