Foolio and Shrendig appeared to look at Harkoff, irritated.
“Do you know what the Gremanese do, when the two suns are separated like this?”
The other two resumed their attention on the voices and bells in the distance. Harkoff moved his hands beneath his chest, about to push himself up. Shrendig had her knife drawn on Harkoff’s neck before he could move any further.
“Get the fuck down.”
“Do you even know anything about the Gremanese?”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“They’re religious Shrendig. Do you know what that means?”
“I’m going to cut your fucking throat, do you know what that means?”
“It means they believe that a person who died long ago still lives and exists and controls their lives and the world around them.”
“I’m actually going to kill you. Shut up.”
“And when the suns are apart like this they try to contact the dead person to bring them together again.”
“They all do it in an enormous building like the High Seat, part of the ceiling is made out of stained glass, when both the suns return, they all leave because they think it’s worked - they’re going to be in there for hours!”
“What is this bullshit?” Foolio’s hissing made the speech filter crackle under his headclothes.
Harkoff turned onto his back and removed the rifle. He turned it over in the sand, and moved the stock of the rifle in Shrendig’s direction. Underneath the trigger guard was a carving of three spheres of all different sizes. Lines radiated from each of them, intersecting each other. The lines themselves formed a sphere around the embossing in the wood, and underneath the spheres and lines were strange symbols engraved into a metal plate.
“And that’s your proof?”
“Yes. These are the suns, the moon, the entire thing is the universe the dead person made, the metal plate says Mah Rah - if you remove the plate the writing on the reverse tells you what to say when you find a Gremano dead with this rifle.”
The bells stopped ringing, the voices began to sing notes in unison.
“We have exactly three hours, two bells will begin to play in five minutes, and will continue until Noukin [NB: the second and the larger of the suns] returns.”
Shrendig lowered her knife slightly, “If they know the sun’s coming up in three hours, why do they pray?”
“I don’t know. Maybe its like a point of no return, the moment when the worth of their prayers are considered. Or it could just be a pretence, something they do despite knowing its all meaningless.”
Shrendig and Foolio paused again.
“Those bells better ring.”
Two bells were ringing when the three entered the city. Slow winds blew between the buildings from the East, kicking up sand and dust in the streets and pushing it lazily up against its kurbs. All of the buildings were made from stone and bricks, covered by pathetic grey facades that were crumbling, peeling, and covered with sand. None of the buildings showed any signs of glass or iron, and every door sealing the thresholds from the barren streets was made of thick, heavy wood.
The tallest erection in the city was a bell tower that was attached to what seemed like a palace - stained glass windows and golden turrets shot upward and outward from a magnificent construction that surrounded a square that existed in the middle of the otherwise crumbling metropolis. Two bells rang from the tower, voices sang and chanted in the palace.
Harkoff led the other two to this gigantic building. So close to the city’s prayer, the square was deafening, the ground shuddered from the power of the people’s sound, and the invisible three moved quicker than ever towards the source of it, searching the area in an attempt to detect a secret entrance to the giant, shaking building.
Small wooden doors lined the wall of the square below the bell tower, Shrendig, Foolio and Harkoff gained entry to pretty building from these doors, and ascended the staircase until they reached a passageway leading from the steps that the sound echoed from very loudly. This passage lead to a gallery within the building.
“This is a church,” Harkoff said to Shrendig and Foolio. “This is just like the High Seat. Look at the people.”
The three stood in the left outside corner of the church’s U-shaped hall. People packed the left wing of the building’s interior, and at very end of the hall gleamed a silver altar. Bearded men wearing green robes could be spied from where the invaders hid. They sat elevated from the masses, a stained glass window in the intricately painted ceiling cast white and green light on them and their silver stage.
One white-robed man stood before the altar, his hands were raised.
“This is going to be easier than we thought,” Foolio gestured to Shrendig. “You’ll catch up with us, won’t you?”
Harkoff was left in the gallery. Rifle in his hands, he checked the weapon’s bolt and magazine, casually ejecting a spent cartridge and hiding it in his desert boot. He raised the long, heavy gun and gathered the chanting white man into its sights and fired. Harkoff didn’t stop there. He fired at as many people as he had bullets. Five men in robes died.
He then vanished into the desert with the two others, he didn’t see the masses.