Jan 30

In the Company of Angels: Episode 5.1 – Orbaratus



In the Company of Angels, Episode 5.1 – Orbaratus


Mr. Luke, Sam, and Jill all gazed intently skyward, squinting in the silvery light to see if they could make anything out.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Mr. Luke. “Polly, did you truly see something, or mainly sense it?”

“Both,” said Polly, “although the movement has now ceased. I knew something was wrong as soon as we stepped through.” The Ferrumari turned to look at all of them. “This is my home. I know how it ought to feel, for I lived here for nearly a thousand of your earth years….”

Jill involuntarily thought to herself “A thousand years all alone…what a horrible thing!”

Polly thought back to her “It was not so difficult; it was all that I knew at first. You only miss a thing that is taken away from you, not something that you never had at the start.” Polly squeezed Jill’s hand.

Aloud, Polly continued: “I know how Orbaratus feels, and this was different. There has been a shift in the taste of the air and in the movements of thought here. The ones who came before, my ancestors, are still here in spirit. They, too, are whispering to me of changes.”

“What sort of changes, Polly?” asked Mr. Luke.

“I do not yet know; that may take some time to understand. But I could fly up to the place where I saw the movements and see what there is to be seen there.”

Mr. Luke thought for a moment, stroking his thin beard. “I wish we could find out without drawing attention to ourselves. If you fly up there, anyone or anything might see you coming.

“I could sketch a view from the cliffs back toward us and Sam and I could certainly framerun it, but that would take time.” Mr. Luke looked around at the structures near them and slapped his forehead with his hand. “Of course!” Polly, are all of the buildings on Orbaratus reflective…like these?” He pointed to the nearest structure, which mirrored them nearly perfectly.

“Yes, most are, although not all,” said Polly. “Those sheets are pressed from a mineral that is mined heavily in the northern parts of this land. It is not metal. Rather, it is more like your glass, or rather, closer to what you might call a one-way mirror on earth. It lets some light through, and some it reflects. But it is much stronger than steel, so it is used throughout most structures in Orbaratus. Why? Is that important?”

“Oh, I see!” said Sam. “If it’s like a mirror, then maybe I can mazerun up to the top of the cliff!”

“It may truly be a Navigator’s dream come true,” said Mr. Luke, nodding. “A whole world built of nothing but mirrors! I suppose it never dawned on me before because I’ve come here so seldom, and I’ve never explored over any great distances.

“But I suppose the first thing to do is to have you attempt it, Sam. Could you just try to pop through this wall near us and return?”

Mr. Luke had hardly finished speaking before Sam had pulled the crystal on its chain from beneath his shirt, clenched it in his hand, and disappeared into the wall beside them. A few moments later, he reappeared, but not in the same spot he had left. He was standing on a ledge about fifteen feet above their heads.

“It all seems pretty normal to me,” he said from above them. “Want me to go up to the spot Polly pointed out?”

“Yes, if you can” said Mr. Luke, “but be careful! And if anything seems odd — in the Maze, I mean — don’t take chances: just come back here. But if you can find your way up to the place Polly pointed out, look out and see if you can see anything. Don’t leave the Maze unless all is quiet. We don’t want anyone to see you.”

“OK,” said Sam. He turned and disappeared back into the wall.

“Mr. Luke,” said Jill, “he was inside the wall for just a moment. How can he have climbed up there that quickly?” She pointed to the ledge above them.

“Space and time don’t work the same way when you’re mazerunning,” said Mr. Luke. “I know, I’ve tried it, several times.” He shuddered involuntarily. “I might never have gotten back out but for the fact that I always had someone like Sam with me to pull me through.”

“Polly,” he said, turning toward the Ferrumari, “do you know what’s up there? It looks from here just like the top of a building, or the top of a cliff. I’ve not spent enough time here to know exactly how the city was built, nor even where we are.”

Polly pondered for a moment. “We are standing in what is, or was, the capital city of all of the world of Orbaratus. During the time of my people, there were no separate nations or states. But this place was called Cenurbus. It was the cultural hub of Orbaratus, and the home of most of its places of learning and governance. Near here, my parents prepared a place for me when I was first born, and when I was old enough to safely leave that place, what I found around me was what you see now: the ruins of a once-great city.”

“So, are all of these…,” Mr. Luke waved at the steep cliff-like walls surrounding them, “are all of these structures? Skyscrapers? Or are they actually cliffs that have been built upon?”

“A bit of both,” answered Polly. “This place was carved out of a range of mountains, the stone of which is like granite on earth. Some of the cliff tops are truly the peaks of that virgin rock; others are homes and halls that have been planted upon the rocky bones of the mountains.”

“And do you know what that specific building was?” Mr. Luke pointed to the one they had sent Sam to explore.

“It was a place of veneration, I believe, as well as an archive. It was there that all of the lore of the Masters was kept by my people.”

“The Masters? Who were they?” asked Jill.

“They were the ones who came before the Ferrumari. Some of the sages wrote that they created us, and that the Ferrumari were either bred or built by them to be their servants. Others claimed that they were a competing race that died out just before speech came to us and we began to populate Orbaratus.

“All that I know comes from the archives, and I was unable to distinguish truth from legend, for I had no one to guide me in my studies. But there are rhymes and songs written about the elder days, from long before the time when the Masters vanished, and many of these are beautiful and speak of a wondrous age of joy and prosperity. But there are also other songs that speak of the final days of the Masters, and these are not so beautiful. They are filled with grief and with dire prophesies.”

“Prophesies? Prophesies about what?” asked Mr. Luke.

“About the end of days, about evil times to come,” said Polly. “And, you can see, much of what was written has come to pass, in a way.”

Jill felt a wave of sorrow and anxiety wash over her, and she realized that it had come from Polly. She looked around at the ruined buildings and, for the first time, began to feel uneasy.

“But, Polly,” said Mr. Luke, “if someone — someone not of the Ferrumari — came to Orbaratus, would there be anything about that building particularly that might attract them? You said it was a place of veneration as well as an archive. Was it a temple?”

“Not as you think of it,” said Polly. “But there is a garden of meditation at its summit, a place of remembrance.”

“You mean, like the tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Or an historical memorial of some kind?”

“Yes, something somewhat like that. At the top of the cliff is a hallowed door, or gateway, into the mountain, through which the Masters were said to have departed from our world. Or, at least, so it appears. But there is nothing behind that door, and I do not believe that it can be opened. Writings are engraved upon it: verses from the last days of the Masters, written in an ancient mode of speech.”

“But, is there anything that anyone might want there?”

“Not that I recall, but perhaps Sam can tell us what he has found, and whether the place is as I remember it.”

Sam had just popped back out of the wall behind Mr. Luke.

“Well?” asked Mr. Luke, “did you see anything?”

“No, not really,” said Sam, “There was no movement at all, except for what was caused by the wind. It’s pretty blustery up there!”

“Did you look around?”

“Yeah. Since I didn’t see anyone there, I popped out of the Maze and explored a bit. I don’t know if you saw me; I couldn’t make you out down here because of the angle of the buildings and the shadows at the bottoms of the cliffs. It’s a lot lighter up there!”

“I felt that you were there,” said Polly, “Although I didn’t see you. But what I sensed before seems to have departed. I was aware only of you this time.”

“Was there anything up there that seemed…well…disturbed?” asked Mr. Luke.

“The place is pretty old and deserted. There’s something like a plaza made of stone, with stone pillars scattered around on it, and benches, and things that look like planters. A cliff wall rises on the side away from us. It looks like that’s where the building stops; beyond it is just rock.”

“Did you notice a doorway built into the side of the mountain?”

“I saw something that looks like a doorway. Just a slab with writing on it and two gems set into the walls: one on either side.”

Two gems?” asked Polly.

“Yeah. One on each side of the door.”

“Why, Polly? Is that important?” asked Mr. Luke.

“I am unsure. It has been such a very long time since I was in that place, but there was something about the stones: some dark legend, or perhaps it was an evil prophesy.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” said Jill, “That doesn’t sound good at all!”

                [ To read Episode 5.2, click here…. ]

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