KAMI LOOKED OVER the wheel. “This is Pah Gol, Rook.”
He sat back. “You know this?”
“I saw an ancient version of it in Sahrdon.”
“The gods were different.”
Rook sighed and shook off Kami’s comment. “This chart shows the axes from birth of the body to birth of the soul, from death of the body to dissolution of the soul. This entire, sacred journey is summed up in one Sahran word, spelled from the syllables of these axes: Pah Gol.”
“Great Fish,” said Kami.
“Blood flows,” added Rook.
“Yes,” said Rook. “That’s the most ancient meaning of those letters.”
“I found a chart like this one in Sahrdon, and as I studied it, I thought about the Architect’s book and wondered how the Sahr had moved in their thinking from ‘Godsea’ to ‘blood flows’ to ‘war.’ How did the Sahr get from a world filled with the waters of peace to war as a divine pursuit? In time, I realized the men who wanted war didn’t look back at ‘Godsea’ and the ancient knowledge for understanding. The Architect didn’t want to understand what the ancients meant. He wanted to use the symbols and myths for his own purpose, so he said ‘blood flows’ was about war, when it was really about life. The Architect got it all wrong, as did Demid all those generations before him.”
Rook sat back, his eyes flickering, narrowing, and shifting as if trying to see what wasn’t there. His jaw clenched a few times, and his nostrils flared, and Kami wondered if he was going to yell. When he spoke, his voice was quietly threatening, like Avestine at her most venomous. “What you saw, as what you heard, was a lie. Would you question the Architect and the First Essanti? Who are you to say the greatest men who ever lived were wrong about anything? Who are you to question anyone, Kami? Don’t mistake your value. Don’t mistake the reason you’re allowed to roam this palace or speak at all. You’re a child. You’re arrogant and ignorant. The only reason she tolerates you is for the perversions you perform so willingly in her bed.”
She knew Rook expected her to be hurt, but she understood he was offended, perhaps even frightened. She felt no remorse for attacking the foundations of his life. She believed his faith sprung from lies, and it was just as well he knew sooner rather than later.
“They were wrong,” she said. “They were two men separated by many generations, but their purpose was the same. Power. They each wrote that ‘blood flows’ was about the right to dominate the world, whether by religion or by war, because it served their purpose, not the truth. Yes, Rook, I do question them, because I know blood isn’t the symbol of death. It’s the symbol of life. I know better than you what death is because I know better than you what life is.”
He sneered. “During your training, your dream torment was to be surrounded by death. You fear death more than anything. Only an animal fears death, because only for an animal is death the end.”
Kami shook her head and continued, “The ancient Sahr honored the sea and called their world ‘Godsea,’ and they wrote that ‘blood flows’ because it’s the blood of life, flowing from mother to child. Birth is what matters, not the shedding of an enemy’s blood. Not death. Not war.”
Rook’s shaggy gray eyebrows hovered low over his blue eyes.
Kami considered his difficulty. “Maybe to a man the sight of blood can mean only death, but to a woman, blood is life. It’s the first thing that tells us we are women. Our own blood, not another’s, is a sign of power. It promises a future. And this makes me wonder. The Architect writes that Arujan ruled the Shining Gods and that those born of Bala are Shadow Gods. The ancient text doesn’t have such a name as ‘Shadow Gods,’ but it mentions the gods who ruled over Death, Chaos, and Skill. These are not demons. These are Mon, Bala, and Sula. The gods in the ancient text who the Architect calls ‘Shining’ were Katan, Arujan, and Coth. There are six gods and no demons. The chart says nothing about demons. Arujan and Bala are not overlords but only two among equals.”
“If you were to talk like that in Sahrdon, you would be impaled for blasphemy.”
“This is from the text, Rook. There for anyone to see. Avestar made sure I saw it. If I can say nothing else for him, at least he showed me the truth.”
“If such a text ever existed, the Architect would have destroyed it. Avestar probably invented it. Kami, you must be open to the possibility that you don’t know everything.”
“I’m quite open to that, Rook. Are you?”
After a moment of silence, he said, “Tell me about Sahrdon. What did you do there besides pilfer the royal library?”
“You mean, when Avestar wasn’t raping or beating me?”
“You seem unaffected.”
“I wasn’t once. I am now.”
“You’re a strange girl, Kami.”
Rook studied her with concern, which amused Kami. “You’ve never asked me.”
Rook sat back in his chair. “Asked what?”
“You once wondered what pleasure the flesh may give that a mere dream didn’t, but you’re afraid of me.”
“I’m afraid for you. All you believe in are the feelings in your skin. There’s so much more to the world than your skin. Pleasures of the flesh are like dust compared to the wonders of the spirit.”
“Something Coth might say.” She smiled.
“I’m Essanti. I serve the Emissary.”
“If you were the Avatar, what would you do?”
He stared at her a long moment. “I would kill Avestar and anyone else who stood in her way.”
“That’s the Essanti speaking. What if you weren’t bound to her?”
“Then I would do it because she’s all that can bring order to this world. The world needs order, Kami.”
Kami had never been sure whether Rook’s love was as obvious to himself as it was to everyone else. “She’s not so different from her brother. ‘Order’ is just another word for control.” “Someone will always have to make the decision about who lives and who dies. That isn’t evil. That is society. You know her father was a cruel man, and the strength he worshipped is the strength the world judged him by, so when the Architect recognized that his empire wouldn’t last if it was built on war, Avestar thought him weak and killed him. That act split the family in two. Now there are two shoots, one unwilling to change, unwilling to imagine strength without war; the other plants the seeds of peace with a new kind of law. That new shoot will grow only if she’s on the throne. She is the one to bring peace. I know this, Kami. I know this.”
Published in Darklaw |
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