Journey to the South: Sixteen of Thirty

Posted: February 17, 2013 in Fiction
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     A week after crossing into Yevij Province, we came to the small town of Nev, three days’ travel from Akhem. Our plan was to night in the town due to it housing a legionary garrison that would allow Decurio Atam to refresh our supplies and acquire us new horses for the last leg of our land journey. The town, like many Yevijiri towns, consisted of clusters of adobe buildings that had expanded to surround the legionary fort on all sides. As we rode past in the carriage, I noticed that while most of the houses had representations of sheaves of wheat and barley upon the lintel of their doorway, some were adorned with a tablet and stylus or skulls and roses. These adornments, I later learned, signified to which traditional caste of Yevijiri society the inhabitants belonged; the adornments themselves being symbols of the patron-deities of each caste.

    Sheaves meant the family was of the Ikarii caste of artisans, farmers, and laborers; the tablets signified belonging to the Pi’in caste of bureaucrats and scholars; the skulls and roses were the symbols of the goddess Kiga’shm, who was patron to the Mengkil caste of warriors. In the olden days, prior to the Yevijiri being brought into the Moy, the highest caste – the Orphi – had had the lintels of their opulent dwellings adorned with eagle feathers, representative of the Za’ha, the totemic animal of the god Qat. The Orphi had consisted of the family of a city’s priest-king, along with the members of the various Yevijiri priesthoods, but ever since their inclusion into the Moy the Orphi were primarily made up of the priests and priestesses.

    The Decurio left us at our lodgings for the evening with a trio of his legionaries as he and the others headed to the fort. It was a small but well-kept inn, and we found that we were not the only travelers headed for Akhem. A quartet of priests of Tule – one senior and three junior – were lodging as well, their ultimate goal being an island in the Yevij Sea not far from Akhem, where a temple to the smith-god stood.

    “You see,” confided the elder priest, Rajai, over a glass of corn-spirits that night as we sat by the inn’s main hearth, “over the last decade our Priesthood has been running an experiment. We enchant a number of large crystals together, separate them to out to various temples and monasteries of Tule, and the stones act as a sort of…’beacon’, if you will. They attract each other and can be used for long distance communication and even sharing of the god’s blessings and power. Thus far, we have built a small network of such stones, and we are traveling to the temple of Nasher to see how far the stones can be from one another and still work.”

    “How far is the closest one?” I asked.

    Rajai rubbed at his bearded chin as he swirled the spirits in his colored glass. “Oh, there is one at the Temple of the Unbreakable Hammer. About a fortnight’s journey north-northwest of here.”

    “And does the stone still work?”

    At that question the old priest smiled and the hearth-fire glimmered in his eyes. “Indeed it does, my friend!” he said, then his face sobered. “In fact, we received word this morning that small riots have begun to break out in Kravnu.”

    “What?!” I asked, sitting up straighter on my stool.

    Rajai nodded. “It appears that a month after the Triumph of Krinai there was a fight in the streets of Kravtal between a member of the city guard and a Hylian slave. Apparently, the slave knew some…illicit magics and used them. Luckily the guardsman was also a priest of Krinai and able to slay the slave by knocking him into the Bay, where he drowned. But ever since there have been small slave-riots in honor of this supposed ‘dragon monk’ as they are calling him.”

    “By Namshiir’s Heart,” I muttered, looking down at my own spirits for a moment before draining my glass. “I never thought I would see the day where there was rioting in the Imperial City.”

    The elder priest nodded soberly. “True,” he said, and paused momentarily before continuing somewhat awkwardly. “But, if I may be candid, Ambassador: if any good comes from this unrest, I hope it is an abolishment of the system of slavery in the Moy.”

    Thinking of Cuahuatec, I looked at the priest with a questioning look. “Truly?”

    “Truly,” Rajai responded. “Personally, speaking, I do not like the thought of another being being pressed into the servitude of another. There is something…barbaric about it. Besides, there is nothing that slaves can do that the ingenuity of the Priesthoods of the Kritanoi cannot accomplish with more humane means.”

    “How so?”

    The priest smiled almost proudly as he spoke. “Well, I know that in our order alone there are treatises and texts and schematics shelved away in our libraries for various machines and automata that could do the work of any slave. The only problems to having them used have been finding efficient, reliable sources of power for them. Along with there being too many slaves in the Moy for anyone to think that such mechanisms would even be necessary. If slavery were abolished…” Rajai trailed off and took a sip of his drink, letting the unsaid implications hang in there air.

    “Interesting,” I said. “Very interesting.”

    After that we had another round of corn-spirits and talked about our experiences on the road thus far, before bidding each other a good night’s sleep and adjourning to bed. That was the last night that I would sleep well and peacefully before our ship left Akhem.

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