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datatime: 2022-09-26 04:47:30 Author:wTFUMixL

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

"Good," Gehn said, lowering his head so that the man could place the garland over it. Then, straightening up, he gestured to the man, "Gather the villagers. I shall speak to them at once."

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.

"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's laugh was dismissive. Even so, Atrus felt a strange excitement at the thought of meeting them. Though Gehn had occasionally brought in working parties from one or other of his Ages, he had never taken Atrus to an inhabited Age. Not before today.

"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. .."

"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 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.

Atrus glanced at his father, alarmed. "Are we in danger?"

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.

People were gathering from all over now-men, women, and children. They were pale-skinned, stocky, clearly human in their dark-brown smocks. Their hair was uniformly light in color and spiky, reminding Atrus of straw.

Gehn's laugh was dismissive. Even so, Atrus felt a strange excitement at the thought of meeting them. Though Gehn had occasionally brought in working parties from one or other of his Ages, he had never taken Atrus to an inhabited Age. Not before today.

Atrus glanced at his father, alarmed. "Are we in danger?"

"Good," Gehn said, lowering his head so that the man could place the garland over it. Then, straightening up, he gestured to the man, "Gather the villagers. I shall speak to them at once."

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

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.

On the other side, the land began to climb again, and on the top of a narrow ridge, behind which was the more massive slope of the hill, was what looked like a meeting hut of some kind, much larger than the huts that faced the harbor. As they crossed the bridge and began to climb the slope, Atrus saw lights being hastily lit up ahead, garlands hung between the wooden posts at the front of the building.

Gehn touched his arm, motioning that he should stop.

People were gathering from all over now-men, women, and children. They were pale-skinned, stocky, clearly human in their dark-brown smocks. Their hair was uniformly light in color and spiky, reminding Atrus of straw.

"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. .."

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