Banner of the Hawk 54

17.

After Tidac and Conger had relayed Melcer’s message, Marquart’s rage redoubled. No one was safe from him except Tidac, who could read the storm warnings better than the others and generally managed to be elsewhere when the explosions came.

Masons could not work fast enough. Cook’s boys could not store enough food quickly enough. Marquart had always demanded both speed and perfection in the building of the Citadel. He had pushed his men to their limits; now he pushed them beyond their limits. When they could not comply with his harangues, heavy fists fell.

Through it all, a part of Marquart watched from the cold, dark recesses of his inner mind and was amazed at his own fall from intense planing, careful handling of men, and icy control.

He had said to Dael, “I was large in the world, and becoming larger. Now, this is as great as I will ever be.” Lord of a poor, weather stricken land, with a few unhappy wardens and the serfs he had just brought back from the brink of starvation. It was too little for a commander of thousands, and arm of the High King. This he knew, but it did not seem enough to account for his rage.

What he could not know was that within his chest beat the heart of a God. Hea had hidden Beshu from the Shambler, and had hidden knowledge of their heritage from Beshu’s line. That Hea had set Baralia to watch over him had been her great error, but Baralia had only been a catalyst. The underlying force that drove Marquart narat was his frustrated Godhood.

# # #

In the winter of Tidac’s ninth year, the Citadel was completed. It rose unbroken for four full stories and extended for no one knew how far underground in a labyrinth of storerooms, cisterns, shops and stables. Gray-black basalt from the mountains formed its skin and the massive entry ramp glistened with oil. The roof was slate, supported by massive buttresses and broken only by the cunningly designed ventilation system.

Marquart was well pleased with the tower, but not with the debts it had brought upon him. Nor with Tidac, who remained more than half mind-mazed since Weikata. Lethargic, uninterested, forgetful; he was all that Dymal had predicted he would become.

# # #

In the evening before the dedication feast, Dymal assembled his priests. Ordinary worshipers had been barred from the temple for the last three days, and during that time the priests had fasted and prayed.

A change impended. Dymal could feel it in the air and read it in the mandalas he cast. The Raven was ascendant and the Hawk was passing into shadow.

# # #

The feast which Marquart had planned was no celebration. It was a display of strength. Vesulan, Janch, Karavi, and Messina, the wealthy merchant with whom Marquart was negotiating a wardenship in Jor’s place, were his guests, along with spouses and cousins and a contingent from the menhir village.

Before the feast, Marquart toured his citadel from the tortuous sub-basements to the battlements, feeling the weight of cold stones between himself and the threatening world beyond. It was as he had planned it, yet he felt dissatisfaction.

When he returned to his new bedroom to change for the feast, he caught a hint of motion at his side and said, “Baralia? I thought I felt your presence earlier when I was inspecting the towers.”

She appeared fully to him then. There had been a sadness in her face before; now it was replaced by cruel satisfaction. “It was I,” she said. “I walked your inspection with you. Tell me, why did you not look more pleased with your handiwork?”

Marquart grunted at the barb and said honestly, “Tonight I felt as you are, only half a part of my own world.”

She laughed as she disappeared again. more tomorrow

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