Chapter Two-The Hunters
Chapter Three- Welcome
Chapter Four- Luto’s Treasure
Chapter Five-Sailors and Chandlers
Chapter Six-The Secretary’s Choice
Chapter Seven- The Black Crow
Chapter Eight- Pardo’s Vision-Next Scroll
Being the tale of the journey of Lord Pardo from his home in the village of Kush
in the Southern Mountains to his ultimate destiny on the Seismic Sea of the world
known to its inhabitants as Blood and Gold.
Pardo drew his cloak tighter against the storm. “How could I have been so
stupid!” He was harsher with himself than he would have been with another, but
that was Pardo’s way. The wind off the peaks at his back blew past him. He
smelled snow. The temperature had dropped steadily all day as he had climbed
the saddle of the final pass. He had definitely spent too much time in the last
To his right and left loomed two of the most famous peaks in the world, The
Azul Brothers. In the setting sun they seemed to glow like blue crystal. The bases
of both of the Brothers were in darkness already, and the pass ahead was lit with
the weird blue light of the mountains, as well as the golden light from the setting
An especially fierce blast of wind, this one carrying a few large flakes of snow,
woke him from his appreciation of the world’s beauty, and reminded him that if he
did not find some shelter soon, this might be his last opportunity to enjoy the
He hiked on, prodding the earth with the precious iron tip of his staff. The
crystalline rock all around him was filled with small caves and sinkholes, and the
long grass of the slopes sometimes hid a hole deep enough to be dangerous.
But now he looked for one with more eagerness than fear. A large enough cave
with a grass sheltered entrance would be very welcome for the long night ahead.
His pack was heavy, but he wished it were heavier. This was the mark of a true
traveler, who carried all he owned on his back. Some books, a small metal stove
and firewheel, some fuel pellets purchased at the last village, and a bag of dried
mutton made up the meager possessions of Pardo, with the addition of a small
knife and spoon, and a leather wrapped gourd filled with vinegar water. He settled
the pack more firmly and took another step. His staff plunged into nothingness,
and because he had been adjusting his pack and not paying sufficient attention,
Pardo plunged after it.
After a fall of perhaps four feet, he hit a soft pile of brush and grass and slid
further to a stone floor. He was brought up short against a rough stone wall,
banging his shoulder painfully. Pardo slowly regained his wind while his eyes
adjusted to the darkness. He saw his staff sticking out of the pile of brush. A
small patch of light lay on the floor near him, coming from the entrance above his
head. He crawled up the short slope to the pile of brush and reclaimed his staff.
His pack was ok, he had landed mostly on his left side and slid. Nothing seemed
broken, but his left shoulder promised to ache tomorrow.
Standing cautiously on the pile of brush, he was able to put his head and
shoulders out of the entrance. Only the two blue peaks were lit by the sun now.
The light was failing quickly, and Pardo congratulated himself on his good luck.
This small sinkhole, as it did not seem to go any further into the mountain and so
wasn’t really large enough to be called a cave, would shelter him well, and his
stove and fuel would keep him warm through the night, now that he was out of the
As he crunched back to the stone floor and stepped off the pile of debris, he
looked more closely at it. It gleamed here and there with white, but it was now too
dark to see well. At any rate, everything was pretty dry and the clean smell of the
dried grass told him that if this had been a burrow for any of the local fauna, it
had been unused for a long time. He unrolled his blanket of soft wool and laid his
cloak at one end. The pack he opened and placed at his side between the brush
pile and his bed.
The floor of the sinkhole wasn’t level, but he filled in the worst spots with dried
grass and got as comfortable as he could. His firewheel spun and sparks lit the
fuel pellet in the base of the stove. The small pot which formed the top of the
stove he filled with some water from his gourd. He added a few pieces of mutton,
and in about ten minutes the smell of his simple stew was making his mouth water.
While it was cooking he made a couple of small torches from grass and sticks
from the brush pile. This would give him enough light to read by for a few minutes
before sleeping, a habit he had formed in childhood, and which was one of his
few vices. Tonight it would save his life.
The stew was done, and Pardo sat to eat it in darkness. His eyes were well
adapted by now, and the moon would be rising south of the eastern Brother in a
few minutes. The moon was almost full tonight, and if it had been completely full
he might have tried his luck with the pass during the night. But any lesser light than
that, and even that chancy, would be madness to attempt the crossing in. He
slurped greedily, using his spoon because he was eating from the stove pot
directly. He would clean it with grass when he was finished. He had traded his
agate bowl some time ago on his journey, and he was quite used to this
He finished his small but ample meal with a sip from his gourd, and settled back
on his bed. He was warm now, as the stove had heated the small space, and the
stew had given it a homey smell. He almost decided to forbear from reading, but
he was in one of his favorite chapters, and he knew he would sleep better for a
short read. He counted to ten in his head, his way of getting ready to move when
his body really wasn’t sure it wanted to, and then rolled suddenly to his feet to get
The stone which would have certainly knocked him out, if not killed him outright,
struck the space his head had occupied a moment before. If he had counted any
slower, he thought stupidly, he would be dead now. At first he thought a quake
might be coming. Falling rock was certainly common enough in everyday life on
the world of Blood and Gold. Then he heard the chittering. Trogs!
Now he knew his life had only moments to go unless every move he made in the
next minute was the right one at the right time. He ducked and rolled back as
more rocks missiled at him from the darkness. His right hand pulled his firewheel
from his vest pocket and worked the lever, while at the same moment his left
swept up one of the prepared torches and he thanked the god in charge when the
torch flared. Chittering screams filled the sinkhole, which he saw now was indeed
a cave. The brush pile was now open in the middle and Trogs were leaping into
the opening madly while at the same time trying to cover their huge eyes from the
pain of his torchlight. As the last Trog disappeared into the hole, he threw the
torch at the pile of brush and it caught immediately.
Pardo backed against the wall as far from the blaze as he could get. He threw
his possessions into his pack and covered himself with his robe and blanket. The
flame roared but he saw that the cave entrance under the brush pile was actually
drawing the flames into itself. That was why he hadn’t smelled the Trogs.
This was an intake for air in their tunnel system, he must be at one of the lower
levels, which made sense only if they lived in one of the Brothers themselves.
The flames died down but that side of the cave was too hot to approach. At least
he didn’t have to worry about any more attacks from the Trogs from that
direction while this was true. Still, this situation would change. He needed to get
out of there. There was no question of remaining the night.
Trogs might not be all that intelligent, but they were dangerous to a man alone,
and they got angry and stayed angry the way they did everything else, which
meant they did it in large groups. Pardo chuckled at this old joke but continued
The floor of the cave under the opening was lower now, now that the pile of
brush and grass was a pile of ash with a small hole in the middle, but he could still
reach a few hanging strands of the prairie grass that had been too tough to burn
all the way, and he drew himself out, after throwing his staff before him. He stood
in the howling darkness and almost welcomed the cold at first, because he could
survive it, and the Trogs could not.
But he hunched down as he realized that this was only relatively true, and
despite the moon’s powerful glow, his path would be difficult to the point of
impossibility in the night ahead. At least he had eaten, and he had been warm for
an hour or so. Pardo hunched his shoulders and moved on into the darkness. The
snow which he had feared earlier had not continued, and the mass of cold air
seemed drier than it had, at any rate. Pardo’s luck held as he picked his way
slowly up the dark slope ahead.
The peaks fell behind slowly on each side, and his breath puffed bluish white
clouds in their strange light. Once he heard a low rumble from his left, and the dull
reddish glow from the mountain peak reminded him that the Brothers, like most of
the mountains on Blood and Gold, were volcanic, and active as well.
Fortunately the calderas were on the outer sides of the Brothers from the pass.
Slowly the moon rose higher in the night sky. A thin high mist allowed its light to
guide him, but hid the stars so that he could not tell the exact hour of the night.
His legs, toughened from a lifetime in the mountains, pumped seemingly tirelessly
but Pardo knew that even he could not go on until morning without another halt.
As the moon reached the zenith, he stopped in the shelter of a large rock which
stood on the plain where it had been thrown from one of the Brothers long ago.
Pardo crouched in its lee and chewed a strip of mutton. The woman who had
dried it and sold it to him in the last village had added spices to it and it filled his
mouth with a pleasant warmth.
Even though he had spent too long there, he was grateful for the villager’s
friendliness. They had advised him to wait with them through the winter. They
said it was too late in the season to make the crossing of the final pass safely.
But Pardo had declined their offer.
The young women of the village were disappointed, but he had been careful not
to show favoritism in his dealings with them. He knew that if he overstepped the
bounds with any one of them, his leaving might become impossible. Pardo wasn’
t insensible of their beauty, but he had left with a feeling of relief. He had not left
his own village just to settle in another. He had vowed to seek the Sea long ago,
and if he wanted to find a future there, he would have to keep moving, and single.
He pulled his cloak tighter and closed his eyes. The shelter of the rock had
warmed him, and his tired legs told him that to go on was to risk another stumble,
and he might not be so lucky next time he fell into a hole. Pardo slept.
The sun in his eyes woke him the next day. He had slept several hours of the
day away already, he knew, because the stone at his back had warmed in its
glow. Pardo son of Mave, the Madwoman of Kush, looked down on a sight that
he had thought he would never see. He had come farther than he thought the
night before. The adrenaline rush of his fight with the Trogs had given him more
strength than he had realized, and he had hiked completely through the final pass
in the darkness.
Below and before him was a world of blue and green in dizzying abundance.
Colors struck his eye which he had never seen and had no real words for. The
new world smelled of sulphur and iron with a tang beneath, which he did not
recognize for the sea. A few hundred feet farther down the mountainside began a
growth of trees straighter and taller than any he had ever seen, even in the hidden
valleys of the east.
There was no going back for Pardo, and really he had no thought of return.
Return to the small world of the village, the grind of mining deep into the mountain
for gold, or trying to raise sheep on the steep hillsides, had no appeal for the
young man who had survived a journey filled with adventure and freedom. He
continued slowly down the slope. It grew increasingly steep, but with his staff he
picked his way down what seemed to be a little used pathway. He did not pause
at noon but ate on the move. He wanted to leave the heights, and the winter
which had begun there behind him.
That night, next to a small fire made of the incredibly abundant brushwood lying
about, he saw that the stars were unchanged. The Great Swan and Her Children
circled endlessly in the north, telling the hours of night. This comforted him, for he
was more disturbed than he liked to admit, even to himself, by the alien
Never had he seen living things out in the open in such numbers. In his native
mountains, every form of life took shelter, for the constant trembling of the earth
was a fact of life. From the djerbil in its clever burrow to the rock mule of the tree
roots, each hid away in the day, and sheltered at all times from the occasional
hot ash from the mountains above, the ever spouting volcanoes which girdled the
A few deep sheltered rivers in steep green valleys, a few springs such as that
which had sustained his own native village, elsewhere, the world was a vertical
desert. People clawed a hard life from the mines in the mountains. His own father
had died in a cave-in while delving for the gold which was the village’s only
The water of the spring of Kush was enough for drinking and washing, and
making beer of course. But it was not enough for agriculture. The gold was
carried on the backs of the men of the village along ancient pathways to the
villages bordering the river valley below. There it was traded for grain and rice,
and the nutritious rock bean upon which all life in the world depended.
Mave, Pardo’s mother, was a Madwoman, and well respected for her second
sight. It had more than once saved the lives of everyone when she rang the great
iron bell outside her home. She saw the earth tremble minutes before the actual
quakes began. Her own husband had died, because the sound of the warning bell
could not reach him beneath the earth in time. Some in the village whispered that
she had rung the bell late so that he could not be saved, but in a village someone
was always whispering.
Still, Pardo could not forget hearing angry words between his parents as his
father left for the mines on that last day. He had never tried to find out from his
mother if the whispers were true. She would have told him the truth of course. It
was his fear, not her silence, that preserved his ignorance, and so his innocence.
He turned and tried to get comfortable as the small fire slowly faded to embers.
He was not to realize why for many years, but he knew that the more miles he
put between himself and the village, the easier his heart felt. At last he fell asleep,
with the alien smell of the great pines and the sound of the sighing of the wind in
the tree tops high above filling the air around him. Chapter Two-The Hunters
The next morning he awoke to the sound of voices coming from the trail below.
He had made camp above the trail, under the side of one of the great trees. He
raised his head cautiously, he thought, and looked over the bluff which hid him
from the trail. The lasso fell neatly around his neck, and he had just time to get his
fingers under it when it pulled taught and dragged him over the edge.
He fell in a heap at the feet of a small hunting party consisting of well clothed
and armed men and women. They looked at him without speaking as he slowly
regained his breath. He coughed and started to stand. A woman standing behind
him pushed him back down, and the strangers spoke to him for the first time.
“You are on the land of the Black Lord without leave, and you will work for one
year in the village below or your life is forfeit. How do you answer.” The speaker
was an older man in a black leather vest with gold studding. He spoke the words
clearly but they were as well worn in his mouth as the dagger was at his side. “I
will work,” said Pardo, who saw little advantage in losing his young life.
Actually he had come to look for work, but he had hoped to enter the village as
a free man, not a captive. Still, even captives had rights in the world, and since he
did not already wear the colors of one of the other great Sea Lords, he could
even hope some day to wear the Black himself. He stood cautiously, and this
time the woman let him complete the movement. She even smiled a little and
brushed the dirt from his back. The others eased as well, and he was glad to see
that he was not their only captive. Another young man stood behind his captors,
but his hands, Pardo saw, were tied behind him.
The leather of the young man’s jacket was dyed red, which meant he had taken
oath to the Red Lord, the fierce woman who was sovereign of one of the larger
islands which dotted the sea. The Seismic Sea, which was the only sea and
largest body of water in the world.
As a captive citizen, the man in red could never hope to become free, or to
become a citizen of the lands of the Black Lord. His fate was to serve as soldier
in a janissary corps with other captive citizens, or to row the rest of his life
chained to a galley bench. Paradoxically, he seemed to be a cheerful fellow, and
he smiled as Pardo fell in beside him.
The troop moved silently along the trail down toward the Sea below, and Pardo
soon forgot all about his village, the whispers, even his mother, the Madwoman
of Kush, although he regretted the loss of his pack and staff.
Before him was the Village of the Sea, the most remote of the holdings of the
Black Lord from that Lord’s fortress city on Skull Island. Before him was a life
such as he had dreamed of over the worn books in his mother’s small library.
Before him was his future, and he almost trod upon the heels of the woman
before him in sudden eagerness to begin. She looked back at him and laughed.
“Slow down, my friend, we have miles to go before we reach the Village. Save
your strength, for tonight before you sleep you will meet the Elders, and make a
choice of what you will be. Slow down, I say. What will be will be.” He fell back
and tried to copy the pace of the others in the hunting party. The miles rolled by.
Just before mid day the man in the leather vest, who was called Roja, raised a
hand and the troop came to a quick halt. Pardo noticed a clearing off to the right
of the path, and then the main body of hunters carried their packs to the clearing
and set them down around a large circle of white stones. Pardo and the other
captive were led a few steps from the circle and told to sit on the ground.
A short stocky man in a black cloak untied the hands of the young Red. He
grimaced and moved his arms slowly until he had the use of his hands again.
Each of the captives was given a leaf-wrapped package which revealed some
bread and a paste made of rock beans mashed with some herbs that Pardo did
not recognize. It was delicious, however, and he soon made it disappear to the
The man in the red jacket turned and looked speculatively at Pardo. “You’re a
‘rock mule’, aren’t you?”, he asked. Rock mules were sturdy beasts, but stubborn
and maybe not as intelligent as their wise brown eyes seemed to hint. It was a
term for mountaineer that Pardo had used himself, but it sounded somehow
different in the mouth of someone not from the mountains. Pardo scowled and
replied that he was a mountaineer, not a rock mule. Then he turned his back on
the questioner and looked over at the hunters.
They had each sat around the circle of smooth flat white stones, facing the
center and placing their packages of food on the raised stone surface, using it
like a table. Roja alone did not eat, but sat on the other side of the circle. After
each had eaten and drunk from flagons taken from their packs, he spoke. “We
shall return to the village with these two captives. There is a choosing at the rise
of the full moon, and the Black Lord has need of new followers.”
“ I know some of you wanted to go farther up, but I feel this close to winter in
the high country that there will be no more ‘mules’ to capture.” Here Pardo’s
companion snorted quiet laughter, but Pardo held his face immobile, and Roja
continued. “Even the coast has yielded but one half drowned rat.” Here Pardo
smiled and his companion’s laughter stopped suddenly. “We must make do with
what the gods of the Sea allow us, and the Deep Thunderer spares.”
All the hunters made the sacred sign of the Thunderer with their right fists. “So,”
thought Pardo “They are worshipers of the old gods here.” Most people of his
village were nogodders, another reason for living apart from the valley people,
‘Thunderers’ to a man, not to mention woman.
Roja looked at the sun and signaled for the troop to prepare to march. One
woman, the one who had shoved Pardo down when he was captured, brought
over a metal cup filled with an iron tanged water. Pardo drank gratefully. A
second hunter brought a handsome rhyton from his pack, and poured water from
his flagon through it into the Red captive’s mouth, as his hands were re- bound
by the man in the black cloak.
When both captives had drunk their fill, everyone re took the path and moved
down the gentle slope towards the blue green sea below. After another two hours
the path made a sudden turn to the left, and the right hand view plunged suddenly
downward. The immensity of the endless blue green sea and the blinding white
strand at it’s edge struck Pardo’s senses like a blow, and he stumbled slightly.
The young woman who seemed always to be near appeared prepared for his
reaction, and grasped his left arm to steady him. “Steady, my friend.” she said.
“One’s first real view of the Sea is a moment every mule says is a shock.” Pardo
was too dazed to resent the insult, and too grateful for the physical support to pull
She looked at Pardo with a slight smile and shook her head. “Do you have a
name?” “Pardo,” he said. “Would you like to know mine?” she continued, a little
shortly, he thought. “Well, yes. I suppose I should learn everyone’s name,” he
said, thinking of meeting a whole new village of people. She wasn’t smiling now.
And she did not offer her name either. “So, what is your name then?” he
belatedly asked, suddenly feeling as if things were happening he did not
understand. “I’m sure you will find out, when you learn ‘everyone’s name’,” she
said, and then strode forward several positions in the line.
Pardo heard the familiar snorted laughter from behind him. He turned and saw
the older captive in red shaking his head. “You’ve got a lot to learn about women,
mountaineer.” The line moved on in good humored silence. On the shore below,
the village of the Black Lord came into view. Small brightly painted houses
stretched along the steep slope above the beach proper. A white stone wall ran in
a rim about two thirds of the way up the hillside facing the seashore below.
Pastures above the stone wall were dotted with the fat white sheep of the world
of Blood and Gold, and below the wall the houses marched down in ordered rows
to the sea. The Sea at last. Pardo breathed deeply of the unknown and yet
somehow familiar smells of the seaside. The first part of his journey was over.
He had descended more than five miles, and traveled hundreds more, from the
village in the mountains, following a dream, and in a dream he entered the Black
Lord’s gates. Chapter Three- Welcome
The gates of the Village by the Sea towered higher than any structure Pardo
had ever seen. Understandably, in a world of constant seismic activity, structures
were built low and strong, but Pardo noted that long ropes, cables really, as thick
as his thigh, ran from iron bands high on the structure and in all directions in a
He did not realize that these were actually two ship’s masts as used on one of
the mighty Lanternas of the Black Fleet. The wall that ran off in both directions
from the sides of the massive gate poles was over ten feet tall, and thickly
massive as well. The lower course of the wall was of stone blocks, the upper wall
was of the timber which to Pardo was much more marvelous to behold.
The gates were closed, but a small wicker door in one of the gate doors was
opened and guarded by two men in metal armor of black enamel. Pardo looked
at them from the corner of his eye as he was hustled past. They wore more metal
armor than he had ever seen, the more usual armor, if any, that was used in the
mountains was of hardened rock mule hide.
Inside the wall of the village it was cooler, but the smell of the sea remained,
overlain with the usual odors of humanity and the beasts that shared its
The troop continued down the main avenue until they halted outside of a long
low building with a small courtyard in the front. They entered the yard lined with
small shuttered booths and low benches. Once again the man in the black cloak
released the hands of the red coated captive, and he rubbed his arms and hands
with apparent pleasure while looking around in a lively way.
“Well, Pardo the Incurious, we’ve made it to the village. My name is Luto by the
way, since you will apparently never ask.” Pardo flushed and answered. “In the
mountains one does not ask the name of a stranger, but we wait for the time the
stranger wishes to tell it. No spell can be cast if the name is given openly by the
one named.” “Spells, forsooth!” laughed Luto. “Trust a rock mule of the
mountains, and I mean no insult by that, to fear spells and the ravings of
“My mother is a madwoman, and as a matter of fact I was a scrivener, only the
men who carry gold are called mules in the heights. And further, it is an insult to
speak of a man or woman as an animal of any kind, or in some cases, a
compliment, sir rat.”
“Ho ho! So you do have a sense of humor under that dour face. Ho ho!” Luto
was about to continue when a sharp rap to the back of his head by the young
woman of the hunting party stopped him. His attention shifted through his tears to
the man entering the courtyard from a wide doorway edged in gold. The front
rank and all those about them went to one knee, Luto and Pardo quickly copied
the action at a stern glance from the newcomer.
“So, Roja, this is all that you brought me for the new levy? Not very impressive I’
m afraid.” Roja said nothing and the man continued. “New men! I am Kaldor, the
Secretary to the Archon of Skull Isle, the Black Lord.” Pardo’s eyes widened at
this, he was in the presence of one of the most powerful men in the world! What
could he be doing in this remote village on the shore? Such men rarely left the
places of power on the great islands, according to Pardo’s former tutor, Solent
the Aged. Something must be up!
You two will join those who have been brought here from other villages on this
coast of the sea. You will be given the Lord’s Choice as the law provides. Of
course the ruler of this village and those others is the Black Lord, and his service
is the one which I believe you will choose. Those of you”, and here he glanced at
the lone person in the crowd wearing red, “who choose differently will be
assigned to a vessel and carried to the island of the Lord whose service you
Pardo thought it odd that such a speech should be directed at such a small
group of captives, if two men could be called a group. Then he noticed that
others from the village itself were talking among themselves. Several of them
stepped forward and joined him where he stood. He then understood that the call
to service was more general than the usual. Something indeed was up. The
secretary continued. “The Green Lord, ruler of the island of the Axe and its two
great cities, has declared war on the Black and the Red. The Yellow Lord has
declared his forces neutral in this conflict, and the Yellow City a diplomatic
There was a growing murmur from the crowd at Pardo’s back, and more
people, men and women, moved forward to join the group being asked to make a
choice of service. He noted that the expression on Luto’s face was one of relief,
and thinking back over what he had just heard, realized that the relief was
justified. No galley slave existence faced Luto now, since the Black and Red
Lords, if not exactly allies, were co-enemies, as it were. Luto could expect to be
transported back to a Red island, if not to the city of his ruler itself.
The secretary had stopped speaking to the crowd at large now, and was moving
forward while speaking quietly to an armed officer at his side. He passed within a
few feet of Pardo and then suddenly stopped. He turned his head and looked
slowly along the line of choosers. Just before his gaze would have taken in Pardo
and Luto the officer spoke at his side. The secretary frowned in annoyance but
turned with the officer and continued down the line. Upon reaching the end he
turned and spoke once more to the crowd. “Go now and reflect. The Ceremony
of the Choice will be at the third hour of darkness. Think well, and welcome to the
Service of the Black Lord to all who choose it.” The crowd moved off, murmuring
quietly. Luto and Pardo looked around, but their captors were gone. Chapter
Four- Luto’s Treasure
Pardo looked at Luto and then around at the suddenly empty courtyard. The
secretary and his small entourage of soldiers had returned to the low building,
and the villagers had moved down the narrow streets and into various buildings.
Neither he nor Luto had noticed where the hunting party which had captured them
“So, Pardo, perhaps you and I should look for an inn or at least somewhere we
can get food and drink. I hope an inn though, I could use a bath and clean
clothes.” Pardo looked at Luto and answered, “I too would appreciate these
things, but as we have no money or baggage, just how were you expecting to
Luto laughed again, and reaching behind Pardo’s left ear, brought his hand back
holding a large gold coin. He laughed at the wide eyed look this got, and flipped
the coin into the air. At the top of its flight it vanished from Pardo’s sight. He
looked at Luto in great surprise. “You are a magician?” he asked. Luto shook his
head and answered, smiling, “No, just a trickster and vagabond. But my tricks are
a kind of baggage which cannot be lost. A treasure hidden where none can find it,
eh?” Without another word he left the courtyard and turned left, heading uphill
along the narrow street, and after a moment Pardo hurried to catch up.
The last building on the left looked promising to both of them. Some tables with
wooden chairs were placed in front under an awning and a man in an apron stood
in the doorway. He snapped the towel in his hands and came forward as they
seated themselves at one of the tables. “Yes, gentlemen? How may Rudo serve
you today?” Luto smiled and said, “We have been traveling hard all day, good
sir, and would dearly love some beer and whatever it is that smells so good from
your kitchen fire.”
“Of course sir. At once!” He had turned and started off when Pardo added. “We
thank you for your hospitality sir, but I fear we have no money.” Rudo turned
back at this and frowned blackly at the pair. “No money! I’ll thank you to be
moving on then, the both of you! No money! This is no charity and I am no priest
to feed the needy.” Luto just rolled his eyes and patted the upset hotelier on the
arm. “My companion was struck on the head earlier today, and I am afraid he has
not fully recovered. Of course we have money. Look here.” He opened the purse
he took from his right hand and took out some gold coins and showed them to
the still glowering Rudo.
Not quite mollified, the still angry host moved off into the building from which the
delicious smells were coming. “Where did you get that purse?” asked Pardo. “I
haven’t seen it before now, and you can’t have had it when you were captured.”
“Never mind, Pardo. Just try not to be so outspokenly honest without warning
me next time. As for the purse, I will return it to our good host’s pocket as soon
as he returns.” Pardo was still speechless when the aproned Rudo plunked down
two tankards of beer, and was at the same time reunited with his purse by the
clever hand of Luto, minus the two gold coins which Luto now ostentatiously
placed on the table. “I hope this will cover our meal and perhaps a room and a
Rudo smiled as he hefted the coins and returned them to his purse. “Oh yes sir,
and I think we can come up with a change of clothes for you both. No man should
go to his Choosing in old travel clothing.” He moved off to get their food. Pardo
finally found his voice.
“I can’t believe you Luto. To pay the good man with his own coin. Have you no
shame?” They were both silent as their food was placed before them. The now
cheery Rudo said, “I will have your baths drawn now sirs, and you will find soft
clean clothes to don after. I am sure you will enjoy your stay in Rudo’s Tavern.”
“I am sure we will. The beer is excellent, and the food is ambrosia.” As Rudo
moved off pleased with these words from Luto. Pardo hissed, “We cannot do
this. It is wrong, no good can come of lying.”
“On the contrary, no good can come of telling the truth.” Luto took a deep draft
from his mug, and replaced it on the table with a satisfied, “Ahh!” “You are so
dreary, Pardo. Your honesty would gain us nothing. If it will reassure you, let me
say that as soon as may be, we will repay the unintentionally generous Rudo for
And with this Pardo had to be content. And he admitted grudgingly as they sat in
the steaming tubs in their room, that he could not really think of how things would
be better for telling the truth, it was just something he had always heard, and
Luto listened to him seriously, then stretched and slid beneath the water for a
moment. After blowing a soapy breath on resurfacing, he groped for his towel
and wiped his face. “Pardo. I must tell you that I have often heard the same thing,
yet in all my days have seen no evidence of its being true.” He climbed from his
tub and stood and wrapped himself in the large soft towel.
“It is like the words of a priest as he tells you of his god. The words seem to
make sense, the god might even seem real, yet no good ever came from
propitiating the gods that I can see. The land still quakes, the mountains burst, the
fountains of lava destroy the works of man while building the islands man must
have to live. Nothing in the world seems to answer us when we pray, except
perhaps with a godly humor too perverse for human comprehension.”
Pardo was silent as he got from his bath and dried himself. They dressed in the
clothes provided for them by the inn. The fit was excellent, as the village was a
central Choosing place with many a traveler to clothe and feed. At last he spoke,
but on another subject.
“Why did you choose the color you did, Luto? Will you be a soldier of the Red
Lord and return to the island she rules? I have heard the Red Lord is a fierce and
bloody master, for all she is a woman.”
Luto was lacing up his boots and he answered with a grunt as he pulled them
tight. “Don’t you believe it, Pardo. The Red Lord is generous and kind to her
people, although they are a stubborn and obstreperous lot. The island of the Red
Lord is not an easy one to rule or defend.”
Luto stood and finished dressing before the burnished bronze mirror which hung
from the back of the room’s door. “The great mountain is blessedly far from the
city, but the farm land is spread along a broad valley that runs from that mountain’
s foot in a long path until it comes to the city. Goods must travel a long road from
the farthest farms to town, and wealth also flows slowly in all its forms from
villagers to city lords. Mountains and the rough yellow coastal lands are near to
the farm valley on all sides as well. Invaders are difficult to deal with, and often
the farther farmlands actually send their wealth to enemy ships offshore rather
than to the rightful lords of the isle.”
He turned, and with the smile which was becoming very familiar to Pardo, said,
“But you didn’t ask for a description of my home, did you Pardo? As to colors of
choice, rather than discuss mine, which was made long ago, let us consider
yours. But I am afraid we shall have to do it while walking, if we are to attend the
ceremony on time.” Outside they heard the main village gong boom twice, and
then the smaller gong struck twice as well. There was a half hour left before the
third hour of darkness, therefore, and they would have to hurry. Chapter Five-
Sailors and Chandlers
On their way out of the door they both thanked Rudo for the clothes, and said
they would be back as soon as the ceremony was over. He wished them good
luck, and they hurried down the street to the right, down the hill toward the building
with the courtyard. The brilliant moon of the world of Blood and Gold, the huge
orb which raised the immense tides of the Seismic Sea, blazed now at the full,
low in the east so that it illumined both mountain tops and sea. Despite his hurry,
Pardo slowed and stopped. The beauty of the sight struck him so strongly that it
was as if his reason was overwhelmed.
Luto came back for him and, seeing the look in young Pardo’s eyes, shook his
head and without speaking drew him forward by the arm. After a few stumbling
steps, Pardo shook tears from his eyes and spoke. “I am sorry, Luto. I know we
must hurry. You would think I had never seen the moon before.” And yet he could
not forebear sneaking a glance at the rising orb each time it shone down one of
the long side avenues, which stretched both to the east and the west as they
crossed the northbound road the two were taking, toward the shore, and to an
The road became less steep as they neared their goal, and the light of the moon
and the many lamps set around the ever more crowded buildings made it seem
like day to Pardo’s mountain villager senses. The road became crowded with
other villagers and soldiers as well. Suddenly Pardo and Luto were thrust back by
the crossed halberds of some of those soldiers.
It wasn’t personal, everyone halted as with a shout the great doors of a building
which used up the entire street front on the left of the road, opened with a crash.
Out marched rank after rank of men in bright blue uniforms and jaunty white caps.
Each was booted in leather that gleamed a soft black, but with soft soles so soft
that their marching was more muffled than the tramp of the soldier’s column
which escorted them. They wheeled to the left and marched off down the road
toward the Sea.
They were men of the Sailor’s Guild, and the great galleys and Lanternas of the
Sea were their country, along with the buildings and lands known as Sailor’s Halls
which dotted the shore of the sea, and shared the port cities and villages of the
islands. Over the sound of the marching, they heard the great gong boom twice,
and the lesser three times. Fifteen minutes left. They waited impatiently for the
sailors to pass, and with the last of their ranks gone, the doors were closed and
Pardo said, as they hurried onward. “I once thought of becoming a sailor, Luto.
They seem the freest of all men to me. They own no Lord, yet they live in great
state, and the Lords pay for their sustenance and give them land for their halls
free of tax.”
“That is all true, Pardo. But the life of a sailor is a hard one don’t forget. Often
they are sacrificed in battle to give the soldiers a chance to fight longer, even
perhaps to survive. And the lords give them lands where the seers have told them
the greatest losses may come from during a quake or eruption. All is not rosy for
those in blue.” He chuckled at this for some obscure reason of his own.
They continued in silence for a few more moments, and the gates of the
courtyard loomed before them. The crowd was even thicker inside, and the
smoke from the lamps and the glow of the moon made it seem like another world
to Pardo. In a daze he entered following Luto’s lead, and gratefully they sank
down on a bench off to one side.
While they waited for the three booms of the gong which would mark the third
hour of darkness, the time of the ceremony of choosing, Pardo looked around at
the stalls which lined the courtyard, and which were open for business even at this
late hour. He realized that unlike the stalls in his mountain home, or in the steep
river valleys, these were filled with objects all to do with the Sea. He did not even
know what to call some of them, and their purposes were not clear to his
mountain born eyes, although he had read everything he could find about the
Sea during his childhood and his long apprenticeship to Solent the Aged, the
He suddenly realized he was in the courtyard of the ship chandlers, those who
supplied all these items to the ships. He knew he must have read many
descriptions of these devices. Yet illustrations were rare in the volumes in the
Scrivener’s library, although his mother had books for him as a child which had
many more pictures. They had been looked at by Pardo so often that he did not
need them even now to see them, he just need close his eyes. Suddenly Luto
was shaking him by the shoulder, and he realized he had dozed. Already the
Secretary was speaking from a low dais. Pardo had not even seen his entrance,
and he guiltily sat straighter and listened. The Secretary continued.
“So I remind you, this choice that you make tonight is a lifetime’s commitment. I
hope that all of you have thought long and hard about what you will decide.
Please come forward as a steward directs you, and choose the color of your
choice, and receive your Lord’s Torus.”
In a near panic, Pardo realized that he still was not absolutely sure of what he
should chose. Some said that one should chose the lord of the village of the
choosing place, yet others said that if too many did this, the other Lords would
attack the village and take people against their will. So most people thought long
before choosing, and spoke to their neighbors and friends to make sure each
ceremony had at least a modicum of different colors chosen. He decided to wait
and see how the choosing went. He considered his new friend Luto. If he chose
the Red then he would probably go with Luto to the island of the Red Lord, about
which he knew little except what he had heard that evening.
Luto was a pleasant companion, but there was more to him than there seemed.
His ready analysis of his ruler’s island and its problems, both geographical and
military, didn’t fit in with someone who was a “trickster and vagabond”, although
he certainly was these things as Pardo had witnessed himself. But he didn’t feel
like a bad person either. He had certainly shown kindness and patience to Pardo,
and in his loneliness this was of great value.
Still, the various Lords had been in Pardo’s mind for several years. He had
developed a love of history from his years with Solent’s books, and the wars of
the islands made up most of that. His attention was brought back to his
surroundings by a familiar low rumble, and dust sifted from the stall roofs as the
earth beneath the village trembled. The priest’s bell from the temple on the hill
outside the village rang out. The pattern of bells told all who heard them that the
seers declared the quake to be a buriss, or a mild quake deep beneath the
surface. Like those around him, Pardo relaxed and returned his attention to the
He had paused like everyone else when the quake began, but now he resumed
greeting the men and women who had been selected by the stewards to come
forward to the dais, and to declare their choice by the simple choosing of a metal
torus of the color of their chosen lord. The secretary took each by the hand, as
an attendant placed the torus they had chosen on a golden chain and placed it
over the chooser’s neck. Each then moved to a group of those who had chosen
the same color.
The crowd of red torused choosers, future soldiers or citizens of the Red Lord,
formed slowly to one side. The largest group was naturally of those who had
taken the Black. A few took the Yellow, and these were asked by the Secretary to
step to a selected area guarded by Yellow Soldiers. The choosers were then
escorted out of the courtyard and down towards the docks. Pardo overheard one
of the local villagers telling his neighbor that a galley flying the colors of the
Yellow Lord was leaving that night. It had paid a torus of gold to the local sailors
hall, and six entire Tors, or groups of fifty sailors, had thus been hired and
escorted to the ship earlier in the evening.
Pardo realized that must have been the sailors he and Luto had seen. He
wished then he had been free to follow them to the docks. He had yet to visit
them, and he had never seen a galley of the Seismic Sea except in his books.
Luto tapped Pardo on the arm, and said, “Pardo. You must make your choice as
I made mine years ago. I like you Pardo, although we probably could not be more
different. I just want you to know that whatever color you take, our friendship will
not be affected. For now I must go stand with the Red choosers, but I will see
you back in our room tonight.” He made his way off through the crowd but before
Pardo could say anything, a steward stepped up and pointed his staff at him. It
was time to choose.
Chapter Six-The Secretary’s Choice
Pardo quickly lost sight of Luto in the smoke and the crowd, but the steward with
the staff pointing at him was very clear. He arose from his seat on the bench and
moved forward. The steward turned when Pardo reached his side and said,
“Please approach the dais, good sir, and make your choice of colors from the
first table on the right. Then if you will wait there for a moment, the Secretary will
call on you to come forward.”
“I’m pretty nervous.” “Most people are, sir. It is certainly normal enough.” In a
lower voice as they approached the table, the steward added kindly, “On my own
choosing, I could barely keep from fainting dead to the ground, and my mother
crying in the background didn’t help either.”
Pardo smiled faintly and continued toward the table. The mention of the steward’
s mother brought the Madwoman of Kush, his own rather terrifying mother, to his
mind. She had urged him to remain in the village of Kush by the Spring. There he
had an assured future as a Scrivener, and the village had invested much in his
education. But after the death of his father, life in the village became increasingly
oppressive for Pardo. He had always loved stories of the Sea. It seemed so
exotic and freer in so many ways in comparison to life in the mountains.
Suddenly Pardo was at the table. The moment had come, and still he could not
decide. He looked at the gleaming torii on the table. Each was of gold, enameled
with the color of the lords they represented. Taking a deep breath, Pardo reached
out and took the color of his choice. He let his hand choose, using the method of
under thought, as taught by his village priest. His hand closed and when he lifted it
and looked, on his palm, gleaming darkly in the lamplight, was his choice. He had
taken the Black.
Pardo looked up and found the Secretary staring into his eyes from a few feet
away. Moving in a dream, Pardo walked down the row of tables and gave the
black coin to a woman who placed it on a golden chain. He bent his head and she
placed the chain with his torus around his neck. He straightened and found his
hand taken in that of the Secretary himself. An electric shock, as when a metal
object had been touched after walking on a woolen rug was felt by both of them.
The potentate narrowed his eyes at this, and spoke to Pardo directly for the first
“Welcome to my Lord’s service, young man. May I ask your name?” Then he
looked at Pardo more closely and smiled. “If you give it willingly, I mean. Let no
thought of spells stand between us, mountaineer.” Pardo blushed, and answered,
“My lord, no thought of spells was in my mind. I fear the moment has overcome
my manners. Of course you may know my name. It is Pardo. Pardo son of
Mave, orphan of Karlo, both of Kush of the Spring in the Nearmost Range.”
This recital of his heritage was perhaps more than Secretary Kaldor had
bargained for, but he filed it away with all other information which concerned his
“I have heard of a Mave who is reputed to be a Madwoman. Do you know of
her, Pardo?” “Indeed, sir. Mave the Madwoman is my mother. I am honored that
you have heard of her, my lord.” “She is well known on the shore, Pardo. Her
warning of four years ago of the eruption of Fearsome Peak saved the lives of
many here whose work is in the mountains. She is honored by all in this village.
Even the priest speaks well of her, and you know how priests are.” Indeed Pardo
did. The jealousy of the priests and their seers was a force to be reckoned with in
the mountains. But the sheer usefulness of the madwomen kept the priests from
going too far.
Pardo suddenly realized that the ceremony was halted while he spoke with the
Secretary, and he apologized. Kaldor shook his head and said, “Do not be
concerned. We will speak later, good Pardo. Come to the Chandler’s Gate
tomorrow at noon and dine with me.” Pardo fumbled a thanks and stepped from
the front of the dais back into the crowd. Suddenly before him stood the young
woman from the hunting party. “Since you ask, Pardo, my name is Allura.”
Pardo did not know what to say. When last they spoke he had apparently
offended her by not asking for her name soon enough, but now she had given it
to him willingly. Finally she spoke again. “You must describe the way people
communicate in the mountains someday. Down here beside the Sea we use
words put together in a thing called ‘talking.’ If you would like to try it sometime, I
would be pleased to help you practice.” He flushed, but to his own annoyance,
could think of nothing to say. She laughed aloud and reached behind her for
something on the ground. It turned out to be Pardo’s back pack. He took it
gratefully, never having expected to see it again. “Th-thank you, Allura. This is
very unexpected. I thought it was lost forever in the woods.”
“So, you can speak. And your voice is actually kind of nice.” She smiled and
motioned for him to follow. They walked out of the courtyard in to the street,
when suddenly he remembered Luto. “Just a moment, Allura. My friend Luto may
be looking for me.”
Allura shook her head and said, “If your friend Luto returns from the inn where
the other Reds are staying, and to which I saw him go not long ago, he will know
where to find you. All the choosers of the Black will be at the Black Crow Inn for
the welcoming feast, and surely one as resourceful as Luto seems to be will have
no problem finding it.” She continued down the street toward the docks, and
away from Rudo’s tavern, but Pardo felt he had no choice but to follow. Besides,
it had been a while since the bowl of stew at Rudo’s, and the thought of a
welcoming feast was, well... welcome. He shouldered his pack. From the weight,
it was unplundered, and followed the young woman into the night.
Chapter Seven- The Black Crow
Pardo and Allura joined a general flow of people moving down the narrow street
until it ended, opening onto a broad avenue crossing it at right angles. On the
other side of the avenue was a row of large buildings, and beyond them,
somewhat obscure in the mixed moon and lamplight, was what seemed a forest
made up of upright poles and ropes. The sea gleamed blackly between walkways
made of boards, with more ropes from which the ways seemed suspended
running in all directions.
As he and Allura walked between two of the buildings and stepped upon one of
the suspended walks, Pardo looked again at the forest of poles and realized that
for the first time in his life, he was seeing the famous galleys of the Seismic Sea,
the ships which carried the lifeblood of trade from island to island, between Lord
and Lord, and which fought the battles which some said gave half of the world’s
name of Blood and Gold its meaning.
He wanted to stop and gaze at the great ships as they bobbed in the darkness
on either side of the dimly lit walkway. But the ships were guarded by silent men
and women in the sailor blue, and anyway, Allura was calling his name impatiently
from the entrance of a building which glared with light and sound, and more
interestingly, was filled with the odors of food and drink. Pardo left the galleys for
another time and followed her inside. He stooped beneath the swinging sign
which proclaimed the name of the inn, “The Black Crow.”
The noise of happy revelers and the clink of tableware was deafening inside the
curtained doorway, and Pardo looked about in wonder. The floor was filled with
tables, and the tables with small parties of people having a very good time. He
heard many dialects from the tables within earshot, but had little difficulty in
understanding them. There was only one language on the world of Blood and
Gold, and the constant intermingling of its people kept it universally understood, it
not universally pronounced.
He and Allura went to a large table set with bowls of food and great flagons of
beer freshly drawn from the large barrels which made up one wall of the low
room. After they had loaded a small tray, which Pardo lifted, Allura led him to a
broad stairway and they climbed it as it turned a half circle and delivered them to
a rooftop dining area open to the stars.
He placed the tray at the end of a long table at the other end of which was a
mixed party of sailors and soldiers in black half armor. The soldiers lifted their
flagons in welcome to Pardo and Allura, but they went on talking among
themselves as Allura and Pardo chose from the bowls on their tray and began to
eat. The food was delicious and strange to Pardo, who had rarely eaten fish, and
that freshwater fish from the mountain river.
He struggled to open what appeared to be a mossy rock with a long crack along
one side, until Allura took it and smashed it with a small wooden mallet she took
from a turntable at the table’s center. She picked out some of the bright pink flesh
inside and put it in Pardo’s mouth. Her fingers brushed his lips as she did so, and
Pardo blushed as he chewed and swallowed. “What do you think?” she asked,
smiling strangely. “About what?” “About the food, of course.” She continued, a
little more sharply. Pardo thought she had one of the quickest tempers he had
ever met, and he tried to come up with a mollifying reply. “It is wonderful,
although I cannot name any of it. What is this rock with the delicious flesh inside
called?” It was her turn to blush, for some reason. “Oh, it has many names.”
“It’s called Love Stone, young man. And to eat it at the hands of a young
woman of such beauty is perilous indeed.” Pardo turned and looked in surprise at
the soldier who had come up behind him so silently that he had not heard him.
The man smiled suddenly, and held out his hand. “My name is Karp, soldier of
the Black Lord. Welcome to my Lord’s service, young man.”
“Thank you, soldier Karp. I am called Pardo, and was a Scrivener by trade
before leaving my village. I chose but hours ago, as you know. I know not yet
how the Black Lord will use me.” Karp nodded. “I have been a soldier of Lord
Paulus of Skull Isle since my choosing many years ago, Pardo, and have found it
a good life. He is wise in choosing his men and women, and his Secretary is as
well. I am sure you will find whatever service they find for you an interesting one.”
Karp looked over at Allura, who had been unusually silent since he had joined
them and imparted his bit of culinary lore. “Forgive me if I have offended you,
young woman. Old soldiers can be a little blunt, I am told.” “No, no. I am not
offended”, she said, although she did not look at Pardo as she said so. “Pardo
has little interest in me as a woman, I am sure. He is just trying to ‘learn everyone’
s name’ as he says.” Karp didn’t comment on what he thought about this, but he
grinned a little as he turned back to Pardo.
“Please join us at our end of the table, you two. We have purchased a bottle of
Corka with our latest bonus, and it is good luck to share it with a new chooser.”
They thanked him and slid their tray down the table. Allura joined Pardo and sat
beside him opposite Karp, and facing outward toward the sea. The others called
a welcome and the small golden cups from which Corka was traditionally drunk,
and which added to its already considerable cost, were handed around to each.
When all the cups were filled, Karp raised his and toasted. “To Pardo, today a
citizen of the Black, new chooser, and his friend, the lovely Huntress Allura.”
“Pardo and Allura!” the soldiers cried, and all drained their small cups, Pardo and
Allura holding theirs without drinking yet. Then Pardo raised his cup with a smile,
and with a nod Allura raised hers as well, and Pardo returned, “To Karp and
friends, Pardo’s thanks to all, and to Allura, my friend and guide who has brought
me to good fellowship.”
Allura looked at him in surprise, but managed her cup as well as any other at the
table. The fiery liquor burned gratefully in Pardo’s throat, and warmth soon
spread throughout him as the hundred year old product of the distiller’s craft did
its work. He listened to the soldiers and sailors as they told each other of their
The sailors were off a war galley which had met and bested several ships
serving the Green Lord, and the battle bonus was the means that had purchased
the Corka. Of course the sailors did not fight for the Black, but their courage and
loyalty to their captain and ship was unquestioned. Many a sailor had died in
battle, or starved while adrift when war or disaster made their support impossible
from their Lord or Sailor’s Hall.
Of course the actual fighting was done by the Black Citizen Soldiers and their
cannon and cutlasses. Pardo learned that his new acquaintance Karp was Leader
of the Fifth Torus of Killana, a force raised from the Killana territory of the Black
Lord’s Isle. He commanded the forty nine men of his Torus, he being the fiftieth.
He and his men were recalling the battle, using bits of debris from their bowls of
seafood to represent the various forces.
After a couple more cups of Corka, Pardo found their stories to have become a
distant hum, pleasurable but indistinct. He found himself leaning pleasantly
against the arm of Allura, and took comfort in her solid yet womanly form. He
spoke to her lazily, “Thank you for a fine night, Allura. It has been a long time
since I have been able to relax in good company. You have made my first night in
my Lord’s service a memorable and pleasant one.”
Allura smiled and tilted her head to look at him. He noted how her dark hair was
reddish when the lamp shone through it. She lifted her face to his just inches
away, and Pardo leaned forward and kissed her. Her lips were warm and soft,
and why this should surprise him Pardo did not know, but it was so pleasant he
could not pull back. Finally, laughing, she pushed him back. “Now I see how you
communicate in the mountains, Pardo.” “No wonder you rarely use words.” She
leaned forward and kissed him quickly again and then took his arm and held it
close to her side.
“Oh Pardo, look!” She pointed out to sea and he tore his eyes away from her
face and looked out in to the darkness. Far off, where the horizon loomed as two
shades of darkness, the sky lighter but no less blue than the sea, sudden lights
blazed. Eight new stars flared up at almost the same moment, and people all
around cheered. “What is it?” asked Pardo. “It is the lamps of the Great
Lanternas the Black Lord has sent to escort the fleet with the newly raised forces
back to Skull Isle and to his great port city, Pavola.”
Karp lifted another cup, and this time all on the rooftop raised theirs as well, and
the old soldier called out, “To Paulus, Black Lord and Protector of the Southern
Sea!” He drained his cup as did everyone else after a cry, “To Lord Paulus!”
People then resumed their private conversations, but Pardo wanted to know
more. Keeping his right arm around the shoulders of Allura, he spoke to Karp,
who had reseated himself and was once more with his back to the sea. “Tell me
of the lanternas, Karp.”
Pardo kept his eyes on the distant blue white lights which were the lamps on the
mastheads of the Lanternas as Karp told him of the great ships. Pardo had seen
the galleys as they lay moored about the docks and boardwalks of the village,
and they were huge craft. Karp’s gravelly voice went on as he warmed to his
descriptions. The storms of the Seismic Sea could not be withstood by anything
smaller, he explained. The village had many fishing craft, and their crew were
both sailors and citizens, but they never left sight of the village, and especially
they never left earshot of the priest’s bells and warning cannon.
The galleys were a different story entirely. Each was 150 strides in length, and
at the widest point, 70 strides wide. The massive mast bore the one huge lateen
rigged sail which allowed the galley to sail close to the wind, and yet could be
quickly taken down in case of gale or storm. Otherwise, the galleys were driven
along by the oars wielded by the mighty sailor crews. Training and hard practice
made them the masters of their craft, and the morale of the sailors was always
high as long as the Sailor Halls had the favor and support of the Great Lords of
If a galley should be driven ashore by storm, it could survive to be relaunched
later, as long as at least one torus of sailors survived the beaching to launch it,
and then of course only if the craft was under orders of Citizens of one of the
Lords. But the Great Lanternas were a different matter altogether. Each was one
hundred strides longer than a galley, and wider in proportion as well. A lanterna
had two masts and twice the cargo capacity of a galley. A galley could carry the
equivalent in weight of fifteen gold torii. Each torus, weighing about the weight of
fifty men and their gear, or fifty sailors and theirs, was thus the origination of the
word’s use in the military sense. A lanterna could carry thirty torii.
But if a Lanterna were ever driven on the beach it would not survive. Its great
weight would break it apart even on the most level of beaches, and of course not
even a galley could survive coming ashore on a rocky mountainous coast. That
was why the Lanternas never came close to shore, the great dories plied back
and forth from the villages and islands to the Lanternas. Only in one of the vast
protected city ports could the Lanternas moor as did the lesser galleys, for there
they were protected from the force of the storms and could not be driven ashore.
A lanterna with a full load of citizens and sailors, and not carrying any gold,
would thus have a crew and supercargo totaling fifteen hundred men, a
moderately large village, and no mean force to meet in battle. The huge lanterns
which gave the Lanternas their name could be seen for many miles, and a fleet
containing a Lanterna could act as one, even though its component galleys could
not even see each other from their lower masts.
Karp ended his conversation here, as he noticed Allura’s eyes closing sleepily.
“Perhaps, Pardo, you will need some help getting your friend here home.”
Pardo started, and turned to look at her. He shook her gently by the shoulder, but
she just leaned closer. He held her tenderly and smiled back at Karp. “We will
have to find some of her friends if she cannot be waked, for I do not know where
she bides. We have not known each other long.” He shook her gently again, and
spoke her name softly. She opened her eyes and flushed to see them both
“Have I been sleeping?” she asked. “It must be the Corka, friend Karp. I am
awake now however, and Pardo and I should both be going. By the flight of the
Swan and the lowering moon it must be near dawn.” Pardo noticed that the
rooftop was nearly empty now, and the noise from the room below was much
quieter. The notes of a harp drifted to them as they sat silently.
Pardo took one more look out at the Lanternas. Something was changed.
“Karp, what does it mean when the Lanternas shine orange lights, and how do
they raise the lanterns so much higher so suddenly?” Karp, who had been slowly
untangling his legs from his bench, looked up in surprise at Pardo as if to see if
he was joking. He saw nothing in his new acquaintances face but polite inquiry,
and he twisted suddenly to look out to sea. “Where did you hear of such a signal,
Pardo?” he asked, in a voice suddenly hard and cold. Pardo looked at him in
surprise, and noticed a sailor officer down the table also looking on with a frown.
“Is it a signal, Karp? Why do you look so strangely at me. I have heard very little
about the Lanterna’s but what you have told me just this night. I ask about no
signal, but only of what I can see right now, as I look out to sea.”
Now even Allura was looking at him strangely, and he asked her, “What is it
Allura? What is wrong? Can you not see the orange lights? They flare strangely,
and now I also see a white line all along the horizon.” More of the sailors were
now looking at him, and all conversation had stopped. The officer took a small
telescope from his belt and trained it on the Lanternas lamps, where they shone
steadily on the horizon. No white line, and the lamps were the steady blue of all
clear. He looked at Karp and shook his head in puzzlement.
Allura and Karp stood at the same moment, and she pulled Pardo to his feet as
well. “Come along Pardo, the walk up the hill to Rudo’s tavern will clear your
head. The lamps on the Lanternas are blue, Pardo, and no one but you sees any
white line.” She pulled nervously and he started to follow when suddenly the floor
seemed to rise up and smash into him. His head struck the edge of the table and
all went dark. His last sensation was of a sudden roaring and a glimpse of white
foam coming up between the cracks which opened in the floor all around as he
sank into unconsciousness.
Chapter Eight- Pardo’s Vision-( scroll in translation)