Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Response to Donation: Kyrus 4

The problem with the old ‘Cliner’s papers was that you could never be sure if what you were staring at was a character, a spot of mold or a decaying chunk of the ‘Cliner himself.

The light in Nadian’s study made the creamy stone glow luminous, the walls still radiating gentle heat even this late at night. Outside, in the desert night, there was the swirl of light snow blowing down in the canyon below and it was most pleasant to have one of the ancient Loggia where one had the view down the river and the pleasant atmosphere provided by curtains of stone, cool at the height of the day and warm in the depths of night.

Nadian delicately lifted another shred of book away from the decaying body the snatchers had delivered. He turned and laid the gossamer, crumbling piece out on the quartz table before turning back to gaze down at the body. Aside from being Dark on the old texts, it was a good thing the Ancients had themselves wrapped in their books or their burials would be almost impossible to find at all. The body, though desiccated, had decayed before it dried and was barely recognizable as having once been human. There was nothing but a faint moldy, dusty odor. This time he wouldn’t need the clove orange to hold under his nose, though it lay to hand on his desk next the beeswax lamp.

It was also helpful, in finding the old texts, which the Manders and Cliners, every one of them, had all had themselves buried in caves along the north rim rather than in the cemeteries along the south road and the edge of the sand.

He looked at the bared teeth, the rime of flesh reduced to a leather flap fallen into the center of the face. The bottom jaw had disappeared long ago. Nadian tightened the bands around his forearms, keeping the cloth away from the corpse. He leaned over and with his tiniest blade, teased away at the last discernable rag of parchment pasted over the chest wall. It fell into three pieces as his knife slid between it and the body, tipping flat onto the palm of his other hand. The bottom edges were ragged where the body had rotted the text away completely, lying on it. He reverently placed it on the table to work with later, carefully laying priceless pieces of desert
glass over the fragments of parchment.

No one knew what had destroyed the ancient school a generation ago. It and the last Deei in Lainz had vanished in a tremendous explosion that had taken the highest Loggia, cracked it off its foundation and crumbled it and the school and every last possible teacher into the canyon below. The vast libraries had been the last winding sheets of those Deei and no one – not even the best-paid snatchers -- dared disturb that grave near the base of the south wall. Pity, that.