The astronomers of Plumer-Ra
The pair followed the Astellites up the stairway and past the interconnecting domes where all was in the shadow of night. Mirrortac was taken to one of the Pool Stone amphitheatres where 12 bizarre figures had gathered, arranging themselves around the oval of the crystal reflector. In the dim light of moon-drops, he could see the dark hue of their robes but could not make out the colour. Occasionally one of the figures raised its head to speculate quietly on the strange visitor. Polished silver metal headdresses in the shape of an irregular six-pointed star encircled their faces. The Astellites were shorter than all other Meretees but in the silent green moons of their eyes, the erfin sensed an almost sinister presence, which sent a shiver up his spine. They were all concentrating on the convex crystal bowl, manipulating levers placed around the rim. The night sky was ablaze with a myriad moon-drops, emphasised by the funnel formed by the surrounding wall of high cloud.
On the altar the crystal astellite was filling up with an inner blue glow that deepened in hue until it seemed as though the cluster burned in a soft violet flame. And as the erfin watched, the violet flame darkened into a barely visible shining blackness that radiated out in an invisible beam to the crystal embedded in the pillar beside him. Twx stared out blindly alongside. The Astellites manipulated the levers some more, no doubt adjusting the bowl for the arrival of some demi-god, Mirrortac thought.
Suddenly, Mirrortac leapt up, startled at the vision of a huge ball of fire that sailed onto the bowl. On the surface of the fireball, brilliant white flares shot up in plumes and fell again in a burst of sparks and fire. More balls of fire danced onto the bowl, traversing it before disappearing off the opposite side. The erfin felt uneasy at the sight and stared at the menacing apparitions, unable to comprehend what they represented. Fused fireballs made the odd appearance while he could discern many hues, from magnesium white to orange and gold. Some were large and luminous while others floated across as small and distant.
‘What be these?’ Mirrortac spurted, grasping twx’s arm tightly.
Twx looked back at him quizzically and with smiling indifference. ‘Why these be asterees, Mirrortac. Only a night ago, you were pointening out the place of Nerthule among them. What is your concern?’
‘They are like Luma, blazing fire of the sky. Are there so many? What spell is upon this stone?’ The erfin shook with agitation.
‘Be calming. Be calming, erfin. Did you not know of this? There are as many fire-orbs as there are worlds. The Pool Stone makes big all of these so we can be expandening. You will see worlds soon. Be watchening and do not fear. The visions are of no harm.’
Mirrortac tried to relax as he watched the fiery parade of suns march across the bowl. There seemed no end to them. Then his eyes brightened as a sphere emerged into view, its mottled surface covered in craters and mountains, which showed as pits and peaks on a tiny ball that was partly in light, partly in shadow. The erfin’s fascination grew as another world rolled into sight, commanding a series of miniscule moons that strung out behind it like children. World after world followed in an assortment of sizes and hues of colour. The erfin could not determine whether life existed upon the worlds for even this magical magnification could not show this. Another sun chased the worlds off the bowl followed by a void of darkness and a stream of very distant asterees. The Astellites had assembled at one end of the bowl and were whispering and mumbling to each other.
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