After the milling crowds of the centre of BerKur, and the hissing, sighing, panting locomotive device, and then the bright colours and unusual sights of the Maruki Theatre compound, this trudging across the more or less empty field (there were a few other people dotted about, but none close) made Zy feel relaxed and reflective. Having been pelted almost uninterruptedly with sensations, the boy rather welcomed this lull within these unexciting surroundings. The frozen, nondescript piece of ground opened up around them, offering nothing but glimmering blue-grey snow and shadowy space.

And then the sound of Berensota’s footsteps had ceased. Zy, still holding the shion’s hand, was forced to stop: the RoMayZine lord, apparently just becoming conscious of the night sky above him, now stood quite still, impelled by some instinct or desire, and looked up into the stars.

Zy, too, glanced upwards. What was the lord looking for? Did he think he would find something up there, in the chill, star-dusted RezIsimgrian darkness?

Zy could see nothing out of the ordinary: there were just stars, the waning moon and the darkness of empty space, visible through the circular hole in the grey clouds. There was just the night.

Still, the wild young lord peered upwards, right up, craning his neck, his mouth slightly open as if he were gasping, his gaze inspecting, and perhaps interrogating, those cold heavens. Wrapped up in his riding cloak, but with the hilts of weapons and the collar of his armoured jackolets glittering, the bearded, unconventional warrior – usually so swaggering, so proud, so full of himself (as the common people said) – possessed a kind of ardour, perhaps even an innocence. He seemed to be stretching to make himself as aware as he possibly could be. He was bathing himself in the darkness, and opening himself up to the gigantic, star-salted void of the universe.

What did he expect? Did he think the night sky would speak to him? He was attentive in that way – just as if he thought the night would somehow bend down and put its face close to his, and whisper to him.

It did not, of course. Or, if it did, Zy didn’t hear what it said. Yet, when Berensota looked down at Zy, the lord smiled, and his gaze was somehow very pure, as if there was nothing of the warrior left in it at all. Berensota was looking at the boy now just as, a moment before, he had been gazing into the stars. For a few instants, it seemed as if the wild young lord had been told something – as if the night had revealed a secret to him.

Then, giving Zy’s hand a little squeeze to signal they should move on again, Berensota gave two brief nods of his head, and the riders began walking, heading for the centre of BerKur.

Excerpt from Mask [iv], Volume 12 of Dustless

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