Aai waded through the water along the coast, some of the remnants of her ship washing ashore around her. She didn't look happy. There were certain things she needed that currently were not available. The coastline was rocky, a river in the distance lowering the cliffs allowing her to reach the interior. She thought of the story of the five brothers and their wife that had climbed the tallest mountain in the world, and felt that her current situation was similar. Each one of them had succumbed to their sins until only one of them made it to the top. She shrugged. It was just a story. First, the notion of sin was a quaint concept that had more to do with religion than with reality. Second, if there was such a thing as a sin, she would be the first to suffer. Before Aai was a Traveler, when her name was longer, she had been locked in her castle, burned badly with almost magical fire, and skewered by a sword. Unfortunately for the place she had Traveled to, these events hadn't killed her. She was left with a single scar, visible only to her lovers. Before people realized who she was, she Traveled again, and reached the Mar Enmig. She didn't like to Travel, in the beginning. It was only after the sword sliced through her belly that she was forced to, and from necessity it became an obsession. She had seen more than any other person, and had ruled most of it.
It had started with such a simple thought. She had called it "the brotherhood". In her travels she had discovered that language was an important separator of people. A country defined itself by its language, and countries with multiple languages usually didn't work as well as countries that had just one. People with a different language often wanted to split off and form their own country, like the Basques. It was in the Basques where she started thinking about this, but only once she had circled the Mar Enmig to the southern continent, did she finish her idea. If language united people into countries, couldn't she devise her own language, that would unite people? Not in one place, but all across the world? She experimented, and eventually tuned it sufficiently, giving birth to the Xivato. Fortunately for the brotherhood, one of the first people she recruited had been a mathematician, who had worked out many of the other essentials, like the credit code sequences, the identification protocol and other safeguards. Encoding of such information needed to be easy, decoding extremely hard.
It had taken years before the existence of the Xivato was discovered, but once they were, most intelligence agencies saw them as a threat. As part of the AXE initiative a small group in London used an analytical engine to break what they knew of the Xivato code. Unfortunately, before they could apply their knowledge, the team had received a batch of poisoned apples, which killed all of them, and the deck of cards containing the analytical machine's program disappeared. No particular Xivato, certainly not Aai, had been involved in this, but she imagined the sequence of events had involved at least ten Xivato, all working relatively independently. One developing a poison and leaving it in a specific location, another picking apples and leaving them in another location, a third picking up the "water" from the location where the poison was left and spraying it over the apples, another to bring the apples to the scientists, someone to pick up the cards, and someone the cards would be delivered to. At a second layer were people that were handing out these instructions, one side that was aware of the poison, and one side that was aware of the target. Finally there would be one person that would have instructed these two sides, but this would have been so far up the chain of Xivato that no AXE investigator would ever find out about it. They wouldn't have known where to focus their attention, each step looking relatively innocent, and usually insufficient to even use as pressure in an interrogation. She remembered one individual, a Mr. Holmes, who had come close, but fortunately he was distracted by another, more directly menacing individual or group, and he stopped looking into the Xivato. Most likely this other individual or group had been another Xivato creation, just to distract him, but that was the power she had unleashed, and she was unwilling to think too deeply about it.
Now, decades later, she had only a remnant of color left in her hair. It had a red patch and a blond patch, but was mostly white. It was blowing around her face in the sea breeze, and Aai tightened her furry cap. Her face had deep wrinkles and patches of discoloration from the burn marks, which had started to surface during the last year, making her feel old. She wore gloves over her wrinkled hands, which were holding a long stick that she used for balance and progress.
Aai needed a local contact first. She walked past the first river, the cliffs rising back up. After five kilometers there was a second river, this time guided into the Mar Enmig using stone walls. She walked along the wall upstream until the gravel of the beach disappeared and became a narrow road. The road followed the cliff land inward until she was higher than spring tide level, where the first houses started. The majority of the population fished for a living. she looked at the sun, most of them would be out fishing. It was still before the siesta and that there would be someone awake somewhere. She spoke with the various inhabitants she found and eventually she found a fourteen year old boy with short black hair and a white scar on his cheek who spoke Xivato. Unfortunately he only knew the basic alliterations, slowing their communication down. She tried several faster dialects, but all of these confused him. She gave up and mentioned her credit and identification code too, which he responded with his details.
Aai stated her desires, which to non-Xivato sounded as if she was discussing the various kinds of fish available. <I have three requests. The first request is for a Mar Enmig ship to the eastern gateway. I offer 9X credits for an intermediary, and 99X credits for passage.>
<There are no ships here. There are ships in Estepon. I can go there and arrange it. I will need 10X additional for conversion.>
Conversion meant that he would need the credits to exchange for real money, which is a service offered by some rich Xivato who preferred to avoid quests and instead bought the credits they needed. Aai nodded and provided the credit code addition for 19X credits. Her skills with credit codes were unparalleled, and she added a conditional that allowed her to void the credits in case he didn't comply. She knew the boy was eager to do this task, but she didn't get where she was by trusting people. Although she couldn't decode them, she could recognize some basic aspects of credit codes, and the boy would never have seen an X credit in his life.
Aai continued. <The second request is to communicate with your recruiter, or the highest coded Xivato you know. I offer 9X credits with an additional bonus depending on the Xivato's code.>
<I'm no longer in touch with my recruiter. But I know someone.>
<I will give you the credit code addition in their presence, so it can be shortened as well.>
By conveying credit, a Xivato's credit code would become longer. Given the nature of the Xivato language, long credit codes are unwieldy, so it is essential that they are shortened frequently. Shortening a credit code requires the presence of at least a third Xivato, and will change their credit code as well. By requiring three Xivato the system guarantees that the math is checked by others.
<The third request is for food and lodging.>
The boy smiled at the old woman before him. 'That is easy. You're more than welcome in my house, and my parents wouldn't mind having you either. They should be home soon, they usually come in before the siesta.'
Aai smiled, only vaguely recalling some who found hospitality more important than credits. She was going to give him more credits anyway, especially if he did all the other tasks she had asked him to do. He guided her to his house, which was a few steps higher along the road. It was clear that she was going to eat a lot of fish, and perhaps a little rice and some undefined vegetable. It would sustain her.