To the High Scrivenery
Section I: Episode 32
March 24, 2015
"Why do you think he asked to see us?"
"Clearly it's to do with our special project."
Orni rolled her eyes. "I know that, but why now? The referendum is in just four days. He's got to have more important things on his mind."
"That's not what I'd expect to hear from you. I'm sure he can handle many things at once."
She grumbled for a moment, then said "I just don't know how I'm supposed to tell the River of Ignorance that I haven't worked on the project he specially assigned us after God all but ordained it."
The pale gray dirt crunched beneath their feet as they walked up Avenue Way. The dirt was a novel sensation in the windswept village, and Galavar liked it. Less so when it showed up in the food, water, and fresh laundry though. Ever since the firestorm there had been quite a lot of loose dust and ash drifting around, and it didn't look to be going away anytime soon.
"Jahvoy isn't the sort to get upset over things like that."
"You say that like you know."
"He expects us to do well. I don't think we've fallen short of that."
"Have you given the project any thought?"
"Agram's been in the history library a lot, and I've gone a few times myself, but mostly I've been on the cleanup crews."
"So you haven't got anything to report, either."
"Does that make you feel better, or worse?"
"It doesn't change anything."
On their right they passed the twiner's shop, and behind the building came Mirus Pond into view. Both of them looked silently toward it, at the eerie gray statues that still stood there, exactly nineteen in all. Neither of them said a word until the plaza faded had behind the comforting façade of the turner's shop.
"One thing I have thought about," he said quietly, "is that the next step forward for our village is something that's on a lot more people's minds now."
Avenue Way was one of the central venues in Ieik, home to nearly half of the village's businesses and offices. Among them was the High Scrivenery, where the town's records were kept and where most of the Ieikili leadership lived and worked. It had a deceptively small frontage with a beautiful moonstone façade facing to the south, shining lustrously any day of the year. On the lintel was an elaborate cornice with a frieze depicting the Emergence.
The usher greeted them with a relieved smile. This was something else Galavar had noticed in the aftermath of the firestorm. Many mates were shaken up, and seemed to be more appreciative of things—especially the company of others.
"Good to see you" was all she usher said, waving them inside, but it was truly said.
Because the Scrivenery's frontage was so small, the vestibule was long and narrow. Bookcases lined the west wall, containing copies of some of the most commonly requested public records, and a banquette ran along the eastern wall, where people could read or hold conversations. The banquette was one of Galavar's oldest memories. It had a luscious, upholstered white linen that was always sterling clean, and was stuffed with some kind of imported feathers whose name Galavar could never remember. And it was warm, always nice in a room left to the mercies of the Ieikili chill. He had a name for it, Katavoli, though nobody else used that name, and the memory of why Galavar used it was lost to time.
He loved sitting on it—as a young child he'd even been able to get away with lying on it—and had a tiny ritual of sitting here, at least for a moment, every time he came to the Scrivenery. Presently, he did just that.
"What are you doing?" Ornithate asked.
In Ieik they had the perfect answer.
"Minding my ways."
Everyone in the village understood what that meant—something too laborious to explain, and of no momentary importance to outsiders, but personally meaningful all the same. Orni indulged him and seated herself at his side.
Her eyes widened and she grinned. "Soft!"
"Isn't it? I love this thing."
"I don't think I ever sat here before."
"I remember coming to the Scrivenery with my matrice1 Ellstover when I was four years old, and sitting here. I don't think my feet even reached the edge of the cushions. It's just one of those flashes of memory from long ago, you know?"
Galavar treated himself for a moment longer, then rose, and they continued on their way.
Past the vestibule was the large, terraced lobby, with walls two floors high and capped by a transparent dome that provided warmth and sunlight. Galavar always found it impressive. The White Tables, outdoors and some ways east, were the true center of civic power in Ieik, but the High Scrivenery, indoors and spacious, was where the details of governance occurred. Galavar appreciated that, and he loved the architecture of the place, which was some of the most sophisticated in Ieik—though nothing compared to the Academy.
The lobby itself was terraced into three levels. On the upper level a wide promenade ran in a ring around the base of the dome, and people strolled there while conducting business, or came there to stand before the gorgeously carved balustrade and stared down at the murmurings of Kindred life below. The main level was interspersed with tables, foliage, and flowing waterways fed by lively fountains, all coming together to create comfortable alcoves with tables where people could sit and focus on work or discussions. Then, in the center, was a round, recessed level featuring a brasserie as well as stairways descending to the archival vaults.
But none of this was their destination today. Instead they proceeded through the main level to the far side, where five corridors departed to the rest of the complex. Galavar and Orni took the second passageway from the left, the Frionner's Passage, leading northwest to the Apartments of the First Citizen—the River.2
The usher there greeted them with a look of frazzled nerves.
"The River has been looking forward to seeing you," he said, visibly cheered.
"A lot of people have been visiting to make complaints. We had some trouble this morning when Bystro and her gang showed up. They demanded to see the River and he wouldn't let them come in."
"They're building up quite a party," said Galavar.
"I tell you, for a moment I thought it might come to violence."
"Organized violence?" Ornithate said, crooking her head. "I don't think so."
"They had the fire for it."
"That's scary," said Galavar.
"It's because times are so uncertain," the usher replied sagely. "Lots of scary things happening, Galavar. It drives people insane. Go on in. He'll be glad to see you two."
The Frionner's Passage was an ornate apriceway, indulgently broad and well-appointed, but just narrow enough and just modest enough to avoid the accusation of extravagance.3 Galavar loved the collection of seashells and coral on display here, imported from the Empire at the rate of up to one per River. There were thousands. Some were laid out on their own pedestals. Others shared space on shelves. Occasionally there were glass towers filled with shells, overlaid by glass sheets displaying a few choice ones. There were shells mounted on the wall, shells encased in glass tiles on the floor, shells in the glass aprice panes, and shells hanging down from the ceiling individually or in whole mobiles. The tradition was one of those whose origin, despite being so vast, was well-preserved in record: At some point, umpteen thousand years ago, somebody had decided that the beautiful natural geometry of seashells made the perfect metaphor for the chosen people of the God of Logic and Wisdom. Ostensibly there was nothing more to it than that, but Galavar liked to imagine he could see more.
Beyond the apriceway was a small, indoor portico, capped by a ceiling of glass and held up by a stone outer wall. On the inner wall were archways supported by short columns scarcely taller than a tall mate, emblazoning the entryway to the Apartments of the First Citizen.
The entryway itself consisted of short, broad double doors made of planks of very dark wood and held together with unassuming bars of iron. On either door were letterings, one spelling "Citizen" and the other "Foremost." Beneath these, on each door, was a large ring knocker.
The doors, however, were open.
The pair went inside, where they found themselves in the River's public foyer.
On the left was a large sitting room with a very pleasant aesthetic: The room was slightly recessed, with three shallow steps leading down from the foyer. The windows on the room were long and tall, but very high up, and each was mostly blocked by trees and succulents, giving the illusion of living in a verdant place, though in fact it was the simple trick of a few well-placed greenhouses accessed by narrow serviceways. The inner wall of the room featured a large fish tank, lit from above by a kilwende,4 though most of the critters in the tank were not fish but other specimens of aquatic life.
Ahead was an indoor arcade that Galavar knew led to various side rooms before terminating in the River's private apartments. It seemed like a waste of space and felt rather oppressive given the low, dark ceiling and even lower archways, but those were a concession to the fact that there were more rooms above, and the arcade did afford a certain airiness nonetheless.5
On the right, where Jahvoy himself now sat, was another recessed room. This one had a large, round table with many seats, and buffets along two walls. One of these held two chargers with bevers6 laid out on one and sterling silver service on the other.
As the two of them stepped down from the foyer they had no need to call out, for Jahvoy rose his head and looked their way.
"Ornithate and Galavar," he said, smiling. "The sele of the day."
"To you too, River," said Orni.
"Good afternoon," said Galavar.
"Thank you both for coming to see me today."
"I hear there was trouble this morning."
"Not 'trouble.' Did you ever hear the story of Orykythas?"
"Come sit down." He rose and gestured to the buffet. "May I serve you bevers?"
Galavar had a rule when it came to accepting food and drink from the well-to-do, and that rule was yes. It was almost guaranteed to be something out of the ordinary.
"Which is which?"
"This one is star pirin tea; the other is sarsidoni ardecreoni wine."
Galavar smiled. "I've never had either, and I've never heard of sarsidoni ardecreoni wine"
"Start with the tea."
When they had their drinks in hand and Jahvoy had seated himself back down, the story commenced.
"King Orykythas was traveling across the Sea of Somara when he accidentally dropped his favorite ring into the deep. He sent half his crew overboard to retrieve it, saying they would not be allowed back onboard until they had done so. It was an impossible task, and, one by one, they swam down as far as they could, and drowned.
"So enraged was Orykythas that he brought his ship about, returned to his homeland, mustered his army, and commanded it to destroy the sea."
"Did this actually happen?" Ornithate asked.
But Jahvoy continued, "Some days later, the Emperors of Panathar came by the seaside with their entourage, and witnessed the army stabbing the water with sword, smashing it with hammer, and cleaving it with axe. Archers and artillerists were lobbing missile after missile into the sea, and the drummers and horners were raving mad with the endless order to advance, advance. The Emperor turned to her likeness and said 'King Orykythas must be angry again.' 'It is of no importance,' said the other, and they went on their way."
Jahvoy fell silent and sipped his drink.
"I don't understand," Galavar confessed.
"Strange and unsettling behaviors come from reasonable motivations when the character is weak. The Day of the Dawn brought many frights to our village, many deaths and the loss of much property, and many understandable grievances against me as the River of Ignorance and as the instigator of events. Some even blame me for the apparition of Sulvajos—and it's hard to say they're entirely wrong, given that the discord of the bell is likely what provoked her fascination in us."
"Has Sourros been of further help?"
"Sourros put out the firestorm and rebuked the Goddess of Self from our midst. The rest we shall manage on our own. We are a nation of able mates. We need to think and act for ourselves in order to uphold the ways of our Teacher.
"Anyhow, to bring my point out bare, Bystro and her stalwarts are behaving quite strangely in the eye of the great Ieikili prudence, but their motivations are understandable. People are scared and uncertain right now, and in such climes do pests flourish."
"She seems to have a lot of sympathy."
"Do not think in terms of what seems to be, or what appears to be. Notice that, yes, her stalwarts have captured the public eye in recent days. But notice still that they are separate from the public, and only appear popular because of the sheer loudness of their noisemaking."
"How you think the referendum will go?"
"Let's not worry about that, Ornithate. Let's discuss why I called you here today."
In the Ieikili tradition a matrice is a parental figure to young children. Matrices spend a great deal of time with their charges and serve as adult voices for their children's interests and needs, counterbalancing the institutional efficiency of the Academy with personalization of care. They stand near the apex of the Academy's faculty and are recognized in broader Ieikili society as serving one of the most important of all roles.
Matrices are considered superiorly suited to childrearing compared to biological parents because they are held to special eligibility qualifications and are subject to the receptiveness of the child as it develops. Children almost always have at least one matrice and, in the case of special needs, as many as six. Typically matrices are replaced by mentors as the child grows into adolescence, although in many cases a given matrice will go on to become a child's mentor if the bonds between them are strong.
Though the concept of a matrice is metaphorically inspired by the female anatomy, a matrice can be a member of any sex and in Ieik the split is representative of the whole population, nor are assignments to children based in any way upon the child's sex in the overwhelming majority of cases.
2 The Lay of the High Scrivenery
The five passageways lead west, northwest, north, northeast, and east. The leftmost one leads to the apartments of the Meriters and the Stewards General. Next is the one leading to the River's apartments. The third leads to the actual scrivenery, where records are created and processed. The fourth leads to an active record storage area, storerooms, warehouses, and the like. The fifth leads to various offices for other government personnel.
In Ieik, extravagance is considered among the more serious flaws of character.
A kilwende is a type of luminous shaft with an array of mirrors installed such that sunlight along a given arc of the sky usually points straight down into the room below. It requires neither adjustment for the seasons nor tracking for the time of day.
5 Indoor Spaciousness
In Ieik, spacious, nonfunctional indoor spaces are regarded in an artistic light, though they tend to be controversial. (See extravagance.)
In Relance, bevers is one of the "Seven Meals of the Day." It varies from culture to culture, sometimes referring to a late morning meal and more often referring to a late afternoon meal. It is always a light meal, ranging from simple water or tea all the way up to a fully prepared meal not unlike tapas. In the gustatorily austere, snack-averse Ieikili culture, bevers is in the late afternoon, precedes dinner by roughly two hours, and is strictly beverages, usually weak alcohol or tea.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!