41.4 \ 223

The entering emissary took a route past the gemsmiths, checking in with them. Delicately controlled trickles of magma were precisely diverted through the room to each workstation, modulated by strolling controllers on crystal-encrusted bridges spanning the space above. There were also sentinels placed around the perimeter of the chamber, sitting back on their haunches, headplates touching the ground facing forward.

Mystvall found their way to the center, where the area was clear around the invention in progress. They stamped their forelimb on the floor five times, and the steady beat rippled up the walls. The sentinels raised their heads and stood. The same measure passed, then they all joined in on the next round. During the silent measure, the arisen sentinels moved inward from the edges on their now-visible clear paths, pausing to continue each round of the beat.

They all joined Mystvall in the center, forming a ring facing the workpiece. Uixtr could hear the song through his transducer, when they began it in their outside frequency range. Lots of it was untranslatable, nonlinguistic though conversationally codified, iterations of technique driving the movement. Uixtr had heard of this, but not yet seen it. They called this impromptu harmonic gathering Aureny, the same word they offered as the name of their kind. There were some words that came through, though they were of secondary musical priority.

that we are present in the doing
as we are in the making
that our guard serves to guard
the fortunes of the bearers
that the beauty of truth
protects all from the worst
and finds the way

41.3 \ 223

This entrance to the smithing chamber was a slender stone bridge, crystal encrustations coating the underside. At the bottom of the chasm below were drainage routes of the magma streams they used inside. Uixtr and Mystvall crossed that together. Before the entry, the Vedani brought a cloth square out of a pocket and dipped it into the basin of water there, to tie over his nose and mouth. “So, I’ll be able to see the progress from the viewing window?” he asked to confirm, indicating the opening on a platform up some stairs to the right. This was a new consideration for the allies of the Aureny whose bodies were unsuited to the conditions inside their smithing chambers.

OH YES. YOU WILL SEE IT.

The main prototype had indeed developed a lot. It gleamed like a Vedani object made of Vedani alloys, and the structures of the interspatial polygon were Vedani formulas at work. However, the light that ran along the outside and glimmered contained within was something else; full spectrum, partial spectra, ultra-alter-spectra, the object was highly equipped with magnified capabilities. The dedicated group inside was forging the unit modules that they were socketing and rearranging to create the sought-after resonance strata.

41.2 \ 223

Mystvall walked slowly to accompany Uixtr to the smithy. As two among their peoples who’d had more contact with Humans than was common outside of hostilities, they shared a rare understanding. It was a relief to more freely question the complexities regarding their allied ingress with the Human-predominant Pan-Galactic Imperium.

41.1 \ 223

The floor of this geode chamber was covered in shards and dust, from a Tempering that had just occurred. Most of those gems were in shades of blue. The young Aureny, given the fun privilege of sweeping up, i.e. bathing in riches, occasionally kicked sprays of gem dust at each other. With the delicately dexterous long claws at the ends of their trunklike limbs, they sifted with sorting pans into different bins. Some of the very fine stuff was taken to pots against one wall, where an adult occasionally appeared to fill one with goo and take it away, through a ground exit.

From the ledge above, Uixtr withdrew from the view and turned back to the newly arrived crate stacks. This azulian was beautiful, pristine, and incredibly regular in shape. This was a significant contribution that could accomplish something in itself.

Of the two Aureny present, Mystvall was more familiar to Uixtr, while Stonepoynte was the materials expert. They wore a casual level of decoration, mainly rings in the locks of their shoulder tufts. Mystvall stepped forward and produced a rough-woven pouch that Uixtr could hold in one hand.

OPEN IT.

The vibrational transducer that Uixtr wore on his head picked up the Aureny realm of soundwaves, then processed it as pure information in the aetherscape. It was then spoken to Uixtr the way any raw Vedani information would be verbalized to the ear; thusly their intonation sounded mostly natural, like one of his own people speaking to him. Inside the pouch was a golden-hued crystalline formation, sprouting from a smooth, slightly convex rind on one side. It nearly hummed with energy.

THIS IS A PIECE OF MY OMBA, THE ROCK I WAS BORN FROM. SINCE OUR FIVE PEOPLES BEGAN THIS RECENT EPOCH TOGETHER, WE HAVE WROUGHT MANY DOINGS. UNDERSTANDING HAS GROWN, AND WILLINGNESS TO AID CONTINUES. WHATEVER HAPPENS, WE HAVE COME THIS FAR. KEEP THIS AS A TOKEN OF MY RESPECT. IF YOU EVER NEED TO USE IT, KNOW THAT CHOICE WILL BE LIFE-ALTERING, AND YOU WILL NOT FIND MORE.

With both hands, Uixtr hoisted it before him. “I am touched that you would bestow on me this rare blessing. My gratitude.” He brought it close to the large angled tympanum on his headpiece, and registered some sound garbling. To Stonepoynte he said, “This stock you brought me is excellent. Bring that to my loading dock and we’ll take them. A boon to you and yours.” Stonepoynte thumped the ground once for punctuation, and with one clawed forelimb picked up the crates and walked off with them like a stack of pint tumblers.

40.2 \ 222

General Claymore accepted a binder from his officer. Inside the binder was also a chip, which he set into his desk’s info stack. “I’m glad you made it back, sir. You’ve done a great thing.” Then, Draig was alone again. He opened it up and paged through at random.

… Partway up a mountainside, in a flowery field overlooking a lake. A favorite view, a special place half a day’s walk from civilization. It was night, so I jogged into town, to the late hours store. The stars were out.

… I was standing on my lawn. I don’t let anyone stand on my lawn but me, when I’m taking care of it. When I’m gone, my family takes care of it, and who knows what happens then. But when I’m home, it’s only mine, even if it’s not very big. I don’t think I’d want a bigger one. No one was on it when I got there.

… I found myself at the base of a statue, a winged woman that I remember seeing on a family trip. Still there, apparently. When I saw her as a child, she gave me a sense of beauty and protection, though I was far from home. Maybe adventure is my safety. I might have just figured that out about myself.

As for Draig, he had appeared back in this very office. He felt the wash of fulfillment from his very first step in. It was a single flash accrual of every moment he embraced the calling of power in right relation, between the might held in prosperity, and the prosperity accompanying might. When he realized where he was, he engaged in routine. He corrected his wardrobe, took in some nourishment. Then he sat where he was sitting now, and marveled.