Sahara Light: a Novel. Part III. Chapter XI.

19 Mar

The Prostagor was perplexed by the great number of apparati that Hermes Tmolos placed in the charts of his reports from the Light Institute in the desert.

He was able to understand what an emitter accomplished, but what was the function of a collimeter, a luculenter, or a retroverter? From an emanator, he proceeded to the mysteries of the decrementer, dimidiator, decuscator, minifier, exseinder, and confluxer.

His agile brain concentrated on devices that appeared to be self-explanatory: photomultiplier, transcarrier, transpositioner, circumpulsator, amasser, aggregator, agglomerator, constrictor, and derisator. What seemed simpler than a compensator, impeller, or constringer? Or the several varieties of convergers indicated in the diagrams of Hermes?

Each of these components in the general scheme demanded days of deep study in order to be fully comprehended. The new head of state did not have the luxury of infinite time available to him. All this material could not possibly be mastered at odd moments away from daily governmental business. What was the dictator to do? Was he going to allow a mere hired technician to mystify the absolute ruler of Gamara?

Nessos Asriom decided to make a surprise visit to demand a clear explanation and definition of all his scientific purchases and requisitions from the new Director Hermes Tmolos, on the spot.

“The best bows are made of lemonwood,” murmured Callisto to her student. “That is all that I use. My arrows are also the same. Nothing but the best for me and my students in hunting.”

This was the fifth morning that the two had hiked over the distant sand to find a convenient place for archery practice. They always brought a sack of food so that brief repasts could be taken on the barren desert whenever they grew hungry or thirsty.

Callisto had lent him several volumes to read on toxophilic techniques. Each day that passed she was amazed by the speed of his progress. This student was proving himself a fast learner. His teacher found him sharp and attentive.

“Today we will start with maketic arrows,” she instructed him. “They seem heavy and stiff to many, because their tips contain animal horn. Only very expert hands can use them. They have the longest range that it is possible to reach, over eight hundred spans. The hunter shoots them upward into a hyperbolic trajectory. It will take hours and hours of practice to become proficient in their use. Why don’t you try one right now, Atlas?”

His first shot was a wild one, far away from the distant popinjay target.

It took him half an hour to place his arrows on the desired mark. At last, he looked triumphantly at his patient teacher.

“I think that I know how to hit it now, thanks to you, Callisto.”

The pair exchanged joyful smiles, then started back to Arethusa Oasis. Atlas did most of the talking as they passed along the sand.

“I am accomplishing what I never considered possible for me. The credit for this belongs to one person, my marvelous teacher. I shall remain in your debt for the remainder of my life, Callisto.”

“It is too early to start giving out praise,” she beamed at him. “There is much more that I wish you to learn. For instance, the secrets of stalking various species of desert animals.”

“There is plenty of time for all that in coming days…”

All of a sudden, Atlas felt his right leg slip and then collapse. Before he knew what had happened to him, he lay prone on the surface of the sand. What is happening? he asked himself in shock and startled confusion. Have I suffered some kind of injury by accident?

Callisto, kneeling down at his side, gave him an explanation.

“You stepped into a little sink hole that gave in under the weight of your body. It doesn’t happen too often, but whenever it does there is the danger of injury. Let me help you lift your right leg out of the crevice and get you standing on your feet. It will be alright very quickly, I predict.”

This proved to be unfortunately difficult. On the third attempt, Atlas was upright on the sandy ground.

“Does it hurt you?” she asked him.

He nodded that it did. “Getting back may become difficult,” he told his trainer.

The pair looked each other directly in the face, then started off together. Atlas hobbled forward, his arm around the other’s shoulder. Each step proved hard for him to take.

“Where are you staying?” she asked him after several minutes of slow progress.

“I sleep in an ergat tent with the field workers.”

Callisto considered for a moment.

“Come home with me. Endymion and I can provide our spare room to you. We will help you get well again.”

So it came about that Atlas returned to Arethusa Oasis as guest in the house of the Grions, a brother and sister casino-owner and huntress.

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