Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy
Wowzah! Boddy walked upon air, his body overflowing with love for this woman. Hey, he even loved the way she had pummelled his body till thoroughly bruised because, with his deceit, he’d caused her such fright. He could have countered that. For she, too, had deceived him, keeping knowledge of his position to herself. But why disturb these delicious days. And wowzah-wowzah, never had he dreamt of a love like this. He’d been right when he’d said to Eshe’s father that love was best expressed in bed. And she’d been unbelievably keen. What Jonesi and Eshe did while they canoodled he’d not the faintest interest nor an idea. But ho-hum and alas, they couldn’t remain in bed for ever.
“So, hey, who’s this Mathon-guy you say I must meet?” he asked her.
“Ay, you know him. The maker of lamps.”
“Great, yeah, fine, I’d guessed that much. But why must I meet him? Couldn’t we stay here one more day? I’m still hungry, you know. You make me hungry. Savagely hungry.” He nuzzled around her.
“Crud and crusts, have you not yet eaten enough?”
“No, believe me, I’ve not. You tricked me to wed you, now the least you can do is to allow me to bed you—over and over, endlessly over.”
She looked at him with her most serious eyes. “Boddy Lafard, believe me, I am thoroughly bedded. Any more and I’ll be thoroughly crippled. You want that for me? So now you must meet Mathon Lafard. You will soon understand why.”
He released her—reluctantly.
Then—natzo, the embarrassment! He had to face Jonesi and Eshe and they, of course, must jibe him. But now he was off to meet this guy Mathon.
“What is his guild?” Eshe asked before they all left Shore House.
Giggling, swaying, unaccountably happy: was it all because he was still alive? No, it was the news brought that morning by Disa’s dulsind, Ember, of Eshe’s latest amour. Ghats and rats, leave Eshe alone for two shakes and again she’s in love. So, great, yeah, fine, but who had she chosen this time? Oh, only the lafard-legere’s younger brother. But then, hey, didn’t that suit her, for she was a femella. He wished her well with it.
“Well, yea,” Eshe snorted, face suddenly glum. “Except Breken’s only gone and banished him from the citadel. He’s lodging, now, at Churen Manse.”
“Ay, he does often stay there,” Disa said.
Eshe’s hand flew to her mouth.
“Nay, he has no woman there.”
Apparently Disa knew all about their love affair, though she’d said not a word to Boddy. Anyway, upshot was, Eshe was happy as they left Shore House, though she still was dressed as a man.
Kalamite, Keefer-Papa of the Runman Order
Aiya! That wretched Blue Tower hindered his view, slap between Shore House and Runman’s. Yet if he stretched his back and craned his neck at just the angle—twenty-five degrees above horizontal—he could just see its aged entrance. Fortunate, the ancient House had no courtyard to front it. In his skewed and increasingly painful position, he devoted his hours to watching. She—his lover, his mother, his queen—had pressed him do it.
It was the second day before she emerged. But who, in Stup’s dark nature, were these accompanying folk? Three men—and one shown a lafard by his tifting. His two companions—but nix, nix, nix, these were not Rothi. Confusion! Fabrics too fine for them to be hindlings, yet even from his twisted viewpoint he could see not a sparkle upon them. Their beads were paupers’ painted wood. And one had hair that was black. Black! What Rothi ever let their hair be that colour, hindling or no? The other? The other was hidden beneath a broad-brimmed hat—and even that wasn’t tift. These three must be her servants. Aiy, that must be it. Mayhap she brought them with her from Luban. Aiy, that would explain it.
Kalamite straightened his back and dekinked his neck. He left the window. He left his chamber. He had watched them till he’d discerned where they were heading—to the Law Court. What was there that that Shore woman wanted? Or did she go to the Witan?
He had heard—from Ffika—that she’d stirred up the kirk flies by demanding from Breken Lafard reparation for the unlawful killing her husband. Yet there had been no execution.
“Nay, Papa Hadd. He died in the cell,” Ffika assured him.
Hm. Strange that he died, and not at Kalamite’s say.
“Have you yet acquired me that ship?” he asked to cover his confusion.
“With respect, Papa Hadd, you asked for a boat.”
“Ships put to sea, boats do not!” He flicked the impudent Ffika’s large pink ears.
Kalamite set that memory aside and swooped down the circular stairs, He was into the courtyard and under the arch before the Shore woman with her entourage had yet passed by it. He looked. He saw. He was aghast.
It was him. He was sure. Though what hair could be seen beneath the hat was perhaps a smidge lighter. Yet every Rothi knew how to do that. Aiya, just look at his walk! The arrogant sway of it, his entire body moving like he was grass in the wind. And see—see! His hand brushing hers as they walked close together. Aiya, this was no bel hade with her ruffler. Nix-and-nay, there was something about them—like two people bound, and bound by more than the vows of marriage. They were happy together. It was obscene, the way they glowed, the same way he glowed after deep communing with his queen. And they wore necklaces.
But, nix-and-nay, it could not be. That Boddy-usurper was dead. He had died in his cell. Then . . . the horror hit him. This was a second Boddy. Yet there’d been no mention of twins. But what other answer? How totally deceiving, how thoroughly unfair.
Kalamite watched from the arch and saw—had Stup stolen his senses, to be again mistaken? It wasn’t the Law Court, their destination. Nix, never! They were going to Mathon’s Manufactory.
Aiya, he knew now their intent. And the lafard-legere had dared to laugh at him?
What other reason to go there but for the acquisition of Mathon’s explosives.
Nix, nix, nix, he couldn’t allow this to be. They would destroy the towers, destroy his queen. Aiya, but how to stop them? Could he send Matikkas to kill them? Though Matikkas already knew too much, and Matikkas had let it be known in town that Kalamite was involved in the dead stew’s killing. He ought to have Matikkas killed. But who to do his bidding once that brabbling franyan was gone.
But, now, what to do about the Shore woman and her while-a-day Boddy? His lips curled at the name. The gyrating, arrogant, Javanese POET. Aiya! All he could do yet was to watch them—watch her. Aiy, that he would do. And once he had sufficient—and undeniable evidence—then he would go again to the Witan. The lafard-legere, alone, must deal with it. That was, after all, the legere’s legitimate role. Yet, time pressed. There were now only nine days before the conjunction.
Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy
Had Boddy not been so thoroughly loved-up, he’d have refused the meeting. Yeah-zo, this Mathon was the Master of the Guild of Manufacturers, and Manufacturers were the most deeply corrupted by Mercury’s Curse.
“Hey, Boddy Felagi,” Jonesi had softly chided. “Let up on a man not yet met. The guilds are to steer them away from that net.”
“Yea, Boddy,” Eshe added. “Besides, who made the lamps that light your theatre?”
“Negghe’s theatre. I gave it to him.”
But, yeah, Eshe and Jonesi were right. And hey, as he’d said, he had left his old life behind. Like it or not, here he was in Murky-trapped, Murky-beset, corrupt to its roots, Rothi. He even wore gems around his neck! They’d been Disa’s father’s, how could he refuse them without her weeping. Amethysts set in white gold, they weighted his neck. But without them he and she weren’t properly wed. The necklace she wore had been her mother’s, but that didn’t sit right with Boddy. Besides, the gems didn’t suit her. What, amethysts mixed with rose quartz? Only topaz and garnets were fit for her ivory-pale neck—and he would provide the gems and fasten the necklace upon her. Yeah, and when would be that? The things he must do for his Disa. And they still hadn’t sat quietly and talked about this. Though that was his fault, preferring to fill his mouth with her flesh. And nibbles, of course, must turn to feasting.
Boddy had expected a seleman to answer his knock at the hefty-made door. But, ho-hum, not. Apparently this old man was he, the said Mathon, Master of the Guild of Manufacturers.
“Sifadis, my-my, a surprise,” Mathon gushed, though he did seemed genuinely pleased to see her. “And who have you with you?”
“I will tell you it all once inside.” She glanced back over her shoulder. The old man understood her.
“Then come in, come in, oh my, do come in. One, two, three . . . four of you?”
Prejudices tumbled like snows in springs—Boddy liked this Mathon at once. Hey, man, where was his tift? He wore fewer trappings than a trall or a hindling, plainly attired in a woven hemp smock and brecks. He led them through to an inner chamber. There was a singular lack of windows.
The chamber was cluttered with twenty-five benches, but these not benches for sitting upon. Metal contraptions littered twenty-two of them (impressed by the confusion, Boddy quickly had counted). He looked around him, and around him, and around. This was not like the Ghats’ manufactories: great halls aglow with hungry furnaces, ringing with the beat of discordant hammers. Hey, this was . . . genteel, yeah, genteel was the word. And everywhere were Mathon-lamps mounted.
“Sifadis, now, will you and your companions share a cup with me?” Mathon asked her. “I have Lubanthan coffee. Hush, don’t tell, but that Otian brings it to me.” He made it sound a forbidden temptation.
Disa laughed. “Mathon Hadd, we all have coffee. Otian brings it for all.
“He does?” The old Master Manufacturer clucked like a hen. “My-my-my, but he told me it was especially for me. Still, you will partake along with me? Without your saying, I believe these others will enjoy it.” He moved in closer and whispered—though being beside Disa Boddy easily heard him, “And why is that woman dressed as a man?”
Disa returned the whisper. “She is hiding from Kalamite.”
“Oh! Is she the spy?” He seemed delighted to be involved in the conspiracy. “But you know, if she wishes to move without being seen, she should use the Warison Path. I can give her a key.”
While he rummaged around on one of the benches Boddy looked a query at Disa, but she gave no explanation. Mathon returned with a small metal box which he slammed on the bench closest to them.
“See! My Every Key. My, my, an ingenious device, though I say it myself. Indeed, ingenious indeed.”
Eshe pulled out a similar box from the small toad-skin pouch she’d refused to relinquish. She laid it beside Mathon’s. Mathon beamed.
“Is that the Warison key?” Disa asked—still no explanation to Boddy.
Eshe shook her head and produced another. “This is the key to the Warison Path. But, alas, I know of only two doors.’
Disa shrugged. “I cannot help there. Shore House has none.”
‘Indeed there is one, indeed, indeed. There’s a Warison Door at every House,” Mathon assured her.
Yeah, great, fine, Boddy now realised what the talk was about. “But Shore House doesn’t abut the warison.”
“Have you a cellar, a basement, a lower portion, hm?” Mathon asked her.
“That is where you will find the door.”
“Ay, perhaps it is there,” Disa allowed. “Our cellar is very old; nobody goes there.”
The old Master Manufacturer chuckled. “Amazing, aye. But the warison, too, is old. It is so old that the warison was there when this Manufactory still was a House. Now, and do forgive me, I have yet to arrange for refreshments. So seldom do I receive a visitor—apart from young Otian. He always is here.” He bumbled out of the door.
Boddy heard him calling for someone—Manhuchen—assumingly his dulsind, though if this wasn’t a House . . .
“Great, fine, yeah,” Boddy said in answer to Disa’s eye-held query. “But will you now tell me why we are here?”
“There’s more to Keril-og’s tale than I have yet told you. But I want you to hear it from someone other than me.”
Natzo! There was more? Would this addendum, too, get him killed? For it seemed she was intent upon that. All he wanted was for he and she to be left alone, yet she would babble of political stuff. Did she mistake him for his uncle? He was not interested. He turned away.
Ghats, she’d not even told him of being Keril-og’s heir until after Jonesi returned the Holy Book to her (it belonged to Shore House). Then Jonesi had fetched out the Rookeri Journal and thus proved Boddy had known all along who he was—just not what he was. Even then she didn’t say of the legere-chair, not of her own volition. It was Jonesi prompted her because—Ghats, rats and nats—Jonesi had known. Great, yeah, fine, Jonesi had known, but not him. How long would she have kept that unknown? And that had raised a stormy look; too true, that it had. Indeed, in the words of his wife: Ay-la, was there yet a day since their wedding when they’d not been fighting?
And now, whatever this latest revelation, it had to wait. For Mathon now returned with Manhuchen, who wasn’t a woman. Together they carefully set down their trays of porcelain beakers. Yeah zo, look at the size of them! They seemed out of place amid all these gadgets. The two men disappeared, to return with two tall coffee pots, steaming and irresistibly aromatic.
“I hope my man has it brewed how you would like it,” Mathon addressed Boddy though his eyes slipped to include Eshe and Jonesi. “You have more experience of its drinking than I.”
Spew on it, man, this Mathon thought all Lubanthans habitually drank the dark brew? Natzo. The beans grew some place west of the Ghats. In East Luban only the nobles could afford it; the Rothi Sap was easier had. But since it was offered, yeah, he would enjoy it. It might bolster him for this next revelation. Would it preface the third and final act?
“Now,” Mathon said to Disa as soon as his man closed the door behind him, “please, who are these people? Oh, my, indeed, who?” Yet he gave her no time to make introductions. “This purple lafdi pretending she’s not, I know who she is. The Lubanthan Eshe, daughter of an awis, not to be mistaken as a stew. Am I right? Oh my indeed, but I know that I am. But you two men . . . Sifadis, please, who are they?”
“This,” Disa said as she handed Boddy a brimming beaker of the blackest coffee he ever had seen, “is Boteras Lafard, lately of Rookeri, Raselstad, but now of Shore House. He is my husband.”
“This, the my, he is! But now I can see by the matching gems. And I suppose you wedded while away in Luban, and deprived us all of the celebration.”
“Hadd Leef, how can we wed here, with Kalamite wanting to kill us?” she answered. “But ay, you mostly are right. Yet we repeated the exchange of vows, witnessed by Gowen and Breken Lafard.”
“Ho, ho, ho! I’ll wager twelve weights of this coffee that young Breken didn’t like that. He had you lined up for to ally with Citadel Pot. You knew that?”
Disa nodded. “So Mikel told me.”
“And this, this other?” Mathon airily waved towards Jonesi who was staring around him, seeming to pay them little attention.
“He is Jonesi, my choreographer,” Boddy said, now he’d a chance to slip in a word.
He had laughed when Disa told him how Jonesi had answered Breken Lafard with the same, that he was Boddy’s choreographer. Ay and the nugget doubtless didn’t know what it meant. Neither did Mathon.
“He is my closest friend,” Boddy said rather than to leave Mathon floundering. “He’s as good as my father; I’m devoted to him.” Without thinking, his hand went to the red beaded bracelet.
Mathon nodded as if he understood the association. “Well,” he drew in a deep breath. “Now we know one another, the next question must be, Sifadis, why have you brought them to me. Aye, that is the question, indeed.”
“I want you to tell Boddy—”
“Boddy, Boddy, Boddy? Aha! Boteras is Boddy. So say on, Sifadis. You want me to tell Boddy what?”
“I want you to tell Boddy of you in Wood Tower.”
“You know of that? Oh my, oh-my-oh-my-my-my. But Kalamite would kill me if he knew. But such was the reason I made that Every Key. Tell me, Eshe, how did you come by it? I only made two.”
“Another time, Hadd Leef,” Disa said. “For now, just tell us of the tower. Please.”
Indeed, oh my, indeed, Boddy silently mimicked. How easily this Mathon was distracted. How, then, did he manufacture so many intriguing devices?
“Yet, Sifadis, how do you know of it?” Mathon wrung his hands worriedly, his wrinkled brow tightly drawn. “Only, oh my, if you know of it—aiy-la-di-dah, he might know of it.”
“I guessed it,” she said. “—From an entry I found in the Witan Annals.”
Boddy couldn’t help it. He laughed. That was his Disa, addicted to the smell of mace-paper. But he liked that of her. Better than her trying to put him on a chair.
She flicked him a reprimanding look and said on. “I was trying to make sense of our Shore House records, is all. Och, I just wanted to know, Mathon, why you gave up the chair. Why you gave it to your daughter. Affalind is not so ugly that such an inducement must be found for her hand.”
“My-my, that is true, ay. How perceptive of you, Sifadis. But, say, what did you find in the Witan Annals, eh? I confess, I never have read them. Dry reading, I should imagine, eh. Oh aye, dry, indeed dry.”
“It was the entry for when you announced your retirement. I cannot remember now the wording but . . . had you seen a sign or something? Something had shown you, you were not the one for that chair.”
“Oh my! Aye, oh my. How ghostly the past that returns to haunt us. Aye, I suppose I might have said something. I remember thinking, if I am not the right one, mayhap if I gave the chair to Affalind she as the heiress would attract him.”
He whistled in a most unnoble-like manner and hugged his head with his arms, sighing—or crying—of woe to him, woe.
“My father’s nephews, they didn’t like what I did,” he said. “Oh my, they did not. That Ilud Marsled, not content with the horses, you know he wanted the chair? Aye, he did—oh how he did. And his sons do nothing but babble about it. They never have forgiven me for it. It should have gone to them, so they say. But I had my Affalind, did I not. And how could they bring the right heir to it? Indeed, they could not, they could not.”
“Aye, and Breken Lafard is no more the true heir than were you,” Sifadis said.
Mathon nodded sadly. “Aye, correct. Aye and aye and aye, you’re correct. And I was not either. I knew by the tree, for the tree was dying.”
Yeah zo! At that single word, tree, a colossal energy zinged through Boddy, jolting through his every ganglion—his wheels, as Jonesi oddly called them, though they seemed nothing like wheels to Boddy, more like bales. Yet, while he felt the energy, he didn’t understand the meaning. What was this talk of a tree? He had to ask, arms waving lest the moment escaped him and Mathon wore on about something more.
“Why, the tree in the tower. It was dying.”
“In Wood Tower,” Disa said.
“You know it too, little Sifadis? Aye and aye, you obviously do.”
“I found it amongst some ancient papers, entitled the Tree Legend.”
“Aye, indeed, it was in ours too. Written there, I would say by its placing, by our Rorah Lafard-Legere.”
“Yeah, great, fine,”’ Boddy said. “But would one of you care to repeat what was written? What’s this of a tree in the tower, and what’s the significance?” He might not care much of chairs but trees were entirely a different matter. And so was that tower.
“It’s a semol tree,” Mathon said. “Oh my, but it’s ancient. And it blooms only for the rightful legere.”
“Gods, no! You mean to tell me there’s a semol tree incarcerated in that tower?” Boddy all but exploded. “But it’s dark in that tower. It’s airless, it’s—natzo! No tree can survive in there. Is there water?”
“My-my. So your husband Boteras has ventured there, too?”
“Ay, and thus Kalamite is out to kill him. But do you understand now why I brought him to you, asking of this?”
“Oh aye, oh my, oh aye, indeed. Here’s a man who cares for trees.”
“A semol tree. Not an apple or pear or any another of the Avatar’s plantings. Boddy’s father fattened Daabian plants, and Boddy has such a love of them. What’s more, he is the heir to Lillis, your Rorah’s father.”
“Oh my,” Mathon said with wonder. And laughing he launched himself upon Boddy.
Great, yeah, fine. He now was entrapped, Mathon’s old arms clutching around him.
“Would you care you explain?” he mouthed to Disa, over the older man’s head.
“Mathon Hadd was the lafard-legere. Until one day, ten years ago, when he announced to the Witan his intent to step down, and that the chair should go to Affalind, his daughter.”
“Yea, yea, I’ve gathered all that,” said Boddy, impatient.
“It was the thing of the tree, you see,” Mathon said. He took a step back. Boddy again was able to breathe. “I made the key, the Every Key, particularly so I could creep into that tower. Oh my, oh Boddy, Sifadis, oh the state of that tree made me weep. He—” Mathon spat “—he does not care for her. Oh my, he does not.”
“He means Kalamite,” Sifadis said.
“Nay. Nay, nay, nay. But, aye, I mean him. But also I mean Breken. The rightful heir will care. Aye, my, that he will. Though likely that will entail a battle with our grim Kalamite. He has taken possession of her, you see. He possesses the tree.”
“But have the runmen not always had her?” Disa asked but apparently expected no answer. “So, Boddy, you now see the task before you?”
“Natzo! Just slow there a moment. Things are moving, whizz and woo, fast.”
It was Eshe summed up the situation. “You’re saying you want Boddy to depose the tattagoose and repair the tree?”
“Depose the who?” Boddy asked. Wasn’t it enough that they spoke the almost unintelligible Rothi lingo, without all this talk of geese and trees.
“Tattagoose, Kalamite,” Eshe explained. “Because he honks like a goose – honk, honk.”
“You mean he smells like a hog,” Boddy said.
“Ah lah, it’s true but he cannot help that. It comes from a process for . . .” Disa shrugged her ignorance. “Oh, some herb or—something the runmen use.”
“But disregarding that,” Eshe said. “It is death to enter the towers.”
“Ay,” Disa said. “But Boddy is dead already.”
Natzo, he was not dead. What, Breken and Mikel had witnessed their wedding. Ah, but to Kalamite, yeah, to Kalamite he would appear to be dead. Things were beginning to come together. So why did he shiver?
“Besides, there is more to the prophecy,” Disa said.
“My-my, a prophecy, now, is it?”
“But of course it’s a prophecy,” Disa said.
Boddy rather would walk away but . . . He sighed. Yeah-zo, in so far, he might as well stay. “Come on then, what is the rest of it?”
“Must you say it as if you were yawning?” Disa snapped at him.
“Yea, Disa, I must,” he said. “I’m beginning to feel you’ve abducted me just to perform these tasks for you. I ask, what have these things to do with me?”
“Hay la!” Her eyes shot wide with outrage. “Boddy! But you are the key, the central player. You are the Hero.”
“Good word.” Eshe nodded approval.
Boddy ignored her. “Say again, what do you mean?”
“The tree only blossoms for the rightful heir. For you, Boddy, only for you, for you are he.”
“Ay, it is so.”
“And all of life is but one Spirit,” Jonesi said, turning round from his inspection of Mathon’s contraptions. “Your mother used to say that.”
“Ay-lah,” Disa said. “And were we not talking of that back in Raselstad?”
He remembered clearly the conversation, sparked by the birds around Remen’s Black Tower. He felt suddenly odd. Almost cold. And all of life is one Spirit.
“So what’s the rest of this prophecy?”
He had a chilling feeling that something (not his little god Roo; perhaps the One Spirit?) was guiding his life and he wasn’t sure that he liked it. Yeah-zo, he didn’t like it at all.
Disa quoted the prophecy: “When the tree dies the sea will rise up and swallow the citadel.”
“Yeah right, Disa, that prophecy is risible. The citadel stands high on a headland, far above the water. The sea’s not likely to suddenly swallow it.”
“You think? But at new moons and full moons the high tides are high. And on the fifteenth day of the Witan weeks—”
“That’s the fifteenth of October to us,” Eshe said.
“On that day the three moons will conjoin. You have lived in Luban all your life, far away from the sea. You have no notion of tides. But before I left to come to you, I left instructions for my seamen. They are not to put out to sea until all has settled. But I hear from them now. They expect the tides during those days, and after, to fully submerge the spit. And you know the difference in height between that and this headland? A dot. The townsfolk are unsettled, now that the eclipse grows near. Already the tides are riding in higher. Those living alongside the river are making arrangements to move into the town. They think the citadel will save them. But they know nothing of the prophecy. For myself, nay, that triple eclipse could drown us all.”
“There are sea-filled caves beneath the citadel,” Eshe added. “They give directly onto the Warison Path.”
“But how can mending the tree . . . ?” Boddy asked, trying to make sense of it.
“It’s not only the tree. You must sit on the chair.”
In how many days? Ghats, but she was asking too much of him.
~ ~ ~