The citadel has always been and always will be. It came before the city that surrounds it. It is older than the Catacombs beneath. Or so it is said.
I will tell some of the stories that I have heard since I first came here, from the country, ten or so years ago.
I never learned to write or read, so i have taken what little amount that I have been able to save to employ a scribe, who I trust will record faithfull the words that I say and transform them into squiggles on the page. The scribe charges by the word, so I must be economic with what I say and the images that I use.
I have a month to tell my story, and it will have other stories nestled within that story.
I am well aware that my memory is imperfect. The way that I remember things and the way that I convey them is not necessarily the way that they transpired.
My Scribe is waiting for me to say something. No--don't write that down.
Fine. Very well. It seems that my Scribe takes the job very seriously.
Where do you come from?
He won't answer. He is employed to make my words into things and that is all that he can do. That will be a little bothersome. I can already see that.
My Scribe is a small man, still a boy, really. His head is shaved. And he has the barest beginnings of a beard.
Are you relieved to have a bit of time away from the Scriptorium in the Citadel? It sounds dreadful to me. I would go mad with all of that scribbling--that silence.
I heard that there is no sppeech allowed in the Scriptorium, that you have an elaborate language of hand signals with which you communicate. That you can, if you will, speak volumes with just a gesture, or the way that one glances at one's neighbor.
I have heard that some of the older Scribes have their tongues removed. Is that true? If you continue in their employ, is that something that you will do? Is that something that you will consider?
He remains silent.
He is like a machine, really. You are like a machine. Do you hear me? Yes. Write that down. Everything that I say.
I couldn't bear that. The loss of my tongue. It has gotten me where I am today. I use it to speak. I have used it to please women. I have used it to taste wine. I have heard it said that the tongue is like a small flame. That it can kindle large conflagrations.
Here, let me see what that word looks like. Amazing. This is whhat I've said to you already looks like? That is--
I'm sorry. I shouldn't look over your shoulder like that. It is just--I've always wondered what my words would look like.
I am dying. well, of course, that could be said of anyone. You are dying. You know that, right? Probably not for a while. But you will die and I suppose that your skull will be place somewhere down in the Catacombs underneath the Citadel.
Well, now. I've gotten an reaction from you. Your eyebrow twitched just then. Do you fear death?
And yet you continue writing. Have you heard of the girl they call "Talitha"?
Let me see what that name looks like. Such a small thing--a name. I know that I am bothering you with my questions that you can't answer--but I am ppaying you for this. And I know that you have a Code. You must write everything that I say.
Even unto Death. I have said the name to you and you made it into the squiggles that you know how to do.
If this falls into the wrong hands you could be tortured and killed. You know that, right? You have written the name.
You are now complicit.
Damn it--show me some sign that you comprehend. We will be together until the moon changes. Then you will be out of my employ.
And I will have a stack of pages. I want to have something to show for this life that I have lived.
There is much that I have to be proud of. There is much that I would change if I could.
I could hand you over to the Sorcerors. You realize that? You wrote the name wiithout hesitation. Of coourse--the guilt lays with me. You arre a tool that I am using.
Can an axe be guilty of murder? Or a rope? A child falls into the sea and drowns is the sea is the sea in some way guilty?
I must go attend to my business. We are done for the moment.
If you go down the hall you will find your quarters. It is simple--but probably muuch more lush than what you are used to at the Scriptorium. You will at least have some measure of privacy.
At no small risk to myself I have procured a blank book in which you may recorrd your thoughts. If you wish. Here is a key. It is in a small chest that is affixed to the underside of the bed. This is the only copy of the key. Also in the chest are writing materials.
Another reaction. That was almost a smile.
One more thing. You will not have the room wholly to yourself.
There will be a cat.
I don't have much time to write, but I wonder about this man.
He takes it for granted tthat I am a Scribe. And he seems to trust me implicitly.
He told me the name. He watched as I wrote it.
He strikes me as being very foolish and vain.
I am not sure I am going to get word to you. There are many servants, but I can't tell if any of them are sympathetic to the Cause.
He tells me that he is dying. That he will be dead by the end of the month. On the one hand--he is probably just being melodramatic. The man is a known hypochondriac. But he will surely be dead by the end of the month. There is not much that could change that.
He has given me a private room and writing materials and paper. I am not sure if they are safe to use. He seems stupid, but I sense a certain craftiness underneath his bluster and vain-glorious preening.
He takes me to be a boy, and there are times when something will flitter across his eyes. Lecherous, almost.
And his breath is foul when he looks over my shoulder to read what I have written.
I will play the part of the dutiful Scribe for as long as I can.
I am not known for my patience. I am by no means a patient man.
I have stinger securely hidden in my robe. Black glass, of course, sharp enough to pierce a thought, to slice moonlight.
When he first began speaking it was all that I could do to keep the mask in place, to hide my revulsion. I could see myself pluunging the stinger in his fat neck--but I kept my eyes down and neutral and kept writing. His words are rather banal at the moment. there is very little of substance that he has said so far.
He has said enough, of course. He has said the name.
It is possible that he is putting on an act. I have seen him in action back when he was in his prime.
And now he is playing the role of an old man, slightly doddering, sitting down to write his life while there is still a bit of time left.
I am in his employ, but I hold all the power--the power of words. He needs to live until the end of the month--he has to tell his story.
It seems strange that he would have never learned to read. A man in his position!
I think that we are done for the day.
I have been given free reign of the house and access to all of the servants but, of course, I cannot speak to them. A scribe cannot speak and the servants, surely, cannot read. I will keep my eyes open, though.
Gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent.
I fear that I will never see you again. It is unlikely that I, too will see the next moon.
I do not fear death. I am already dead. The grave has already been pprepared for me, but I can't bear the thought of not seeing you agai while there is blood in my veins and breath in my mouth.
One things that I should note further: He has given me a cat. I beleive that the old man may yet have a few more surprises up his sleeve.
In Talitha's name.