Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(9)By: John Michael Hileman
The wailing ceased and I looked down into the courtyard trap. Nothing remained of the creatures; the fire had consumed them utterly.
Corel made her way back over to the group. “Could these be Gaza’s?”
Armadon nodded. “That would be my guess.”
Kitaya cried out, “They are gone! I only turned away for a second!” Her voice was shrill and panicked.
We gathered on the outside edge of the battlement and looked down. The trap outside the gate was empty.
Kitaya looked nervous.
Corel looked concerned. “Before this gets any better,” she said in a low voice, “it will probably get a lot worse.”
“Much worse,” said Armadon. “We need to formulate a plan.”
AN UNLIKELY ALLY
After much deliberation it was decided that I should be the one to go and look for Humphrey. I knew little about Rath or Tiko and I felt confident that I could get Humphrey to talk. No one else, however, shared my optimism.
Corel and Armadon made preparations to infiltrate Rath's camp to find out more about the woman and child. According to Armadon's sources this information could be found inside a small black box. If they found the box, they were to contact us through the web.
Kitaya and I shared a private moment on the battlement of Armadon’s castle. I wanted her to come with me to find Humphrey but everyone else thought it would be better if she went to find Tiko. He was known to be a womanizer, and Kitaya would undoubtedly have the best chance of persuading him to join us. Not only was she beautiful but Tiko had never seen her before-- and he was always looking for a new plaything.
The thought of Kitaya using her beauty to entice Tiko into cooperating with us bothered me to no end. Though we’d met only yesterday, somehow I felt I’d known her forever. And secretly I hoped that one day our relationship would grow into something more. Perhaps when this whole thing was over I would tell her this. But not now. So we parted ways. And my heart felt heavy.
Armadon advised me to seek the aid of Sajin Barrows. As it turned out he was the second most prominent figure on the planet.
The architecture of the capital city of Oonaj, like forms in a distant dream, towered in magnificent splendor. Their phantom shapes were familiar but their origins could not be attained. I knew them from another time and yet somehow the structures did not seem to go together; pyramids and battlements, marble temples and stone monoliths? In the midst of these a mighty skyscraper reached up into the clouds. It was breathtaking to behold, yet it left me with a sense of foreboding.
In the center of the city, rising up with majestic grace, stood the royal castle. Inside this massive stone structure stood a smaller building. I studied the capital building from a distance. I didn't want to just walk in through the front gate. That would catch Gaza’s attention. After all, it wasn’t every day that Sam’ Dejal, the god of reason, popped in for a visit.
I circled the building and decided to go in through a barred window of what looked like a large empty storage room. I melted the bars quickly, climbed in, and silently moved across the room to the door. The door gave a faint creak as I carefully opened it and peeked out. A man passed by and I made a quick mental note of what he was wearing. Energy leaked from my hands as the threads twisted and bent to form the image of the man’s clothing. Piece by piece the shapes formed in wire frames and then material was added. When I was finished I ran my fingers across the odd fabrics. Each item had its own distinctly different texture, weight, and smell. They couldn't have been any more real.
I was still a little slow at making things from the blue threads, but given time I was sure I could make anything no matter how complex. All I needed was a vague idea of shape and material and the web did the rest. I closely examined the cotton shirt. I had simply thought: cotton and it had appeared out of nothing. Every pore was present, every stitch in place. Fascinating.
Now all I needed was a way to hide my eyes. It took a moment but then an idea came to me. I created a handkerchief and a white cane. I would be a blind man. Using a trick I’d learned from Kitaya I made the cloth visible from only one side. To everyone else it was a thick covering, but to me it was as transparent as plastic wrap.
I stepped through the door and started walking down the hall casually tapping the cane for effect. A woman passed by giving plenty of room, but she took little notice of me. It was the same with the two soldiers standing guard at the next intersection. I continued following the hallway around in a large arc and passed by several more intersections. Each had two men standing guard, but no one paid any attention to me.
For several minutes I searched up and down the long corridors. I couldn’t put my finger on it-- but something was wrong. Like the architecture of the city the objects and people here didn’t seem to fit together. Paintings of all sizes littered the walls, some ornately framed in precious metals, others surrounded by brightly painted wood. In some areas images were carved directly into the finely sanded surfaces and in other spots crude cave drawings could be seen. Soldiers, statesmen, and an assortment of employees rushed about their daily tasks wearing suits and swords. Some carried briefcases, others held rolled up scrolls.
After awhile the corridors began to blend into one another, but then I saw a man who looked like he might be able to help me. He wore a security badge. I waited until he finished speaking with two guards then followed him down to the next corridor. I checked in front and behind. All was clear.
“You, sir, could you help me please?” I stated loudly.
He stopped and coolly replied, “What do you need? I am very busy.”
I moved closer and revealed my face.
His eyes widened. “I am sorry, your holiness. I-I did not recognize...”
“I do not wish to be recognized. Will you help me?” I asked gruffly.
“Y-Yes. Yes of course.”
“I am looking for Sajin Barrows.”
“H-he is in the council chambers. I am not authorized to go in-- b-but I know someone who is.”
“Can we trust this person?”
“I will emphasize I do not want it known I am here. I am trusting you will keep this in confidence.”
“You can count on me, lord.”
“Go then. I will wait.” I tapped him on the shoulder, attaching a thread. He quickly departed and I brought up the web to keep an ear on him. He did what he said he would and soon returned with another man.
“This is Randal. He can help you.”
The man wore a fine blue suit. White curly hair covered most of his burly face. He reminded me of Santa Claus. I uncovered my eyes.
“Follow me please,” he said gruffly.
I followed him down an endless string of hallways until the man slowed to a stop. As he opened the heavy door to the council chamber I quickly scanned the interior. Around a large granite table in the center of the room were twelve men in business suits. The table formed a symmetrical dodecagon. A man sat before each flat edge. Papers littered the table.
Randal spoke in a lowered voice. “One moment, I will get him for you.”
Sajin was on the far side of the table apparently in a heated debate with the man next to him. As Randal spoke in his ear he looked up quickly, then excused himself. I couldn't help noticing how tired he looked. This was no great surprise, he was a man with a lot on his mind.
“Greetings, Lord Tardin.” He spoke quietly. “What an unexpected surprise. Why do you come in such secrecy?”
I looked at Randal. “Thank you. You may go.” I reached out and shook his hand and deposited two rather large diamonds. His eyes widened. “I trust you will keep our meeting secret,” I said, looking him in the eye. “And make sure the other man receives his share.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” He bowed and left.
I turned back to Sajin. “Is there a place we can talk privately?”
“Yes, this way.”
He led me to a chamber and as he opened the door the scent of strawberries wafted out. Inside many candles were burning. A fire crackled in the fireplace. In the center of the room, a cloaked figure sat poring over a thick brown book.
I looked at Sajin, slightly annoyed. “I said I want to go somewhere private.”
He gave me a puzzled look. “This is private, lord.”
I squinted at him. “Then who is that?” I pointed to the slumped figure.
“Again, I find I must apologize. I did not wish to state what I thought you already knew. His name is Charm. He is our sky searcher. Last night he was found here, frozen in that position.” He looked toward the figure. “I do not believe he can hear us. We may speak freely.”
I did not respond to Sajin but moved toward the silent shadowy form. Completely motionless. Frozen above a thick leather book. The man’s dark features appeared distorted in the flickering firelight. His expression was one of total astonishment, as though he had uncovered something of great importance. My heart skipped a beat as a haunting realization took hold of me. “What book is this?” I asked, fighting to keep my voice even.
“That is the sacred tome, lord.”
I looked up. “What is it called?” I asked shortly.
Sajin looked at me questioningly, then stated slowly, “Davata Notrals?”
The room began to swim. I reached for a table.
“Are you all right, lord?”