Ten million stars in the black sky
mystic fires burning in our hearts
born of sunlight
Waves of man lift silent cries
twisted earth seething in chains
freedom is a vapor
Twice risen once fallen
champions swept away
Music silent upon the earth
locked in perilous stone
Guardians succumb to shadow
power warded in secret
Compelling mind and soul
submit and live
Sunrise breeds despair
goodness flees to the dark
Lawlessness becomes virtue
rebellion is nigh
Finding a dark place in the City of the Sun King was almost impossible. By imperial decree the city streets were bathed with light all through the night. By law, interiors must have candles or lamps burning at all times. Fostering darkness was a crime punished by assignment to hard labor for a first offense, and death for repeat offenders. All good citizens, rich or poor, paid exorbitant taxes to help maintain a web of pipelines that delivered fuel oil to every room, every business, and every household throughout the capitol.
After reconquering the world, the Sun King’s very first decree had been the abolition of darkness. Darkness was the dwelling place of evil and therefore only those with evil in their hearts would long after the dark. His laws required every town, from the largest cities to the smallest hamlet, to install his elaborate pipelines to fuel the fires of lamps, heedless of the costs.
Industry was bent toward the creation of light. Brass tubing suppliers, wick makers, chandlers, lamp manufacturers, and fuel oil distillers became the foundation of a new class of wealthy merchants in the Sun King’s budding empire.
Remnants of the old Guardians were outlawed and dissolved, replaced by the Wardens. They walked the streets, keeping the peace and inspecting buildings. They banged on doors in the middle of the night, waking citizens to inspect their lighting, and dragging away those whose homes harbored too many shadows. Offenders might find themselves stripped of all possessions and spend a month on a chain gang. Repeat offenders, those sinners who worshiped evil, were hung in the Great Square every Thirday.
Whole generations were born that never knew true darkness. Everything, even sleeping and lovemaking, took place under the light. Children were raised to fear and abhor darkness, giving rise to stories of monsters dwelling under beds, forests, and anywhere else light failed to permeate.
In the Sanctum, patriarchs preached against the evils of darkness, holding up the Emperor as an example for all good citizens to emulate. And no one dared ever travel at night for fear their lamps would run short of fuel, plunging them into a darkness so deep it would steal their souls.
Tinker had outgrown such ideas long ago. When his parents were still alive, they had secretly spent nights camping in the wilds. Sometimes the night had been so black he couldn’t see his own hand in front of his face. The only proof it existed was when it blotted out the stars as he held it toward the night sky. Even now, Tinker slept with his lamp hooded each night, letting only the barest glint of light shine onto the ceiling of his bedroom, echoing the stars of his childhood.
He stopped meddling with the gadgetry on the table at he thought of his father. Very few days passed when he didn’t think about Papa, and it saddened him to realized he’d not thought about him since the week began. His latest project, a broken pocket watch, had monopolized his attention for several days. Its repair tougher than most, owing to the fact he had to reconstruct nearly half of the mechanism from scratch.
The watch was owned by a block Warden, an arrogant man who’d dropped it off on Firstday, demanding it be repaired before Sixthday was over. He’d hinted not so subtly at the dire consequences of failure. Tinker was known as one of the best gadgeteers in the City, perhaps the very best, but he could only fix something if materials were available.
The Warden should have mentioned his watch needed an illegal part.