Litany of the Long Sun

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Authors: Gene Wolfe
Tags: Science-Fiction
satisfaction when they separated. There was danger there, no matter how Maytera and Patera might deceive themselves-filthy things she could do for him, and worse that he might do to her. Undefiled Echidna hated everything of that kind, blinding those who fell as she had blinded her. At times Maytera Rose, kneeling before her daughter's image, felt that she herself was Echidna, Mother of Gods and Empress of the Whorl.
    Strike, Echidna. Oh, strike!
    IT WAS DARK enough already for the bang of the door to kindle the bleared light in one corner of Silk's bedroom, the room over the kitchen, the old storeroom that old Patera Pike had helped clean out when he arrived. (For Silk had never been able to make himself move his possessions into Pike's larger room, to throw out or burn the faded portraits of the old man's parents or his threadbare, too-small clothing.) By that uncertain glow, Silk changed into his second-best robe. Collar and cuffs were detachable in order that they might be more easily, and thus more frequently, laundered. He removed them and laid them in the drawer beside his only spare set.
    What else? He glanced in the mirror; some covering for his untidy yellow hair, certainly. There was the wide straw hat he had worn that morning while laying new shingles on the roof, and the blue-trimmed black calotte that Patera Pike had worn on the coldest days. Silk decided upon both; the wide straw would cast a strong shadow on his face, but might blow off. The calotte fit nicely beneath it, and would supply a certain concealment still. Was this how men like this man Auk felt? Was it how they planned?
    As reported by Maytera Marble, Maytera Mint had named half a dozen places in which he might come across Auk; all were in the Orilla, the worst section of the quarter. He might be robbed, might be murdered even though he offered no resistance. If Blood would not see him…
    Silk shrugged. Blood's house would be somewhere on the Palatine; Silk could scarcely conceive of anyone who rode in a privately owned floater living anywhere else. There would be Civil Guardsmen everywhere on the Palatine after dark, Guardsmen on foot, on horseback, and in armed floaters. One could not just kick down a door, as scores of housebreakers did in this quarter every night The thing was impossible.
    Yet something must be done, and done tonight; and he could not think of anything else to do.
    He fingered his beads, then dropped them back into his pocket, removed the silver chain and voided cross of Pas and laid them reverently before the triptych, folded two fresh sheets of paper, put them into the battered little pen case he had used at the schola, and slipped it into the big inner pocket of his robe. He might need a weapon; he would almost certainly need some sort of tool.
    He went downstairs to the kitchen. There was a faint stirring from the smelly waste bin in the comer: a rat, no doubt. As he had often before, Silk reminded himself to have Horn catch him a snake that might be tamed.
    Through the creaking kitchen door, he stepped out into the garden again. It was almost dark, and would be fully dark by the time he reached the Orilla, eight streets away. The afternoon's rain had laid the dust, and the air, cooler than it had been in months, was fresh and clean; perhaps autumn was on the way at last. He should be tired, Silk told himself, yet he did not feel tired as he unlocked the side door of the manteion. Was this, in sober fact, what the Outsider wanted? This rush to battle? If so, his service was a joy indeed!
    The altar fire was out, the interior of the manteion lit only by the silver sheen of the Sacred Window and the hidden flame of the fat, blue-glass lamp between Echidna's feet-Maytera Rose's lamp, burning some costly scented oil whose fragrance stirred his memory.
    He clapped his hands to kindle the few lights still in working order, then fumbled among the shadows for the long-hafted, narrow-bladed hatchet with which he split shingles and

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