Out of the summer darkness, a light blossomed. It was barely there–a pinprick, far away, below the mountain on the plain. Other lights shone there, from cities and villages and isolated villas and houses.
Ishi looked down at the new light from his lanai. His villa, tucked into the ridge of the foothills, was dark. It wasn’t that he was hiding–a Magistrate had no secrets–but he relished being inconspicuous.
His bodyguards liked the darkness. House lights compromised their night vision, and limited their movements if they wanted to avoid presenting silhouettes against the light.
Ishi cupped his hand around a match and lit a smoke.
The spark of light on the plain moved. Moved closer. Too fast to be a person afoot, to slow to be a wagon or carriage, to steady to be a person on horseback.
That left Dahl in his machine–the steam-horse on wheels. What could he want now? At this hour? Of course, the hours of the day meant no more to Dahl than the seasons of the year, with his artificial lights and artificial warmth and artificial breezes.
He claimed everyone lived that way, where he came from, but Ishi had his doubts. He and the other Magistrates had long ago decided Dahl’s people had exiled him for being unnatural. Nobody but the people here, in Tininglia, would tolerate such extreme oddity.