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Cyprus Speaker, Eldest Wizard of the city-state Archet, left his staff leaning in the hall before entering the blank-walled Room. He completed the ritual of calming the mind, bringing his palms together above his head and then slowly down until they were at his chest. His elbows and head formed the three corners of the Open Triangle that was to remind him of the link between hands and mind. He lowered his arms to his sides and began.
“Awake,” he said, extending his open hands and bringing them upward.
“Awakened,” replied the Room.
“Interface. Visual.” He began a series of complex hand motions in response to the images the room began to show him.
He placed his left hand before his face and spread his fingers and the Room showed him a map of Archet. The dark green of the wood filled the borders of the map, and inside lay fields, pastures and little villages. Farther on, near the center on a rise in the land lay the outline of the city walls, and within them the houses and markets of the city dwellers. Cyprus Speaker gestured to the concrete castle at the heart of the city and spread his fingers wide again, and the room showed him a picture of the inside of the castle. He closed two fingers over the image of a room, the same blank-walled Room where he stood.
He cupped that image in one hand and with the other swept the rest of the pictures away. With delicate and precise motions he called other images—people and places, tools and machines, representations of the farms and industries of Archet, symbols and words from languages long forgotten.
Although he could not see it in the blank Room, while he worked the sun tipped from its place overhead and touched the distant treetops.
Finally, he lowered his hands to his side and stood silent for a moment, calming himself again.
“Query. Alnode spross ess,” said the wizard, lowering his hands again as he spoke the secret, magic words.
“Ready,” said the Room.
“Why is this Room losing its function?” asked Cyprus Speaker.
“Thinking.” The Room thought for four seconds. “The rate at which this Room loses function is directly equivalent to the rate at which its power source fades.”
Cyprus Speaker had been Eldest Wizard for fifteen years, and for forty before that he had worked within the Room. In all that time he had never strayed from the rules of use that governed it, but he did so now.
“Without you our land will wither! Who will bring rain in drought? Who will show us where to dig the mines or how to construct the forges? When another plague comes, who will cure it without you?” His voice lost its clarity and became harsh with fear. He was thinking particularly of a childhood memory of his bondslave, Tisha, and watching her return to health within a day of receiving medicine from the great wizards.
“Unable to comply,” said the Room.
The wizard calmed himself again. “Further query. How long can this Room continue to provide information?”
“Thinking. Approximately two hundred and seventy days from this day.”
Cyprus Speaker bowed his head and his shoulders stooped.
“How can the flow of information be restored?” he asked.
“Thinking,” said the room.
No sound came from beyond the walls, and no sound came from the room as it thought or the wizard as he waited. He waited many minutes.
“Answer available,” said the room, “visual form, statistical form, auditory form.”
“Provide,” said the wizard.