Chapter 13 Scene 2

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 58 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Wherever Tor’s bare feet touched the ground, powdered crystal dust stirred to life. Deadly white clouds rose a handspan into the air, but no further. The shadows that ran across his skin pooled in his shallow footprints, leaving a residue that only Tor could see. This dark ooze weighted down the crystal dust, dragging it harmlessly back to earth before it could enter the Prophet’s lungs. But there was something more as well. Tor felt the Shadow grow stronger within him with every step.

“Of course I grow in power here. How can it be that you Prophets have sheltered in the heart of the caldera these fifty ‘turns and not discovered its true purpose?”

“What purpose?”

“I will say only this. Your world and mine are connected. Your shadow crystals, the White Sea, even the cursed mages with their Scion, it’s all linked. And speaking of your mages, there they are. Or what’s left them.”

Suddenly Tor could see the Doormakers, struggling feebly across the blazing surface of the salt flat. They were far to the northwest and moving slowly northward.

“I have never been able to see so far across this salt flat. Is this your doing?”

“Your tribe’s gift of prophecy is but a shadow of the true Sight I have unlocked in you. With enough power, you could see all possible futures in all places.”

“I could see all possible futures?”

“You could not comprehend that much of the true Sight. It would drive either drive you mad or destroy you.”

“But you have that kind of power?”

The question was met by silence. The shadow hesitated, considering something beyond Tor’s comprehension.

“Well, demon? Do you have the power or not?”

“No. But the caldera does. To use that power without destroying yourself, you must have focus. Look closely at the mages. Tell me what you see.”

Tor squinted into the distance, focusing on the struggling Doormakers. “It’s like looking through a fractured crystal. There are many images superimposed, each slightly different.”

“Those are probabilities of the immediate future and recent past, flashes of what might have been and what may yet come to pass. Look deeper, through and within the flashes. Focus on patterns, continuities, concentrations of probability.”

The kaleidoscopic images turned and flickered. He began to see these flashes as curiously flat images, projections with no depth. But then suddenly something shifted in his mind, and a new pattern leapt out of the array of facets. Tor reeled, nearly stumbling to his knees. “I see something! There is a line shared by overlapping images!”

“Yes. It is a common thread, darkest near the mages, thinning and fraying as is projects forward toward…”

The insubstantial cobweb connected the struggling Doormakers to the T’Kulpa on the northern shore of the Sea. “Back toward the T’Kulpa!”

“You see the thread of their intent. Human intent influences the future, and with enough focus on its effects, you can interpret the patterns of probability. But remember that human intent alone does not determine the future.”

“Of course not. They’ll never reach the T’Kulpa even if that is their intent. They’ll succumb to the salt flat’s poisons long before that.” In time, Tor knew there would be no record of the Doormakers’ trespass except another set of sun-bleached bones. The Oracle must not have sent a guide to collect these visitors, despite Tor’s efforts to convince him otherwise. The Prophets had certainly made similar choices in the past to protect their home.

“Indeed? If you are so certain the poison salt clouds will kill these Doormakers…”

“I should be able to see that probability if I focus on it, if I seek it out!”

Countless possibilities projected forward into the future, images superimposed on Tor’s view of the present. Wrapping the Shadow’s otherworldly power around his vision, Tor sifted through the facets of his sight. The possibilities flashed before him in an accelerating cascade of images, until he exhausted them all and he saw only darkness.

What do you see, little prophet?”

“I… I see nothing, only darkness.”

“What of your certainty now?”

“But you said I needed to focus on what I wanted to see!”

“No. I did not. You wanted to hear that, but human intent does not determine alone does not determine the future.” A sound very much like derisive laughter echoed in the recesses of Tor’s mind.

Tor gritted his teeth in frustration. He forced himself to consider the shadow’s words carefully, turning them over in his thoughts. Far across the entire expanse of the White Sea, the mages still crawled pitifully on the sands. By all rights, they should be dead already. Clearly that had been the Oracle’s intent. But they were shielding themselves from the deadly effects of the salt flat somehow. That combined with the darkness he encountered in his Sight implied that…

“These mages will not die on the salt flat, will they?”

“If their future included such a possibility, you would be able to see it here.”

Tor drew in a calculated breath and let it out slowly through his nose. He widened his awareness gradually until the array of possible images returned, superimposed on his sight again. Then he waited as the facets rotated and aligned until the thread of the Doormakers’ intent was visible to him again. He followed it with his eyes, not trying to guess where it would lead. His head ached with the effort as strange images connected to the line of intent flashed into the foreground. The insubstantial cord faded the farther he traced it. At several points it frayed, diverging strands branching off and diminishing until Tor could no longer follow them. The main branch dissolved to insubstantiality just as it entered the T’Kulpa. Further concentration brought dizzying spots to his vision and swelled the pain in his head to a throbbing ache. At last he gave up.

“Why does the thread break up so?”

“Theirs is merely one thread in an infinite tapestry. The farther intent projects from its source in space and time, the less certain it becomes.”

“But why can’t I follow it beyond the T’Kulpa?”

“You are merely an observer of that infinite tapestry, with a thread of your own to follow. You stand at arms length as you watch their thread, a challenge that exceeds the abilities of most of your race. The farther that other thread is from you in space and time, the more focus and power you must expend to distinguish it from its surroundings.”

“And how does the White Sea affect this challenge?”

Again the shadow hesitated before responding. “Think of the caldera as one source of a certain type of energy. Power I can draw on, and in turn make available to you.”

“So I can’t cast my sight beyond the boundaries of the White Sea?”

“You can and you have already. The visions that brought you here are one example. The shadow voices that all Migrating Prophets follow are another. But the patterns of probability are harder to decipher beyond the caldera.”

“But the mages will survive the salt clouds. They will escape?”

“Their survival is probable. Escape is their intent. The future is undetermined.”

What could this mean? The White Sea had protected his tribe since they had retreated here at the end of the Doormaker’s war of aggression. If the mages learned how to cross it with impunity, how long would it be before they discovered the entrance to Ten Fallen Stones? How long before the invaders strode boldly through their sacred enclaves and tore down their beliefs? Images exploded all around him. He saw bodies strewn across the High Desert, Ten Fallen Stones overrun by plainsmen, the nomadic tribespeople reduced to beggars, and thieves. How could the Oracle allow this? Rage clouded his sight and myriad future possibilities quietly winked out of existence.

As a Migrating Prophet he had seen firsthand the how these plainsmen had eroded away the strength of the children of the sands. Edgeways was corrupted beyond redemption, the last refuge of the Great Desert’s cast-offs. These once proud warriors were now entirely reliant on the leavings of grasping merchants for their survival.

And still the plainsmen with their cursed Doormakers wanted more. Merchants crisscrossed his beloved desert, polluting the attitudes of his brethren with their greed. The mages had vowed to end their territorial expansion. Yet without their support, trade would never have advanced into the desert. The mages claimed that trade benefited the underdeveloped desert nomads and their northern neighbors. Tor saw it for what it was: a spiritual invasion, calculated and insidious.

Yet it was as inevitable as the sandstorms of winter. His Sight told him as much in vision after vision. The Doormakers would gain entrance to Ten Fallen Stones.

“Now you see what your Oracle would not. They will not be stopped.”

Silently, Tor agreed. But as he opened his Sight to further possibilities, the germ of an idea took root in his mind. If the Doormakers could not be stopped, perhaps they could be directed. And if they could be directed, then they could be misdirected. With that thought, Tor spun his own cobweb-like thread of intent. He strode off to the north, content for the moment to let destiny unfold as it would.

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