Posts Tagged Ainlouk

[partim] Ainlouk.

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Of course, you don’t just enter into this inner sanctum; the correct method is to go into any of several buildings on the same street where one might be expected to do extended business in private—a lawyer’s office, a bordello—and pass through, by back alley or connected basement, to the place of the meeting.

[partim] Ainlouk.

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Karkedon is one of the biggest cities in the world—maybe even bigger than Alexandreï, depending on who’s counting.

I love cities.  You put a few people together, they’ll talk and get to know each other, but put a hundred thousand people together and nobody gets to know anyone if they can help it. The mind just gives up and refuses to see other people as people; you can be more alone in a crowded city than in any solitary place.

It was morning when we reached the city.  I left the ship and went up through narrow streets of pale buildings, apartment houses and storefronts of artisans and the offices where the scribes tried to keep track of it all, to the city center, where a building like any other building waited with no indication that Karkedon’s powerful were inside, plotting against the world.

Some things it is nice to be part of.

[partim] Ainlouk.

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I stayed in my cabin for as much as I could on the trip back to Karkedon – at least, that was my intention.  I didn’t want to have to talk about the bridge to anyone—even on a Karkedonian ship I wasn’t necessarily safe.

But then the hyena happened, lurching out of his compartment and crashing into mine, the smaller creature quite green with seasickness.  I scrambled out of the way of the window where I’d been sitting and held on to him as he leaned out and was sick.

The hyena, whom I learned later was called Mikips, recovered himself and, with no other apology than a nervous laugh and a blush of embarrassment, rushed back to his own compartment.

I wish that had been the only time I would see him.

[partim] Silk Rail.

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I spent rather more time than I’d like to admit determining the name ‘Somessa’ (Σωμεσσα), considering he’s not a major character or anything.

I was not a little worried at what the Aiolan priest might want to ask me. His avian face was hard to read—I tried to marshal my story in my head and hoped to Artamid that he didn’t have any religious mumbo-jumbo on his side—after all, what kind of defense could I have against that?

Luckily, he seemed to have been chosen more for his suspicious nature rather than any thaumaturgy on his part—I guessed if they had any soothsayers, they’d be reading people back at Tars. That was a blessing, at least.

But here I am interrupting him.

He came up to me, his beak very close to my face, and started immediately with “So where were you last night when the bridge was destroyed?”

“Asleep in bed, I hope!” I said. “Long trip ahead of me and all, you know.”

He moved on to his next question, and I could see he was plainly reading them from a tablet he was carrying. The ibis had no talent at all; I wagered that the guard was half there to keep him from going off-script and offending anyone.

“Have you ever,” he said, “been in the pay of the rulers of Iberie, Karkedon, Liboue, Gallie, Alamannie, Illourie, Skoutie, or Arabie?”

“No king ever gave me any money!” I said. “For most of us, you know, it’s the other way around.”

The priest looked down at his tablet, possibly trying to determine if having paid taxes was something he had questions about. The rat put a hand on the ibis’ shoulder. “Give it up, Somessa. He’s got nothing.” To me he said, “Go, catch your boat.”

Thank Artamid for small-town wholesomeness! I bid them farewell, headed for the port, sold my horse, and got on the boat for Karkedon. It was a massive relief when we finally got underway.

[partim] Silk Rail.

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The rat shook his head. “No, no holdup on the boats, just the people. Some fool destroyed a railroad bridge.”

“A bridge?” I said. “Don’t they have to be pretty sturdy for the trains to go over them?”

“Never mind that,” he said. “The priest here will just have a few questions for you and you can be on your way.”

[partim] Silk Rail.

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It was a bit more crowded than I’d hoped, but about as much as I’d expected. I started to have doubts about my story. What possible reason could anyone have to come to Sepouri, of all places, for a ship to Karkedon?

A rat soldier in a Tarsan crest and an ibis priest of Aiol approached, and I got off my horse to show appropriate deference.

What did people normally come here for anyway?

Small town with a harbor. Not exactly a hub of commerce, so… Things don’t come here, things come from here.

“And what brings you to town today, young wolf?”

What comes from Sepouri?

“I’m a… freedman,” I said, answering the soldier with only a bit of hesitation. “On my way home to Karkedon.”

“A freedman with a horse?” said the priest.

“Must have been a favorite slave,” said the soldier. I tried not to blush.

“Well, he doesn’t look like he’s been working in the galena mines.”

Galena, right. Who could have remembered that?

“Are the boats being held up today?” I asked.

Scrap – Silk Rail

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So as to avoid suspicion, I stayed the night at an inn, instead of fleeing immediately. I got up at dawn, paid my bill, and rode out of town before the alarm was raised. I figured they’d be holding up any ships from going downriver, so I headed for Sepouri to take a ship back to Karkedon.

I hoped to make it before anyone thought of closing the port—but I didn’t rush, because nothing makes people ask questions like seeing a wolf in a hurry.

I made it to the harbor some time after noon.

Scrap – Silk Rail.

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“Hey, who’s there?”

Someone was behind me, on the bridge.

Sucks to be them.

No, that’s not good at all. Bodies would be worse than witnesses. But the fuse was still going and I was too far away now to stop it.

Nothing to do but keep running, now.

The sky lit up behind me a split second before I heard the blast.

The damage was done. I only hoped there would be nothing left of the man to find; they’d look a lot harder for a murderer than a saboteur.

But I wasn’t ready to be a murderer.

The temple of Aiol at Aleksandreï is the largest structure in the city these days. Regardless of how important I became, though, I still felt like the smallest thing in it.

Not that I ever managed to become very important. From my first year in the service of the god, when it became clear I had no aptitude for the divine engineering, I was relegated to a clerical position. That, though, I was good at, and soon enough I was managing most of the temple’s secular affairs.

Then the railroads came—a perpetual headache.

It seemed simple enough in principle—Aiol, the god of winds, had handed down the principles of harnessing wind and steam and smoke to do the work of men. And, certainly, carrying trains of wagons to all parts of the world was work the divine engineering could handle, but it hardly seemed worth the expense.

After all, the trains would only run if the rails were perfect.

In the cities, that was easy. But even along the rail from Aleksandreï to Bousantie there was quite a bit of countryside—opportunities for thieves and peasants to steal the iron, for trees to fall, for lands to flood—delays and repairs, delays and repairs.

And now they want a railroad built all the way to Tianan in the country of the Sers—did they never learn ambition is a vice?—but with the support of a god, many things are ventured.

I had only met the god Aiol once. I was still, at the time, trying to understand the principles of steam-powered machines, when he came into the classroom where I was studying.

For those who have never seen a god, I should say they are very like their pictures—like a hornless satyr from the waist up, but with feet almost like an ape, though without the thumbs they have. He looked young; but the gods are young when they choose to be.

Scrap – Silk Rail.


Ironic that Seran work would keep the road to the Seran country from being built.

He checked the station, just to be sure. Empty; good. No witnesses. Outside of the station, nobody would be around for a good mile or so.

He went back down the rails to the Coudn bridge. It wasn’t the most impressive bridge the Aleksandreïans had built for their railroads, but like all of them it was built at great expense.

And after tonight, it would be no more.

He set up the bomb on one of the bridge’s foundations, unrolled the fuse a comfortable distance, lit it, and took off running downstream.

Scrap – Silk Rail.

Most of you have probably heard of NaNoWriMo, a project where one tries to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I’ve tried it a couple of times; the next Ralph story, which I haven’t posted yet because I don’t think it’ll really make sense until the current one is finished and posted, was my attempt last year.  This year, I managed a whopping 688 words.  I’m posting them as scraps because they’re too disjoint to fit with each other, but I’ll be working on trying to continue the story from here on out.  It is set in Terce, but there are no satyriffic shenanigans, so.

Ainlouk waited outside the rail station at Tars, waiting for everyone to leave as night fell. His hand moved to check the bomb in his pack: still there, ready.

The last train to Aleksandreï churned out of the station, and the slaves and the Aiolan priests who manned the station filed out, heading back to their quarters.

He forced himself to count to a hundred before moving. The street was silent and dark with the lamps extinguished; it was a clear, hot night.

Ainlouk went around the back of the station, walking the rails through the yard where the merchants loaded and unloaded their goods, to the platform where the rich men who rode trains disembarked, and opened up his pack.

The bomb lay wrapped in heavy cloth.