Journal Entry 19: Exchange

CONCA

Sir… excuse me, sir… are you okay?

JANUAE

(unintelligible)

CONCA

Sir? Can you understand me?

JANUAE

Uh… I… uh, who are… how…

CONCA

You’re laying out here in the sun in the middle of nowhere. Were you headed somewhere?

JANUAE

I can’t… I can’t go anywhere. How did you-

CONCA

What’s your name, sir? Do you know where you are? Where did you come from? You’re a long way from… well, from anywhere.

JANUAE

I’m from Qi. I was from Qi. I, uh… I jaunt now. I’ve been in the loop for… um… actually, I don’t know how long.

CONCA

Well, you’re a quite a ways from Qi. You’re in Navarene. And what’s your name?

JANUAE

Januae.

CONCA

And where were you headed? Do you remember?

JANUAE

I couldn’t go anywhere. I’m in this loop… I was in a loop. I was stuck in the loop. But I- wait, that doesn’t-

CONCA

Sir… Januae, you’re clearly confused…

(beat)

Hold on, that symbol on your tunic… are you an Aeon Priest?

JANUAE

A priest… no. Yes… well, I… I was, but… I… I’m a nano now. But I’m lost.

CONCA

So you’re telling me you don’t have a home?

JANUAE

I don’t stay in one place long enough to make a home. But please, can you tell me how you-

CONCA

You know what, er… Januae? Since you have no home and you’re not headed anywhere, why don’t you come with me?

JANUAE

(after a pause)

That is appreciated… uh…

CONCA

Conca is my name.

JANUAE

While I appreciate that, Conca… I cannot leave here.

CONCA

(with a chuckle)

Here? There is nothing here, no village or aldeia nearby. Why is it you feel you cannot leave here?

JANUAE

I have not been able to leave since… I’m not sure how long I’ve been here, but this place resets. I cannot leave no matter how hard I try. Neither could Lowen. We’ve been stuck here-

CONCA

Lowen? Who is Lowen?

JANUAE

He’s… well, this is another reason I cannot leave here. This is my sentence for… I killed him.

CONCA

You killed… who? This Lowen person?

JANUAE

It was an accident… but I could have prevented it.

CONCA

And where is his body?

JANUAE

I don’t know. It vanished with the reset. His grave, that is.

CONCA

(a pause, then condescendingly, as if talking to a child)

Januae, is it? You could do with some help. Let me take you with me to Charmonde.

JANUAE

Charmonde?

CONCA

Yes.

JANUAE

Charmonde… where the Asaranti University is-

No. I must serve my sentence here.

CONCA

I see no evidence of a crime here. You can’t stay here. Whatever has happened to you has clearly taken a toll on your mind. I’m taking you to Charmonde.

NARRATION

JANUAE

I’m still a bit confused by what has transpired. Last I remember… well, I can’t say what I remember last. The days have run together for me in this place and I have no idea how much time has passed since- I have no recollection of what I’ve been doing or how I have been biding my time.

How did this man find his way into the loop? Is he immune to its effects? Or am I no longer in the loop? As I look around, I appear to be in the same place I have been for this indeterminate length of time. I do not understand how this man has appeared in this loop land riding in on an aneen.

I’m still somewhat resistant to leaving this place, though this man, Conca, is very insistent I let him take me to Charmonde, almost too insistent. I shake away enough of my self pity to embrace the man’s concern for my welfare and I let him help me climb onto the aneen’s back.

TRAVEL TO CHARMONDE

JANUAE

The journey to Charmonde has been a long one. Whenever we come upon an aldeia or a village Conca always makes a point to stop and visit with the people. He is known in many of these places; clearly he makes this journey regularly. A few towns offer him hospitality gratis, but the majority of them expect trade or compensation. Conca demonstrates an impressive acumen in barter, and many of the people he deals with seem to know this but do business with him in spite of themselves. In our interactions with others he always introduces me jovially, with an arm around my shoulder or waist. During our first overnight stay in one of the villages I was concerned he might make advances toward me while sharing a room but he did no such thing, to my relief. I had misinterpreted his demonstrative nature for some attraction or flirtation. From that point on I felt I could relax a bit more in the man’s company.

CHARMONDE

JANUAE

It took over three weeks of travel to reach Charmonde. The trip remained interesting at least, with the lush green landscape and rolling hills, the high yielding farmlands of Navarene, and the intermittent ruins and obelisks I could marvel at along the way. I had heard the people of this land were a bit elitist, but I did not find this to be the case in our travels. Once we reached Charmonde however, the attitudes began to shift. As people spoke of Queen Armalu, the notorious ruler of Navarene, her name carried with it respect and fear. The city itself seemed to personify her reputation, with four impressive fortresses surrounding a city of grand architecture.

Conca is not stopping to visit with people as we enter the city. He has us dismount the aneen and stables it in a livery on the outskirts of the city. He hurriedly leads me through the streets, weaving among the crowds and in the direction of a palatial structure atop the highest hill, which I believe to be the great Empiternal House, the seat of her majesty who is rumored to have been alive for over two centuries. It’s my hope that we might be visiting Asaranti University, but it would make more sense if he’s taking me to a semblage where I can convene with other Aeon Priests. I inquire as to our destination and he tells me we need to assess my health and condition. This is decidedly prudent, so I do not argue.

We enter a large building that rests outside the walls of the palace. We take seats in a lobby fashioned into a waiting area along with others who appear to be in varying states of health. Some appear injured, some malnourished, while others seem to be of sound health. Most look to be peasant class at best. Some of these people, individually or in groups, are accompanied by escorts not unlike mine.

Attendants appear in rather short order and receive those waiting alongside me. Despite the number of people in the lobby, we manage to be received in less than twenty minutes as a guess. Conca and I are led down a long hall lined by doors on either side and ushered into one of these. A serious looking individual directs me to a chair and begins examining me while Conca watches. They first have me turn as they look me up and down, then produce a bright light on a flexible wand, shines it in my eyes, and proceed to look inside my ears, mouth, and nose. They have me speak and respond to their words at varying volumes to check my hearing. I am asked to stand and flex my joints, then to take deep breaths while they press their ear to my chest and back. They examine my hands and feet, then nod, stepping over to confer with Conca, which I find odd considering I am the patient.

EXAMINER

He appears to be in very good physical shape. I see no apparent injuries or restricted movement of joints. Vision and hearing is normal.

CONCA

What of his mind? It’s his sanity I’m concerned about.

EXAMINER

Does he seem dangerous or aggressive?

CONCA

No, I don’t believe so. But he was rather disoriented when I found him.

EXAMINER

That won’t matter. As long as he is not aggressive.

CONCA

No, not this one. You do see he wears the garbs of an Aeon Priest. Will that influence-

EXAMINER

No. These clothes are not his. See how poorly they fit him? He clearly acquired them from someone who did belong to the Priesthood. These were tailored for someone other than him.

CONCA

So are you satisfied?

EXAMINER

I am. 300 shins.

CONCA

200 shins, and this cypher.

EXAMINER

This looks like a skullcap made of putty embedded with crystals.

CONCA

Yes but you place it on a person’s head and they will forget everything that transpired in the last 28 hours.

EXAMINER

(after a pause)

I trust your wares. You have never done me wrong. Though I suspect the bargain goes to you, as usual. But you brought me a fine one today so perhaps we’re even on this one.

JANUAE

Wait a minute, what-

CONCA

We have a deal then?

EXAMINER

We have a deal.

Sound of shins being exchanged

JANUAE

Hold on! What kind of deal is this? Conca, what deal did you make?

CONCA

Always a pleasure.

Sound of door closing, then sound of shackles being placed on JANUAE

JANUAE

What are you doing? Wait, where are you taking me? Am I being tried for Lowen’s murder?

EXAMINER

Murder? I don’t know anything about no murder. You’re going to be working for Queen Armalu up on the hill there if she hasn’t filled her quota.

JANUAE

I’ll be working in Empiternal House? In what capacity? Why am I being placed in shackles?

EXAMINER

(laughs)

You do realize Empiternal House is also known as the House of a Thousand Slaves, right? Welcome to the team! In fact, we’ll be heading there just now.

JANUAE

But I am an Aeon Priest! I can be of service to Her Majesty! I have knowledge of numenera that can help her… you need to let me explain…

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