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The Aerial

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"You look like a young man who knows how to listen."
Makil looked up from his thoughts of Jenna. He frowned at the junkseller standing before him. "Are you talking to me?"
The junkseller's beard, ragged and nicotine stained, parted over yellow teeth. "As it so happens, I am. I saw a young man no hair on his lip in the clothes of a lord, standing in a corner of the market, staring at nothing at all and I thought to myself: here is a boy who knows how to listen."
"I was thinking," Makil allowed a touch of aristocratic ice into his voice. "It isn't easy to do when someone is talking to you." Then he made his meaning clear by turning and walking away.
But the junkman would not be put off. He simply lifted the poles of his wheelbarrow of junk and trundled after Makil.
"Oh, thinking and listening are less different than we often think. For when a man sits---or stands, my lord, as the case may be---quietly and contemplates. Why what does he hear but the voices of the celestials? Have you ever heard them my young lord?"
"No said Makil," giving up all pretense of politeness, "and I would have it that---"
"What, never?" interrupted the old man, "are you certain, my lord, that you have never been inspired?"
Inspired. That made Makil stop and turn around. They were almost out of the market now, surrounded by the mean wattle and daub buildings of the riverside.
"No," he said, "never inspired."
"And you need inspiration," the old man said, "don't you? So you can find the words and say them to the girl before you are sent away from this place."
Makil's hand went to his dagger. "How do you know what I was thinking?" he demanded, "who are you?"
The old man lifted a finger and tapped his temple. "As well as listening, I can watch. Why else would a look like he's just been given a fine plug of opium and a kick in the balls? Why don't you let me help you?" He turned and began to rummage in his wheelbarrow.
Makil sighed, his momentary surprise and hope, sinking back into annoyance. "I have no need for useless charms or talismans, junkman."
"Nor have I," he said. "Ah here it is." The junkman turned. "In his hands was a sword. He handed it to Makil, hilt first.
Makil's fingers closed over it before he knew what he was doing. Odd. The hilt was metal, with leather or even cloth binding. It would slip right out of the hand in combat. And it was too long, overbalanced despite the thinness of the blade.
"What is this?" He said, "holding the metal up, how will a sword help me find inspiration?"
It is not a sword, spoke a voice in his head. It is an aerial.
"What is this?" Makil whispered, but he knew. He knew.
What do you think it is? The old man was grinning at him, lips unmoving. His voice in Makil's head was not the cracked voice of an old man, but young, loud, confident. This is the forbidden power. Knowledge. His finger came up and traced a spiraling sign in the air.
The Coil. Makil nearly threw the aerial on the ground. He nearly shouted to alert the city guard. Black magic. The coil here in his father's city!
But what did Makil owe the city or his father? Within the month, the Duke would send his son away. In a month and a half, Makil would be in Centrum, a hostage to the emperor. And still Jenna barely knew he existed. So why not take what the celestials gave him?
"This magic," he said, "how can it help me?"
The junkman nodded, still grinning, then turned and pulled his wheelbarrow away. Oh young lord, his voice spoke in Makil's head, with an aerial in your hand you can do practically anything.
***
Kesander was still grinning as he trundled his wheelbarrow out of Delton. On the edge of the city, in the house of a farmer he knew, the revolutionary stripped off his rags. He peeled the false beard off his face and removed his wig. These he took with him, along with his own aerial and his crystal. The rest he left for the next Coil member who might need them.
Then Kesander left the shack, back straight, aerial resting on his shoulder, whistling along with the music playing faintly down his aerial. The plan had worked perfectly. Within the month, the Coil would have a spy in the Emperor's halls. And all Kesander had to do was compose some romantic poetry to seduce an aristo girl.
This was going to be hilarious.

~~~
This is an illustration of an idea we discussed here [link]
The text I wrote in my kindle on the way to my wife's grandparents in Kyustendil.

The picture I made in a couple of hours, based unashamedly of the classic Star Wars poster [link]
I was also trying to do something with more dynamic lighting. If I was braver, I would have made this two-colored. Next time.
The costume is based on Byzantine soldiers' dress. If I ever write more of this story, I'll base the medievaly parts on the Byzantine Empire, because the eastern Romans don't get enough love, do they?
~~~
Done while listening to (sigh) The Name of the Wind
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whalewithlegs's avatar
A good hook and an intriguing scenario, man. I totally wouldn't have related it to the electropodes, if Amniotic hadn't mentioned it, but with that connection made this takes on even more intrigue. Very very nice!