The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
But Basil gave her a look of as icy and cold as the philosopher’s celestial spheres as retired to his archive and Zoe who though all semblance of feeling had been burned out of her, realized that more than anything left in life she wanted the death of her father. The scars on her Ivory pink skin were barely visible and not disfiguring, but she thought her soul etched in black, and death was a small price to pay to make him feel her pain. Then though her dead mother the Philosopher Diotima of Mantinea who had made the philosophers in the symposium cry like little boys with the clarity of her though, and her sister who lived in the great city but yet in another world. She how could my mother ever loved that monster Basil my father. What she would never know was that before Emperor lost her, he was known as Basil the good and wise
Basil had walled himself into the great tower which was the fortress of his physical solitude and his spiritual isolation also it was the treasure house of the knowledge of the ages for but it had reached its catastrophic point of implosion, that point which the Emperors mathematicians said the data of upon which the knowledge and survival of the empire was based would become irretrievable and return to its former randomness. He had the knowledge of 2000 years to draw from at and yet none of seemed relevant to the pirates he faced. Then he thought of a mythic account of the battle for Syracuse.
This time our eggs will be in a single basket. There will be an armed convoy sent south with our treasure to buy grain from the North Africans. It will be too sweet a prize to resist the word will be on the docks but we must surprise them Basil spoke aloud to himself.
And so it was that a convoy of 150 ships l Isamar. In her greater days no one would have opposed them but in these lessor days the survival of the city hung with whether or not the ploy succeeded. After the convoy left there were dark days in Isamar. The harbor was silent and the city grew more restless. All that Basil had fought for could be wiped out in a single battle to lose would have mean insurrection and capitulation and death for those that did not convert to the Faith of what the Patriarch had revered as gods scourge.
He was on the top of the Ivory dome of the basilica. The city waited there had been no news only rumors. The Turks were coming Don Janus fleet was at the bottom all rumors seemed to float around the silent city.
The harbor was still the only the land routes to Isamar were open. It was not enough to supply to supply the city. The politics of starvation were very simple and need no explanation. Ishtar’s days seemed numbered.
Ivan waited on the observation how and then he saw the smoking galley limping against the horizon. The ships was burning as he could see the smoke shoulder from the holes in its wood hull. It took forever it seemed for the flag ship to come closer. He could see smaller ships now pop up against the horizon. Some were being towed most were moving very slowly and some seemed to move in awkward semi circles since half of their oars had been shot off.
Still no word still no word. Then he saw it a first though his glass he saw what it looked almost like the bust of the king of the pirates it was not a bust was his giant head severed a shoulder. Without thinking He sent the message on to the rest of the city NIKE‑NIKE ‑NIKE. IT was a great day in Novae Byzantium. Class barrier disappeared, store house were opened, free rationed, the condom med were pardoned and a thousand birds were released from cages. A most solemn mass of thanks was said in the great Basilica.
That had been his greatest moment. He had had some success after that but it did not last a for long. He was only a conduit to a great historical event. He held the message in his hand.
Within the day Zeno appeared at Ivan’s quarters Zeno said.
“You no longer work for Eloy the Merchant; from now on you work for Basil as I do. Come with me and we report to the palace’
The court was not what Ivan had expected he passed through the outer formal chambers as If they were not there. He sensed that the pomp and circumstance of Isamar was more for show than function.
Finally after seeming to have travelled through never ending halls they crossed they last walkway and the into the oldest tower of the ancient. There were only a few guards that waited outside the door in these Rooms Basils felt somewhat relaxed. Then Ivan was faced to face with the emperor Basils. Next to himself Basil was the tallest man Ivan had ever seen.
Basil’s hands were large and strong his eyes were brown and he was not dressed in imperial purple. Rather he wore the simple toga of a soldier. Still there was no mistaking who was the emperor.
“Since you brought the message to Isamar you are entitled to know the course of the battle. To put it simply every Pirate in the Meditation took the bait. The feel on the Imperial fleet west of Malta they would have won if it was a cloudy day. We used Greek fire The Clovis and the burning glass. We have bought some time but the will back” Said Basil.
Ivan spoke as a prince of Thule.
“What is my part in all this? Why am I here?”
Basil Replied,” That is up to you. You can either be the pet of my Chamberlin or work for me. You have more of a choice than most. Already my chamberlain has expressed a desire for your body. Would like to be his lover”
Ivan looked at Basil with Astonishment. He thought of his chances he could kill the guards but he would never make it from the tower.
Ivan replied ” What is my other choice my choice is not that”. “You will be meeting my daughter since you have caught her eye. It seems that the Chamberlin and my daughter are having an auction for your body. If you work with my daughter and report to me it will be better for you.”
Ivan meets Zoe
At long last Ivan met the woman in the locket princess zoo daughter of Isamar. He was not to be simply her toy she had had too much of this. In a way she was to be his teacher. She was fourteen years here senior. Ivan had always had an easy time with the women of Thule. Sex was no mystery to Ivan but what was about to happen was. It turned out that zoo wanted him less as a lover and more as a chamberlain than Ivan expected.
Zoe first question was. How well can you speak Greek? What does Telos Mean?
Ivan replied Telos is what draws an arrow to its destination when it is shot from a bow. Telos is what has drawn me to you. You and Isamar are my destination
Bold words for the son of a thug and a robber. Where did you learn about telos? Zoe mocked him as she stood defiantly close to him.
Ivan answered I learned about in the same way that I learned about your forms that unduly our world. I know that you believe that we are only a copy of a copy
She asked have you ever seen a locket like this
She opened her robe part way exposing breast like the marble domes of great churches. The locket hung between them. Ivan reached to cup her breast and found it as cold as marble. She opened
The locket and he though for an Instant he saw his village in Thule.
This is all that you will see of me for a long while beautiful that you are. Love was burned out of my heart long before you knew of Isamar she closed he robe and stepped back from him.
Ivan replied” I am not your slave our dog” She looked with a different look now. It chilled him to the bone for some way in here face he saw the face of his long dead mother Sylvia. Ivan sat on the floor and wept like a child. Men did not cry as he did and yet it was not the blubbering of a weakling. Several years since he had seen Bjorn or Sewn. Time as a stranger had swept him into a vortex and now he was the boy who had sat across from Urfa. Zoe came to him and held him to her breast. Now she was not cold and he could feel her heart beating. She gave him a thing that she thought was burned out of her heart. She gave him warmth and compassion without pity. Ivan sobbed for a long time and then zoo kissed his eyelids softly and said.
“How is it this dam of sadness has broken? For now this night you are safe my father mind is elsewhere?”
Ivan talks about Thule
“There is much sadness in my heart: I feel it must always make me a stranger. When I was two as my father was 18 and out on a raid those from a nearby village kidnapped my mother and her ladies as they were gathering berries. They meant only to hold them for a small ransom, but my uncles were fools and tried to rescue them. IN the shuffle my mother died when she fell off a horse
Some he made her think of her early life and her own father now grown a monster she thought. She was his direct hire and in some circles more popular than Basil. Many felt Basils skated on the edge of madness and that he should abdicate. For herself she had reason to want shatter him and every vestige of his name. The victory over the pirates had made him popular with the army but they were fickle.
“Tell me about your father prince Igor we hear of him in the South. He has become known as Igor the prudent and Igor the prosperous. How is it that his land s grew tenfold when Bo guild of the west made him his Heir?”
Ivan body stiffened and his eyes became cold.
“My father bought his land miserable that it is with my mother life. He took Bo guilds and patrimony and gold instead of an honorable death for all of us
Princess Zoe Palagoue meets his eyes with her own.
“Tell me about honor in death: Tell me about a Viking funeral in a burning dragon ship. Tell me and I will how it is not allow yourself that. Your father was only prudent mine is a monster. Once his most powerful eunuch had a select which he would not be tortured. My father the emperor asked him what he wanted and he said he want the forest daughter of the empire for a night. First my father approached my sister Mara and her Feld into the darkness of the city. Ivan delivered me to his chamber. You fool you think that it makes them without desire. It does not it makes them perverse in ways which are beyond your mind. She stopped for she had told him too much. There was a silence which hung in the flame as time seemed to stand silent. As zoo looked into Ivan’s dumbfounded face she said.
“But that was long ago and in another world and I have paid to be the crown Princess of Ishtar and I will rule here
Ivan was drawn away from himself and the spell was broken and he moved his mind elsewhere in some sense he felt that his sad story had been trumpeted. No the subject must be changed. He blurted out without thinking.
Your father has hired me to betray you. I will not for I share a sadness with you.
Zoe answered ‘” You must think me fool I know why you are better than you or Basils do. If you stay in Ishtar long enough you will betray me or me you betrayal is the way of the world here. For now this is out of your hands. Kismet will have its way soon enough.
His first audience was over but there were to be many more Ivan was no longer a signalman. But he worked with Basil in the tower. Basil; used his memory and quickness to encode reports into a series of 1 and zeros which made a language. Ivan’s mind started to see the scope of the world once he went to the bottom floor of the tower of Ishtar the guards let him pass since he had basils favor. What Ivan found on the bottom floor was that the world was much smaller. On that level the information was not encoded. It was a narrative written in an ancient language which was much like the Greek he had leaned. He had a curious mind and wondered how great minds had seen the world before. Most of what he read was boring and then he came upon a dusty scroll called the
Republic It was kind of a treatise on government. But then in its other pages he found a section that spoke of world of forms which gave substance to the world around him. At first it was too much for him but his mind stretched and he thought about it constantly on every level of the tower this concept repeated itself. Before Constantine It became a kind of religion after the conversion the concept did not die. Then information was no longer stored as narrative. It was store in Basils Binary which Zeno wondered if he would ever read.
Ivan spent the next several years in work and study by the years 984 Ivan had matched much of what was around. He was still young and powerful but his time in Ishtar had made him more circumspect. He thought that the world started to look different to him. He started to connect the present with time past until much of what was inside of the tower started to make sense. The ancient wisdom made a certain sense. He wondered about Zoe and then he started to want her again he had not seen him often she was involved in other matters and the he thought he must see. It was as if he had blinked his eyes and now he was five years older.
Ivan wondered about Thule and he also wondered about Bjorn. He knew somehow that his father was alive and from time to a dispatch would come south. Each would say that Igor was building a small city at the top of the world. Ivan wondered if he was to spend his life simply working for the emperor. One night Ivan found Zeno standing at his door.
“Come with me the emperor has taken ill you are to come to Zoe’s chambers. The emperor may not live out the night” Ivan had not seen zero in months. He had never seen his face so grave.
Zeno said “If the emperor does not die tonight many will die tomorrow
Zeno took Ivan to Zoe’s chamber and left them together. Zeno spoke first my father has taken ill and is close to death. He may have been poisoned and if he lives his eyes will on all that have close to me. Even you will not be beyond his gaze
Ivan replied did you do it did you poison your father you hate him enough I know
She touched her lips Silence the walls have eyes and ears. Our must leave if my father lives
It was Ivan’s turn now several years of desire welled inside of his loins. He must have her and he must have her now even if it meant to risk his life. As he went to kiss her she bit the bottom of his tough between her teeth. It hurt but he did not cry out. They made love all that night until his legs and back ached. Then shortly past midnight he heard the crier shout He lives ||| He lives ||| He Lives; God Bless the emperor we have been delivered the cries voice echoed off into the night.
Zoe said He lives and thousands will die. It was not my had that did this this time
Zeno, Centurion of Ishtar
None of the events made sense to him, but they did not have to. He was an archer and centurion because of the strength of his back and the steadiness of his arm, rather than his ability to think. And yet, even to his thick, dull archer’s mind, it was all wrong in the city. He had questions which he dared not ask anyone; those who asked too many questions disappeared and were never heard from again. Late at night, he thought that he heard screams from the base of the wall. He heard that there were dungeons there, but it was easier not to think of them. Most of the emperor’s soldiers were no better than the beasts, spending their day’s pay on prostitutes, and when possible, trading their rations for drugs.
Zeno had a small hovel and a family to come home to. His salary barely paid for the space that his family lived in, but it was enough to keep his wife and two sons and daughter above the miasma that was on the lower levels inside the wall. Ishtar’s population’s at its height was too large to count. It was said that three million once lived inside its walls, but the plague of the last generation had cut that in half. Ships still filled the harbor, but they moved lazily, without the bustle of a generation before. Lately, Zeno had noticed that they had trouble buying enough food for his family. Sometimes, when
He would return from duty, he would find himself lost in the tangle of streets. A long thin hand beckoned him from inside a doorway. He know what it meant, and he had a few pieces of silver in his pocket. Vasil had given all the centurions a bonus for that day. A set of calculations ran through Zeno’s mind, and he decided to become lost in the pleasures of the moment. The figure inside doorway seemed too strong and young and healthy to be a prostitute.
Zeno asked, “Do you have a place we can go? I will not do it like an animal, standing up.”
“That will cost you an extra piece of silver. My price is four for the night.
“Four, four? I know that the fleet is out, and business is very slow. There is no money on the streets,” said Zeno.
“For four, you will have me, and a room and a bath. And I am clean,” she said, showing him her dated stamp of inspection on the inside of her thigh.
Zeno reached inside the purse that hung from the belt of her tunic. “Then four; and it will be five if you please me,” Zeno smirked.
“I will please you,” she said, as she led him around the corner and up a flight of stairs. Zeno knew the ruse; he had been though it too many times before. He was ready as he heard the door creak and saw the dark figure of the Nubian, who said simply,
“All your gold, soldier, or you have seen your last sunrise.”
Zeno was like a mongoose with Him he was on top of the dark figure before he could swing his short sword. Zeno did not [kill; he was not [sure why. Perhaps it was not the day for it. But it would be a long time before the dark figure awoke. He turned to the prostitute, who spoke to him abruptly.
“Now do you take your pleasure and kill me.”
“That is not my pleasure,” said Zeno. “I kill for a living, not pleasure. I am a soldier of the emperor Vasil.”
“He kills for pleasure. I can hear it every night. They do not just disappear‑‑his agents are everywhere in the city.”
“Take me to your quarters; and if there is another like the last, I will kill both of you.” Zeno drew and sheathed his sword in an instant, and the woman walked down the corridor.
Her quarters were not what Zeno expected. They were clean and well‑kept, with no overt signs of filth. Indeed, her sleeping couch looked as if it belonged in the place. Zeno expected to find pleasure in her, and she seemed to enjoy him more than would be expected of one in her profession. When they had finished for the last time, Zeno asked her name.
“Mere is my name now. It used to be something else in another life time.”
“Another life, is this the theatre?” asked Zeno, looking at her more carefully. Although she was not young, she did not[ show the signs of the street as he might have expected; her skin and eyes were clear, and she still had her teeth in her mouth, “Will wonders never cease to exist?” He thought, as he looked at her. He reached into his pouch to take of the pieces of silver.
“You cannot afford me, centurion. Keep the money, and buy some food for your family. Buy your children a present.”