The Clan of the Stone
The Akamerian Empire
Kurt F. Kammeyer
Copyright 2017 Kurt F. Kammeyer
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‘Tis I, Elizabeth speaking. There is much for me to review of all
that transpired in our first book. You learned about Fort Kanosh, and
of my first encounter with Ben. ’Twas difficult for me to become a
Believer, but I tried my best. The other girls were hurtful to me,
but Mistress Miriam, bless her, instructed me in Midlandish grammar
and customs, until at length I looked and sounded less the Outsider.
Ben gave his other name-stone to me, and never the same our lives
were thereafter. Our thoughts became one, our feelings became one,
even our aches and pains did merge. We vowed never this secret to
reveal to anyone, but then we had a falling-out, and the thought-link
it did cease.
At length Grand Matron Ariella learned about my name-stone. Quite
surprised I was, at her reaction. She approved wholeheartedly of my
keeping the stone. She also revealed her most cherished secret to
me—that she too possessed her own name-stone, albeit a false one.
Then Ben, he told me that he had decided to attend the Academy, and I
was heartbroken. I feared that the two of us never would meet again.
‘Tis at that point that this book, it does begin.
City, in the fourth turn of the Seventh Eon
After riding the dragon-train for two weeks, I arrived in Salem and
was formally inducted into the Deshret Academy as a Novice in the
Physics Department. After filling out my enrollment papers I
collected my stack of books: Physics, Electrical Theory;
Trigonometry; Geography; and Chancellor Orson’s own treatise, Key
to the Science of Theology. I groaned as I hefted the stack.
Looks like I have my work cut out for me, I thought.
I made my way to the Novice barracks on the north side of the
compound. When I saw my new surroundings, my heart sank. My mind
instantly flashed back to Fort Kanosh, and Bess. I tried extending my
thoughts to her, but the distance was just too great.
Feeling depressed, I dropped my knapsack and books on my assigned
lower bunk. My upper bunkmate glanced up at me from his reading and
said, “You new here too? I’m Isaac.”
We shook hands. I replied, “Yeah, Isaac, I just arrived on the
dragon-train… Y’ know, when I look round here I feel like I never
even left home. Only difference is, back at Fort Kanosh I slept in
that bunk over there. You ever lived in a fort before, Isaac? They’re
all built exactly the same. I bet the roof here leaks, too.”
Isaac dropped his book, sat up and said, “No, I grew up in a house
right here in Salem. This place already feels like a prison to me,
like I’m all shut in. Compared to my folk’s big house, this place
is a trash-midden. Guess I’ll just have to get used to it, though…
Say, did you mention Fort Kanosh? So, were you really one of those
quaint, old-fashioned communal folk living out in the hinterlands?”
“Yeah, what of it?” I replied, feeling sorta insulted.
“Wow…” Isaac breathed. “So, is it true, everybody there
dresses the same and you share everything, right down to your
“No, not everything… but—”
“And you learned that strange Deshret alphabet? And never used real
“Well, we had Order scrip… “
“That’s so, so… primitive! So you really don’t know what it’s
like to live in your own house, have your own ma cook for you, or
have your own money or your own piece of land to work? Man, I sure
feel sorry for you.”
This new bunkmate was really starting to annoy me. “It warn’t
that bad, really! I never felt, well, poor, if that’s what you
mean. Believe me, you’d get usta’ it.”
“Not me, Order-boy.” Isaac reached into his pocket and pulled out
a silver shiqlu, which he flipped into my lap. “Now this is real
wealth, and when I graduate from here, I’m gonna make lots and lots
of it.” Isaac leaned back on his bunk and smiled.
I looked at the first silver coin I’d ever held and thought, Cocky
fellow, this Isaac…
I guess till this moment, I’d always just sorta figgered that every
Believer lived the United Order like me. It struck me all of a sudden
just how special and unique my life in the Order had been—in fact,
I felt a bit smug about it. We’re the true Believers, I
thought. This Isaac, and all those like him, are only
half-Believers, closer to Outsiders, really.
The next day Chancellor Orson held a convocation to welcome his
twenty new Novices to the Academy. I hafta admit, I was pretty
excited to meet him again and really start my education. Then I
entered the central building and took my place on the same kind of
familiar, worn benches that I’d used for eating, studying, and
worship at Fort Kanosh, ever since I was a small child. I glanced
round and thought, What’s the point of traveling two hundred
miles, just so’s I can sit down at the same table where I already
spent eight turns learning penmanship, arithmetic, and the Deshret
alphabet from Brother Timothy?
In a few minutes Chancellor Orson entered. He wasted no time with
“You are the select few, the very top of your graduating classes,”
the chancellor said. “What of it? What have you learned, up to this
point? Really nothing, when compared with God’s wisdom, which is
Orson pointed at Isaac, who was sitting next to me on the front row.
“Young man, why are you here?”
I could see Issac was caught off guard. He replied, “I suppose, to
gain an education…sir?”
“If that is all you came for, that is all you will go away with! I
want to open your minds to a far nobler aspiration—to tap into the
infinite knowledge of God, who is waiting to reveal his knowledge to
you, young students, for the good of mankind—but how will you
accomplish that? How?”
No one spoke. I hadda admit, I han’t a clue, neither.
“Let me try another tack here. Of all the departments in this
Academy, which would you consider the most important? Astronomy,
Geography, Theology, Mathematics, Physics, or Music?”
“I put it to you that the key of knowledge, the key to the
comprehension of all of these other branches of science, is theology!
Why? Because the knowledge of God and his ways will lead you to all
other truth. Don’t you see? If you comprehend God, you will
comprehend “All Things”—BA KOL in the ancient Edomic tongue,
and then there is nothing that will be withheld from you!”
I thought, What’s he getting at? I’m here to learn
“Why theology? It is the science of all other sciences and useful
arts, being, in fact, the very fountain from which they emanate. It
includes philosophy, astronomy, history, mathematics, geography,
languages, the science of letters, and blends the knowledge of all
matters of fact, in every branch of art, or of research.
“All that is useful, great and good, all that is calculated to
sustain, comfort, instruct, edify, purify, refine or exalt
intelligences, originates by this science, and this science alone,
all other sciences being but branches growing out of this, the root.”
This was a real eye-opener for me. I’d always assumed that I got my
learning from books and teachers, and that’s it. This idea of
having God for a teacher was kinda new and scary to me. Chancellor
Orson said a lot more high-minded stuff along this same line; then he
finished up like this:
“I say in conclusion: In proportion as you develop your spiritual
faculties here, in like proportion will God reveal to you all other
matters, whether in heaven or in Edom, or beneath Edom. That is what
it means, young man, to ‘gain an education’, as you so glibly put
it. Now, I say to all of you: Go to, and may the powers of Heaven aid
you in your research. That is all.”
As the students exited the hall, I smiled at Isaac and thought, maybe
I’m not such a provincial hayseed after all.
On my way out of the hall, Chancellor Orson spied me and pulled me
aside. “Ah, Benjamin, so good to see you here at the Academy at
last! I must tell you, Headmaster Timothy spoke very highly of you.
And how is your father, Jacob?”
“He’s doin’ real well, sir, an’ thank you,” I replied. Then
I remembered something. “Sir… d’you know a student here named
Levi? He’s my cousin. I been lookin’ for him.”
Orson looked puzzled. “Levi? Levi who?”
I was taken aback. “Uh, Levi ben Alijah? He’s here, right?”
Orson thought for a moment and replied, “Ah, no… we’ve never
had a student by that name here, I assure you. I’m sorry.”
Orson excused himself, while I just stood there baffled. What
happened to Levi?
After dinner that evening, I wrote to my parents:
Ma and Pa,
really like it here, but I miss you real bad too. I thought Brother
Timothy was tough on me. But that warn’t nothing compared to this
place. I know I can make a go of it. I got some real great teachers
here. Some of them are kinda odd. My electricity teachers are Master
Thomas and Master Nicola. I don’t think they like each other much.
They’re always arguing about which is better, direct current or
alternating current. Don’t ask, I don’t know what those are
neither. Guess I’ll soon find out, though. Oh yeah, tell Brother
Timothy that Master Philo is real excited about our Image Dissector.
He said he “Can’t wait to work on it with me.” That made me
feel real good.
afternoon I learned the hard way not to wear my hat in the
dining-hall. If you do, everyone jumps up and throws chunks of bread
at you and yells ‘kovah!’—which means ‘hat’ in Edomic, I’m
told. It’s a real ancient tradition. I told you it’s kinda
strange here, but in a fun sorta way.
pray for you every day. Say hi to Bess for me. Write soon,
I also wrote a letter to Bess, telling her the same things, pretty
much. I finished up with this:
miss you so bad it hurts. I keep listening for your thoughts, but I
can’t hear them. Did you get my heliograph message? I sure hope so.
A few weeks later I got my first letter from Fort Kanosh. Excitedly I
broke open the wax seal and scanned the text. It was written in the
Deshret alphabet—badly, I noticed. The paper was all wrinkled and
folded, as if it had been carried around for a good while before
being mailed. To my surprise, at the bottom of the page I saw, not
Bess’s or my parents’ signature, but Daniella’s. Disappointed
but curious, I read the letter.
are you? I am fine. Do you like the Acadame? I hope so.
We are all real prowd of you. I We miss you a lot. I
wish I could have goten to now you beter befor you left. I am SO glad
you brok up with Bess. She told me she nevr wants to talk to you
agan. Ever! She is real bittr and unhapy. You now she hates men, dont
you? That is so sad. But like I said, you cant trust an Outsidr. I
hope you will rite to me soon. I think about you a lot. And
dream about you too. I like you a whole bunch. Please rite.
Oh, brother… I thought, smiling. She han’t a clue just
how close Bess and I are. Should I just ignore her? Probly…
After Ben left Fort Kanosh, I returned to my labors in the tailor
shop. A few months later old Sister Abish died, and shortly
thereafter Sister Rachel retired from the shop because her hands had
become too palsied. Before retiring, she recommended me as her
replacement as head seamstress, explaining that the shop “needed
some younger hands for a change.” That left me in charge of the
entire tailor shop.
The next week, I gathered my young seamstresses around me and told
them my plan.
“You cannot tell a soul about this,” I warned. “If word gets
out, they will shut us down. It has to all happen at once, before
they can stop us. Are we agreed?”
Over the next few weeks each of my seamstresses quietly worked on a
new dress—but Fort Kanosh had never seen anything like these
dresses before. I had secretly ordered several battens of taffeta,
sateen, organza and plaid cotton cloth from Salem. I allowed the
girls to modify the “standard issue” United Order dress pattern
as they wished, within modesty of course; and I provided guidance to
each girl on how to embellish her own dress. I also taught some of
them how to weave brocade on the loom.
One day Daniella came to me, needing assistance with the rather
complicated sleeves on her new dress. As we sat together and
stitched, I noticed her eyeing me carefully. I knew exactly what was
on her mind—Ben had sent her letter to me several weeks before. I
smiled inwardly and thought, Underestimating Ben and me, this girl
she has. Time to spill the kloh-beans, it is…
As I continued to stitch, I said off-handedly, “So, Daniella… I
was wondering—have ye heard from Ben since he departed?”
Taken aback, Daniella said hesitantly, “Well, no… why d’you
“Because I heard from him, just recently. How curious…
Never did I suspect that ‘bitter and unhappy’ I be, and a
man-hater besides. My, you think you know me so well, don’t
Daniella turned bright red and stammered. “I—ah, but, that is…”
I laughed. “Do not worry yourself, Daniella. ’Tis all
I linked my two thumbs and forefingers in a chain. “Ben and I be
this tight—In truth, ye have no idea just how tightly bound
we be to each other. But still, I think not the less of you for
trying, now then.” I put my arm around her.
Daniella dropped her head and whispered, “I—ah, I’m sorry,
Bess… I had no idea…” Then she jumped up and fled the room,
I feld pity for Daniella, but my pity was intermixed with an enormous
sense of victory—for the first time in my life, I had fought and
prevailed. Ben was now mine, and no one would ever take him
away from me. ‘Twas a great satisfaction to me, even if at
At the end of three weeks, we were ready for our great “coming
out.” My ten girls quietly assembled in the tailor shop and I
locked the door. There was much giggling and laughing as each girl
made the transformation from blue “worker bee” to “fashion
plate.” Until now, we had not all seen each other in our new garb.
I had sewn a beautiful red-and-black corseted tavern dress with black
lace and three petticoats, exactly like my mother used to wear.
Levana had made an elegant blue taffeta dress with petticoats. Her
sister Daniella wore a sateen dress with puffed sleeves and a
pleated, lace-covered bodice. Some very elaborate hats and bonnets
were in evidence, too, as well as rouge and eye-shadow.
When all of the girls had finished dressing, I looked around the room
and said, “My, there is beau—I mean, you all look beautiful! Are
we all ready? Then let us go!”
I opened the tailor shop door and all eleven of us quickly fanned out
and sashayed down the aisles of the central building, acting as if
nothing was out of the ordinary. Men’s jaws dropped and women
gasped as my ten young models paraded their finery. Then suddenly
every woman in the hall jumped to her feet and began clapping.
“It’s about time!”
“Where can I get one?”
“I want one too!”
When Grand Hegemon Elazar heard the noise and came out of his office,
I could tell that he was dumbfounded, which pleased me greatly.
“Oh, no… We’ll never turn back the clock on this now,” he
confided to Brother Thomas. “This truly is the beginning of the end
for the United Order.”
“Maybe, maybe not…” Thomas replied, scratching his chin. “In
any case, I like what I see.”
A few months later I celebrated my fifteenth birthday at the Academy,
and two months after that another new turn dawned in Edom.
As the time passed, I settled into my schedule of classes: astronomy,
trigonometry, geography, electricity lab, and physics. On the roof of
the main building was a dome-shaped observatory with a five-inch
telescope—much larger than the one Professor Orson had demonstrated
at Fort Kanosh—and I spent many nights there observing the wonders
of Eternity, as Professor Orson narrated.
“Edom is the fourth planet from our sun,” he explained. “The
Akamerians called it Jørth in the Old Nordish language. It is
positioned precisely at the proper distance from our Sun, such that
it is neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life, and its orbit is
very nearly circular. Edom describes one orbit around the Sun in 390
days, which gives us our year of exactly thirteen months, each with
thirty days. Our planet’s inclination is less than one degree—very
nearly vertical, so that there is almost no variation in temperature
throughout the year.
“Now, I ask you students, what are the odds of all of these
celestial measurements aligning so precisely, such that we are
enabled to live in the most blessedly temperate, beneficial climate
imaginable? It is almost too perfect—suspiciously so, in my mind.
It all suggests the hand of a benevolent Creator, not just
“Oh, there is one more celestial motion I should explain to you.
Our planetary disk, the plane of the ecliptic around the Sun, wobbles
like a very slowly-spinning top. This is called ‘precession.’ As
you recall, we are on the outskirts of that great disk of stars we
call Eternity. Now, exactly once every six thousand turns, the nodes
of the ecliptic plane align such that on Roshana, or New
Turn’s Day, precisely at midnight by our time, the center or ‘Bosom
of Eternity’ is exactly overhead. We know when that date is, and we
all know what event has been prophesied to take place on that date. I
hope we’ll be ready for it.”
In the electricity lab I learned about current, voltage, resistance,
and magnetic fields. During his lecture one day, Master Thomas
introduced me to a new electrical device in a sorta dramatic way. He
asked me to come up and stand at the front of the class.
“Here, Ben, catch this,” Thomas quickly said, while tossing me a
small glass ampoule. I caught the globe and felt a sudden electric
shock pass through my body.
“Nguhuah…” I exclaimed, shaking. “What was that?” The other
“My boy, that little glass jar is a condenser,” Thomas replied.
“The glass has a layer of foil on the inside and outside, and the
electric charge is trapped in between. It’s much like those
accumulators that you’re familiar with from your telegraphy
days—except that condensers discharge their electricity in a single
instant, not gradually. That’s what you felt when you accidentally
touched the two poles of that little beastie.”
I rubbed my right hand, which was still tingling.
“Ben, do you recall awhile back when you were visiting here? I
passed you in the hall, and threw something out the window? That
‘electric grenade’ was a slightly larger version of this
Thomas raised his voice and addressed the whole class. “I only
demonstrated this to show to all of you here the power of these tiny
devices. With a slightly higher charge, you could easily incapacitate
or even kill a man, as if he had been struck by lightning—which, in
a manner of speaking you were, Benjamin. Thank you for helping me in
this demonstration. Let this be a warning to you all! Please, be very
careful when handling high voltages! It’s best to stay away from
That evening I wrote to my parents.
Ma and Pa,
I came here, I never figgered I’d be climbing poles and stringing
wires. But now I been volunteered to help with the “electrification”
of Salem. Masters Thomas and Nicola are gonna have me put up wires
all over the city to power their new electric lights.
think Master Nicola sees promise in me, his Novice. The man is
brilliant—his experiments with high voltage and electric storage
devices are way beyond what Master Thomas has tried. Nicola thinks
that someday, we might be able to dispense with wires and send
electricity directly through the air. There’s another Savant here,
Master Marco, who thinks a wireless telegraph could be built this
way. We live in interesting times.
Theology class, Chancellor Orson has begun instructing us in the
Mysteries, from the Sealed Portion of the Norm. I know I can’t talk
about it much, even in writing, but I just wanna thank both of you
for all those early-morning worship times we spent together. Without
Pa had pounded all those scriptures into me over the turns, I never
would’a been ready for the “higher law,” as Orson calls it. I
love hearing him talk about our pre-Edom life, God’s rescue-plan
for us all, and about the Only Begotten. Now, at last it’s all
starting to make sense to me, and I really like being a Believer,
even more than ever. As Bess said to me once, “it tastes good.”
A week later, I began working with Master Philo on my image
dissector. Philo had already built a working replica based on my
experiments at Fort Kanosh, and he’d made several improvements.
“Ben, do you remember mentioning how faint and blurred your first
image of Brother Timothy was? I’ve improved the optics, and I’ve
also extracted a quantity of pure selenium—which is far more
sensitive than the raw pyrite you used—to use as a light detector.
And instead of your wind-up clockwork drive, I’ve installed a small
electric motor to spin the disk, which is now larger and has more
holes in it than yours did. I think you’ll be amazed at the
difference. Here, you work the projector, and I’ll run the
Philo extinguished the electric lights in the room and retreated to
the room next door. I closed a knife switch, and in the semi-gloom I
heard a faint whir as the disks in the image dissector and the
projector began spinning. Then, to my astonishment, I saw a crisp,
clear greyish image of Master Philo projected on the wall—but
“Turn the knob until the image is aligned!” Philo shouted from
the room next door. I obliged, and watched in amazement as the image
of Philo slowly rotated until it was upright.
“I don’t believe it—it’s perfect!” I shouted back. It’s
getting awful close to my thought-link, I thought. Too bad
it’s silent, though…
Philo turned the lights back on, grinned and patted me on the back.
“Well, my young Novice, do you see what you’ve accomplished? Do
you realize what we can do with this device? Imagine if you will,
actually being able to see someone at a distance! Tell me, how were
you inspired to come up with this design?”
I was flattered. “Well, uh, Master, it’s kinda hard to explain…”
I sure can’t mention my thought-link with Bess, I thought. I
took a breath. “I dunno… I guess, lookin’ through a spyglass at
far-away things mighta’ given me the idea. Or maybe workin’ with
the heliograph. Brother Timothy was real helpful, too. But there’s
just one thing, sir.”
“Now we can see from a distance, for sure, but we still can’t
hear! Isn’t that really more important? We still hafta send our
words as dots and dashes.”
Philo smiled. “Why yes, that we do… why don’t you work with
Master Thomas, to see if you can find a solution? He’s quite good
with electricity, or so I’m told.”
Whatever the older generation may have thought of my quiet revolution
in women’s fashions, it was soon obvious that the young men of the
fort heartily approved of it—and we young women were only too happy
to return the favor. Elazar and the other Elders were alarmed at what
they viewed as an increase in amorous behavior from the “young
bucks.” The pairings-off and flirtations were reaching alarming
proportions, at least to the older folk’s eyes.
During Sabbath worship some weeks later, I listened as Councilor
Zechariah railed against what he saw as a decline in morals at Fort
“We, the Believers, as a people, received a command many turns ago
to gather out from the wicked world and to gather ourselves together
to stand in holy places, preparatory to the coming of God. If you
knew that God was coming this day to visit you, would you not take
the greatest care to wash and dress yourselves appropriately for his
visit? And yet, as I look over this congregation, there are a great
many, particularly among the young women, who would shrink and hide
themselves in shame at His appearance. And why is that? Their fashion
in dress is not appropriate for the visitation of such a great Being.
“Particularly of late, we who style ourselves ‘Believers’ are
too apt to follow the foolish fashions of the world. If any persons
want proof of this they need only look over this congregation. I am
shamed as I look here at young women whose dresses barely reach to
above the ankles, or even a little below the knee! I see ribbons,
flounces, and gewgaws, purchased at the expense of other, more
needful items for the Order. I see inequality and pride arising
amongst the sisters. I see lustful and unwholesome thoughts arising
amongst our young men. These things must stop!”
The Councilor’s preaching largely fell on deaf ears. He knew that I
was the ringleader of this movement, but he and Elazar were powerless
to stop it, and somehow that pleased me—a lot. Many of the older
women sided with me, too, and soon my tailor shop was overwhelmed
with orders for custom-made dresses in a variety of styles and sizes.
As I opened the tailor shop one morning, I counted my seamstresses
and noticed that Daniella and Levana were missing. None of the other
girls knew where they had gone. Instantly I thought, Oh, no…
Fleeing last night through the back gate have they, as did Huldah,
and as very nearly did I?
Later that day I asked Grand Matron Ariella if she knew what had
become of the two girls. She hesitated for a moment and then said
cautiously, “They are both gone off to Salem—visiting their
family there, I was told.”
I was much relieved, but still perplexed by their sudden departure.
I was determined to remain faithful to Ben, but I couldn’t help but
feel flattered by the increased attention that I was receiving from
the young men. I didn’t mind being noticed, but some of the young
men’s stares went well beyond what even I considered proper.
What have I started? I thought. There was no idea to me,
that such an effect on the male population this would have. Such
simple, predictable creatures men be—so easily aroused.
I noticed Alma looking my way quite frequently. Alma was tall,
strapping and eighteen years old—prime marriageable age for men.
What if Ben, returning he does not? There is worse I could do…
Instantly I put this out of my mind.
Ben had once told me that Alma had been turned down twice for the
Academy. When Alma heard that Ben had been accepted two years early,
he “blew his stack,” as Ben did so eloquently put it.
Something special there be between Ben and myself. But then, the
ehadim I could have with any of the young Kohanim here, could I not?
What be there wrong with that? No, Bess, a hold of thyself get! Ben
my intended shall be… but so far away he be…
I had finally resolved not to worry my head this way, when one day
Alma sat down next to me at dinner.
“Evening, Miss Elizabeth,” he said. “How fare you?”
He had a deep, rich bass voice that sent thrills up and down my
spine. I thought, Could his spirit mine be touching, just as did
Ben’s? A Kohan he be, after all.
I took a deep breath, picked up my plate and utensils, stood up and
politely said, “I am well, Brother Alma. I thank you for your
I beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen to dispose of my eating-ware.
As I deposited my plate and utensils in the dry-sink, I noticed that
my hands were trembling.
For several days I noticed Alma eyeing me, but he kept his distance.
Then it finally happened. One day I went out behind the fort to the
pump-house for a bucket of water, and he followed me. I was just
coming out of the pump-house when I nearly collided with him.
“I’m sorry…” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. May
I carry your bucket for you?”
“Yes… thank you,” I said, flustered. “That’s very, uh, kind
of you, Brother Alma.”
This kind of obsequious behavior went on for several days. Alma
would suddenly pop up unexpectedly to help me with my chores and then
I was just starting to think, Kind to me he be… there be no harm
in just friends being, now then? But after three days of this,
one morning I was drawing water and the two of us were alone. I
suddenly noticed Alma’s hand on my back as he said, “Miss
Elizabeth, do you have an intended?”
“A what?” I said, startled by the contact.
“Is there someone else you are betrothed to? I hope I’m not being
rude with such a question?”
“Well, no, uh, not at the moment…” I stammered.
“Good,” he smiled. “I wouldn’t want to step on anyone’s
toes, so to speak. I had hoped that we might become friends—close
friends, if you understand my meaning.”
He moved around behind me and put his arms around my waist. I was so
taken by surprise that I didn’t have time to resist, which only
encouraged him more.
“I think I’m in love with you, Elizabeth,” he whispered in my
ear. “Will you marry me?”
Now thoroughly alarmed, I tried to shake him off. “Release you me!”
I cried. But he only tightened his grip around my waist, and as he
peeked over my shoulder he caught sight of something hanging around
my neck: the amanah-cord holding my name-stone.
“What’s this?” he said as he tugged on the cord
“’Tis nothing!” I responded. “Please, let you go of me!”
Alma pulled on the cord once more and out popped my name-stone.
His eyes widened. “What the Shaitan!” he cried. “Where
did you get this? Did you make it yourself? Or did you steal it from
a dead body? So… it’s true what the girls said about you, you
really are a kashfah!”
Infuriated, Alma twisted the cord around my neck, choking me, and I
fell to my knees gasping for air, my arms flailing.
“I’m reporting this to the Council! You’re trefah,
unclean! You’ll burn in Sheol for this offence!”
Alma suddenly released the cord and I fell flat on my face, nearly
asphyxiated. Then he stomped off and left me there, crying
hysterically. “What have I done? Oh, Ben, what didst thou do to me?
I never did ask for this rock, ’tis not fair…”
Alma swiftly followed through on his threat. At seven that evening a
court was convened in the council room at Fort Kanosh.
Two Kanosh Dragoons escorted me to the outer door of the council
room. I was now dressed in a plain blue Order dress, and my hands
were bound. My hair was disheveled and I’m sure my eyes were red
from crying. The welts from my near-strangulation still burned on my
Just as the guards were about to escort me into the chamber, Grand
Matron Ariella stepped forward and said to the guards, “Wait—a
moment, please.” She took me aside, lifted my chin and looked
directly at me, and said, “How fare ye, my child?”
I dropped my head again and muttered bitterly, “Slave-born was I,
and here I be, in bonds once more. ’Tis my lot in life. Different I
did think you people were, but how wrong I was.”
“No, Elizabeth! Remember our conversation? Thou hast done nothing
wrong—remember that! Thou art falsely accused. Keep thy chin up,
and face down thine accusers. Thou canst win this trial, but first ye
must believe in thine own innocence! Truth will prevail!”
I gave Ariella a look that clearly said, Go to Sheol, and then
I was suddenly thrust through the door into the council chamber.
Every eye in the chamber seemed to turn my way. Seated in the chamber
were Grand Hegemon Elazar, his twelve Counselors, and Alma. Elazar
sat at the head of the long council table, and I took my seat at the
far end. I saw my name-stone on the table in front of Elazar, resting
on a black, leather-bound, gilt-edged copy of the Norm.
Elazar stood. “Ahem… We are gathered here to deliberate a most
extraordinary case, the likes of which we have never seen before in
the land of Deshret. Will the accused please stand?”
I stood with my head bowed.
“Elizabeth bat Jacob, you stand accused of two transgressions, to
wit: First, corrupting the morals of the citizens of this community,
and second and more seriously, misappropriation and misuse of a
sacred Kohanite object. What say you?”
I looked sullenly at the Grand Hegemon. I thought, be there to me
any chance here of winning? Or my fate, have they already decided it?
I remembered what Ariella had just said to me. I took a deep breath,
and in a firm voice I said, “Not guilty, on both counts!”
Elazar stared back at me for a moment. Then he replied, “As you
wish. You may be seated. We will address these two charges
individually. Alma ben Isaac, will you please stand and explain your
grounds for the first charge?”
Alma stood and looked scathingly at me. I could feel the scorn and
contempt in his gaze. I thought, He shall bend and twist this
every way. Believing me, they shall not.
Alma spoke. “It started when she—I mean Elizabeth, here, hatched
this scheme to dress all her seamstresses in those lewd an’
suggestive dresses o’ theirs, knowing full well what an evil effect
that would have on the minds o’ the young men o’ the fort!
Haven’t you noticed lately? These shameless hussies have been
strutting and flaunting their way all over the fort for weeks now!
Why should it surprise you then, that some o’ the more
impressionable young men here should succumb to the enticements o’
these strumpets? I, on the other hand, kept myself above the fray,
except t’ note with alarm the precipitous decline in morals
Alma sat down with a smug look on his face.
I rolled my eyes. What a pompous liar.
Counselor Zechariah jumped to his feet, pointed at me and cried,
“It’s true! Licentiousness was unknown here in Fort Kanosh until
this young hussy arrived! She truly has bewitched us! What has
happened to our morals here? You know where she learned her evil
arts, don’t you? Her mother was a prostitute in Cottonwoods, and
she herself was illegitimate-born!”
A gasp went through the chamber.
I buried my face in my hands in despair. How can I this refute?
’Tis true, a tavern wench she was, my mother. But an honest one,
driven to it by necessity. Letting this pass, I cannot. I do surely
owe her that.
I took a deep breath. After a few moments I slowly rose to my feet,
pointed my bound hands at Zechariah and cried, “How dare you the
name of my dear mother sully that way! If that headstone of hers you
do want back, then go ahead and take it, and just let the memory of
Millie Erne quietly be erased! But I shall not here stand and allow
you her character to shame! And ’twas not my choice, baseborn to
be! Thinking do you, I did commit some terrible sin, to be born that
I pointed at the other counselors and cried, “My mother, a good
woman she was! She did the best she could, to raise me out of abject
poverty and slavery! Precious few opportunities do you men to us
women leave, to pursue an honest living! For your own lustful,
selfish purposes you do use us, then curse us and like trash, do cast
I sat down and buried my head in my bound hands, sobbing.
Elazar looked at me in pity for a moment; then he turned and said
quietly, “Zechariah, if you do not withdraw this slander and
apologize to Elizabeth this instant, I will have you thrown out of
Zechariah’s face turned bright red and he stammered, “But,
“This instant!” the Grand Hegemon repeated.
“I, uh… I’m sorry, Sister Elizabeth. I misspoke. I withdraw the
I looked up from my tears. “There is pretty we just wanted
to look,” I cried. “We just wanted something to wear every day, a
little nicer than these ugly old blue sack-dresses. ’Tis not our
fault that the young men began a-lusting after us, is it?”
Elazar harrumphed. “No, I suppose it isn’t… Not entirely. We
will table the first charge, and move on to the second and in my
mind, the more serious charge: misappropriation and misuse of a
sacred Kohanite object. Alma ben Isaac, will you please stand and
explain the circumstances surrounding your discovery of this stone?”
Alma stood again and addressed the Council. “Well, uh… I’d
heard strange tales about Elizabeth here being a kashfah, a
witch, but I didn’t put much stock in them. But then I started
noticing her staring at me a lot, like she was trying to put the evil
eye on me or somethin’, so I tried to avoid her gaze. But this
morning she followed me out t’ the pump-house. Imagine my
astonishment when she pulled out this name-stone and started babbling
some kind of witch’s curse over me! Of course I reported it t’
the Council immediately—“
“That’s a lie!” I cried, jumping to my feet and pointing at
Alma. “’Twas he who made unwanted advances towards me, and ’twas
he who was in the act of molesting me when the stone he discovered
around my neck!”
“Please!” the Grand Hegemon cried, raising his hands. “Alma ben
Isaac, you know that the testimony of a Kohan is considered
unimpeachable? Do you swear that you are telling the truth? Did
Elizabeth in fact pursue you?”
“Yes… ah, she did,” Alma replied hesitantly.
I rolled my eyes and sat back down in irritation.
Elazar eyed Alma skeptically for a moment; then he glanced at the
welts on my neck. “I see…”
He picked up the stone, examined the name and said, “Councilor
Jacob… do you recognize the clan-name on this stone?”
Surprised, Jacob stood and approached the head of the table and
examined the stone. “It’s mine,” he said. “How on Edom…?”
“’Twas Benjamin’s original name-stone,” I explained. “He
found it awhile back and gave it to me as a keepsake. Just children
we were—’twas just a friendly gift. We had no idea it would cause
the ehadim in us.”
There was dead silence in the room. Finally Elazar spoke softly.
“You—you experienced the ehadim? How is that possible? How
do you even know this sacred word? Ordinarily a man and a woman do
not share this oneness until the hatam, the binding of a man
and wife in the temple of God. How could the two of you experience
“I know not,” I replied. “I only know that it was wonderful,
and it felt right, and good. But we broke it off after
that one time, and then Ben, he left for the Academy.”
“Extraordinary…” Elazar mused. “This explains why young
Benjamin came to me with his questions about the tironut
ceremony, and the curious accident with the draw-knife, which you
both felt. Ah, now at last I understand.”
The Grand Hegemon sat musing for a long time. Finally he spoke again.
“Some of you may recall what the Seer, blessed be he, taught us
when he revealed to us the doctrine of hatsetset-hashem, the
name-stone. He taught us that these stones could only be used for
righteous purposes. The very idea that Elizabeth could somehow use
this stone to cast an evil spell on Alma is ridiculous. It simply
can’t be done. Everything that is of God is good. From this I can
only conclude that the ehadim that Benjamin and Elizabeth
experienced was of God, and was meant to be. Therefore, there was no
sin involved. Elizabeth was somehow meant to acquire this stone,
because it worked for her. What other conclusion can we draw from
The Council members all sat and quietly pondered for some time.
Finally the Grand Hegemon spoke again. “I now realize that this
case is far beyond the ability of this Council to resolve. I move
that it be referred to the Sanhedrin in Salem. And as to the first
charge, namely corrupting the morals of the citizens of this
community, I move that it be quietly dropped. All in favor?”
The vote was unanimous.
Elazar continued. “And one last thing before we adjourn. The Seer
counseled us to never remove the name-stone, even in death. Since
this stone is well and clearly Elizabeth’s now, I don’t think it
would be fair of us to deprive her of its blessings. Let the
Sanhedrin decide that.”
He picked up the name-stone, approached me and gently placed the
stone around my neck. A gasp went through the Council members.
“And would someone please remove these humiliating bonds from her
He spoke directly to me, smiling. “Elizabeth, you and your sisters
are free to dress as you please, insofar as fashion and modesty
dictate. Now that that bottle has been uncorked, I don’t have the
power to put the stopper back—nor would I.”
Elazar turned and addressed the Council. “This court is hereby
adjourned, and this case is remanded to the Council of the Sanhedrin
for resolution. Thank you all.”
I left the council chamber, exhausted but elated. I was rubbing my
chafed wrists where the bonds had been, when Grand Matron Ariella met
me outside the door and took me by the shoulders.
“Well?” she said anxiously, looking into my face.
I drew back my collar slightly, revealing the amanah-cord, and smiled
at her. “Thou wert right, Mistress. I did no wrong. And now, the
Grand Hegemon and the Council, they know it as well. I won!”
Ariella hugged me and said, “Oh, Elizabeth… I just knew Elazar
would come to the right decision. He always does, ye know—but
sometimes it takes him a bit of time to figure out that which I
already know. And don’t ye dare ever mention to him that I said
I was overwhelmed. Never in my life had anyone stood up for me like
this, and I knew not how to express my gratitude to Ariella. Tears
came to my eyes.
“Mistress Ariella,” I sniffled. “Speechless I be… there is…
so kind ye Believers are to me, and thankworthy. Why?”
Ariella put her arm around me and sat me down in a chair, then she
sat down close beside me. “Let us just say, I am returning the
favor, my child. A very long time ago, two Believers changed my life
forever—named Trefor and Emrys.”
She thought for a moment. “I was born in Akameria, Elizabeth. I was
a very lonely, unhappy little girl with a club-foot, who lived with
my twin sister and my seithkonar mother.”
My eyes widened. “A seithkonar, Mistress? Thy mother was a
seeress? Such an honor…” I glanced down at her feet, which were
perfectly straight. “Tha’ said ye had a club-foot? How is that
She smiled. “Those two Believers came to Mömmu’s house
and healed me. It made Mömmu very angry that they could heal
me, when all her spells could not. She drove me out, and I made my
way to Torshavn where I found the Believers again and joined them.
They are the reason I am here today.”
I waited for her to finish her story. When she didn’t reply I said,
“What then, Mistress? Were ye ever reconciled with thy mother and
Her eyes darted about, then she looked down. “With my Mömmu,
yes. My sister… no, never. I doubt we ever shall. She despises me.”
I glanced about too, and whispered, “And thy name-stone, where did
ye acquire it?”
She clasped my hands and stood quickly, drawing me up. “Well! I am
thankful that thou art exonerated, Elizabeth! And I am certain that
Benjamin will be relieved to hear it. Cherish thy bond with him, and
nurture it. I sense greatness in him. Together, ye canna’ fail. May
God bless the both of you. Good day.”
At the Academy, I’d followed Master Philo’s suggestion to work
with Master Thomas on his sound-transmitting project. I found that
Thomas was already experimenting with a strange new form of
telegraph—one that dispensed entirely with the telegraph key.
Thomas said, “Y’see, my young apprentice, I’ve replaced the old
sender and receiver keys with these two small metal cans, which are
filled with carbon granules. Now carbon, when you compress it, has a
curious habit of changing its electrical resistance. That affects the
voltage on this wire, which compresses the carbon granules in that
other can over there, with some quite interesting effects. Here, take
this can and put it close to your ear.”
I picked up one of the small cans and placed it next to my ear.
Thomas moved to the other side of the room and tapped with a pencil
on the other can. To my surprise, I heard a distinct set of clicks
right next to my ear. I dropped the can in surprise.
“That’s, uh, amazing! What will you do with it, sir?”
Thomas smiled. “Well, as you know, I’m a bit hard of hearing.
That’s what started me on this experiment. I was imagining some
kind of electrical ear-trumpet, I suppose. But so far, all I get out
of it is a series of clicks. I suppose we could still use it as a
telegraph, where you just tap on one end, and listen at the other…
what do you think?”
I thought back to my ehadim with Bess, when I could actually
hear her thoughts from a distance. There must be a way, I
thought. I looked at the small carbon-filled cans, thought for a
moment and said, “Sir, maybe I can play with it? I could maybe try
different granule sizes and voltages? I think we might be able to get
real sounds out of it, not just clicks. May I?”
Thomas smiled. “Of course, Ben. Keep me apprised of your progress,
if you please?”
That evening I wrote.
Ma and Pa,
classes are going real good. I really like my electricity lab. I get
to try things out for myself ’stead of just reading bout them. Our
teachers have drilled safety into us, for good reason. Master Nicola
likes to play around with some real high voltages. They could easily
kill you if you handle them wrong. Don’t worry—since that time I
nearly got struck by lightning, I’ve been real careful round
electricity. I can’t wait to see you in a few months when the
school term ends.
Several days later, out in a field near the Academy, I watched as
Master Nicola set up a demonstration of a very strange device. The
apparatus was mounted on a table and consisted of a long iron tube
like a cannon barrel with copper wire wrapped around it, a large
condenser, and a hand-cranked electric dynamo.
“Students, observe!” Nicola announced. “You are about to
witness what happens when a very large electric field is generated
and then suddenly collapsed. As you can see, this iron tube has many
hundreds of turns of copper wire wrapped around it. Inside the tube
is a short iron bolt like a cannon shell, also wrapped in copper
wire. The ends of the tube are capped, and a gunpowder charge has
been placed in one end. When I crank this dynamo it will build up a
charge in this condenser. Then, when I fire the gunpowder charge the
bolt will suddenly jump from one end of the tube to the other,
creating an electrical shear force between the two coils. The sudden
electromagnetic pulse should be strong enough to disable that
telegraph apparatus which I have placed on a table about a hundred
feet away, over there—I hope.”
Nicola looked around nervously. “I, ah… would advise all of you
to stand a good distance away when I light the fuse. Besides the
hair-raising electromagnetic effect, there could be some shrapnel as
well. Are we ready?”
Nicola furiously cranked the dynamo for about a minute while
observing a voltmeter. Then he said, “She’s all charged! Heads
He lit the fuse and ran to join us students hiding behind a bank of
dirt. Ten seconds later there was an enormous explosion and the whole
experiment vanished in a hail of iron, copper wire, and wood
splinters. I felt a sudden, unbearable tingling sensation all over my
body and my hair stood on end. When the smoke cleared, all that was
left was a smoking crater where the table had once stood.
“Whoa…” said Nicola, as he emerged from his hiding place. The
cannon barrel was completely gone, and the iron bolt had buried
itself in a hill about a hundred feet away.
“Looks like you used a tad too much gunpowder,” I observed.
Nicola ran over to examine the table where the telegraph apparatus
was sitting. The two electromagnets on the receiver key were fused,
completely melted from the electromagnetic shock.
“Well, I’ll be blutterbunged! It worked, see?” Nicola cried.
“Just needs a bit o’ refinement, though. Gentlemen, you have just
witnessed the world’s first electric torpedo.”
A week later the monthly northbound dragon-train arrived at Fort
Kanosh, and Jacob, Sarah and I made arrangements to travel to
Salem—both to visit Ben, and to resolve the issue of my name-stone
before the Sanhedrin.
Before we departed that morning, I made one last visit to my mother’s
grave outside Cottonwoods. Time had completely erased all signs of
the gravesite except for the granite headstone. I laid a handful of
wildflowers on the grave. “Farvæl, Mömmu,” I sniffled.
“I shall miss thee.”
One of the dragon-carts was empty, so Jacob rented the entire cart
and fitted it out with bedding, food, clothing, a camp-stove and all
the furnishings we would need for the two-week journey. The solid
wooden wheels of the cart were eight feet high, and the wagon-bed was
four feet wide and sixteen feet long. The front half of the cart was
partitioned off for Jacob and Sarah, and I had the aft portion all to
myself. A long canvas awning stretched the length of the cart to
protect us from the sun. At the front of the cart was a seat for the
“Oh, this is splendid!” Sarah exclaimed when she saw the
arrangements. “I’ve never traveled in such comfort before. Thank
Jacob inhaled deeply and smiled. “If I’m not mistaken, this cart
usta’ be filled with kloh-beans. We could do worse, I s’pose.”
We said goodbye to Miriam, Naomi and Aaron, and then we all climbed
the ladder into the cart. The lead dragon-skinner cried, “Dragons,
ho!” and the train lumbered off.
I had not been outside Amber Valley since I was thirteen, so this was
a great adventure for me. From my vantage point eight feet in the air
I could see the broad expanse of the valley and the Ochre Mountains
far to the east. The north road paralleled the Soreq River as it
flowed from its headwaters in the Olami Mountains down Kanosh Canyon,
north past Goshen and on to Salem on the north coast of Melek.
Sarah moved to the back of the cart where I was seated, sat down and
put her arm around me. “I love this valley,” she said. “It’s
been good to us, these sixteen turns. How do you feel about leaving
it, my daughter? I hope you don’t mind me calling you that? I know
you’ve always been closer to Miriam, but I still love you as my
own, as does she.”
“I like that thou callest me thy daughter—Aunt Sarah,” I
replied, then I laughed. “Mindest thou that I use the familiar
‘thee’ with you? It sounds so, so quaint now, e’en to me.”
Sarah laughed too. “You can be just as familiar with me as you
wish, Daughter. Miriam has done well in teaching you proper—ah,
that is, I mean, our grammar.”
I gathered my thoughts, hesitated, then I sighed. “Aye, that she
has. I came here when I was thirteen. That was the first time in my
life that I was truly happy, I think. Thou knowest that I was born in
Kentak, in Akameria? I remember little of those years, except that my
mother was very sad and she was gone a lot. Then when I was about
six, we moved to Rigo, on the north coast of Melek, to be with my
Uncle Axel. But then the bad soldiers came after us from Kentak to
take us back. As a child, I understood not that my mother, she was a
thræll—that is, a slave. Bound by a harem-contract she was
to a Bœnder, the Governor of Kentak, and running away was a
crime—at least he thought it so. It did not matter to him that she
had already bought her freedom—six pieces of silver it did cost
her! But my freedom she could not also afford to purchase, so we
escaped by ship to Strathy in Frieland, but they chased us there too.
So we came here to Salem in Deshret, where at least we were safe. We
did not feel very welcome there amongst all those Believers, so we
found an Outsider town where no one would bother us—Cottonwoods. My
mother, she worked there in the saloon. And then Ben I met, and thee.
Anyway, that be—is—the story of my short little life.”
Sarah said, “Thank you for sharing that with me, Bess. If you don’t
mind me asking, why did it take you so long to open up to me about
your early life?”
I sighed again. “There is to—I mean, I have struggled for a long
time with who I am, and what my mother was. To be baseborn, ’twas a
great shame to me. I did not much care for you Believers at first,
you know—but so kind to me you were, and that finally won me over.
And now my dear mother, she be—er, is at peace, and I am, too. It
has been hard to let go of her.”
I thought for a moment. “I think perhaps what made all the
difference, ’twas when Brother Elazar stood up for me last week in
that court. Respected, that really made me feel, maybe for the first
time ever. And Mistress Ariella—kind she was to me, as well.”
I thought for a moment. “Mother… Mistress Ariella, she said
something that did puzzle me—something about her upbringing. She
was hesitant to discuss it. Do ye know why?”
Sarah shook her head. “Yes and no, daughter. I am not at liberty to
reveal it to you.”
“Oh… She also said something about Ben and me—about sensing
greatness in him, and together we cannot fail. What did she mean by
Sarah replied, “Grand Matron Ariella is a Kohanet, a
priestess. Like her husband Elazar, she sees the future. I know not
what she sees in you, but I have always known there was a special
bond between you and Ben—mothers can sense this, you know. But of
course I had no idea until last week just how deep it was.”
I thought to myself, Aye, if only knowing full-well you did, just
how close Ben and I be…
“Sarah—Mother, I am much worried still about this issue with Ben
and myself and the two name-stones. I know not what the Sanhedrin
will do to us, dost thou?”