Litany of the Long Sun

Free Litany of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

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Authors: Gene Wolfe
Tags: Science-Fiction
    Silk considered his answer. "No, I don't think I did. No, I didn't. I felt-well, great. I felt that way even though he was immeasurably greater, as you say. Imagine, Maytera, that His Cognizance the Prolocutor were to speak to me in person, assigning me some special duty. I'd feel, of course, that he was a far greater man than I, and a far, far greater man than I could ever be; but I'd feel that I too had become a person of significance." Silk paused, ruminating. "Now suppose a Prolocutor incalculably great."
    "I understand. That answers several questions that I've had for a long while. Thank you, Patera. My news-I want to tell you why I asked you to meet me."
    "It's bad news, I assume." Silk drew a deep breath. "Knowing that the manteion's at risk, I've been expecting some."
    "It would appear to indicate-mistakenly, I feel sure, Patera-that you've failed already. You see, a big, red-faced man came to the palaestra while you were away. He said that he'd just bought it, bought the entire property from the city." Maytera Marble's voice fell. "From the Ayuntamiento, Patera. That's what he told me. He was here to look at our buildings. I showed him the palaestra and the manteion. I'm quite sure he didn't get into the cenoby or the manse, but he looked at everything from the outside."
    "He said the sale was complete?"
    She nodded.
    "You're right, Maytera. This sounds very bad."
    "He'd come in a floater, with a man to operate it for him. I saw it when we were going from the palaestra to the manteion. We went out the front, and along Sun Street past the ball court He said he'd talked to you before he came here, but he hadn't told you he'd bought it. He said he'd thought you'd make trouble."
    Silk nodded slowly. "I'd have hauled him out of his floater and broken his neck, I think, Maytera. Or at least I would have tried to."
    She touched his knee. "That would have been wrong, Patera. You'd go to the Alambrera, and into the pits."
    "Which wouldn't matter," Silk said. "His name's Blood, perhaps he told you."
    "Possibly he did." Maytera Marble's rapid scan seldom functioned now; she fell silent as she searched past files, then said, "It's not a common name at all, you know. People think it's unlucky. I don't believe I've ever had a single boy called Blood."
    Silk stroked his cheek, his eyes thoughtful. "Have you heard of him, Maytera? I haven't, but he must be a wealthy man to have a private floater."
    "I don't think so. If the sale is complete, Patera, what can you do?"
    "I don't know." Silk rose as he had before, A step carried him out of the arbor. A few drops of rain still fell through sunshine that seemed bright, though the shade had more than half covered the sun. "The market will be closing soon," he said.
    "Yes." Maytera Marble joined him. The skylands, which had been nearly invisible earlier, could be seen distinctly as dawn spread across them: distant forests, said to be enchanted, and distant cities, said to be haunted-subtle influences for good or ill, governing the lives of those below. "He's not a foreigner," Silk said, "or at least he doesn't talk like any foreigner I've ever met. He sounded as though he might have come from this quarter, actually."
    Maytera Marble nodded. "I noticed that myself." "There aren't many ways for our people here to become rich, are there, Maytera? I wouldn't think so, at least" "I'm not sure I follow you."
    "It doesn't matter. You wanted me to speak with this man Auk. On a Scylsday, you said; but there are always a dozen people waiting to talk to me then. Where do you think I might find Auk today?"
    "Why, I have no idea. Could you go and see him this evening, Patera? That would be wonderful! Maytera Mint might know."
    Silk nodded. "You said that she was in the manteion, waiting for the fire to die. Go in and ask her, please, while you're helping her purify the altar. I'll speak with you again in a few minutes."
    Watching them from a window of the cenoby, Maytera Rose grunted with

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