Friday, June 18, 2010

Serial Fiction: Whisper from the Dust IV

Chapter Two

July 37, 440 Y.A.

“Welcome, Blooded, to our mystery!” shouted Ryn Batyst.

All the other Blooded cried out in response, a roar that threatened to escape that evening’s secluded glade. Rarely have the Blooded been more excited than they were that night; I shrank back further into the inksome shadows.

Ryn Batyst, master of anticipation, showmanship and prophecy, a mountain of might in the form of man. A blacksmith by trade, with hair now going gray but shoulders and thigh both still broad, he lives atop his shop in the narrow strip of buildings behind the Market on the city’s eastern edge – and chairs the Public of Guilds of the People which advises the Faith on citywide affairs. The greatest infiltration we have thus far accomplished, and it was committed by our founder, the one who opened up the Wells of the Dead.

He says, of course, that I was first, that I will always have been the first. But I would have been an infant when he opened the Wells of the Dead, and am little more useful than one now, as I’d demonstrated at the Temple. Of this news would already have reached him, of course. But I dreaded relating the details of my failure to him anyway; I did not want to see Ryn Batyst that night. And because the Blooded are not many, only one small thousand, and far fewer still are called at once, I skulked in the shadows and waited for the Wells of the Dead to open, lest he notice me beforehand.

We were all waiting like that, of course – the Wells never open until all the called ones come. Tonight we gathered in the eastern valley, in the foothills of the mountains, near the Profuse River’s fabled source. The springs are thought quite sacred; the dead, of course, reside there nonetheless. The dead reside everywhere around this city, though they only let certain people know it, and are a city unto themselves.

“The time of our exaltation is at hand” boomed Batyst. “The age of liberation will soon be here!” Another heightened cry died as Batyst waited for silence, looking out into the faces of our motley throng.

Who are the Blooded? They can be anyone, really – and often are. The smuggler standing on the hillock above me tonight, leathers creaking and face blackened with soot even when not at work; the young scribe in lay service to the Temple, clad in that ubiquitous pale jade robe of the uninitiated, he will spend his entire life writing missives for Historians and never learn anything of value; the newly rich merchant from one of the mansions on the hill behind the Temple, and an utterly horrible man; an ancient farmer and his wife from the valley, a rare and placid pair who never speak to anyone but to whom Ryn has entrusted his life on two occasions.

He had all their attention now. “Thaeron’s Eyes have closed,” he began.

The crowd of Blooded responded only by becoming quiet. We rarely consider anything beyond our own vale – even Batyst says that our own troubles certainly suffice. But Batyst rarely disappoints.

“You know that the Eyes of Thaeron have long orbited the world, high above our atmosphere. And you know that they make possible the instantaneous communications between the cities – even those on separate continents. And you know that they have not failed to function in recorded human history – they have not failed since time began again! But fewer of you know, because it is only preached by the most superstitious of Historians (and because we are not known for listening) that the Temple has on record a prophecy that their failure will augur the ending of the world.”

Batyst paused, and some new initiate gasped; Ryn prophecies the end of the world at least once every other month or so. I feel he must surely be correct, but I listen mostly for his information, of which there is none better.

“Well, Thaeron’s Eyes have closed,” repeated Batyst, “and we now live on a world that cannot see. But we already knew that, didn’t we?” And here he paused again for the crowd to chuckle. “Thaeron has never seen. Those who should not have power at all have power over all! Grasping, clawing like the blind, the Historians hoard their treasures in the Temple.

“All hail the Historians! Ill Keepers of the Wells! But the Blood remembers what the Profusion knew: that a blind world seals the eyes of its people, and cannot still walk. We all know the Temple controls the very objects which have now ceased to function. Why have they done this? To exercise still more control. What they once gave, they have taken back.

“We cannot be surprised. Every day our Head Historian writes new laws. Every day he makes new taxes, but where does our money go? He looks at you, and you, and says this is what you should do, and this is for you, but everything, everything is really for our Temple.”

From beneath my feet came a low, slow rumble. I sighed in relief. The opening of the Wells of the Dead ends the call that had been the sharp ache in my skull for some three hours. And I would be the first to answer. I always am: Batyst says that I must lead the way, just as he urges everyone until the last. Sometimes I believe that is the only reason I accept Ryn’s flattery: I cannot resist being first Blooded of an evening. In all the heavens and all the long lost worlds, there can be no experience quite like it. Silently, I slid off my tunic and my trousers; one enters the Wells of the Dead much in the same way that one was born.

“The Temple,” Ryn was saying, “grows more powerful when Guardians cannot speak to one another, when the Faith must wait for couriers. So they lock this world in darkness. So they would ask us to forget the light that we have had.

“But the blind world bleeds. A world finds other ways to see. For what are Linking Orbs? Thaeron finds seeing children, the children of History! We are Thaeron’s eyes!

“You see, brothers, sisters, the Eyes are not the only things in Thaeron’s skies, nor are they the only thing that sees. Yes, some of you saw it – a ship of the Profusion has crashed upon our world. A ship that once spanned stars has fallen down to earth, the past has come back to us in fire and in flame. And I ask you – did it ask the Temple for permission? Did it ask the Historians where to land? No, the past, the Profusion, our most sacred illumination and our most prized abundance – it is wild. It is wild, and it is free. It comes for those who seek it.

“And we do see it coming. We see the fire and the flame. We see the rising sun, red with the Blood of History. Because now, brothers, sisters, the Temple in Ariel stands alone. It cannot ask Kasora for its help. The Historians of our city have undone themselves! Thaeron’s Eyes have closed because they cannot fathom what they see. They see the daughters and sons of History rising from the earth!

“Now we wear shadows and veils and speak in whispers, but we are waking up! The Blood of History is stirring! Our time is nearly here!”

From beneath me came the final thud as the door to one of the Wells of the Dead slid fully aside at last. Its sentience probed my mind like an itch. Batyst, as always, had time his speech perfectly: all the Blooded had felt it open, and upon its last lines I would sink silent and naked into the earth. It is the way the Blood of History prefers us, and I relaxed my mind as Batyst roared in the darkness.
“Blooded, the time is coming when we will rise, and that time is nearly here. It is written in the sky! Those who History calls will be her children, and we will rule the way our gods intended, the way the Profusionists lived, the way that will bring the Temple of History burning to the ground!”

Beneath the soles of my feet the soil separated; the tiny machines that guard the Well swept all else away as the Blooded shouted their final exclamation. The itch inside my brain became a fire I could not resist; machines care little for our wills. My feet and ankles sank through sand and stone and into Profusionist metal. Taking a deep breath and spreading my arms, I let myself fall backward. The Well of the Dead had opened, and the Well of the Dead let me in.

No comments: