The Revolutions of Time
Chapter 7: Down to Nunami
When I awoke the next morning I found Bernibus and Wagner conversing quietly in the corner of my bed chambers, and as I first opened my eyes I saw Wagner looking at me with a blank, glazed expression, while Bernibus’ was one of apprehension, apparently on my behalf. It seemed odd to me, but as Wagner became livid again quickly after his split-second lapse and gave me a hearty “Good morning”, I thought nothing more of it. After his greeting, he continued:
“The day is ripe for victory, my friend, and the time is come for battle. We both have some preparations to complete, and so must separate, but we will meet again at noon in the entrance hall. Farewell until then,” and with that he quit the room.
I looked at Bernibus, yet before either of us could speak, we heard a low, hollow grumbling, like the shaking of some building or foundation. He looked in my direction for a moment with an alarmed countenance, before I said defensively, “Tis but my stomach.”
“Then we must get you some victuals,” he laughed, “And I have just the thing to satisfy you and keep you so for a day or more: some mirus. It is our traditional energy food, for though its taste is bitter, its after-life is pleasant.”
“And what is food except a servant to the body?” I said, “Let us eat.”
“Very well,” he replied.
And eat we did, for it was brought by a food service Canitaur on a tray, and I was surprised to see that it was a mixture of broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms, with a flavorless, glowing sauce. He was right, incidentally, for it was both bitter before and pleasant after its consumption.
“I know of the solids, but what is this sauce?” I asked of him.
“Carbon,” he replied.
I looked at him and questioned, “Pure carbon? I have never heard of its having this use before.”
“Your civilization was long ago and had not developed it yet.”
“That has perplexed me, now that you mention it,” I said, “Onan seemed to mean that I was going back in time to help my ancestors, but you say that I went forward, that I am one of the ancients.”
He was wary for a moment, though if it was because of the apparent conflict, or because I was on a first name basis with his god I couldn’t tell. He soon recovered his countenance and said, “It is a complicated question, and I believe you should ask Wagner the next time you see him, after the raid though, of course. The time of departure is nigh now, however, so you should put on your anti-electron suit,” he said as he picked it up from the corner and brought it to me.
It was a subtle dark brown and looked more like a normal suit of clothes than an electron reflecting suit, but then again, I thought, why would it be a strange looking apparatus? Why would an advanced technological age necessarily be devoid of any sense of fashion, although that would be assuming that any civilization had ever had one. Fashion is more a characterization of a culture than a basic and unchanging principle, for a desert people would wear clothes that would be most uncomfortable to a people who lived in the snow. Clothes may not make the man, but the man certainly makes the clothes, and you can judge a person by what they wear so far as it is in their power to decide what that is.
After putting on the suit I found that it fit perfectly, and above that, I found it to be very comfortable, including the head piece, which formed closely around the skull and was not at all noticeable or obscuring. In fact, as it was made of a plasma that allowed everything through except lone particles, it was so uninhibiting that a moment after I had put mine on I had completely forgotten about it. The only other part of the suit that stood out at all was the long, metallic buckle that secured the belt, it having a bowie knife hidden within it in an unnoticeable and inconspicuous manner. Bernibus had put on his as I had put on mine, and as I looked away from the mirror that was opposite the door, I saw him dressed the same as myself, yet because the suit so blended with his fur, it was hard to tell which ended where.
Finding that we were both ready, we repaired to the entrance hall. Along the way I asked Bernibus of his wife, Wagner’s sister, of whom I had heard little and seen nothing. He was quiet for a pause, and then said:
“She was an angel, what else can be said?”
“Was?” I asked hesitantly.
“Yes, she was killed by the Zards on a border raid, as we were at that time living apart from the Canitaur mass with a few friends. She was less aggressive than her brother, and, much to his disapprobation, we lived with a group of separatists, believing that war, physical conflict, is never the right answer to ideological conflict. Wagner excommunicated us in his anger, though his sister was very dear to him, and after she died he was struck with remorse and made me his deputy Kibitzer. He felt that it would somehow do her honor, as it would recognize us as having been married and make me his brother-in-law, which is an important relationship traditionally, as he has no other siblings. So here I am, technically second-in-command, but because of my soft lining, I have no real command.”
“You would not attack Nunami, then?” I asked.
He chose his words carefully, saying, “More pain will not negate the pain already in existence, yet war is not always avoidable, and sometimes it is even necessary.”
When we reached the entrance hall, where the raiding party was to meet, we found that there was already assembled a majority of the force, including Wagner. The party was only twenty strong, as the atomic anionizers were to do the main work and the planned raid required stealth and secrecy, not force or might. Within a quarter of an hour all the stragglers had arrived and all the anionizers were accounted for, so Wagner gave a short debriefing to ensure that all the members were on the same page. We were to sneak into the city when the populous was distracted by the fire on Lake Umquam Renatusum, which was to be started at midnight. We would plant the atomic anionizers at the right spacing so as to bring down the whole city once we were escaped, using the remote control provided for that very purpose. The suits would protect us from the blasts, and, as a precaution, the remote had an automatic five second delay between being pressed and exploding the bombs, though it was more for form than practicality. After he finished we set off, being arranged two abreast per row, there being ten rows. Bernibus and myself were partners, for we had become close friends in the few days that I had spent among the Canitaurs, while Wagner was once again the leading guide and Taurus the rearguard.
After crossing the chasm that separated the hall and the entrance tunnel, we came to the long defile that formed the latter and passed through it swiftly, the lofty archer guards remaining as stern and immovable as when I had first come through. We then came to the winding stairs that occupied the hollowed innards of a massive and ancient tree, of which kind many were to be found in Daem, being at least fifty feet thick and 700 feet high, such gigantic trees that were never seen elsewhere, yet constituted the whole forests of the northern lands. I found that the stairs were as long as I had remembered, taking us a great while to ascend to the top of the tree, and when we had made it, we, especially myself, were dazzled by the effulgent light of midday. After having been out of the sun’s reach for the last few days I was completely unprepared, though the shock helped me by curing me of the disillusionment that comes from not seeing sun, moon, or stars for any length of time. Taking a rest for a few moments on the seats on the platform, we collected our strength. After our brief repose was completed, we set off again with renewed vigor across the treeway on which I had first come to the Canitaur’s fortress. You will remember that the road was made by the securing of five or six foot platforms to the intertwined branches of those great trees, over which one could travel with ease and be safe from exposure to those below by the thick foliage that grew on the trees and was carefully manicured for that very purpose.
Soon we reached the first platform I had seen, which we had come upon from below, but we did not descend there, instead keeping on by the treeway in the direction from which we had come that night, that being southward, towards the lake, the savanna, and the Zardovian capital, Nunami. The air was warm, with a slight breeze as we went along, and that, mixed with the plentiful flora about us and the songs of the treetop dwellers, rendered the whole feeling of the walk peaceful and happy, though its end was not to be such. I soon forgot the worldly concerns that plagued me as I was soaking in the simplicity of nature, not a simplicity of form, for all things are incomprehensively complex, but simplicity of meaning.
After a time I began noticing changes in our surroundings that indicated we were drawing nearer to our goal, namely, the trees lessening in proportions, the terrain becoming flatter, and the air growing moister and more vibrant. Still, the trees continued to spring up from the ground like great earthen tentacles, for while their size diminished, it was not by enough to change their demeanor, the trees anywhere on Daem being great in size.
The sun journeyed with us, and by the time we reached Lake Umquam Renatusum, twilight’s last agony was being performed in the heavenly theater, and the rippling waters mirrored it, adding only a strange, flowing texture. The lake’s current caught my eye with its subtle oddity, for it was amiss and it appeared upon close inspection that there was an undertow, as if there was an underground river flowing into the lake and bringing about its swirling currents.
Bernibus saw me looking down at the waters from the lofty road with a puzzled look, and asked me if I was wondering about the water’s current. I replied that I was, and he told me that it was the fervidus flamma being pumped into the lake through the underground aqueducts, which, of course, was for the purpose of igniting it to decoy for our raid. Once it was explained it made sense, yet I looked at it anyway, for it was still a gorgeous and inspiring view.
We were moving quickly, however, and it soon was out of sight, and I again turned towards our destination with apprehensions of failure. They seemed to place great faith in my presence, as the emissary of Onan, and while I was, I was also Jehu, and I wasn’t confident with my own abilities. But it was upon those the situation mostly rested, it being the resolve of the gods after the Homeric period to take a more removed role in the lives of men. I wonder how many from my own times were divine agents, for better or worse. Either way, my main concern then was making the correct decisions, for I rightly believed that my involvement would decide the matter, although not in the manner I had anticipated. As I looked about myself to reconnoiter the feelings of my comrades I was fruitless, for they all wore impermeable countenances, though that was itself an indicator of their resolve.
Within an hour after the fall of darkness we reached the outskirts of Nunami, or rather, its edge, for it was walled in with massive stone walls and battlements, with a sturdy gate of twenty foot width being placed at the northern, southern, eastern, and western ends. The trees hung right over the walls, and as such we were able to take positions from which we could descend into the city when the time to do so came. Yet we were still rendered invisible by the thick foliage.