Book 0, Light's UnWeaving
Confirmation, the Visionspeaker, who was currently known as the pirate Timeshifter’s Storyteller by most people in VokenTrac, thought as he left her fine kept lawns and flowerless gardens, and entered TalgTave—the Pirate’s City. And, he added to himself, just the barest of signs would suffice.
The barest of signs, he amended, other than my own.
In the prophecy called the Song of the Land, the only prediction of the time span between the setting of the destiny and its weaving he had been able to find had been in the Ballad of the Silver Warrior. Its last verse, traditionally a verse of the future, told of a thousand years and one between the last birth of the Silver Warrior—at the prophecy’s setting—and the next birth, which should be, if the Visionspeaker had figured correctly, at the prophecy’s weaving into time.
Though a thousand years and one had not yet passed (there were three years left of Bi’Am’s Weaving, Gift of the Veersasta, Ti’Ah’s Joy) this was the year of the Dark Healer. Surely a healing would mean the beginning of the end of the Dark-wrought despair that gripped his once fair land.
That the ballad of the Silver Warrior separated the thousand years from the one, the Visionspeaker hoped meant that the first verse of the prophecy would be sung at the thousand year mark—next year. For wouldn’t the KeyMakers have to work previous to the prophecy’s weaving? Besides, the thousandth year of the Dark’s reign was the year of the Rememberer— always a year of change, especially when it was also the last year of a god’s Joy.
A scryer was what he needed, and Ylang, VokenTrac’s most talented and famous scryer, was the one he wished to consult. However, she would still be ensconced in the Hall of Kind Arts this early in the spring. Perhaps TalgTave’s newest street scryer would do in her stead; Ylang had mentioned she was considering Dellen for the Hall, that would mean he was already better than the average scryer.
Veering into the alley that ran between two shops and into Pirate’s Way, the city’s main street, the Visionspeaker headed for the heart of the city: the trader’s and scryer’s circles. As he walked, a fine mist settled in his long white beard and dampened his wide, chartreuse sleeves until they clung irritatingly to his arms. The Visionspeaker pulled his purple saffon vest closed and tied it snugly, then slipped his hands into his pockets, which served both to warm his hands and, more importantly, in this city of pirates and thieves, to cover his purse—even an eating dagger, the only weapon allowed by Kalador, was sharp enough to cut purse strings.
The Visionspeaker had established himself as Timeshifter’s Storyteller because he was sure, if anyone was the Key To Time the first verse, The Verse of the KeyMakers, of the prophecy mentioned, it must be she. There had been no one in all of O’Et’L’s last Promise that could shift time so precisely and flawlessly as she. Even the Dark Runemaster had acknowledged her talent.
And, if she was the Key to Time, then he himself must be the second Master Key, The Key to Destiny, the storyteller. The Hall of Kind Arts, as much talent as it held, had yet to produce a storyteller his equal. He wasn’t exactly sure who the third and last KeyMaker was—the Key to the Song—but the Lady Ellieth, though a ghost, was his best guess. Yet, in guessing the prophecy’s turning, he always feared that that in itself would knot O’Et’L the Unseen’s weaving of it.
Mid Pirate’s Way, the Visionspeaker turned right onto Scryer’?s Street which ended in a surprisingly sparsely occupied Scryer’s Circle, and a pastry seller’s booth. The Visionspeaker paused there to scan the area. There were only two reasons people would avoid the circle: a plethora of royal guards or a VokenSheen.
Two of Kalador’s green-grey garbed guards were standing stiffly together on the far side of the circle. A stray bit of sunlight glinted off their battalion of zaex buttons and the tips of their sheathed long swords. That left a VokenSheen.
It was said that a VokenSheen never appeared in public without their telling grey kinlliet cloak. The Visionspeaker was always amazed upon finding someone who actually believed that. However, the VokenSheen in the circle was wearing her cloak—however and whyever the dark patterned priests and priestesses wore kinlliet, a cloth woven of love and magic, the Visionspeaker could not fathom. He hadn’t noticed the ValVokenSheen right away because she was in an unlikely place—at a scryer’s table. Unhappily, the table belonged to the scryer boy Dellen.
The Visionspeaker, barely conscious of the fragrant odor of new baked blue fruit pastries an arm’s length under his nose, clenched his hands together inside his voluptuous sleeves. The fawn-haired ValVokenSheen and the boy appeared to be on uncomfortably good terms. The pastry seller urged a pastry on him. The Visionspeaker took it absent-mindedly.
With a Dark Priestess as a friend, it would not do to approach the boy with questions about the Song of the Land, no matter how veiled the terms he used.
Apparently the gods did not favor him today. Even the barest of signs not his own were denied him—unless he took this as one. He didn’t wish to.
Or perhaps… Perhaps it was the barest of the bare sign he had asked for. This was the Dark Healer’s year. Perhaps the fawn-haired ValVokenSheen was part of the healing. There was no way to be sure… the Visionspeaker sighed inaudibly. He would have to wait until Ylang left the Hall, sometime after the second day of spring, and hope she came, as she usually did, to Saith Naich’s Spring Fest where he could get a scrying from her.
As he turned from buying a second pastry, the Visionspeaker caught a swift movement out of the corner of his eye. A lone russet, pursued by a black hawk, flew above the scryer boy. The russet dove down frantically, and the Visionspeaker found himself holding his breath. Here, surely was his sign, his omen. It was said that to see a lone russet flying was to see the pattern of one’s life.
When the lone russet landed amidst the group of its fellows that littered the rim of the Circle’s defunct fountain, it vanished into them, and the entire flock took wing to soar neatly beneath the scryer boy’s table. The hawk circled once, squalled a protest, then winged away until it was a shadow in the mist.
Contemplating the implications inherent in the pattern of the lone russet’s flight, the Visionspeaker skirted Scryer´s Circle, heading for Midway Gate, one of the three gates built into Saith Sahell’s dragon-height wall which encircled his self proclaimed Naich. Two streets past the Circle, weaving alleys and side streets, the Visionspeaker came to an inn.
A woman with wild, white hair was rocking energetically on the porch and muttering loudly to herself. On a whim, the Visionspeaker pushed through the one-hinged and listing gate.
"You dress like a whore," the old woman hailed him as he came to the steps, then she spat on the floor at his feet.
He greeted her courteously anyway.
"Crazy," she replied with a gleeful cackle, pointing over her head where a cracked, wooden sign creaked in the wind. ‘‘Just like your clothes. Just like the sign says."
He glanced up at the sign which depicted a laughing woman and made no reply.
Inside the inn it was warm, dim, and nearly empty. A scrawny, ill-kept boy with matted, dark curls was leaning over the bar teasing someone behind it who could not be seen.
The Visionspeaker took a corner table and waited to be noted.
The inn was sparsely and crudely furnished, and much of that furnishing was roughly and ineptly patched. Only one of the two fireplaces that sat to either end of the room sported a fire, and that burned low. The only other light came from the three Ti’Ah’s torches—the fourth one being gutted—that were bracketed low on each wall. The floor though, was strewn with piquant efrin tail fern, pungent even after an evident day or two of use.
One of the other four patrons gave a loud whistle and called, ‘‘Hey, Thiel, ’ya got a paying customer, better look lively."
A harassed looking, middle-aged copy of the woman on the porch popped up from behind the bar. The young boy turned and, with a laughing farewell, limped towards the door. The Visionspeaker stared after him briefly. Oddly enough, the boy had the feature-cast of the daevan mael—perhaps a throw back, probably a thief. Certainly none of the true riders of the Red Desert would be in TalgTave.
When the Visionspeaker returned his gaze to the bar, the woman made questioning motion to her taps.
‘‘Brae," he answered.
Pushing limp, dusty brown hair back under a kerchief as worn as her face, she brought the brae to him with a harried smile. He tipped her for the unexpected smile and, when he took a sip, was pleasantly surprised to find it was Ildin brae not the inferior, and all but mandatory, DarVokenSheen Temple brew.
The Visionspeaker settled back, leaning his chair against the wall, his thoughts turning to the tale he had never scribed. To start it here would be to die, for scribing was one of the three things that had been declared illegal at the turning of the Dark, the other two being flowers and music.
It was a tale he had never scribed because he had not been able to face it without hope at hand. The four gods willing, he would do so now, hope—as the russet’?s flight indicated—in the offering as it was after so long.
The Visionspeaker half closed his eyes and willed that, thinking of it here in the inn, he would not weep. It was seen. . . . He would start it that way as soon as he reached home:
It was seen first in the Great Temple of the Dragon Star. . . .
Story copyright Sara Ryan 1989.
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