Saturday, August 2, 2008



The peq blinked at Flavius, considering the question. “I’m not sure, Sir. That’s why I asked.” It licked its lips with a broad, black tongue. “If Sir is having some difficulty, I will find someone to assist if I cannot. If Sir is not having difficulty, might I suggest dinner? The first course will have already been served, but you should make it in time for the second. Her Imperial Majesty will hold me personally responsible if you are not there by the third course.”

“Food. Right ya are, lad,” Flavius said, opening the impenetrable sporran and slipping the mysterious featherscale inside. “I’m near enough wasted away to skin and bones as it is. Lead the way and I’ll follow.”

The peq nodded and departed through the door. Flavius followed.

The halls were busier than those he’d gone through earlier. Pairs of peq worked here and there, cleaning and polishing the walls and floor. Liveried subjects of the Eternal Dominion passed them in the opposite direction, casting sidelong glances at Flavus, two women stopping and gaping openly as he went by.

For all the increase in foot traffic, the passages were still practically empty compared to the steady bustle he remembered from before.

“Say, lad, where’re all the people?” Flavius asked, looking around. “Last time I was here, a body couldnae take two steps without bumping shoulders with another.”

“Eternal Prime,” the peq answered.

“Right. And that is...?”

“The prime cosm of the Eternal Dominion,” the peq answered, as if speaking to an exceedingly dim child. “The Ruling Hand is coming into session, and most of the staff has already transferred over to make the Utq'in Palace ready to receive the Imperial court.”

They turned up a stairway, much larger than the earlier one. The bannisters were sheathed in mother-of-pearl.

“The Ruling Hand is comprised of one hundred and twenty-seven Fingers,” the peq continued. “Each Finger is the direct sovereign over his or her defined territorial interests. Each Finger is, of course, a non-successionary sibling...”

Flavius pondered the featherscale as the peq led him to dinner, expounding on the political intricacies of the Eternal Dominion with far more enthusiasm than he’d shown for anything else.

Where had the featherscale come from? Could it be from Parric? Did the featherscales change color when shed? Flavius doubted it. The alternative, though, was far more puzzling. In all his time with Parric, he’d never so much as seen another of Parric’s kind. Flavius tightened his grip on Memory instinctively, but no misplaced recollection straggled forth.

Parric never spoke of his own kind, Flavius realized. Not if he could help it, at any rate. The Tricentennial Emperor had referred to Parric as a T'ul-us Tzan. The Vistring Complexity had welcomed Parric as an Aspect of Creation. Knowicent called Parric a Crafter of Onimik... and Parric seemed to accept all monikers equally. No, not equally. He seemed most comfortable with Crafter of Onimik, but that might simply be a result of dealing with Knowicent so much. Nobody’d ever bothered to explain to Flavius where--or what--Onimik was. Flavius suspected Onimik was less of a place than it was another abstract Nexial concept he’d regret trying to wrap his mind around.

Why would another Crafter have been in Flavius’ room sometime in the past two weeks? He couldn’t decide if the portents were good or ill. He’d have to as Parric once they managed a moment of privacy.

“Here we are, Sir, the petite dining hall,” the peq said, stopping in front of a door with intricate carvings that depicted either a spectacular feast or a particularly gruesome battle.

The doorman, tall and copper skinned, nodded at the peq. “You’re lucky, peq. They’ve just served the second course.”

The peq bowed in acknowledgement. “Then I am grateful to live another day. My obligation here is fulfilled.” It then turned and ambled away.

“Flavius of Clan MacDuff, your table is anchored and waiting for you,” the doorman said, opening the door to usher Flavius inside. “I know Their Imperial Majesties are both hopeful you join with them--”

Flavius sucked in his breath. During his previous stay within the realms of the Eternal Dominion, they’d eaten in the field in the Second Cosm, and during the brief visit to Un-pic Ja’ab he and Parric had eaten in their rooms.

“If this is the petite dining hall lad, I’m afraid to see the grand one,” Flavius muttered.

The hall was more cathedral than dining room. The soaring, vaulted walls arched overhead and glowed white with an inherent light. On the floor, dozens of round tables the diameter of Flaviius’ outstretched arm drifted languidly about in an intricate dance, merging to bring their seated occupants together in polite conversation before separating again to connect with a different table. In the center of the hall a raised stage held a quartet playing bizarre instruments. The performers blew into mouthpieces, stimulating an array of strings to sound which they then touched lightly to mute various notes. The melody by omission haunting and strange, yet oddly relaxing.

Flavius spotted Parric coiled around a table on the opposite side of the hall, merged with that of some chattering courtier. “Huh.” Flavius snorted. “Bastard didnae even wait for me.”

He examined his waiting table then sat down on the attached cupped seat. Immediately the seat shifted to bring him closer to the table while the whole thing drifted into the dining floor crowd.

“Damn. Cannae they do anything normal around here?” Flavius said, looking under the table for any signs of locomotion and finding none. He straightened, and found a massive orange-and-black head with bulbous crystalline eyes staring at him, inches from his face.


I'm traveling, so I'm afraid there won't be a new installment of MEMORY next week folks. Sorry.

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