It was claimed that the pile of rock was haunted and not only could one hear the screams of the Deei but one could still smell the stink of sulfur. It was seen as a judgment of the Light and now only amulet hawkers in the Basin claimed any kind of esoteric powers in Lainz.
For himself Nadian was more annoyed, by them destroying themselves, than traumatized. He took it personally that they had all died before he’d been born, much less could be taught.
The body crumbled together as he gathered the edges of the sheet, folding up the remains into an anonymous bundle, as brittle as dead leaves. From his worktables it was only a step or two down to the balcony stretching out over the abyss. As he slid the door open the cold wind slammed inside as though it had been lying in wait for the opportunity, thrusting icy fingers into his clothing and hair, plucking at the bundle.
Nadian liked the wind. It was honest in its ability to kill with cold, its ability to pick you up and hurl you against the stone so far below the way a man would smash a clay pot. A wet clay pot but a pot nonetheless. The wind took his mind off his nervousness. Ripping apart these old bodies didn’t bother him, even though any decent citizen of Lainz would be crying for his Exposure in a bottomless cage if they found out he was desecrating Ancestors. He didn’t much care. After all, none of their vengeful ghosts had ever shown up to haunt him. Perhaps because they weren’t HIS direct ancestors. Or perhaps they left him alone because he was joining various groups of ancestors together on the bottom of the canyon. That particular why was unimportant to him as long as the ghosts left him in peace to pursue his studies.
He stepped to the edge and unfurled the sheet, letting the wind take what it wanted. The crumbly old bits wouldn’t last long enough to hit bottom, blown away as if they had never been. He opened his hands and let the defiled sheet follow. If the wind and the river didn’t take it, then some bottom dweller would be grateful for it. One more layer to keep the heat in, in the bottom of the canyon where ice sat in the cracks all year round. He untied his sleeves and let the wind shake the dust out before retreating back inside the warmed stone walls, sliding the night doors shut in the wind’s face.
The Emperor had kept him dancing attendance on him, all day and would probably want the same tomorrow. As an old man, he no longer slept much and could even call for company in the Dark of the night. He’s like a fussy child, cranky about going to sleep in case he doesn’t wake up again, keeping everyone around him sleepless and completely helpless to hand the infant in question off to a competent wet nurse. He paused, hovering over his new batch of fragments. Perhaps he should be looking for a spell to incapacitate the old man rather than kill him. That way he’d be off, locked into a quiet room, crapping into his sheets, being sponged off by nurses and leaving the work of Empire to others.
Diriyish hadn’t been the same since the funeral. I suppose he doesn’t have anyone left to bury. But he hadn’t given up and just died. Somehow he’d hardened into a stick of boot leather and just as responsive sometimes, even while still being the puff adder dangerous he’d always been. Nadian pulled out his magnifier and dismissed the Emperor from his thoughts. That was a daytime problem when everyone was under the Beneficent Light.
This was his time, the time when he could indulge in what his true passion was. It was criminal that there was no one to teach him how to be a Cliner, no one to promote him from the Ahy all the way to the dizzying heights of the Deei with all the attendant pomp and power.
It was that power that had smoothed the sides of the city a thousand years ago, Cliners pulling the spaces and holes in the solid stone and bringing the molten rock to the Manders who could take it and form it into the deep, flat basin to hold the water at the top of the column. And then made the Loggia grow out of that like stone flowers until they towered another five hundred feet over the canyon rim, the flower island homes delicate as lilies. It was the power that built the ancient pumps capable of pulling water all the way from the canyon bottom to the top and the kind of power that made the seamless columns of hollow stone that held the liquid wax that heated the city at night. It was the kind of power that had died away in Lainz and no one remembered how to teach it, how to foster it in its own children. It was a power that was dead as far as the Empire was concerned and could not be resurrected, for all that everyone prayed to their Ancestors.
Except him. He knew he had the power from his father before him. And it was a power he would claim if he had to defile a thousand graves to wrest the Deei’s secrets out of their rotting hands. It was the kind of power that made the office of Emperor look like a children’s poppet.