Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Two Pages a Day: Two Hundred Forty Four and Two Hundred Forty Five

“Or would you hide them in a place where most living men could not reach? In Wells beneath the ocean floor, where only those you wanted to could go?” 

A tower reared up from the among the waves, then, smooth and curving and white and gold and as tall as many men. On the horizon I saw another like it, and then another still closer than the first, though it was shorter and thicker and the same hue as the sky. Soon, all along the shore, for as far east and west as I could see, loomed a forest of towers and lighted beacons and what my Temple education had taught me would be solar sails, allowing the ships to drift, when they chose, slowly between the stars.

“You must go down,” she said. “How many things can one phrase mean?” She shook her head.

“I don’t know why they never took them,” she said. “Maybe the end came too soon, or maybe they meant them for those who, at the end, could not be reached. Or,” she smiled, “perhaps they did not trust their own ideas, coming in dreams and urges and memories and different voices as they did.”

            The lightships did not stop rising when their towers reached the surface but continued, showing curves of hull and sweeps of stern and bow. One seemed to be white and ovoid, another golden and elliptical, still another azure and  shaped as a triad of spheres. Others were too far out to discern more than sleek silhouettes against the meeting of the water and the sky. 

            “If so, they were right to distrust, for their ideas were not their own. Behold the lightships, which must surely be, other than life itself, the greatest gift ever given to humankind.” 

            They were of various sizes. The smallest could not have held more than a crew of six or eight. The largest hulls, far out to sea, must have been meant for thousands. The one nearest the shore was not quite so large as that, probably only holding some hundreds, and shaped like a horseshoe and purest white, in the way that the buildings of Kasora now were white. I guessed that that was the one that had brought her up from the depths. A door opened in the center of its curve, just above the waterline.  

            “Given?” I asked, remembering Jerem Cozak’s admonition. “Given by who?” 

            She smiled sadly. “I believe Jerem Cozak would call them Changelings.” 

            I considered the implications of that. “Do you remember what it was like? Death?” 

            She turned and squinted at me in the sunlight. “Oh,” she said. “You know. Yes and no. At least I don’t have blackbrain anymore.” 

            I didn’t understand the last, but nodded. I remembered, and did not. A great deal of pain, agony brief and unimaginable. An even greater deal of the coldness and darkness that many men describe. But all that is only the violent end of life, which the Historians of my Temple have understood for centuries. 

            “I was surprised it seemed so familiar,” I said. “As I waited for that pike’s head to fall, or waited to breathe my last after it impaled me, I can’t say which. I was struck by how old and comfortable it seemed. How close it had come to me, so many times. Those childhood illnesses, all the hungry, lonely nights when I was on the streets of Ariel. The riots when my city fell. It’s always been so close.”  

            She nodded and waved her hand again, and the ship – or Ship, I suppose – extended a ramp toward shore, sliding out from its concealment within the hull and ending a pace or two within the lapping of the surf.

            “Well,” she said, looking down at her clothes. “That figures. I’m going to get these all wet again.” 

            “You will lead this fleet against the Black Orchids?” 

            Now when she laughed she threw back her whole head. “Ha! Of all who could, I’m the least capable. And far less willing. No, I will not. Jerem Cozak will come when all is ready here.”  

            “Then you will lead the Arks in battle? They seem quite potent, and Nogilian’s retired.” 

            She shook her head again. “No. They are potent, I mean. Quite powerful, much as these ships are. Perhaps Ki, when she  finally arrives. Word has been sent, after all. But I’m retired, too. At least for a while. I don’t know. There’s something I need to...I don’t belong here.”

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