After we had eaten, we walked across the great plaza to the stepped pyramid, which was the Temple of Amath. Vena Remontar told me that an invitation from the High Templar was something to be acted upon promptly. The great structure was most impressive. It was more than a mile wide, and was over two thousand feet tall. It looked as though a giant boy had built it, playing with his blocks, placing successively smaller blocks one atop another until he had built a pyramid of steps. Each of the steps was over one hundred feet tall, and there were twenty-one of them. The entire surface was carved in intricate designs, so finely detailed that not a single inch of blank wall could be found on the outside. Running up the front of the temple was a set of broad steps that led to the tenth level, where there was a large, dark entrance.
My friend and I walked up the many steps to the doorway. Waiting here was a small crowd of templars, each with his bald head. Some were writing in their pads, others were about other business. It may seem odd that the templars were engaged in so much writing, until one considers the extent to which Amatharians in general were fond of the written word. Amatharians had no telephone, but wrote letters every day, even to friends they were likely to see often. To a certain extent, the spoken language of these people was divorced from the written, and the written form allowed them much more freedom of expression.
One of the shaven fellows took charge, or had been left in charge, and guided us from the open greeting area, into a large chamber. It was much like one would expect a very large church or cathedral to look like, not that I’m an expert, but it had no rows of pews or any other seating. The walls were colorfully decorated and large bright banners hung from the ceiling. Of course huge numbers of templars buzzed here and there, taking notes, examining the scenes depicted on the walls, and staring at the shrine in the center of the hall.
The shrine took my breath away. Not because it was big, though it was that. Not because it was carefully inlaid with precious stones and highly polished gold and silver, though it was. It quite knocked the breath from my lungs because the symbol on the great shrine was an A. I don’t mean it was an Amatharian A. It was an honest to god, Greco-Roman, American English, Times font type A!
“That’s an A!” I shouted.
The entire population of the hall turned and looked at us.
“That’s an A,” I said.
“Show some respect, knight,” growled Vena Remontar. “Keep your voice down.”
“That’s an A,” I whispered.
“You are correct, knight.” A voice came from behind us.
We turned to see an older Amatharian man dressed in the brown robes of the templars, and wearing a large silver medallion with the letter A on it. Vena Remontar bowed low and I followed suit.
“I am Kurar Ka Remiant Oldon Domintus,” said the man, identifying himself as an overlord. “I am the High Templar.”
“It is an honor to meet you, I’m sure,” I said. “That is an A?”
“Yes, you are quite correct. That is an A.”
“Well. How did it get here?”
“Before we answer any of your questions,” the Overlord said, “you have a great many things to do for us.”
Oldon Domintus turned and led the two of us across the great hall to a doorway opposite that through which we had come. Beyond the chamber was a great long corridor. This hallway was lined with pictures painted in the bright colors: pictures of Amatharian knights engaged in battles, pictures of templars performing rituals in the great plaza, pictures of great buildings being constructed in Amathar. The High Templar maintained the image of a man showing friends around his home.
“Has Vena Remontar told you about our temple?”
“I’m afraid she has not yet had time.”
“This temple was built three hundred generations ago. Construction was begun under the direction of Amath himself. He envisioned a monument to his people where they could look for guidance. It was built here beside the Garden of Souls, so that those feeling the draw of their souls could reflect.
“You felt no need to reflect before entering the garden?” he asked me.
“I’ve always been a pretty spontaneous fellow,” I replied.