The Clan of the Stone
The Dawn of the Seventh Eon
Kurt F. Kammeyer
Copyright 2017 Kurt F. Kammeyer
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I am Millie. I was slave-born, so I never had a first name until
Elizabeth gave me the name of her mother. Until then I was just known
as Tretivu-sjey—Thirty-seven, my slave-number.
Elizabeth befriended me, and she taught me how to read and write. My
mother, the Supreme Sibyl Budicca, was very angry when she heard
about this. I loved Elizabeth as my sister, but then she got the
sjuka and went mad, just like my mistress Basilea before her.
Elizabeth threw her amulet away, and I picked it up and kept it. At
first I feared it, but one night I placed it around my neck. Then I
had the strangest dream, about Bøn and Bøs and my
pony, Brúna. Bøn welcomed me to his clan—then I awoke,
clasping the amulet. I knew then that there was a powerful magic in
the amulet—just how powerful, I was soon to learn, as you will see
in this book.
City, in the fourth turn of the Seventh Eon
I shall never forget Elazar’s face pressed against the window of
the telegraph office as he cried, “No! Don’t do it, Ariella!”
I lifted the Sólsteinn and spoke to it in Dravidian.
“Torsborga ke lie mujhe bheja.”
One moment I was in the telegraph office at Fort Kanosh; the next
moment I found myself standing in the central keep of the Fortress of
Torsborg in Torshavn. It was early evening, and the courtyard was
filled with soldiers, noblemen, commoners and courtiers, all going
about their errands.
As I suddenly appeared out of thin air, the dazzling blue flash from
the Sólsteinn must have startled the people. A young imperial
scribe standing not more than five feet from me dropped his books,
jumped backwards and cried, “Af öllum guthanna á himnum!”
By all the gods in heaven!
All about the courtyard, people froze in their tracks, staring at me.
I noticed that the ground was still bathed in an eerie blue glow from
my Sólsteinn, so I quickly stuffed it back in my blue United
Order dress. ’Tis time to become my sister, I thought.
“Take me to the king—er, emperor,” I growled at the scribe in
Nordish. He just stared at me bug-eyed.
I snapped,“Ert thú heyrnarlaus?” Are you deaf?
He stooped down, glanced fearfully up at me as he picked up his
books, and stammered, “Eins og thú vilt, Hjákona Budicca.”
He hefted his books and headed toward a small, arched postern gate in
the stone wall of the central keep, and I followed. Budicca and I had
often used this side-gate many years before.
When the two guards at the gate saw me, they snapped to attention and
one of them opened the gate, saluting as we entered.
I looked around. It all felt familiar to me. I know these
corridors well. Nearly forty years ago, I ruled this rock-pile. I
answered to no one in this palace, save the king. Many ghosts still
wander these halls.
I imagined mad Queen Annora rounding the corner toward me. She was
dressed in black, with a gabled black wimple on her head. She looked
from side to side, raised a finger to her lips and whispered to me
furtively while giggling, “Have you seen Theo? I seem to have
misplaced him… I hid him in my pocket here, but he jumped out and
ran away, and now he refuses to play with the other children! Oh,
what am I to do with him? Such a bad boy he is!” The queen wrung
her hands, lifted her skirts and ran off down the corridor, wailing
I shook my head. Such a sad end she met, pierced through by her
I followed the scribe until we reached the broad double doors of the
imperial bedchamber. The scribe gestured at the doors and whispered,
“Ath vera allt, Hjákona?”
“Yes, that will be all,” I replied, and the scribe made a hasty
My long walk down the palace corridors had shaken my resolve. Am I
utterly mad? Can I actually go through with this? How will he react
when he sees me? How long can I masquerade as Budicca?
I felt the kitchen knife chafing my ankle, and I braced myself for
the deed. He is an evil, wicked man who forced me to marry him,
else all the Believers would have been killed. This war against
Deshret is entirely his fault. Many times he has sought to destroy
God’s Believers. Now he is worthy only of death. I shall be doing
God a favor.
I bravely resolved to carry out my plan or die in the attempt. I
approached the two guards dressed in green imperial livery and loudly
announced, “Hjákona Budicca requests an audience with His
Imperial Majesty, Rikur Theobald.”
Immediately the two guards snapped to attention, crossed and
uncrossed their pikes, and saluted me. I heard a voice from within
the bedchamber. “Sláthu inn.”
One of the imperial guards reached over and lifted the catch on the
great door. Still standing at attention, he said without looking at
me, “Eins og thú vilt, Hjákona.”
This is it, I thought, trembling. I wonder what the old
wretch looks like after all these years…
I entered the bedchamber and looked around. The memories flooded back
to me. This room hasn’t changed a bit in nearly forty years…the
same dreary, worn tapestries and furnishings, the same bed covers,
even the old game board in the corner, gathering dust.
Emperor Theobald stood at the far end of the room next to the royal
bed, dressed only in his white linen undertunic. When he saw me, he
raised a tankard of bjor, smiled and saluted me. “Allar
I looked at Theobald and thought, Oh, Baldur, what am I walking
Theobald had surely changed in forty years: he was old, paunchy,
wrinkled, and his red beard had turned greyish-white. He put down the
bjor and held out his hand to me. “Enter, Hjákona!
It has been quite some time since we shared my bed—er, room.” He
Drunk as always, I thought. Some things never change. And
he still doesn’t recognize me.
“May I offer you some bjor, Hjákona? Or perhaps some
beef?” He looked me up and down like a side of beef and licked his
lips. His eyes narrowed. “Your dress… Is this a new custom,
Budicca, to dress like a peasant in my presence?” He scowled.
Startled, I replied, “What? Oh—yes, I, uh, was just laboring in
the coventry gardens. Forgive me, Your Highness.” I winced. Why
am I apologizing to him? He is revolting.
I felt the carving knife scratching against my ankle, and suddenly
lost my will. Pity and disgust welled inside me. I cannot do it—I
cannot kill this senile old man to whom I was once wed, and with whom
I shared that bed. At one time, as a seithkona, I could have
put a death-binding spell on him—but not now.
He approached to within a foot of me and grasped my chin. His foul
breath nauseated me, and his teeth were yellow and rotten. Turning my
head from side to side, he muttered, “There is something…different
about you, but I can’t quite place it. Is it your hair, perhaps?”
I took a step backwards and faced him. ’Tis now or never. I
still must confront him. I pointed at him. “I am not Budicca,
you old svín-skútu. I am Ariella.”
He stared at me and chuckled, then laughed. “This is some kind of
game you are playing, eh Budicca? Or perhaps it’s my bjor
talking to me?” He belched again and waved his hand. “But come!
We are wasting time!” He turned down the covers and patted the bed.
I stood impassively. He turned halfway back and eyed me. “Well? Why
did you come here this night, if not to bed me?”
I thought, This may be my only opening. I took a deep breath.
“I am not playing games. I want you to end this useless war against
the Believers, Your Majesty. It has gone on far too long—ever since
we first met, in fact.”
He smiled and tipped his head. “And if I don’t? What then, ghost
Budicca always said I must be forceful with him. If I show any
weakness, he will destroy me. I stood tall, pointed my finger at
him, and in my screechiest Budicca-voice I screamed, “Then you
He looked at me, bemused, and took another swig of bjor. He
wiped his mouth with his sleeve and replied, “No, I think not. And
I must say, this is one of the cleverest ruses you have ever played
on me, Budicca. Well played, indeed.” He chuckled.
I stamped my foot in frustration. There is but one way to convince
this old fart of who I be. I reached in the collar of my dress
and pulled out the still-glowing Sólsteinn. “I repeat—I
am not playing games, Theo. I am Ariella, returned from the dead.”
His leathery old face turned ashen, and he sat down heavily on the
bed. He stared at the blue crystal and muttered, “The Sólsteinn…
It was my wedding present to Ariella.” He swallowed hard. “What
do you want with me? Are you come to claim my soul?”
I have him, I thought. “Rescind the extermination decree.
End this war. As your co-regent, I am still equal in authority to
you—remember? And as your royal seithkona, I can still cast
a wicked spell on you.”
He shook his head. “Not if you are dead. But here is what I shall
do.” He raised a finger. “A game of hnefatafl? Budicca and
I played this once.”
And she beat you, I thought, smiling. This could work.
He continued. “If I win, you shall go back to Nithafjöllum and
never haunt me again, and the war continues. If you win, I shall
rescind the extermination order.”
I leapt at this offer. Perhaps, I did not come here in vain?
“You would do that?”
He nodded firmly. “Yes—agreed?”
I took another deep breath. “Very well.” I sat down at the table,
and Theobald sat opposite me. He blew the dust off the old hnefatafl
board and opened a tiny drawer in the base. He withdrew thirteen
white playing pieces and twenty-four black pieces, and arranged them
on the board.
Theobald pointed at the board. “Now, pay attention. Your objective
is to reach one of the corner squares. That tallest piece in the
center is your king. That square is called the konakis—the
king-square. No one else may occupy it.”
“I know how the game is played, sire. That is my queen, you
mean. So I decree, that square shall now be called the drottnakis.”
He looked up at me and scowled. “As you wish. You must make the
I studied the board for a moment and moved one of my guards. Theobald
responded by moving one of his soldiers. I could sense the emperor’s
barely concealed rage at me—rage, and a smug sense that he couldn’t
possibly lose to a woman.
Step by step I moved my queen toward the edge of the board. I was
careful to keep the queen surrounded by my guards. Occasionally one
of my guards was captured by the emperor’s soldiers, but I
maintained my steady pace. Each time the emperor had a turn, he
mumbled and growled and took another swig from his tankard of bjor.
Then he selected a player and moved it with a loud thump. His senile
old mind made a number of tactical errors—but at the same time, I
was inexperienced at hnefatafl, so we were fairly evenly
Will this game never end? I thought anxiously. My Sólsteinn
is losing its charge…
At the end of nearly an hour I was mentally exhausted, but my queen
was just one move away from the corner of the board. I looked up at
the emperor, smiled and said, “Your move, Theo…”
By now the emperor was quite drunk and had difficulty even picking up
his players and moving them. I tried to maintain my composure, but
inside I was in turmoil. My queen was surrounded on three sides, with
only one path of escape.
If he moves that one piece, I am captured, I thought
frantically. If only I could put a binding-spell on him… That is
what Budicca would surely do.
The emperor stared at the board with his bleary eyes for what seemed
an eternity. I stared down too, trying to will the emperor not to see
the obvious move. Come on, come on… I mentally pleaded. I
am running out of time.
The emperor picked up one of his players, dropped it, picked it up
again and hesitated. He waved it around above the board, grumbled,
and finally set it down. He sat back and leered at me. “Bead tha’!”
I shook my head. “Sire, you cannot move diagonally.”
Theobald growled, “Thessi kona er ómögulegt.”
I replied, “I am what? Impossible? Just finish the move, Theo.”
He picked up the player again and moved it one square to the side.
I let out a huge sigh of relief and moved my queen to the corner
square. I looked up at him and smiled. “Game, Your Majesty. I win.”
“Fjandinn thér!” he roared as he took a wild swipe at the
board, scattering pieces.
I could scarcely believe my good fortune. I smiled at him and held my
palm out. “And now sire, the extermination decree? Remember our
“Skrúfa your ‘greement! Guards!” he bellowed.
Immediately the emperor’s two guards burst into the bedchamber.
“Take thiz ghos’ t’ the dungeon!”
The guards seized me by my arms. Stunned, I cried, “Wait! How dare
you? We had an agreement, remember?”
Without looking up, Theobald grumbled, “Go back t’ Nithafjöllum,
whoever you are.”
As the guards dragged me out of the chamber I caught one last glimpse
of the emperor. He pointed at me and growled, “An’ you’re not
Ariella. She would’a let me win!”
The guards carried me, still protesting, out of the bedchamber. I
flailed about, but they kept a firm grip on my arms. If only I
could reach the knife in my stocking, I thought—then I realized
how ridiculous that sounded.
I gave up fighting against the guards and they allowed me to stand on
my feet. Salvaging my shredded dignity, I rearranged my skirt and
said tartly, “I can walk on my own, thank you very much.”
One guard looked at the other and nodded silently. They took up a
position behind and in front of me, and off we proceeded, down
another twisting corridor to the central keep, and down a steep,
slippery flight of stone stairs. As we descended, the light
diminished until we were in near blackness at the foot of the stairs.
One of my guards spoke to the head gaoler. “By order of the
emperor—this woman is to be jailed.” Then the two guards turned
and disappeared up the stairs.
The gaoler was a massive, stocky man with arms the size of my legs.
He wore an iron-studded leather jerkin and wool knee-britches. He
stank like a cesspool, and his breath nauseated me. He grinned
toothlessly, looked me up and down and breathed, “A woman? Aye, a
fine bit o’ horseflesh ye are.” He reached out to touch me but I
slapped his hand away. He laughed. “Oh ho, a fiery little druslan
ye be, eh? We’ll see!”
He lifted a heavy set of keys from a peg and unlocked an iron-barred
prison door. It opened with a screech. “Slá, slá,” he
said as he prodded me into the cell. “I’ll be back fer ye after
dinner, druslan.” The door slammed shut behind me and his
laughter echoed down the prison corridor as he waddled off.
I beat my fists on the prison door in despair. “Now what have I
done? Why did I do this? What was I thinking?”
I knew the answer. I let Shaitan’s influence overcome me. I gave
in to the Evil One, and he has me in his grasp.
After fleeing from Marsilia I tried to lose myself within the dank,
crumbling recesses of the old city. So far, it appeared to be working
for me. I slept in a different hiding place each day, and I only came
out at morning or evening to find a quick bite of food and then
I desperately tried to reach out to Bess, but to no avail. It
can’t be over between us, it just can’t… I thought. We
need each other, if only to survive here.
One night, I quietly slipped back to the telegraph office to
recharge my bullets, fearing for my life every moment. I crept into
the alleyway behind the Great Western Telegraph building and looked
around. Seeing no one, I shinnied up a telegraph pole and connected
my pistol-case to the overhead wires. I knew I was risking
electrocution or capture, but I felt like I hadda take the chance. It
took ’bout an hour for me to steal enough current from the wires to
charge my bullets.
Early in the morning, as I entered the alleyway leading to my latest
hiding place, I heard a woman’s voice whisper urgently behind me,
“Ben! Look out!”
I looked around and saw no one. Then I felt a blinding explosion in
my head and everything went dark.
I awoke some time later with a throbbing pain in the back of my head.
I was lying on my back, and my hands were tied behind me. My feet
were bound, too. I shook my head to clear it, and when I finally got
my eyes to focus in the gloom, I saw I was lying in a tiny cell with
bars on the doorway. Another man was lying next to me. This is it,
I thought, my heart sinking. They’ve finally caught me. My next
stop is the arena. I’m sorry, Bess.
I struggled to sit up, and managed to crawl over to the other man. I
nudged the man with my knee, but there warn’t no response from him.
Then I felt tiny shards of glass on the floor digging into my knee. I
bent over as far as I could and saw tiny, sparkling slivers of glass
and bits of foil in a small pile on the floor. Then I was shocked to
see the bullet-clip to my electric pistol grasped tightly in the
stranger’s hand. I always kept the clip separate from the gun, for
Where am I, and who’s this man? I thought. And what was
he doing with my bullets?
I nudged the stranger again, and he flopped over flat on his back
with his eyes and mouth open. I now noticed that he warn’t
breathing. I bent over and placed my ear on his chest, listening for
a heartbeat, but I heard nothing. When I saw more bits of glass and
foil on the man’s face and in his open mouth, it finally dawned on
me what had happened.
This thug musta whacked me on the head and kidnapped me. He
dragged me here and searched me, and found my bullet-clip. Then like
a fool he tried to bite one of my electric bullets and it exploded in
his mouth and killed him. So whaddo I do now?
With great effort, I retrieved the bullet-clip with my bound hands
and managed to slip it into my boot. Then I searched the dead man,
and found a small clasp-knife in one of his pockets. I was just about
to cut my legs free when I heard someone approaching. I quickly
slipped the clasp-knife into my other boot and lay still.
“Warin, you still in there? It’s me, Odo.”
Another man approached the cell door. He unlocked the door, entered,
and gave Warin a kick with his boot.
“Passed out drunk, no doo’t… Well, I’ll just hafta take care
o’ this’un meself,” he grumbled as he approached me. He seized
me by my bound wrists and stood me up. “On yer feet, sojer, ya’ll
make a fine addition to th’ army!” he growled.
I suddenly realized that these men warn’t policemen; they must be
the Vegalleren—a gang of roustabouts who kidnapped people
offa the streets and sold them to the army for a bounty. I’d been
warned about this gang, but I never imagined I’d run into them.
I played along, trying to buy time. “Where’re you taking me?” I
Odo laughed. “T’ th’ nearest recruitn’ station!” he said.
“You’ll hafta carry me, unless you untie my feet,” I said.
Odo pondered this dilemma for a moment; then he scratched his bald
head and said, “Argh… yer right. Blast ’im, ’at fool Warin
trussed ye up like a sheep.”
Odo grabbed my wrists with one hand, reached down, and cut the ropes
around my ankles with his knife. “Ye try anythin’ I’ll stick
ye,” he said. “Now, march, sojer!”
He steered me by my bound wrists and placed the point of his knife
against my back for emphasis. We left the cell and walked down a
narrow, dimly lit corridor. At the end of the corridor Odo unlocked a
barred door and pushed me through. I was momentarily blinded by the
morning sun. When my eyes adjusted, I saw that I was in some decrepit
alley, standing at the back of a large, covered ox-cart filled with
“Up ye go!” Odo said. He seized me by my wrists and feet, nearly
disjointing my shoulders, and flung me into the cart along with the
other men. I cried in pain as I landed on top of the other captives.
Odo grabbed the end of a rope extending from the front of the cart
and threaded it through my bound wrists; then he slammed the tailgate
of the cart and hooked the end of the rope onto it. I was now
securely bound to the cart along with the other eight men. Odo dusted
off his hands and said, “I call ’at a good night’s work, I do!”
Odo disappeared ’round to the front of the cart and climbed up onto
the dickey seat. I heard him crack his whip, and the ox-cart started
creaking down the alleyway.
Now’s my chance, I thought. I’ll never get a better
I carefully tipped my boot up and let the clasp-knife fall out. Then
I grasped it in my bound hands and whispered to the man next to me,
“I’ll cut you free if you’ll cut me free.” I thought, I’ll
just hafta trust him not to bolt on me.
The man’s eyes widened in fear, but he silently nodded yes. We sat
back to back and I carefully sawed at the man’s bonds until they
came loose; then he quickly cut me loose. The man quietly slipped out
the back of the ox-cart and disappeared.
I quickly worked my way down the line of men, cutting each one free
to escape. At last, when I reached the front of the cart and was
alone, I reached in my vest pocket and pulled out my little pistol. I
inserted the clip and pumped the air-chamber five times. Then I
carefully peeked through the canvas cover of the wagon until I could
see Odo sitting on the dickey seat. I aimed the barrel of the pistol
through the opening and pulled the trigger. There was a soft pop
and a blue flash, and Odo slumped over in his seat. The unattended
ox-cart slowly creaked to a halt.
“A good night’s work, indeed,” I said, as I quietly exited the
cart. “But if this keeps up, I’m gonna soon run outta bullets.”
Exhausted and sore, I fled down a side street, found my bearings and
looked for another hideout. I finally found one in a small crevice
under an arched bridge. Once installed there, I finally figgered out
a plan to contact Bess.
I sank down on the filthy stone floor, weeping in the dark. The cell
stank of vomit and human waste, and I heard water softly dripping.
Just the faintest glimmer of light entered in through the small
barred window in the door. The cell was tiny—as I spread my arms, I
found I could touch both walls.
I suddenly came to my senses and smote my forehead. “Oh, by Idunna,
what was I thinking?” I pulled the Sólsteinn out of my
dress and held it up. I saw just a faint blue glimmer. “It brought
me here, it can still take me home—I hope.”
I held the Sólsteinn up and spoke softly. “Yes, you lovely
stone… Listen to me carefully: Kanosha ke lie mujhe bheja.”
The crystal made a soft chirp and went completely black. I looked
around expectantly. I was still sitting in the same cold, dank prison
cell. “No! Oh, no, no no…” I cried, beating my fists on the
floor. I wept again. “Elazar, I be so sorry, so very sorry.”
I heard the gaoler’s heavy footsteps approaching my cell. “I’m
coming fer ye, my little hvítkál!”
Fiercely I thought, I am not this man’s plaything. I will die
before submitting to him. I said a brief but fervent prayer to
the God of the Believers, begging his forgiveness for what I was
about to do. Then I stood up, slipped the kitchen knife out of my
stocking and held it behind my back.
I heard the heavy door-bolt slide back; then the door creaked open.
The gaoler’s massive frame filled the doorway. He leered at me
through his beard, and giggled. “Komdu hingath, litla hvítkál
minn.” Come here, my little cabbage.
I studied him intently from the pitch-black far end of the cell. My
little kitchen knife will simply break on that leather jerkin, I
thought. I must come up underneath it, where he is most
My heart pounded in my chest. The gaoler took another step into the
cell, scarcely an arm’s-length from me, and beckoned with his
finger. “Komdu hingath.” He pursed his lips in a kiss.
Now… I thought, as I grasped the knife firmly and swung it
in a mighty underhanded arc toward his groin. I missed him, tripped
over my skirt and fell sprawling on the floor. The gaoler laughed as
he loomed over me, and the cell went pitch-black. ’Tis over,
I thought, bracing for the worst.
I awoke in the bushes early the next morning, just as the sun was
rising in the west. I looked ’round the patch of bushes where I was
hiding, and suddenly the previous day’s battle came crashing back
into my mind. I thought, It’s a long walk to Stroma, and even
farther to Strathy in the north, but that’s probably the safest
route for me. I’ll never make it over the mountains in my
I peeked through the bushes to make sure I was alone. I was just
turning back when I heard a snort behind me. I whirled ’round and
drew one of my pistols, fearing I’d been discovered, but to my
surprise I saw a horse’s nose poking through the brush. The horse
nickered and pushed its head toward me, and then it timidly stepped
into the small clearing that I had trod down the night before. It was
a coal-black mare, still carrying an empty Akamerian saddle.
“Well, hello there, girl,” I said softly. “You might just be
the answer t’ my prayers.”
I reached for the horse’s reins, approached her, and stroked her
neck. I reached in my knapsack, pulled out a hunk of Akamerian
hardtack and offered it to her. She neighed and turned her head away.
“That’s awright, I couldn’t chaw it down neither,” I said.
“Let’s find out if you’ll let me mount you.”
I slowly approached the horse’s flank while stroking her neck,
slipped my left foot in the left stirrup and swung up and over,
wincing from the pain in my cracked ribs. The horse responded without
a whinny, as if I’d always been her rider.
“I name you Heimrithur,” I said. “Home-rider. Let’s
see how you ride! Hyeeah!”
Grand Hegemon Elazar
Just as Ariella disappeared, Floyd and I broke down the telegraph
office door and rushed in. Floyd looked around. “Hegemon, where’d
she go? What just happened?”
“I don’t have time to explain,” I replied. “Can you repair
this telegraph? I have an urgent message to send.”
“Sure thing, sir,” Floyd replied as he sat down at the telegraph.
He reconnected the loose wires, clicked out several sparks with the
key to test the circuit and said, “Ready.”
I dictated a brief message, then Floyd tapped it out on his telegraph
key. Our heliograph tower instantly beamed the message northwards.
Then I sat back, lost in thought. Why would she do something so
rash? That is not like the Ariella I thought I knew.
Floyd spoke. “What should we do now, Hegemon? And where’d
Mistress Ariella go?”
“I’m not sure, precisely, but she could be in grave danger. We
can only wait—and pray. I warned her not to try this, a long time
We both fell to our knees next to the table and I offered a fervent
kadesh-prayer that Ariella would return to us safely. Then we
waited. And waited…
About an hour later, the telegraph receiver clattered. Floyd
transcribed the message onto paper and handed it to me. I scanned it
and wept. “Praise be to God…” I whispered as I read:
is with me.
the image dissector.
for further instructions.
The light shifted. I was still sprawled on the cold flagstone floor,
clutching my kitchen knife. I sensed someone looming over me. The
gaoler… He shan’t have me.
I rolled over into a defensive position and swung the knife in an
arc, desperately hoping it would strike the gaoler somewhere. My arm
stopped in mid-swing as someone seized my wrist. I closed my eyes in
resignation again, and heard a soft voice.
“That will do, Mistress.”
I looked up and saw the stern visage of the Seer Baruch looming above
me. I thought, Have I gone completely mad? “Where am I?” I
whispered. My heart was pounding fiercely.
The Seer gently pried the knife out of my hand and helped me to my
feet. “Welcome to Qumran, Mistress. Would you mind explaining to me
why you were brandishing a kitchen knife, just now?”
Confused, I glanced around. I appeared to be in some kind of
conference room with a long table surrounded by twelve upholstered
chairs. The light was very soft and soothing, and it seemed to exude
from everything—the ceiling, floor, walls, even the long table. The
room rather resembled the Sanhedrin council chamber in Salem, I
I wiped the hair out of my eyes, and the Seer helped me sit down in
one of the chairs. I stared at him, collecting my thoughts. He waited
“I was fighting for my life, in the prison of the Fortress of
Torsborg. The gaoler was attempting to molest me. Tha’ snatched me
from him in the very act. How did ye do that, Brother Baruch?”
He leaned forward. “I prayed you here, Mistress. Seers have that
power, although we rarely use it. I received a telegraph message from
your husband, the Hegemon, informing me of your disappearance. I was
able to locate you, uh, through a special means which I shall explain
later. Once I realized the danger, I used the power of
hatsetset-hashem, the key name-stone, to transport you here.
This gift is called ha’avrah in the Edomic tongue—the gift
I recalled my journey to Salem with Elazar and Benjamin so long ago,
when the Seer Asaph declared, “And now, I must be off to Qumran!”
and vanished. I spoke cautiously. “So, tha’ hast that same power,
as did the Seer Asaph before ye? I am most thankful, Brother Baruch.”
I noticed another man sitting at the far end of the table. He
was small, dark-haired and rather thin, with a beaked nose. He wore a
long tunic made of some curious white material. Strange,
how I never noticed that man sitting there. When did he enter?
The man stood up and approached us. He spoke. “You are welcome,
Mistress. And now, if you don’t mind, I shall take possession of
that false name-stone, also known as the Sólsteinn?” He
held out his hand.
“Who art thou?” I said.
“I am Abdiel, the Seer of the Fourth Eon. That stone rightfully
belongs to me.”
I turned bright red. I reached behind my neck, unclasped the silver
necklace, and drew the Sólsteinn out of my bodice. I handed
it to Abdiel and dropped my head in shame. “I am sorry, sir. I
truly did think I could end this war simply by…by, ah, killing the
emperor, but I was weak. It all ended very badly.”
“Perhaps not,” the Fourth Seer replied, while palming the
Sólsteinn. “I may yet have a use for this old Dravidian
trinket. It has a very long, convoluted history, which I would be
more than glad to share with you.”
Baruch spoke. “Yes—but not now. We must move quickly. There is
little time. Thank you, Abdiel.”
The Fourth Seer bowed slightly to me and vanished.
Baruch stood up and walked to the door of the conference room. He
pressed a button on the wall, and I watched the door slide silently
into the wall. He spoke into the outer corridor. “Brother Orson,
would you come in? It is time.”
Chancellor Orson entered the room. He approached me and grasped my
hand. “Ariella! So good to see you. I hope you are enjoying your
stay at Qumran?” His greeting was so matter-of-fact, we could have
been exchanging pleasantries at Fort Kanosh, to all appearances.
The Seer spoke. “Orson, please inform Fort Kanosh that Grand Matron
Ariella is safe with me. Then we must alert all of the forts along
the Olami Mountain Range of the threat from the Akamerian armies.”
Orson nodded, sat down at a small telegraph table and tapped out a
brief message. He waited a moment, and the telegraph clicked a
response. “Sent and acknowledged, Brother Baruch.”
“Very good,” the Seer replied. “Now Orson, you can work your
magic with that new device of yours.”
Orson pulled some curious-looking equipment out of a closet and went
to work. He aimed a small box with a lens at the Seer as he sat in a
chair. Next he placed what looked like an ear-trumpet a few inches in
front of the Seer’s face. At the lower end of the trumpet was a
small metal can, connected to two copper wires.
“Ready?” Orson said.
“Yes, let’s get on with it,” the Seer said impatiently.
“Talking into this, ah, ’speaking device’ is rather
disconcerting to me, as is the concept of addressing an invisible
“What is all this?” I said.
Orson replied, “This device will allow us to project the Seer’s
voice and image all the way to Fort Goshen, and then onward to Fort
Kanosh. Your own Benjamin helped invent much of this technology.”
Orson closed a switch and the box with the lens began whirring. The
Seer spoke. “My fellow Believers…”
As soon as Floyd and I received the Seer’s telegraph message, I
called an urgent assembly of the whole community in the Fort Kanosh
dining hall. There, I set up a curious device called an “image
dissector” and connected it to our telegraph line, as instructed by
We all gasped in astonishment as a ghostly grey image of the Seer
Baruch appeared before us on the wall. Old Sister Rachel took one
look at the apparition floating before her, cried “Oh, Lordy!”
and fainted dead away. Next, we Believers were stunned to hear the
new Seer speaking directly to us in a scratchy, hollow voice.
“My fellow Believers: I, the Seer Baruch, have availed myself of
this new device to warn you that the Akamerian armies are threatening
the defenses of Kanosh Pass! Your very lives depend upon following my
counsel to the letter. You must evacuate the fort and seek shelter
elsewhere. The walls of the fort will be of no protection to you when
the enemy arrives. Hegemon Elazar will advise you in the matter of
choosing a sanctuary. You must trust his counsel. We are sending
reinforcements, but they may not arrive in time.”
Sister Eliza and several other women began weeping. “’Tis just as
we feared,” she sobbed. “Oh great Seer! What has become of our
The Seer could not hear her. His ghostly image hung in the air. Then
he disappeared and I saw Ariella’s face swim into the view. She
waved at all of us. “Hello to all my friends at Fort Kanosh. You
must do as the Seer instructed you. And to my dear husband: I love
thee with all my heart, and I am most sorry for the grief I caused
thee. That is all.”
The Grand Matron vanished. We all sat in stunned silence for a
moment. I thought, Well, she truly is safe, as the Seer told
There was no time to waste. I gave the Believers their marching
orders. “Take only the essentials—food, clothing, bedding and
weapons. We’ll need to move everyone into the hoodoo formations
“Why the hoodoos? Wouldn’t we be safer here?” said old
Counselor Zechariah—one of the few men left in the fort.
I replied, “No, when that Akamerian Army comes boiling down out of
Kanosh Pass, there’ll be no stopping them. We have no defense
against their artillery. If they trap us here, we’re all dead. The
hoodoos are at least a bit more defensible than the fort. The
Brethren in Salem have also advised me to burn the fort to the ground
before they get here.”
“Burn it?” Shifra said to me, shocked. “But…this be our
“Not any more, my dear,” I replied. I raised my voice. “Brothers
and sisters, I regret to say it, but this is much like the evacuation
from Ganedom back in fifty-eighty, all over again. I wish it were
otherwise, but as the Seer said, our very lives depend on following
the counsel of the brethren to the letter. And we may have just hours
to carry it out, before the Akamerians arrive. Help is on the way,
we’re told, but it won’t arrive soon enough to save the fort, I’m
afraid. So let’s get cracking!”
Brother Orson turned a switch, and the soft whirring of the image
dissector ceased. I turned and faced the Seer. “Why have ye brought
me here? Tha’ hast just directed our people to evacuate Fort Kanosh
and burn it. They need me out there, more than ever. Is that not more
“No, and that is what I wish to discuss, Matron. I need you to
accompany me on a mission.”
I was baffled. I spread my hands. “How?”
“Follow me, please.”
The Seer stood, and I followed him out of the council chamber and
down a long corridor. The same soothing, uniform light as before
bathed the corridor. We arrived outside another sliding door, and the
Seer pressed a button. The door slid open, and I peeked into a rather
large, cube-shaped room that was nearly filled by a huge metallic
sphere. There was a small door on the side of the sphere.
“What is this strange place?” I said.
The Seer replied, “The Regents built this device about the time you
were born. In fact, the Seer Asaph received much of his early
training in this very room.” He looked at my puzzled expression.
“Come, I will show you.”
The Seer opened the curved door in the side of the sphere; then he
took my hand and helped me step up into the sphere. I looked around
and saw the same metallic walls, from the inside. In the center of
the floor was a small podium. The Seer moved to the podium and pushed
a button. Immediately the walls vanished, and I gasped at the view.
I looked up and saw the night sky, black as ink, with countless stars
shining brilliantly. The stars passed overhead at a tremendous rate,
as if an entire day and night were compressed into mere minutes.
Periodically, a brilliant sun passed across the sky – but it was a
sun of such size and magnitude that I felt as if it would consume me
with its brightness. The most beautiful, ethereal music played in
time to the passage of the stars. I caught my breath. “Where am I?
What is this wondrous place?”
The Seer looked at me and smiled. “Welcome to Kolab, Mistress
I was stunned. “Kolab? The Bosom of Eternity? I be dead, then? What
have ye done?”
The Seer laughed. “No, I assure you Mistress, you are most
certainly not dead. This place is, shall we say, an imitation of
“An imitation? For what purpose?”
He smiled. “Oh, it’s just something the Regents call a
’screen-saver’, for some odd reason.”
He pushed the button again, and the celestial scenery and music
ceased. The gray metallic walls reappeared.
“But I digress. Mistress, do you recall our conversation some time
ago concerning young Benjamin and Elizabeth?”
I gathered my scattered wits. “Why yes. Are they in danger, think
The Seer nodded. “Very grave danger. Without your assistance, I
fear for their lives.”
“Their lives? How? And how do ye know this?”
The Seer looked down at his podium and said, “Observe…” Then he
pushed several buttons and levers, and the walls vanished again. I
seized hold of the podium for dear life, overcome by vertigo. We were
now several hundred feet in the air, looking directly down at old
“Oh, Baruch… Ye be frightening the wits out of me! What if
someone sees us up here?”
The Seer gazed at the scene below. “Mistress, this is only a
projection. We are not really ‘here’, if you follow me.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “I do not. I am sorry.
Please put me down on the ground again quickly, else I fear I may
become ill. How does this conveyance work, by the way?”
He touched my shoulder. “Do you recall the image dissector, just a
few minutes ago? It cast a faint image of me hundreds of miles away.
This is, shall we say, a more sophisticated version of that device,
but the principle is the same. You can travel almost anywhere in Edom
with this machine, without really taking a step.”
I still had my eyes closed. As I gripped the podium I swallowed and
said, “’Tis truly miraculous. Now put me down—please.”
“It is not miraculous—it is simply Dravidian technology.
I cautiously opened my eyes and fixed them upon the Seer and his
podium—the only solid objects within my view. We slowly descended
until we stood in the center of a town square in old Torshavn that I
remembered from my youth. It was night, and the only light came from
the Great River overhead and a few feeble window lamps.
“I remember this place,” I whispered to the Seer. I was afraid
someone would notice us standing there in the gloom, and I recalled
the strict Akamerian curfew and chain-law. “What if someone notices
us here?” I whispered.
“They won’t. Remember, Mistress, we are not really here. We are
I was still not convinced. The Seer pushed a lever, and we glided
effortlessly toward an arched stone bridge at one side of the town
square. I saw a figure huddled under the bridge, sleeping.
The Seer moved us to within a few feet of the figure. He was filthy
and dressed in rags, but I recognized him. “Benjamin… Oh, I had
no idea. You poor dear, what has happened to you?” I whispered, but
Benjamin did not respond.
Out of the corner of my eye I sensed a motion. I peered into the
blackness of an alleyway off to the side of the square. Someone was
observing us furtively. “Ssh! They will see us!” I hissed to the
“I think not,” the Seer whispered back.
The stranger emerged from the shadows and crept across the square
toward us, glancing about. It appeared to be a young, beardless man,
with his hair tightly pulled back in a short Nordish ponytail. He
wore a woolly sheepskin jerkin, baggy leather knee-britches, and a
pair of Nordish ankle-strap sandals. He was filthy and very thin. He
held a knife in his right hand. He approached Benjamin and stooped
“What is he doing to Benjamin?” I said, alarmed. “We must stop
“Just observe,” the Seer replied.
The man placed himself close to Benjamin’s ear and whispered in a
high-pitched voice. “Sleep well, Ben.” He placed a half-loaf of
rye bread next to Ben. Then he scuttled back to the alleyway and
Now greatly puzzled, I whispered, “Who was that?”
“One of our spies, who is looking out for Benjamin,” the Seer
That was somewhat reassuring. “Can you take me to see Elizabeth?”
He shook his head. “Unfortunately, we cannot see through walls with
this device. We can only see outdoors. Some years ago the Regents
placed sensors inside the royal throne-room and elsewhere in order to
observe King Theobald, but the sensors have long since ceased to
function. That is why it was so important for us to place young
Benjamin and Elizabeth here, in Torshavn.”
I bowed my head. “I saw Elizabeth, not so long ago. She was
“Yes, I know,” he replied. “I observed you from here.”
I looked up. “Really? How?”
“We can not only view the present with this Kolab room—we can
travel back in time, as it were, and view past events. After I
learned that you possessed the Sólsteinn, I reviewed your
comings and goings at Torshavn and saw you enter the coventry.”
I blushed. “I am so sorry… I meant well.”
“Yes, well…that is why I have brought you here. There may yet be
a purpose for that curious Dravidian bauble—but we will proceed
according to God’s plan, this time.”
I looked up at him. “Can you see the future with this device?”
The Seer shook his head. “No, I cannot…but a seer has no need of
such things. In fact, an over-reliance on these mechanical devices
can be dangerous to us.”
All the Fort Kanosh citizens, frantically engaged they were in
collecting food, clothing, bedding, and a few cherished possessions
to carry to the canyons. Assisting the other women I did, as wagons,
carts, and wheelbarrows were loaded with goods. Mothers ran to and
fro in the dark, their children gathering and re-gathering. All the
domesticated animals we turned loose to fend for themselves, except
the few remaining horses. Elazar I did assist to collect a few
essential items and papers from the Hegemon’s office.
“Where be Ariella?” I asked, as we rummaged about. “There is
seeing her likeness I did, on the wall just now?”
Elazar shrugged. “Oh… I sent her to Salem with some important
messages for the Seer.”
I did not believe him, but no time to argue had I.
While crossing back to the main gate, Jacob’s two wives I did
visit. Busily packing they were. I knocked and said, “Assisting
you, may I?”
“No, there’s precious little to save from this old shack,”
Sarah replied over her shoulder from inside. “But I thank you.”
I did not press the issue with Sarah, but through the open door I her
“Come, Naomi, we must hurry!” Miriam said, as the last treasured
possessions from Jacob’s shanty, she did collect—a silver pitcher
and spoon, two ceramic wedding plates, and Jacob’s army medals.
“Mommy, why are we leaving? Where are we going?” said Naomi.
Miriam reached down and hugged her daughter. “We’re going away to
the hoodoos, dear, just for a little while. Then we’ll come back…”
My heart, it did break for Jacob’s two good wives. Much grief
Miriam must have felt as well, as she abandoned the tiny shack that
for over fifteen turns their home had been. She sighed, her traveling
bag in one hand she took and Naomi in the other, then the candle she
extinguished and the shanty she exited. I turned me about to observer
and with Sarah I nearly collided. Furiously sweeping the threshold
with a broom she was, in the near-dark.
“Why do ye sweep?” I said.
Sarah replied, “I’ll not have those Akamerians thinking I’m a
poor housewife.” Throwing down the broom, she said, “To Sheol
with it. Come on… Let’s go.”
I assisted Sarah, Miriam and Naomi to the front gate, then for
stragglers I looked. When every soul in the fort, assembled at the
gates they were, Elazar he appointed Counselor Zechariah to guide the
community. He patted Zechariah on the shoulder. “Look after them,
my brother. Help is on the way, I promise.”
Zechariah, he nodded firmly. Then his guards he called to order.
“Company, form up!” Ten aged soldiers took their places on either
side of the main gate and their rusty old muskets they shouldered.
Zechariah, he led the ragged squad of soldiers through the main gate.
The Believers, they picked up their push-carts, drag-frames, and
children and followed him out. They turned to the right and to the
hoodoos made their way, and from my view they disappeared.
When the Believers, they were full departed, myself and Elazar did
take one last, longing look at our beloved Fort Kanosh. Costing us it
had, so much labor and toil to build—the dining hall, the
cooperative store, the tannery, the carpentry shop, the tailor shop,
My husband, he sank to his knees and a fervent kadesh-prayer
offered he up to God—that our last evacuation this might be, that
our friends would protected be, and that God’s Visitation, soon it
would come. Then Elazar sighed, stood up, to the bakery he went and
lit a torch, while his horse I held at the flagpole.
Shortly he returned with the flaming torch. Flickering beams the
torch did cast across the deserted courtyard, as if already aflame
was the fort. Elazar, he looked at me and said, “Well? What are we
“I canna’ bear to look!” I cried, hiding my face.
“Then you’d best wait outside, my dear,” he replied. “It’ll
be safer for you there.”
I fled the silent, darkened fort, and waited. A few moments later,
white smoke arose from inside the compound. Elazar, he quickly exited
through the main gate, leading his horse.
“No sense locking the door,” said he, as we embraced. Then to the
hoodoo formations he pointed. “Go, my dear. You’ll be safe there
with the others. I promise you I’ll return shortly.”
Into his saddle he swung and his gaze he fixed on me. Hesitating and
shifting my gaze I did, betwixt the fort and my husband.
“Go now!” he entreated me. “Quickly!”
Bitter anguish I felt as smoke and flames from the fort arose. Then I
tore my gaze away, and my steps I turned toward the red sandstone
cliffs behind the fort. I glanced over my shoulder, and Elazar I saw
gallop off into the night, seeking rescue. The crackling flames, they
had begun to engulf Fort Kanosh.
Late in the morning I left my hideout under the bridge, threaded my
way outta the narrow streets of the old town, and headed for the
Althing-plaats. When I arrived there ’bout a half hour later I saw
a row of booths attended by Sibyls, just outside the wall surrounding
the Temple of Idunna.
Just as I figgered, I thought. They’re open for business
I walked as nonchalantly as I could across the Althing-plaats and
approached the booths. I ignored the booths labeled “Sacred
Apples,” “Votive Images,” and “Waters of Immortality,” and
zeroed in on the booth that was labeled “Alms for Idunna.”
This is ’bout the riskiest thing I’ve ever done, I
thought. I could be sending myself to prison with this stunt—or
I approached a pleasant-looking, rather plump Sibyl at the booth and
announced, “I have an alms to request of Idunna and Braggi, but it
can only be performed by one special Sibyl, named Estrilda. Do you
The Sibyl frowned, and spoke hesitantly. “Why, yes… I know her.
Why are you asking for her, specifically?”
I paused. This is the dangerous part. “Tell her that her
brother, Blagwin, wishes her to perform the ritual. Here is my prayer
to Idunna for her.”
I pulled out a sealed letter and handed it to the Sibyl, who took it
and said, “Very well. I shall see that it is delivered to her. That
will be ten kroner.”
“Ten kroner?” I exclaimed.
“Special delivery costs more. I could do the ritual for you myself
for five, if you wish.”
“No, no…” I grumbled, fishing in my pocket for the coins, which
I deposited in a pottery urn, one by one. “…eight, nine, ten.”
She smiled. “I shall see to it. Thank you… Next!”
I quickly exited from the Althing-plaats, made my way back to my
hiding place, and waited.
About an hour after Ben showed up at the Althing-plaats, Nesta was
relieved from her post by another Sibyl. Nesta had orders to take her
cash proceeds to Budicca’s office for an accounting.
Budicca no doubt looked suspiciously at Ben’s letter for a moment;
then she broke the seal and pulled the letter out. She carefully
scanned the text and slipped the letter back into the envelope.
“Approved,” she said. “See that it is delivered to Estrilda.”
“Yes, Mistress,” said Nesta, who curtsied and left the Supreme
Sibyl’s office for the coventry.
A few minutes later Nesta knocked on my door. When I came to the
door, Nesta appeared shocked at my appearance—and rightly so. My
hair was straggly, my kyrtill was filthy, and I must have
smelled like I hadn’t bathed in days—which was the truth. I be
certain the wild, far-away look in my eyes must have made Nesta very