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weekly (Another Night…) – 7

“Iya, Gupti,” grumbled the hulking Ghan Mori clapping him on the back.

The force of the giant-spawn’s friendly touch knocked Gupti forward three steps, and right out of his heavy thoughts.

“Ghan!” he exclaimed, catching the pouch of dates and stumbling to catch up with the long strides. “Careful, there,” he smiled broadly. “Attacking an officer of the Watch is a serious offence!”

From twice Gupti’s height, Ghan looked down at him. Burnished dust from the long, tiresome walk coated his legs and waist, leaving him even more obviously half-man and half-giant than otherwise. Above his loincloth, a nicety he’d adopted soon after arriving seven years ago, his broad, bare chest, arms like columns, and block-shaped head rose from the dusty lower body with a chalky greyness, carved and cut with a rough, imprecise hand. A statue, unfinished, and tired of waiting.

Wide-set, flat grey eyes showed neither lids nor pupils, but fine crack lines in the corners revealed his understanding. At the very bottom of his face, beneath the blank, nose-less space under his eyes, the near edge of his mouth split upwards slightly.

Laughing, Gupti slapped him on the thigh, making sure to do so palm down, to save his knuckles. “Be good, neh?”

Ghan nodded slowly as he moved off, one chiseled arm raised in parting.

Panting slightly as he slowed from the awkward, half-jogging pace, Gupti pressed a hand to his rounded side. “Should’ve asked him for a ride.”

Watching Ghan’s torso rise and fall with his methodical, enormous steps, Gupti regained his breath, and his inner balance. What purpose was there to despair? The teachings of B’el Lakompa spoke of the weakness of that emotion, and guided his followers toward better communion with the present, where despair could not exist.

Even T’fa, the Academic, discussed the dangers of despair, particularly during times of conflict. The best Watchers were prepared, focused, and able to resist both the uncertainties of the future and the misgivings of the past. Salah al-Din needed Watchers in the moment, outside the concerns of the populace, who could be counted upon to uphold their oaths and the way of law, who could be trusted to avoid temptations.

“Magyi!” In a hole cut in the wall of the third floor of the nearest building, a boy leaned out, waving, his grubby face lit from below by the lamppost on the corner.

One dust-covered hand, then two, lifted from the river of people ahead of Gupti, floating on the surface. “Iya, Abdi!”

All things existed in the moment. One had only to see.

Slipping the last date into his mouth, Gupti savored the thick suffusion of honey and the plump firmness of the pungent date as he walked down Road 49. It was one thing to strive for excellence; it was quite another to give up all enjoyment.

Past the intersections with 20 and 22, Gupti rode the steady tide of tired workers toward Manadan’s apartment. By the time he reached Road 24, the hollow boom of the Watch Clock, its yellow-white bones rising impossibly above the slums, was sounding the half-hour.

“Magg,” Gupti cursed. They were late.

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