THE DEPTH AND RISE

It would be maybe on the fourth day out (for time had little meaning on
that wide blue field) when Rodvard remarked how at the evening meal
Captain Betzensteg took more than usual wine, glowering sullenly at his
plate while he jabbed a piece of bread into gravies as though they had
done him a harm. The last mouthful vanished, he sucked fingers
undaintily and without looking up, said; “Set out the fired-wine.”
Norfloxacin HCL
Rodvard felt a cold sweat of peril. The silver bear leaped from his
fingers, and it was his fortune that he caught it before it reached the
floor. The captain sat with eyes down, not appearing to notice. Bottle
clacked on table; the one-eyed man poured himself a deep draught, and at
the sound of the door opening, said; “Stay.”

Rodvard turned. Both the captain’s hands were on the table, gripping the
winecup and he was staring into it as though it were a miniature of his
beloved. “Come here.”

(Fear: but what could one do or say?) Rodvard glided to his post in
serving-position behind the chair. For a long breathless moment no sound
but the steady pace of someone on the deck above, muted slap of waves
and clatter of ship’s gear. Then the head came up, Rodvard saw how the
rich lips were working (and in that single eye read not only the
horrible lust he had expected, but that which gave him something akin to
pity, a ghastly agony of spirit, a question that read; “Shall I never be
free?”) Captain Betzensteg lifted the cup in his two hands and tossed
off the contents at a gulp, gagged, gave a growl of “Arrgh!” and,
reaching up his left hand, ran it pattingly over Rodvard’s buttocks.

“No,” said the young man under his breath, pulling away. The captain
jerked to his feet, violently oversetting his chair, and with distorted
face, drove his fist against the table. “Idiot!” he cried. “Do you not
know your benefit?” and reaching to his purse, tossed clanking against
the bottle a handful of coins. Rodvard shrunk away, and giving a kind of
mewing cry as the one-eyed creature leaped, tried for the door. His foot
caught something, he took three desperate lunges, gripped the handle as
the huge fist caught the side of his head and spilled him through onto
the deck, senseless.

II

When next he knew, there was a sour smell of wine, it was dark and
dripping sounded. He could not think through the curtain of headache;
the scampering was undoubtedly rat, but why? Where was added to why with
slowly gathering memory—still on the ship certainly, since the bare
boards on which he lay heaved with a slow and even beat.

The right side of his neck was sore, and the opposite soreness was on
his head. He thought: ah, for why am I so punished? and heaved himself
upon an elbow to find a pannikin of water by his side, which he drank
greedily. It was dark, a kind of velvet twilight; yet not so dark that
he failed to make out that he lay prisoned in a narrow passage between
tall casks that rose on either hand, groaning in their lashings. The
quantity of light must mean day was outside, and he had lain a long
time. Now he came afoot and wondered whether he should seek the deck,
but decided contrary, since someone for some reason had brought him
here, and there might be perils abroad. Sleep? Ah, no. He sat down to
think out his situation, but could make no sense of any part, therefore
abandoned the effort, and with a tinge of regret over his lost books,
let his mind run along the line of Iren Dostal’s sweet rhymes until
tears reached his eyes.

This could not occupy him forever, either; a profound and trembling
ennui came on him, so his fingers made small motions tracing out an
imaginary design. A long time; a step sounded, coming down from
somewhere and then along among the casks. Krotz. He said:

“You must be careful. Oh, do not make a noise. He would hurt me if he
knew I helped you. Here.”

In the gloom something was thrust against Rodvard’s hand which, by the
touch, he knew for a dish of congealing food. “What is it?” he asked. “I
was struck and lost remembrance.”

“You truly do not know? I thought it was feigned when you failed to
speak as he said you were to be thrown overside, and he took the young
Kjermanash—.” A shout sounded flatly from above. “Oh, I could hurt him.
I must go.” The last words went dim as Krotz disappeared among the tall
columns of casks and Rodvard was left to his meditations. The food was a
stew of lamb, and it tasted like candle-grease.

Dark had come before the lad did again, with a meal even worse than its
foregoer; trembling and unwilling to talk. Rodvard found himself
fingering round the great casks from one curve to another, counting the
planks in them and thinking whether there might not be some mathematical
relation in the figures he counted. A futile thing to do, he told
himself, wishing he had Dr. Remigorius’ philosophy, who often spoke of
how a man should be complete in himself, since each one lives in a
self-built cell of pellucid glass and may touch another only with, not
through, that veil. Ah, bah! It is not true (he thought); I have been
touched sharply enough by this very Remigorius, but for whom I’d not be
in such a coil, with Lalette and Damaris, ideals thrown down, and on a
mad voyage to nowhere. . . . There was something wrong with this, on
which he could not put the finger—so now he fell to counting the planks
again, or try to make a poem, ending the effort with an inward twitter,
as though mice were running under his skin, as he waited, not with
patience, for the next arrival of Krotz with his purloined food.

The lad was faithful, but always looking over his shoulder; trembling so
that it was nearly impossible to get two consecutive words from him, by
which it came about that there was no plan for Rodvard’s escape when the
word was that Charalkis Head had come in sight. The ship would lie that
night in the harbor of Mancherei’s brick-built capital, and what counsel
now? Shifting his feet like a dancer, Krotz said he thought Rodvard
might easily slip past the deck-guard into the water; but this scheme
split on the fact that he lacked the skill of swimming. All was still
undecided that night; a sharp sword of apprehension pricked his fitful
sleep, nor were matters amended when he was fully roused by hammerings
over the doors of his prison.

Kjermanash voices sounded their customary cackle. A shaft of light
struck down, so brilliant that Rodvard’s dark-hooded eyes could scarcely
bear it, and he shrank back along the cask-alley, hands over face. It
was not the best means of hiding; down swung one of the Kjermanash to
fix the tackle for lifting out the cargo, gave a whoop and pounced,
being presently joined by other sailors. There was much laughter and
excited talk in their own language; they patted Rodvard and tweaked the
long-grown hair on his face, then urged him up the ladder deckward, with
“Key-yip! Kee-yup!” and a sheath-knife that banged him in the crotch
from behind as he climbed, blinking.

At the top he stumbled out on a deck where the mate stood, wrinkling
eyes against the sun. “Puke-face, by the Service! I thought you had been
fish-farts long ago. Ohé, captain! Here’s your cheating mechanician!”

Now Rodvard noticed that Captain Betzensteg was a few paces beyond,
talking to a man in a decent grey jacket and a red-peaked hat, but
wearing no badge of status. The one-eyed monster turned, and his full
lips twisted. “Put him in the lazarette with chains, since he’s so
slippery. Well have the trial at sea.”

The single eye looked on Rodvard (and it said one thing only—“Death.”)

The young man staggered; he cried desperately: “I appeal.”

“A captain’s judge on his own ship. I reject your appeal. Take him
away.”

Said the man in grey; “A moment, Ser Captain. This is not good law for
the dominion of Mancherei, in whose authority you now stand. We have one
judge that stands above every mortal protestation, that is, the God of
love, whose law was set forward by our Prophet.”

The captain snarled, black and sour; “This is my ship. I order you to
leave it.”

The man in the grey jacket had a thin, ascetic face. One eyebrow jagged
upward; “This is our port. I order you to leave it without discharging a
single item of your cargo.”

“You dare not. Our Queen—”

“Has no rule in Mancherei. That was tried out at the time of the
Tritulaccan war. Young ser, what is the ground of your appeal to our
law?”

(The Blue Star was cold as cold on Rodvard’s heart, but there seemed a
bright shimmer like a haze in the eyes that met his, and not a thought
could he make out through it.) He said; “Because the captain of this
ship would be both jury and accuser.”

“He lies,” growled Betzensteg. “My underofficer is the accuser, for that
this man refused to repair a drop-gear.”

“That is a question of fact, to be decided by a court which can gain
nothing from the decision,” said the man in grey, calmly. He swung to
Rodvard. “Young man, do you place yourself in the justice of Mancherei,
to accept the rule and decision of its authority?”

“Oh, yes,” cried Rodvard (willing to do anything to escape the terror of
that baneful optic).

The man in grey produced a small paper scroll and touched Rodvard
lightly on the arm. “Then I do declare you under the law of the Prophet
of Mancherei; and you, Ser Captain, will interfere at your gravest
peril. Young man, take your place in my boat.”

III

Rodvard was motioned to the bow of the craft, from which floated a
banner with a device much resembling a dove, but it was in the false
heraldry of grey on white, and hard to make out. Spray was salt on his
face; as they reached a stone dock a ladder was lowered down, and he
would have waited for the grey man, but the latter motioned him
imperiously to go up first.

The pierside street hummed with an activity that to Rodvard seemed far
more purposeful than that of languid Netznegon, with horses and drays,
porters bearing packages, men on horseback or in little two-wheeled
caleches, pausing to talk to each other under the striped shadows thrown
across the wharfs by a forest of tall masts. Their clothes were
different. From a tavern came a sound of song, though it was early in
the morning. (It seemed to Rodvard that most of the people were more
cheerful than those of his homeland; and he thought it might be that the
Prophet’s rule had something to do with it.)

“This way,” said one of the barge-rowers, and touched him on the arm. He
was guided across the dock and up to a pillared door where persons
hurried in and out. “What is your name?” asked the grey man, pausing on
the step; made an annotation, then said to the rower guide; “Take him to
the Hawkhead Tavern and see that he has breakfast. Here is your warrant.
I will send archers for the complaining mate, but I do not think the
court will hear the case before the tenth glass of the afternoon.”

“I am a prisoner?” asked Rodvard.

The other’s face showed no break. “No; but you will find it hard to run
far. Be warned; if you are not condemned unheard, no more are you
released because the accuser overrode his right. The doctrine of our
Prophet gives every grace, but not until every debt is paid and the
learner finds by what it was he has been deceived.”

He made a perfunctory salutation and turned on his heel. Rodvard went
with the rower, a burly man in a shirt with no jacket over it, asking as
he strode along; “What was it he meant by saying I’d find it hard to run
far?”

The face composed in wrinkles of astonishment. “Why, he’s an Initiate!
You’d no more than think on an evasion when the guards would be at your
heels.”

Rodvard looked at him in counter-surprise (and a shiver ran through him
at the thought that these people of the Prophet might somehow have
learned to read minds without the intervention of any Blue Star, a thing
he had heard before only as a rumor). “What!” he said to change the
subject. “I see no badges of status anywhere. Is it true that you have
none in Mancherei?”

The man made a face. “No status in the dominion—at least that is what
the learners and diaconals say in their services.” He looked across his
shoulder. “They’ll give you status enough, though, if you hold to their
diet of greens and fish. Bah. Here we are.”

The breakfast was not fish, but an excellent casserole of chicken,
served by a red-faced maid, who slapped the rower when he reached for
her knee. He laughed like a waterfall and ordered black ale. Rodvard
hardly heard him, eating away with appetite in a little world of himself
alone (hope mingling with danger at the back of his mind), so that it
was a surprise when the rower nudged him and stood.

“The reckoning’s made for you, Bogolan,” he said. “Come the meridian,
you’ve only to ask for bread and cheese and beer. Go out, wander, see
our city; but do not fail to return by the tenth glass; and take notice,
your Dossolan coin will buy nothing in shops here, it is a crime to take
such monies.”

He swaggered out. The last words recalled Rodvard to his penniless
condition, and he looked along himself uncomfortably, seeing for the
first time how the black servant’s costume he had from Mathurin was all
streaked, dirty and odorous, with a tear at the breast where the badge
had been wrenched off. There was no desire to present himself to the
world in such an appearance. He shrank back behind the table into the
angle made by panelling and the tall settee to think and wait out his
time, watching the room around him. On the floor of the place, the press
of breakfasters was relaxing; maids were deliberate over clattering
dishes, calling to one another in strong, harsh voices. He could not
catch the eye of any to use his Blue Star in reading her thought, which
might have been a pastime; and his own affairs were in such suspense and
turmoil that thinking seemed little use. After a while the shame of
merely crouching there overcame that of his garb, so he got up and went
outside.

The town was in full tide, and noisy. There was no clear vista in any
direction, the streets lacking Netznegon city’s long boulevards, angling
and winding instead. The buildings were set well apart from each other.
Rodvard feared being lost among the intricacies of these avenues,
therefore formed the design of keeping buildings on his right hand and
so going around a square, crossing no streets, which must ultimately
bring him safely to his starting-place.

The district was one of houses of commerce, mingled with tall,
blank-faced tenements. A droll fact: there were no children in sight. In
the shop-windows were many articles of clothing, so beautifully made
they might have been worn by lords and princesses. He did not see many
other goods, save in one window that displayed a quantity of clerks’
materials, rolls of parchment, quills and books, nearly all finely
arabesqued or gilded—which set him to wondering about what manner of
clerks worked with such tools.

The inn swung round its circle to present him its door again. It was not
yet the meridian, therefore he crossed the street and made another
circuit, this time reaching a street where there were many warehouses
with carts unloading. Round the turn from this was a house of religion,
with the two pillars surmounted by an arch, as in Dossola, but the arch
was altered by being marked with the device of a pair of clasped hands,
carved in wood. A man came out; like the one who had rescued Rodvard
from the ship, he was dressed in grey. The look of his face and cant of
his head were so like the other’s that Rodvard almost spoke to him
before discovering he was heavier built. The grey clothing must be a
kind of uniform or costume.

A wall bordered the grounds of this building, with a cobbled alley,
which had a trickle down its middle. Rodvard followed it, pausing to
look at wind-torn placards which lay one over the other, proclaiming now
a festival for a byegone date, the departure of a ship for Tritulacca, a
notice against the perusal of the latest book by Prince Pavinius, or a
fair for the sale of goods made by certain persons called the Myonessae,
a new word to Rodvard. The alley at length carried him to face the inn
again. He wished for a book to beguile the time, but that being a vain
desire, went in to seek his former place. Not until he sat down did he
see that the nook opposite him was occupied.

It was a little man, hunched in a long cloak, so old that his nose
hooked over his chin, making him look like a bird. Before him was a mug
of pale beer; he was deep in thought and did not look up as Rodvard sat
down, but after a moment or two sipped, smacked his lips and said;
“Work, work, work, that’s all they think of.”

Said Rodvard (glad of any company); “It does not do to work too
heavily.”

The gaffer still did not elevate his eyes. “I can remember, I can, how
it used to be in the Grand Governor’s time, before he called himself
Prophet, when on holy days we did not labor. And we going out on the
streets to watch processions pass from Service with the colors and
silks, but now they only sneak off to the churches as though they were
ashamed of it, then work, work, work.”

He drank more of his beer. Rodvard was somewhat touched by his speech,
for though he was hardly one to defend Amorosians to each other, it was
just these processions in silks while so many were without bread that
bore hard on Dossola. He said; “Ser, it would seem to me that no man
would worry for working, if he could have his reward.”

The old man lifted his eyes from his mug (Rodvard catching behind them a
feeling of indifference to any reward but calm) and said; “Silence for
juniors, speech for seniors.”

One of the maids approached; Rodvard asked for his bread and cheese and
beer, and drew from her a smile so generous that he looked sharp (and
saw that she would welcome an advance, but the thought at the back of
her mind was money). The ancient shivered down into his cloak again, not
speaking till she was gone.

Then he said; “Reward, eh? What use is your reward and finding money to
spend when it buys nothing but gaudy clothes and a skinfull of liquor,
no credit or position at all? Answer me that. I tell you I would not be
unhappy if we went back to the old Queen’s rule, and that’s the truth,
even if they send me to instruction for it.”

“Ser, may I pose you a question?” asked Rodvard.

“Questions show proper respect and willingness to be taught. Ask it.”

The food came. Rodvard nibbled at his cheese and asked; “Ser, Is it not
better and freer to live here where there is no status?”

“No status, no,” said the old man, gloomily. “And there’s the pain,
right there. In the old days a man was reasonable secure where he stood,
he could look up to those above and share their glory, and we had real
musicians and dancing troupes as many as a hundred, who made it an art,
so that the souls of those who watched them were advanced. Where are
they now? All gone off to Dossola; and now all anyone here can do is
work, work, work, grub, grub, grub. It is the same in everything. I can
recall how joyous I was when I was a young man in the days of the Grand
Governor before the last, and received my first commission, which was to
carve a portrait bust for Count Belodon, who was secretary financial. A
bust of his mistress it was, and I made it no higher than this, out of
walrus ivory from Kjermanash, as fine a thing as I ever did. But now all
they want is dadoes for doorways. No art in that.”

“Yet it would seem to me,” said Rodvard, “that you have some security of
life here, so that no man need go hungry if he will labor.”

“No spirit in it. Will go on, men working like ants till one day they
are gone and another ant falls into their place. No spirit in it;
nothing done for the joy of creation, so they must have laws to make men
work.”

He went silent, staring into his beer, nor could Rodvard draw more words
from him. Presently a young lad with long, fair hair came peering down
the line of booths until he reached this one, when he said that the old
man, whom he addressed as grandfather, must follow him at once to the
shop, where he was wanted for carving the face of a clock.