The Totem-Maker (part thirteen)

Collage of wary person looking over shoulder

The Totem-Maker

Chapter Two
(part thirteen)









The porter led Lom to the terrace’s threshold, preceding a new-arrived visitor for whom Lom rightfully served as vanguard, Cime. Sente did not rise.

“Can I fairly suppose, Sente, that the law touches you at last?”

Mine was the eye Cime caught. I could hardly convey to him his friend’s remarkable words.

Sente gave orders for the kitchen; the porter bowed and backed from us. I stood, giving place to my master. But Cime stopped before the fountain, and let the spray of it wash his feet.

“If the day is an auspicious one, I will of course take gold from my treasury. To part with gold on an inauspicious day is to pay the penalty twice.”

Cime’s face replied with an obvious calculation. The countermove made difficulties…we were all in these lands bound to the old beliefs. Cime laughed in private, but would not himself have spent money without a casting, and if I’d told him fortune forbade the hour, he would rather fall into debt than be an offense to the gods.

He took my vacant seat. “Do your work at once,” he told me.

“My Lord Sente, have you any preference?”

Sente tossed a pillow to the pavement. I sat and drew a tablet from my bag.

“Shall I suppose that Cime, who shared my boyhood tutor, and shined by his efforts a favorable light on my own…what we may call, next to nothing…?”

They grinned at each other. The kitchen servant brought more wine and fruit. A smell of roast pig came to us, and Sente said, “Of course, dine with me.”

Cime prompted: “Suppose…?”

“Would have trained his servant to cheat me?”

“I wouldn’t know how, with these arts.”

“Well, that is the better answer. If you said you wouldn’t do it, I would flout the lie by sending to Elcade. It would take a day or two, and you would be formally in dereliction of duty.”

Elcade was a hermit, a fortune-teller of that sort who breathe the fumes of Lotoq and babble visions.

“Have faith!” Cime said. “You cannot outwit the gods. Why make your doubts conspicuous to them?”

“My lord,” I said to Sente. “Will you trouble to draw the tiles, or…”

“No, creature. Choose.”

He got nothing from the gods as to wealth. Cime quipped in low voice that his friend could hide gold so cunningly even the gods did not perceive it. Sente for this removed a ring of tiger’s eye and plaited gold, and laid it on the altar (a small temple of clay, such as graced all our rooms).

“Great Ami, I apologize for this scion of Decima. The House of Vei desires only your mercy.”






Virtual cover art for The Totem-Maker with volcanic eruption

The Totem-Maker (part one)













(2018, Stephanie Foster)




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