The Special Edition announcing the presence of a new Spark of the Sun’s Ray changed the whole mood of the city. Ili bounced in the chair, straining to see up ahead. “A lot of the ‘Merciers’ have gone,” he said to the reporter next to him. “It’s made the square a nicer place.”
It wasn’t even an express chair, since he was going through the lane way between Feliras’s and the new University building that had replaced the one torn down for the abortive Shefenkas statue, and straight on to the building site where skates would have been worse than useless.
Kafiris Loren was able to keep up with the bearers, easily. He’d been in the Marble Palace when Ili had gone by announcing to all and sundry that the new Temple addition was using house-donkeys in the cranes, rather than try to set up water-driven ones.
Two Mahid girls were out in front, and First Ilesias was behind, full-armoured. The burgundy red re-enamelled Mahid armour wasn’t onyxine any longer but it was hardly cheery bright. He had the open-faced helm on, which only pointed out how unhappy he looked. There were other warriors around, Ili knew, he’d spotted Janirias just as he’d clambered into the chair.
“Coronet Regal,” Ilesias said. “Perhaps we should have arranged a proper visit instead of just skipping your oratory class to go see the donkeys working?”
“One class skipped is not going to make me a stumble-tongued lack-wit, as my brother says. It’s not going to make me that much better a speaker if I did. Besides I’m going to be a uncle now and it’s not as important.”
“You’re happy about the announcement?” Kafiras managed to make a note, even as he kept up with the chair.
“Oh, yeah. I think it’s GREAT! And Ilesias, it’ll be FINE. You’re all good bodyguards. I mean I figure that Captain Janirias is going to do really well in the Trials and nobody is going to get past Elsha and Amitza. And you!” He bounced in his seat again, making the chair sway and pulling the bearers slightly off balance. “Oh, sorry, fellows. We’re at the fence. Why don’t you let me off here instead of all the way around. There’s a construction gate right here we can go in!”
Ili opened the door and the bearers, bowing to the inevitable, stopped to let him step out. “A two silver link tip, for these men, if you would, Ilesias.”
The boy grinned. “From an Ilesias to an Ilesias!” He turned and unlatched the construction gate, as the chair trundled away down the lane.
The Temple construction site had once been the Great courtyard of the University and the Professors who’d had office windows on the precious open space in the centre of the city, had howled fierce protests against the designs but the Temple, with this new requirement of pilgrimage for children, desperately needed the space. The Assembly had barely debated a tenth before approving the appropriation of University grounds.
The Fenjitzas and the Fenjitza had graciously ceded a Temple-owned lakeside garden to the University for a retreat space and suddenly everyone was happier about the whole thing.
The hole immediately behind the Temple was shored up with timbers all the way around so the press of buildings all around didn’t cave in the building site. The foundations were already almost at ground level all the way around and immediately next to the Avenue of Statuary Gate... across the site, two double cranes creaked around and around, one lifting pallets of stone up from street level to just the top of the wall there, while the other brought workers and empty pallets back down.
A ten of ladders were braced all around; gangs of okas stripped to loincloths and headbands chained small blocks up as fast as the apprentices could pass master masons the next trowel and kept the mortar coming. Fessas overseers waved building plans or beckoned to underlings, here and there men stepped out of the line for water. A handful of okas stood near the Master who spoke to the Fenjitzas himself, who was there to bless every stone with holy water.
The Gods hadn’t said to Minis if the new wing of the Temple would be... well, as divine... as the old. Everybody had seen it in its glory with Shefenkas, and it had defended Minis but no one knew how the divine favour spread.
In the middle of the floor a pile driver pounded, the stone drivers raised and lowered by sweating rows of okas.
“Are the okas still saying that only human labour should build the Temple?” Kafirias asked.
“Nah... at least I don’t think so. They petitioned Minis to block the donkeys, but he said that every God had their favourite animal and that rather than ban any, they should bring representative creatures on site so that none of the Ten get offended.” Ili ducked under a scaffolding, forcing everyone else to go round because they were too tall to follow him.
“Ilesias Aan, do not do that!” Ilesias called as he caught up to him.
“Look at that!” Ili stood by the great wheels that drove the cranes up and down. “The donkeys have shade and they’re in the middle of the wheels and they even have room for a buddy if they’re hauling a big load!” Ili turned toward the trestle table where the Master and the Fenjitzas stood, conferring when there was a panicked shout from the diagonal corner. A jolt through everyone’s feet.
Something had shifted, the Temple shuddered and from the roof one of the cleansing vessels tipped, spilling black down the shining wall. A burst of water from below began washing at the new wall and the old Temple behind it. Men ran, shouting to one another. Someone levered a gigantic stone block into the hole and miraculously the flow of water slowed.
Ilesias had grabbed Ili the instant the noise started and hustled him toward the street. They came face to face with an okas carrying a sheet slab of marble, sweating in the heat and Ili began to scream in earnest, scrambled out of Ilesias’s hands to swing behind him.
“MAHID! ROGUE MAHID! ROGUE MAHID! MATTHAS MAHID!” Ili was screeching loud enough to turn some attention away from the building accident.
Ilesias’s first dart was slow and smacked into the marble slab a hair away from fingertips and then he was ducking, backing to cover Ili, as the slab was hurled straight at him.
Matthas Mahid leaped up on top of the crane wheel that had stopped in the confusion. One of the girls managed a dart that caught in his flaring loincloth as he jumped over the partly completed wall, darted into Holy Alley just ahead of a cobble flung by Janirias who plunged in after him, armour scraping the narrow walls.
“MAHID MAHID MATTHAS MAHID!”