The Universe as seen by Bernodine

2. The Tower of Aurumshade

That is born of the high mountains

Thisbe let the sunlight rest on her forearm for a few moments longer. It was not too hot through the window now that the sun was touching the distant mountains whose snowed flanks had flowered into glorious orange and deepened blue. The sky was whitening from its own afternoon blueness and she shaded her eyes to see again the beauty that had ever lain at the feet of the Aurumshade Tower, her home and protector standing on the sentinel peak of Adika Mountain. She sighed and saw from her ghostly reflection in the window tint that she was smiling, which made her smile widen so that her brother rested his hands on her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. They went to join all the others for the evening meal, now set out as usual on the great dining trestles.

In her journals she would describe this as the day of the snow leopard although it had started as usual with her lessons and assignments. Mountain Technology was amongst her favourite fields of study and not only because it was taught by one of her most beloved aunts or because it held the keys to the successful survival of her nation. Although the mathematics was quite demanding there was huge compensation in the mental pictures it conjured of volcanic forges and platonic vices and diamond-hard weathering. She was considering it as her specialisation even though her mother often hinted that Atmospherics was a very good alternative for one so talented. Thisbe would take her mother’s arm as they walked through the scented orchard levels and listen to her opinions, of which there were many. Often they would agree that Global Research was also a very respectable field, both finding it irksome that even now there was only sure knowledge of an estimated ten percent of their planet, that within a radius of five thousand leagues from Aurumshade’s origin. At best they could say that they had some idea of what they did not know. Amongst these Unknowns was the “snow question”. It seemed certain that there must be a great reserve of water somewhere and yet that surely could not be amongst the mountains, where the draining effect of gravity and storm would leak it away. Also there was the long-standing question “are we alone”. Were there peoples in mountains beyond their own or even in the theoretical water regions (although some argued that the atmospheric pressure in such places would be too great to support human existence)?
The choices that lay ahead of her thrilled Thisbe but did not distract her from her immediate duties. Above all she delighted in being perceived (and spoken of) as intelligent, practical and reliable.

By the middle of the morning she was working with her shift in the twelfth level car port, servicing and applying software upgrades. The team was quiet and focused on their work but they had all looked up when an emergency team appeared at the far end of the bay. Her father was amongst the leaders and she also noticed that Kurt and Dirk were there. Her father had initially shown some doubt when she asked (having confirmed that this would not affect the team objectives) whether she might go with them. But he did have her thermal suit ready stowed in his pack so that no delay was caused and he had seemed to be pleased with her.
As they flew away from the Tower, Thisbe looked back as she always did to see the car’s ice trail in the air and the sight of mighty Aurumshade dwindle against the mountain. Before long even Adika was lost amongst its fellows, all turning into distant blue as if melding with the sky.
It was five hundred leagues to the place where the she-leopard had been stranded by a rock fall. They calmed the animal without it even being aware of their arrival. Her father stepped out onto the snowy ledge and knelt down close to her, allowing time for the cat’s mind to accept that this was only a dream. When they all helped lift her out of the snow Thisbe was able to touch her fur and see the mountain light dancing in her orange eyes. Despite the ever-present whistle of the gale she could hear the low rumble in the leopard’s throat and she observed how the beauty of the animal seemed to have been recognised by the rise and fall in the voice of the wind.
On the way home Thisbe thought of how her father had held the leopard, possibly as he had cradled her as a small child, and looked out across his mountain world with the snow-light now soaring in his grey eyes. She had embraced her pride of him in warming silence and had then looked at Kurt. But he was looking at her as though he wanted her to know that in his eyes she was the most lovely of the creatures on the mountain ledge and she did not return his smile. Dirk was also smiling but his eyes had been fixed upon the beautiful sleeping animal and her heart had warmed to see that intelligence in a boy of her own age. She had let her hand brush his when they both stroked back the grey and white neck fur as it was ruffled into waves by the whisper of the frozen breeze.

Thisbe finished her supper with a quiet sigh of pleasure and touched everyone on the shoulder before going down to her room and opening the record of her day. As she finished her journal entry she noticed that this was the fifteenth anniversary of her birth in the year 27(Ex93)(RmZ)(N) of Universal Creation. She tapped her nose in celebration and began to write.
Her journal contained no secrets except for her dreams. They had become ever more persistent and so powerful that she had never shared them, although she would if anybody dared to ask her. She knew that there was no shame in the pleasure they brought.
It was not the visions that pleased her most, it was the sounds. They came in strange patterns of amplitude and pitch that almost made sense. And sometimes they gathered into great masses like snowstorms moving in swirls of harmony. She could not tell whether they were from the sky or scooped from the mountains. Often they seemed to circle around her and promise to lift her bodily into the ice storms above. She wanted to take them and craft them, to drive them in new directions. She suspected that she had that power to arrange and elaborate and create variations. Perhaps even to give birth to completely new movements. Always her eyes would fill and her heart would grow as if it might break the bones of her chest. And the sound, that tremulous timbre, that rose above all the rest and moved in magnificence as if simply attended by all others was one she recognised well.

Thisbe lay down and hoped to dream of the voice of the wind.