|Image source: Wikimedia Commons|
Chakan and Liana grew irritable, although they usually remembered to direct their ire toward the constant interruptions—at meal times, work times, gardening times, even lovemaking times—any time of day, and into the evening, someone would come a-knocking. They tried to put up a sign to limit the visits, but most folk simply ignored it.
At least, Chakan thought, they do not come empty-handed. Visitors brought chickens, slabs of salted beef, bacon, bundles of onions, sacks of potatoes or bread, and even a little money. The list of items they needed at market diminished each day, and that brought Chakan a new worry—that they would not need to go, and then they would be stuck with the cursed mechanism forever.
As for Liana, she soon became dismayed at the banality of the questions the folk brought:
Should my son marry this woman or that woman?
If I bet on the dice tomorrow, will I win?
Is my husband seeing a woman in Queensport?
After one of these left the house one day, Liana threw up her hands. “Love, I will never ignore your advice again. First thing in the morning, we’re putting that thing on the wagon and taking it to the sages.”
Chakan took her in his arms. “Soft, soft, my heart. It’s not been all bad. We can wait until market day, it’s almost here. But I tell ya true: I’ll be glad to see that hunk of gearworks gone.”
Liana pulled the bar across the door, then turned and gave Chakan a look she knew made his stomach lurch and his desire rise. “Come to our bed, love. Let us thank the Creator for giving us each other.”
Thankfully, the knocking did not resume for a while. When it began anew, more insistent than usual, they rolled out of bed and threw some clothes on, grumbling about more intrusions.
To their surprise, there were two men and a woman at the door. They were unfamiliar, and their manner of dress suggested they were city dwellers. Out at the road stood a carriage with two donkeys. It seemed plain, but something about it nagged at Chakan.
“Yar?” Liana asked, having no better greeting at the moment.
“Your pardon, notables,” the woman replied as the men gave a half nod-half bow. “We were told you have unearthed an ancient treasure?”
“If you are of the Crown, please present your forms,” said Chakan. One of the lessons he had learned in this new place was emissaries of the Crown always carry their papers. They had shown him copies of papers, so at least he knew what they should look like. He likely would be unable to tell forgery from genuine item, but it made more work for those with bad intent.
“Oh, we are not with the government,” the woman assured him. “I am Misiva sam Tiefi, a private investor in antiquities and the like. Have I indeed been directed to the correct house?”
Chakan held his tongue, but he was sorely tempted to say we left the contraption with the sages this morning. Instead, he hoped his wife would say it, with more conviction than he would be able to muster. His father used to tell him, you make a poor liar, Chakan, but the only shame in that is to try lying anyway.
“Yar, we still have it,” Liana said after a brief pause, dashing Chakan’s hopes. Something about this situation made him nervous.
“Oh, excellent. Could I perhaps see it? I am willing to compensate you for your trouble.” Misiva produced a small bag, and took from it a gold octagon.
Liana and Chakan stared at the coin. While their farm would garner the equivalent of that bag over a year, assuming it was filled with octagons, neither of them had seen that much money all at once. A single octagon would buy enough food for three weeks or more.
“Ah, indeed, we can let you have a look,” Liana stammered, taking the coin. “Do enter, in all peace and harmony.”
“Tea?” Chakan asked as Misiva and her two men—bodyguards?—followed them inside. “We have Queensport Black and Two Rivers Red. I can have the pot warmed in short order.”
“You are indeed hospitable,” Misiva replied, “but we should not be long. This is… it is marvelous! It looks as though it might be functional.”
“It is,” said Liana. “We have used it according to the instructions.”
“Truly?” Misiva looked astonished. “A book survived that long buried in the ground?”
“‘Twas in a stone box,” Chakan blurted. “Sealed up tight for the ages. We had a time of it getting it open without breaking it, let me tell ya.”
“I suppose the box has become paving stones,” one of the men said.
“Nay. We kept it intact. Thought we might come up with a use for it later on.”
“May we see it?” the second man asked Chakan.
“Oh, aye. It’s in the barn. Liana?”
“Yar, let them see it.”