Posts Tagged Terce

[partim] Ierak.

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The work has to go on.  I gathered the other officials and the chief priests and I let them know of the god’s mission and how long I expected he might be gone.  There would probably be extra services in support of the deity, and to focus the acolytes.

The closer the prospect loomed, the less interested I felt.

I left the temple and went out into the city.

[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] Ierak.

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I tried to work out different solutions with Aiol, but there was really nothing else we could do without a continuous divine intervention, and far be it from me to demand so much of Aiol’s attention—he was the god of the power of wind, not the god of the rail…road.

“The god of roads, of travelers, what about him? Where is Erma, and would he be able to help?”

“Erma is god of many things,” Aiol said.  “I had his blessing when we began to build the roads but I did not seek to burden him by asking for his patronage as well.  But I suppose we must ask for him to involve himself.”  He sighed, a concession to defeat that in no way diminished his divinity in my eyes.  “Roads and travelers, messengers and communication, trade and commerce—All of it under his purview, not mine, though my rails are for all of them.  He has been set up at Logodon in Gallie; I should go speak to him…”

There was a rush of wind, and the god was gone, leaving me alone.  Gallie was three thousand miles away; the rails did not travel all the way there yet—the Galliks were friendly with Karkedon—so I knew I could not follow; at the god’s speed, it would take him a little over a day to make the journey, one way.

So I had two and a half days to myself.  I refused to be helpless in the absence of the divinity, as so many were, as so many weren’t—but my capabilities might be diminished.  The god’s presence energized us all, and his absence was always palpable.

[partim] Ierak.

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“Our cousins in Karkedon are feeling left out, are they.”  Of course he would already know; the wind blows where it wishes, and he always hears…

“A shame, of course—imagine what Kron’s city could be like under the tutelage of its god!  Instead… well, you have heard the depths Kron has sunk to?”

I hadn’t, unless—“You mean the children? A crazy rumor—no one puts faith in it.”

“There is the benign ritual, open to all… but behind it a darker one only seen by a select few… and the wind that fans the flames.”

He looked a little ill as he said that.  “We’ll bring an end to that, soon enough,” he said. “The bridge was a surprise.  Their agents must be protected.  You’ll need to put up a guard.”

The gods do have no sense of scale sometimes.  “Guard? Thousands of miles of road? There aren’t enough people—it’d take an army just to cover from here to Bousantie!”

[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.

[scrap] Silk Rail.

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I left my chamber and looked through the busy halls and rooms of the temple till I found what I was looking for: the god, who was sitting in a classroom teaching a half-dozen young jackals the principles of the steam engine.

I stood in the doorway and watched.  I still didn’t understand even the basics, even now.  Aiol once said that some people are not susceptible to the divine influence—whether that of one god, several, or even the whole pantheon.

But while that may be true of some, but the influence of the god was definitely on me—but not in his learning.  I watched him, reverently, until the lesson was over and the students had left.

[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.

[scrap] Silk Rail.

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Aside from disappointing the god, I was glad to be free of those classes. I was still allowed to stay at the temple, and from there my real career began.

Of course, I am digressing—I meant to talk about the sabotage.

Indeed, I believed the scale of the vandalism on the rail system was too great to be the work of idle peasants; as I received the message that the bridge over the Coudn had exploded, I knew my suspicions were being confirmed.

I had a fairly clear idea of who would have an interest in sabotaging the rails. There was no discontent among our own people, the people of the Ellad, or of any land in between; all had felt the benefit of the divine transportation. Nor indeed would there be any protest from the Eastern countries; treaties had already been drawn up by all, from Armenie to the country of the Tins, to build the rails, and all saw it to be in their interest.

The only sensible perpetrators would be the nations of the west—Liboue and Iberie, the kingdoms of Karkedon.

While the war between Karkedon and the Ellad has abated and there are no longer any generals in the field, the peace was shallow, and the terms of trade between us and the Ellad precluded any rail construction over northern Liboue to link Karkedon with the developing world.

Clearly they were beginning to chafe under this state of affairs. Why did they have to take it out on my expensive railroads? Why couldn’t they just invade Sikelie again?

[scrap] Silk Rail

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Not all gods can see the future—but I knew, when Aiol looked at me that day, that he didn’t see my future in making wheels turn. It was the disappointment in his face—so intense, it made my own heart sink, and I couldn’t look him in the face. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be sick or if I was going to cry; luckily neither happened to me before the god turned his gaze away.

I suppose he spoke to the temple masters about me; I was never called back to the class again.