Norar Remontar, Malagor, and I made our way across the vast interior surface of the planet Ecos. We had been walking for quite a long time. I cannot stress enough, the meaninglessness of time when one does not have the convenience of a day and night cycle with which to gauge it. Norar Remontar had occasion to discuss the concept of time at great length with me. Realizing that the Amatharian was from a highly technological society, I asked him if his people carried timepieces. I could see no watch carried openly upon his person. He didn’t seem to know what a clock was and I of course tried to explain.
“Yes, we have a device which we use in Amathar to note the time, but we do not measure it,” he replied. “I find this idea of yours that time is a constant that can be accurately and evenly measured to be most improbable. My people are taught that time varies. As I talk with you, time moves quickly, and when I, at the end of our conversation, look back, I will see that we have traveled a great distance. When I am not talking to you, but am instead quietly thinking of home, time moves very slowly indeed, and when I look back after what seems to be an eternity, I find that I have not traveled that far at all.”
I thought a great deal about Norar Remontar’s statement, and I decided that in a world of eternal noon, it seemed to make perfect sense. There was certainly nothing that I could think of to discredit the idea.
Time was of course not the only thing that we spoke of on that trek. So long was the journey in fact, that even if we had spoken but a small fraction of the time, our conversations could fill several volumes. Norar Remontar took great pride and delight in telling me all about the people and the culture of Amathar. Here is a brief synopsis of that history as he first recounted it to me.
“Long, long ago, my ancestors were savages. They lived in small tribal kingdoms, and they warred against themselves, as well as with other nearby races. The people knew nothing of technology, nothing of art, and most importantly, they knew nothing of honor.
“Into the land, came the man known as Amath. He was not one of the people. He was from a place far away. I don’t know where. He united the people of the tribal kingdoms against their common enemies, yet he taught them to recognize their friends as well. He found the Garden of Souls and he organized the City of Amathar around it. He taught the people art, literature, love, and honor. He was the first leader of Amathar, and so the city is named for him. He chose the best of the warriors to be his successors, for he had no offspring of his own, and he founded the Holy Order to guard against the evils in the hearts of men.
“All of this was long ago. Amath has been gone two or three hundred generations, but all that we Amatharians are, all that we hold as truths, are due to his teaching and his guidance. Each of us carries his tome of teachings.”
The knight produced a small book from an unseen pocket, and handed it to me. It was bound like an ordinary book one would find on earth, but the pages were some type of plastic. The characters on the page were tiny little animals and other recognizable shapes— the sun, a tree, a human hand. I handed Norar Remontar back his book and determined that some day I would learn to read the strange writing, and find out just what the teachings of Amath were.
Many times on our journey I pressed the knight to tell me about his city. On these occasions he would simply smile, and say that I would have to see it for myself. Of course my personal interests were constantly being drawn to the subject of his sister. I didn’t want to arouse Norar Remontar’s ire by accidentally disgracing her somehow, and truth be told, I was somewhat embarrassed by my single-minded desire to see this woman again. Of course being no fool, he saw through my efforts to artificially generalize the subject, but played along with me anyway. It seemed that in Amatharian society, both the men and the women were able to become knights and pursue careers in any field. The culture was a matrilineal one. The Amatharians passed on their family name from mother to daughter, but even more important than the family name, were the family crests, and these were passed from elder family members, to those children, grandchildren, and even nephews and nieces, who managed to achieve knighthood. Norar Remontar and a cousin had received their crests from an uncle who was a war hero. His sister inherited her crest from her grandfather.
We crossed planes and hills and valleys and an occasional mountain range, and must have been some thousands of miles from the sight of the airship battle when we reached the edge of an immense forest. It stretched to the left and right as far as the eye could see. Of course as with all things of this scale, when we came up close to the edge of the woodland, we found that it was not one great forest, but a vast area of connected forests with small glens and meadows scattered here and there. We plunged into this new terrain and continued on our way.
The first several hundred miles of the forestland was lightly wooded. There were a great many open areas and we found many fruits and vegetables along the way to supplement our hunting. As the miles went on by though, we left the lightly wooded areas behind us, and entered an increasingly dark and forbidding landscape. It was the kind of forest that one might find in an old black and white horror movie or one of those fantasy novels with pointed-eared goblins peaking out from behind large oak trees. In this densely wooded country, hunting became more difficult, but because of the urgency of our quest, we could not take any more time than was absolutely necessary in any one location. So it was that when once more we had to make camp, for the first time, we sat looking at one another over an empty spot on the ground where our food might normally be found roasting on a spit above a small camp fire.
“This is most discouraging to me,” said Malagor. “It is not right for a Malagor to go without food.”
“At least we have water,” said Norar Remontar. “I am surprised that we have been able to stay as well fed as we have. Before this trip I had been hunting only three or four times with my uncle, and I mean no disrespect when I say that Alexander seems to be as unskilled as I am in this arena.”
“He has led a soft life,” explained Malagor. “I am guessing that even though you have done little hunting, your life has not been soft. You are a warrior.”