The amalgamated vulgus, whether suffering under the sin of the sky or scaly beyond all reason, by instinct and preternatural revulsion made great way for the apparently unaccompanied swordsman whose footsteps reverberated not normally in the ear but peculiar through the spine, too many tones too low to be detected in the auditory faculties of species alive or dead, animated as he shortly was with the solar god that for mere moments made him a living avatar cast in the image of the holy saints alive with molten bronze and hissing fire that poured to grim effect upon a receding earth fearful of the life that made it. He strode confidently, like a liberated Atlas bounding from peak to peak and abounding with unearthly laughter; meanwhile his companions, shivering in the broiling air, could hardly conceal their visceral contempt that made them shy just away, so far unable to produce a salutation.
In many ways it was a wondrous city, a harbor city, filled with the colors of innumerable different accents, colors, foods, and cultures—the gifts of the blinding legion of sailing ships that filled the harbor far beyond all capacity. Strange smells, marvelous seasonings, the slow-cooked fats drizzling upon the floor of a tall and narrow earthen oven from an animal for which he had no name, despite being lettered and educated and not altogether unfamiliar with the sailing life. In any direction a man might cast a stone and eat something different every day for the whole score of his mortal existence, a true cosmopolitan society of both men and those only debatably.
Leaning his shoulders back comically, he asked his traveling companions with a twinkle in his eyes, “Hungry, my dear friends? I’ve a shiny coin or two that might purchase such contents that would stun you for a lifetime.”
It was some time before her pipe-organ passageways unsealed themselves, and staggering as if gasping for breath she replied meekly and repeatedly, “No… no… I think I’m fine. I’m full enough, as it is.”
“It’s a shame,” he roared in gleeful reply. “I had you figured for a quixotic. I had you figured for a scholar. What you witnessed is something none of your kind may possibly witness ever again, something I may never again practice or risk the wrath of my superior. Very few humans ever even observe the wonderful horrors of the internal cult of the Solar Legion.”
“Right… right… but—.”
“But I understand. To say it’s traumatic would be an understatement. I myself have only once previous ever been the inductee, at my proving. The consequences are intended to be grave. Everything is intended to be grave. There is no going back, and for the unprepared it can have… devastating consequences, adjoining with the merest glimpse with the eye in the sky.”
“I think I might be sick.”
“Shall we back to your residence?”
Images of her white-robed wedding flooded back into her imagination, galloping across the empty space of her eyes, and choking down the morning’s victuals she started again with a tiny murmur in her heart. “No no. You promised to show me something I hadn’t seen before, and I promised you the same. It wouldn’t be right to end with half-hearted measures. Come on now, you haven’t yet witnessed the great glory of the city of Tlexloris Phtha, jewel of the Szchellezi Commonwealth.”
“Surprised you Szchellezi didn’t retain the city’s ancient moniker, with your alleged obeisance to the solar cult.”
Struggling to accelerate to his pace, she snatched his hand in her own, feeling the digits with a strange unfamiliarity, which she couldn’t rightly recognize, but she knew it was there, lingering just beneath the surface a strange hardness and a lattice work texture that had not been there before.