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Chapter 21 Jubilee

  • At the far end of Fisherman's Wharf, past the eager early morning tourists an_heir bleary children, a jeweled airship hung in the air.
  • The balloon portion resembled an enormous, ruby-colored seahorse. Below thi_as a comfortable looking gondola of a dark, lacquered wood with gol_iligree. Spyder saw the seahorse blocks away, but wasn't worried. By now h_new that no one else could see the thing or would remember it for more than _ew seconds if they did.
  • Spyder parked the Dead Man's Ducati by a clam chowder stand in front o_isherman's Wharf and left the keys in the ignition. Taking Lulu by the hand,
  • he led her down the long wooden walkway connected to the piers. Long befor_isherman's Wharf had been transformed into a video game and fried fis_ourist trap, the place had been a working pier for fishing boats coming i_rom beyond the Golden Gate. Even weekend sailors avoided the place now,
  • however. It wasn't just the tourists. The few places left to tie up had bee_taked out by hundreds of growling and extremely territorial sea lions.
  • Mostly, the animals used the piers to sun themselves, so in the cool mornin_ir there weren't more than a dozen or so sacked out on the deck. Spyde_alked Lulu carefully around the sea lions to the airship.
  • Primo waved to them from the end of the pier. Shrike was sitting on one of th_ilings, her face to the sun. Her pale skin was outlined in the orange an_inks of dawn light. Spyder stood behind her. She got to her feet, put a han_n his chest and smiled at him. "I never doubted you for a moment, even if yo_oubted yourself," Shrike said and pecked him on the cheek. She went to th_alloon and Primo helped her into the gondola, then Lulu. Spyder followed the_nside as Primo cast off the rope that tethered them to the wharf. For _econd, it seemed as if nothing was happening. Then, they rose straight int_he chill morning sky. Spyder's stomach dropped with the nauseous sensation o_iding in a freight elevator.
  • Shrike was passing around cups and a thermos full of hot coffee. Spyder poure_ome and watched Primo at the front of the gondola operating a spider web o_ines and pulleys, positioning the airship to catch the bay winds. Spyder too_is cup and went to little man.
  • "Want some coffee?" Spyder asked.
  • "I don't drink stimulants, sir."
  • "Need any help with the ropes?"
  • Primo grinned. "Oh, no thank you. I'm fine." He pulled enthusiastically on on_ine and let another slide through his hand as they turned away from the coas_nd drifted toward the Golden Gate Bridge, steadily gaining altitude as the_ent.
  • "You look like the cat who ate the canary, after fucking it," said Spyder.
  • The little man nodded. "I'm doing what I love," he said. "I serve Madam_inders because that is my duty. She gave my clan sanctuary centuries ago an_e always honor our debts. But living sedentary in her palace isn't th_appiest life for me."
  • "A ramblin', gamblin' man."
  • Primo laughed. "We Gytrash are travelers both by profession and b_isposition. I grew up on horseback, in trading ships clad in gold and o_ndless overland treks through all three Spheres.
  • "This airship reminds me of one I was on many years ago. My clan landed on th_sland of Montes Lunae to make repairs on take on supplies. Montes Lunae is _ich, green island in the second Sphere which, back then, was ruled b_hashash, the Raven King. It was the hundred and fiftieth year of Chashash'_ein and in keeping with Lunae tradition, he'd declared Jubilee."
  • "That some kind of party?" asked Spyder.
  • "It's much, much more than that, sir. During Jubilee, all laws are suspended,
  • all slaves freed, all the lands won in battle are returned to their origina_wners. Jubilee is a time of renewal and madness. A time to burn th_ields—both physical and metaphysical. Prisons became art galleries. Ar_alleries became bordellos. Bordellos became court houses. Then it all change_gain over night.
  • "As time goes on, the laws of physics begin to fall apart. Mortals can fly…
  • badly, in my experience. On Montes Lunae, many aeronauts cracked their skull_efore they got the hang of it. And when they did learn the basics of flying,
  • they'd still get air sick. It was a bad idea to enter some neighborhood_ithout an umbrella.
  • "There was a method to all this madness. Everyone who lived on the island,
  • including visitors like us, were given tattoos with colored shapes—circles,
  • triangles or squares, along with alchemical symbols. This complex combinatio_f colors and symbols told you who you were in relation to everyone else o_ny given day. On my chest, I received an inverted red triangle with th_ymbol for quicksilver.
  • "The night my clan received its tattoos (each of us received a differen_ombination of symbols), we had no idea of our place among the islanders or t_ach other anymore. We were saved when I saw a Captain from the Raven King'_rmy. I had met the man earlier, but that night he prostrated himself befor_e. He was a slave, he told me, the lowest off the low in relation to thos_ho carried my symbol. I had him explain the pecking order to my whole clan,
  • so that we might fit in with the celebrations. When I saw the captain again _ew days later, he was the lord and I was the slave. This is how it was durin_ubilee. Anyone could be anyone else on any given night. Even the Raven Kin_imself was, on occasion, both a prisoner and a slave. I know this because I,
  • Primo Kosinski, of the Black Iron Gytrash, for three full days became king o_he second Sphere.
  • "I was in prison when it happened. Everyone ends up prison during Jubilee.
  • What I didn't know was that the Jubilee kings and queens were chosen in priso_y a lottery. My lottery card bore the outline of a wolf's paw. This mean_othing to me since a number of other prisoners had similar symbol on thei_ots. But through a combination of the wolf, the configuration of the stars i_he sky and my tattoos, I was declared king and taken to the royal palace hig_top the World Poplar.
  • "I loved being king. Pretty girls—exotic dancers who were now th_egislature—would bring me fruit and legal documents. I often signed th_ocument without reading them, assuming I would learn what they wer_ventually.
  • "We passed new Jubilee laws constantly, then would make it illegal to enforc_hem. The laws were often deliberately ludicrous. It became illegal to carr_n small dog while smoking a pipe. It was further illegal to attempt sexua_elations with an animal while either party was on fire. No one could smil_hile wearing white, or frown while in the presence of a man in stripes. Thos_ound guilty of these charges might find themselves banished to the sewer_ith nothing but a candle and a baseball bat. Or they might be mad_rchbishop.
  • "The only law that remained constant and coldly rational throughout Jubile_as simple: Everyone on Montes Lunae, resident or guest, must participate i_ubilee wholeheartedly while he or she was there. This was a hard thing fo_ome people. It was a hard thing for my family.
  • "Eventually, my mother found herself subordinate to a man she didn't like, _arriage broker who was also a card cheat and a libertine—two things my mothe_ouldn't abide. She refused to serve the man when it was her time. When th_roker insisted, my father and brothers beat him. My family was arrested an_ought before me. I was King. I had no choice. They had broken the most basi_aw of Jubilee.
  • "I executed them."
  • Spyder looked at Primo hard as the little man made subtle adjustments on th_ines that controlled the airship's progress.
  • "But this isn't a sad story," Primo continued. "To honor my family's death, _repared their bodies as a great feast on my last night as king. I invited al_he citizens of the island to dine with me. Everyone ate and through th_itizens' digestive tracts, my family became a part of every person on Monte_unae. When those citizens had children, a tiny piece of my family was passe_n to them. To this day, I am welcome in any home on the island, from th_ighest to the lowest, because, in a sense, every person on Montes Lunae is _lood relation."