Week 11 - Novel - Dreams Part V - August 12-18
“What else can you do with the stones?” Jo asked.
“Us specifically, not too much yet. We’ve just started to be able to learn. They don’t allow anyone under the age of 14 to harness stones since it’s a pretty dangerous and complex art. There are some real masters out there though, and the stuff they can do is pretty wild. Fuse stones together, move entire homes, even split the earth.” Tan replied.
“Is that how those huge stones were created? What are they for?”
Tan nodded. “With a few exceptions, the amount of power you can harness from a stone is proportional to its size. Many of those stones provide public services for the city. That stone, for instance,” Tan said, pointing to an emerald spire somewhat in the distance, “cools the entire city when needed.”
Ardin pointed to a ruby pillar adjacent to the emerald tower. “And that heats the city. Between the two of them, we’re able to keep the city at precisely the ideal temperature all year round.”
Jo nodded appreciatively. She did now realize that the temperature did, in fact, seem perfect.
“That’s…really cool.” She said. “What do all the other stones do? How are they harnessed?”
Ardin laughed. “You’ve got a lot of questions. How about we take a walk and we’ll give you a little tour of some of the city? We can explain things as we go.”
Jo nodded. “I’d really like that.” She then immediately reconsidered. “Are you sure I’m not imposing? I don’t want to make you guys go out of your way.”
Ardin shook his head. “We were just on our way home anyway. This will be perfect. Plus, you’re much more interesting than what we were going to spend today doing. Any excuse to stave off work a little longer is a good one for me. Here, let’s walk this way.”
Ardin motioned with his right hand, pointing down the street in the direction Jo had been walking before they’d accosted her. He started walking, and Tan and Jo fell in line behind him.
At first, Jo found it hard enough to follow Ardin through the hordes of people, weaving in and out of traffic and dodging incoming bodies, that they were unable to carry a conversation. After several minutes, Ardin took a turn into a smaller alleyway, where there were significantly fewer people, and Jo found herself able to catch up and walk side by side with Ardin and Tan.
“So that was the main road in Tach,” Ardin said. “Tach is the largest city in all of Eukaon, and so it’s always packed on that street. It’s much better once you get into the residential quarters, away from the center of the city.”
“How big is the city?” Jo asked.
“Massive,” Ardin replied. “You could walk from the center in any direction for three hours and not see the end of it. The center is where you see the emerald and ruby stones, by the way. They decided to place them there so they could evenly coat the entire city at the same temperature.”
Jo nodded. The city seemed very well planned and structured. “How long as the city been around?”
This time, Tan answered. “Not too long in the scheme of things. Unlike most cities and villages, Tach was centrally designed and planned from scratch, and didn’t develop organically. The last ruler, Riyah, decided she wanted a new capital about half a century ago, and spared no expense in making this place come to fruition. It was easy once she got all the stones in place. This is by far the nicest city in the world to live in.”
“Why’s that?” Jo asked.
“When you have the largest stones in the world and the largest army of harnessers using those stones to sculpt your city, it’s not that difficult to create a utopia,” Tan replied. “The climate here is perfectly controlled to be ideal, the landscape has been altered so that the city is perfectly flat and surrounded by incredibly arable and fertile land for crops, and we have an huge river running directly north of the city that provides us with all the water we could possibly need. In short, it’s a paradise: food, water, and climate are all perfect, which is definitely not true for the rest of the world.”
“Don’t forget the translocation gates we’re building now,” Ardin added. “Once those go up, which should be any day now, it’ll be the easiest place in the world to get to. We can even shuttle in workers from villages in the morning and have them back home by the night, solving a huge issue in providing enough manpower for the city without overloading its population limits.”
“Wow,” Jo said. “That really does sound pretty incredible. Sounds like you all have everything figured out. Wish we had something like this back home.”
Tan laughed. “No, it’s definitely not all figured out. For one, it’s not cheap. The stones don’t last forever–they’re slowly consumed as we harness them. The towers are our stockpiled reserves, but if we don’t constantly replenish them, we’ll run out sooner than later. That’s actually a huge problem right now. The reserves aren’t being replenished as quickly as they’re being consumed anymore. Believe it or not, those emerald and ruby pillars used to be about twice the size they are now. The mines aren’t producing nearly as much as they used to.”
“Basic goods like water and food used to be publicly provided for free, though that was before our time. Now, prices are starting to become near-unaffordable for much of the population here, ourselves included.” Ardin added.
“It’s a blessing and a curse, really. It’s the reason we’re getting free harnessing training now, but also we’re basically becoming indentured servants. Being a harnesser used to be a highly skilled, rarefied trade, but they just couldn’t afford to keep paying harnessers master level wages and keep the system running. Now, they’re trying to mass produce us and take anyone who has any harnessing potential and put us to work running the stones.” Tan said.
“That’s the work we’re trying to avoid now, actually,” Ardin noted. “We will have to get going pretty soon, though…it’s not pretty when Headmaster Yorn decides discipline needs to be meted out.”
“How does harnessing work, exactly?” Jo asked.