The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
Nestor’s voice in the dispatch continued as the theatre continued
The great one in the East only grows stronger through strength and singleness of purpose. The great Khan has but one purpose and it is to rule the world. Not for plunder but for peace.
“Nestor now is my ambassador at his court and sometimes I feel the Khan’s breath on my shoulder. Already simple Zeno I have told you enough for you to be worth more dead than I alive. One question in the end Zeno Basil asked. If I ordered you to jump from the wall now with no question would you then do It.? Asked Basil
Zeno was not clever he was no games men and this was his first audience with the emperor. Zeno stood silent in front of him. His victory over the Bulgars all of his loyalty. All meant nothing in the face of this question.
I know not until you give order. I know that you have business for me to do. I know that my time is not yet up, and I know of the depth of my duty Said Zeno
There are files within files and it is written that someone close to me holds my death in their hand Said Basil
Pray my Lord that it not your own blood Pray that it is not Zoe Said
Head North for Ivan read these scrolls and use what you most to bring him to the city.
Zeno had left in the mid of winter and now it was autumn again. It was strange that when they entered the city zeno did not take Ivan to the palace that is not how it was ti be written. He left Ivan with what he had with and left him to fend for himself in the city. The city night was as terrible as any nigtmare that he had had in Thule. It was like a jungle. Ivan was out of his element. He was unused to the city as large as this. He was not used to the bad air or the filth or squalor
As Ivan’s mind wandered he thought of the woman whose image haunted him. As he wandered his feet seemed to tap out the name Zoe, Zoe, Zoe, then the wind seem to whisper the same name.
Was he mad did it happen yes the wind was whispering her name? He had walked longer and farther them he expected. He had been walking aimless for hours and now he was not sure where was. He thought that the dome of Saint Sophia would guide him but it did not. IT was obscured by the multi‑ story tenements which had sprung up around the City. The sun was now low on the horizon and he noticed that he was without his purse and had only a few coppers.
He had been pre‑occupied and that had made him careless and stupid. And now he might have to pay for it, fool he though he must have let the wind and her name into danger. In some ways it was almost as if he had sailed into troubled waters. Perhaps he might fall into a whirlpool. The people on the streets looked dangerous many seemed hideous and deformed. And yet they looked farmilar. He walked a little farther and saw a sign that said Inn . He walked to the heavy iron belted door the door did not move as he tried to pull it open. The door held firm and then a smaller panel opened.
To the back fool to the back door!!!!!! Ivan came to the backdoor which was really not a door it was more like a coal shute. He saw a sighn which was crudely written over it. It said special entrance for Madmen only. He pulled this door and it opened and then he was inside the face of chaos. It was all for sale inside there. His flesh crawled at what was offered him He surfaced back to reality when a large gruff man shoved up to him and said,
Do you want a drink or what bub, if not get out of the club Valhalla.
Ivan reached into his pocket and found he had only a few coppers.
A mug of mead my good man and make it quick
The waiter came back with his mug and said,
A silver dracna please for you drink
Ivan was in deep water and he knew the man the man was only intersted in Dracnas for he had only a few coppers in his pocket. The prospect of being out on that terrible street did not appeal to him either. Have I stayed alive to have my throat cut by these hulking oafs? So Ivan blurted out in a strong Voice
“I will twist arms with any lout in this pesthole, will any hulking oaf try my arm for a gold piece.”
The rest the house heard his challenge.
Surely one of you will try me for a gold piece.
One came forward he was tall and strong and cruel.
If you do not have your stake I will kick your face to a pulp.
Kind fellow thought Ivan as they cleared a space on one the long tables.
Of course the young fellow stood no chance since he was no match for the years that Ivan had spent in Thule.
Any other takers He held up the gold piece as the young man rubbed his arm and shoulder. This is a strange place they could kill you and throw your body outside with the rubbish. He wonder if he was under the protection of some deity that was in charge of protecting drunks and fools who ever she was she was still looking out for him.
Ivan felt a hand on his shoulder.
How are your eyes my boy your hands and arms seem strong enough my young Giant
Ivan replied “My family has eyes that can see past the end of the world, and what we cannot see Odin’s raven’ tell us. “
The merchant was getting to like Ivan with his boasts most all he liked the way Ivan spoke their Language, so different from his own. Then he said with the laugh that sounded like it came from the inside of an empty herring barrel. “If you work out for me maybe we will start you out tending Odin’s Goats followed by.
“Your arms are strong and yours eyes are sharp; but is your mind quick. Can you remember what you see and can you pass on information, without distorting it.
He spoke again as he asked. “Can you stand for hours and keep your mind clear and you and your eye on the horizon, so you can tell earth water and sky apart?
Ivan accepted the job he had no choice. All eyes were on him in the room. He knew that he needed the merchant’s protection. His arms and legs had been hard and strong when he started now they could stand for hours. Ivan’s mind was quick as his limbs were strong. He mastered the secret codes of the merchants faster than any could imagine. A fortune hung on the arrival of the first silk ship that came through the great canal that cut two years of travel around the southern lobe.
What days they were when a hundred merchants waited for the information that he was the conduit for. He thought how each flag motion meant thousand of dracna for the merchants who had paid for the code which was changed every week. It was a dangerous job because many that had not paid would be happy to see the others not have the advantage. Ivan was during that point and important cipher in a major operation. He did his job well but more than once he fell the shock as a spent cross bow bolt slid along the floor of the observation platform.
Then trade slowed and galleys limped inor did not are at all things were becoming desperate around the city. Crowds started to riot for lack of bread and finally bakeries were broken into as bread beacame as dear as silver Dracnas.
This was a time when Basils cleverness was not an answer the pirates who had choked off the Eastern ocean cared none for cleverness. Basil’s fleet was in disrepair and a sea battle was out of the question.
Basil and his daughter talked over a peasants breakfast of cheese and olives. Basil asked almost to himself.
Will Novae Byzantium Choke on its own people we are weak and on the verge of Pestilence. Not even the Emperor has fresh fruit on his table
Zoe answered mockingly.
“Perhaps my father it is time for a change. You are old and tired perhaps it is time for me to wear the purple “ Basil answered with any icy gaze.
“You will rule when I am dead. Then you will wear the purple. Only if there are any in the guards who will support you. And Zoe you can’t mount all of them them”
Zoe smiled wryly and bit into a fig. She was still young but past the bloom of young womanhood. Her features and first seemed unremarkable. Her hands were both delicate and powerful. She could have held an assignations stiletto in them if that was her choice. It was not that she left for others.
Father perhaps I have. I think I have tried.
Basil hesitated. I will always be in debt to you for what you did for the empire. You paid deeply but we earned his secret. We learned his secret, and the cleansing fire may yet safe our day. We are all ciphers for the empire Zoe replied. Would you like to know what he did with me that night? Would you like to hear how I paid the eunuch for Greek fire? Would you like to see my scars? You would have to see inside my soul to find them