“What do I carry in my pockets and who am I?” Ok. My name is Daniel Zebulon nilo Emmett, and what do I carry? As an alchemist most of the things I need are mine at the clasp of a hand. I can simply wish anything I need, money for my bag, coins for my purse, water for my skin, all these I can use a spell for.
The only things I really carry are my tattoo license, my cog-badge that says I’m a member of the police, and a small ornate bottle.
It’s crystal, clear and about the size to Carry in your palm, But it is cut and polished to be beautiful, it bears a moon script on it in silver writing that says “We are Inkaru.” I keep it turned so the name is obscured. They are my best friend, and oldest companion and I cannot bear to lose them so when I travel I Carry their bottle with me.
“What was the worst time you ever had?”
Besides— besides that day? That one is off limits even if I did remember it.” His voice shook as he spoke into the slab. He could feel the tickle of the Ink trying to get his attention. The images were quiet, but he knew them. A cool blue pool, a beautiful flower, a candle flame going out in a gust of wind. They repeated in the back of his mind and Daniel smiled.
“It would have to be the time that we were tried. Someone had accused us of using our powers unjustly or that was how it started, but in reality it was a city that hadn’t had a walker in years, and they were afraid of Us.
“I don’t really recall how it started, and it may be that they were in charge and I was dozing as sometimes happens since my ink does not sleep as we do. But that was the first time I was told to empty my pockets, and it reminded me of that.
“We are—“. Please don’t. You are not a friend and you cannot use it. “ I remember telling them. But they persisted,”.
“What sort of name is Inkaru? And what is this?”
I sighed, trying to hold back exasperation. ”It’s my cogwheel, and it is their name.” I could feel the magic building. “Inkaru, they are officers of the cog,”
He stopped fighting at that. Even if they were mortals, officers we could not go against, not without losing our right to wear ink. So we spent the night in a cold iron cell, and by morning we felt more tired and weary than we had in a long time. The cell was cold iron. A misnomer. It’s not cold, as in temperature, its cold as in quenched. Forged iron, makes it hard to use our powers, and with the iron shackles we could not gather moonlight.
I was tired when we were brought before the judge and the magistrates. “Please state your full legal name for the record.
“Daniel Zebulon Nilo Emmett, Inkwalker of the Emmett line,”
“We have here your Id why is there no mention of your middle names?
Zebulon Obadiah nilo Emmett was my father, and I do not like the memory of his name because I struggle not to remember him as I last saw him, insane and instead remember him as the loving man I knew.
“Why is there no record of your birth?”
“Under lunar I was born Aizadihar of the 79 year after “Alharb” In traditional I was born the 24 of fibrayir, according to common calendar, again 79 alharb”
That’s not possible. It’s 219 alharb. That would make you…”
“Yes, a hundred and forty.” Daniel said, “And for 124 of that I have been an Inkwalker.”
“Who or what is Inkaru?” The judge asked.
“They are my ink. The thing that makes me Inkwalker, the oldest friend I have and the best caretaker.”
“Can we see him?”
“They are a symbiotic sir, if you see me you can see them. If you would like I can let them take control, but they do not understand the world as we do.”
“What form of address do you prefer?”
“We prefer the neutral if you please, you may call us inkaru, because we have judged you to be a righteous man, but the others may call us by the walker’s name for we do not know nor trust them, and that is not a name we answer to lightly.”
“What do you know of why you are here?”
“We are here because someone feared us, because their family dabbled in the taboo arts, and they feared we would judge them. They called us “khayin” to keep us here knowing we could not leave without answering the charge or chance the ire of the mistress and her consort.”
“How do you know?”
“We read the truth as surely as you read your slab. We are kept by our will and by cold iron, and we do not complain because the cog keep us, but quenched iron will kill our friend before long, and we fear for him, for we cannot pull moonlight so shackled as we are.”
“Why would it kill you?”
“Daniel is older than his years, and without our magic, he will age and die, for he is nearly twice the life of a man.”
“So you cannot leave?”
“As long as we are righteous men we cannot leave or he will die anyway, and then the old ones wake and all will be like echo,”
Daniel blinked and was back.
“They understand us but inkword is different it isn’t a language as we define it so much gets lost in translation. But they are afraid for me, and for themselves. For if I die I might take them with me.”
“Do you speak inkword?”
“A little but as a one-one I can only speak it imperfectly. Our brains are not set up for a hive mind, or as they like to call it ‘puddle mind’ they don’t understand gender nor do they understand alone. They are never alone.”
“The case against you said that it was preferential magic, that you used magic to better yourself in ways that others could not, and that you used it to give yourself lordship over others.”
Daniel made a divisive noise. “They are just upset that they cannot bear the ink.”
“I can’t answer that?”
“Can your friend?”
Daniel closed his eyes. “They cannot bear it because they do not have the capability, if we were to bind with them they would die. Just as, I know, though you are righteous, so would you. We do not pick, that is not our place, we choose from those who are already marked as able, and of those we sift until we find those strong enough of mind, and soul to carry us. It is not easy for a one-one to become a one-many-one. And if we do not chose carefully the many overwhelm the one.”
“I don’t understand.”
“As I said sir, they are a hive mind, when they split they are still in contact with the greater whole, the Many-many as they call it. That link to the many is too much for many of us mortals. And those with the mark of the sun or moon can bind with them, but that still does not tell them if they are righteous if they can judge and above all if their mind will be ok with an other mind.
I was sixteen when I took my ink and even after five years of training wearing them full time was still a shock. And the first words of Inkword I ever heard were the ones he uses even now, a calm pool, a beautiful flower and a candle blown out by the wind. The pool is safe, it is my grotto where nothing can hurt me, the flower and flame remind me to breathe in the flower blow out the candle, a breathing exercise for when I’m too scared or worked up.”
“Who is this?” The judge pointed to an Inkwalker projected by the slab.
“That is asa, one of my siblings.”
“How many sibling did you have?”
He honestly had to stop and think. “There were forty nine that I knew of. Including all my halves.”
“Did your father practice having more than one wife?”
“Not at a time, he was over six hundred when he died, and I was sixteen, so that tells you something. But I do not know what this has to do with me or this case. “She was also inked?”
“Where is she?”
“I do not know, Inkaru only says that the ink is still bonded to her, but she left for the far desert when I was young. About half my family took the ink, there have been 29 Emmett walkers directly related to me, and another few who are related by friendship or by other bonds.”
Daniel looked years older than this morning. “Please your honor, we do not know what else to say, but with the shackles we cannot help him, please, either remove the shackles or give us moon water that we may not kill him with our own need unable to draw magic from around.”
“Cold iron stops you?”
“Yes, no magic outside ourselves, but that means we cannot pull it in and that we must use what power he has. And he had not enough for us too.”
The magistrate unlocked the shackles over the protests of others.
Once the shackles were off we could gather magic with a few hummed notes. “We are still righteous,”
“What do you mean?”
“Sir,” Daniel’s voice shook, “if you hold against us, I lose my ink, best case, worst case, we both die.”
We have not judged because it is not our city, we have not been asked, I came to visit some who had things I needed.
And this magic is yours? Both of yours?”
“Then I see no reason to hold you.”
“The charge was that you stole magic, but if this is your combined magic, then nothing was taken, no blood marks or sigils, and no crystals. So we cannot hold you. Do we owe anything to you for the injury?”
“Just your promise of good faith that you seek the seven to bring your city back.”
“I went home, but it’s still true, I carry those three things.”