Pax Nocturna

“Pachacamac, how much do you know about that legend?” Renki asked the echidna walking beside him. The two had been travelling for two days (it was now morning of the third) and had nary a conversation apart from deciding where to camp when evening came. They had gotten off to a rocky start, Pachacamac being rather annoyed at having to escort the outsider, and this was only made worse when he found out that Renki had not known about the trade route despite the fact that, as he bluntly pointed it out, it practically ran straight from Renki’s homeland to their current designation. Finally, however, Renki had worked up the courage to ask his companion the question that he had been holding since they left.

“What legend?” Pachacamac replied indignantly, his spear making a harsh click with each step as he struck the paved brick road.

“The one Chieftess Cihuacoatl spoke of, about the power my people sent me to find.”

“Oh, that legend,” Pachacamac said, as if it had completely left his mind in the time they were travelling. “I knew a fair amount of it, or at least, what I think she refers to.”

“Could you, perhaps, tell me it?”

“There have been many versions of the tale, but the most common one I am familiar with states thus;

Long ago there lived a civilization of sky-beings who crafted objects of great power. With these they controlled the very forces of nature and summoned forth a mighty serpent. Soon they began to lose control of their own power, and the gods, fearing the entire world would be swept up in their destructive rampage, crafted a single object more powerful than all those of the sky-beings. It balanced and controlled the power the sky-beings had brought forth. Defeated, they were charged by the gods with guarding this power so that no other race might threaten the creation as they had.

“And then it follows with some foolish chant,” Pachacamac said, his tale finished.

“Which states?” Renki asked, more enthralled now than he had been when he first asked.

The servers are the seven chaos. Chaos is power, power enriched by the heart. The controller is the one that unifies the chaos.

“The ‘seven chaos’ are the weapons that angelic beings created, are they not? Therefore the ‘controller’ must be what the gods created to stop them.”

“That seems most likely, but ‘power enriched by the heart’? That just seems like foolishness. Emotions simply get in the way when in a true battle.”

“I would not be so sure. The content of one’s heart is what truly motivates them.”

“What would you know, farmer?” Pachacamac said, turning to face Renki for the first time in this conversation. His face showed condescending anger, but changed to an emotionless slate as he turned to look straight ahead. “Regardless, if that legend is true, and the ‘seven chaos’ do exist, and they are within our reach, I do not understand why our ancestors never sought to harness it. Perhaps it is only a legend.”

“For my people’s sake, I hope that is not true,” Renki said, barely audible to anyone other than himself.

The conversation changed back into silent marching as the two continued to make their way south. Other travelers and the occasional merchant cart would pass by, but for a long time there was little activity on the road. By midday, however, they began to meet a steady stream of traffic as the wide paved road intersected with various dirt paths from the surrounding villages. The quality of the paved road also began to improve subtly, and the milestones, previously simply boulders with the distance carved into them, were now carved stone obelisks standing about five feet tall. They and other road signs also bore a symbol which featured a profile silhouette of an echidna with the letters “RPGN” written inside.

“Pachacamac, what does this symbol mean?” Renki asked as they passed a milestone.

“It means that we’re getting close,” Pachacamac replied and gestured forward with his spear. “Look up.”

Renki did so and at first had trouble finding what Pachacamac was pointing out. But then in the distance he spotted the top of a mountain that seemed oddly pale and uniform. “Is that… a pyramid? On top of a mountain?”

“We may have separated a great distance into the past, but it seems some concepts are simply part of echidna nature. That’s the capital city of the Yoallipori, or as they say, Nocturnus Clan. But as we get closer you’ll see the differences more clearly.”

Those differences were obvious to Renki as the city came more clearly into sight. While Coatltepetl has been dug out of the surrounding hills, Nocturne was built on top of large hill, the central pyramid causing it to look more like a mountain. More of the city surrounded the base of the hill, and on the edge of that were farmer’s fields. A similar setup to the Ponapori lands, though Nocturne lacked a fortified wall. But apart from some aesthetic differences, the technological differences were most striking. Waterfalls flowing from the top of the hill moved waterwheels, and buildings larger than those on the ground had been built out from the hillside, held up by supports that seemed impossibly small for the weight that was placed on them. At the same time, lush plant life covered the hill, showing that despite their powerful technology, the Nocturnus Clan still maintained a respect for nature. Or perhaps they simply appreciated the visual appeal of grass as opposed to a plain rock face.

In any case, as Renki and Pachacamac walked within the last few miles to the city, the road had become clogged with traffic, practically grinding to a standstill. Merchant carts loaded with goods were coming both from and to the city. Fruits, grains, pottery, and the occasional stash of weapons. “The Nocturnus certainly seem to have quite the trade business,” Renki said as he looked around with fascination at their surroundings. “I had thought you city’s market was impressive, but we are not even inside the city and already there is…” Renki trailed off as he turned to Pachacamac, who once again had a highly irritated look on his face. “That is, I do not mean to speak down on your people, it is just that-”

“Don’t worry, I take no offense. It’s true that the Yoallipori have made much greater advances in technology and industry than we have. But as my mother said, they have done so at the loss of their mystic heritage. Let’s simply meet their leader, find what we need, and be on our way.”

Eventually the two made it inside the city, and after worming their way through the crowded marketplace they began to head towards the central hill where they assumed the most important facilities would be. At the top of the hill they walked up to the base of the pyramid. A pair of guards was posted at the entrance. They wore armor with thick metal breastplates, wide leather belts, a segmented metal skirt, leather sandals, forearm gauntlets made of leather and metal plating, and metal helmets with decorative red plumage along the center. At their side was sheathed a large double-edged sword, and they were also holding unadorned spears of plain wood and metal.

Cōnsistete!” one of the guards called out, holding up his hand in a motion for Renki and Pachacamac to stop. “What business do you have here?”

This time Pachacamac spoke. “I am Pachacamac, son of Chieftess Cihuacoatl of the Ponapori echidnas. This is Renki of the Kitsune Clans to the north. We come bearing a message for your leader.”

“The cōnsulēs are currently in a meeting of the senate. If you are willing to wait they will be able to meet with you afterwards.”

“In that case we shall wait for them.”

“Very well. Allow me to show you to a place where you may rest from your journey. Follow me.” The guard led the two inside the pyramid and into a small waiting room. The pyramid was actually quite open on the inside, and in the center was a large circular room where the Nocturnus senators met to discuss the politics of leading the clan. The room Renki and Pachacamac were lead into was small and the only furniture was a few benches, a water basin, and a small table with a bowl of assorted fruits. The seal Renki had seen on the road seemed to be present everywhere in the building.

“Excuse me,” he asked as the guard was about to leave, “what exactly does this symbol mean?”

“It is the seal of our nation. Rēs Publicae Gentis Nocturnae; The Republic of the Nocturne Clan. It is used as an official seal, and an easy way of telling when you have entered our territory.”

“Thank you for explaining,” Renki said, bowing slightly as the guard left. He sat down on one of the benches, removing his sword and outer coat, placing them on the floor. Pachacamac was already reclining on the other bench, eating an apple he had grabbed from the fruit bowl. For a moment there was no sound except for Pachacamac’s chewing as Renki sat thinking. Then suddenly he piped up. “What is a republic?”

“Well, apparently instead of having a single leader like us, or whatever you do, they elect leaders who represent them on a council,” Pachacamac responded.

“That seems like an interesting form of government.”

“Yeah, until you have to go to war. Just imagine how long they could get stuck in debates about what to do. By then the enemy would be at the door.”

“I suppose that is why they have focused on technological and scholarly strengths.”

“That would make sense.” Pachacamac sat up and tossed the core of his apple onto the table where the fruit bowl sat. “So let’s hope they actually have the information you need.”

About an hour passed before an echidna wearing a flowing white robe which hung from one shoulder stepped into the room. “The cōnsulēs will see you now.”

The echidna led the two into the central chamber, which had now been mostly vacated by the members of the senate; a few were still standing around, chatting in small groups. At the far side were two seats set apart from the rest of the assembly. In these chairs sat two echidnas, wearing similar styled robes as the others in the room, but with many intricate patterns and colors woven into the fabric. The attendant stopped Renki and Pachacamac then took a few steps closer to the two echidnas before turning around to address the visitors. “May I present the Cōnsulēs Nocturnī: Cōnsul Marcus Pompeius Natta and Cōnsul Pirothēs Ix Albinus.”

The first consul, Pompeius, was an echidna in his late middle ages. He had a slight beard around his muzzle, and his fur was mixture of red and brown. He seemed to be a kind person and his face bore a gentle smile. The second consul, Ix, was younger, seemingly only a few years older than Pachacamac, and yet he was almost completely white. His powerful position, combined with his youth, gave him an aura of one with great ambition. Renki and Pachacamac both bowed; Renki’s bow was significantly deeper.

Still bowing, Renki quickly whispered, “They have two leaders?”

“Seems so. That would explain why the guard was using “they”. I assumed he was being secretive about gender.” The two straightened up and announced themselves. Pompeius then addressed them.

“What brings you to the city of Nocturne?”

“We come bearing a message from Chieftess Cihuacoatl of the Ponapori,” Pachacamac said. He reached into his bag and withdrew a scroll which he handed to the attendant who gave it to the consuls. There was silence as they read the letter. After they finished, the consuls faced Renki.

“So, you have come seeking help in ridding your land of some sort of evil?” Ix asked.

“That is correct. Chieftess Cihuacoatl directed me to your clan because of your great technological accomplishments. Is there any way you can help?”

“I do not doubt that there is some way for us to help you, but an option does not immediately present itself in our minds,” Pompeius said. “However, there is a great university and library in this city, and there you may find the information you seek.”

“We shall have an attendant show you the way. Report back here with any information pertaining to this “demon”,” said Ix, “We shall meet with our own advisors on this matter as well.”

“Thank you for your assistance consuls,” Renki said, bowing again. With that, the two were escorted from the senate chamber by an attendant. They were led outside and back down the hill to one of the buildings hanging precariously from the side. A vast hall full of shelves filled with scrolls, books, and even carved stone slabs. On the side connected to the hill was a massive mosaic mural of major events in Nocturnus history and legend, and on the opposite were glass windows stretching from floor to ceiling which filled the room with sunlight. The attendant led them to center where there was valley amongst the rows of shelves. There was a circular desk with four librarians to assist visitors.

“How may I help you today?” one of the librarians, and elderly echidna in brown robes asked as the trio stepped forward.

“These travelers come seeking information on a supernatural force,” the attendant said. “I must return to the cōnsulēs, so I leave them to you.”

“Very well,” the librarian said, and the attendant left. “So, what exactly are you looking for?”

“A powerful demon has been ravaging my homeland, and I seek a way to defeat it.”

“Quite the noble quest. Let me find you some assistance.” The librarian scanned the area and called out for the first library worker he spotted. “Nestor, hīc venī!” As the object of his command walked over the librarian turned back to Renki and Pachacamac. “How convenient. Nestor has worked in this library from a very young age, so he should be a great deal of help to you.”

The echidna called Nestor was now standing next to the librarians’ desk. “You called, sir?”

“Nestor, these visitors need help finding some information vital to the wellbeing of their peoples. Please assist them as best you can.”

“Of course,” Nestor said. His fur was a light red, almost an orange, and he wore the same brown robe as the other librarians. He was at least ten years older than the duo, possibly more, but he had a youthful disposition. Only a hint of gray fur on his small beard betrayed his true age. “Greetings, I am Nestor, Nocturnus librarian. I’m also a bit of an amateur historian, but I really wouldn’t call any of my works that great.” Nestor laughed. “So, let’s get to work then, shall we?”

———————————————————————————————————————

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