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It Would Have Brought You To Your Knees


Hawkmoon sometimes thought of Köln, but not often, as he was no longer of Köln and Köln was no longer. His current incarnation had been born through the ungentle undulating organ of that living machine, which had left its progenitor's kiss black upon his brow. But if Hawkmoon had been wrenched back into this world unwilling, D'Averc's rebirth as a man of Granbretan had been entirely different, not least being voluntary.

In the space where once he would have thought of Köln, it occurred to Hawkmoon that his companion said nothing of his origin. Nor of that choice that had set him to Granbretan's cause. Did Hawkmoon care?

He suspected he did, at moments such as this, for Hawkmoon had caught sly, wry D'Averc gazing with a wistful expression upon the latest architectural complexity to grace the horizon of their quest. Whatever customary languor D'Averc wore (the expression did suit his taste in clothes, said the Frenchman, with complete immodesty), Hawkmoon had only seen such a confused softness on his friend in the wake of their encounter with the Countess Flana.

'I should like to see what Jehamia so admired,' Hawkmoon said suddenly.

D'Averc was quick of thought, and caught Hawkmoon on that wandering path. He looked away from the spire that dared the southern sky. 'Why, and I had thought you uninterested in the pursuits of the refined man.'

Hawkmoon pointed at the spire. 'Is that one of yours or not, Huillam?'

'It is,' said D'Averc, and made no move to offer more of himself.

'Then I should like to see it.'

'I should rather not.'

Hawkmoon was provoked; D'Averc was not often blunt. He readied himself to run to the tower. He was accustomed to cities now, and all of them had a certain similarity, as if stamped from a mould. Perhaps they were; human minds had created them all. At the worst, he could navigate this one without D'Averc as guide.

'And how, my friend, will you stop me from seeing?'

D'Averc gave a fine, despairing cry, 'No, Hawkmoon, don't—' before Hawkmoon fled from earshot.

The city swallowed him beautifully. It was noon, the shadows were scant, the sun huge and warm. As entertainment and indulgence, the run was pleasant as his quest so rarely allowed. Hawkmoon wondered if D'Averc could bother himself to keep at speed without dire necessity at his heels. The gracious spire was visible from all street corners, creating a perfect navigational axis through the entire warren of twisting streets. Hawkmoon stopped at the wide paved plaza that lay before the grand creation.

Hawkmoon was impressed. He said as much when D'Averc drew level with him bare seconds later.

The Frenchman was neither panting nor sweating, though he coughed into his handkerchief as though he suffered for breath and indicated such sudden sprints would well be the death of him.

'What is it for?' Hawkmoon would have thought a cathedral, but the only deity a Granbretanian would worship was one that demanded rubble, no buildings challenging the sky.

'It is a Granbretanian's building, Hawkmoon. The architect that Jehamia spoke of was a Frenchman. I joined the Order of the Boar and the foundations were already laid; I should have ripped with from the earth, as is the nature of a boar,' D'Averc coughed, 'but alas, I thought otherwise. It is nothing, for nothing, and does nothing. '

'Truly, a Granbretanian's building.' Hawkmoon considered his friend unusually dire. 'You told Jehamia you lost the knack of it. This does not look so bad.'

D'Averc said, with his customary humility, 'if I had not lost the knack, you would now be on your knees in awe.'

Hawkmoon smiled. Yet, some tone in his friend's voice had Hawkmoon speculate if D'Averc was, for once, speaking a truth entirely unblemished.

That unblemished truth wrought on Hawkmoon's usual absence of curiosity a magic, for later reclining in their blankets, once more well absent of D'Averc's much loved civilisation and staring at the vault of stars, Hawkmoon said:

'You can't leave such a statement hanging.'

D'Averc was very quick of thought, or perhaps he had been brooding on the same point all day, and indeed, he had been quieter than his custom. He said on the instant, 'Hawkmoon, you resisted Granbretan, though they would crush you; I laid no resistance nor built no bulwarks against them. Grand Londra! - what did I do but dream of that city as a youth, crazed science and vainglorious history wed through the hands of mortal man. And as a man that desire never left me, ah, if I could explain the love of a city to you—'

'I have known the love of a land,' Hawkmoon said, quietly; he thought of Köln no longer, and black smoke on the horizon, the deathbringing ornithopters trailing oil like blood.

'Land,' D'Averc coughed, dismissive, 'but the land would endure even if every man alive died of his own despair, the land cares nothing for us nor I for it. It is cities that we create, and cities that create us. Londra, the centre of all chaos, did the city make men mad, or was the city made mad because men were likewise? I hungered for that chaos, Hawkmoon; chaos, the one thing no architect can ever encompass for that our very nature would impose order on the world, to make a logic out of it, a use out of the void of space and all through the bubble of encapsulating walls - oh! I think I was a little mad, and in love with my own hands, yet I could not create what I saw here, behind my mind's eye. And so I went to Londra. To study.'

'The creator became a destroyer.'

'An architect is not a creator. An interpreter, to turn life's logic into a form that would support, uphold with internal consistency, perpetuate our ways of living. Find the truth that we do not know we seek until we see it. I am the same as I once was, but Londra's language is not one of order, nor of perpetuation.' A light, foppish laugh, and D'Averc said: 'Oh Hawkmoon, why should I bent my efforts to building, to beauty, when I learned this for the truth: that the hordes of Granbretan sought nothing more than to destroy, without purpose, no conquest nor change as their driving motivation, only destruction. A horizon, end to end and all a circle, and nothing alive inside it or out. Why try for a truth to speak to those what would come, that would give meaning or purpose to the day, when I knew that Granbretan could not fail? I had seen Londra and I knew: I would live to see the end. I became a Boar, and I would recreate myself through destruction of what once was.'

Hawkmoon was silent, pondering. He had been remiss, perhaps, to not ask his friend of himself the sooner. He had mistrusted D'Averc to begin with, the Frenchman casting aside his high role in Granbretan's army to hold his sword, if seemingly carelessly, at Hawkmoon's side.

'You joined me because you think I will win,' Hawkmoon said.

D'Averc suffered a momentary coughing fit. When he finished, a spasm shook his shoulders, and something seemed to leave him; when he lifted his head it was as though he wore his Boar mask again, shadows cast from their tiny fire in shades of blackened steel. A bland smile lingered.

'Dearest Dorian,' D'Averc said, affectionately, 'I joined you because either way lies destruction.'

'Nevertheless.'

'Win what, my friend? A war? Against Granbretan? Ah, perhaps; I have seen many miracles at your side. Amarekh, even, and to Yel and back! But all you seek to win is Yisselda and a home, and peace for you both—'

'And to do that, I will destroy the destroyers.' Hawkmoon said it calmly; he had the Runestaff, the Amulet, the Sword of the Dawn. More, he had reason where Granbretan had insanity. 'And when it is done, Huillam, you may interpret the future as you will.'

D'Averc spoke with great irony, 'Aye, for you and Yisselda, and I shall create for you a grand house that will hold you both secure, and paint a glorious portrait of your heroism to be hung in the main hall.'

'You can if you like,' Hawkmoon said, with great certainty, and with such seriousness that D'Averc fell quite silent but for a small cough, pressed into the back of his hand.


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