lunedì 22 agosto 2011

The Sword of the Lictor - Gene Wolfe

"It was in my hair, Severian," Dorcas said. "So I stood under the waterfall in the hot stone room - I don't know if the men's side is arranged in the same way. And every time I stepped out, I could hear them talking about me. They called you the black butcher, and other things I don't want to tell you about."
"That's natural enough", I said. "You were probably the first stranger to enter the place in a month, so it's only to be expected that they woul chatter about you, and that the few women who knew who you were would be proud of it and perhaps tell some tales. As dor me, I'm used to it, and you must have heard suc expressions on the way here in many times; I know I did."
"Yes" she admitted, and sat down on the sill of the embrasure. In the city below, the lamps of the swarming shops were beginning to fill the valley of the Acis with a yellow radiance like the petals of a jonquil, but she did not seem to see them.
"Now you understand why the regulations of the guild forbid me from taking a wife - although I weill break the for you, as I have told you many times, whenever you want me to."
"You mean that it would be better for me to live somewhere else, and onlu come to see you once or twive a week, or wait till you came to see me."
"Thats' the way it's usually done. And eventually the women who talked about us today will realize that shometime they, or their sons or husbands, may find themselves beneath my hand."
"But don't you see, this is all beside the point. The thing is..." Here Dorcas fell silnet, and then, when neither of us had spoken for some time, she rose and began to pace the room, one arm clasping the other. It was something I had never seen her do before, and I found it disturbing.
"What is the point, then?" I asked.
"That it wasn't true then. That is now."
"I practiced the Art whenever ther was work to be had. Hired myself out to towns and country justices. Several times you watched me from window, though tou never liked to stand in the crowd - for wich I hardly blame you.
"I didn't watch" she said.
"I recall seeing you"
"I didn't. Not when it was actually going on. You were intent on what you were doing, and didn't see me when I went inside or covered my eyes. I used to watch, and wave to you, when you first vaulted onto the scaffold. You were so proud, then, and stood just as straight as your sword, and lookesd so fine. You were honest. I remember watching once when there was an official of some sort up there with you, and the condemned man and a hieromonach. And yours was the only honest face."
"You couldn't possibly have seen it. I must surely have been wearing my mask."
"Severian, I didn't have to see it. I know what you look like"
"Don't I look the same now?"
"Yes" she said reluctantly "But I have been down below. I've seen the people chainde in the tunnels. When we sleep tonight, you and I in our soft bed, we will be sleeping in top of them. How many did you say there were when you took me down?"
"About sixteen hundred. Do you honestly believe those sixteen hundred would be free if I were no longer present to guard them? They were here, remember, when we came."
Dorcas would not look at me. "It's like a mass grave" she said. I could see her shoulders shake.
"It should be" I told her. "The archon could release them, but who could resurrect those they've killed? You've never lost anyone, do you?"
She did not reply.
"Ask the wives and the mothers and the sisters of the men our prisoners have left rotting in the high country whether Abdiesus should let hem go."
"Only myself" Dorcas said, and blew out the candle.

The sword of the lictor - Gene Wolfe

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