In the iron deserts of Kent, the traveler is advised to carry spare ammunition and a sufficiency of supplies, especially potable water. Assistance may be sought from the caravanserai at the foot of Maidstone Mound at certain times of the year, but once the last rains have stopped that establishment is shuttered for the season.
Almost halfway between Maidstone Mound and the Canterbury Shieldglass, the trail drops into a shallow valley that widens until it is indistinguishable from the Estuarine Salt Flats to the north. There the red sands and scarred bedrock temporarily give way to a curious formation -- a depression that traps sufficient moisture to sustain its own microclimate.
A single great oak of unrivalled antiquity stands within that depression, of a size to rival even the banyans of Normandy. This desert giant is surrounded by ten steel pillars twice the height of a man, each bright as the blade of a sword. Known as the Deka Logos, these pillars are inscribed with words in an ancient language, now interpreted only by tradition. They are:
Elohecha, or Divinity.
Lashav', or Unpurposed.
Pesel, or Image.
Shavat, or Rest.
Kabed, or Honor.
Retzach, or Extinction.
Ne-of, or Betrayal.
Ganav, or Deprivation.
Emet, or Truth.
Khamod, or Desire.
Are these injunctions? Instructions? Perhaps commandments to the faithful? None can say, though theories abound. An entire section of the Bibliotek Subterranean at Cambridge is dedicated to glosses on the Deka Logos.
The traveler is advised not to linger long. The self-styled keeper of the place, a small man with a greenish complexion and curious garb of leaves and flowers, will capture you in conversation. Some travelers have lingered for years under his spell, talking of the ancient ways of the world and the morals of men, the sum of which he claims is documented on the Deka Logos. If you encounter him, gift him with fruit and seeds -- and, if need be, your slowest traveling companions -- and be speedy on your way.
Copyright © 2003 Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family and their books. In 2003, his work is appearing in diverse markets such as Realms of Fantasy, Writers of the Future XIX, and The Thackeray T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. For more about him and his work, see his website. To contact him, send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleven Went to Heaven