The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
If you missed part one visit here
Ilya spoke as Ciel and Pele joined the base camp,
“These maps are structured in a very strange way. It seems that there was once a great city on the point of land between two rivers. It looks as if this was once an island. It’s hard to tell though. These parchments are very brittle.”
As if help make her point one of the parchments turned to dust literally before her eyes, as she moved it ever so slightly.
“We were backing home on Verna III we scan them all and work with them at will.
Pele said with an exasperated look,
“No we couldn’t, palmicest is the word that the ancients had for it, layers of writing, on top of other layers, then scrapped away from the vellum until the only thing left holding the entire thing together was the ink.”
Pele continued as she paced nervously around
In circles like she always did when she was thinking creatively, making circles and kicking dirt, as if nobody was watching her.
Ilya erupted she could not stand it anymore, she was cursed with an amazing talent to do something she hated, which was in way the secret of her success as long, that is as she could stand to do it. Then Ilya snapped, as she screamed.
”It looks as if these have been copied and copied many times. It compounds all the old errors. I can’t sit at the table much longer or will start ripping up these goddamn charts!”
“Let’s go in and find out, about the city, we have to learn about the natives, and we are certain they are peaceful humanoids.
Cal added from inside the ship,
“Yes identical to us in every Fracking way, except that they let a man sleep. Why don’t you babes roll into town, maybe they have taverns, and you might get laid”
Pele simply ignored Cal as she had become quite used to doing, as she explained about the city.
“This city is like a thousand others on this planet. Very small at present, but sitting on a site that may go twenty levels to the remains of another,
“Let’s walk. It’s less than a forty Kilometers
Distance down to the valley to the town.”
There was a myth on Verna III that Terra had once been a lost colony. Thousands of years before, between the time Vernans lost space flight and the time they had found it again. In the last five hundred years there had been a hand full of expeditions, there seemed to be no economic value or scientific reason for a base on Terra, until Pele had proposed her expedition. Terrans were very shy and peaceful. Pele had insisted that no weapons be taken on the expedition.
Cal stuck his head out of the hatch.
“Go into that wretched city”,
Cal roared. Then Cal cursed.
“But don’t be surprised if the ship is gone when you get back.”
They all were certain it was an empty threat, but it made Cal feeling better. The three, Ceil, Pele and Ilya prepared to walk to the Terran City; it would have been impossible to maneuver the ship to land any closer. The Mariah was a starship not a planet cruiser.
As the three women walked towards the city, the valley along the river became greener. Small Terran villages were located every one or two kilometers and contained perhaps twenty houses and a small square. The Terrans quietly worked their fields, hardly noticing the three Vernans. Ilya spoke first.
“I am told the Terrans are much like us,”
She smiled and said in a bawdy voice,
“I mean a we are compatible, if you know what I mean, I would to try one of their males. It’s been a long time.”
Pele, laughed and said,
Ilya, you would try one of their Goats if you could get it to come down out of a tree, and take a bath,
Ciel looked at them both disdainfully, and said in a mocking yet musical voice,
“You both have no standard whatsoever; I can’t believe how much I used to look up to you both,”
Pele ignored her
Ciel added petulantly
“Look at these Terrans they’re all about as sensual as Cal.”
Pele laughed, “When I was young I put a lot of stock in appearance. I have shared a sleeping bag with Cal a number of times and you would be surprised what you do not know when you are young.”
“No, no, that must have been a hundred years ago, when he was a handsome young pilot, not like he is now.
The two younger women exchanged glances.
“How can you be so gross” said Ilya.
“Gross indeed!” Said Pele, and abruptly changed the subject.
“Can we make the city before sunset? What do your charts say?”
“Look in front of you.”
The ground sloped away from them gently and in the distance they saw perhaps fifty partially buried skyscrapers. Against this backdrop they could see the crooked outline of a city street encircled by plots of farmland. It all looked surreal in the setting sunlight, like they were looking at the ghost of a great city as great as anything in their past, and perhaps a sign of their future.
“What is it we are looking for?”
They continued to walk it was a beautiful late spring day, and now everything was green since they were out of the wasteland.
Pele tried to explain the ineffable to the other two women.
“The substance of the myth we have been looking for. We cannot dig down through twenty levels. If that was the only place where we could find the answers, I would not have asked for this assignment.”
Illya put her hands on her hips as her the breeze caught her long read braids
Then she said,
“What do you mean?
The she became angry again.
“You always insist on talking around us. We’re not your students, we’re you colleagues. Why won’t you talk to us, are you that much better, that much smarter than the rest of us?”
Pele and Ciel smiled because of course Ilya was doing just what she hated in others.
Ilya continued her rant in her most righteous tone.
“Can read you charts, I can go blind with your parchments, but what in the name of eternity are you talking about?
“Come out of the clouds!”
They started to walk faster and approach the two Terran’s who seemed quite amused by them.
“Why do you think we have not had to blast our way into this place? “
Why can we stay alive without weapons?”
They let the question hang in the air and let it settle in to the dust. They walked the remaining ten kilometers in a brisk pace covering it in three hours. After entering the town, before sunset of the second day of their trip, they approached a group of Terrans and asked directions to the Temple of the Law of Love.
“Tell you? Tell you what?”
“Why should we tell you anything?” the second Terran chimed in.
Pele reached into her pockets and pulled out a handful of blue pills. The Terrains each took a blue pill, pointed a crooked finger down a cooked street, swallowed the pills, and settled into a blue haze. Ciel thought she saw a shadowy figure out of the corner of her eye, but as she turned, it was gone.
It was a short walk to the Temple which consisted of a stone wall perhaps three meters tall, an outer wall, an inner wall, a courtyard and a central building. The walls seemed to be for decoration but there was the possibility of something else.
Strong gates hung on oiled wood and leather hinges. The gates hung open but they could be closed quickly on very short notice. The three of them nervously entered the first gate and were met by a tall, brown-haired woman with beautiful hair that hung to her waist.
“My name is Mara,”
“You are looking for something I am told. But what in our little city could possibly be of interest to you?”
Her words seemed to mockingly roll off her lips. Pele offered her a blue pill which Mara knocked out of her hand.
“Not a gesture of peace,”
She was standing on the balls of her feet almost if she was ready for action.
Mara laughed and her voice filled the courtyard and bounced off the roof of the Temple. It seemed to come from the depths of what was outlined now as a rather ample breast. She probably weighed 40 kilos more than Pele.
“You know better than to try that on us, Pele”.
Pele, for the first time since they had landed on Terra, did not feel in control. She did not like it at all. These people were not as simple as the Vernans had thought. Mara placed her hand softly on Pele’s shoulder and asked:
“What can I tell you? Why do I have such illustrious company?”
Then added, I know who you are and you should act your age for your students”
“We’re tired and hungry. May we have food and drink?” Said Pele,
Mara took them in to a second building and into a room with a large table with several chairs. Mara gestured that they sit, and then joined them. A boy brought fruit, wine and cheese into the room and dropped it nonchalantly onto the table. The three of them ate ravenously and Pele had two more glasses of wine than anyone else. She looked across the table directly into Mara’s steel gray eyes and then started to speak.
“In this place Terra, you have a very ancient myth. We have heard it mentioned on Verna that on your planet love is the law. I am here to find the substance to the myth. I would like to find out, if it exists outside of history or if it is tied to a series of events which I can locate in time and space.”
The wine was showing and Pele’s speech was becoming slurred, and at the same time long winded. Her level of emotion rose and she stood abruptly.
“Can you direct me to the places where this myth originated?”
Mara smiled but waited patiently till Pele stopped speaking. Ciel and Ilya seemed a bit uncomfortable and embarrassed at Pele’s drunkenness.
“I can read the scrolls! I can date where it started! We even know about the city that used to sit here. You could dig down through a hundred generations and find the site of the last battle. But what we found in the forbidden area almost said all of it. I will recite the whole text which rose out of the day of the last battle,”
Mara chanted in a measured, measured tone.
“After the last battle those who were able dug themselves out of the ground and crawled to what was left of their homes. Those who could not pulled the earth over their heads and slept for eternity. At first, those who chose to crawl envied all those who slept. A single voice seemed to have spread to all sides of the battlefield. We must learn to love each other or die. Love must be the law for eternity.”
Pele drank one more long pull of wine and passed out, as her head bounced on the table.
Mara took pity on Pele and gave the three of them a simple room. Throughout her career, Pele had tended to react to potentially important finds by getting drunk, if the elixir is available. This last instance was no exception.
Sunrise came way too early and the sun shone directly into Pele’s eyes. Rather than fight the pain behind her eyes and the taste of sawdust in mouth, she walked to the courtyard which was deserted. She raised a bucket of water that she could barely lift from the well and after stripping off her survival suit and underclothing and standing in the sunshine for a moment; she cautiously dumped the icy water over her head. It was a mistake. The wind suddenly seemed icy and she had not brought a towel. She shivered for a moment and heard a whistle. A shadowy figure threw her a bright towel. The figure disappeared, laughing, around the corner as she dried herself as quickly as possible and pulled her clothes back on. She laughed to herself and wondered if this small, strange body really did contain a mind which had trained a generation on Verna. She thought for a moment of her prudish son still at home, though he was two years older than Ilya, as well as her daughter who had two grandchildren who would be as tall as her waist by the time she returned.
As she returned she found Mara waiting with hot, nourishing gruel and fruit on the table.
“How are your heads feeling?”
“I guess they both will explode.”
Mara spoke slowly,
“Perhaps you will not be so cavalier about those little blue pills you hand out.”
“But they are harmless.”
“So was the wine you drank.”
“Now, to the point, I told you all that anyone knows about the evolution of the ethic. If you mean to learn something you would have to stay and watch it live and see if we survive. Nothing lasts forever. Send them all back and study for three years.”
“I must have Ciel with me. She is the best translator we have,”
“Three years is a lifetime at her age,” said Mera.
“At any age, “answered Pele.