This cover was illustrated by the author.
Seabreeze wafted up the sun-bleached cliffs and swirled through the conches hung from the pathway railing. The path approached an enormous archway shorn of reddish-white marble. The structure loomed over the island as a doorway to nowhere, simultaneously the region’s highest settled point and its most useless.
I stood beside the bovine-man, or minotaur as he called himself, Caled. His ornate robes and crooked spectacles spoke of scholarship. His passion for the pursuit of education trailed from him in the scent of dust, and papyrus, and the thick musk of ink. His eyes ran back and forth across the wooden pad in his hands while he chewed his charcoal pencil.
“I believe we could work into the gate,” he said. He spoke vaguely to himself, but also to the group of minotaur behind him. They all nodded like mocking birds at his comment.
The beautiful breeze ran through my fur. My lungs felt anew, here. I strode from the edge of the plateau where one could look down upon the vast coastal city and admired the smooth archway from underneath. I asked Caled, “How will you work the gate into the design if you can’t harm it?”
Were one to look at the perfectly rounded loop which rose from the rock, one may assume it were made of the same reddish-white marble as the cliffside. Were one to assume as such, then the implication would be that—just as the marble—the archway could be pulverized or broken apart.
But one’s assumptions would be wrong.
I’d stayed with these people for four days out of a three years’ long attempt at tearing down the archway to make way for a new temple. In those four days, I’d watched as the minotaur stared idly during work hours—entirely helpless to do anything against the stubborn stone.
“We’ll build around it,” said Caled. “I drew plans some months ago. The date has come—the deadline, of course. And I will not wait any longer. Perhaps their curse was true. Perhaps the Door has been refused its death at the hands of our people.”
The faint calls of seabirds rode the winds. Once more, assumption. As there calls came from the bottom of the pathway leading to “the Door” as the locals called the arch. If one were to travel down this path, they’d meet a voluminous tribe of protestors all reverent of the Door and its historical significance as a perpetual and immortal piece of architecture.
While the priests and scholars desired this Door to be destroyed and a new temple be constructed, the people did not stand for it.
“They’ve succeeded,” Caled said, motioning in annoyance at the protesters below. “Let it be, then, that this Door will not come down, and so it must be brought into the future in ways different from recycling its stone for concrete.”
I nodded along. Caled had detected my presence in the city several hours after I blipped in. He actually tracked down the light energy signatures of my Aura and soul. In that time, I learned he did not enjoy tradition, or history, or any reminder of the past save for its textual presence for scholarly purposes. His studies in the scientific application of this world’s divine magic—essentially turning godly divinity into workable, mortal power—pushed the world and its people to new heights in advancement.
That is all well and good, but he was also the highest elected senator of this particular city-state within his peoples’ empire.
His tax incentives for building worship centers with research applications were astronomical—sometimes literally so. His relationships with officials in all areas from military to theological to scientific meant that a new temple and its significance in both his legacy and the legacy of his work were quite high.
“Who cares for an old arch on the mountain three hundred years from now? No one,” he said when I asked him of the project. “Who cares for the first temple on the highest peak when we need observatories, launchpads, and air access to find beings like you? Centuries from now that is all that will matter. Not the past and their monuments. But the foundation they laid that we built upon.”
I found his perspective interesting. The ruthlessness with which he desired to destroy old monuments to build new ones seemed almost counterintuitive to his backup plans—incorporating the old structures.
Four pillars in the city’s market square wouldn’t come down.
People had thrown hexes on them, and blessed them to the point of invulnerability.
Same occurred with an old dock offshore which fishermen used to dive after sharks as a rite of passage.
Now, the Door wouldn’t come down either.
I stayed there for another few days, and watched as the planners dove into Caled’s instructions for an incorporated temple structure. I enjoyed the sun, swam in the ocean, and visited both the pillars and the dock which wouldn’t die, either. They could easily be built into the new plans Caled and his board had agreed to. At close inspection, one could quickly find ways to use them without destroying them.
But one’s assumptions of their significance and use could be wrong.
Sometimes a person isn’t interested in using the old docks as a recreational center along the shore, or building the new market tent from the famous four pillars instead of making new supports, or utilizing the old Door as the actual door to the temple rather than using new doors.
Sometimes they just want new.
And frankly, as someone subjected to new every moment of my existence, there is something so very special about the old. Being able to hang your feet off the dock as an old man after spending a lifetime fishing from that very port. Selling fruit beneath the pillars after playing with kites off the tops as kids. Watching the sunset at a grand archway years after being married at that very spot.
I long for that nostalgia. I would give anything to walk through the Kaihanas Palace halls once again. To smell the polished brass and fresh waxed floors. To sleep in my bed beneath the floating chandelier. To stand on the balcony and overlook the fields.
What I wouldn’t do to visit home again. To scramble through the forest floor alongside Bigby and the others.
Home was a long time ago, though.
I suppose a Caled would have changed it all by now. And Kaihanas too. What my children could have done? I imagine both my homes were transformed from those days of my living there. In that I felt a resonant sorrow, and a lasting hope.
Perhaps things were better without me.
Perhaps things changed.