[Thanan] 4. Three impossible things before breakfast.
In which we learn something of the peril that caused Irinan to be summoned.
In which we learn something of the peril that caused Irinan to be summoned.
(Earlier chapters can be found here.)
The city of Kantari was located along the Northern Coastal Road, which, as its name suggested, ran all the way from the western tip of the Alari peninsula, along the north coast of the continent, looking out over the Endless Sea, until it met with the Great Meridian Way, where the continent's shape bent to face west again. Kantari was perhaps one third of the way from Alari to the Meridian Crossroads, and was a kind of regional capital, being the only city of any real size for hundreds of miles. Villages were numerous along the North Coast, but Kantari was the only real city. As a result, it boasted an small outpost of the Blue Tower, in addition to the more usual organs of regional administration.
Teleric Do-ketir had the honor of being the head of the local chapter of the Tower, a duty he mostly found fairly easy and pleasant. Kantari was an easy-going city, the Gifted under his tutelage and command here tended not to be overly ambitious--not stupid, mind you, nor even lazy; just not grasping. Generally, they were here because they liked it here. Some had been assigned here by lottery--mainly the younger ones--but the rest were here by choice. It meant the outpost was slightly under-strength, but Teleric had argued with the Tower that he preferred that to having assignees who whined through their entire tenure.
But today... today, Teleric really wish he had about twenty more fully trained people in his chapter.
Still, it was what it was. He had sent his page around to convene the ten actual staff members he had. His summons was not that unusual, and he'd made sure to show no agitation to the page, but inside, he was kind of screaming. A lot.
When they had arrived, he began as calm a recital as he could of the situation.
"You are all already aware, I believe, of the General Summons sent out by the Tower under the Statute of 1017. I realize that many of you were probably packing for the journey when I called you away. I also know that you have not really been told what it's about. The plan had been to tell everyone, all together, once we'd gathered."
He paused, and sighed, trying to decide how to proceed. Finally, he said, "Apparently, they thought we had more time than we actually have, which is...almost none. Early this morning, a carrier bird from Alari arrived here. The note was barely a scrap, hastily scrawled, but I recognized the hand immediately, and I trusted the sender."
Another pause, as the shift to the past tense caused a stir. He pressed on. "The message said: 'Invaded. Ships unknown. People unknown. Magic without mages. People enthralled. Prepare defenses!'"
This caused rather a larger uproar, although one older member exclaimed, "But...Do-Ketir, that's gibberish!"
Teleric held up his hands, pleading for calm. When he had it, he replied, "Peranan, I assure you it isn't. I am now about to violate my instructions and brief you more fully. I feel I have no choice. We may need to act here, now, before we can join the General Council. You need to know why.
"So here is the long and short of it. Word reached the Tower from the Far South, some weeks ago, of a series of invasions on the southwest coast. The Gifted who escaped to deliver the news reported that they were able to sense tremendous magical energy in use, both aboard the ships and amongst the invaders, whose race they could not identify. However, they also reported that that energy was not being directed, as it should, by the invaders themselves. At least, not the way we usually think of it. They appeared to have...objects. Devices. I'm not sure what word to use, and the reports were very unclear on the matter, anyway. Worse, these devices appeared to be able to exert at the very least a tranquilizing effect on the minds of the defenders. One report speculated based on things observed that other forms of control could also be exerted, but they were deliberately keeping their distance at that point, knowing that even a vague report based on hazy information was better than getting caught up in the invasion and making no report at all."
Peranan objected again. "Do-ketir...everything you have just described is...preposterous. For one thing, where could they have come from? There is only the Endless Sea, after all. For another, the Gift absolutely requires a human imagination to manipulate it. No...object can do so. And finally, the Gift simply cannot directly affect or control the mind of another. Illusions can be used to manipulate, but you can't simply...calm people down with magic!"
Teleric had been expecting this objection. In fact, he'd expected it word for word. Peranan was, despite her age, only a Sky, who believed she could be Deep Indigo if she'd ever really wanted to be. She had that pedantic affect that such people sometimes adopt, knowing perhaps that it was difficult for the uninitiated to know the difference from the precision of actual, informed authority.
In this case, however, Peranan's objections were at least germane. Most of the general population believed exactly as she believed.
Rather than argue the point further with an emergency on their hands, he simply responded, "Sister, I am aware of all of those things. However, we now have not only the reports that initiated the General Summons, but this latest message from our own near neighbor, to tell us that impossible or not, it is happening. We have known for centuries that the Endless Sea wasn't truly endless--that the curvature of the world meant it would at least eventually come back around to the far East of our continent, to the land beyond the Great Mountain Range. There might well be other land in between. We simply don't know. So that impossibility, at least, is not so impossible. Just difficult.
"As to the rest...I would love to agree with you. Certainly, we don't know how to do any of those things. But someone seems to have figured it out, and now, they appear to be invading, in small but effective groups, first down south, and now here further north--"
At this point, there was a knock at the door, and Teleric's page entered, a bit breathless. "Do-ketir...there are visitors at the gate, just come in from Alari!"
This caused a new stir, much of it suspicious. Pelanan once again spoke loudest. "If it is true that these invaders can enthrall people, can anyone coming from the west be trusted?"
The page addressed his answer to Teleric, and thus was not...quite...impertinent. "They bear a copy of the General Summons, Do-ketir. Well, the older one does. She has two others with her, one maybe my age, the other much younger. She and the youngest one are definitely Gifted--even I can see it. The one who's my age seems to be mundane, but also very protective."
Teleric suppressed a smile. The boy, Karic, was perceptive. If they all survived this, he would go far. "Karic, my lad, does our sister have a name?"
"She gives her name as Irinan, sir. She doesn't seem to know anything about an invasion. They're not behaving like refugees or anything. I...it might not be my place to speculate, sir, but I think they got out just ahead of it. It would take four days to get here, after all."
Teleric did not bother to suppress is approving smile, this time. "Just so, my boy. Just so. Has she been shown to quarters?"
"Yes, Do-ketir. I had Elnan show them to the guest wing, as you instructed for any Summoned who came through."
"Excellent. Please let our sister know that I would like to speak to her, in perhaps an hour, in my office."
Karic bowed, and made his exit. Pandemonium resumed.
It was going to be a long day. At least, he hoped it was. The alternative was that the invaders, whomever they were, showed up while they were yammering at each other.
Then, it would probably be a very short day, indeed.
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