Sesskia’s Diary, part 38

4 Lennitay, evening

This is how paranoid I am: There is a perfect little niche in the wall of my bedroom, behind the headboard of my bed, that my book fits into exactly. And that’s why I’m not using it. I’d bet hard money, if I had any, that someone in the palace knows every single hidey-hole there is in every single room, and I’d bet even more of that nonexistent money that someone’s searched my room since we arrived this morning. So I continue to keep my book and pencil on my person, and keep it under my pillow at night, because it’s the last thing I have of my world and losing it would devastate me.

Colosse isn’t as big as I imagined, smaller than Venetry, probably, and not as sprawling as Thalessa, but it’s impressive in a way neither of them ever dreamed of being. I don’t know if it’s how white the walls are, or how all the lines and angles are so exact, but it looks so clean I wonder that anyone can bear to live in it. Audryn, who comes from Colosse, says that no animals are allowed within its city limits, as per orders of the God-Empress. (I’ve decided to start calling her that even in the privacy of this book, so I won’t slip up when I’m speaking of her or, horribly, to her.) So there’s no shit in the streets and no smells of warm animal bodies. What kind of stink the humans make is something I haven’t discovered, as the loenerel came straight through the city and inside the palace to unload us, so I’ve only seen a little of Colosse so far and nothing up close. But I saw lots of people walking, and some riding in bearer-borne chairs that in my world would only be used by the very wealthy, and there were some little wheeled carts that fit two passengers while a third person pulled it. Audryn also said that machines like very small versions of the collenna are becoming popular among the upper classes, but their th’an are so small and intricate it takes a lot of practice to learn how to operate one. I’m guessing the God-Empress has one of her own, but big enough that someone can drive her around in it. It fits what little I know of her.

What else did I observe about Colosse: it sits athwart what Castavirans call the Coell River but in my world is the Myrnala. (I think it’s Coell, with the long ‘o’, but some people pronounce it as ‘call’, and I’m going with Audryn’s pronunciation, since she’s actually from here). The loenerel crossed it at one point, and it was the strangest feeling, because the Myrnala is so much greener and slower and it bears no resemblance to the Coell; I only know the two are the same, or at least in the same place, because I saw it on the overlapping maps. This whole region is much drier and hotter than the corresponding places in my world, particularly that wasteland surrounding the Darssan, which in my world is nothing but grassy plains and a few very unwelcoming settlements. If Colosse is always this arid, the seasons might not even correspond. We ought to be heading into fall, by my reckoning—I’ll have to ask Audryn or someone what time of year this is. Either way, I’m not changing the dates in this book.

I feel as if I keep getting distracted. Well, Colosse was a distraction, a distraction from worrying about the God-Empress and what Vorantor might want from me and whether or not Cederic would be able to prove himself right. It might not be as big as Venetry, but it’s still pretty damn big, and blindingly white in the sun because they surface all their buildings with white plaster or white marble, depending on the wealth of the owner. The roofs are like jewels in the sun, all different colors that don’t come from paint but from this huge variety of slate that either comes from the nearby mines or is imported from elsewhere. I learned that the color of a roof represents some kind of religious allegiance. They all worship the same God, but their God has so many traits that people here adopt one and let it define their lives. For example, someone might value Truth above all else, and they’d put a blue roof on their home and be known for always seeking for truth, however uncomfortable that might be. Not that someone who valued Strength couldn’t be trusted to be truthful, and a seeker for Truth might not always be totally honest, it’s just that Strength or Truth would be what drives that person. And it’s still true that you can count on an adherent of a particular virtue to behave in certain ways, because they see that virtue as an important aspect of who they are. To me, it seems a little like bragging about how truthful or strong or generous you are, but Audryn also implied that someone not adhering to the principles of their adopted virtue can be charged with impiety in front of the God-Empress, who probably doesn’t appreciate people treating her (as avatar of their God) with such disrespect. One more reason not to declare one’s allegiance, I’d think.

Anyway, what with the colored roofs, Colosse looks like a pile of gems snuggled up against the banks of the river, but with the white walls and the wide, paved roads that are perfectly regular, it also looks a little like a model city, something built by a giant and left behind when she went home for supper. Even though I could see all the foot traffic, the loenerel is nearly soundproof and what noise it lets pass is muffled by the noise of its wheels and the thumping of the collenna, and the silence made the city seem even more like a toy, with people being made to move by that giant’s pouvra. It was almost a relief to roll through the big, square opening in the side of the palace and into the darkness beyond.

to be continued