We found a lovely room in a tower hotel half-way up the city’s bluff, looking across the wide river with the ferries going back and forth to the Benai Saekrberk. In Brahvniki, so heavily influenced by the old Zak Empire, all the tower rooms were seen as less expensive and cheaper, rented mostly by foreigners.
The walls along the harbour were high grey stone, the remnants of the old Empire and had served them well enough they’d successfully defended the city a few years ago against the abortive Thanish war. The Benai Saekrberk also had its walls going down into the water, the soaring white towers drawing the eye away from the old fortress monastery.
The great library in the Benai is built below ground and instead of big windows to let people read they have these kraumaks everywhere... the old style ones were made of a certain type of stone but the modern ones were originally clear Arkan glass and glowed white instead of green or yellow or red.
So the reading cubicles are these tiny, private brick or stone vaulted rooms, dark except for the clear, bright reading lanterns. The other lamps below were just as odd.
The librarians, all Brahvnikian monks -- or Vra -- swear the lamps need daily prayers to give off their light. They say the light comes from two things, neither of which burn and thus do not damage walls and paper with smoke or fumes. Every day the lamps need to see the sun. The tops are full of a green liquid like algae in a scummy pond, and the Vra set them in rows outside, on the south wall racks built especially for them.
The Brahvnikian sign for a library is one of these conical lamps. There is one outside... a big one... before the library doors and it glows white/yellow for half the night. So the front door of any library in Brahvniki is always built facing south.
But like every other Great Archive it had the same hushed atmosphere and the familiar whiff of books, plus the delicate perfumes in the mortar that the Vra architects included in every sacred building. It was nice to know they thought the same way I did about books.
It was amazing how much one could learn from tax and court records. It was interesting that the Imperator of Arko... long before there was a huge Empire... actually came on a State visit to the Great Dragon of the Zak in Brahvniki. That was Eight Kurkas, meeting with Great Dragon Valentin. I didn’t recognize the name until I wrote it down as it would be spelled in the Imperial Archive—Falantinas.
It looked like the two leaders arranged trade, around an Enchian Empire land-route that had held a monopoly and tolls.... hmmm. I would love to ask Ailadas but I couldn’t write him, since he would be duty bound to let them know he’d received correspondence from me.
But I would only indulge myself in researching the ancient volksmoots that eventually replaced the Great Dragons for a little while. The most consistent and long-term voting country, who still practiced it into modern days, was that of Yeola-e. I would follow the track of the effect of the vote on the surrounding countries. Most of the old empires and countries were ‘great’ only in name, claiming territory where there were not people to populate it.
Selina we had already seen but this time we took a river boat heading east. It was the river Ereala and the flat-boat had the promising name of ‘Chagae’s Dreams’. I hadn’t realized that the boat was empty of passengers for a reason, since the whole middle of the barge had been empty and waiting for the bags of grain or stooks of ‘maranth I’d imagined.
Chagae, the merchant owner, had gotten an exclusive contract to ship a brand new herd of Kaeryal to the north mountains. They were long-necked and fuzzy, with camel faces. Yeolis had used them in the south mountains but not in the north at all and in the catastrophe of the war, the Yeolis had decided they were too useful to not use them in the whole country, setting out to breed them up in numbers.
I was surprised that she was willing to sell me passage, since she was a war veteran with a missing forearm, but she hadn’t offered the story and I had not asked. But she had asked if I had heard what she was shipping and I had said no. She’d smiled and taken our passage money.
Now I realized why. Kaeryal not regularly groomed do not smell bad. They even have tidy toilet habits, choosing one spot to defecate. But. They spat up the contents of their stomachs if they didn’t like you. They were amazingly accurate. It couldn’t have been the colour of my hair that set them off because they didn’t spit at Ili. Chagae and her crew were mostly on the shore, leading the draft-horses towing the barge. At least a bucket of water dipped out of the river to wash my head with – again -- wasn’t salt.
And I was lucky that all of the intact males had had their fighting teeth removed so they didn’t try to sneak up on any of us and either rip our ears or privates off. A charming trait no doubt encouraged and bred for by Hyerne women. Of course I wouldn’t miss my most hated organs.
“So, Minakas, tell me again why we’re aiming for the library at Vae Arahi?” Gannara leaned back against our packs.
“Well. I had an idea for a story that the Yeoli National Library might have records for. It’s something specifically about Yeoli/Arkan relations and... with Chevenga on Haiu Menshir, after he was stripped of his rightful place by my stupid, blind people, according to the Pages, it’s the last place anyone would expect me to go!”
Gan nudged me, jerked his thumb at the kaeryal looking at us... at me. I dropped my voice some. “I wanted to see it, too. His home...” I shrugged. “I couldn’t think of a better place to hide from Mahid either.”
“Right. So... we’ll stop at Hirina, check out the library there... there’s a big one. I can write my folks in Arko... or Haiu Menshir... like I did from Selina. Not letting them know where I am but still letting them know I’m safe.”
“That’s good. They’ll have a trail of where we’ve been but if we can keep it random and only send from big cities... Look, Gannara. It can’t be your whole life. I’m all right. Ili and I have enough funds to keep running my whole life. You shouldn’t.” I threw up my gloves to stop him sputtering at me. “I could do the same as you are with your folks. You have a life to go back to. I have to figure out what my life is going to be.”
He took a deep breath. “All right. Not immediately, though. You’re safer in Yeola-e with me around. Once you figure out what you’re going to do... long term... you can ‘not tell me’ so when they truth-drug me, I’ll go home.”
“Ili!” My little brother and animals. What was it? He and JiaKlem were sitting in the middle of the kaeryal and it looked like he was going to try and get up on one of them, a big piebald male who turned his head at me and belched. “Come out of there, please. I’d rather not get vomit out of my hair again, and these kaeryal are not yours. And I'm not getting you one!”