Marking of the Daysby Sincline Koutaishi
Restoration of the Gods
There is something that is missing from my home... Something that must be returned. A feeling. A sound.
I look across the empty main courtyard of the palace, seeing a few staff members milling about, as I sip my morning tea and gaze toward the deserted temple. Long ago one could see the sun rise over this temple and people would visit here from the city every dawn, offering their prayers in flame. My father did away with the Gods, removed them from our people in as hard a way as he could. Not many temples survived his wrath here on Forth. In the far kingdoms more did remain standing, yet not a single Imperial held world failed to lose some of its spirit.
The statues in the courtyards of Manaleh are all gone, just the places that they used to occupy remain. The temple is tightly locked. I have been thinking much about this since meeting with Giihio, seeing the effects that the Gods have on his life.
Hanta finds me there on the temple courtyard grounds, staring at the wall of temple doors.
"What are you doing?" She hisses, "Go back inside!"
"You are in your bed robes! What are you thinking?"
"I am thinking that this is my home and I should be allowed to wander about as I will. I am not indecent, I am well clothed."
"Complete with morning tea." She sighs, "Why are you out here?"
"I have decided that I wish to open the temple doors. Have it done. I have an idea..."
I give her the empty cup then turn to go on my way back across the court, listening to Hanta's spluttering behind me about the mistake she has made in allowing me to have some free time.
I head into my chambers, throw on some clothing, then go skulking about in the vast, dusty stores below the Palace. They must be somewhere... Or did he have them destroyed?
"Young Prince, what are you searching for?" An old woman asks me, startling me from my search. She seems to be one of the caretakers down here and has been watching me with some curiosity for a good while.
"The Gods. The ones that lived in the courtyard and the temple. What did my father do with them?"
"The Gods have long since gone, highness... If you ask kindly you may yet find them." She beckons me to follow her through the dusty maze beneath the palace until we come to a wall where she places a finger, "Ask for them here."
My eyes adjust to the low light and I see that she is pointing to a spot on a map. It is the Namidan Archives in the city... The museum. Someone has seen fit to save them from my father just as they saved his throne from my eagerness to see it aflame. I smile slowly. Those damnable Ministry of Heritage people... I may find a use for them yet.
"Thank you." I say to her.
"Say hello to them for me." She smiles.
I realize now that she may be a little bit off her mind, but she is a kind old thing. I resolve to have her well fed for the rest of her days and make to hurry out of the palace, into the streets before my guard can follow me or protest.
My escape is successful enough that I soon find myself in the city alone, approaching the Archives. I park my shikan in front of the main entrance and head into the crowded front garden court of the Archives. The good weather has brought people out in droves.
I am in a rush and people jump out of my way, surprised to see me alone as they had been before when I visited with Hanta and Yuki. Shortly I mount the steps of the museum. The ceremonial guard there is startled to see me as well.
I brush past them and they follow me inside.
"Be of help or leave me alone! Where is the curator??" I stop short and turn toward them.
"The offices." One of them says to me and both point up the winding marble stairs, "To the right."
More stairs and I burst through the doors, causing one of the women inside to throw an armload of paper into the air from her surprise.
I laugh, "Where is the curator?"
"Forgive me, highness..." She gathers her wits and bows, "In there."
Another door and another person frightened.
"Highness!" She too stands and bows, "What brings you?"
"You are surprised to see me..." And that is an understatement from her expression.
"We have not seen you here before! And your father only once."
"I have come to speak with the Gods... The Gods you were probably hiding from him."
"What can you mean, highness?"
"Do not play at ignorance with me. I know that they are here and I will have them returned to their rightful places. To the temple and to the courtyard of Manaleh... Where are they?"
She keeps her tongue so I come forward, resting my hands upon her desk and leaning toward her. She takes a step back, clutching a book to herself nervously.
"Woman, I know that they are here and I know from your expression that you do too. You have nothing to fear from me. I would return the Gods to their homes, not destroy them as my father sought to... Take me to them."
She flusters out an excuse shortly, giving up when she sees that I am unmoved.
"Swear it!" She yelps.
"That you will not destroy them!"
"I do indeed swear that. I do not pretend to you when I say I will restore them... Now will you take me to them?"
She sighs, puts her book down and goes to a cabinet where she rifles through hundreds of keys. Finally she plucks out one and beckons for me to follow her... Down into the basement, several floors beneath the archives. I am surprised by the amount of art and finery that is kept here.
"I should come back here some day when I have time to look." I mention.
"We would gladly close the doors to the public for a day so that you could browse the galleries undisturbed, Sire." She looks back over her shoulder.
"Not necessary. I will come with everyone else. I need no special consideration."
"You are very different from your father." She says to me and unbolts another massive door, shoving it open and inviting me in.
The door booms shut behind us and my nostrils are filled with the dust and strange smells of ancient things. She takes me on a long journey through all of this finery, through crates and halls with locked doors. It is even larger, more of a maze than the stores below Manaleh. I wonder how she knows where she is going.
"Do you ever bring these things up for display?"
"Yes, we rotate the exhibits so that every piece has its time in the light."
"Amazing... I had never known there was so much."
"It is a bit of work, but we do love it."
She brings me to a bare wall, "Hnn?"
"We are here... You will keep your word?"
"I will... But I do not see them." I cast my gaze around.
"They are ahead of you." She points to the wall, "Go and see."
"You are playing with me." I laugh.
"No, sire... Step that way."
The wall turns out to be illusion made by curtains that masks another massive room. And there they are... Each and every one of the Gods, lovingly preserved and kept safe from my father. I feel my breath leave my body, surrounded so suddenly by these beautiful things that are all turned toward me as though they have been waiting for my arrival amongst them.
I have missed them... Only barely remembering them from being a small child. When I regain my wits I wander amongst them, looking for my favorite... The Great God Vikoa and the Great Goddess Fao. Perfect union, equal opposites. I smile and bow to them.
"I am here to take you home." I say, then just stand and stare at them for such a long while.
The curator comes to stand beside me, breaking the silence gently, "They are wonderful, are they not? Passion and tenderness, justice and mercy, strength and softness, night and day... So many things... Modeled after northerners it seems. Perhaps that is why your father despised them so, because he was southern."
"No, he simply hated them because they were seen to have power. Because they were given thought and respect by the people. Perhaps he felt that they would take away from him what was his due... What must I do to have them returned to their homes?"
"Simply offer it. I will see to it that they are returned with great care... I am thrilled that they will be in Manaleh again... Such a relief... Before Manaleh was home to your father, it was a sacred place, the home temple to these two and a place where many many priests and priestesses came to learn. People would come from all over to offer prayers to the Gods and to meditate in the courtyards under the flowering trees." She leads me to a cabinet where she finds books filled with incredible drawings of the palace.
"Trees... I will have them planted again." I marvel at the images, "What are these?"
"Every wall had tiles depicting lessons of the Gods. They were removed along with the Gods themselves and they are here too... Shall we restore Manaleh for you, my King?"
"Yes." I smile at her, "What is your name?"
"Teuskay." She smiles back, "It is a pleasure to meet you... I feared that after your ignoring of our pleas to leave Galrea standing, you would continue to destroy things. I am glad to see you have not and that you wish to restore."
"I do very much. I remember Manaleh when I was a child and the beauty of it... But it was never like this in my memory."
"Most of the treasures were stored away when your father first threatened to claim Manaleh. It was a precautionary measure. We had seen him destroy many art works... I will have some of these books brought to you there so you may have a better look at them if you like. Any restoration that you wish to have done I will be happy to assist you in accomplishing."
"Wonderful..." I stop for a moment, remembering my inspiration for this journey, "Do you know the songs?"
"The morning and evening songs... The weather songs?"
"Ahht... I do know a few."
"I am horrible at singing!" She blushes.
"Do you know of others who know the songs?"
"Yes. And they are written out so any person may learn them. Here." She finds me another large book, "There are hundreds and hundreds."
"I know just the person to begin to sing these songs again... May I take this?"
"Just so long as you take good care of it."
"I will... Have arrangements made to move Vikoa and Fao back home as soon as possible. You may contact my advisor Hanta at the palace and she will assist you with whatever you need."
"I must go now but I do thank you. For your trust and for your care of the Gods over the years. I look forward to working with you on the rebuilding of Manaleh and perhaps other places that I do not yet know of." I bow to her in respect and she laughs.
"A king bows to me. I am honored! Come along. I will show you out."
Back in the street I take my prize off to my next stop and she is surprised indeed to see me in her doorway.
"Have you come back to me so soon?" Sachay smiles, "You should at least keep away for a while to make me think that you are playing hard to win."
"I am not playing at anything." I smirk at her games, pushing by her into the flat.
"Where are your guard?" She shuts the door.
"Where are your flocks of admirers?"
"I have my own time." She says.
"And so do I... When I move fast enough." I put the book down on the table in her living quarters. Sachay comes over and stands in front of me, running a hand across my chest, "And you move quickly yourself."
"When I see something I want, yes." She smiles sweetly.
I remove her hand from my person, kissing its back, "I am here for business, Sachay. Not pleasure."
"Ahhlll... I hate you some times... What is on your mind?" She holds my hand with both of hers.
"The book that is on the table there... Songs... I want you to sing them for me and teach them to others."
"Hnn." She lets me go and has a look. I am pleased when her eyes grow large as she turns the pages. She knows what these are, "Incredible... I know some of these... But there are so many more than I have heard of!"
"Do you know the morning song?" I knew I had come to the right person.
"Oh yes. That is one of the first things you learn in music school."
"Sing it for me." I gather the book and grab her hand, towing her toward the door.
"Yai! What are you doing?"
"Come along! Do you not enjoy a challenge? It is still morning!"
"You make me crazy, strange man."
She allows herself to be dragged along to Manaleh where I put her up on the balcony facing out toward the courtyard and the temple, the valley below and the city.
"Perhaps you could say please?" She scowls.
"Please sing." I smile and lean on one of the walls.
"Very well." She sighs and stretches.
Finally I hear that sound—the morning song—filling the interior halls, filling the courtyard and flying down to the valley. It rises slowly and grows and grows, like the sun coming up. It moves me now as it did when I was a child, calling me to life. It ends at the height of its passion and carries on in wonderful echoes across the valley. Looking down into the courtyard I can see that it is filled with life suddenly. Many of the palace staff have come out to be bathed in the sound of Sachay's voice singing this ancient lament. They stand still for a while and then bow to her one by one before departing to go about their business.
"Amazing." She says, casting her eyes toward me for a moment, "Thank you for letting me do that. Now I know how it was meant to be sung. This palace is like a musical instrument. I think it was built to amplify the laments. I am willing to wager that the entire valley heard my voice."
"You may be right." I shake my head to come back to myself, "Incredible... Sachay, will you teach others? I would like to have these songs in Manaleh again, as was tradition. I hope to hire a few singers perhaps."
"I would be glad to. I would rather like to do some of the singing myself." She is still watching people leave the courtyard below, "Our people seem appreciative." She breaks herself away and wanders over to me, "You know... I could sing the morning song every day... If I were sleeping here." She smiles sweetly again.
"You have your own home, Sachay." I remind.
"I would rather that this be my home, Kou... I think I deserve at least a kiss from my king for so fine a bit of singing. Nnh?"
"Sachay..." I laugh until suddenly she has pulled me down and is kissing me to my protest.
"Hemmm." Hanta has entered the hall and I finally break free from Sachay at her pointed arrival. "Excuse the interruption." She bows.
"No worry." I frown at Sachay who seems quite pleased with herself. "What is it?"
"I have been given a message from the archives. They wish to bring some friends for you to see when you wander about in your bed clothing. I assume you know of this?"
"Yes I do. Assist them as best you can. If you need anything beyond what you are able to do, I will see to it personally. I would also like to meet with the head grounds keeper. Can you arrange that?"
"I can indeed. I will do so immediately... And leave you two to your... Discussion." She raises an eyebrow before turning her back on us, wandering back down the hall.
"Sachay..." I fume.
"What?" She smiles innocently.
"Do not attach yourself to me so! People will begin to talk."
"And so? If they will talk, we may as well give them something to talk of. No?"
"NO!" I take her by the shoulders and look into her face, "Sachay, it can only be friendship between us." I state firmly.
She sighs and frowns, "I do wish you would not say that."
"It is what is true. I do not want for you to carry on thinking that I am just playing difficult. I am not. I do like you Sachay, but I cannot have the kind of relationship with you that you wish for."
"Rrrrhh... At least tell me, what is she like that you love her so much? You are not even a little swayed by me! And why is she not with you, hnn?"
"There is no one."
"Liar." She furrows her brow at me, "Tell me the truth if we are to be friends."
"There is no one." I repeat, feeling my resistance giving way.
"I have heard that you love a human."
"Nonsense." I let her go and fold my arms across my front.
"Is that why she is not with you? Because she is the enemy to you and you to her?"
"Stop with your romantic fantasies... The fact of the matter is that I will have an arranged marriage and that will be my lot."
"If that was the case, you could at least have recreation with me for you do not love her. I know the truth in your heart, Kou. I have heard her name. I do wish I had not had so much to drink or I would remember it!" She scowls. "And you would too... I will teach whomever you like to sing the songs... You would do well to be honest with yourself. Stupid man."
She shoves me aside and goes storming off down the inner hall. I sigh, watching her go and thinking that at least there is one more person that knows me, has no worry about treating me as just another person. I count myself lucky on this day for many reasons.
The grounds keeper assures me that he will do all that he can to return the courtyard and the palace grounds to their original splendor now that he knows it is safe to do so. I go with him off to see the locks being removed from the temple doors. It has been quite the process. Father was determined to keep the doors closed. The palace guard begin to use precision weaponry on the things and finally one gives way, falling heavily to the ground and scarring some of the intricate woodwork on the doors it has so long held shut. Everyone around winces. Lesson learned... Boards are placed between the locks and the smaller doors so that when they fall they will not scar the wood.
After much waiting and work all of the doors and windows are without their shackles. Perfect timing for it too as it is late afternoon and the Great Gods have arrived at the front gates of their old home. They have been followed on their journey by many people from the city who wonder what is happening, having seen these Gods that had been missing so long moving through the streets.
Teuskay seems well in command of her forces from the archives and smiles with a bow as they pass through. They must have an enormous amount of experience with moving such large things.
The Gods have a grand homecoming, though unexpected. Everyone pours out of the palace once again to see what is going on. The people who have come from the city are allowed to stay once the palace guard have been told I do not wish to turn them away. They come and nervously gather about as the members of the archives hurry to free the Gods from their strapping, easing their palate carefully off of the transport flat onto the ground with a terrific thump. I smile as a gasp goes through the crowd then a little applause comes. I go forward then and have a look at them in the light of day. Perfect.
"My people..." I turn to the gathering, "By the good works of the Namidan Archives these wonders have been kept safe from my father. By the good works of the palace guard, the temple doors have been freed of locks. It is time now to open the doors that have been so long shut and return the Gods to their rightful place. I have great hope that the inside of the temple has been spared his wrath for I remember it being beautiful... Geten..." I call to the head of the palace guard and he comes to my side. "Let us add a little drama, nnh?" I clap him on the shoulder and he smiles.
"As you will, my lord."
"Have one each of your men to a door for the small ones. You and I will open the largest. Do you feel strong enough?"
"I do I do!" He calls out to them and they assemble along with we two, taking hold of the enormous dark metal rings. "Are you feeling strong today too, Baika?" He chuckles.
"I am I am!"
"Call out then!"
With that we all begin to pull. The hinges on the doors creak and crackle as rust falls from them at our force. The door is heavy and the metal ring is heavy. It makes me wonder how the priests and priestesses could open and close them every day and night... But then suddenly it is like a leaf in my hand, moving effortlessly. All doors fall wide with deep thumps against their opening stops to the amazed looks of the palace guard. They must have experienced what I did.
My heart is pounding... With a little hesitation I go toward the opening that Geten and I have made, peering into the darkness that is before me. What will I see?
A strong breeze comes behind me, being pulled into the dark halls and I draw my breath along with it... Then it stops... My clothing settles about me... I can feel the hair on my head begin to bristle at the strangeness... Then the breeze turns and I feel it flowing outward from the dark halls all around me, against my face and through my hair... Again it stops, accompanied by complete silence from those many who have gathered in the largest court of the palace to see this.
"Sire..." Geten hisses, looking worried.
"It is strange... It feels as though the temple has drawn a long breath and exhaled then... I think it is still alive with the mysteries that so worried my father... Temple... Will you allow us entry?" I feel strange in asking it, yet it feels like what I must do. There is no audible response that comes but a feeling does. A feeling of being welcome. The crowd shifts and murmurs.
"Sire, I believe we are welcome." Geten nods, "A strange day indeed."
"Men... Bring lanterns. Be quick about it." I wave to some of them who are still standing there, some with their mouths slightly open.
Inside we go, all staring about in wonder as the light from the lanterns cast shadows across the great artistry of the place. It is all still here though stripped of any freestanding articles. The walls are incredible—all wooden and carved with scenes depicting the Gods' lessons. Before me lies the platform where Vikoa and Fao have lived.
"Teuskay... Tell your people to move the Gods inside. It is all safe it seems."
"Yes, sire." She shakes off her surprise and moves along.
We part the way as they come through slowly. The last bit requires some effort as the platform is elevated. In this final motion I lend a hand and muscle along with a number of the palace guard, lifting the stone gods into place.
I look into the raised stone bowls beside them. There is old wood there and so I use my lighter on the wicks of each, jumping back a little when the dry wood catches quickly. Another gasp through the crowd and then murmurs of surprise as the fire illuminates a great deal of the place. A low howl comes as the air from inside the temple begins to circulate and the heat and smoke rises up openings in the roof above.
I look up at the stone pair in my own wonder. Vikoa and Fao have truly returned to their places beside one another in their temple home and I smile upon them then go to my knees before them.
Those that have gathered to see the spectacle call out in approval. I am in some way relieved by this sound and stand again, backing away to let them all have a look. I will have plenty of time to get to know these Gods at a later time. I smile further to think that I have taken Vikoa's name as my own on certain occasions when my own would not do. At least now I have repaid him somewhat for the use of his good name. Everyone that comes forward bows to the Gods and moves aside to let others see them.
"Geten... Have the men light the rest of the fires. If there is no wood, bring it. Bring much of it!"
"Yes, sire." He grins and calls to his men again.
"What do you think, Teuskay?" I ask where she stands beside me, watching as our people flow about, taking in the splendor of the temple.
"I think you have made your people very happy, my King. It has been a strange but amazing day... We will have the other things brought as we are able to."
"If you need assistance, do ask. I am happy to help."
"We are very good at this now." She smiles, "But I thank you for your kindness. We will bring home a God per day until they are all returned. Do you mind if we send the staff out to document things?"
"Not at all. I encourage it... But for now, I must say my partings. I have a number of much less wonderful things to attend to."
"Of course, Baika." She bows and I remove myself from the crowds.
"Not such a bad day, hnn?" Hanta meets me at the doors and we walk together back toward my chambers.
"It has been a very wonderful day."
"Have I mentioned that you are a very changed man? Since your disappearance and your father's death... You are still very much as you were, but there are many things very different in you."
"Yes, I would agree."
"Then what is it that has changed you so? Where did you go after defeating your father?"
So she is going to try and get it out of me again, is she?
I smirk, "Everyone has their secrets, Hanta. That is one I will keep with me until my end... But I do know this of myself from that journey... That I can see a future now. And I will make it the best that I am able to for my people... I will do what one man can to repair what has been damaged."
"You have grown soft." She smiles.
"Nonsense." I laugh, "I have simply grown...Hanta..." I stop our walk and turn to her.
"Thank you... For your patience over the years."
"It has been simple. There has always been a little bit of light in you. No matter how hard you try to hide it." She comes and hugs me and I give in and hold her in return.
"Enough of this." I release her, "Your husband will be jealous."
"Not likely!" She laughs.
"What must I do then to prepare for the next day now that I have spent my free time."
"There is nothing that cannot wait until tomorrow. Perhaps you should just relax a bit and have your late meal."
"I agree. I need a bit of time to reflect."
"Then I will have Menoh bring your meal up in a while and be on my way home."
"Your husband will be happy... I can only hope you do not need to be as patient with him."
"Not at all. I have had you for that... I think I will spend a few moments in the temple before I go... I will have the guards put the fires down and ensure all the civilians are out of the palace by sunset."
With that she leaves me be... Again alone with my thoughts. This time I will find myself some company though. After my meal, after the gates have been shut, I go out to the courtyard and into the temple to stand looking upon the Gods. The temple is so empty, but so filled with dust and age... Even so, they bring a light to it. Such perfect forms, perfect expressions that seem to shift as you watch them. Their faces are not so much detailed as suggested and so one can see whatever they need to in them during meditations.
There I kneel and contemplate what they represent... Balance in everything. Action and consequence, just as I have been seeing the truth of for so long now. I pray to them for the first time in ages.
Guide me with your wisdom. Show me how to do what is right...
Menoh meets me back in my chambers, having laid out my evening clothing and putting the water kettle into the fire for tea.
"Good evening, Baika." She cheers.
"Good evening, Menoh. How are you?"
"Very well. It was such an exciting day. So many people here at the palace. I love seeing new people. And the statues of the Gods are so wonderful. I am so proud to live here."
"Very. Sleep well, Baika. Pretty dreams."
"And to you."On to 21