Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Eye of the Beholder

Flying through the air on the back of a Leatherwing, Dranarius Shade considered his options. To understand where he should go, he needed to put himself in the mind of Dragoneyes, and deduce what the fugitive had done as he escaped Koteph's clutches.
Where would he go? A teleportation would be incredibly dangerous. The subject would most likely come out injured on the other side. So he would go somewhere he could expect care. That would either mean a friend, or a hospital.
The hospital at the Green Tower seemed to be the best course of action. Dragoneyes would likely travel to the University regardless, to warn them of Koteph's plans.
But Dran remembered something. The Green Tower was enchanted. It was impregnable even to those who could pass through walls and stride across continents.
The hospital of Narens' citadel was too far away. That meant that Dragoneyes would have to visit his nearest friend. And according to Koteph, his only real friend was Amniel of the White Tower.
So Dragoneyes would have paid Amniel a visit. Assuming he survived such a traumatic spell, he would probably head off for the University on foot.
Dran would intercept Dragoneyes. For that, he would need to determine the man's route.
Would Dragoneyes cut directly for the University? Or would he try to amass allies along the way?
Dran simply didn't know. But he did know that there would be considerable debate as to which path between the two Towers would be fastest. Whereas if Dragoneyes tried to amass allies, he would have to talk to Tlon. Who else would he talk to? Dran's father had made him memorize a list of all the sorcerous powers of the world. Who else of significance lived in the Kingdom of Irin? The Blue Mage. And the water spirits. Where would he visit first? Dran had no idea. He didn't know well enough where Tlon lived. He would just find the largest city in the region, and wait for Dragoneyes to pass by. If he went through the city itself, so much the better. But even if he didn't Dranarius guessed a major urban center would be the best place to hear about a powerful traveling mage. He guessed, because he had never actually been in a city himself.
The Shade pondered what he would do when he caught up with Dragoneyes. His best course of action would be to trick his enemy into drinking some powerful poison. How could he accomplish that? Kill off a small-town bartender, take his place. Did Dragoneyes drink? Some sorcerers didn't. Dran would just have to wait and see.
The spirit portion of the shade was fearful. Dragoneyes was powerful. If he survived the assassination attempt he would turn the shade into a pile of ash.
The human portion of the shade was hopeful. Dragoneyes might put an end to Dran's suffering. Put an end to his enslavement at the hands of his parents' killer.

We exited the forest. "We should have spent more time with Tlon," I said. "More time coordinating. How are we even going to send him messages?"
"Why would we want to send him messages? He's the spy. He'll be sending information to us. Besides, he's been a spy in a dozen wars in a dozen centuries. I think he knows what he's doing."
"You could see through his various forms. Could Koteph do that as well?" Another question occurred to me. "And what did Tlon really look like?"
"I have no idea if Koteph could see through his disguises. You're the expert on shades, but as far as I know, they are a human and a spirit inhabiting the same body. A lot of the time they are at war with one another, and most of the rest of the time they are united in madness. They are typically incredible sorcerers, but I've never heard anything about them seeing through illusions." His eyes flashed. "Only dragons can do that," he added, smugly.
"And what did your dragon eyes see when they were set upon Tlon?"
"I can't explain it. It was shape I had never seen before, a color I never seen before. And I saw all the forms he had ever taken, the thousands and thousands of forms. But I saw more. I saw his feelings. Some of his memories. I saw the best way to persuade him."
"Oh," I said. Another question. "What do you see when you look at me?"
"I see how you look. I see that you know the True Name of air, and I see how the Name has shaped you. I see your sorcery, and the years of study you have put into refining it. I see the day you first read a book, the day you first cast a spell, your first day at the University, and the day your father died. I see that you fear for your mother and sister. And I see that you are a man of thought, not a man of action."
"Sounds about right. What do you see when you look at Cassinder?"
"She is scared. That thing she's seen. that Destroyer. She is scared. She has seen fields of corpses and rivers of blood. That does things to you." I wondered how Dragoneyes knew so much about seeing rivers of blood. I had a sneaking suspicion it might be from personal experience. "But more than that, she is frustrated with the world around her. Just by starting a conversation, she can see how it will end. She hates that everyone else has to actually talk it out. She knows what everyone else will say, what they will do, almost all of it. To her, everyone else is a piece of clockwork. She sees the future, tries to change it, tries to surprise herself, but then she has another vision and we once again become clockwork."
"What about Koteph?"
"He was raised in one of the Little Lands, by an uncle. The uncle was a sorcerer, but not a good one. He grew resentful of Koteph's superior talents, and cast the younger sorcerer out. Koteph went to the University, and enrolled at a remarkably young age. He killed once during his time at the Green Tower, a librarian who tried to keep him out of the forbidden stacks. He grew to treasure that memory, the feeling of power it gave him to destroy another life. So when the two of us got in a, ahem, argument with Sorrin, he joined the fight. When the three of us were suspended and staying at the White Tower, he saw your father's work, saw that it had the potential to make him a shade. And he decided to kill the Lord of the White Tower. I see that he is full of megalomania fermenting into madness, and I see the vast power of fifty spirits."
"You see that much with every glance?"
"I do."
"Paragraphs of information every time you see the world."
"I see enough that I learned the True Name of water after looking at a brook for an hour." Water is one of the easier Names to learn, it often only takes a few years of work.
"One last question. What do you see when you look in the mirror?"

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