Read Watson, Ian - Black Current 03 Online

Authors: The Book Of Being (v1.1)

Watson, Ian - Black Current 03 (21 page)

BOOK: Watson, Ian - Black Current 03
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The entire boat trembles. The cabin
and Donnah are suddenly double before your eyes. Two Donnahs, two cabins occupy
the same space, superimposed. In one of these cabins you tell Donnah. In the
other you don't tell. Whole tableaus of ghost events weave forth from this
moment, till whenever.

 
          
Donnah steps back and sneers.
"That'll settle you, my child. Don't think we can't manage to contain
this. Difficult, I admit!
But possible.
Possible indeed."

 
          
"You could have saved yourself
the bother of signalling, Donnah."

 
          
"Oh really?
This certainly wasn't on sale in Spanglestream a few days back. And we haven't
received any signals from Gate of the South, have we? I presume it appealed to
your sense of vanity to have this thing published just as you arrived in
town."

 
          
"Wrong. It's on sale everywhere
from Tambimatu to Umdala. Simultaneous release, today." (At least you
hope so.) "It's a fate accomplished, Donnah, that's what it is. A fate
accomplished. But don't
worry.
The
book won't do any harm.
Only good.
If
good can be done."

 
          
"I see." There's great restraint
in her voice.
But not in her hands.
She hurls the
sheets of the book at you; though since these are loose they simply unfurl and
flutter variously to the floor.
"Yours,
I believe. May a drunken spider have misprinted
everything.
"

 
          
You recover a sheet.
"Looks okay to me."

 
          
"Oh,
by
the way."
Donnah pauses
at the door. "I believe the guild will now wish to shift the current
further north—before anyone hatches fancy ideas of exporting your words to the
Sons, for their salvation."

 
          
"But . . . but what about all
that land that'll be left vacant over there? After the Sons get brainbumt? I
thought your plan was. . . . I mean, if you completely block passage over the
river. . . ."

 
          
"Look out that port. Balloons
are coming along famously here. On a calm day it shouldn't take much power to
push really big passenger balloons across the river, nice and high above the
current. Balloons crammed with colonists, eh?"

 
          
"Oh."

 
          
"Ever had a hankering to sail
the wild ocean, in a Worm's wide mouth?"

 
          
"I shan't do it."

 
          
"I wouldn't force you. That's
the honest truth. You know how much it appalled me when your boyfriend Tam lost
one of his hands. But I'm not in Pecawar, where Tam is.
Where
your dad is.
Both of them within a stone's throw of Quaymistress
Chanoose! Chanoose is a ruthless character; be warned."

 
          
"That's how things stand, is
it?"

 
          
"I wouldn't say they stand this
way; or that way. I'm simply speculating."

 
          
"That's a pretty poisonous
speculation."

 
          
"Blame the Sons for poisoning
us."

 
          
"It's foul! Don't ever bother
washing, Donnah. You can't cleanse yourself. You smell—
inside."

 
          
"Ho, ho; now the little innocent
speaks of cleanliness, after spreading that document across the land without
permission."

 
          
"I only needed my
own
permission."

 
          
"Did you? Why, in that case
maybe anything is permitted to anybody to achieve what they want.
Sauce for the goose, Yaleen!"

 
          
"Um . . . how would I get back
from the ocean?"

 
          
"Nothing
simpler.
The Worm gulps you down, and wriggles you back through its
body—to some agreed pick-up point, hmm? Fate accomplished, Yaleen!
Yours.
Most likely."

 
          
Everything rushes into a blur.

 
          
It's been a good few bigmonths, many
midmonths and lots of babemonths since you and Pod set out from Bark, escorted
by those Turkish traders with the bone-combs in their hair. Everything has
taken far too long.

 
          
At last you're on the isle of
Omphalos. This island is a ring of hills lapped by the black sea. Set on the
tips of the crags are the keeps of the Wizzes. In the broad bowl of valley
within, are farms, forests, lakes of flying fowl—and a town called Tomf. The
name Tomf sounds like the dull throb of a giant kettledrum. Imagine vellum
stretched from crag to crag across the fertile cauldron of the valley. Consider
the homes of the Wizzes as drum-screws. Sometimes the most powerful Wizzes play
strange music upon Tomf from their heights.

 
          
How soon will Yaleen destroy the
Godmind's rose garden on the Moon?

 
          
How soon will the Godmind decide that
Project Mindbumer might just as well commence?

 
          
Soon, perhaps.

 
          
"Infanta
Farsi!
Redfog eclipses Blindspot! Tis time to leave the inn!"

 
          
Check your orange-painted face one
last time in the brass-framed mirror. Make haste. Unlatch the door. Your
talent-trader, Seer Makko,
awaits
.

 
          
His hair is freshly oiled and his
comb poised jauntily. He sketches a quick bow, casual, almost affectionate.
This man of Tusk respects you, wonders at you. During the long voyage of many
landfalls you have, what's more, become his friend.

 
          
His strongman, Innocence, lingers
further along the buckled wooden corridor; knife tucked in his belt, sack slung
over his shoulder containing your portion of the treasure dowry of Bark. Pod,
who farsees distant worlds, is her own treasure by now. She is a veritable
Princess of Talents. So perhaps her dowry has come to seem excessive, albeit
no jewels are included. Half a dozen gingerworms wrapped in a leaf might be
more suitable. Yet since the traders set out with that sack, deliver it they
must.

 
          
"We must hasten, 'Fanta!"

 
          
Along the corridor.
Down squeaking stairs.
Into the
flaking whitewashed vestibule betwixt boozery and kitchen where Mistress Umdik
presides—"Mild days, Mistress!"
"Mild
days, Sirs and 'Fanta!"
—and out on to the cobbled thoroughfare.

 
          
Already, as Blindspot shines through
the fringe of Redfog, the street of timbered houses is gilded. By the time you
reach the marriage mart the daylight will be full orange.
No one gets hoodwinked when Blindspot hides;
so goes the saying.
During Blindspot's eclipse a person can look everywhere, consider all aspects
of a bargain. Indeed you could even glance directly at Blindspot, masked as it
is by Redfog, transfiguring Redfog into a huge glowing fruit in the sky; though
no one would dream of such rashness.

 
          
Up
Stargazy
Road
you go. Across the Avenue of Heartchoke, and
you're there.

 
          
The marriage mart itself is a white
dome set on pillars in the midst of
Omblik Square
.
Omblik Square
is where the
blackfish vendors usually sell the fruits of the sea, kept fresh in all manner
of tanks: tanks made of glass, of stone, of caulked wood, of canvas. Today only
the permanent tanks are present, some brimful, some empty; some pure, some
rank. No vendors; not of fish, at least.

 
          
Soon you're moving amongst infantas
of other isles accompanied by their traders. Some wear silken saris—of purple,
pink and patchwork—far more elegant than Pod's kirtle, shirt and plaid. Nobles
and humbles of Omphalos circulate and chatter and assess; any of whom is more
richly robed than the most princely person on Bark. Already dowries are set out
on tables; Innocence hastens to set out Pod's. Some dowries are splendid
indeed; perhaps the infantas in question are poor in talent. Perhaps where
these infantas come from such a heap of riches is considered a humble dowry fit
for a powerful talent.

 
          
Redfog bums orange in the sky. The
burly marriage mistress claps her hands; she wears a full black weed-veil set
with sparklers, dropping down from the crown of her head to her toes.

           
"Because
of extraordinary claims, I call first upon the Infanta Farsi-podwy, all the way
from far Bark."

 
          
"Claims!" mutters Makko.
"She insults you."

 
          
"She left out the last part of
my title!"

 
          
"If the Infanta hides as huge a
talent as we've heard," continues the veiled woman, "why does she not
bless the outer isles with herself? So that we can balance and build our
abilities throughout all of LordeviTs Dark?"

 
          
"Tm she," Pod calls out,
"and I shall only wed a Wizz.
None less.
Together
we shall speak to the stars.
Tis why Tm here."

 
          
"Your traders have voiced it
about that you shall only wed a Wizz —but has any Wizz heard this?"

 
          
"Yes indeed," calls a tall
slim handsome fellow. A cloak, clasped at his throat with a golden buckle,
swirls about him as he forges through the crowd. On his head he wears a slouch
hat with tail feathers of fowls sticking out behind like the rudder on a
windmill.

 
          
"You,
sir?"
The veiled woman's tone is hesitant, shy.

 
          
The tall man doffs his hat and bows.
For a moment or two, while his hat is off, he flickers and is someone else:
someone old and small and chubby with a mischievous smile. As soon as he
resumes his hat, he appears as he was before.

 
          
"Ah!" Makko murmurs into
Pod's ear, "It's a master of illusions! If he takes to you, he shall pay
me well for my work."

 
          
The man's eyes bore into Pod's,
piercing any illusions she herself may have.

 
          
Farsee,
Pod! Farsee!

 

 
          
(Shift!
Shift!)

 
          
Briefly puzzlement is writ on the
master's face.
Soon, fascination —and bewitchment.

 
          
With a jolt, the world slows. Other
fiercer jolts continue. The Worm has left Umdala far behind; Umdala with its
geometric rows of blockhouses, Umdala with its estuarine marshes. Onward,
northward, the Worm courses, smashing through ever more swelling waves which
are whipped by wind and ocean width and by the torque of the world, as the
estuary widens out into the wild dire salty seas where no one ever dare sail.

 
          
Spray drenches you, girl, as you
crouch in the Worm's maw, wretched, on the point of puking.

 
          
And you remember: how long it took
you to arrive here. How long, since Guineamoy. How the tapestry has evolved
meanwhile.

 
          
The waves jog other knowledge too:
knowledge of a wild storm on a waterworld of islands many "months"
ago.

 
          
Where does this knowledge come from?

 
          
Worm?

 

 
          
What?

 

 
          
I'm
some place else, as well as here! I'm in many places! You tried to kill me in
the time temple. No, that's wrong! You did kill me. What's happening now is
what would have happened, if you hadn't killed me. It's what-was-possible. It's
happening just as if it's real.

 

 
          
Oh what a potent potentiality this
is! It could become real indeed. You're sure of it. But then, what price your
other selves? Would they be lost? Would you be lost?

 
          
Are
you feeling okay, Yaleen?

 

 
          
Of
course I'm not! I feel like spewing my guts all over you.

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