The Blue Star
Chapter 22: The Law of Love

Public Domain

(For a moment after the man had spoken, Rodvard felt as though he were falling.) He looked at Lalette (and saw the same black fear was in her also), but the step was taken, they could only hope to carry matters through at the port office. Hinze was a thin man in a sailor’s jacket, who looked over his shoulder back at the captain as he led them down the cobbles to a brick building that Lalette remembered all too well. “You will find it a good voyage. The ship is tight as an egg, but the food not too good,” said he.

There was a doorman in his coop, who directed Hinze down a hall, whereupon the girl clutched Rodvard’s arm and said; “I do not like this. I—”

(A silly remark, he thought.) “We cannot run away now,” he said. “It is the only chance”; and Hinze was back to say that the protostylarion would entertain them at once, there could be only a moment of waiting. They looked at each other apprehensively; Lalette leaned against a wall and closed her eyes, and a man came down the hall to call them in.

Rodvard led the way into a room where a little man sat behind a desk with lines of disobligingness set round his mouth. He said; “You wish to leave the dominion of Mancherei for the barbarous Green Islands?”

“It is because of a family matter,” said Rodvard. “My wife and I—”

The protostylarion looked at Lalette’s hair, down in the maiden-sweep, then quickly at Rodvard and back to her face. Wrinkles shot up the middle of his forehead. “Wife? Wife? What is your profession? Where is your certificate of employ?” He came up out of his seat (like a small bear, Rodvard thought), peering the more intently at the girl. “Ah, I have it! I know! You are the one I registered for the Myonessae. The Dossolan; and a witch, too. Guards! Guards!” His voice went treble; two or three armed men tumbled into the room.

“An inquiry!” said the protostylarion, flinging up his arm to point at the couple as Hinze shrank back. “These two for an inquiry! I accuse her of being a runaway Myonessan!” The face was distorted (the thought behind it one of the purest delight and triumph). “Be careful with her; she is a witch!”

Rodvard was gripped above the elbow and jerked stumbling to the door, catching only a glimpse of Lalette’s despairing face. Outside, people stopped and goggled as the two were hurried along and into a carriage, with a guard beside each. “I am sorry,” began Rodvard, but one of the guards said; “Close your clack; no talking among prisoners.” (His eyes spoke a brutality that would have taken pleasure in a blow.)

They came to a structure with a battlemented gate, like a small fortress; an odor of sewage emanated from it. A pair of guards brought forward bills in salutation to those entering. Rodvard and Lalette were swung into a gate-house, where a man lounged at a window—an officer by his shoulder-knot. One of the guards said; “These two are in for an inquiry. Authority of the Protostylarion Barthvödi. He says to be careful of the woman, she’s a witch.”

The officer looked at Lalette appreciatively, then seated himself at the desk and drew out a paper. “Your names and professions,” he said.

Rodvard gave his; Lalette checked over the profession (wishing to cry out that she would not give it, wishing to defy the man). The officer looked at her. “You are warned,” he said, “that I am diaconal, and your witchery will be wasted on me.”

“Oh,” she said, and half-choking; “Myonessan.”

“Which couvertine? ... The more trouble it is to obtain the information, the harder it will be with you.”

“Lolau.”

The officer turned to one of the guards. “Go to the couvertine of Lolau and inform the mattern that she is to come here tomorrow morning at the fourth glass for an inquiry in the matter of Demoiselle Lalette.” He addressed the other guard. “You wait here while I draw the proclamation calling for information on this Bergelin, then take it around.”

(Rodvard thought of Leece, and wondered what she would say in answer to the proclamation), (Lalette of facing Dame Quasso again.) Another pair of guards came in to take them to stone cells, set in the wall of the fortress. Rodvard saw Lalette vanish into one and heard the door clang behind her, then was himself thrust into another. There was a stool and straw on the floor, an archery-slit for the only lighting. The place stank, the origin of which odor was a bucket beneath the archery-slit. He sat on the stool and tried to think, but the turmoil of fear held him so that he could do little more than run around back and over his own conduct like a mouse, to ask where he had stepped wrongly and what else he could have done to make things come out other than they were. This was the morning when Leece ... and he would have been bound to her for life ... No, that could not have been the right path. Farther back, then? When he asked that, he went off into a train of reminiscence in which thought almost ceased.

His throat was dry, there was no water in the cell. Nor did he seem to have near neighbors, all being silence around, save that somewhere a tiny drip of water increased his thirst. Would he be able to hold anything back tomorrow morning at the inquiry, where an Initiate would surely question? Round the circuit of his failure his mind ran again, and slid off into a consideration of present circumstance. He rose, going to the iron-bound door, but even the small trap in it would not open from his side. Alone.

Not for the first time. How like the imprisonment on the ship this was, and how dark the prospect had loomed then! Out of that he had risen, but to what? A choice between Leece and this. A wave of misery swept across him, and then he thought of Lalette, and her misery equal to his own, and maybe more.

But this was no help either, and he began to examine his prison, finger-breadth by finger-breadth, for something that might take his mind away from this procession of regrets and anxieties toward a future he could not know. There were only accidents of the wall at first, in which he tried to see pictures and carvings, making up a tale for himself, like those in the ballads. This had not gone far when he came to a trace of writing which looked as though someone had tried to wipe it out, for there were only a few words to be read:

“Horv ... in the month ... only for lov ... God.”

A cryptic message, indeed; he tried to imagine the tale behind it, and how the love of which these Amorosians forever gabbled had brought someone to this cell. This caused him to ask himself whether it was really love for Lalette that had brought him there; for that matter whether he loved her, and what love was; and to none of these questions could he find a satisfactory answer, because he kept comparing her with Maritzl and wondering whether the emotion were the same. But this in turn brought a deep weariness; he flung himself on the straw to rest and work the matter out; and so doing, fell into an uneasy slumber—product of his sleepless night—in which he dreamed that the world was ruled, not by the God he had been taught to believe in, nor disputed by the two gods of whom the Amorosians spoke, but by three demons, who sat in a closed space with smoke pouring from their mouths, and decided what penalties should be exacted for witchery.

A key grated; he woke to see the trap being pulled back from without, and a voice said roughly:

“Here’s your banquet, my lord. The sweetmeats come with the dancing girls.”

A plate was thrust through, with a pewter mug of water. On the former were some vegetables, cold and sticky, and no table utensils, but Rodvard was in a mood of hunger that forbade him to be over-nice and he ate, saving part of his water to cleanse his fingers after the meal. It was hardly done before the trap opened again, and the outer voice demanded; “The tools, pig-face. The administration doesn’t give souvenirs to its guests.”

 
There is more of this chapter...
The source of this story is SciFi-Stories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.

Close