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datatime: 2022-09-26 04:49:18 Author:ayZgqAoD

"Now lead on" Gehn said, his voice stern, commanding.

Ten paces from them, the party stopped, dropping to their knees and bowing their heads, abasing themselves before Gehn. One of their number-the tallest of them-stood, then, coming forward, his head bowed, held out a garland of yellow flowers, offering at the same rime a few words of broken D'ni.

"It's very beautiful," he said finally, looking to his father, but Gehn merely grunted, surveying his work with what seemed a haughty disregard.

"People of the Thirty-seventh Age," he began, speaking loudly, the circle of hills making his words echo back to him across the lake. "This is my son, Atrus. I have decided that we shall stay with you for a time. While he is here you will treat him with the same respect you accord me."

"Yes, but don't expect too much, Atrus. The people of this Age are an immensely simple folk. Crude, one might almost say. They manage to eke out a meager existence by way of fishing and basic agriculture, but as for culture, well. .."

Ten paces from them, the party stopped, dropping to their knees and bowing their heads, abasing themselves before Gehn. One of their number-the tallest of them-stood, then, coming forward, his head bowed, held out a garland of yellow flowers, offering at the same rime a few words of broken D'ni.

Gehn touched his arm, motioning that he should stop.

Atrus climbed up onto the rock, hurrying to catch up. He had seen quite a few of his father's Ages these past three years-he hasn't begun to try making ages yet-but it had never ceased to astonish him that mere words could create such vivid and tangible realities.

Behind them, the people of the village gathered, following silently, their torches burning brightly in the moonlit darkness.

There was a path leading down between the scattered rocks. After a dozen paces it opened out onto a bare slope covered in thigh-high grass. Below them, maybe a mile or so distant, huddled around the left-hand side of the lake, was a scatter of low, rectangular buildings, oddly shaped, as if half made of stone; maybe forty in all, lit by the lamps which hung over doorways and on poles along the harbor's edge. Suspended walkways linked the huts. Beneath the eaves of the nearest huts a number of dark, upright figures could be glimpsed.

"I have done much better work than this," he answered, climbing up onto one of the rocks, then stepping down the other side. "In some ways this is my least successful experiment, I tried to keep it simple. Too simple, possibly."

They went down, through a narrow lane flanked by low but spacious huts with steeply sloping roofs of thatch, their wooden walls rising out of a bed of large, shaped boulders. Suspended, slatted wooden walkways swayed gently overhead as they walked through, and as they came out beside the lake, Atrus saw how the earth there had been covered with boards; how steps had been cut into the face of the rock, leading down. Below was a kind of harbor, one wall of which had been created by sinking hundreds of long poles into the bottom of the lake to form a sunken barrier. In the harbor were a dozen or so small but sturdy-looking fishing boats, their masts laid flat, their cloth sails furled.

Atrus turned to stare at Gehn, surprised. "Its inhabited?''

There was a path leading down between the scattered rocks. After a dozen paces it opened out onto a bare slope covered in thigh-high grass. Below them, maybe a mile or so distant, huddled around the left-hand side of the lake, was a scatter of low, rectangular buildings, oddly shaped, as if half made of stone; maybe forty in all, lit by the lamps which hung over doorways and on poles along the harbor's edge. Suspended walkways linked the huts. Beneath the eaves of the nearest huts a number of dark, upright figures could be glimpsed.

Gehn touched his arm, motioning that he should stop.

They walked on, descending the thickly grassed slope. At first Atrus thought they would come upon the islanders unobserved, but then, a hundred yards or so from the edge of the village, a shout went up. Someone had spotted them. At once there was a buzz of voices down below and signs of sudden, frantic activity.

Gehn touched his arm, motioning that he should stop.

Atrus stared at his father, surprised. This was the first he had heard of any of this. But Gehn spoke on, his voice booming now.

Gehn touched his arm, motioning that he should stop.

Gehn shook his head. "Be patient, Atrus. You are here to observe, so observe."

"You are welcome, Great Master. Your dwelling is prepared."

"Yes, but don't expect too much, Atrus. The people of this Age are an immensely simple folk. Crude, one might almost say. They manage to eke out a meager existence by way of fishing and basic agriculture, but as for culture, well. .."

In the flickering light of the torches, Atrus saw what he was wearing. It was a crude, handwoven copy of a Guild cloak]

Atrus stared at his father, surprised. This was the first he had heard of any of this. But Gehn spoke on, his voice booming now.

Atrus stared at his father, surprised. This was the first he had heard of any of this. But Gehn spoke on, his voice booming now.

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