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The Shield of Jamos

by R. C. Capasso

The old one couldn’t see. His eyes showed a glassy purple, the unmistakable sign of blindness in the Aeodian race.

Yet his voice revealed no doubt. “A Casheen water icon.”

I kept my hands lightly clasped about the sealed box that would have hidden the icon from any but those with lead-piercing vision. So, the talk of old Bodror’s gifts was not false.

“A Casheen water icon, yes.” I kept my voice flat as I studied him. The thinning feathers on his head and down over the flat vestigial wings put him at just past middle age for his species. His lower torso was encased in a round, smooth rolling chair. He must struggle to move through the narrow antique shop, filled to overflowing with artifacts from across the universe.

“I will give you one thousand glinders.” Bodror’s tone matched mine for equanimity. He knew better than to betray excitement to a potential seller.

“I’m not interested in glinders.”

His stillness allowed me to hear the soft rustle of the Chandian spirit clock perched on a high shelf to my right. Breathing slowly, I took in the scents of wood, clay, zantium and ash, a mixture common to all such establishments.

“You wish to barter?”

“I do.”

“You have something in mind? Or do you wish to peruse the shop?’ One of his webbed hands almost moved, a mere finger twitch indicating the wealth around us.

There had been a time in my life when I would have delighted in pouring over his inventory. Wire masks of the Cle people spun on thin lines dropped from the ceiling. Jewelry boxes from Alsonn opened and closed their drawers, hypnotically revealing different contents with each opening. Raehann swords, firmly lashed to the walls, sent images of their kills out across the opposite walls, shining repetitions of Herran deaths replayed endlessly.

“You should have a sign on the door, warning Heranns not to enter.”

Bodror flicked an eyebrow. “Heranns know not to go anywhere the past is remembered.”

I reflected a moment. There were many places that held a past I avoided, too. “What I want is not here.”

Bodror smoothed his already blank face. “Then a trade is hardly possible.”

“Ah, but it is.”

For the first time a slight blue crept up his throat, and I lifted a calming hand. “You are not at risk.”

“Then I have no idea—”

“Just connect.”

The blue deepened, and Bodror turned his head away. My own heart rate quickened. I did not enjoy this.

“I connect to nothing,” Bodror lied. “I have no powerful allegiances. I am a poor shopkeeper.”

“You remain linked to every object you touch.”

The fine down on his back rose and fell. Clearly, that rumor was true, also.

I kept my hands on the icon but leaned forward. “This is your reason for being. You live through your objects. With each acquisition, you bond with the object. You take on a little of its history but, most importantly, you follow it when it leaves your shop.” I willed my eyes not to look at his paralyzed body. “With it you travel across the city, across the planet.”

“Across the universe.” His glazed eyes seemed to turn inward. “I live lives everywhere. Everywhere a customer roams with my wares.”

Each thud of my heart reverberated through my entire being. “Then you know the location of the Shield of Jamos.”

Bodror shrank back against his chair. “No.”

“But you do.”

“I know where... But that is impossible.”

“Not impossible at all. Just tell me where, and the icon is yours. Think where a luxury item like the icon might take you.”

He couldn’t help turning to me. “Why do you even want the shield? It’s cursed.”

“Not for a prince of the blood.”

His blind eyes widened as if to pull me into him. Both rubbery hands stretched in front of me; he might have been warming himself at a fire. “You are Shandur? But he was killed.”

I let myself smile. “No sword has reflected my death yet.”

“And you want the—”

“To claim my throne. To take back my land.” He knew my enemies; everyone did.

His face closed, his chair half-wheeling from me. “I would just be hastening your death.”

Steeling myself against compassion, I hardened my voice. “I can take care of myself. But you don’t refuse out of concern for me. Wherever the shield is, you like being there.”

“It’s beautiful.” His voice sank. “Wealth beyond imagining. A palace half the size of this city. And they carry the shield across mountains in processions. Their sky, so vast, gleams gold and blue.”

I could not keep my eyes from his rolling prison. “I know that you live through it. But my people—”

He whirled back, his blank eyes tearing. “Who are they to me? Your poor sniveling people? Do they buy my wares? Can they take me to places of wonder? Can they take me from here?”

“They can barely survive.” I stood, aware of how I towered over him. “But give me the shield, and I can take my place as their ruler. I can rebuild our kingdom, our world.”

“My link is only with the buyer. When an object passes from my hand to theirs. If you wrench the shield from them, I lose my sight and my life there. A life better than any other vision.” His hand gestured round the shop. “Better than any other life.”

I placed the icon on the edge of a crowded table. “I leave you this icon in recompense. Whoever buys it will be able to take you to a world of luxury. And I also will buy from you.” I rose and moved to a shelf. A weathered star chart lay rolled up in a corner. “Sell me this. I will carry it with me, and you will go where I go.”

“To battle? To death? Why should I wish to endure that?”

I knelt before him. “Because in the end you will witness a starving people struggle to their feet. You will watch burnt villages rebuilt, crops turning golden, children smiling again. Come with me to a land where children once more learn to smile.”

Bodror slumped against the rim of his chair. ‘You’re a dreamer. You don’t know what I’ve seen.”

I opened the star chart. “Come see into my world, Bodror. In my corner of the universe there is hope.”

His lips quivered until one single hand hovered over the parchment, finally landing on a distant spot. “Hope. I would like to see that.”

Copyright © 2020 by R. C. Capasso

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