Friday, October 2, 2015

Beyond the Rim Installment 18

From this point in the West of the city even Oorgo, at his height, could see a fair ways. Because of the elevation of the Way the great road lacked cross-ways, and all traffic moved along its length. Most traffic kept to the outsides, with the center lane reserved for the royal chariots of state. Thurgod and Oorgo kept to the right edge, as foot traffic heading towards the Gate was expected to do. Within a few minutes of starting along the Way, a chariot driven by a servant of Cyllgod and carrying in it one of her demigod agents thundered through the middle of the street.
"Why don't you have a chariot for you, Thurgod?"
"It would be better if you called me Master, child. Others may call me by that name, but you may have a better one."
"But Thurgod's your name. Why can't I call you by your name if everyone else can?"
Thurgod cocked his head once before he got it straight again, but even in that time Oorgo's face went pale. "Because to you the important thing is not that I am called Thurgod, but that I am Master. But I have been a brute and ignored your question. I do not have a chariot because the Queen has not given me one."
"Why can't you have one?"
"Horses are rare, even now."
"But surely a god..."
"There are many gods, have you not seen? Were there not many in the Queen's Court when you went to make your request?"
"But aren't you greater than them?"
"If you want me to answer questions, you must learn to ask them while walking, child."
Oorgo skipped ahead of Thurgod then said again, "But aren't you a greater god than all of them except her?"
"Well, what would make one god greater than another?"
"Being able to do... things!"
Thurgod laughed, and his gait slowed as he did so. "I suppose you mean that I am greater because I can smash metal from one shape to another? Do you think that no one else can do this?"
"And you can make golems! No one else can do that."
"What you say is not strictly true, but nearly enough," he said. As the words left the god's mouth his face might have been seen to wince very briefly, but Oorgo paid no attention, neither did the child see the mirth of the previous question melt completely from the deity's face as he elevated his chin slightly.
"But they can do that thing where they turn into light and fly away. I saw them do it in... what did you call it?"
"Probably the Queen's Court."
"Can you do that?"
"Turn into light? Why would I want to? Light cannot bend metal on this planet."
"What's a planet?"
"It's like a ball of rock very far away up by the stars."
"But can you do it? All of those gods had funny shapes their light came from. Do you have a funny shape inside you?"
"I cannot change into light. And the funny shapes, cores they are called, are only there when a god looks like light."
"How far is it to the Sixth Mine?"
"Long enough that I expect you will ask me that question probably five more times before we get there."
"I wish we had a chariot."
"You might wish it for a moment, child, but from how taught you keep the line I expect you would want to be out of its seat before we got there."
"You said you can see the wheels of the chariots. Are my parents coming here soon?"
"Are your parents made of metal? Or how should I see them?"
"If you could see the wheels..."
"Then how should I know who rides in them? Besides, I cannot see forever. And even did I know I might not tell you that I did."
"I can neither tell you what I know nor why I will not tell it to you."
Oorgo opened his mouth, but Thurgod preempted him, "Nor will I tell you why I will not tell you why I will not tell you, and neither will I be tricked into answering that monosyllabic question again."
"Monosyllabic. It means it only little grunt to say it."
New words slowed down Oorgo. They stuck in his mind as he tried to fill them out with memories and unconscious associations as he had done with all other words. Thurgod did not mind the respite from questioning.
Within a few hours the pair had escaped the Way and then the city proper, descending the winding path which trekked across the steep hillside descending from the capital. The Sixth Mine began down below the ridge, slowly eroding the base of the North Spire, which lay at the north extreme of the Gate. By time they had accomplished only a quarter of the descent Oorgo had grown tired, and rode the rest of the way on the shoulders of the smith god.
At the bottom of the track they were greeted by a stone fence, and in it a gap serving as a gate, guarded by a stone golem with a block shaped head. "State your business here, and show your authorization to enter."
Thurgod set Oorgo down and whispered to him, "The golem asks you a question."
Oorgo just stood, staring at the golem and its curiously squared limbs.
"Why are we here, child?"
"To bring this."
"That is what he wants to know."
Oorgo stepped forward. Somehow this machine was more intimidating even than the butcher or Mister Henlick. "I... I am here to bring this."
The golem looked down at him. This was not a phrase it knew. It did not know how to look at a thing and know what it was. It had been given gate duty because it had grown old, and not useful for swinging a pick. But with a silent command from Thurgod's mind it said, "Good. What is your authorization to enter?"
Oorgo looked back at the god. "What does it mean?"
"It wants to know who says you can be here."
"Thurgod, Master Smith, says I can be here," he repeated to the golem.
This command it understood, and after a moment of searching its own mind for the truth it found that indeed, Thurgod had told it from afar that a small boy would be there that evening.
"You may enter," it said, and then resumed its stature looking out from the gate, as it had stood most of each day for dozens of years.
After they passed it, Oorgo asked Thurgod in a whisper, "Is that golem dumber than the other ones?" He looked behind them to be sure it did not here.
"Yes. It was made for swinging a pick, and blocky stone does not hold wisdom well."
"Why doesn't it mine anymore?"
"A fall chipped its right foot, as may have escaped your notice, but enough to make it unworthy of mine work, where a stumble is very dangerous." Then Thurgod raised his voice, "Sallid! Your master needs you here."
Suddenly a tall golem with metal limbs, covered all over in gears, levers, and sliding joints, turned. Its limbs were spindly, thinner in each part than the crystal golems of Cyllgod's house. It strutted over to the pair, other lessor golems adjusting their routes to avoid his as they moved hither and thither carrying loads.
"How can I serve the Master Smith?" the voice clanked. Unlike other golems of a more solid make, Stallid had no definable exterior shell except for the top and front of his head. Where his mouth was to be, as his face was clearly designed, there was a small aperture into a metal box, the most solid thing about him besides the dome which made the top. What wonders went on within the box to produce speech were known only to Thurgod.
"First, you must meet my new mortal servant, the child Oorgo."
Stallid's metal eyes turned unnaturally towards the boy. With the limited dimension of his skull, he occasionally looked through his own head, in this case rolling his eyes downward to look through where a human would have had a jaw.
Thurgod interrupted the golem's greeting, "Have you been out in the rain, Stallid? This is not how I built you to behave."
"An underground sea, it was then? Have you felt any water lately?"
Stallid's eyes rolled back to look straight at Thurgod, and he knit his brow, "I do not recall meeting water, but is the nature of water that I would forget it. What part of my service is unsatsifactory?"
"You forget to turn your head when you look towards things near you, instead rolling your eyes freely. Humans find that unnerving." Oorgo was clutching Thurgod's leg.
"I am sorry, Master Smith..."
"That is not all, Stallid. You I suppose it was that sent me the Flying Word?"
Oorgo looked up and whispered, "Is that the bug machine with the message?"
Thurgod pointed his face down and said, "Yes," in an undertone.
Stallid responded, "Yes. I had not received a golem part back from you which I desperately needed. I have been forced to great pains without it..."
"You wrote your message on parchment, Stallid."
"Yes, sir. That is how I usually send messages of an official nature."
"You have forgotten, then, that I am the blind god."
"A god, blind?"
Thurgod sighed. "Yes. You must have been in water. You have forgotten to use the metal messages I gave you. Kneel down, Stallid."
Stallid knelt into the dirt without protest, sullying his silver limbs. Thurgod reached into the golems head, then drew out a thin bar of metal, covered all over in tiny grooves. He blew on it, then into the compartment from whence it came, and the rust scraped off.
The smith god replaced the thin bar, and then did this action seven more times on other little bars. At last he replaced the last one and said, "Stand up, Stallid."
The golem stood, and for a moment its eyes flicked about, but never beyond their expected places. It even moved its head down to look at Oorgo, and then back up again. It clanked, "It is good. It is like a haze has been blown away. I see much better now."
"May I leave this part with you and have you replace it, Stallid? I am eager to return home."
Stallid reached down and accepted the golem piece from Oorgo. "Yes, this will be easy. When I have done so, I will tell the men to come up from that mine as the golem returns."
Thurgod had begun to turn when he arrested his own movement. He turned back to Stallid and said, "Repeat that. Are you sure the haze is gone?"
"Yes, and you would know better than I. I said I would bring the men back up from that mine when this golem was ready to return."
Oorgo did not like the expression which Thurgod's metal-marred face took on at that moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment