KEEPER OF DAYS I: The Book of Day and Night – Chapter Two

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TWO

COUNT AND COUNSEL

 

As we made our way back down the spiral steps, we beheld a figure lying near the bottom of the stair, instantly recognizable by the wisps of white hair about his head as Master Timeon.  I ran to him, concerned that in his advanced age he had fallen.

“I’m fine,” he said, with a dismissive wave of the hand.  “I should not have tried to chase after.  My body tires easily these days.”

Nevertheless, I bade him rest there until Brother Kellen could be summoned to check him.  Orly went to fetch him from the chapel while Brother Wendol and I remained with him.  Wendol needn’t have stayed, I believe he did so because he did not know what else to do.  I looked into Timeon’s watery, ice blue eyes, and told him what we had found, or rather what we had not, in the belfry.

“Seven chimes,” said Master Timeon. “Seven crows, and seven chimes.”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Portents, Daniel.  Signs and portents.”

Brother Wendol went to his knees on the step above us and began a fitful, half-muttered, half-silent prayer.  To what Lord he prayed, I could not say.  It may very well have been directed at all of them, and for that I could not blame him.

Orly returned, bringing Brother Kellen, a man now nearly as old as Master Timeon himself.  Kellen had Apprentices, but none I would trust with the safety of the leader of our order.  Brother Kellen checked his arms, legs and back, and asked him many pointed questions about his eyes and breathing.  I have never had patience for physic, strange as it may seem, as I have patiently learned all the Masters had to teach about the lore of the Seven Lords and the counting of days of their Ages.

“The count,” I said, realizing with surprise that I had forgotten the most sacred duty entrusted to my care.

“Go,” said Master Timeon, “I’m fine.  We will speak shortly.”

I nodded, and reached out a hand to touch his arm.  Timeon had been no less stern as the other Masters, when I was young (though truth be told it was Master Paz who my class of initiates feared more than any other), but every lesson he imparted, every crack of the stick upon our hands, was out of true care for our minds, our bodies, and our souls.  I have no doubt of this.

“Go,” he repeated, a chiding look in his eye.

I first had to go to the chapel, and tell those still assembled there to proceed with their duties.  Matron Sebelle was standing near the center of the chapel, no doubt keeping everyone calm, and perhaps leading an additional prayer; I noted several of those present had fallen to their knees before their benches.  I gathered up the apprentices who stood duty on the count, and ushered them inside, making our way up and back through the passages of the monastery, to that most amazing spectacle of our Order, one of the highest places hewn into and from these mountains: the Star Chamber.

As senior of the Journeyman Monks, our order’s most sacred duty is in my charge: we are, after all, Keepers, and though there are many orders of Keepers in this world, each keeping a branch of lore passed down from the Seven Lords and the first of the ancient people, we are the only sect entrusted to keep the days.  This we do within the Star Chamber, once a dome of rock set in the rear of the mountain cleft that is now our home, looking down upon the grassy valley I have previously described.  The stonemasons who created this place for our order so many thousands of years ago hollowed out the dome, then carved holes, portals, and channels in the rock, so that the progress of sun and stars may be charted on the floor of the chamber.  In the center stand the wheels, which when turned by a team of apprentices will advance the count.  The floor itself has been cut into rings, which move in accordance with the advancement of days, months, and years.  The count of days is advanced each morning after Morning Prayer, and is kept in the inner ring, which moves easily when the top wheel is turned.  The second ring is turned each month, resetting the days as well.  The third wheel and ring are much more difficult to move, and is a challenge each year, though we work hard to maintain the mechanisms of the wheel and beneath the floor of the chamber.  The outer wheel, moved by the lowest wheel, and the only one made of stone, is the last to move, and is only turned when the new Age comes, once every thousand years.  Though I knew this chamber as surely as I knew my own body, had in fact kept its mechanisms with greater care than perhaps I had my own, I had never seen the outer ring move, nor had anyone alive.  I had only to gaze at my feet, however, where the light of the heavens illustrated a map upon the floor, to know that soon, very soon, this would change.  The Age of Storm was at an end, and soon the new age would dawn, and at last I would see what so many before me had died never witnessing: the entire Star Chamber turning, to face not the sun we had known our entire lives, but a new sun, in a new sky.

It took my breath to think of it, but for now we needed only advance the count of days.  My apprentices took hold of the first wheel and walked around the center post, turning the wheel, and with it, the inner circle (just beyond the line where the apprentices walk, which does not move) turned, advancing the day to mid-month.  Two weeks, I thought, just two weeks now until our order will see the dawn of a new age.

Our sacred duty being complete, I assembled the apprentices for a short prayer.  Afterward, I told them I must meet with Master Timeon, but they had questions, and in the interests of educating them, I remained to answer as many as I could.  Unfortunately, when it pertained to the strange events at Morning Prayer, I had little wisdom to give.

“Did the Lords send the crows at Morning Prayer?” one boy asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered, “but it is possible.”

“Did they ring the bell?”

“I don’t know.”

“You went up to the belfry. Who was there?”

“No one,” I answered truthfully.

“Then it must have been one of the Lords,” he said.

I hesitated.  “These may indeed be portents,” I said, “but what they portend, I cannot say.  It is not good to jump to conclusions, without careful consideration.”

“Will you still make the pilgrimage?” one girl asked.

“Yes,” I said, “that is not likely to change.  Someone must make the pilgrimage, and with my ascension this afternoon, I am the most likely person.  We wouldn’t want Master Timeon to try to walk such a long way, would we?”

“What will the new sun be like?” another boy asked.

I had answered this question before, and the apprentices know I do not like to give them the same information more than once.  So, I turned his question back on them.  “What do the texts say about this?” I asked.  “What do they say of the past change of Ages?”

They all raised their hands dutifully.

“Sister Esme,” I said, choosing the girl who had asked about the pilgrimage.

“It depends on which of the Lords takes dominion,” she said.

“That is right.” I nodded. “This is why it is so important that a Master make the pilgrimage to the Eye of Stone and bear witness to the signs of the Godsmoot.  The heavens will open up and reveal which of the Lords has been chosen.”

They nodded.

“Who knows why the Godsmoot is so important?  Why must a new Lord be chosen every thousand years?”

This time, only Sister Esme raised her hand.  This one will be a Journeyman soon, I thought.  Perhaps even younger than myself.  I smiled.  “Yes, Esme.”

“So that the Lords don’t destroy the New World!”

“Yes.  The Elder God, father of the Seven Lords, created all of the heavens, the stars and suns and worlds.  First there was the Old World.  But the Elder God did not want his sons to rule His creation, and so he tried to banish them beyond His realm.  What happened?”

“They killed him.”

“Yes.  The Seven Lords fought back, and destroyed their father.  But then, they had the Old World to themselves, all seven of them.  What did they do?”

“They fought each other!”

“Indeed.  Unable to rule together, they battled for control, and for eons their struggle battered the Old World until, in the end, it was torn apart.  Then what happened?”

“They found the New World.”

I nodded, and waited for her to continue.  This was my method, to take them only so far, and then let them complete the journey.

Esme continued.  “And…they came to the New World, and they had to decide who would rule it.  They didn’t want to ruin the New World like they had the Old one.  So…they had the Godsmoot, to pick one Lord to rule.  Only the others didn’t like the idea of one Lord ruling always, so they said have a Godsmoot every thousand years, and take turns ruling.”

“And which Lord rules over the world in our current Age?”  I would expect them all to know this, and they did not disappoint.  The Lord of Storm, they all answered together.  I smiled.  “Yes.  Now go, I must see Master Timeon.  We have much to discuss.”

They filed out of the Star Chamber, and I followed so far as the stair that led to the cloister, and the Master’s offices.  One day, it will be my office, I thought, with some trepidation.  Most of my concern, however, was for the answers I had given the children.  This morning, when the first light of dawn fell upon me in my bed, I instantly knew it to be a gift from the Lord of Day.  Yet when asked to credit the Lords with the strange appearance of seven crows and the mysterious ringing of seven chimes, I hesitated.  Why?  I was not sure, and my doubt troubled me far more than my certainty.

NEXT: ASCENSION

(c)opyright 2013 by J. David Clarke

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