There were many things to be loved in the Ages of Myst, but many things to be hated also. Achenar hated every minute that Father had forced him to survey the Arimarl desert or dragged him and Sirrus through the desolate tunnels of Selenitic. He hated sitting here now on the catwalk over the canyon of Voltaic listening to the wind and the whispers it carried with it. “Tell me, Sirrus,” he said. “Why’d you really pull me away from Channelwood? I knew you were lying about the crystals you said you’d found.”
“Oh, Achenar, you really should know by now that I never lie about crystals. But I doubt they’ll be of much interest to you. I’ve taken some samples and I judge them to be of purely aesthetic value.”
Achenar eyed him, wondering as always how much of what his brother said was true. Nothing he said could ever be trusted, of course, whether it was true or not. “I think I’ll take a look for myself. The toys I’ve been playing with in Mechanical might need a little extra power.”
“And Father did write this Age to teach us about power, after all.”
“Energy powers future motion,” said Sirrus.
Achenar hated himself for the fits of laughter that the remark induced in him. When he recovered, he said, “I’ve been thinking it might be fun to pay Saavedro a visit. It’s been years since we left Narayan and we’ve grown so much since then, haven’t we?”
“We certainly have. I’ve thinking about the Art, dear brother, and how Father claims to know so much about it. I really don’t think he does. All those rules he tried to force into our heads, were they ever anything except cages to keep us from breaking out and finding the real treasures?”
“Oh, to be sure. What good is it learning rules that are so obviously contradicted in his own library?” Sirrus stood up and waved his arms languidly around. “Or consider the lesson Father tried to teach us here. Energy powers future motion.”
Achenar remembered how Father had gone through each word of the phrase and expanded on each. Future, because energy was the momentum of an object as it traveled through time. Then he had gone on to explain how the phrase pointed towards one of the fundamental garohevtee, but Achenar had never been able to make the leap of thought he needed. It was probably pointless anyway. In a sing-song voice, Achenar said, “The electricity is generated by the force of the water, whose flow follows the gravitational potential of the world. Everything wants to go from the higher to the lower. Even people: that’s why they die so easily.”
“But there’s energy from down below, too. Don’t forget the heat for the airship. Remember how we tried explaining to poor Saavedro where the energy came from to keep his pathetic village afloat and alive? That thick skull of his just doesn’t let anything through! He’s probably still playing the same old songs on his flute. But as I was saying, Father always made sure we knew that energy has to come from somewhere. It can’t appear or disappear. He was wrong about that, wasn’t he?”
Achenar turned away so Sirrus couldn’t see the look of concentration on his face. He hated riddles. There was an old woman on Whiterock who would only speak in riddling questions, which made Achenar want to beat her over the head with her own staff. Fortunately, he remembered the things he and Sirrus had discussed when they’d gone through these tedious lesson Ages the first time, and in particular the mocking remark Sirrus had made when they left Voltaic.
“When we linked into the Age, we brought energy, and when we link out we’ll destroy it,” he said. “It’s clever, isn’t it? We’re not bound by the rules of the book worlds. We’re outside them.”
“I don’t know if Father is really such a fool as he seems, or if he’s hiding the truth from us. Either way, it won’t be any good asking him questions.”
“And just try getting Mother to talk about it,” said Achenar, in the grip of a sudden fury. “We’ve seen her Ages! We know she could write wonderful things once.”
“She was written in one of Grandfather’s books. Maybe a book-worlder can’t think outside the books the way we can. That’s why she always talks about dreaming.”
“I don’t like my dreams,” Achenar whispered.
“She has to play by the rules, and Father wants us to play by the rules, but what if there’s a way for us to cheat? We can take without giving back, if we’re clever. We are clever, aren’t we, dear brother?”
Achenar didn’t answer at first. He ran down to the other end of the catwalk, then ran back, laughing the whole way. “You just want to take and take, don’t you?” he said when he reached Sirrus again. “You’re never satisfied.”
“Very well, what is it that you want?”
“I want everyone and everything to be quiet, except me. I want to put that in the end of every book in Father’s library. They’ll all be trapped at the bottom, where there’s no way to climb out, and I can sit up at the top and mock them.”
“You do have a unique mind. Come along, then. I’ll show you the crystals I found and then we’ll discuss our next move.”
Sirrus walked away and Achenar stared at him, wondering if he could get away with pushing him off the catwalk. But life had been fairly boring lately, what with Father’s long expeditions in Everdunes and the end of the festival season in Channelwood. “Let’s try and change the rules, then,” he said. The words came out more loudly than he’d intended, and to hide his embarrassment he howled into the air and ran after his brother.