Thursday, December 22, 2011

A quiet week in Khanbaliq

One morning, Beatriss and Tetsukichi received word that they were wanted in the Forbidden city. But when they presented themselves, they found no one was expecting them. An officer of the law (Ke Yi) asked them some questions they couldn’t answer about who had delivered the message and whom they were supposed to meet, and then accompanied them back to their house. The Sansar household guards couldn’t give any more information. But after Ke Yi left, they told Beatriss that an old woman had been there, looking for her, and had had even persuaded one of the guards to let her into Beatriss’s room. Beatriss assumed that this was Madam Guto and although her children were ok, she began seeking out some assistance.

There was little assistance available. She sent a message to Cair, the foreign magician, but received her reply. Buyuk invited her to his apartments in the Forbidden City for tea, but confessed that the official approval for their marriage was still being held up. (His housekeepers, Baki and Ba told Beatriss that their master was, in effect, a prisoner of the Emperor, being held in the palace as an “honored guest” to discourage his father and his family from rebelling.)
Although Beatriss wasn’t absolutely sure of Buyk’s intentions, they saw—and experienced other signs of the Imperial fist tightening. Hidenobu Gamo—a member of the Zipang contingent who had once housed Beatriss and Tetsukichi— was seen being frog-marched through the streets among shouts that he was a spy. Beatriss and Tetsukichi themselves were called in for questioning regarding the murder of Ke Yi, who was killed the day after he questioned Beatriss and Tetsukichi.

One bright spot—Beatriss and Tetsukichi were both invited to and attended a “philosophical lecture and discussion” held in the house of a resident of the green zone. The talk concerns one in a series of brass engravings, this one showing a simple pastoral scene that also provided to hold additional symbolic meanings, which, when properly deciphered conveyed startling insights beyond what could be conveyed in ordinary language or illustration. At least for Beatriss.

Emperor by plasticpumpkin

Tetsukich was somewhat distracted by the fact that the other people attending the meeting appeared did not appear to be scholars. Which was not to say they were dilettantes, but that, like him they bore the marks of having followed lives of adventure.

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