This is the eleventh chapter of my novel, “Ainadamar, or The Fountain of Tears: The First Flight of the Madrugada.” It details the adventures of a spaceship called the Madrugada, crewed by a Bulgarian space vampire, a lady barbarian, a 17th century French mountebank, a shape-shifting chef, a giant kitty, an empath, Morgan La Fey, an octopus surgeon, a cowboy, and the early 20th century Spanish Republican poet and martyr, Federico Garcia Lorca. I publish a new chapter each week. To read other chapters, click on the category Ainadamar.
The Sacromonte, La Colonia, The Dust Moon
“The signal bounced, but the buffer caught it,” said a breathless Patches. He had called Dded and Dem to Nimue’s communications console on the bridge.
“When we received the Crown Prince?” asked Dem.
“Right before that.”
“What is it exactly?” asked the doctor. Communications and computers were not his strong suit.
“I’m sure I don’t have the slightest idea,” said the engineer.
“Coordinates,” said Dem quietly. “They’re coordinates.”
“They’re nine-pointed,” said Patches. “Who ever heard of a nine-point coordinate?”
Dem thought. His face brightened, excited.
“Time. The other point is temporal. Who did they come from?”
“Considering the encryption? Had to be Karl.”
“Why would Karl the Weasel send us space-time coordinates?” asked Dded, drumming his third through sixth tentacles nervously on the deck plate.
“Something to do with the book, maybe?” said Dem.
They watched the signal cycle through its nine points over and over again in silence. No one said what each were thinking, that the node barely had enough of a charge to get them back to where they began. It certainly did not have enough energy for a side trip.
“I see it now,” he said. “It’s the Point of Origin. And it‘s now.”
“Fantastic,” said Dded. He was being sarcastic.
The six of them were gathered around Lorca in a grove downhill from La Colonia. The poet, freaked out of his gourd, had tried backing out of his own skin, but was brought up short by the stout bowl of a 100 year old olive tree. He fainted for the third time, driving Weekiebye into a near-terminal episode of profanity-laced Gallic exasperation
Slim knelt down in front of Lorca and shook him gently until he regained consciousness.
“Listen to me,” he said to the poet in Spanish. “Everything that has happened to you is explainable. Neither madness nor magic. We’re neither devils nor angels. But the explanation will have to wait. Right now we are looking for a book, and we have reason to think you can lead us to it.”
Lorca worked his jaws, managing no more than a couple of dry squeaks.
“We’re not sure what it looks like. It could be a scroll; it could be a bound folio; it could even be engraved marble plaques. However, it is quite possible that it is a series of thin lead sheets with slightly raised rims that fit together into some kind of a box. The book is written in a number of languages. Probably Arabic, Hebrew, old Spanish, maybe Latin…and a language older than all of those. Do you know the book we’re talking about?”
Lorca calmed down and focused, though his eyes remained preternaturally wide.
“I think he knows the book,” said Stratsimir.
“I know the book,” said Lorca.
The six had made their headquarters in the ruins of an old Arabic farmhouse below the grove. They rested, planned but made no fire, afraid the smoke would be seen from the buildings of La Colonia up on the hill. Nimue cast a glamour on the area, though it was hardly needed. No path passed the farmhouse except a sheep trail, which was unused due to the recent fighting. Lorca, being “dead,” was in no danger of pursuit. He calmed down once he ate some bread and drank some cold tea. He spoke slowly.
“Last night before we knew we were to be murdered, Jover Tripaldi told us we were to join a work crew. He knew the schoolteacher Galindo and I were literary men. He said Nestares, the captain, wanted to know what the book was. His men had turned it up during digging the week before. Now I understand it must have been when they were digging graves for the men they had already murdered. Tripaldi said odd things had started to happen, though he refused to say more.
“We looked over the books. There were five large lead pages that had writing in different languages on them. We both knew Latin, though the Latin in this book was idiosyncratic. The Romance I could puzzle through a bit. Galindo knew some Hebrew and there was Arabic script, though neither of us could read it. As to the other language, neither of us had seen anything like it before. It looked like…very old Greek, written in one of the Linears maybe or with the Cypriot Syllabary.”
“What did the book say?” asked Stratsimir.
“Well that was the odd part,” said Lorca, pausing as though looking for the right words. “It didn’t say anything. The words would just…stack up on one another then slide off. None of it made any sense, yet you could tell that there was sense to be made of it.”
He shook his head.
“We were tired, very tired, and afraid. Maybe with more time I could make more sense of it.”
The Stratsimir and Slim looked at one another.
“That’s our book,” said Slim. Stratsimir just nodded. To Lorca he said, “Do you know where this Nestares was keeping the book?”
Lorca nodded yes.
“Tripaldi said he had to go get it from Nestares’ office in La Colonia.”
The crew clustered around a pale Lorca, behind a ruined wall on the slope below La Colonia. There was a surprising amount of activity around it. Men entered and left the building and grounds by foot, car and even once by horse.
“I got my doubts about getting into this building undiscovered, with so much activity and so little cover,” said Slim. “One of use could climb up to the captain’s room. Lorca said it’s the large one with the arched windows right in the middle of the second floor. But we’d have to climb up the hill, across the walkway, and up the building by the downspout, all without being seen by those guards patrolling around the building and by anyone else who happened to make their way around back. Not to mention cars down lower in the valley.”
“I agree,” said Stratsimir.
“We should wait until dark, then,” said Mona. Stratsimir shook his head.
“Not all of us. Mona, I want you, Weekiebye and Nimue to take Lorca back to the Mad. Keep him out of sight. Head out through the vega. Take it slow but get it done. I haven’t been able to sense Dem, Dded and Patches. I’m worried. Maybe it’s just distance. Best not to take a chance it’s not.
“Slim, Stan and I will wait here until dark, get the book and meet you back at the ship. Tell Patches to have the Madrugada juiced up. We’re out the moment we get back with the book.”
The three took Lorca and wended their way down into the vega, following one of lush valley’s silvery threads. Stratsimir watched them until they were out of sight. He took Stanislaus by the arm and waved Slim closer.
“When darkness falls, here’s what I want you to do…”
The members of the Order occupied their places in the chamber, each standing below a lit sconce on one of the pillars. A voice spoke. Unlike the others, there was nothing otherworldly about it, a loud voice, a powerful man’s voice.
“Do we have the book?” he demanded.
“Not yet,” answered the First Voice.
“What are we doing to secure it?”
“We have sent the Crown Prince to secure it. By broadcast.”
“You have done what?” demanded the voice.
“We sent the Crown Prince by broadcast to seize the book and commandeer the ship that carries it.”
A figure strode, visibly agitated, into the circle of light that shone down onto the floor from the chamber’s oculus.
“You sent my idiot nephew after the book?” roared the heir to the archonate of Eridanus.
“We thought it best,” said the Second Voice.
“You thought it best? You thought? You are not here to think! That is my responsibility.”
“Take care,” said the First Voice. “You address the Capacity of the Order.”
“Is that so? Is that so? And to whom does the Order speak? Answer!”
“To the Black Archon,” they answered in unison.
“By the Decretum, the Black Archon decides. Take care that you do not forget.”
The Black Archon strode from the chamber. Moments later the door streamed cold sunlight into the room, then boomed shut, plunging it back into shadow and silence.
“That guy is such a dick,” said the First Voice.
Somewhere where there is no space, space became, flowering around a single sigil, laid out against the nothing, or, more accurately, against the not-anything. Another joined the first, like a puzzle piece or piece of joinery or a letter laid by another to form a word that was not there before, pushing the not-anything back before it. And another came, and another, painstakingly laid like the wood support the brick barrels of a bridge are built upon, to be pulled out and, gone, present in the impossibility of the arch. Symbol upon sign upon sigil upon character upon glyph, sparkling gold in the void. The builder built a bridge, from and to that which cannot be until a bridge brings them together.
The first course took forever and was finished in the blink of an eye, a single glyph, COLDFIRE, brought two weaknesses into a strength: 0 * 0 = 1.