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A landscape with unexplained lights, glowing lava, old pahoehoe, a hint of an old straight road, low green auroras, and the beams of searchlights carried by two explorers.

Heaven Sent (Part 4)


To Heaven Sent (Part 1)

To Heaven Sent (Part 3)

"We Scholars are in a furor to solve this riddle, when the answer is obvious. Our researcher have been delving the Libraries, searching back through old view table records, and redoubling their studies of the lost sources you have recovered, including our copies of the Sibylline Book. But our reliance on study and records blinds us to our own intuition."

Mett lounged in his favorite leaf chair, growing from the stalk he kept alive in his private apartments with rations of Earth Current. Nemia knelt on a mat on the floor, outwardly humble, inwardly frustrated. Why won't he just come out and tell the answer!

Because if you are to be the next Supreme Scholar, you must discover this for yourself.

She knew she had cast her private thoughts loud enough for him to hear, but didn't care. If you are so set on going out into the Night Land, she sent back, you must place great trust in this 'intuition'.

Mett calmly sipped sweetened tea, heated by his research aide to the proper temperature. I trust the insights of this great brain of mine, as you should trust yours.

All right. Nemia audibly sighed. Let me guess.

No! Mett glared at her. We do not hazard life and soul on guessing games. Know!

The only way I know how to know is by study, research, synthesis of disparate sources addressing from various angles a common topic. Despite the scholarly words, Nemia was near tears. Mett had decided to accompany this strange prophet—or Avatar, as the Supreme Scholar insisted he be called—into the Night Land. After this promised song had issued from the House of Silence. Madness!

Mett audibly sighed too. Gently mocking her? You are the Scholar Potentate. Your memory is infallible. You have either heard the sermons on view table, or been there yourself. Review them verbatim, paying special attention to the way the Avatar addressed itself. And us.

This reassured Nemia, and, her distress subsiding, she cast her mind in memory mode and rapidly scanned the sermons for the words the Supreme had suggested. "We..." she mumbled. "We who love you... Our children... We who dwell in peace... who remember what it means to be human, and yet are no longer."

!! A shout of triumph in her mind and Mett's. Our ancestors!

Mett absently sipped his tea, smug. Of course. Now, which ancestors?

Nemia blinked. She suppressed disappointment that Mett gave her so little credit for the insight she had already made. It was a way he had often challenged her: Keep deducing toward the final insight. She reviewed her exact memories of the sermons, selecting for repeated references. "A Road... the Road... where the Makers have gone..."

This time she suppressed her elation and sent calmly, The Road Makers. She knew her history and the answer was again obvious once she gathered the clues. In the time of the slow Darkening, as the Sun was dying, The Road Makers had built a Road down from the towering heights, into this deep crevice where now rested the Great Redoubt. They had continued their Road up and down the great valley, forging North even against the dense Shadow they encountered (and perhaps tainting themselves by contact with it?). They had built their Road into the West as well, where the last remnants of the dying Sun still glowed with faint reddish light and distant warmth.

But their efforts had disturbed the realms where Evil dwelled, and Monsters and Beasts congregated to beset them. Then the Road Makers became the Builders, and were guided to build the Great Redoubt, and Nemia felt a sense of gratitude and honor that all the peoples were their descendants. Although now the Avatar was claiming that some Road Builders had escaped through the green luminous mist in the West.

Mett was waiting, a calmly expectant thought in his mind drawing her to the final insight. Knowing he would know, she guessed. The Avatar is the Master Spirit, founder of the Great Redoubt.

Now the Supreme Scholar could not contain his pride; he needed to share the triumph of his revelation with someone. He tilted his bald head and smirked. His wife and consort.

Of course! Nemia should have known the Avatar was a woman. The higher voice and kind patient expressions, the gentle encouragements, the loving gestures...

Though the Master Spirit designed and oversaw the building of the Redoubt, it was his wife who welcomed all the peoples inside and consecrated the Underground Fields. In some ages, the peoples of the Pyramid had worshipped a goddess in her image, named Meyr.

Mett was staring at his protégé, wondering if she would see the final revelation.

Nemia saw at last. And that is why you trust. Some thought her the incarnation of a protector goddess. You don't—?

She may have been one of Meyr's incarnations. Mett had forgotten his tea and reclined with a haze of adoration over his eyes. Meyr was the only belief in divine presence ever found in Redoubt records. No voice could have spoken more directly to the mind of the Supreme Scholar. And from there she had spoken to his long-dormant heart.

I even suspect I know what song we shall hear from the House, he sent, but this time offered no challenge to his protégé. It did not matter; Mett was willing to die to follow the Avatar.

Nemia swiftly emptied her mind and lowered her eyes, though she suspected Mett would not be reading her thoughts now, so engrossed was he in his own triumph. And that was well; she knew he would disapprove of the doubts about his sanity that had arisen in her mind.

Many others in the Pyramid were not as informed as the Supreme and his protégé, and waited to be convinced by a song issuing from the House of Silence. The Monstruwacans were ready with their distance microphones, but some of the oculuses of the Great Spy Glass were pointed not at the House but at the North-East Watcher, to see if its bell-ear would quiver and herald the song. Great hordes of people cycled to the North-West and North-East embrasures, to listen. The old man had taken up residence in one of the North-West embrasures himself, though this time one closer to the northern corner of the outer walls. There he held hand to ear through long hours and listened to the sounds of the Night Land. Some believed he listened not to that tumult of baying and roaring, rumbling and screaming and hideous laughter, but to the dread Silence that underlay it.

The attendant Monstruwacans in the Tower of Observation, poised over their instruments for days now, still made minute adjustments to the oculuses of the Great Spy Glass, or scanned view tables to see if any new emanations through any of the extreme frequencies had issued from the House of Silence. Their distance microphones were set to the most sensitive, the range precisely tuned to the horrid and looming House on the low hill, whose door and empty windows shone unwavering with that light of unholy stillness.

Dione watched the occasional fidgeting of her attendants with patience. These were momentous times, and even the superbly trained and disciplined Monstruwacans could be forgiven their useless displacement rituals. She knew a large faction of them was convinced that the words of the Influence, and this promise of song from the ever-silent House, were lies to entice living souls out to their doom in the Night Land.

The Master knew that such pre-conception blocked pure observation. She cultivated an inner poise reflected in her outer stillness, a profound centering and settling she took now to its deepest depths, transcending even the sensitive instruments of the Tower and making herself into a pure receiver of the subtlest emanation. The gross sounds were obvious and she allowed them to pass her awareness, content that they would be recorded by her colleagues: the mad cackling, the snarls and roars, the flares of fire. But beneath were subtler emanations. She felt the sharp cut of the Electric Circle through the aether, like a knife edge around the base of the Pyramid; she felt the pulse of drum-like vibrations from the area of the Giant Kilns, the thrum of power from the Land of Blue Fire, even the minute shudder through the earth as some enormous beast writhed along some hidden crevice. In this state of stillness, she might even have sensed the movement of a Silent One along the Road, but none had been seen in the four days since the declaration by the Influence that the House of Silence would issue song. Far beyond, she registered a distant keening, background to all else, that she sensed came from the area of the green luminous mist.

The Master did not allow the agitation of the Night Land to disturb her stillness. All her awareness was empty to receive, poised to sense the faintest new hum or beat from the Silence. All the attendants in the Tower were set to record the first sound ever to issue from the House of Silence, but Dione was beyond expectations, in the stillness that would register emanations even such delicate instruments might miss. She did not wait, for time was gone; she was a Silence herself, open to receive.

Mett gazed out from the embrasure at the frantic Night Land. The old man stood beside him, not looking but cocking his head and holding gnarled hand to enlarged, grizzled ear, a posture he had held for days broken only for occasional sleep periods. Beside and behind these two figures others of the Mighty Pyramid thronged the large room, some even erecting scaffolds to clamber up near the high ceiling and gaze out the transom windows. Most did their best to listen, but many rustled and scratched or coughed or shuffled, as is ever the way with untrained humans. A few Monstruwacans in their black robes were in the front row with Mett and the old man, always monitoring, their discipline good but their faces set in scowls of doubt. Mett knew of the internal division among the Monstruwacans, some willing to consider the words of the Avatar valid, and others convinced they were the vilest deception.

New Foretellers in their red-embossed white robes were also in attendance, seeking their perpetual concurrence, equally well-trained to be still and await the known future. Some of Mett's own Scholars stood in the crowd as well, outwardly poised, but he knew their enhanced brains would be cogitating and collating data.

None of them could conceive of the great syntheses that had occurred in Mett's mind. He had divided the time of the last four days between intensive research in his archives, including into his copy of the Sibylline Book, and standing here beside his Avatar, listening to the Night Land. His studies had prevailed. The knowledge pulsing through his enhanced brain, linking memory and history and deduction and insight into a webwork of profound revelation, stunned him with its power. He could not help glancing at the New Foretellers, and with a minute fraction of his awareness he pitied them for their limited foreview. His deductive revelations were so much more accurate and predictive. And these poor Monstruwacans— some eager to judge, others keen to observe and record, when he already knew.

For Mett now knew the true nature of the House of Silence, the reasons for the ages-long gliding sojourns of the Silent Ones, the soul-stasis the House had inflicted on Naani so long ago, the ensorcellment the light of the House had put on Aschoff and his companions. Mett knew truths about this most ancient of mysteries, the House of Silence, such as no human had ever imagined.

And he waited now, not for some pitiful concurrence of his incomplete dreams, or to be the first to accurately record some new phenomenon from the House, but for the deliverance of his soul. Brain seething with the knowledge and its implications, body still and calm beside the old man, Mett knew what sounds he would soon hear from the once-dreaded House of Silence. And that would be the herald to a salvation of humanity such as no one had ever dreamed, though it had been there before them through ages nearly unimaginable.

With a remote fragment of his awareness, he wondered where Nemia might be. She had some clues now too, and might have deduced the truth. If she were to be the new Supreme at so young an age, she would have to show her superiority by demonstrating her ability to answer this mystery. A surge of sorrow struck his heart at the thought that she would be staying behind.

Koniopses stood in a small zone of space before the great crystal window set into the West corner of the Pyramid. It was a position people rarely occupied, for the crystal was so clear as to seem non-existent, and so large—sloping sixty feet up and back above his head and forty feet to either side at right angles—that it seemed no protection at all stood between the observer and all the horror of the Night Land. But now throngs of people filled the vast room, pressing up against the crystal, standing on hastily-erected metal tiers behind.

None stood within three feet of the Foremost Foreteller. The severity of his stillness, the certainty of his stance and mein, the presence of his knowing, kept them away. Even Cerantae his aide stood apart beside him, trying in vain to achieve the Foremost's acceptance of the impending future.

Koniopses, turned slightly to the North as were all the others in the room, seemed to gaze out at the restless Night Land, to listen to the terrible chorus of sound that had grown through the recent days and hours. But he was not gazing at nor listening to the present. He was not even immersed in the stream of time. He was time, all the enormous past, all the vast future, resting still in him, one complete and final whole, and he the center-point from which it radiated.

He no longer needed to know what would be. It was, as he was. A wave of inevitability had surged through time, and now he was that wave, changing within the sameness.

He noticed Cerantae shuffle one foot three metrons, heard the restless agitation of the masses behind him, saw a flare of red light from the Pit casting the distorted shadow of the North West Watcher toward the Redoubt. The frightful chorus of snarls, growls, shrieks, cackles, the frantic pulsing of the Giant Drums, the mad cavorting of the nearer Ab-Humans beside the Road, all the manic furor from the Night Land that had been growing these few days since the announcement of the old Janitor, were seen by him. And he was them. But more so, he was all of human history back even to the days of Sun. It was from there that he knew the song.

When the first sonorous tone welled out across the Night Land, all other sound ceased. The wild baying of Night Hounds cut off as if all their fanged and foaming mouths had snapped shut in an instant. The manic cackling of the Laughter, that had been steadily growing to a frenzied shrieking, ceased. The pulse of the Giant drums, the shrill dance music of the Ab-humans, the roars and growls of unknown monsters, all stopped at once.

A single deep tone swelled out into the silence. It rolled quickly over the desolate terrain beside the Road, lapped around the Watchers and rolled on over the Electric Circle to engulf the Mighty Pyramid.

The Monstruwacans confirmed at once with their instruments that it emanated from the House of Silence—though how they could not say. Dione merely stood in the Tower and let the deep thrum of the note vibrate in her bones.

The Scholars began at once to delve into their view tables, to research all songs that began with that note. Mett only smiled and raised one long hand as if to receive the rest of the song. The old janitor lowered his own hand, that had been cupped to his ear for so long, and smiled a more contented smile.

The New Foretellers breathed in the sound and sought that strange feeling of concurrence to confirm their belief in their powers. Kionopses moved not a metron, but the first note sent his spirit hurtling back through time toward an early age of Man.

Before that eerie tone could roll across the Pit of Red Smoke and the Dark Towers beyond the Pyramid and echo from the Headland From Which Strange Things Peer, a second tone welled forth. Then a rapid series of notes came lilting through the dark air, and the song, underscored by thrumming base notes, resounded across the Night Land and up into the Last Redoubt.

The Master was nodding now, her body moved by the compelling slow rhythm, her heart stirred to the sorrowful yet triumphant melody. Yet still she was the ultimate observer, beholding the truth of the song without questions—though none could know the unutterably ancient instruments which made the sounds, nor how they could issue with such volume from the House. Dione listened and began to move, and knew the final meaning of such music.

Mett's smile grew into a blissful grin. His hand began to sway and gesture, perfectly punctuating the unfolding melody as his other hand wove and waved following the underlying base rhythm. He was lost to all present time, as the immense capacity of his brain focused entirely on the correctness of his revelation. A wave of triumph surged from his brain through his entire body.

Koniopses hurtled further back through time, deep into the First History. Back, back, far before The Cities Ever Moving West, before the Darkening, into the earliest days of civilized humanity. There he approached the origins of the song.

As the song rolled on, that deep base pulse almost inspired the multitudes to march, but their amazement kept them spellbound. They swayed in the tides of the song, moved by an incredibly ancient sequence of sounds, that yet seemed as familiar to them as their childhood chants against Evil Influences. Yet how different this was, stately and elegant, yet simple and primal! They knew it, though they had never heard it. It called to something in their human spirit that no void of time could dampen.

Their amazement became shock—and a collective and nearly soundless gasp jolted the Pyramid—when a Silent One appeared before the door of the House. It did not come forth through the door from within the House, but suddenly appeared outside the threshold, and began to glide down the low hill upon which the House of Silence stood and move smoothly along the Road Where the Silent Ones Walk. At once another Silent One appeared before the door, to glide downward and along the Road. Then another, and another, until a strange procession of tall figures, robed and cowled in gray, glided eerily and purposefully and evenly-spaced along the Road toward the West.

And the song rolled on, the deep thrum of its foundation rhythm upholding the tragic and triumphant braying of its melody.

The old man turned, and looking into the first eyes he met, spoke to the entire room, indeed the entire Pyramid: "Now the way is opened. We may go at any time." And he walked through the silent crowd toward the door, along the corridor, down toward the Great Gate. Mett turned and walked behind him. He was no longer afraid of the Night Land or the Silent Ones. They were merely the spirits of his ancestors. And they too were going home.

Dione savored every nuance of tone and volume, every subtle vibration rang in her bones. She knew then the House of Silence as but a mausoleum that had trapped the souls of her forebears, and was now releasing them. And they were walking the Road for a final time, to pass through to the sanctuary they had so long approached but never attained. Now they would be let through—

Unless this was a brilliant deception wrought by the Malign Spirits of the Night Land. She was the Master, and none could cling to suspicion longer than she, as none could so well withhold judgment. But so compelling... She felt a great weight of responsibility and grief settle upon her as she accepted her duty to remain behind, to record and monitor the first Peregrination, so that future generations would know whether in truth real salvation awaited in the West, or just another false hope and dire doom. And she could not decide in her own heart if the risk was worth the threat.

Observe, she reminded herself. I exist only to witness. But neither could she determine whether she wanted that salvation to be real, and thus provoke more turmoil in the Last Redoubt than ever it had known since its inception, or false, and allow the populace—and herself—to return to normal.

Koniopses heard the music, here across the Night Land, and there, in the depths of the First History. They were the same. It was the primal archetypal song that stirred the joy and grief of humanity of any age. Reworked many times by countless composers, but ever the same at its source. And this was the progenitor song from which all the others were inspired. The Foremost Foreteller felt the most profound concurrence he could imagine, that linked all humanity that ever existed upon the Earth. It was like an ultimate Foretelling, and he wondered if the Night Land could be so devious as to provide him with such a powerful fulfillment, only to deceive him. But if it was true—

Koniopses knew that he must stay to breed descendants, who would retain this revelation, until the time when the South Watcher stamped on the Great Gate. Someone must remain until then, to lead the last timid souls from this false sanctuary to what might prove to be their true Home.

He emerged from the revelation of the song to look into the blessing of his aide's eyes. He reached out to embrace Cerantae and whisper, "So few will go now. If they win through, we will remain to Foretell salvation for the others."

Cerantae embraced the Foremost. Her face was slack, though tears flowed from her eyes. "I see," she whispered. "Some will wait until the very end. Our children must help them."

They stood together in their embrace, immobile now not because of Foreteller discipline but because of the enormity of their responsibilities and the import of their mission.

"Some have heard our song! Not just with their ears, but with their hearts they have heard, who still remember what is Good. We know others still require them to Prepare, though they know that no arms nor armor, capsule nor scrip are needed. That which hinders the five Watchers that beset you, is the same power that will ward you on the Road. As you have seen before. Our song has told you the true nature of the Silent Ones, who surely you must no longer fear. We have opened the way for those with hearts still trusting and intrepid, to come."

The old man gestured gently before the Watch-Dome. The long ramp behind him was empty, but the balconies and turrets and patios of the great Fore Court before him were thronging with the People. Behind him the Great Gate stood closed, vast heights and breadths of the hardest Redoubt Metal sealed shut with all the might of ancient engineering and nerved with conduits of Earth Current. The small Eye Gate also remained closed, though a faint red light glinted through the head-sized crystal set into that humble door.

The old man wrung his hands before his heart. "Though we are not the Powers for Good, and do not make them, we are their stewards, and may send them forth as needed. And that need may not be only for you, but for us as well. We are your ancestors, who love you still, and who have prepared a place for you, that needs the blessing of your presence to truly come alive.

"The Silent Ones too are your ancestors. Their souls had been captured by the House of Silence and used to patrol the Road, to ensure that you do not attempt the salvation of the green luminous mist. The Silent Ones are Influenced, so that they are impersonal, implacable, unimpeachable, forever wandering between the House and the gateway to salvation, but never allowed to go through. They are sentinels of fear to keep you from your exodus to heaven. Forever they must walk the Road, warding and occupying it so that you do not. The only place where they may act is in that land immediately before the portal, in the brightest shine of the green luminous mist. There, any living souls that turn aside from the mist in fear and doubt and dismay may be slain by the Silent Ones, their souls enslaved too to the House. And they slay by freezing with fear. For these ancestor spirits are feral, all their hate and resentment and longing for life made greater by the spells of the House, and their envy is so great that they will kill rather than stand in the presence of those who have true life.

"So now you need not fear them. Rather pity them, for they are your ancient selves lost in envy and hate. Now you hear the song they have always heard, and understand its call to eternal living death, the vague torment of a liminal world, unable to emerge into true life, prevented from slipping into final salvation. If you redeem yourselves into the green luminous mist, you may redeem them as well. Thus they also have hope in you, but the House turned that all to despair, and held it ever after in their weak minds, using them to deter you.

"Be not deterred. You know the truth now. Go forth boldly, feel compassion when you pass the Silent Ones on the Road, and do not stray from it before the final trust of the green luminous mist. A peace and delight await you as strong as the despair and pain you have long suffered. Embrace it and it shall embrace you. Do not live waiting for certain death. Rather die striving for uncertain life, and be reborn into bliss."

The old man turned and began the short walk down the ramp toward the Great Gate at the base of the Northwest wall of the Last Redoubt. Mett went close behind, and many others surged forth to follow. No armor did they wear, no diskoi bear, no capsule embedded in the flesh of their arms, no pouch even filled with tablets and water dust and gear for survival in the Night Land. In soft boots and loose robes, swaying dresses and leisure trousers, the old and the young, man and woman and child they swept forward, a rapture of trust and hope in their faces.

Seeing this, some of the Watchmen in the metal Watchdome beside the massive hinges and pistons made to haul the levers and throw the switches that would release the Earth Current to swing the doors wide, as they had been instructed by the Master Monstruwacan. It was an order the Master Watchman might have resisted, insisting upon a thorough testing to see that Dione was not Influenced herself, but the order had been supported by personal visits from both Kionopses the Foremost Foreteller, and Supreme Scholar Mett, who now walked in the van of the mob following the old man toward the gate. As the first faint crack of darkness appeared in the seam of the Gates, some of those same Watchmen prepared to join the throng themselves and take the Road to the green luminous mist.

But other Watchmen, still fearful that some tragedy would ensue, seeing the gradual opening of the Gates onto a horror they had feared their whole lives, hauled back the levers and switches to stop this madness, while others leapt between the old man and the Gates, diskoi held upright. Their thumbs held the triggers, determined even to engage the spinning of the blades to deter this insane venture. "Halt!" some ordered, fear become rage in their faces and voices. Others pleaded. "Don't make us force you." Terror and dismay made them rigid.

The old man paused and smiled at them. "Fear is a persistent force. But see?" And he waved at the tiny spot of crystal in the Eye Gate high above. They all looked up, and saw that, along with the red glow, a tint of green now glinted there. The diskoi wavered.

Mett stepped forward beside the old man, put a long hand on his shoulder, and stared into the eyes of the Watchmen. "You too have heard the song. The Powers for Good await us. We would enjoy your company on the Road, and your bravery and steadfastness in our new home."

"Though there you will not need such often," the old man added.

The Watchmen wavered. Some lowered their diskoi and stepped aside. But then a gust of utterly cold air passed in between the crack in the Gates, and a flare of red light, and a distant growl and moan from the Night Land without. The Watchmen flinched and leapt back on guard, some turning toward the controls to close the Gate again.

But other Watchmen blocked the entrance to the Watchdome, while some worked the controls again and the Gate began to open wider. Shouts arose, a discos spun and chopped, and the sickening shriek of its wicked blade striking armor pierced the air. More diskoi flared into life, more shouts and that terrible tearing of armor rent the air, as the two factions engaged in battle.

The Great Gate stood still, but now the crack was wide enough to allow a single person passage. The old man nodded and stepped through. Hand still on his shoulder, Mett followed. Others stepped through behind him.

Instantly Mett was struck by terrible cold and a desperate darkness, pierced by strange flares and glows of colored light. A full mile ahead a thin line of white light split the dark. Beyond that shone a dull red light he knew to be the Red Fire Pit, with that vast shadow obscuring it that was the shape of the Northwest Watcher. To its right that long dull glare must be the Vale of Red Fire, and still further right and North the distant glow of the Plane of Blue Fire. Beyond that he knew the House of Silence stood, hidden now by the bulk of the Mighty Pyramid. Then his eyes teared in the intense cold, and all dissolved into a blur. But through that blur he beheld in the West a distant gleam of green.

"Ahh," he heard his Avatar sigh. "We are almost there." Mett followed as the Avatar took the first steps outside the Great Refuge, moving left along the wall toward the West and South. Behind, the People one by one came through the Great Gate and followed, with even a few Watchmen joining them. Mett picked his way over the uneven ground in soft boots, feeling the cold through his Scholar's robes. He felt the first stirrings of fear.

Eventually the First Peregrination, over a thousand in all, stood in awe before a slim line of white fire hovering near their knees and arching away into dark distance. The Electric Circle. Beyond that line the full fury of the Night Land awaited, and the utter abandonment of their home of so many generations. They looked back at the Great Pyramid, towering up into the black sky with its many windows and embrasures and balconies lit with Earth Current. Soaring above that the Tower of Observation stood—though not as tall as it had been, since the upper half had been severed from the Earth Current. And a large section of the base of the Pyramid showed dark since the lower cities had been abandoned. But in between glowed the Four-Hundred and Eighty Cities, with the many embrasures on this Southwest side dotted with people who had come to watch the vulnerable Peregrination. They of that Peregrination might have quailed then and returned, but they heard the words of the Avatar.

"Though you have made its container, this too is a manifestation of the Good Powers." He held his hands out above the Circle, as if blessing it, or drawing in its strength. "But now such Powers will accompany us always, and we are safe beyond this line." And he stepped casually over and strode across the uneven ground beyond.

Mett kept his eyes focused on his Avatar. Though it should have been a marvel to him to stand here, upon the Electric Circle he had only seen from so far above, he spared no mind for awe, but hopped over it as if it were a child's toy and followed the Avatar into the Night Land. With various responses of awe, urgency, curiosity and excitement, the others followed. The First Peregrination had entered the Night Land.

In the Tower of Observation, Dione stood calmly while the other Monstruwacans recorded and adjusted and observed with suppressed agitation. Often they would report in slightly shrill tones some detected emanation from the Night Land: a pack of approaching Night Hounds, a further increase in the volume of the Great Laughter, dark things drifting down from the Headland From Which Strange Things Peer. And the quivering of the bell-ear of the North East Watcher continued, alerting all the Night Land that humans were abroad.

Dione heard the clipped accusations in some of their reports. She struggled to remain calm. Occasionally she closed her eyes and nodded. Observe, she said with all her being. Just observe. But she felt it was her charge to protect all the peoples of the Redoubt, and that in this she was about to fail. She could not bring herself to look through an oculus and see those vulnerable people out there in the terror and cold of the Night Land. She was the Master, but she chose to stand among her attendants in the Chamber of Observation and remain still while they monitored through the Great Spy Glass, and reported on this historic moment.

Nemia wandered through the halls of the Scholars' section, stunned at the speed of change. She had barely had time to say good-bye to the many members of her Youth League who had chosen to go out with the Peregrination—as so many Youth had chosen—before the Senior Scholars had told her that soon they would meet in council to decide if Mett was Influenced in his final decree that she be appointed Supreme. Excitement arose in her heart, and she felt a sudden kinship with Naani, whose blood she bore. That had been a bold and courageous ancestor, and now Nemia thrilled that she might at so young an age achieve a position as one of the Redoubt Archons. She felt certain that Mett, though inspired almost to obsession, had not been Influenced, and so her ascension was assured. But memory of Mett brought both fond sentiments and terrible worry, that he might have been merely wrong, and would die in hideous torture out in the Night Land. She could not bring herself to an embrasure, where so many others of the Redoubt watched the progress of the Peregrination, and so she wandered, thinking about her near future.

Eventually her mind began to work, and she found herself moving toward her private chambers. She would calm this churning mind, and meditate on the juxtaposition of threat and opportunity, until Seniors came to tell her of their decision. Other Scholars might come to report on the fate of the Peregrination. She knew even then that though it might reach its goal of the green luminnous mist, that in no way assured that the Peregrination had reached salvation. She prepared herself to accept that she, and all the Great Pyramid, might never know.

Koniopses and Cerantae hung together in the Centre-Point. Radiant emanations of Earth Current wreathed the air around them, but a thick beam of bright white light gleamed in the air between their hearts. Their eyes were closed, their breath even, all their being still but for this exchange of energy between their souls. Time was one, and they knew the eternal union that bonded Mirdath and her lover bonded them too now. From this union, sharings emerged in the one being they made.

Our children must know of this First Peregrination. Yes. As clearly as we know love. We shall give them that power. The Foretelling power shall be enhanced in our heirs, who shall know this time as they know their own. Through a million years they shall know. And remind all the Pyramid: The Road may be made safe by the Powers for Good. If they trust and take courage. Beyond the green luminous mist may be our true home.

Or a terrible death out in the dark and utter chill of the Night Land.

The bright bond of light shortened, drawing the two together. They embraced in slow stillness and rapture, centered between the vast lineages of their ancestors and the precious promise of their descendants, knowing they served both. They savored the bliss of their union. Beyond the green luminous mist could await safety and home, but here, in their communion, was a delight of service and sharing that approached even that. But only their direct heirs would have this power. The rest of the Pyramid's population would need to be reminded either to take the Road, or resist the despair that led to foolish risk.

The Master Monstruwacan entered once again that state of stillness where time hung poised. Over a time that must have been recorded as days, reports came to her ears:

"Silent Ones moving along the Road." Pause. "The people stand aside and let them pass. They do no harm."

"Now a pack of Night Hounds approach. They stop to bay and snarl, but do not charge. They seem unwilling to step onto the Road, but prowl restlessly. Now they slink off whining and are lost in darkness."

"Strange black forms we have not seen before approach the Road. We believe they have come down from the Headland from Which Strange Things Peer. They scurry along the edge of the Road, and the humans pause, pull together around their leader. The black forms writhe at the edge of the Road, but do not move onto it. The humans hurry on. The black forms scurry along beside them for a time, but then crawl away and are lost into the Night Land."

"The Giants' Drums pulse louder. Giants roll forward some strange new engine, aim it at the helpless humans moving slowly along the Road. The Giants load their great weapon... but do not fire. They wait and watch as the humans pass on."

"Now Ab-humans dance and writhe beside the Road on both sides. The humans pass among them. The Ab-humans cavort in frenzy, waving over-large hands, nodding their misshapen heads. Some humans cower, turn to go back, but then the old janitor turns to speak. We cannot hear, they are too far away even for our distance microphones. But the humans turn again and continue on."

Dione heard the mutterings of some of her colleagues, that the lesser monsters of the Night Land were merely allowing the humans to pass on to a greater horror that waited within the green luminous mist. But she maintained strict objectivity and held no opinion.

She moved at last and placed her eye to the oculus reserved for her. She watched as the final report echoed through the Chamber. "The glow of the green luminous mist grows brighter. It is tinted with gold now. At full magnification, the Great Spy Glass can discern the mass of humans on the Road amidst the haze of light. But we have seen none depart the Road into the Place Where the Silent Ones Kill. Their leader suddenly skips in glee, and is lost into the mist. One of those who follows, tall, bald-headed, turns and waves a broad hand in farewell. Then he and all the others are lost into the green luminous mist."

Dione turned and slowly walked to her chambers below. Now she would sleep. She wondered what her dreams would bring. She strove to accept that though she had Observed, she could know no final answer to the mystery of the green luminous mist.

To beyond the green luminous mist — A poem related to this story.

To Beyond (Part 1) — the next story in this series.

© 2010 by Gregg Marchese.
Image © 2015 by Kate Coady.