He was prepared to continue wondering in his solitude until something glittered at the corner of his eye. He lifted his head and saw that in place of the obol, Percival had drawn a cord of coins from a pouch, a mixture of the four Arix’ahr values. He recognised the lowest value, the stone, circular kexion that he carried in his satchel. Virae were common again, copper and pentagonal-shaped, and cenae were the rarely-seen square, silver coins that could pay for two weeks’ worth of millet-munch. But it was the gold coins that he was transfixed by, the gold triangles – the arixel.
He had seen the coins in only one place, the hands of slavers, men and women with expensive robes and permanent curled lips at everything and everybody around them. Slavers could trade one arix for a dozen convicts to work the land, as well as covering for the assembly and transport of them into horse-traps to the borders. Percival’s cord held a handful, and they hung heavily against the bottom knot, something to behold. His interest was noted.
“Ever owned one before?” Percival inquired, managing to remove one from the cord and turn it over in his long fingers. Will shook his head, patting his pocketful of counterfeit kexion. The majihan flipped the coin towards him, and he caught it with quick reflexes, the gold heavy and smooth in his closed hand. He deliberated whether to look, as if it might put him under a spell, but he did, and saw that it was different from the design he was familiar with.
Whilst the kexion he owned were uniquely uneven, they bore the same symbol of a face with hollowed eyes and ten snakes for hair like spreading sunrays. The outer-edges were carved with the same inscription in a language unknown to him:
ORDINIS MAGICAE HOSTEM EST
This coin, however, was different. Glinting in the slow sunlight, it was engraved with the royal seal: a snake in a circle devouring its tail, surrounding an oak tree with swirling branches and ten stars. The rim read in the Maedaal tongue:
AKESE VETÏR ATALAE DRE SEQUEK
“‘Rise with us from Darkness,’” said Anala beneath her breath. Will felt like laughing; years ago, the motto might have been an emblem of hope and strength. Now, all it sounded like was a broken promise.