Sixth Bit

The bit that introduces the Bone Jacks

“We are life defending itself. We are humanity’s orphans and life’s children, dancing to the eternal song. We help life do things that it might not be able to do otherwise. It isn’t magic, although it might look like it.

“It used to be the Bone Jacks mattered, and not so long ago as you’d think. The way people talk, the Bone Jacks have been antiques, doing little more than shaking off dust, for millennia and anon. It hasn’t been so long as that. Although these things never have hard dates attached to them — there is no anniversary celebrating the last relevant day of the last relevant Bone Jack, even if some people seem to want that.

“Which isn’t to say that the Bone Jacks had disappeared. Far from it. Like any other expression of cultural heritage useful to justify the expansion of governing powers, the Bone Jacks are funded and talked of and made as visible as possible. Bone Jacks are celebrated, like old art or like old books or like anything old that lends shape to a culture during its obsession with discovery and invention and expansion.

“The Bone Jacks, if they are anything, are adaptable. They accepted the funding for schools and the jobs to aid society — vestigial jobs that barely hinted at what they had been charged with in old days. In an age of science, the Bone Jacks slowly stopped doing things that made people nervous. When the rules about dignity changed, it became unbecoming for a Bone Jack to have even the smallest similarity to a wizard or a magician.

“For the most part, it was a good change, from the perspective, at least, of the Bone Jacks. An age when Bone Jacks matter is an age of discomfort for most people. The Bone Jacks accepted their vestigial, antiquated place in society, and they hoped it would last. For the sake of everybody else.”

Itzal fell quiet, taking a sip of his mulled wine and staring into the fire.

“Uh-huh,” Day said. “I’m not sure I understand. You’ll need to show me.”

Itzal nodded, half smiling.

They paused for a while, watching the fire. It crackled and waved.

“It won’t last, will it?” she asked. “This whole…Bone Jacks don’t matter…thing.”

Itzal shook his head. “The world aches.”

“Is something coming?” Day said.

“No,” Itzal said. “Something is already here.”

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