We stayed at the Hearthstone Independent and Chevenga and Kallijas both laughed thinking about how I’d been there last time, in disguise. It felt so good to just be myself. The animals remembered me and I found that the parrots had had a nest of poults. One scarlet and gold youngster decided that I was the best thing he’d ever seen and insisted on sitting on me whenever allowed, even crawling under my chin if I let him.
I’ll admit it was a bit disconcerting to sit down and hear a flap of wings and have this thing descend on my head, hang upside down and insist on nibbling the tops of my ears with that enormous beak. Truly I wasn’t an animal person, like Ili. I hadn’t had creatures attach themselves to me the way Jiaklem had to him. Aside from Altras. Oh, and maybe the one-eye’d bitch. Nasty, perhaps. Well. Perhaps I was more attractive to animals that I thought. Aside from the spitting goat-things on the barge… I’d forgotten what they were called.
Kall and Chevenga went off to privacy together, to the family sleeping rooms and I ended up with a glass of really dark Brahvnikian beer looking out of the guest room window over the mountain slope. It was very different on my palette and fizzed nicely, each mouthful clearing the way for the next.
I was struck with such a wave of homesickness that I was startled. How could it be that I am in a friend’s house, with no secrets swirling around me and still want to be home in the pit? I found that my bird friend was rather more persistent than I had anticipated and managed, somehow, to get my door open.
That meant that Joras probably let him in because the Hearthstone Independent had been built with guest rooms designed to ease foreign visitor’s paranoia. Yeolis might think that their semanakraseye never needed security, truly, but foreigners certainly would. So Joras’s chamber was placed in such a way as to allow no hall access except through his room. My window looked out over a sheer, smooth wall down to a steep, talus slope that wouldn’t allow easy access at all.
My window was also latched with iron rather than wood, just as in the Marble Palace, and the glass was doubled and reinforced by Zak glass smiths, not that anyone could get a shot angled up at my window like that.
For someone to gain access to the roof and lower themselves to my window, they’d have to either land on a steep pitched tile roof, or gain access from the aqueducts from the mountain face and Chevenga’s guard captain had those well covered.
I quite liked the little bed I had, in the Yeola-e style. Low, barely off the floor, with feather mattresses and a feather quilt and big, thick wool-stuffed pillows. No curtains to keep insects out and the building was stone built but not like Arko where the walls wept moisture, so no curtains to keep the damp out.
It was oddly built, in that sun-warmed water ran through the walls to warm the stone and the whole building, even in the depths of winter. It was a cozy space. A flap of wings and my bird-brained friend flapped up to settle into a hollow of pillow, for all the world as though he were nesting.
I’m dreaming. I know I’m dreaming but I’m part of it. I’m in Presentation Square and all alone. Which is strange now. There is no one out, not even street sweepers and polishers or lamp-lighters. But I’m not frightened. It’s just peaceful, though there is something I ought to be doing.
I’m not sure what it is. Something I’ve forgotten. I was told I should do something, but I haven’t done it. I cannot remember what I am supposed to do.
There’s a rumble of thunder and I look around for an awning or one of the shady pergolas dotting the square, away from the Marble Palace, toward the street exits of the square, but they seem to be missing. In the rare storms there is likely to be a downpour that flattens you in moments, so it is good to be under some kind of protection.
Across the square, the first few drops hit the pavement but with much louder bangs than mere water would make. It’s books. Books falling out of the sky. Big, enormous black leather-bound books, vellum pages fluttering. Tiny palm sized, paper bound and cheap pulp pages crinkling. One or two at first and then tens and then hundreds and more falling from so far up in the sky I cannot see where they start
A small psaltery hits me in the top of the head and I throw my arms over my head. The covers all have sunbursts on them. They are all copies of the Holy Book. What? Why? Ouch. A larger volume bounced off my arms and I’m running through the rain of books, black and white and gold books, looking for some kind of shelter.
Once they hit the ground they lie, fluttering and every open page speaks in the words of the Ten. “…praise and propriety, worship and work are the four pillars of a just society…”
“…Hail to Thee O Muunas and Thy Holy Consort…”
“… raining fire and desolation as the world fell into fire below and the world of corrupt and venal men…”
“…My Wife. I sing Your praises to the sky as You are become…”
I can’t find shelter, the books will bury me in words, holy words but words and there isn’t anyone to take them up, to put them in order to hold even so much as a parasol over my head, and I’m being bruised by the words of the Ten.
“Over here! Right here!”
Someone calls and I turn to the voice, stumble up the Temple steps and find myself standing in the shelter of the portico. As I lower my arms and look around, I realize that I cannot see the person who called me to safety. I don’t know his name. I heard his voice clearly in the roar of words from the cloudburst of books. They are trying to out-shout each other and all meaning is lost in the tumult.
I open my eyes to the quiet of the Yeola-e guest room, my travel copy of the Holy Book open on my chest. What on the earthsphere did that mean?