Chapter V.

26 Jul

Caph Dirua was the largest man ever to hold the office of baaser on Caldaria Mountain. He was a true giant in height, body mass, and physical domination over others. No predecessor had before reached such dimensions. Everything about him was gigantic in size.

His brownish green eyes had an almost hypnotic spell to them.

It was not until after the setting of the heliac that the two newcomers had their first opportunity to see and talk with him.

The community leader appeared unexpectedly at the hoop wagon, surprising all three who had recently arrived from off the road. Their surprise could not be concealed. It was instant.

“Gev!” shouted Caph. “I’m happy to see you back. Word reached me that there were visitors with you. I climbed down to see and meet these people.”

After shaking hands with the baaser, Gev introduced him to his traveling companions. Both Yie and Joa exchanged nods of recognition with the colossal authority-holder of the metal-working community.

The latter turned to Gev with a question.

“How did the work go on your circuit this time?”

“Not badly at all. But there was one trouble that I had to deal with. It has to do with the Red Hat problem and how those haughty aristocrats come down from their eeries in the sky to abuse and mistreat all the belowers who stand in their way.”

Caph wrinkled his wide brow. “What are the specifics?” he asked.

“It is not that they are oppressing me as much as the way that Red Hats are persecuting these two friends. They are the ones who have suffered.”

Gev glanced a second at Yie and Joa, then faced the baaser again.

“The story is an extremely tragic one,” he explained. “I will let them relate it to you in their own words.”

Before Yie could begin, though, Joa seized the opportunity to give an account of her own personal history.

“I myself am a highlander, a daughter of the Hegumen of Zeviv Claustrum. Why was it that I had to take to the road? My father made himself tyrannical in every way, interfering with my most personal emotions and aspirations. In other words, he expelled my closest friend for manifesting affection toward me. I could not permit such a forced separation at all. No, I had to make my escape from the impossible situation within the claustrum.

“So, when he was thrown out, I accompanied him. There was no acceptable alternative for me. My life would have been a ruined disaster had I stayed there on the mountain, at the claustrum. It became necessary for me to leave the place along with him.

“The Red Hats decided to pursue us after we left together. They hunted everywhere, followed every possible path. Our chances appeared to be dim. But Gev took us into his wagon and brought us to this wonderful refuge, for which we will forever be thankful to him for his generous kindness.”

She turned to the tinker with a glowing smile.

At the same time, Caph directed a question to the until then silent Yie.

“You were one of the Brothers on Zeviv Mountain?”

“No, not a Brother. I am a person of valley origin, an orphan from the dorp of Canara. My aunt and uncle were the ones raising me, but then I agreed to go up the mountain to become a prentice in the technical area of energy dynamics. It was while studying galactic radiation that I came across historical sources in the claustrum depository of documents that reveal aspects of science long suppressed by the Red Hats. There are certain devices and processes that could be of enormous benefit to all valley people throughout Tegumen. But they have been buried in secrecy since the original colonization of our planet so many ages ago. There had been a conscious suppression of a technology that would have saved and rescued the inhabitants of our planet’s valleys. This has been the central factor in the repression and oppression of the people living in the valleys of Tegumen.”

Yie paused for a moment, the baaser waiting breathlessly for him to proceed.

“It is our great good fortune that Gev has brought us to Caldaria Mountain, where belowers have the opportunity to work in metal, where knowledge of craftsmen is so much further advanced than elsewhere.

“What I propose to do is this: apply the knowledge I gained from antique documents long hidden in order to provide all belowers everywhere with a source of energy and lighting that they have never had. That is my life’s supreme goal at this moment of time. That is the goal that I seek with all that is in me.

“I have committed to memory an ages-old plan to harness the rays of the heliac sun in the service of people at the low altitudes, in the valleys.”

Caph, a dumbfounded expression on his face, gaped in wonder for a few moments. But then he drew himself together and asked a question that was important to him and his self-interest.

“Not only Zeviv, but all the claustra would be opposed to any such project. What sacrifices they would be willing to make in order to counter such a threat! For it is certain that they would see the success of that kind of venture as a danger to the continued survival of their primacy on Tegumen. I have no doubts that as soon as they learned of your plan, they decided to follow you with all their weapons in order to kill that enterprise in the bud. Am I not correct about that?”

“But complete silence and secrecy on our part can protect the plan until the system becomes operable,” countered Yie with rising emotion. “There is no reason for any Red Hat to know what is going on. The construction of the apparati and the machinery can be disguised as something innocent and innocuous. No one shall be given a reason to suspect or deduce what is being built by us. We saw the caves of Caldaria today. What we will be doing there can be hidden from all outside eyes. I am certain of that, sir.”

Yie stared with his red brown eyes, while the baaser gazed back even harder with his brownish green ones. Finally, Caph Dirua gave his judgment on what he had just heard proposed by the fugitive.

“What you talk of promises to be a long, very complicated program. There is no reason, as far as I can see, for rushing into it at breakneck speed. No, I believe in taking the necessary time to think everything out before making such an unprecedented leap into the blue. There is much that I have to learn about the plan before giving my approval. I am not one who gambles heedlessly.

“Now, as to your status as individuals in flight, let me make the promise that I shall provide both of you full protection. There is no need to remain in a wagon. My official lodge, up near the forge cave, will be available for both of you. Gev can bring you up in the morning to see these quarters that I am offering as a facility you may share with me.” He seemed to fall into deep thought, then spoke to them in a low voice. “Many people on the mountain say among themselves that I make too many concessions to the Red Hats who come here from their claustra to give us orders on products that they need or desire. But I have always been a protector of belowers and tried to preserve our resources for a future time when we will be able to stand up against the heavy exactions that they place upon us. My loyalties have always lain on the side of the people of the valleys, believe me.”

The baaser then left, not saying anything more.

Joa and Yie had much to think over and discuss between themselves.

Tomorrow they were to come under the wing of a person they did not, in reality, know at all. How great a risk were they about to undertake? What were the odds that they could survive and then succeed?

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