5 Ides Heron, 4th, II L
My dear Lattemar,
I’m not at all surprised your man is dead. Don’t bother coding your messages; I need information and I need it now. Did this northerner wear the sash openly or are you guessing? What’s his name? Is he really from Alkone, or are you just being fancifully poetic? What does he look like? How can he be recognized?
Do not let this young man leave Ambras. Tie him up in court cases, insist that you be recompensed for your man’s death. Do not let him go to the Oracle. Delay him, distract him, see that he goes anywhere but there. Offer him a job, send him to me on one of our ships, whatever. Do not fail me.
5 Ides Heron, fourth year, second lustre
From the Almanac:Free advice is worth how much it cost; // paid advice is worth about the same.
I knew the Oracle was cryptic, but I never realized how cryptic. I put my question to her last night, in the tholos long after nightfall. I got poetry, which is normal. Then she addressed me personally. I’ll put down what she said for reference:
A Jade of Kemblis shall guide a man
to walk in the footsteps of the king.
The yarn-spinner will spin a new yarn,
a brand-new winding in Orien
which no man ever saw before now.
Still the loom calls it into being.
There is more but I cannot speak it;
a silence rises in the water.
Let me back up a bit, and put down just how a man sees the Oracle. I arrived about noon yesterday, and a couple of guides showed the sights. There’s a play every other hour, short and yet tedious even so, that tells of the cleft in the rock here and the salt spring that bubbles within. A woman named Kaya drank from it, and so became Mother Ocean’s seer, fortelling the future from Dolphis. I found the temple more exciting, with fifty-six columns all around, and the statue of Ocean within. She’s seated upon a golden throne, and stands four stories high even then. In her left hand is her son, Kraken, writhing tentacles and beak of bronze. Her right hand holds a knarr and longship, It’s not clear if she’s offering them to the cruelties of her hungry son, or saving them from his clacking beak, pulling both ships just out of his reach.
Behind the temple is the tholos, a round building with twenty columns and the famous dome designed by Glain. White Shawl guides lead you through the temple to seats in the Petitioner’s Porch, enclosing the tholos on all sides. Maybe thirty were waiting with me, but the porch could have held a hundred. I played checkers and chess while waiting, for there are game-boards scratched in the stone; boxes of pieces lie close at hand. My opponent was a man from Tay, Tomas the Dyer, an Azure Gown. We talked business while we played checkers, but gave all our attention to chess. He allowed that business was all right, but that the Crimson Hoods were lawless, and did whatever they chose to do: “The Archipelago needs a king, to keep these special interests in check.” And then the Oracle called him in, and I was left in the porch alone. Every one of the other seekers had been called in while we played our games. Tomas was gone almost an hour, and did not return to say good-bye. It turns out that you leave the tholos by another way than you come in.
A White Shawl named Siana appeared, and guided me into the tholos. My guess is she was in her thirties, and wore the White Shawl arrogantly. She led me to a box with a slot, and told me to pay for my question. I put in some coins, I thought enough, but she insisted I pay some more. We went down some stairs into a cave, and she directed me to a stone. Opposite was a throne of granite, where an old woman sat in shadow, nearly invisible to my sight. I heard sighs of trickling water, and the whole chamber smelled of the sea. When I asked my question, the crone shrieked, a long moaning that shivered my bones. There was a sudden change in the air; the cave became oppressively dark, and a rush of wind put out the torch. Then the oracle spoke quite softly, but with a kind of authority that seemed born of the wave and riptide.
When the Oracle was done speaking, Siana my guide told me to go. But the old woman lit a candle, which she did without striking a spark. She asked me to turn and look at her, and consulted with a scribe nearby, who apparently transcribed her words. How he worked in the dark, I don’t know. She said other things that made no sense, and told Siana to teach me knots, the pheasant and I think, the warbler. My White Shawl guide led me away, then, to another chamber cut from rock, where she taught me these peculiar things. She gave me back my money as well. She seemed quite angry as she did so. I guess that isn’t part of the show, at least not for most petitioners. Then we went out another portal, and she let me out a door of bronze. I found myself back in the forecourt, on the lower level of the place, near the treasury of Wasthavan, close to the foot of the gold column that Inaradd put there long ago. I gave a coin to a torch-bearer, who led me from the sanctuary, back to an inn outside the precinct.
4 Ides Heron, fourth year, second luster
From the Almanac: Find a good traveling companion, // verbose in checkers, silent in chess.
Tomas the Dyer, my chess-playing partner from yesterday, approached me outside the inn yesterday, and asked me if I had any sense where I was going. I told him I was probably heading to Brath, to continue my voyage along the north shore of Kemblis. Tomas scoffed at this idea, and asked if I would consider traveling south, and maybe giving him a ride to Tay. He told me he’d seen the shape of my folded curragh in my purse, and offered to pay me. So we are going to Yaram, and from thence over to Tay. He’s gone in to collect his possessions, and I’m waiting here in the inn courtyard for him.
Up the hill, I can see the stone walls of the precinct of Ocean, and the dome of the tholos. Was it all a dream? My fingers itch to try the knots she showed me, but something also tells me that they are not meant for public eyes. I think they are meant to tie the Jade Sash around someone’s waist. The knots almost fit together, like a button and button-hole, but much more secure. Around my waist. How will I do that with Tomas in my company? Too late now; here he comes.
2 Ides Heron, Y 4, II Lus
My dear Ravad,
The northerner’s name is Awan Haughson. He comes from Alkone here on the north coast, about seventy miles or so west of here, halfway to Lasfell. Tall, ungainly fellow in his early teens, wears his hair long and braided in the style of these barbarians. Brown hair, green eyes, and the rough woolens of northerners in early spring. His cloakpin is rough iron, he hasn’t got more than thirty silver pieces in an otterskin bag, and I do not know for sure if he has a Jade Sash or not. However, my local informers all agree that the family of the Black Cloaks of Alkone had one in their possession in the days of King Wingel Dreadlock, and that it had never been destroyed. Haugh, the old patriarch, recently died.. As the youngest, Awan Haughson was the likely recipient, if there was a Jade Sash in the house.
As to your request for me to detain him in Ambras, this is impossible. Awan left here with the blessing — nay, the connivance — of the Black Cloak, and went up the mountain to Dolphis. My spies there report that Awan left the Oracle on the fifth before the Ides of Heron – the day of your last letter to me.
I have obtained through my contacts in Dolphis a copy of the transcript from Awan’s meeting with the Oracle. They assure me that complete text of her prophecy is as follows:
A Jade of Kemblis shall guide a man; the yarn-spinner will spin a new yarn,
which no man ever saw before now: Still the loom calls it into being.
There was no record from the tholos as to what question was asked, however. It may not matter; these things are peculiar no matter what the question is. My contact also says Awan went down the east road from Dolphis, intending to go to Brath, in company with an Azure from Tay. I will follow where he has gone the instant I send this letter, and follow them.
Do you really think he’s the one?