Chapter X.

1 Aug

Frelo stayed in his apartment without going outside in the days after the closing down of the Popular Theater. He believed that safety from the Red Hat invaders was guaranteed him there in his digs. Why would they ever hunt for him? He had done nothing specific against the highlanders. They were after the couple who were fugitives from Zeviv Mountain. That was the prize they were after, not someone like himself.

But he might be identified as an ally of the fugitives. So, it was wise for him to lie low till he knew for sure what the situation was. That appeared safest and wisest to him.

Frelo nearly panicked when a loud, heavy knock sounded at his door.

Two uniformed city patrollers stood there.

“You are Frelo, Director at the Popular Theater?”

“Yes,” gulped the overwhelmed resident of the apartment.

“Do not be alarmed, you are not under arrest or in police custody. We are here under orders from the city qadic himself. He wishes to see you as soon as possible, at your convenience, and we are to escort you to a place where the two of you can talk in private. Are you prepared to go with us right now?”

Frelo gave a nod, then asked to get his overcoat and flat skimmer hat. Soon the three men were on their way. Their specific destination was a mystery to the drama director. Why did the qadic wish to see him? he wondered.

An obscure bookshop on a side alley was the secret meeting spot set for this clandestine purpose.

His escorts took Frelo to a back storage room where the magistrate sat waiting.

The two men shook hands and the qadic asked his guest to sit down. By then the two police patrollers were outside, guarding the store from intruders.

“We had to meet this way in order to protect you,” said the qadic. “Already, the Red Hats have killed the baaser from Caldaria Mountain called Caph. I want no more bloodshed in this city. That is why I wish to offer you safe passage elsewhere.”

“Where can I go?” said Frelo. “Who will hide me? Won’t the Red Hats chase after me in time?”

“I have already sent Yie and Joa to a secure haven. It is up in the northern lake region. Would you wish to join them there?”

“They could not track any of us to that area?” asked the director.

“I doubt they would or could,” said the official reassuringly.

“There is only one thing, though.”

“What is that?”

“I brought my stage designer, Cacique, into this trouble. Could he go with me? I have a moral obligation to provide him protection and shelter.”

“Certainly,” said the qadic. “He shall go to Digit Lake along with you. Both of you fellows will be safe and protected there.”

Frelo was soon escorted by the patrollers to the wagon service that was to take him on his long journey to the lake district. He waited at the vehicle for the designer to join him.

Soon the two theater professionals were repeating the trip taken earlier by Joa and Yie.

Nomb Aacn summoned his superior officers to the Red Hat encampment outside Rocumbol and made an announcement that shook all of them.

“The unfortunate death of one of the criminals has created an unprecedented situation in the city. I have decided we must act at once to establish order there. So, as of dusk today I am assuming government power over all of Rocumbol. I am ordering that the qadic be put in retirement and all his authority be transferred over to me. This is done under my office of Hegumen of Zeviv Mountain and its claustrum. We all know that the valleys of Tegumen are not legally independent, but are mere parts and extensions of our conventicle communities up above. They are our dependents and subordinates.

“I therefore assume the office of acting qadic and governor of this troubled city. My purpose is to apprehend those we came here to capture. I can only fulfill my task of recovering my daughter by completely searching the city. That will only occur if our Red Hats appropriate total police power over the population. The ordinary official hierarchy of Rocumbol is hereby put in suspension and is not to act or decide anything.

“Tomorrow we start a house-to-house, building-to-building search.”

Astonishment remained high among the Red Hats for a considerable time. It was now their job to carry out this order for a take-over of power. No one could predict what the results and implications might turn out to be.

Joa was still asleep when Yie went out to the beach to watch the rise of the heliac. He had never seen a similar imposing display of natural light. Red, orange, amethyst, gold, saffron, mauve, magenta, and many other hues were sighted by him. It was an unprecedented experience for Yie.

But a sudden, unexpected pain struck him at the center of his head.

Most of the people of Tegumen who lived in the valleys would never see such a rising of the heliac for themselves. The warm energy of real day was absent from their lives, from birth till the ending at death. They dwelled mainly in darkness and shadow. For them, the heliac star was a fleeting, short experience in a life ruled by twilight and night.

Belowers existed under the limits of restricted light and energy.

A distant voice seemed to be telling Yie that he had a special mission. It was an impossibly difficult task, one that perhaps he could never finish.

Should he start on it, even though the odds were against any success?

For he would face the solid, united opposition of every claustrum on the summits. The conflict would be terribly harsh and merciless. Years of painful hardship loomed ahead for the fugitive if he took up the plan forming in his mind.

This challenge had to be taken up. There was no alternative for him.

Joa was already his first convert to the cause he had conceived, that of radically altering the foundation of life on Tegumen.

The qadic of Rocumbol was dumbfounded by what his assistant told him.

“The Red Hats are pasting up proclamations on all the message boards,” he trembled. “They are announcing the transfer of supreme power to their Hegumen.”

Rising from his chair, the qadic was about to walk around his quercine desk when the door to his office flew open. Five men quickly marched in, the last of whom was Nomb Aacn himself. The latter blocked the way forward for the qadic. He began shouting in an extremely loud voice.

“As Hegumen of Zeviv, I pronounce this city part of my domain and assume the office of municipal chief. No longer are you to act in any official manner. Your post is vacated, all of its jurisdiction and authority fall to me alone. Any resistance to this order will be instantly suppressed and crushed. Is my meaning clear to you?”

Unable to say anything, the city magistrate retreated several steps.

By then, two large Red Hats had advanced far enough to take hold of him on both sides. There was no need to tell the qadic that he was under arrest.

How could he not know it?

Frelo and Cacique conversed as the wagon they were on neared the region of northern lakes and its cool atmosphere.

“What shall we do to sustain ourselves once we reach our destination?” asked Frelo. “I know nothing beyond work on the theater stage, that is all that I have ever worked at.”

“There are no theaters this far north?”

“It is a very poor latitude. The population cannot afford high culture and the advanced arts. There will be little economic opportunity for us here.”

Cacique ruminated a moment.

“Why don’t I set up a light show of some sort? That would surely draw some sort of audience, I am certain.”

“We will have to take it up with Yie and Joa,” said Frelo. “They will have suggestions of their own. They were very interested in prismoids, weren’t they?”

Cacique nodded yes, remembering his conversations with them at the Popular Theater. “We will be seeing our friends shortly, Frelo,” he told his traveling companion.

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