The Urth of the New Sun


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"Adjacent sails must be like two large mirrors. They're curved, so somewherein fact, in various placesthey must be parallel, and the starlight shines on them." Purn nodded again. "That's what makes the ship go, as the skipper said when they asked about the wench." "I once knew a man called Hethor who summoned deadly things to serve him. And I was told by one called VodalusVodalus was not to be trusted, I'll admitthat Hethor used mirrors to bring them. I've a friend who works mirror spells too, though his are not evil. Hethor had been a hand on a ship like this." That captured Purn's attention. He withdrew his finger and turned to face me. "You know her name?" he asked. "The name of his ship? No, I don't think he ever mentioned it. Wait... He said he'd been on several.
'Long I signed on the silver-sailed ships, the hundred-masted whose masts reached out to touch the stars."' "Ah." Purn nodded. "Some say there's only one. That's something I wonder about, sometimes." "Surely there must be many. Even when I was a boy, people told me of them, the ships of the cacogens putting into the Port of Lune." "Where's that?" "Lune? It's the moon of my world, the moon of Urth." "That was small stuff, then," Purn told me. "Tenders and launches and so forth.
Nobody never said there wasn't a lot of little stuff shuttling around between the various worlds of the various suns. Only this ship here and the other ones like it, allowing that there's more than the one, they don't come in so close, generally. They can do it all right, but it's a tricky business. Then too, there's a good bit of rock whizzing around, close in to a sun, usually." The white-haired Idas appeared carrying a collection of tools. "Hello!" he called, and I waved to him. "I ought to get busy," Purn muttered. "Me and that one are supposed to be taking care of 'em. I was just looking around to be sure they were all right when I saw you, uh, uh..." "Severian," I said. "I was the Autarchthe rulerof the Commonwealth; now I'm the surrogate of Urth, and its ambassador. Do you come from Urth, Purn?" "Don't think I've ever been, but maybe I have." He looked thoughtful. "Big white moon?" "No, it's green.
You were on Verthandi, perhaps; I've read that its moons are pale gray" Purn shrugged. "I don't know." Idas had come up to us by then, and he said, "It must be wonderful." I had no notion of what he meant. Purn moved away, looking at the beasts. As if we were two conspirators Idas whispered, "Don't worry about him.
He's afraid I'll report him for not working." "Aren't you afraid I'll report you?" I asked. There was something about Idas that irritated me, though perhaps it was only his seeming weakness. "Oh, do you know Sidero?" "Who I know is my own affair, I believe." "I don't think you know anyone," he said. And then, as if he had committed a merely social blunder, "But maybe you do.
Or I could introduce you. I will, if you want me to." "I do," I told him. "Introduce me to Sidero at the first opportunity. I demand to be returned to my stateroom." Idas nodded.
"I will. Perhaps you wouldn't mind if I came there to talk with you sometime? YouI hope you'll excuse me for saying thisyou know nothing about ships, and I know nothing about such places as, ah..." "Urth?" "Nothing of worlds. I've seen a few pictures, but other than that, all I know are these." He gestured vaguely toward the beasts. "And they are bad, always bad. But perhaps there are good things on the worlds too, that never live long enough to find their way to the decks." "Surely they're not all evil." "Oh, yes," he said. "Oh, yes they are.
And I, who have to clean up after them, and feed them, and adjust the atmosphere for them if they need it, would rather kill them all; but Sidero and Zelezo would beat me if I did." "I wouldn't be surprised if they killed you," I told him. I had no desire to see such a fascinating collection wiped out by this petty man's spite. "Which would be just, I think. You look as though you belong among them yourself." "Oh, no," he said seriously. "It's you and Purn and the rest who do. I was born here on the ship." Something in his manner told me he was trying to draw me into conversation and would gladly quarrel with me if only it would keep me talking. For my part, I had no desire to talk at all, much less quarrel. I felt tired enough to drop, and I was ravenously hungry. I said, "If I belong in this collection of exotic brutes, it's up to you to see I'm fed. Where is the galley?" Idas hesitated for a moment, quite plainly debating some sort of exchange of informationhe would direct me if I would first answer seven questions about Urth, or something of that sort.
Then he realized I was ready to knock him down if he said anything of the kind, and he told me, though sullenly enough, how to get there. One of the advantages of such a memory as mine, which stores everything and forgets nothing, is that it is as good as paper at such times. (Indeed, that may be its only advantage.) On this occasion, however, it did me no more good than it had when I had tried to follow the directions of that lochage of the peltasts whom I met upon the bridge of Gyoll. No doubt Idas had assumed I knew more of the ship than I did, and that I would not count doors and look for turnings with exactness. Soon I realized I had gone wrong. Three corridors branched where there should have been only two, and a promised stair did not appear. I retraced my path, found the point at which (as I believed) I had become lost, and began again. Almost at once, I found myself treading a broad, straight passageway such as Idas had told me led to the galley.
I assumed then that my wanderings had sent me wide of part of the prescribed route, and I strode along in high spirits. By the standards of the ship, it was a wide and windy place indeed. No doubt it was one that received its atmosphere directly from the devices that circulated and purified it, for it smelled as a breeze from the south does on a rainy day in spring. The floor was neither of the strange grass I had seen before nor of the grillwork I had already come to hate, but polished wood deeply entombed in clear varnish. The walls, which had been of a dark and deathly gray in the crew's quarters, were white here, and once or twice I passed padded seats that stood with their backs toward the walls. The passageway turned and turned again, and I felt that it was rising ever so slightly, though the weight I lifted with my steps was so slight I could not be certain. There were pictures on the walls, and some of these pictures movedonce a picture of our ship as it might have been limned by someone far distant; I could not help but stop to look, and I shuddered to think how near I had come to seeing it so.
Another turnbut one that proved not to be a turn, only the termination of the passageway in a circle of doors. I chose one at random and stepped into a narrow gangway so dark, after the white passage, that I could hardly see more than the lights overhead. A few moments later, I realized that I had passed a hatch, the first I had seen since reentering the ship; still not wholly free from the fear that had gripped me when I saw that terrible and beautiful picture, I took out my necklace as I strode along and made certain it had not been damaged . The gangway turned twice and divided, then twisted like a serpent. A door swung open as I passed, releasing the aroma of roast meat. A voice, the thin and mechanical voice of the lock, said, "Welcome back, master." I looked through the doorway and saw my own cabin. Not, of course, the cabin I had taken in the crew's quarters, but the stateroom I had left to launch the leaden coffer into the great light of the new universe aborning only a watch or two before.
Chapter V
The Hero and the Hierodules
THE STEWARD had brought my meal and, finding me not in my stateroom, had left it on the table.
The meat was still warm under its bell; I ate it ravenously, and with it new bread and salt butter, celeriac and salsify, and red wine. Afterward I undressed, washed myself, and slept. He woke me, shaking me by my shoulder. It was odd, but when Ithe Autarch of Urthhad boarded the ship, I had scarcely noticed him, though he brought my meals and willingly saw to various little wants; no doubt it was that very willingness which had unjustly wiped him from my attention. Now that I myself had been a member of the crew, it was as though he had turned to show another face. It looked down at me now, blunt-featured yet intelligent, the eyes bright with suppressed excitement. "Someone wishes to see you, Autarch," he murmured.
I sat up. "Someone you felt you should wake me for?" "Yes, Autarch." "The captain, perhaps." Was I to be censured for going on deck? The necklace had been provided for emergency use, but it seemed unlikely. "No, Autarch. Our captain's seen you, I'm sure. Three Hierodules, Autarch." "Yes?" I fenced for time. "Is that the captain's voice I hear sometimes in the corridors? When did he see me? I don't recall seeing him." "I've no idea, Autarch. But our captain's seen you, I'm sure. Often, probably. Our captain sees people." "Indeed." I was pulling on a clean shirt as I digested the hint that there was a secret ship within this ship, just as the Secret House was within the House Absolute. "It must interfere with his other work." "I don't believe it does, Autarch. They're waiting outsidecould you hurry?" I dressed more slowly after that, of course. To draw the belt from my dusty trousers, I had to remove my pistol and the knife that Gunnie had found for me. The steward told me I would not need them; so I wore them, feeling absurdly as though I were going to inspect a reconstituted formation of demilances.
The knife was nearly long enough to be called a sword. It had not occurred to me that the three might be Ossipago, Barbatus, and Famulimus. As far as I knew, I had left them far behind on Urth, and they had most certainly not been in the pinnace with me, though of course they possessed their own craft. Now here they were, disguised (and badly) as human beings, just as they had been at our first encounter in Baldanders's castle. Ossipago bowed as stiffly as ever, Barbatus and Famulimus as gracefully. I returned their greetings as well I could and suggested that if they wished to speak to me, they were welcome in my stateroom, apologizing in advance for its disorder. "We cannot come inside," Famulimus told me. "However much we would. The room to which we bring you is not too far away." Her voice, as always, was like the speaking of a lark. Barbatus added, "Cabins like yours are not as safe as we might wish," in his masculine baritone.
"Then I will go wherever you lead me," I said. "Do you know, it's truly cheering to see you three again. Yours are faces from home, even if they are false faces." "You know us, I see," Barbatus said as we started down the corridor. "But the faces beneath these are too horrible for you, I fear." The corridor was too narrow for us to go four abreast; he and I walked side by side, Famulimus and Ossipago side by side behind us. It has taken me a long time to lose the despair that seized me at that moment. "This is the first time?" I asked. "You have not met me before?" Famulimus trilled, "Though we do not know you, yet you know us, Severian. I saw how pleased you looked, when first you came into our sight.
Often we have met, and we are friends." "But we will not meet again," I said. "It's the first time for you, who will travel backward through time when you leave me. And so it's the last time for me. When we first met, you said, 'Welcome! There is no greater joy for us than greeting you, Severian,' and you were saddened at our parting. I remember it very wellI remember everything very well, as you had better know at oncehow you leaned over the rail of your ship to wave to me as I stood upon the roof of Baldanders's tower in the rain." "Only Ossipago here has memory like yours," Famulimus whispered. "But I shall not forget." "So it's my turn to say welcome now, and mine to be sad because we're parting. I've known you three for more than ten years, and I know that the hideous faces beneath those masks are only masks themselvesFamulimus took hers off the first time we met, though I did not understand then that it was because she had done so often before.
I know that Ossipago is a machine, although he is not so agile as Sidero, who I am beginning to believe must be a machine too." "That name means iron," Ossipago said, speaking for the first time. "Though I do not know him." "And yours means bone-grower. You took care of Barbatus and Famulimus when they were small, saw to it that they were fed and so on, and you've remained with them ever since. That's what Famulimus told me once." Barbatus said, "We are come," and opened the door for me. In childhood, one imagines that any door unopened may open upon a wonder, a place different from all the places one knows. That is because in childhood it has so often proved to be so; the child, knowing nothing of any place except his own, is astonished and delighted by novel sights that an adult would readily have anticipated.
When I was only a boy, the doorway of a certain mausoleum had been a portal of wonder to me; and when I had crossed its threshold, I was not disappointed. On this ship I was a child again, knowing no more of the world around me than a child does. The chamber into which Barbatus ushered me was as marvelous to Severian the manto the Autarch Severian, who had Thecla's life, and the old Autarch's, and a hundred more to draw uponas the mausoleum had been to the child. I am tempted to write that it appeared to be underwater, but it did not. Rather we seemed immersed in some fluid that was not water, but was to some other world what water was to Urth; or perhaps that we were underwater indeed, but water so cold it would have been frozen in any lake of the Commonwealth.
All this was merely am effect of the light, I believeof the freezing wind that wandered, nearly stagnating, through the chamber, and of the colors, tintings of green shaded with blue and black: viridian, berylline, and aquamarine, with tarnished gold and yellowed ivory here and there shining sullenly. The furnishings were not of furniture as we understand it. Mottled slabs of seeming stone that yielded to my touch leaned crookedly against two walls and were scattered across the floor.






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