Chapter IV.

29 Jul

Joa appeared taken aback by an attitude she had never before seen in the young man who had taken her from the peak of Zeviv Mountain.

“I don’t understand why you did not tell me ahead of time about the proposal of yours to make actors of us. It has turned out to be something of a total surprise to me in all that it requires be done in preparation.”

The two were close together, sitting in the parlor of her flat, on low placerwood stools.

“There was no need to do so,” she shot back at him. “It might have made it appear that I valued your opinion more than that of anyone else involved. That could have been an impression causing problems. Don’t you see that?”

“No, not at all. That is a speculative idea, nothing more,” he told her with an angry expression in his voice and on his face.

It was then her turn to pose a jolting question to him.

“What would you have told me if I had revealed my idea to you first? Can you say that you would have told me to stop and forget the whole project?”

“But you did not ask for my opinion ahead of that of all the others, Joa. And I am uncertain at this moment what I might have answered. Yes, I accept the scheme sufficiently to try it out tomorrow when we rehearse for the first time. I am not an actor, but I will try to perform as one.

“I can only imagine how I might have reacted if we had been alone, not part of the full group. I can only guess at my answer, so don’t ask me that again.”

“Don’t worry, I have no intention of asking you about things in the past,” reacted Joa with a slight forced grin.

“But what happens now?” he asked her. “Will the play be a success on the stage?”

“If I have anything to do with it, we will become effective actors, both of us along with Caph. I will try the best I can on stage, Yie.”

He made a sly, knowing grin, which she answered with a sudden smile of her own.

Cacique made his way through crowded, narrow ways till he came to Vitrics Lane. Here was where he planned to make contact with the best glassblower in Rocumbol. There was no way for him to know ahead of time what was possible or impossible for a master of the craft to provide him for his stage lighting. This was the day he meant to learn that by talking with a glass expert.

The scenery designer asked a youth in gray apprentice clothes who was passing for directions to the desired location.

“Can you point out the workshop of Master Dijo, please?”

“I work for him as an undergrub, at the third gate on the left side.”

The young lad pointed to the place, then ambled away. Cacique hurried to the oaken gate. Day was advancing and only an hour and a half of twilight remained over the city before darkness fell again.

He knocked once, then twice, before pushing open the barrier gate. Stepping forward, the stage designer entered the small courtyard of the vitric specialist he was looking for.

A male of medium height and build approached him. There was sweat on his puffy cheeks and broad brow. The brick red face was flushed till it nearly matched the coppery eyes that were burning with flame.

“Hello, sir. Can I help you? My name is Dijo, the glass-maker. What is it you are seeking in my establishment?”

The two figures stood facing each other in silence until Cacique began by giving his name. “You cannot be familiar with me or my reputation, for I am not a native of your fine city. But I am called here to finish a task for the Popular Theater. You know where it is located? I am serving as scenery designer and that places me in charge of the gas lighting for the stage. There will be a production, very soon, that demands extremely complicated and sophisticated glasswork devices. I have been informed that you are the leader in that field and can complete very complicated orders.”

“Indeed, it is no boast to tell you that I am just that.”

Cacique took two steps forward, till he stood immediately in front of the master in gray work clothes and dark leather apron. “What specifically is it that the Theater needs?” the craft-master directly asked the stranger.

Cacique hesitated, holding back several seconds.

“Many are familiar with what a prism is, but I am interested in the creation of what I call a prismoid. That is what I believe that I will need.”

Dijo made a sudden unconscious grimace, reflecting his confusion.

“I am sorry, you will have to define what that is for me. It is an unfamiliar term that you use. I do not have knowledge of what it means.”

With a pleasant smile, the visitor proceeded to do just that.

It took him longer than he had planned, but after a minute or so signs of understanding appeared on the face of the glass-blower.

The latter began muttering in a low, questioning voice. “A prism that is cock-eyed and askew! Nobody has ever ordered such an oddity from me before. I have no actual experience to go by. But over the years orders for small prisms have come my way and I have filled them with success. With superior quality, if I say so myself.”

He thought for a moment, staring intently at Cacique with cupric eyes.

“I will say this much: a try can be made on this,” said the glassman. “That is all that I can honestly promise. All my knowledge and skill will go into my work. If it is at all possible, I will make it for you. But there can be no guarantees on a completely new item like this. The task will be difficult.”

“That much I realize,” remarked Cacique, suppressing the joy he felt. Victory was approaching, he could sense its coming.

“Bring me a drawing of exactly what you require, the dimensions, angles, and surface areas. It will take me time to figure out all the steps and the turns needed in the blowing of the glass. No, this operation will not be an easy one, not at all. What you demand will present a colossal challenge.”

“I know, but the Popular Theater will reward you generously,” promised the stage designer.

“Objects like an oblique prism are not created only for money,” said Dijo with a wink. “This will raise my professional reputation to the sky. But I have to make the thing first. Bring me your drawings, even if it is dark outdoors. I mean to start work as soon as I can.”

Dijo extended his right hand and Cacique shook it.

Until tonight, then,” said the latter, heading out of the tiny courtyard.

As he returned to his flat that evening from delivering his prismoid designs to the glass-blower, Cacique heard the noise of stomping equines along the street and stepped under an overhanging dormer roof to watch a squad of mounted Red Hats go by. He gazed at the sight until they disappeared toward the center of Rocumbol, then continued toward his apartment, puzzled and confused by this sinister presence in the city.

The intruders only halted when they reached the official house inhabited by the qadic and his large family. It was here that Hegumen Nomb Aacn climbed down. One of his guards took hold of the reins of his steed. Meanwhile, the qadic exited through the front door and moved forward to greet and welcome the important visitor from Zeviv Mountain.

As the two magistrates embraced each other with ceremonial cordiality, a retainer of the qadic took away the equine of the guest to a nearby stable. The personal guard of the Hegumen rode away to return to the Red Hat encampment a small distance outside of Rombucol.

The two officials went into the residence, where a table had been set with pastries, delicacies, and liqueurs. Only when the pair were seated did the Hegumen begin to reveal some of his plans to his host.

“I am here for one single purpose: to find and rescue my daughter and punish the miscreant who stole her from her home. So far, I have felt great disappointment with the inaction of the police in your city. They accomplish nothing, they report nothing at all. So, I have decided that I must take this business into my own hands of responsibility. There is no other way left.”

The Hegumen took a long, large breath, then resumed.

“For that reason, I have decided to appropriate legal enforcement power in this city to myself. That is the only way to obtain the results I want and need.”

The qadic gulped with astonishment. His face flushed red.

“Let me explain,” continued the chief of the Red Hats. “All inspectors and patrollers shall be under my direct command during this investigation. My word will be law to all law enforcers in the city.

“All information connected with the search must be sent to me at once. No delay shall be allowed, none at all. I am supreme in this matter.”

The qadic sat dumbfounded, staring in disbelief at the usurper of his power. How should he react to what was happening? It was best to keep a straight, stone face and make no comment whatsoever. He knew that he would get no sleep all that night.

“I plan to visit your police center tomorrow and question those in charge,” announced Nomb Aacn. “Once I have sufficient information, I can make specific assignments and extend my investigation. I will keep in touch with you, as well.”

“Thank you, sir,” murmured the qadic with little energy, realizing the trouble ahead for Rocumbol.

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