Saturday, January 23, 2016

Beyond the Rim Installment 23

Oorgo and the smith god arrived at last on the fringes of the city as evening arrived. The evening was grey as the sunset was veiled by cloud, and the shadows of the mountains were now creeping up into the city. Still Oorgo's pace had not slackened, and he kept the chain taught as he went on ahead, fascinated again by the wares of this city's edge marketplace through which they had passed that morning. By now though the merchants and sellers were gathering together their wares and sealing them up, either to carry home or to leave in Queen's chests, metal boxes able to be opened only by the owner, a device of cunning for which Thurgod was surely responsible, though they bore the Queen's name. Oorgo paused and stared at one of these, fascinated as the merchant spoke to it.
The merchant muttered a nonsense password, "Cumunreal," and the box flipped its lid open. Oorgo jumped back, and blundered into a porter carrying away the greater half of another merchants wares.
The porter turned and muttered a curse as his load, carefully balanced across his shoulders, wobbled. Then seeing the chain he through down his load and said, "So now the gods make slaves of our children, eh?" He stooped and picked up a stone.
"Have not gods held humans by the nape of the neck all of your history?" said Thurgod.
"To think you lead a child around on a chain!" and he hurled the stone at Thurgod.
It struck the smith square in the face, but then rebounded in a random direction at the same speed with which it had flown in. A woman selling pottery ducked as one of her largest pots was shattered.
Thurgod bellowed in the direction of the porter, "Fool! How is that it is I that am blind, but it is you who cannot see? The child leads me!" and he gave a shake to the chain that connected him to Oorgo. "See, even now your anger is misplaced, and your own kind are hurt for it, and the gods pass on untroubled."
"I'd soon live to see the day you die, smith-thrall."
"And I have lived to see a hundred generations of men die, and am but a day older. It would be better if you let your anger pass, for it is fruitless."
The tension hung in the air for a moment, but knowing that another stone thrown could do no good, the porter turned and balanced his burden on his back again. He meandered to a side street, muttering, as the pottress chased after him howling her remonstrances, and asking who is employer was.
Thurgod resumed his walking, giving a tug on the chain to wake Oorgo from his petrified state. "The Queen waits for me, Oorgo. It would be better if we did not make her wait long." As Oorgo caught up to the god Thurgod scooped him up and placed him on his shoulders again, walking quickly.
"He broke the woman's pot."
"I am sure the courts of the city will settle that dispute."
"The queen's court is gonna do something about it?" asked Oorgo.
"No. There are other courts. Magistrates."
"I saw some magic crates. They opened when the man spoke to it."
"You have the wrong word again, Oorgo. A magistrate is a man who tells other men what to do when they are upset at each other."
"So are you a magistrate?"
"Am I man?"
"Then I am not a magistrate."
"Did you make the boxes?"
"They are called Queen's chests."
"Why didn't the stone hurt you?"
"I am made of godflesh, and godflesh does fear to be struck by a stone thrown in anger."
"What about copper? Can godflesh get hurt by copper?"
"No. Godflesh cannot be wounded by copper."
"Godflesh cannot be wounded by any thing you will find on the planet, child?"
"Then what's wrapped around your face?"
Thurgod stumbled, and toppled to the ground, forcing Oorgo to make a rough dismount, and also crash to the ground.
The child immediately began to breath deeply and to whimper. Thurgod had known children enough to know what would come next, so he roused himself from his reeling and said, "We are already too slow. We must move on."
"My arm hurts. It hurts."
"Did it crack?"
"You do not walk with your arms; your are not so small a child as that, nor are you an ape. The Queen requires that we move on."
"What's an ape?"
"I will only answer that question if you are walking."
Oorgo hopped up, but then winced as he felt his shoulder. Thurgod began speaking immediately, "An ape is a creature with huge arms, so huge that it walks with them like feet. And instead of feet, it may have hands."
"I saw a juggler once. Can apes juggle?"
Thurgod skipped a stride as he walked. "Can it juggle?"
Oorgo just nodded and made a little skip forward, gaining a half-stride lead on the smith god. "You know. Throw balls or things in the air and catch them and throw them."
"I, I, I have never seen an ape juggle."
"Have you ever seen anything?"
Thurgod slumped his shoulders slightly. "Yes."
"I mean besides metal. Have you seen things that aren't metal?"
Thurgod did not respond, but his breathing deepened.
Oorgo looked down and slowed his pace. "I guess you must have. You knew that sunsets on the mountainside are beautiful."
Thurgod jiggled the chain idly, toying with the slack as they walked together. "Yes. They are."
The pair then walked in silence for a few minutes, Oorgo hanging closer to the smith god as the darkness fell and they reached where the shadows of the mountains fell onto the city. They finally obtained the Way again, and walked with the sunset before them, just showing between the jagged mountain peaks.
The cobbles of the Way were cool before they descended onto the city streets, and the iron of Thurgod's gate cold when they arrived. Thurgod opened the gate and let Oorgo in, then released himself from the chain. "It is the privilege of humans to close their eyes and no longer see the world. May your dreams be good, child."
"When will you be back, Master?"
"When you are asleep, if the Queen does not delay me."
"Do you know what she wants you for?"
"I think I do, but the mind, or whim, of the Queen is unknowable to most."
"Who can..."
"No more questions. It is not the time for it." Thurgod shut the gate and turned away, lumbering his stocky form as he retraced his steps towards the Way.

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