Section I: Episode 17
November 11, 2014
Galavar awoke well past dawn, to a glorious stream of sunlight that washed through his window and brightened his desk. His very first thoughts were the stuff of bliss, those few moments at the start of the day when everything felt good and nothing mattered. Then, as his mind stepped back to life, his first conscious thoughts were of Javelin. Somebody loved him. That's what she had told him last night, in her own way. Then the bigger thought appeared. God. Sourros had spoken to him, told him to seek out some unknown. What might he do about that?
Nothing, for the moment. Some part of his mind was already on its way to have a crack at the question, but on the whole Galavar just brushed it away. He wiggled his toes, feeling his whole body come alive, and with a wary groan he kicked off his heavy mochet blanket, the one he had made himself four years ago, and felt the warmth of his body clash against the brisk air. Mornings were always cold in Ieik, always.
He climbed down from his bed, into the slippers that awaited him at the bottom of the ladder steps, thoughtfully stationed so that his bare feet could avoid the gelid ground. Then he walked over to the window and looked out. Down below were the streets of the village, all but empty this morning. It wasn't a typical bustle-day, but a holiday, the greatest of holidays. Most people were either still asleep or already at services.
Beyond the streets arose the eastern palisades, in shadow yet. Parts of the village itself still lay in the shadows too, including most of the festival grounds, but Galavar's own room was seven floors up, and the Academy was at the center of the village, with plenty of space to take in the sun.
He walked back to his chest of drawers and pulled out his day's attire, generations old and made of beautiful carved wood brought in from faraway lands—certainly there was no wood to be had out here. This chest had come all the way from the Upperlands, and Galavar had researched the carvings as a social studies project three years ago. Before that, he had let his imagination run wild for years as to what the carpenter had intended to say.
The chest fit perfectly beneath the bed. Everything in the room was a perfect fit. These dormitories had hundreds of years of efficiencies and ergonomics built into them. The Ieikili were always looking for a better way of doing things, and it was thanks to that spirit that so many things could fit into such a small room to begin with.
His room. His own little piece of the world. Every child who achieved autospection was assigned a private room in the Dormitories. Absent some kind of problem, most stayed in that same room all the way till their demonstration. Not Galavar, though. Upon admission to the Elder School, a mate could ask for a different room, better suited to their tastes. Galavar had done so, six years ago, and eventually been assigned here. It was high up, with a good view, and it had a fine spread. His only complaint was that it faced north-northeast rather than west-southwest, but he could live with that. He liked it here. And he figured that he would never again live someplace that looked to the east, so he might as well enjoy it while it lasted.
From the chest of drawers he pulled out fresh underclothes. Yesterday, for the race, he had worn only brim and bolt, but for the cold Ieikili weather even someone as warm as Galavar preferred a heavier garb in general—even in late summer, the warmest time in the year.
First, he pulled out a pair of his interpardin socks and a fresh interpardin groinwrap. Interpardin was a synthetic fabric whose formula originally came from the Empire. In Ieik there were only a handful of farms, and no woodland resources at all. Everything that came from the land, if it could not be made from sand or dirt, or mined out from underneath, had to be imported, developed synthetically, or given from Sourros. The Ieikili could manufacture interpardin on their own, using pardichor from the Well of Spirits, and they did so in quite the quantity. Interpardin was durable, breathable, and very warm, yet also easy to wash and inert on the skin, making it ideal for underclothes. Some people even wore overclothes made from interpardin, but Galavar preferred his collection of Jaipulse puffwool.
He wouldn't be wearing any puffwool today, however. Instead he stepped over to the tiny closet beside the bed, another marvel of Ieikili ingenuity. The closet was made of heavy sheets of metal, decorated with etchings that unapologetically depicted a nude form surrounded by a whirl of dressings. The bottom of the closet had slots for his various shoes and boots, and two small drawers for the various brushes, oils, and spare parts needed for their maintenance. Above was a large space used for suspending clothes that shouldn't be folded, or that needed room to dry. On top of that was a flat shelf that served as Galavar's nightstand. From the middle of the closet he pulled out his white silk shirt with the double columns of fat black buttons, and black silk pants with white trims. This was his most formal outfit, rarely used, and indeed still crisp and fresh from when he had cleaned it all the way back in winter.
He laid everything out, as was his wont, then cast off his groinwrap and robed himself in his drying towel. From his case of shelves by the desk he picked up his washtray, with soap, perfumes, a hairbrush, and a toothbrush. Then he opened his door and stepped out into the hallway.
The Dormitories, or officially the Academy Tower of Dormitories, was a round tower nine floors high—the tallest in Ieik—though nowadays there were only enough children in Ieik for seven of the floors to be in use. Rumor was that the tower had originally had only four floors, and that the structure of the tower was robust enough to support another three floors above the current nine, but a mere rumor it would have to remain—unless one were to inspect the blueprints for themselves, as Galavar had done—because in Galavar's time the population of Ieik was on one of its periodic downward drifts, and new construction wasn't likely anytime soon. Indeed, one of the seven working floors, the lowest one, was actually given to faculty use. There had once been a separate building for resident faculty, offering more spacious accommodations, but with the lower population that building had been torn down about eighty years ago, rather than renovated, and the residents moved here. It had already been over three hundred years since they'd build the ninth floor of the tower. And the bottom floors—that is, the tower itself—were over three thousand years old. Yet aggressive maintenance and renovation made the Dormitories one of the strongest buildings in Ieik. The Ieikili took the trust of their children more seriously than anything.
The tower followed an exquisitely simple and creative layout. On floors like Galavar's, the actual dormitories ringed the outside of the floor. These were linked by a ring hallway called the Circulator.
Next, there was a second hallway ring immediately inside the Circulator, traveling in a helix between the floors, and this one was called the Heliclator. There were actually two of them, a double helix. One of these was named the Blue Heliclator because of its continual blue stripe along the wall, and the other, informally, was called the Not Blue Heliclator, though its official name was the Common Heliclator—generally believed to be so named because it was lined with small stores, storage, and display areas for student projects and awards, though Galavar had investigated and knew that the name actually came from an era when one of the heliclators was reserved for the use of dignitaries and faculty—blue being one of the Four Dignified Colors—and the other heliclator reserved for everybody else. The incline of the heliclators was so precise that craftsmates who operated stores here could build their stands ahead of time to the specified angle, and have no fear of the results tilting.
Between the helical landings were rows and rows of storage cabinets, some for the children, some for general goods.
Equidistant from the helical landings were six straight hallways that penetrated into the tower interior. Two of these hallways led to the floor's main commons. One led to a small pantry. Another led to a series of workrooms. And two, positioned opposite each other, led to the washroom and toilets.
For Galavar, that meant going counterclockwise about a fifth of the way around, then turning left. His room was closer to the toilets, so his usual routine was to stop there first, set his belongings on the shelf, and relieve himself.
As he flushed the toilet, he took a moment to wonder at how people lived without indoor plumbing. Apparently most of the world didn't. So he had been taught. But it was hard to believe that anyone would put up with going outside to poop in some ditch and wiping themselves off with a wad of scratchy paper.
Segregated from the toilets, connected only by a single corridor, and served by different air vents, the washroom itself was the most grandiose part of the whole floor. The ceiling was vaulted for strength, and thousands of tiny ceramic tiles depicted the Parable of Lagrosarne the Iotivii Hierophant, which was the story that they used to teach little children about the importance of personal hygiene. Lighting issued forth from recessed lamps, out of sight, and cast a bright and diffuse glow over the whole room. The walls were white and gray marble, polished smooth, and periodically covered in signs reminding the sometimes lazy youth of things not to do in the presence of such heavily used and expensive equipment. The floor was laid out in gigantic ceramic tiles, painted red and green and brown and yellow in an abstract pattern, and glossed. They were warm tiles, too, siphoning heat from the main chimneys.
The washroom itself was partitioned into four sections by a system of incomplete walls that only rose partway to the ceiling.
The first section, called the Modekanni, consisted of three kiosks of three elevated washbasins apiece, mounted around statues of the Dream Gods. These basins were for oral and manual hygiene. Each had a spigot for fresh, cold water, and a mirror. Elsewhere there were countertops for setting things down, and several cabinets with communal supplies. In the center were a number of seats, where people often repaired for conversations that ran longer than the needs of hygiene itself. Indeed, two of Galavar's floormates, Eudaimonia and Befferilles, were sitting there now, discussing mathematics.
The second section, called simply the Baths, was for bathing. There were two, very large communal bathtubs, always fresh thanks to the limpian cultures that cleaned the water, and, thanks to the boilers, always hot. One of the tubs was "therapeutically hot," and the other was merely warm, suitable for sitting over longer periods. Each tub had a number of people in it now. More pragmatically were the five showering stalls arranged in a star. These each featured hot water, one of the few buildings in all of Ieik to have centralized hot water, coming from massive boilers below the tower, in the main Academy building. Most villagers, if they used hot water at all, had to heat theirs in pails over the fire.
The third section, called the Frottagery, was for students who wanted to have sex in luxury. The beds in people's own rooms were quite narrow and fairly near to the ceiling, and while plenty of people found that to be no obstacle, the Frotaggery featured two rooms with broad, lusciously soft beds, as well as doors fitted with frosted glass windows and canopies, providing privacy. One of the rooms was shut, and clearly occupied.
The fourth section, called the Laundry, was for students who wanted or needed to wash and crisp their own clothes. There were big washtubs here, with plenty of soaps and scrubbers, and a complex system of lines and pulleys that allowed a great many clothes to be hung in a small space. An air vent blew right into them, drying them quickly and keeping them fresh. As with the other sections, there were people here, going about the essentials of sartorial hygiene. The Academy offered students a laundry service, but it came out of allowance and many chose to save their money for other uses.
At the center of all of this, on a special circular dais, sat the Limpian Attendant, who was in charge of controlling water access throughout the room. Water was a precious resource in Ieik, and was strictly rationed to avoid waste. The Attendant this morning was Marna, who sat on a revolving stool and swiveled around to reach one of the dozens of levers surrounding him in an exquisite control board.
Marna spotted him, and offered a cheery "Good morning, Galavar. Hale the Dawn's Day."
"Hale fet," he replied.
"Shower Number Two."
Galavar stepped around the privacy walls and into his favorite shower. He liked it because it had the most modest lighting, almost dim, oriented as it was. And he liked the spigot; it was harder than the others, giving him a more powerful rinse.
The hot water shower ration was just twenty beveners a day, and the cold water ration was up to forty. The spigot had a faucet with three numbered valves that let Galavar adjust the intermix as he liked. The first valve controlled the hot water flow, the second the cold water, and the third the overall pressure. The third valve was where the magic happened, turning the dribbles into torrents, or whatever other pressure a mate preferred. Galavar liked his showers to be skin-scrapingly hard, and with the pressure valve he could make this happen without hastening the demise of his water rations. He preferred a good, long shower, not only to scrub himself clean but to let his mind wander into the daydreams he so loved. The shower was one of his favorite places.
Today, he imagined Javelin. He didn't understand why the thought of becoming her mate put him off. He looked up to her. She was so cool, so in control of herself, so utterly nonchalant about what anybody else thought of her. She knew what she wanted, and she took it.
Maybe it was just a virgin's nerves. He tended to overthink things, Galavar thought to himself, and had always known that one day he would find a mate. Now, for the first time, the possibility had descended upon him, had practically fallen into his lap. Javelin was beautiful. She had the perfect body to go with her flamboyant personality. Lean, strong, tall, and fast…so fast. At that moment, there might not have been any faster person in all of Ieik. The thought of it was surprisingly erotic to him. He admired strength and speed, and all the power of the physical form.
As he massaged the soap into his hair, Galavar wondered if she would change her mind. If she didn't, he would have time to think it over. Maybe he could get to the bottom of his feelings, and figure out what he really wanted.
Not today, though. Today was the Day of the Dawn, and he would have to go to services.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!