Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! – Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,. Edgar Allan Poe.
After a long absence to writing I’m returning to an unwritten world. Some may already be aware of characters from before. Others will find little sense in where this is going… something I share as much unfolds in the telling. Either way it is a consequence of this months BlogBattle word prompt.
The Amanuensis stared at the candelabra on his desk. They stirred a distant memory from before. Long ago, although exactly when escaped him. Part of a conversation, the edges of which blurred.
Cresswell looked up. “You mean another world has infiltrated?”
“A possibility. Although it is but conjecture. Events in the Library ceased when a discovery was made by two of our own.”
“You mean the dwarf and sorceress sent to uncover Elder relics?”
The Amanuensis nodded.
“When I voiced opposition to that expedition it fell on deafness.”
“I know Jeremiah, you were not alone. However Thaumaturgical Archaeology has a guild that holds sway in the higher councils. Thirst for Elder knowledge drives them like arrows. They consider scholars too cautionary. I appeased them by personally selecting the two you mentioned.”
“That fits,” said the assassin. “There is an aged prophecy stating the old collapses when two release the crow.”
Cresswell, the Assassin and Delalande the lore master. Yes, that was who they were. Back…again time slewed. Something in his memory hidden, denying retrieval. A redacted line in his thoughts.
Except the crow prophecy. In front of his vision the flames twisted between black and red. Two phases of existence where neither held sway. It happened each time a piece of his mind rediscovered something. What had happened next?
The two were obvious. Dwarf and elf. Old friends and…this time the flame surged red… the elf meant more.
He recalled them departing the Keep. Sent on a quest to find and document elder relics. It was her eyes he saw now. Deep green and locked upon his. An unspoken tender moment where the sadness of separation fell through one’s chest to fracture in pieces.
The prophecy had spoken of two releasing a crow. All had concluded it was the departing explorers that would unlock a relic. Perhaps by deception would a sorcerers bubble be opened and whatever the elders had imprisoned would no longer be held outside time.
He watched the candles fade to black. This was how it always happened. Delve too deeply and the cognitive force wall reinforced its hold.
There was one path open though. He could commune outside of his own conjurors prison.
“Naz, ever get the feeling you’re being watched?”
The dwarf snorted, “You are asking me that? I thought you were the one with foresight.”
She turned, not smiling. Something not missed by her companion. “My foresight is not reliable now. It feels wrong. There are too many conflicting visions.”
Naz frowned, prodding the campfire with a stick. “You’ve said such before. I see the world as it passes day by day. You seem to think it’s all out of phase and fluxing. One minute the vision says this and the next it’s altered into a new one.”
“Forward paths are not linear anymore. They skew in different directions. Ever since the cliff.”
“You mean the conjurors trap.”
She nodded. “From that point time is no longer moving in one direction connected to one reality. It’s splitting, creating many. As if…” she paused to find a layman’s term of reference, “…it’s not sure which direction to take.”
“That path is what most folk take. Day to day, choices dictating what follows. To speak of future paths as if set in stone implies free will does very little and fate is all mapped out and immutable.” He stared across the glade. Something seemed at odds. It was quiet and not filled with wood noise.
Yish followed his gaze. Her own hackles were rising, however a smile started spreading across her face. “This discussion is ever circular Naz. You don’t get it because grasping what foresight is isn’t easy to explain. Nothing is pre-ordained. They show what could happen given current events. Some things are fixed and act as nebula around which visions float.”
Naz looked back. He knew the smile of old and had missed it. That she was about to waffle on about things he knew nothing on seemed inevitable. Nevertheless he held up his palm in a gesture of silence. “Answer him Yish.”
“Elf, are you there?” The Amanuensis stared into his own mind. Trying to remember each line on her face as he settled on the eyes. He’d always liked their radiance. They drew one’s gaze in.
“And the dwarf?”
“Naz is here yes.”
“And is all well?” He could sense her getting annoyed.
“Ever the formalities Guild Master.”
Guild Master? That triggered a memory. The two leaving while he was Master of Law and Chronomancy. He felt the sadness wash over him. She had been with him for so very long and that day was the last he’d felt her warmth of touch. It eclipsed the sun at its apex. That merely kept winters depths at bay. Something that always came back as it’s arc drew nearer the horizon as months passed through fall. Hers was constant. Or had been.
“Things are unfolding swiftly.”
“Are or have? If you are still inside the conjurers bubble then what you see as now happened centuries before.”
Centuries… how did that escape his recall? His mind felt doors opening.
“Lost for words was never your forte,” she continued through his silence.
“No, I am lost Yish. I have been since recommending you two took the lead in Elder research. It left a rip in the arteries of life.”
Naz watched the smile fade and tears trickle down his friends face. What passed between them he could not hear. He guessed well though. Time was skewed. Once he’d seen the Keep destroyed and lost in a desert of ice. A voice had reached across aeons to tell him to flee. That was while he and the elf were separated. Another time slip. Her to the past and him to the future. Maybe there was something in this foresight thing after all. He put his hand in hers for moral support. Not a light matter for a dwarf, but he knew of little else that might offer comfort.
“I know my love. I also see what you dare not ask. The conjurors trap is broken. We were caught unawares by a powerful snare. A thaumaturgical resonance I didn’t detect until too late.”
“The crow flies free then.” Not a question but a statement of fact. An immutable reality that stopped the Vault transcribing and led him here. How still escaped him.
“We saw nothing leave. Elder magic is strong even now. Whatever they put in the bubble was cast out long before their civilisation collapsed. I suspect it was a necromage.”
“Then our battle is both over and not yet begun.” Even in temporal commune he could sense her warmth. Words may dance, but the aura still held her true.
“Explain again how these prisons work.”
“Do you not recall? They are cast by powerful mages. Or were. Nobody since the Elders has managed it and yet from within the Vault were you ensnared and cast out through time. They are traps from which escape is near impossible. Not without help from the outside.”
She paused searching his mind. Never had his will prevented this. “Yours is not a prison though. I believe it was deliberate to prevent access to the Vault. You are a Key Master. Without the three it remains locked. And yet…” she drew in breath. “It has stopped hasn’t it?”
“It ceased recording. My last memory is of Cresswell and Delalande. Jeremiah was touched by the past, the assassin chasing shadows of a prophecy. Then I was here”
“Then it is likely a defensive bubble. Do you not recall last time I told you there would be two mechanisms to undo the enchantments? Find those and use sorcery to unlock it.”
“That you did and yet I am no closer to uncovering them. Neither am I a sorcerer. That is your talent.”
“As before, you are The Amanuensis. That role belies you even now. It is not inherited by someone whose abilities are meek. The trap has disabled your memory of what to do. Find the keys and it’s confusion aura will fail.”
“And if I get it wrong?” He frowned in recollection, “The bubble constricts to a singularity and everything turns to dust…you told me this too.”
“Then don’t get it wrong. You and I are destiny. Even over millennia the bond is strong. Don’t you dare get it wrong.”
“And time exists between us. You deep in the past and me somewhere outside existence.”
“For Amanuensis with the whole vault library and Guilds to control you can be intolerable.”
This word he remembered. How often had she scolded him thus?
“You are a master of chronomancy fool. Escape and you can go anywhere once you restore the Vault.”
“If I go back to there I won’t need to.”
“You and I will be in the same temporal stream.”
He felt the connection stressing. Something was breaking it.
Naz tugged her arm. “Yish, somethings wrong.” He yanked harder. The wetness on her cheeks belied the strength returning to her eyes. He knew he was intruding.
“What is it?” Her words harsh and bitter.
He pointed. The lack of wood noise suddenly explained. A mist crept through the undergrowth. Preceding it was an edge of decaying fauna. Withering as the fog approached. Much like the dandelion Wayland observed before his life was broken.
“Run Naz.” His breath left him as a force wall pushed him away from the advancing decay. Raz, he thought, that’s how Raz felt.
Yish had stepped back from the fire pit. Heat had been lost to the incoming wave of cold. Sucked away in a matter of moments. Her mind raced with emotion. She wanted to process touching minds with her betrothed. Lost now, and yet still able to traverse time and space to find her. The twisted knot tightened in her stomach. She had to focus on now.
“Suffer me chylde.” The voice as chilling as the fog preceding it. She knew it.
Naz gripped his axe. His eyes darting left and right but unable to find a target. Fear had left him now. He knew it was after Yish. The dwarf intended otherwise.
“Last we spoke you lost an arm.”
There was no reply. She could feel something behind the mist watching. Her skin crawled as it’s aura dripped across the glade. Never had she seen vegetation freeze and die in the same moment.
“Yish,” Naz’s voice ripped her from immobility. Whatever it was had tried to beguile her. The dwarf was immune. “Take your own advice Elf, now is not the time or place to fight.”
She stepped back, aware the earth crunched as she did so. Breath steamed from her exhalations. It was toying with them.
She felt an hand grab her arm and yank her backwards. “Dammit Yish, now is not the time.”
He was right. While she was convinced she knew who this was uncertainty had now replaced confidence. If it was her father then silence would not be the greeting no matter what had gone on before. This, the prophecy fell forwards pushed by a distant mind, was the crow.
“To me Naz.” There was a chance. Slim, but there. The edge of the glade held an elder portal. She could pass through, could the dwarf? Neither probably if it failed to function. What was on the other side barely crossed her mind. It wasn’t here. Delalande’s lecture cut to the chase.
“To open an unknown elder relic is, by normal intellectual standards, folly. It is beyond our capacity to fully understand what they do. Is it safe to open a door that might be closed on the other side? Land changes over millennia. Water laps where once it did not, a cliff rises where ground has risen, a monolith tumbled or broken and weathered into dust…”
Bit late for revision. She took the dwarfs hand and pushed hard with her mind. The watch stone responded. Ozone filled her nose. It was the light that blinded her.
When she awoke it was sunset. “Naz?”
There was no answer.