Friday, November 17, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 6, part 3

She heard footsteps and several people starting to shout. She ran out the door and down the hallway, fleeing out the window and nearly tumbled down the wall. She unknotted the bottom section with her father’s _patu_ and wrapped herself in it as she fled blindly into the city. She found the arch with the square column and the carved horse’s head. She waited there for a while, shivering from fear and cold.

Her father said: Leave. They will find you.

She started at the voice. She looked around.

He said: I am not here. I am _urvan mazda_, a mind spirit. You must go.

She skipped down the thoroughfare in the dark. Skipping was easier, quieter, and more sustainable than running. She tried to skip from shadow to shadow. Occasionally she stopped behind a wall or in an alley to listen and watch for pursuers or guards. She could barely hear anything above the ringing in her ears and the beating of her heart. Fortunately for her, there was nothing to hear.

She was able to reach the gates but they were closed. The guards patrolled the area regularly and several were posted above the wall with torches. They would surely be notified about the attack soon, before the morning light when the gate would be opened. She could not merely wait for the gate to open. It was too large and heavy for her to move alone. The guards would quickly notice and attack in any case. She stood out as well, a young woman unescorted and wearing a man’s _patu_.

A delicate hand settled on her shoulder and she nearly cried out, but caught herself. Instead, she steeled herself and settled into a fight stance called the horse. She pushed herself into the space between light and dark. She was glad that she had frozen time nearly perfectly. The street and wall of the building near her were illuminated brightly in pale moonlight. Her eyes were nearly wide open. As smoothly and calmly as she could, she turned on the balls of her feet, shifting with her hips first. She drew out her father’s rondel in her right hand as she spun.

The person behind her had withdrawn their hand from her shoulder. 9001 slashed in the direction she was sure her attacker stood. Even if she missed, which she did, at least she could clear an area to move into and form a new stance facing her enemy. To her dismay, the person who had patted her shoulder was able to freeze time as well, or at least seemed to move as quickly as she had only seen her father moving.

As she formed her second stance and faced the attacker, 9001 could see that the person wore a woman’s shift like hers, but ornately decorated and made of fabulously expensive silk, ribbons, buttons, and precious stones. The woman was close to her own size and moved her hands and feet in a practiced, methodical manner. The forms were not known to 9001, but they were a close dialect of her own form.

She swung with her knife hand to slash at the closest body part on her attacker, which was the forward shoulder on the attacker’s left. She soon realised she was leading with the right and knew she had made a mistake. The other woman’s bridge hand lead with the left and came up under 9001’s wrist. A quick twist of _huen sao_, circuling hand, flipped the knife out of her palm easily.

9001 confidently struck towards the other woman’s chin, stepping forward to close the distance. The other woman’s _bong sao_, or wing arm, cut her off and effectively moved her fist away harmlessly. Before 9001 even had a chance to react, the other woman had already counter-attacked and nearly clipped 9001’s chin. Her _wu sao_, guarding hand, had been in the correct position by some happy providence. She was able to move the _wu sao_ against the elbow of her attacker so the arm passed in front of her nose.

9001 struck at the attacker’s throat with _biu sao_, darting fingers with a flat hand, palm down. Her elbow was moved aside with _fook sao_, the hook hand. The attacker’s other hand moved over the _fook sao_ and struck 9001’s deltoid, then applied negative pressure upwards on the elbow, hyper-extending it. 9001 rotated slightly, pulled her arm back and then swung it the long way, down and around to escape the _fook sao_. It was a long, slow and exposed escape, but at least she avoided getting locked up, or spraining a joint.

So it went for a few rounds, 9001 would attack and get blocked easily, then she would have to regroup faster than she had ever trained with her father so that she could block the counter-attack. She was winded and the lights began to flash with alternately long and short shadows as the rhythm of her attacks and blocks lagged and rushed the distances between light and dark.

It seemed to 9001 like she had been fighting for ten minutes, but she realised it was only ten blinks. Her mind was distracted by these calculations because her attacker easily darted to her side and kicked her stance out from under her at the knee. She collapsed out of the spell and fell on the ground as the darkness settled over the area. She scrambled for her father’s blade a few feet away from her.

She turned toward her attacker who stood over her triumphantly. She heard nightingales singing and a Euphrates jerboa laughing. It sound like: Ha ha, that was fun.

9001 was confused. She made a sound like the cicada whirring in the heat. It meant: How do you speak the silent language?

The woman laughed out loud this time. She said: Sister, you are so funny.

The familiar address was startling. The accent was strangely stilted but clearly understandable. The woman must be the same age as her. She also wore a silk veil like the Masked Ones. How was it possible that a Masked One was trained as a Healer?

9001 held the blade in front of her, trying to get her feet under her. The woman offered her left hand to help, keeping it safely out of reach of the blade. 9001 transferred the blade to her left hand and then grabbed wrist-to-wrist with the stranger. She was lifted to her feet easily.

9001 put her blade away and panted heavily. She rubbed her shoulder and elbow. 9001 said: Who are you? What do you want?

The woman shushed her. She said in that stilted, perfect but informal accent: Be quiet. The guards are looking for you. I will help you escape.

A wind blew through the trees and leaves rustled. It seemed like the phrase: Follow me.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 6, Part 2

They made their way back to a convenient spot where they could observe the front of the capitol building entrance. As the sun began to set, the procession returned along the major street and guards opened the entrance to let them file in. The palanquin entrance on the second palanquin in the procession was slightly open, and a foot was visible up to the ankle. The rest of the leg was not visible inside the palanquin.

A dog barked and some chickens clucked insistently. 9001 conveyed the message: Why don’t we attack with the Healer speed when they are outside?

Her father shook his head in the negative. A rock shifted in the sand and a bird called once, twice. It meant: It is too risky. We cannot escape if we even succeed.

They waited there until long after dark when everyone else retreated inside a shelter. Then they waited even longer until it became bitterly cold. The lamps and lights inside stopped moving around, then eventually went out completely. An owl hooted: Go.

They crept silently toward the building wall on the side where they had spotted a ledge and window opening. 2711 unwound his turban and took off his _patu_, woollen coat. The turban was approximately 6 metres long and an additional perhaps 2 metres for the _patu_. He tied them together and wrapped the cloth at 1 metre lengths with 4 knots. 9001 grabbed one end and her father hoisted her up on his knee. Leaning against the wall with her leg and hand on one side, she lifted her other foot so her father could use both hands to throw her up an extra metre.

It took three tiring tries, but finally, the knot at the top caught on a wooden abutment on the ledge. 9001 hopped down and tested the strength of the cloth and attachment. She lifted herself up and planted both feet on the wall to climb up, using the knots for hand holds. She was able to get to the ledge and ducked inside the window. The window let into a hallway dead-end on the second floor of the building. She whistled faintly and a few seconds later her father appeared, hopping down into the hallway as silently as a cat.

They slowly edged forwards to the first corner intersection and peered both ways along the hallway. Nothing moved or made a sound. They moved toward a door, separated with dark cloth curtains. 2711 parted the curtains and looked inside stealthily. He withdrew and moved to the next doorway, covered in lightly coloured cloth curtains. Her father looked inside again, but this time he strained to see something. His back straightened suddenly and he closed the curtains quickly. He lifted his fingers to his lips: Quiet.

Someone snored inside and shifted. They waited with increased breathing rates until the room went silent again. They moved further down the hall to the other end. A set of wooden doors blocked the next room at the end. 2711 held up his hand to caution his daughter. He pulled out his new blade from inside his shift. She did likewise with her blade, seeing the light-coloured reflective metal almost glowing in the darkness in her father’s hand. She noticed that the blade nearly glowed when viewed from the corners of her eyes. Looking directly at the blade made the glowing effect go away, and it because almost invisible.

Her father used the blade to reach between the door panels and find a wooden latch inside. He lifted it very carefully, then pushed gently at the door. Nothing happened but a creaking noise and a thump came from the left side. They waited, straining to listen for any other noises. Nothing moved. It dawned on him suddenly: he pulled at the door and it moved outward with a few squeaks and scrapes.

They filed inside the entrance and faced another door inside the anteroom. A flickering light inside froze them in their tracks. A candle was still burning inside, visible at the frame edges and between the planks of wood. 9001 began to panic and motioned to leave. 2711 shook his head defiantly. He moved forwards. The interior door opened and a man stepped forward, carrying a candle in his hand. He wore a thin silk mask that hung from a curiously shaped hat brim. The silk part of the mask hung nearly to his chest and waved with every movement and breath.

The eyes were barely visible behind a gap between the brim of the hat and the silk. They glittered in the candlelight, but did not betray any surprise.

A twig snapped: Now.

9001 pushed forward into the frozen time between the light coming from the candle. She had made a miscalculation, however, because she could not see anything at first. She moved forwards swinging her legs as she had been taught from each corner of a set of squares laid out in front of her. As her eyes opened finally, she noticed the room was full of dim but steady light. Her rhythm was perfectly in tune with the motion of the light. The flame on the candle wick did not move or gutter, but stood completely still. There were no shadows or bands of light and darkness in the room.

Continuing on in this way without rushing, more like swimming through water, she pushed forwards onto the right side of her father and swept low with the blade towards targets Six and Seven. Her father seemed to be moving upward towards One from the opposite side. She noticed that the Masked One was nearly as tall as her father with a very similar build. The silk mask in front of face held still in the middle of a wave, frozen solid. A few glints of golden light bounced off of his neck. Something familiar about the jawline and corner where it met the earlobe seemed to remind her of someone.

She ducked her head, though, concentrating on the first target and relished her ability to move so carefully and effortlessly in the space between time and light. She already knew the motion the blade and her arms, legs, and body would take. The whole path was planned out in front of her. She merely needed to follow along the path without forcing any effort.

She struck deeply and horizontally with her left hand in a backward slash at the groin crease. Then she reversed the motion to slash deeply at the same target on the target’s left side. She continued her momentum to the target’s left side and slightly behind him. She noticed with some satisfaction that he appeared to be falling back.

Everything sped forward as the spell broke and she heard the candle land before she heard two loud bangs in quick succession. The man must have fallen to the floor, she reasoned, turning around.

Instead, she saw both the Masked One and her father lying on the ground on their backs, heads rolled to one side. The candle sputtered and rolled around on its side, nearly going out. She turned her gaze further down the length of his legs and her father lay foot-to-foot with the same pose. She turned her attention to the Masked One’s head and spotted a large golden choker around his neck, filled with gems. This must have been some sort of armour protecting targets One and Two, she reasoned. She lifted the silk veil and could barely discern the features. Nevertheless, she sensed a familiar déjà vu seeing the side of the cheek and crow’s feet at the corner of his eyes.

The adrenaline of the exercise caught up to her and she began to hyperventilate from exertion and opened her mouth widely to pant. Spotted lights danced in her vision and darkness closed in at the edges of her sight.

Her father said: Breathe. Clean the blade. Curse the body.

She took to more panicked sobs and fumbled her blade on the cloth of the Masked One. She breathless mouthed the words: I curse you foul Masked One. I despise you and your kind, ruling over common people as tyrants. While others move around in yurts and poor huts, you take people’s wealth and live in fancy buildings. You cover your face in fear and loathing. You hide like the cowards you are. So the Healers strike you down and Ahriman take your body to _druj_. Your _fravashi_ will take you far away from here and you will never be seen again.

She sheathed her blade in his belt and took the blade from the floor next to her father’s left hand. She placed it on the other side of her belt wrap. It was long and uncomfortable against her hip.

Her father said: Go. Someone is coming.

She heard footsteps and several people starting to shout. She ran out the door and down the hallway, fleeing out the window and nearly tumbled down the wall. She unknotted the bottom section with her father’s _patu_ and wrapped herself in it as she fled blindly into the city.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 6, part 1

The settled near a pond at the bottom of a hill. Two huts faced each other where an extended family lived. They offered their camels and supplies to the family for a week until they intended to return. They stayed the night and 9001 was able to sleep after the exhaustion of being on guard every day and night.

The next morning, very early, they moved east toward the rising sun towards the city walls. They waited at the gates early with a small group of farmers and foreign merchants. The gate opened and the people straggled in, dispersing in the city paths. Father and daughter walked along the main thoroughfare towards the middle of the city where the capitol building would have to be. Strange smells assaulted their noses. Some were inviting and delicious-smelling. Others were fetid and revolting.

As they wended along one side of town following a large road between buildings, they spotted an even larger crossing boulevard heading into the centre of the city. They turned to follow it. A procession of camels, squat Scythian horses, and many servant men walked towards them down the boulevard.

2711 held his daughter back and pressed up against a building wall, behind a merchant’s stall. As the procession went by, the bearing of the horses and men became more regal and erect. About 100 men seemed to be going by. In the last third of the procession, two large palanquins were hefted by twelve men. The palanquins were decorated with flowers, leaves, and garlands. Though they were both quite large, it was pretty certain that only one person rode in each one.

9001 strained to see inside the palanquins but was unable to make out the interiors. Above the din and bustle of the city, she heard a cock crowing. It meant: It is him, I know it.

They continued on after the procession and finally reached the interior part of the centre after an hour or more. They traded some rabbit furs for a few meals from a local vendor and paused in an open square. Her father surveyed the capitol building and its walls, looking for openings and entrances. They walked a circle around the building, pretending to admire it like tourists. Kabul was a large cosmopolitan city, and there were many people doing the same, which gave them cover.

At one point on the north section of the building, her father made a noise of a duck quacking, then fluttering away. It conveyed the meaning: Look up, there is an open window and a ledge. That is the way in.

They walked on as if nothing else was happening. They settled on the south side of a building, taking in the gentle warmth of the sun.

9001 said: Do you trust uncle?

2711 said: Always. He is my older brother.

9001 asked a question, but was fearful of the answer: What of your other brother? The twin full of _druj_?

Her father was silent for a long time. He said: Everything dies eventually. I will die and you will too.

They sat in silence, then moved several times to gain familiarity with the layout of the city centre and the roads. They mapped out a few ways to enter and leave the area, agreeing in advance to split up and return at a predetermined landmark. The landmark was a statue of horse’s head upon a tall square column. It formed part of a partial arch that led a major thoroughfare towards the city gate to the west.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 5 part 7

His brother nodded and paced the floor. Finally, he pulled up a piece of metal from a pile of wood on one side.

He said: this is the blade I am forging for you. Look at the shape and brightness of the metal. Look at the straightness of the edge. See the pattern on the spine. This blade is forged from seric iron brought from India’s far shore. In Damascus, they have only been using this metal for a century. Your blade was produced locally and it is weak and flat. Notice how this metal is strong but still flexible.

He bent the metal with his mighty arms, making a huge effort. The metal sprang back to its original shape.

2639 said: please let me sharpen and finish this blade for you. You need all the help you can get if you are going to attack a Masked One. Please do not let Ahriman take my brother.

2711 clasped his brother on the forearm, and his eyes glistened. He said: it would be an honour, brother. Make me a blade to make our father proud.

Chapter Six

9001 woke up from a deep sleep with a sensation of hot breath on her face and a hand climbing up her thigh. She opened her eyes and felt, rather than saw, her uncle’s huge weight nearly on top of her. She opened her mouth to scream, but he covered her mouth and nothing came out. She quickly locked her thighs tightly. Feeling the thumb pointing up and the knuckles pressing into her right thigh, she rolled onto her left side. At the same time she brought down her right hand and found his elbow, so she pressed down hard to hyperextend it.

The combination of pressures and forces rolled him off her and disabled his arm. She reached with her left arm to control the wrist and then pulled herself up on her knees to lean on the outside of his shoulder joint.

She said: I will break your arm before you attack me.

2639 laughed, then said: I relent. I relent.

9001 suddenly felt the shock of the adrenaline aftereffects. She was panting hard and shaking violently. She relaxed her grip and scooted back away from him. He looked over his shoulder in the darkness of the hut, and she could see his shiny teeth and smell his foul breath.

He said: Sleep well. If you say anything about this, I will cut you up and put you into the bloomeries to forge the metals with blood.

She did not sleep well the rest of the time they stayed with him.  They waited at his hut for several days and nights while 2639 finished sharpening and laminating the blade. 9001 stayed far away from her uncle the whole time and slept only fitfully, on the other side of her father’s mat close to the wall. She kept her training blade, which was fairly sharp now, close to her side at all times. She practiced her draws and swipes with the blade every chance she got.

She and her father retrieved supplies as they needed them from the camels. However, 9001 could not find her friend the spider, even though she took some time to look for him while gently pulling at the _khana_ and leather wrapping for their yurt. She tried to remember the last time she had seen him moving around during the trip.

After four days, as was the custom, the guests bade farewell and 2711 left with his new blade. It was a much better looking blade than his original one forged a decade earlier. It takes ten or more years to become an expert at a trade, and his brother had obviously been practicing during the intervening years.

The travelled for a few more days toward the city walls and stopped within sight of them. 2711 said: we must leave the camels with someone to take care of them. We must travel as lightly as possible into the city to perform the ritual.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 5, part 6

After eating, they walked back to the bloomery compound. The sun was low in the sky and the warmth of the day was disappearing quickly. The clay bloomeries glowed meekly under the sand and dirt that was used to keep the embers sleeping through the night. They walked over to a small set of flat blocks of stone next to a large clay pot full of filthy, muddy water. 2369 motioned 9001 to take out her blade. She brought it out and laid it on one of the stones.

She took a handful of some mud and clay mixture and slopped it on one of the stones with the smoothest surface. She took some water in her left hand and dribbled it onto the rock and mud. She rested one edge of the triangular blade at a low angle and began to move it back and forth. Her father beamed with obvious pride and her uncle chortled with obvious pleasure.

Her uncle said: little brother, you have taught your student well. I will admit I have never seen a girl with so much skill. But come with me, over here. We will talk where we won’t be overheard. Good. Now, why do you come to me unannounced, with a request to sharpen blades for a Healing, and with an inexperienced apprentice who isn’t even a Healer?

Her father lowered his voice self-consciously and tilted his head closer to his brother so that 9001 would not hear him. He said: I had an awakening when we were working together here. I came back from Bactres as a failure. I had not learnt Avestan and I was not a ranking member of the Healers yet. Our father had always said we were Miners, but you know that the elders selected me as the left-handed twin. You also must have known what happened with the selection. I saw it during the Perfect Sight. You were there.

A worried look passed across his brother’s face. 2711 continued: do not be afraid. I am not blaming you for what happened to my twin. I saw that he was passed on to the Elders, one of whom I recognised. I researched and followed this Elder, using the skills I had been taught and learnt, as well as the heresy of Perfect Sight. This allowed me to discover the location of my twin, living life as a Masked One.

Both brothers looked over at 9001, but she continued sharpening her blade, paying no attention.

The older brother said: the Perfect Sight is a heresy. It is not even real, given all the strange mutterings of the Healers and their silly rituals and practices. That was why you were excommunicated. And yet, you still spew this nonsense. And you violate the selection for a child you do not even know – interfere with a woman’s offspring for no reason and at the risk of everything you have earnt. You have even brought suspicion on the whole family. Our father died under suspicion of helping you. I have never been free of the cloud of heresy since.

While 2639 was speaking, he moved his arms wildly and even raised his voice. His younger brother placated him and entreated him to keep his voice down.

2711 said: forgive me. That is all I ask for. Ahura Mazda is the Wise Creator and speaker of truth. The truth is found by anyone who looks. _Asha_ exists whether we understand it, whether we see it, or even if we ignore it. I cannot avoid the truth, and once I have discovered it, I cannot hide it. Speaking lies spread _druj_. Even keeping silent about the truth allows _druj_ to grow and spread. A campfire spreads light and creates an area of clear sight. Covering the fire creates darkness. It is the same with _asha_ and _druj_.

His older brother shook his head vehemently. He said: you speak nonsense again. I do not know how the fire burns so that the metal is purified and softened. We only know what the outcome is and take advantage of it. No one can understand the process that governs the world. Why does it rain one day and not the next? Why do the days get longer, then shorter; hotter and colder? No one knows. We cannot understand such a thing.

2711 smiled. He said: daughter, come here. Older brother does not think that we understand how the world works. Explain what I have taught you about the metals and the spirits.

9001 repeated what she had been taught: the iron is set inside rocks and ore, each colour is representative of which earth spirits are present. Red is found in goethite, which is the colour of both the earth (brown) and fire (red). The wood comes from trees which have been cut down. The tree is created from earth spirits, water spirits, and air spirits. This is obvious because you need all three to grow plants. The earth spirits are only used as an anchor to the movements of the air spirits. Everyone sees the action of the air spirits when the branches move and sway.

What is less obvious is that the tree grows from the ground, but it does not deplete the ground. That is, there is no hole formed under a tree as it grows and seeks water spirits under the ground. How do we explain that? Clearly, the air spirits are collected by the leaves and built up inside the branches and trunks. The air spirits are tied to the wood inside the tree and anchored to the earth sprits in the ground for support.

When the tree is cut down, the wood is wet from water spirits drawn up to meet the air spirits in the leaves. The wood must be dried for one moon, and sometimes a whole season of three moons. Water runs downhill, and never up hill. In the same way, water escapes down from the cut wood and goes back to the earth. Once the wood is dry enough, it must be burnt in a closed space so that no air spirits can ignite into the fire spirits which would ravage the wood. Instead, the wood is closed off and given very little air spirits for three days. All of the extra essences that would interfere with the metals, such as you see in common campfires, are burnt off as thick smoke.

All that remains after three days is the blackest black wood which is purified air spirits waiting to spring into life as fire spirits. This charcoal is what you place into the bloomery or the clay-producing ovens. It burns from a dull red to a bright orange, and sometimes a seering white. Each colour is a different temperature that Ahura designates for each earth spirit. Some spirits, like copper are red, others like iron are orange.

2639 was thunderstuck. He said: you have taught her the secrets of Miners? You have taught her Healing?

2711 nodded proudly. He said: she even can read Avestan.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tother Hand, Chapter 5, part 5

2639 peered at her closely but no spark of recognition showed in his eyes.

He addressed 2711: little brother, your daughter asked how much this granite anvil weighs. It was brought here by our great, great grandfather and a hundred men. Nobody knows how much it weighs.

He laughed loudly and the other men in the compound paused and laughed with him. 9001 fumed.

Her father said, older brother, we have travelled a long way. Come, show us some hospitality and we will talk.

2639 nodded and pulled up his leather apron and tossed it onto a wooden stool. He said, yes, come, brother and niece. We will share butter tea.

They went out to a smaller wooden hut near the compound on the same side of the road they had travelled. 2639’s wife greeted them as they entered and immediately set to preparing tea and a meal. Arranged on a low table were fruits, nuts, and several spices for snacking. The visitors sat at the table and nibbled politely while 2639 moved about the hut, arranging things this way and that. 2711 and his brother exchanged pleasantries while he did this, saying, how is the weather; what is the work like; how is the family; and so forth.

Finally, 2639 sat down cross legged and 9001 realised how much of a hulk of a man her uncle was.

2639 clasped his beard and said, brother.

2711 nodded and raised his tea cup. He said, brother.

They all slurped the savoury drinks in silence for a while.

Finally, 2711 produced his rondel blade and presented it sideways to his brother across the table.

He said, I have brought the iron blade we made together when I was here last. You can see that it has several nicks and streaks of patina. It also has not retained its edge well. Please help me sharpen and restore the blade again.

His brother took the blade and peered at it closely. He said, I see. Yes, it has some patina, and the blade is not sharp. But I have something better for you. Even better than this one. I have been working on the formulary for this new material.

He waved his massive right arm in the direction of the bloomeries. He said, my men are the only ones in the whole of Bactria who are producing iron weapons. And we have the best quality blades and tools available.

2711 waved his hands in dissent. He said, no brother, with respect. This blade has been with me for a decade, and it has served me well. I would not like to change it when I am in the midst of a…

Here he glanced at his daughter quickly, then away. He continued, I am in the midst of a mission in the city and I would like to take the tools that have been proven.

2639 chuckled, then laughed. He handed back the blade, rondel first, as was the custom. He said with great mirth, brother, brother brother. I’m on a mission… Of great importance…

2711 objected, but 2639 cut him off. He continued, no don’t be upset. It is I who am offended. I am the best Miner in all of the land, and your bigger brother. I have been working on the design and formula for these blades for 600 weeks and you do not believe that I have a better tool for your precious mission than the one that we made as interns back then.

2711 nodded and said, I see. Older brother, forgive me then. I accept your _spenta_ offering.

2639 said, as you should. I see that your daughter – what’s her name? – has the bronze training blade you made yourself.

He motioned to see it, and 9001 produced it sideways, and flat on both hands. Her uncle peered at it even closer than the iron rondel. He nodded finally, and muttered something.

Then, 2639 said, as for your mission (he could barely contain his derision), you are still intent on finding _him_ after all your silly visions and misguided thoughts that got you excommunicated?

2711 nodded firmly. I will seek him out and I have been training with my daughter. We are ready to bring him the Healing that he deserves.

2639 asked, she does not know though?

2711 said, she will be by my side. That is good enough.

The smoke in the hut and the dust outside made 9001 sneeze loudly. Then she sneezed again.

2711 turned bright red and 2639 stared at her incredulously. 2639’s wife stopped what she was preparing and turned to stare in wonder.

Eventually, 2711 stammered and tried to recover, saying, but… the thing is… as you know… well, and yes… about the blade.

2639 focused back on his younger brother. He slapped his thigh and said, I have a new blade for your purpose. I already finished it but did not know when you would return. Or if you would return. I will change out both of your weapons and you will be able to serve Ahura.

9001 objected. She said, uncle, I do not need a new blade. I have trained with this one since I was a child. I do not know any other blades, so I cannot perform the rituals with anything else.

2711 smoothed over her impertinence. He said, what she means is that she does not feel worth of your gift and couldn’t accept it because it is too generous. As her father, I agree and feel that you should not waste your talent on us. We just wish for a quick sharpening and cleaning possibly so that we can move on without too much intrusion.

2639 waved over his wife, who prepared the meal. He said, let’s eat.

They ate in silence for a while. While they ate, 9001 noticed more than once that her uncle leered at her while he chewed. She avoided his gaze, but the pressure was intense. She glanced at her father who seemed not to notice. He was wrapped up in eating the food and looked neither right nor left.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tother Hand, chapter 5 part 3

On the outskirts of the town, 2711 stopped outside one of the larger permanent structures on the side of the road. The air was heavy with the smell of smoke and another bitter, acrid smell that 9001 could not place. They could hear the ping-ping-ping of a hammer inside the compound.

2711 muttered, I have not seen my brother in a long time.

They secured the camels along the side of one mud wall and walked around to the side entrance. The walls were only covered in a wooden roof on one quarter of the area enclosed. The rest was a large dirt work area where four or five men with heavy leather clothes walked about. Each of them were quite young and used their huge arm muscles to carry heavy stone hammers and pieces of metal. A huge stack of chopped wooden logs lined one complete side of the inner wall. The working men did not seem to mind the two visitors.

Intense heat poured from several clay bloomeries of various sizes. Inside the largest one, the fire was so intense that 9001 had to shield her eyes from the white brightness, even in the light of the full day. When she averted her eyes, she saw a large white spot imprinted in the middle of her vision that took a long time to dissipate. 2711 strode up to the oldest man in one corner who was intently pounding on a dull orange piece of metal.

He said, older brother. Ahura Mazda guide you.

Then he said his name and greeted his brother: 2639, it is me, 2711.

9001 started at the significance of the name. It meant, a whole week of imbalanced pain. _Asarbyo nava_ was a phrase that meant loosely, pain somewhere in the body, distracting and causing strife.

2639 turned and nodded. He turned back to his work. He pounded the metal multiple times on a huge granite slab. The hammer was a crude stick attached to a purple stone. As the man worked, 9001 asked about the purple stone.

Her father said, the rock is porphyry. It is the hardest stone on this earth. That large piece of granite has been hit and pounded by metals for perhaps four generations. It does not even have a single scratch on it. Purple porphyry has been found by the Greeks and is usually reserved for royalty or leaders, like the Masked Ones. We have tried to use bronze anvils and hammers, but they are not nearly as good as the ancient stones that have been brought to this site long ago.

9001 asked, how much does this granite weigh?

The old man guffawed loudly and stopped hammering. He chuckled and set down his hammer. He carried the metal piece he had been working on to the clay bloomery and came back.

He looked at 2711 and said, little brother.

He stretched out his massive right hand and arm. It was clearly larger and bulkier than his left from wielding the hammer for decades.

2711 offered his left hand and they shook hands awkwardly, palms facing each other and thumbs pointing away from each other.

2711 said, brother, do you remember my daughter? She was only a small child when you saw her.

2739 peered at her closely but no spark of recognition showed in his eyes.

He addressed 2711, little brother, your daughter asked how much this granite slab weighs. It was brought here by our great, great grandfather and a hundred men. Nobody knows how much it weighs.

He laughed loudly and the other men in the compound paused and laughed with him.

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