Mirrored from Sythyry.
This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage, my epistolary savior. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; none are crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.
Me — free!
Tellosh (this part of it) — thick air heavy with sea-water. Triple the sun, a triangle of tiny celestial lights, yellow-green-red. Mount Duku — tall, pointy, black of stone, mantled with green plants, thorned with outcroppings of crystals. Around it the island, around the island the blood-dark sea all shining with waves like bright scales. The familiar home forests of Gemgaru — away. The familiar gems that grow on plants instead of inside rocks — away. The familiar husband and family and friends — away.
But here — myself, four eggs.
Freedom — to write the long letter to Tomolrouc, the whole of my story so far, to wing-brush worry and dread away from him. He had most of the story from Tllith already, but not the freedom part, and so we rejoice in half-measure apart, even if we would rather rejoice in full measure together.
Freedom — To curl around my eggs in a bowl of warm sand. Before I had laid, I dreaded the wish to coil about eggs as a kind of slavery to the demands of incipient motherhood. Now — Joy and rightness.
Scorthmen — rejoicing too. Couatls — in Scorthmen stories, we are rare and beneficient creatures. (Why rare? We live in Gemgaru, and few can bring us here. Why beneficient? Healing spells, I suppose. There is only a single magic native to Tellosh — the summoning and binding of people from Gemgaru.)
Couatls in Thoik stories — common demons — summoned by the ancestors of the Thoiks in many historical stoires. Like me — bound. Like me — angry. Like me — found ways to take revenge when they could. Like me — crushed whatever greatness and magnitude the Thoiks tried to build, using our blood as mortar and our feathers as bricks.
The rebellion of the Thoiks — a hollow bird’s egg struck a heavy blow by a wing. The thoiks — back in the mines with more bruises and cuts than usual. Some — dead. Some huts — burnt. Some blood — scattered.
But the question — will not leave me alone.
So — I ask.
Asked and Answered
Johand: My lady Cleiestis! It is a pleasure to see you flittering about! My men say that you have brought them luck, and I cannot deny it. What brings your brillant polychrome featheration to my office?
Me: This question — it is a rude one. You — have been nothing but kind to me and done me only good turns. So I think of you as humans of great kindness and justice. Their speech — it does not come easily to me. Spells help some. Its grammar — so awkward and twisted-about [Cleiestis's actual word refers to a serpent who has gotten into a position from which motion is not easy. I can't do that myself; not so flexible. -tll].
Johand: We do our best to behave so, Miss Cleiestis, and I trust that you should never have reason to think otherwise. Miss — there is no knowing why he calls me so. I am not — I am married!
Me: But the Dumu Thoiks — do not think so.
Johand: They are savages and barbarians, miss. The cruel, vicious, and lazy remnant of a wicked sorcerous nation of centuries gone.
Me: Is that why you beat them and make them mine so?
Johand: If circumstances were not so dire, miss, we should have nothing to do with them whatever. As it is, there is little time to make all the preparations that must be made. If we explained and negotiated with them and with all hundreds of such folk, we should still be explaining and negotiating when the poisons from the sky render all explanations and negotiations useless. So we use force; we rush matters; we get ready what can be gotten ready. It is, after all, for their own good.
Me: They do not seem to think it is good, to be whipped and beaten and compelled to mine hard.
Johand: And of course it is not, miss, and that’s not the concern really. You have a kind heart, but this is neither time nor situation for kindness.
Me: Why not?
Johand: Surely, when you look at the night sky, you have noticed the absence of Markosh from its usual place in the heavens, and, if your eyes are good, the odd cyanotic-blue nebula that moves quickly from night to night?
Me: The sky of Tellosh — never have I seen it in night, for I was boxed in every night and every day save today. Unlike the sky of Gemgaru is it. We have no triple sun, no clouds.
An explanation — next he made.
Johand: How strange! You must tell me stories of your fairyland … but I depart from my own narrative. For many years, our scientists have known that the mobile celestial body we call Markosh was a world in its own right, whirling around the triple sun just like Tellosh. For a modicum of years, we knew that it supported life of a sort — indeed, creatures of a strong intellect and strict customs. We exchanged a few neighborly messages, but found them cold and uninterested in such chatter.
Well, not many years ago, five of our gentleman-scientists built a levitationary sphere, capable of reflecting the motion of the suns and thereby moving on its own. They made it airtight, and laid in a stock of comestables, many instruments of science, a few good hunting-rifles, and, I am sure, a stock of proper clothing, including an assortment of hats suitable for every situation. And, thus equipped, they crossed the void.
Well, we don’t know precisely what they found there. A few fragmentary message-squirts made it back to Tellosh. As best we understand, their sphere was seized, and the scientists of Markosh worked hard to comprehend its mechanism. For the purpose of building a void-armada of such spheres equipped for conquest — the conquest of Tellosh.
Well, Sir Langregasm and his fellows put a stop to that, of course. They sabotaged a sort of combination generator station and high temple that supplied power to all of Markosh. They took a bit of an unrestrained approach to it, I might add; they started a growing reaction which ended in the destruction of Markosh.
Still, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, miss, but a world the size of Markosh is not distintegrated in a minute or two. The process took some hours. The Markoshians seemed to think the destruction of their world was a very tit, and nothing would do but that they give us a corresponding tat. So they concocted their own growing reaction. And what did that do, but transmute the wreckage of Markosh into a cloud of nitrostrex or something very like it.
Don’t look so puzzled, Miss. There’s no reason in the world that someone from fairyland should know about nitrostrex. It’s a poisonous vapor: a quadruply-strange version of nitrogen, if I may use such terms. Quite deadly, don’t you know.
They were going to aim the cloud straight at Tellosh. Lord Langregasm evidently chose to ram his void-sphere into their reaction rather than survive and fly back to Tellosh. Jolly good job that he did! As it is, the cloud is on a wobbly course all around the sky, instead of heading here straightaway. We had a decade or so before it landed on Tellosh. Now there are five years left.
Still, our best scientists assure us that, when the nitrostrex comes to Tellosh, there will be a great and terrible dying for a few hours, until the nitrogen in the atmosphere converts the nitrostrex into neatrogen. I’m sorry, miss, there’s no talking about this without the science. Neatrogen enforces orderliness, but it’s not deadly as nitrostrex.
Anyhow, when the cloud comes, anyone in the open who takes a breath of the vapors mixed with air will simply die. In lesser concentrations it causes a slow suffocation and a permanent injury to the lungs.
So we’ve got to get ready for it, miss. In places like Dumu Thoik we’re having the locals dig deep holes, their mines. If they hide in the mines and put wet curtains on all the entrances, and come out in a day or two, they should mostly survive.
We’ve got a more ambitious project or two for Scorthland itself, of course. We’re building vast tents. We don’t want to just save the people of the land, but the animals too, such as we can. Otherwise we’ll be reduced to eating vegetables and insects for all our meals, and that wouldn’t do.
And our men of science have their hopes to build a mighty beam projector to denature the nitrostrex before it comes to us. If we can collect enough perdones for the resonant chamber, and enough of the right metals for the cabling. Save the world with a beam of special light, wouldn’t you know?
So that’s our recent history, miss Cleiestis. A bit frantic, wouldn’t you know. When it’s an emergency one doesn’t always have the best manners. But we’ve got the best intentions, anyhow, as I hope you’ll understand.
Understanding — not easy, but possible.
Me: May I go home?
Johand: I’ll see what can be done.