She heard him reading from the sacred texts long before she reached his library. Silently, like a cave-wall shadow cast by the predatory ideal, she slipped through the doors and into his room. How glorious! His soothing voice intoning the words of the prophet:
¨A divine creature’s cycle is defined by a perfect number. But a human creature’s number is the smallest one in which increases entailing potential and realised potential gain three intervals and four terms from among the causes of similarity and dissimilarity, and from among the things that increase and decrease, and so make everything mutually comfortable and rational.”
She swooned before reciting the response from heart:
¨The base numbers involved…three in relation to four, along with five, produce two harmonies when they are increased three times. One harmony is made up of a factor squared, times a hundred times itself; the other harmony is in a sense made up of equal factors – one factor being one hundred of the numbers from the rational diagonals of five, each diminished by five – or one hundred of the numbers from the irrational diagonals of five, each diminished by two, and the other factor being one hundred of the cubes of three…”
“You’ve been prowling the sewers again dear,” said Dr. Joseph, watching as Nefertiti perched herself on the corner of his desk. “That odour is most unbecoming.”
“Such wonderful playthings under Clockhaven these days father,” Nefertiti said, picking something from between her yellowed teeth and greying gums. She casually regarded the saliva-sopping strands of black fur she’d recovered, holding them between her thumb and forefinger for a moment before casually flicking them to the floor. She then lay the length of the desk, propping herself on a bony elbow atop his papers and twisting at a provocative angle. “Though I will admit the offal is a touch unpleasant in the spring.”
“Were you successful?” he asked.
Nefertiti smiled as she lazily reached a hand into her robe and retrieved a small glass vial. “The boy is not so smart when it comes to safeguarding valuable items.” she said. “It was in the first place I looked – a treasure chest in his den secured with the flimsiest of locks.”
Dr. Joe’s face remained impassive as he took the vial from her outstretched hand. He appeared to study the dark liquid a moment, swirling it around before asking. “Were you seen?”
“Father!” she placed her open hand upon her breast and said with mock shock. “You insult me. I was as quiet as a church mouse.” She paused as a mischievous grin played across her lips. She looked down at the desk. She crooked her long gnarly index finger and began to play with the sparse, white hairs on the back of his right hand. “The boy’s room was so… tidy. I couldn’t help myself. I may have left it in a bit of a clutter.”
Dr. Joseph look up from his scrutiny of the liquid with furrowed brow but remained silent. He then returned his focus to the glass vial. “This is most excellent…” he said, almost as if he were thinking aloud. “There is just one more thing I need…”
Joseph remained silent for several minutes as his eyes lost focus. Nefertiti knew better than to interrupt him in moments such as this. Then, quite abruptly he regained his sharp focus.
“I need you to make some enquiries,” he said, looking up.
“Enquiries?” she repeated.
“Two clerics of the Church of the Builder with whom I used to be acquainted.” he replied. “I wish to know if they still live, and if they do where they may be found.”
“What use could there be in men such as those?”
“That is not your concern,” Joseph replied somewhat testily, causing her to recoil ever so slightly. “Their names are Juris Pizarro and Ora Moonwall. Do not underestimate them, Nefertiti – that could be a grave mistake.”
He removed his hand from hers and opened his desk drawer, retrieving a sheet of paper and a quill. He wrote something furiously upon the sheet saying as he did so, ”If you locate them, I want you to then relay this letter. Hire one of the urchin runners. Go with them, but keep to the shadows.” He set down his pen and held the page above his lamp to hasten its drying. “I wish for you to await their response before returning.”
“And Neffer…” he added. “Don’t eat the messenger.”
“Where to?” the station teller asked, looking up from the news story about displaced hobos she had been reading in the local paper.
“Falun.” Dr. Joseph replied. “I need two tickets – first class of course.”
“You missed today’s coach, next one ain’t scheduled til tomorrow at 8:00 AM.”
“I do not wish to leave until later in the week – perhaps Friday,” he replied.
“Don’t matter to me none when you go just not today.” replied the clerk, pushing her glasses back up her nose. “First class you say?” she eyed him up and down. “Gonna cost ya dear. Fifteen quatloos each – in advance.”
“Of course,” replied Joseph reaching into his vest and retrieving some bills which he slid under the window.
The clerk picked them up the way she might have had they been soiled hankies. “What the bloody Builder are these?” she asked scowling.
Joseph glared. “They are quatloos, my dear, are you blind?”
“Where’d ya get these – a museum or sumpthin? Get outta my sight you old bugger. Yer as bad as the emperor – go on now!”
Joseph just stood there, frozen by the clerk’s impertinence. He watched as she dropped the bills to the floor then returned to reading her paper. Inside he seethed. But uncontrolled rage was no path to power. He turned without a word and made his way back up the street.