Part 4 Chapter I.

1 Aug

Gui entered the shore veranda where his two guests were sitting, looking out at the shimmering, sparkling surface of Lake Digit.

“I have a surprise for both of you,” he announced. “A wagon just arrived here from Rocumbol. The driver has a letter from the qadic introducing two additional escapees from the Red Hats. Both of them are acquaintances of yours. At the moment, they are having a hearty repast in the dining room. I promised to find and fetch you two. So, follow me and see who they are.”

Joa and Yie sprang up with excitement in their eyes, curious to find out who had just arrived. When they saw for themselves, both reddened with instant joy. Yie spoke first.

“Frelo! Cacique! It can’t be true. How did you get here? Was it difficult to escape the Red Hats who took over in Rocumbol?”

“We came the same way that you did, by wagon from the city,” answered Cacique with a self-satisfied grin.

“We were in danger but the qadic rescued us,” explained Frelo. “The bad news is the assassination of Caph. The Red Hats showed him no mercy at all.”

“He was killed?” said Joa with shock on her face.

“Run down like a dog by equines,” explained Cacique. “My friend and I are dedicated to avenging his slaughter. We are in perpetual war with those inhuman monsters. They are doing horrible, unforgettable things.”

“We are at war, likewise,” declared Yie.

All four of them thought for a moment. Finally, Yie spoke again.

“I want both of you to experience an extraordinary phenomenon. Light from the heliac that lasts for an unusual length of time. When you have witnessed it, you will agree with me about how this light can be our weapon of final victory over the Red Hats. It will be a hard, onerous effort I have in mind, but we can and must carry it through. That is the sole hope left us and all the belowers on this planet.”

Puzzled over his meaning, the newly arrived men finished eating, then went out to the veranda with their friends to observe the rapidly waning light of day.

“Tomorrow,” began Yie, “our hotelier will take you out on the waters to see the glowing reflection of the heliac at its brightest. It will be an astounding sight that will inspire and enchant you. There is nothing like it anywhere.

After breakfast, at dawn, Gui took Frelo and Cacique onto his sail sloop. Yie and Joa went onto the veranda and sat on long chairs, watching the boat move slowly toward the middle of the lake. As the heliac rose into the whitish sky, the watery surface shone ever more brighter, ever more gleaming. It was then that Joa suddenly asked a question.

“Even if they become convinced to join with us, where will we find the resources needed for such a grand project? You have no mazuma, and neither do I. How can we pay for all that will be necessary?”

Yie turned his head and smiled at her.

“I haven’t been thinking too practically, but there are ways to do that. For instance, we can ask for voluntary contributions, starting right here around Lake Digit. Then, we might turn to the population of the entire region of these lakes. Our reach can expand wider and wider. There will be no limit to it.

“I know that this is a region of severe poverty. But the people around the lake will be the earliest beneficiaries of our effort. Our request can be in the form of loans that someday will be repaid. We will have to convince the donors of the feasibility of our plan. That may take a lot of work for us to accomplish. The enterprise will not be an easy one at all.

“Perhaps it will be possible to convert the belowers of the northern zone to a new type of faith.”

“A new type of faith?” returned Joa. “What do you mean?”

“We have to instill in belowers the idea that the light of the heliac is for all of Tegumen, not just for the peaks and the summits above. That the mountains are not an inevitable barrier fated to be eternal obstacles for us.

“If we succeed in inspiring the common villagers with hope in the coming abundance of light, there will result a flood of contributions. That will produce the financial support to build the system that we dream of.”

“You believe all of that possible, Yie?”

“We must trust and believe that it will happen. Our promise to the belowers will not be merely a material one, but will also bring spiritual enlightenment. Everyone can share in the higher reality and infinite joy we will provide. No one shall be left out.”

“The prospective is breathtaking,” said Joa. “We will be able to bring about a new vital energy and illumination of minds. There shall be both material and nonmaterial progress for our people. It will be like starting all over again.”

“We will start working right away,” said Yie with confidence in his voice.

The sailing sloop now began to move back to the hotel shore.

When Cacique and Frelo returned, they were full of energetic enthusiasm.

“I know how to get the prismoids that will be needed,” said Cacique over the dinner table. All four refugees sat with the proprietor, Gui. The group had advanced to specific plans on how to move forward.

“Dijo, the glassmaker, must be convinced to make us the components for a large screen of prismoids,” continued the stage designer. “If necessary, I am willing to go back to Rocumbol and get him to work with us. He is a courageous man and will dare to join and cooperate. He is the type who will donate his own labor and materials, I know that. He has that kind of personal strength of character.”

“Let us start first with written messages,” suggested Yie. “There is no need to expose anyone in the city to unnecessary risk.”

Joa then asked a question. “A screen will be built to catch the heliac light, but how will it be moored on the lake?”

“The waters out there are calm and quiet,” said Gui. “I believe that a flat barge will be adequate to support even a large screen at a stable level.”

“We can eventually have several barges with multiple screens,” mused Yie aloud. “Perhaps the final form can be a wall of many screens across the center of Lake Digit. It could be built on buoys and floats. I can envision a pontoon bridge under a series of prismoidal screens, reaching to a considerable height and extending the width of the lake. It will be a magnificent structure.”

“But all of that remains in the sphere of speculation until we reach that point. For the time being, we must concentrate on the production of basic glass prismoids. That is the first important stage.

“And the new, enhanced heliac light may turn out to make practical application of the silver platinum plates. That could be the key to making them practical for our planet.”

It appeared that everyone there agreed on what was to be done.

Fear and shock reigned over Rocumbol. Even the traditional city police force was terrorized by the all-powerful Red Hats. All sense of confidence and security disappeared with the coming of the highlanders with their oppressive direct rule.

Taking over the official residence from the now imprisoned qadic, Nomb Aacn had little time for sleeping in the magistrate’s ornate bedroom. He was awake and busy for long hours, leading and taking part in the search for the supposed abductors in control of his daughter. The more the hunt was frustrated, the greater his feverish efforts to uncover where she might be hidden within the city.

The idea that she was gone from there never took form in his mind.

Nomb drew the strings of power ever tighter in his own hands.

Not only the Popular, but all public theaters were indefinitely closed.

The police patrollers operated with one lone assignment: to locate the trail of Joa and those who had her in captivity, and to take back control of her.

Stores, houses, libraries, offices, and warehouses were broken into, even when locked up or closed. No building was exempt from intrusion. The pace of the hunting rose at a spiraling speed. A frenzy characterized it. The aim of finding the fugitives came to have absolute, final priority.

Yet no success at all came to the anxious Red Hats and their exhausted, haggard Hegumen. He could not have stopped what he had begun, even if he so desired. The madness had an inertia all its own and continued on and on. There appeared to be no relief or escape of any kind for the belower city.

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