The Eight Crimes of The Iconodules
The sun still rose and fell, and days were getting slightly shorter each year, though the change was so slight as to be unnoticed. The Researchers said it was due to the Edge, and tried to offer up a system for measuring time that everybody could follow. Leonard Kallen, from his position on the streets, did not care much for the occasional large, public clock that would offer the precise time, as chosen by consensus in some distant district. He, like most of the men he hunted, measured the world’s passing by the Peace Bells.
They were easy to mark by walking the Districts. Always central, always high. Their timing was a limit on shifts, in some industries, and a mere reminder to take breaks in others. Of course, some industries tried to schedule around the sounding of the Peace Bells, but it was always difficult to collect all their workers again. The bells affected some people more than others. Their sounding was not always regular, not always to keep time. It could be argued to be relatively random, in fact, but any fool could tell time by the position of the sun, and the Peace Bells hinted at the state of the city and its internal conflicts more than anything else. More frequent bells meant riots, civil war, violence only the bells could end. Time wasn’t what affected the movements of the people that Leonard hunted, after all, but the Peace Bells certainly did.
The bells themselves were housed in the Brise, the world’s last mountains, the highest of districts. From there the sound was piped to their various sounding towers throughout The City. Older generations said that the Peace Bells were preferrable to what happened before their arrival. The City was comfortable, now, with the rolling, visible wave of sound that rushed through its streets and stunned the citizens. There was just enough time, in all cases, to secure what you were doing when the chiming began, and wait for the sound to take away your senses. It shook people to their bones, bypassing the ears altogether. Kallen had once been part of a team that broke up a leaden vault where people were hiding to flee the Peace Bells. It wasn’t the vault that was illegal, of course. It was owning that much useful metal.
Kallen knew, of course, as he rushed through the streets, that the bells were coming. He could see, long before he heard, the strange wavering in the air that began at the heights of Brise and rolled down the slopes of that district. He could hear, long before the chiming of those one-thousand and eight bells, that Jan was above him, padding her way along, well out of sight of the people who were already stopping in their work to watch the bells ring out. Except for one. Except for the man who pushed through crowds and threw desperate glances back to Kallen, terrified and apparently canny enough to watch the roofs as well. Kallen wasn’t too concerned as he gave pursuit, he was already steeling his will for when the bells hit.
It always took the same amount of time, by his witness. He had counted the bells endless times. So had everyone else, he figured. It was somewhere in the middle of the song that he had to freeze, had to listen. He heard the first soaring series of chimes, those that relaxed his legs and left him weak, then the second melody, as he looked up to Brise, not even able to see the mountain between the two-story building in his way. He froze when the bells he thought of as ‘his’ finally hit him, and all his thoughts were wiped away in a buzzing white haze. It was called the Peace. Nobody knew how long it lasted. Some tried to watch the sun, but the Peace seperated people from their concerns. He supposed the Researchers knew how long it lasted.
When Kallen returned to his mind, the man he was chasing was face-down in the street, under Jan’s weight, terrified as his neck, and the associated jugular, pulsed inches from her teeth. His hands and fingers were splayed, unwilling to risk the beast’s fury. Kallen dragged a reassuring series of fingers through his companion’s hair, and she relaxed somewhat. He knelt by the terrified perpetrator. Having a friend unaffected by the bells was really too much of an advantage.
“Mister Gammond?” he asked. The man simply struggled, but Kallen thought he saw a nod. “You are under arrest.”
No More War
The creation of the Peace Bells was generally considered the point that The City became a single entity rather than several warring city-states. With their existence, the city is subject to long silences as conflict ends and its instigators strangely disappear. The Bells are only used in the most dire circumstances, though. Their ringing means something has gone horribly wrong in the city, something that requires powerful intervention. True war between districts is always held off at the threat of the Bells, forcing warmongers to remain hidden, and dealings to be done in secret among small parties to avoid risking the wrath of Brise.