Canto 36 – The Palace of a 1,000 Years
The city of Kiro, Gaijin was a heavily populated place. The city was full of high-rise pagoda towers and Kyoto-style castles. Dominating the skyline was the huge obsidian sculpture of a Black Cat atop the Temple of the Four Pillars of the Secret Way. Naylund Smith explained it all to Ged Aero as they made their way through the ornate city.
Ged and Dr. Smith were accompanied by the two children and Xavier Tkriashav. Tkriashav’s young nephew, Friashqaztl, trailed behind the group, timid and shy. All the newcomers were overwhelmed by what they saw.
“This place is more beautiful than anything I ever saw in my visions,” said Tkriashav.
“Do I understand correctly that you are the Master Telepath and Psion?” asked Naylund Smith.
“Yes. I am a powerful telepath, teleport, and clairvoyant. I am not the most powerful of my people, however.”
“Perhaps,” said Dr. Smith, “but you figure prominently in the Prophecy of Shan.”
“If that is a book, I’d like to see it,” said Tkriashav.
“In time. It is a holy book to these people.”
All around the small group, silk-robed people had been gathering to watch as if the six people from the space ship were a circus parade. Many shouted “White Spider!” as if prayers had been at long last answered.
“Can you tell me why I am supposed to be this White Spider?” asked Ged as he took long strides to hurry past lemon-yellow-skinned admirers.
“It is destiny.” Naylund smiled and nodded his head indulgently. “The web of outer space has brought you to us to pick up the threads woven by the last White Spider. The last spider wove this world and its society. You have come to link it to other webs and expand this world’s reach back into the stars.”
“You talk a lot of poetic nonsense.” Ged looked away at the sky.
“Poetic nonsense is also sometimes Truth,” said Dr. Smith. “I will help you to learn that in time.”
Finally, they came to a beautiful castle made of white stone and Gaijinese Teak wood, inlaid with bright blue sapphires. It appeared to have been their destination all along.
“This,” said Dr. Smith, “is the Palace of a Thousand Years. It is your new home.”
“We will live here?” asked Junior.
Dr. Smith looked at the blue boy. “It is the palace belonging to Shen Ming. It is the traditional home of the White Spider. It is the place where the last White Spider, Shan Sasaki once lived and worked.”
“Do you expect me to give up space travel?” asked Ged. “It’s the only life I’ve ever really known.”
“It will be part of the life you will lead as the White Spider. It is the work you are expected to do for us.”
“Hmm.” Ged stared up at the curved roofs of the Palace of One Thousand Years.
Naylund Smith led the way into the palace through a large wooden gate. Inside they came into a courtyard that bustled with activity as if it were a small town all by itself. The courtyard had an ornate Torii arch that marked the center of the great building. There were practice yards there where groups of children under the care of a schoolmaster were learning martial arts, probably karate. There was a large oriental garden for quiet contemplation inside the palace, as well as the entrance into a riding stable filled with two-legged llama-like mammals called kians.
Naylund pointed out the two master towers where the instructors lived. There was a massive central building which Naylund called the Akito House. It contained the vast White Spider library, a place that had almost as many bound volumes of books as books on computer memory crystals. Finally, he pointed out Shen Ming’s Hall, which, he informed them, was the White Spider’s official residence.
They entered Shen Ming’s Hall through a double door that proved to lead to a huge indoor bathing pool. Naked yellow men, women, and numerous children were all bathing there. Junior Aero would’ve blushed if his skin hadn’t been blue. Ged’s skin turned crimson.
Up a marble stair, they came into the Administrator’s Hall, and a large, stately office. Behind the desk was Shen Ming himself, looking spry for a man of nine hundred years. He was bald as a cue ball except for a single top knot at the apex of his head, and he looked like a wrinkled Alfred E. Newman.
“Honored Shen-sensei,” began Dr. Smith. “I bring before you Ged Aero. He is…”
“I know, Naylund-sama, I know. He is the new White Spider. I would know him anywhere! He is just as Shan-dono described him in the Prophecy.”
The silk-clad ancient moved swiftly out from behind the desk and took Ged’s hand. He placed it on his own hairless head. His ridiculous lop-sided smile made new wrinkles blossom across his wizened face.
“I pledge to you all that I have, White Spider,” Shen Ming said in tones of awe. “I will serve you all of my remaining days.” Ged couldn’t begin to speak. The place and the situation filled him up. Tears welled up in his eyes