Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
My dearest Ela,
As before, I cannot say where we are. However it is in a place much safer than our last camping place. Where we were before we were in danger from all kinds of things but it was by the grace of Muunas that we did not succumb to various and sundry.
The frustrating child I once taught has vanished in this harsh school; the Spark continues diligent in his studies, sometimes to excess. Should all my scholars push themselves to the point where I am forced to insist they cease their study for the day.
Our current domicile is far more comfortable than our last though it was acquired with unfortunate... hmm... perhaps I shall be careful of your delicate sensibilities, my dear sister, even if I do never manage to send this letter. In fact I will most likely confess it to Irefas’s Fires the moment it is finished.
If that is the case... let me say it was Mahid perfidy that arranged our living place. It opened up a crack in the unity of the Mahid and their commander, the First Second. He is as ritually oriented as the former Imperator... rest He where the Gods command... and neglected to perform correct funeral rites for two of his own fallen.
The boy is not only acquiring conscience my dear Ela, he is cultivating one that he apparently had in spirit before it was overlaid with years of contrary teaching. He is becoming convinced that he should, perhaps, vanish into obscurity once well away from his Mahid, just when he is proving himself more than capable of actually being a good Imperator. How unfortunate is that? My student is the most unfortunate of fortunates.
We have managed a number of plans for attempted escape. One for the place abandoned last... moons ago now. We have arranged for another attempt but in this valley the weather has not proven good to us.
We have had stores laid up, actually stolen from the former inhabitants of our stopping camp, with others bought, but the summer has been a maelstrom of wind and rainstorms and our prospective escape route washed out by a tremendous mud-slide that took out more of the mountainside than I thought possible.
Having read of the phenomenon I had no inkling of the actual power of earth and water.
We are now frozen into our place, with the snow early and deep. My student is now attempting to make plans for escape in a completely different direction, and attempting to incorporate travel over deep snow. I do not hold much hope for such schemes and fear he must settle himself to endure the increasing demands on him from the First Second.
Ela, that man gets worse as Minis gets better. As he becomes more like the man he wishes to be, 2nd Amitzas attempts to hammer him into the man he believes can take back the Empire. We are at the moment attempting to turn his attention away from the Coronet, pretending he is ‘slow’, so that the First Second is not tempted to begin training the toddler into a suitable support for his brother." Ela, they killed two innocent men to steal this monastery for us to live the winter in, in comfort. Muunas help me, I find myself not praying enough for them, while the wind howls outside. I have my books and my student... two even, for the Yeoli slave is attentive and learns more in one afternoon than some Mahid in ten years of teaching. And I am not aching. I have some company in the form of Binshala Ilberas, Aitza. A most sensible woman. I hope to one day be able to write you true letters, Ela, not these ineffectual vanishing words that go up only to the Gods, much good they may do Them. But we are held hard in the two handed grip of a monster and the fear of having a man who fancies himself the apprentice of the Summoner on my old bone’s trail is enough to keep me sitting still within his grip. We are all held in fear. It will take a miracle to deliver us out from under the weight of possible torment. In that, the First Second is very good at what he does. He informed me without the slightest trace of irony that, quote “Torture is one’s means of maintaining a stock-pile of obedience.” Unquote. Rather than make myself half mad with such speculations, Ela I will finish and burn this letter and go to be with the Yeoli boy and Binshala and the Mirror who is very soothing company while I read. We will sit in what was once the rectory for the Steel-Armed Brothers and I will remind myself of their sacrifice. Your loving brother, Ai
The image he must have of the two sons of Kurkas Aan is so gruesome, so awful I do not understand how he can sleep at night, cloaking his sweet dreams with Mahid duty.
- Twenty-first, “I am Mahid. The command of my senior is the will of the Imperator.”
- Twenty-second, “I am Mahid. The Imperator requires no impure substance enter my body.”
- Twenty-third, “I am Mahid. My God(dess) knows if I violate the will of the Imperator.”
- Twenty-fourth, “I am Mahid. I do not speak idly or to inferiors other than necessary orders.”
- Twenty-fifth, “I am Mahid. Showing reactions imply will other than the Imperator's. Show nothing.”
Ela, they killed two innocent men to steal this monastery for us to live the winter in, in comfort. Muunas help me, I find myself not praying enough for them, while the wind howls outside. I have my books and my student... two even, for the Yeoli slave is attentive and learns more in one afternoon than some Mahid in ten years of teaching. And I am not aching. I have some company in the form of Binshala Ilberas, Aitza. A most sensible woman.
I hope to one day be able to write you true letters, Ela, not these ineffectual vanishing words that go up only to the Gods, much good they may do Them. But we are held hard in the two handed grip of a monster and the fear of having a man who fancies himself the apprentice of the Summoner on my old bone’s trail is enough to keep me sitting still within his grip.
We are all held in fear. It will take a miracle to deliver us out from under the weight of possible torment. In that, the First Second is very good at what he does. He informed me without the slightest trace of irony that, quote “Torture is one’s means of maintaining a stock-pile of obedience.” Unquote. Rather than make myself half mad with such speculations, Ela I will finish and burn this letter and go to be with the Yeoli boy and Binshala and the Mirror who is very soothing company while I read.
We will sit in what was once the rectory for the Steel-Armed Brothers and I will remind myself of their sacrifice.
Your loving brother,
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
]] art log 4976 06 23 22:05 Heinz: Wo zind sie?
]] art log 4976 06 23 22:05 Wendy: Sie haben sich bei, was einmal war Santa Croce, in Italia, versteckt.
]] art log 4976 06 23 22:05 Jurgen: Nicht bei Graz, in Osterreich?
]] art log 4976 06 23 22:06 Arthur: No, after the mountain pass they’re north not east. After Italy and all that travelling, they’re somewhere near where Geneva was.
]] art log 4976 06 23 22:06 Jose: Estan de viaje de el caballo.
]] art log 4976 06 23 22:06 Arthur: Yes, Jose it's not like they can take an airframe.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This character, Selilsela, just rose up out of nowhere and insisted I post her letter.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I thought about Ailadas’s advice and went to find out a number of things. The treasury for my eventual re-taking of the Empire was in 2nd Amitzas’s care and I had not seen it since we had last moved. It was a pair of box panniers that would fit on one horse.
I wandered ‘aimlessly’, making mental notes. The horses were being brought into the caverns at night since the door had been forced all the way open, and they were kept in a side corridor. I wondered at the people who had built this warren of rooms as part of the cavern complex and if they had used it when the ruin up on the hill fell.
When I went out to the horses, Ilesias insisted on coming with me and I took him, telling Kaita that perhaps she should have a few minutes of Jitz herself. “Can I ride your horse, Minis? Can I? Can I? Can I?”
“You can and you may.”
Rather than have the Mahid tack my horse, I inquired where the tack was and we went to get it ourselves. My plans were getting more and more complex... How to get tack for the horses out of the caves?
I was starting to think longingly of my slaughtering Mahid dream. That would be so much simpler, if I could do it.
Ilesias carried the bridle out for me and I took the pad and saddle. I was able to sling it on my back with one hand and still catch up the reins trailing behind my little brother before they got stepped on. “Whoa, horse!” He giggled but stopped and we re-arranged his grip so nothing trailed or tangled.
“Ilesias, here’s a horse catching trick the Mahid don’t know. I read about it in one of my books and it works.” There weren’t many sweets at all but Kaita and Binshala had accidentally found a way to make honey drops, by almost burning a sauce. The treacly sauce had hardened when it cooled and when broken was a good candy.
I had some of the bits in my hand and all of a sudden, the nasty, hobbled animals who would run from you unless caught or tied, were suddenly hopping up to be petted, pretending to be cute little house-donkeys, waggling their ears and slobbering and pushing their noses out, begging for the sweetness I held. Just like teaching a donkey to roller skate. Start with food.
They got their chips of honey and I sent them off with a slap on their shoulders, except for mine who got another piece of candy. He moaned in a way that made Ilesias giggle and as he stood, eyes half closed I stroked up over his cheeks and scratched under his mane where he was always itchy apparently. He pushed his forehead against my chest and leaned. “Heya, Nasty. How are you, you horrible brute, hmmm?”
The horse probably had an elegant name, having come from Mahid stocks, on a piece of paper somewhere in the bowels of the Marble Palace -- or knowing Mahid, just a number. But I and Ilesias called him Nasty Brute, even though he wasn’t so bad once the punitive bits were no longer scarring his mouth.
Ilesias’s legs were still not long enough for him to have stirrups yet but he was as comfortable up in the saddle as if he were a burr stuck on. I still lead Nasty, though. I had terrible images of the horse spooking and my little brother falling, so I was a boring big brother and wouldn’t let him loose, no matter what he yelled.
It was a good thing that Binshala was up and moving on her own again. 2nd Amitzas chose now to move us again, just as I had worked out my first plan to get away from the Mahid, throwing all of my ideas straight into the garderobe hole.
We moved even before Jitzmitthra was over, so as to get through Two Kills Pass without much worry of encountering anyone else. 2nd Amitzas ordered that if we were to meet anyone in the pass they would be provided with a swift accident in the mountains; it was tricky enough that we had to cross in daylight and we were at risk of being seen.
Nasty was sure-footed for a horse but I wished we had mules instead on the narrowest parts. Even now, in summer, the highest mountains around us were snow-capped and I wondered at 2nd Amitzas’s choice of moving us further north again, higher again. I was so sick of being cold.
Why is it that bards and novels never mention saddle-sores? Or why do they make rocks falling away into the abyss, from your horse’s hooves brave and romantic rather than just gut-wrenching? I imagine that tale tellers really don’t want to mention gut upsets, mountain sickness, chilblains and squatting over shallow holes dug in the ground. Or the smell of armour if you are wearing it every day. That I almost didn’t notice any more.
It took three days of hard riding to get through Two Kills, with camps high in the pass itself. Binshala’s lips were blue and she shook even with furs wrapped around herself. 2nd Amitzas was coldly furious when I told him she needed to rest more often. I insisted she use one of my feather quilts when we stopped.
I'd sat down next to her on the trail. Gannara had used some of the wood we had packed, to start a small fire and there was heated broth. I put a cup of it into her hands and she huddled around it. Ailadas was on her other side. “You look after yourself, nurse.”
She smiled at me. “Of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray. One needs one’s nurse for his comfort alone, hmmm? That is the only reason the Spark is so solicitous?” Her voice was wheezing and came hard but she still smiled.
“Oh yes. Of course.” I looked at her fine, delicate features, pale, thin eyebrows, blue veins standing under pale skin, pulsing fast. There were dark circles under her eyes and she could barely hold the cup. She looked insubstantial, sitting swaddled in the quilt, worn. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “You shouldn’t have been forced into the wilderness.”
“Nonsense!” She hissed back at me, as suddenly fierce. “This one is honoured and has been honoured. Discomfort is merely something to be ignored to be with this one’s charge!”
I shook my head at her, pretending to recoil. “Oh, of course! Of course, my nurse!” I grinned at her and she smiled back. I just wished her body were as strong as her spirit. A woman. She kept amazing me. And Ailadas just sat, offering her his quiet support. She leaned against him surreptitiously.
She’ll feel better once we are off the heights. Gannara snuffed the tiny fire and buried it a handful of scree or two from the ledge, more pebbles than dirt, and came to sit on my other side. The four of us sat, the edge above thousand man-heights drop approximately my own height away from my toes.
The wind howled below, through an all but impassable thicket of green pines, deadfall and rocks fallen from our height or higher. The stone showed hundreds of years of flash-water levels marching up the stone walls below, overlaid on the flexed and twisted ropes of rock veins. The wind puffing up from below brought a welcome warmth and scent of pine. I wonder if this is what flyers see? Birds flying below one’s toes?
The horses stood, heads down mostly, either nervous or resting or both. I prayed to my ancestors that none of them stumble and take someone else with them. The call came from the head. “Mount. We will reach the turn-around before dark.”
We’d better. I think I’m finding out why the vast bulk of the traffic uses the tunnel. Though it’s not likely we meet an eighteen rigged beer wagon up here and have to back up for them.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
“Vanya! Vanya!” It was Ma calling, coming from the direction of the market horse-yards. “Once the market closes you can pick up the harness from Dorantas. He’s working on them right now, his apprentice tells me.”
I leaned out of the open side of the wagon. “I hear you Ma!” The Orkest Book Faire was full of people this year, everyone from a creepy fessas fellow with his scholar’s list, to women who only last year would have sworn on the Arkan holy book that they couldn’t read. I turned my steeliest eye on the street urchin hovering over one of our book boxes out the front of our open caravan. “And you, boy. You’ve been back to hover over that bin three times now. You aren’t snitching any.” The kid scooted.
Da thought Ma’s idea of a charity book box wouldn’t work, even with the beginning glut of cheap books on the market. She thought if a book were too damaged to sell we could give them away and Da said they were still too valuable. Ma grew up in the Zak ghetto in Rand learning to be an Illuminator --Baba still lived there -- so she has a special feel for books and caught the love of books early. It hurts her when there’s kids standing at our stall with book hunger writ all over their faces and them not with two chains to rub together.
Da’s family were papermakers in Fispur and they know how to cling to every link that passes through their gloves. So they were pretty shocked when Da met and fell in love with Ma on a bookship, him selling paper and her onboard fixing books and scrolls up pretty. And both of them deciding to go into a caravanning bookstall together. And marrying.
Ma has the dark perfectly straight hair of the Rand, and is petite and pale as a Zak, while Da is a lanky fessas who my Baba calls ‘the brass pole’, with a lot of waggling eyebrows at Ma. The bookish are a mixed lot, all of us doing all kinds of things with words. Me, I hadn’t settled into what I wanted to do with myself, not officially. I was just stuck on my parent’s route from town to town, from faire to faire, the same old round year after year.
I’d gotten all of Da’s height and then some, and his skinniness. My hair was like Ma’s but wavier and I’d had partners tell me they love my almond-shaped, bright blue eyes. Not that I’m vain. Or had that many bed partners... I’m only nineteen. But being good enough looking just made it easier to do what I really loved to do, which was story tell. I could sing a bit but I wasn’t a true bard. I’d been scrawling my stories and plays down and sending them off to the Pages in the city... through that whole business with the sack, even though the editor hadn’t bought anything from me to print yet. He would one day, I held that firm in my heart.
I had to say I mostly approved of the Yeolis even though they sacked Arko. Some books got burned, but the big libraries and a bunch of little ones were all saved... sometimes with the sackers helping the sackees put out the fires. And all these changes in the laws meant there would be hundreds, maybe thousands of people learning to read or wanting to. I wanted to travel into the middle of the Empire, to the city itself, to see those big libraries. We were so close to losing them.
Of course enough of the bibliotakises got looted that a flood of books had hit the market and why Ma and Da both were combing through the faire while I was stuck at the cart, selling our stock. If I got the harness back fast, right before dinner, I’d be able to go out and perform at Mussels, Mussels again without my parents knowing. A few more good nights and I might have enough chains to get tested for story bard’s papers and head out to do some wandering instead of our endless up and down the coast round.
There’d been a fight the other night and I got out with my byluk safe but I’d lost half my take spilling out when I grabbed up my hat. I swiped a hand gently over the little cut on my head. I’d lied and told Da I’d stood up too fast and hit my head on the edge of the caravan’s open door. I dust a book and carefully re-shelve it behind me, turn around and start up my calling-on again.
“Incabulus! Wonderfully printed and carefully bound Incabulus! Not just mere books my friends. But legendary books, books commissioned and written in the wild hinterlands of civilized lands!” At least I could turn my talent for storytelling to draw a crowd. “Books dreamed by the Dragon-lords, horded like gold in the frozen city that is their nest. Incabulus sweated out of the fever dreams of the southern cities at the command of the satraps and their sinister viziers!” I’d need to sell our common stock to make room for the rarities that my parents were no doubt finding in the rest of the faire.
“Fanias.” Da was at his most stern, using the Arkan form of my name. Not natural for him because he was an easy going man, for an Arkan. “Your mother and I have been talking.” Ma sat back and watched him, smiling a little. She let him get all stern and patriarchal so he felt that he was doing his job as a husband and a father.
Like tonight. I sighed. “Da, is this going to be one of your ‘it’s time you found a nice girl to marry and a nice boy on the side and settle down’ talks?” Ma laughed and put her rice bowl down. “He got you Arapatas.” She turned to me. “Vanya... we were thinking that if you wanted to branch out... with another biblio-cart... you’re a good seller. We could front you the funds to start and you could take over Great-Uncle Joras’s route in Kikadas province.”
“Or we could find you a place on a bookship. Now that the war is over and things are settling down, your Aunt Ru has found that she can rent books to people from the Rock to Tebrias and she needs a book doctor. She’s talking about buying one of those one-person print-mechanisms for the Word Barge.”
“I... Ma... Da... these are all wonderful ideas but... you know I don’t want to be tied to a single book-route. Joras has done that same route for thirty-five years, reading for the same people and writing obituaries to be posted on the village Temple wall. And Aunt Ru... she could go anywhere and she’s shuttling back and forth from the Rock to Tebrias and around to Marsae and to the Rock on the North side. Same kind of route as Great-Uncle Joras, except on water. There’s nothing new there to see. Nothing different. No new books or stories unless there’s a war somewhere and the books get stolen and sold instead of burnt.”
“And you want to wander like a bard and tell stories.” Da made it sound so stupid. “You don’t have the voice to sing, son.”
“But I can play the parts of the stories... you’ve seen the crowd I can draw. It’s not just telling stories, sitting on one patch of ground all the years of my life, either! It’s collecting stories everywhere, Da. And I can play the stories as if I were a whole troupe all by myself. That’s better than what they require for journeyman’s papers at the Society of Tale Spinners and Weavers. I can already read and write better than their journeymen and all I’d need is your permission to journey.”
I poked around in the bottom of my supper bowl. I’d never gone hungry like so many people had through the years of war. The book cart had been a safe place. When things got dangerous our horses, Noun, Pronoun, Verb and Adverb, could be hitched and would pull us to a safer town. Da had a long-knife... not a sword, he couldn’t afford a sword or the training for it... but a knife he could handle really well was always in the hidden pocket by the driver’s seat. And the old crossbow from grandfather up there too in case someone thought a bookseller with spectacles was an easy target. Ma was as good a shot as Da too.
Da had taught me knife – and told me not to tall Ma because she’d be upset while Ma had taught me crossbow – and told me not to tell Da because he’d be upset. We hadn’t had trouble that needed me to tell either of them anything all the years of my life that I could remember.
Da pushed his spectacles up his nose. “And you haven’t found anyone who takes your fancy? No girl? No boy? Someone nice and bookish with a family library?” He didn’t sound too hopeful.
The weather had turned gray toward the end of the day and the first drops of rain had closed the book-faire early. Da had come back with a covered basket where he’d bought dinner from a cookshop so we wouldn’t have to fight with the rain to cook. The three of us sat, cosy as paper weevils, in our closed-up caravan lined with bookshelves.
I sat cross-legged on my bench on the short side, the back door bolted tight behind me, the table pulled out to block me in, with Ma on the long side and Da up front, our dinner spread out and steaming.
Da had bought a beef rice for Ma and potatoes for him and me, cooked in butter and cream layered with bacon slices and sprinkled with onions. There was half a bottle of wine for us and a bowl of eggs and courgettes. And fresh, hot bread. But I wasn’t hungry any more. I fiddled with my eating pick.
“Not that we’re trying to stop you, son,” Ma said. “We’re trying to help you get a good start. We want to see you fly.”
“Not literally?” I said. “Now there’s an idea. I’d love to learn to fly on one of those aNiah things. How about a flying bookseller?”
“Don’t be flip with your mother. That’s a silly idea. You could never carry enough stock.” Of course he wanted my feet firmly on the ground.
I’m good enough and there’s a Hall in this town.”
Ma fiddled with the ends of her hair. “It’s... just such a wild life, Vanya. Never the same thing twice... and dangerous...”
Da snorted. “Zasha, it’s less dangerous than him sneaking out and performing at some of those bars where he thinks we won’t know.”
Ma looked over at Da and nodded. “You’re right, love. He’ll be safer if he’s not sneaking around. The Empire roads are safe enough if he’s careful.”
I was staring at the two of them, probably goggle-eyed. I’d been sneaking around thinking they’d object or... something, try and stop me. “You... knew?”
“Of course I knew, we knew,” Da said. “And next time you duck out of a fight like that, duck faster so you don’t have to lie to me about how you got the cut in your scalp.”
I was flushed hot. He knew? He’d seen?
“And you did a fantastic job of telling the story of Manas and Shefenkas in the Mezem...you played all those parts well, son.” And Ma just nods? She was there too? In that awful dive? Where the stage is more often for boys to strip off their clothes and gloves for old men rather than for me? I threw my hands over my face.
“Ah, ah, son. You need to put a good face on it. If you are going to be a performer... you need to hold your chin up,” she said.
My voice was muffled behind my hands. “Yes, Ma.” Then I took my hands down. Da was going on like he always did when planning our next move. Ma and Da threw words back and forth between them like trading a melodic theme long practiced.
“So we’ll see if you can get your license tomorrow, all legal as a member in good standing of the Tale Spinner’s Hall, while your mother does the selling. If you test as well as I think...I can talk to Don about getting you a horse... a half-decent horse –“
Ma broke in. “--A small horse or pony... nothing flashy. Something flashy or fast will just get him in trouble or killed.” Da nodded and kept on. “—and some gear. You have itchy feet son, I understand. You even think our wandering isn’t enough. You need to see more than our regular route.” He looked a little tired with the idea of me going off on my own but I was a grown man, or was according to Ma’s people if not his. “We’ll want you to catch up with us now and again along our route, just to let us know what’s happening. You’ll know where we are.”
“And write us often... Tell us what you’re seeing, what stories you’re collecting. You might try along the north coast -- There’s those itinerant people the other side of Marsae... the Teachers... they’re caravaneers too. There’s a lot of people to teach and a lot of people who are desperate for words. Arkan women, okas... You could make a good living, son, enough to stock your own book caravan and take up Joras’s route if you wanted to settle down,” Ma said thoughtfully. “And if you should happen to find a nice girl...”
“We’ll let you get the wanderlust out, son,” Da took up the parental melody again. We’re not going to nail your rear to a book-binder’s desk in a cellar somewhere, though you’ve been acting as if we would.” My face was blushing hot, thinking how silly could I be. “You can always settle down later,” Da said. I grinned like an idiot at him and at Ma. Here I’d been trying to figure out how to go do what I wanted by myself and they weren’t trying to stop me, but were helping instead. They were acting like they expected it. I guess I’m pretty obvious. I picked up my eating pick again, suddenly starving.
“I’ll be careful, Ma, and Da. I truly will.”