Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Mind's Eye

The problem seemed insurmountable. Dragoneyes had approached it from every angle. He could bribe or threaten the mine owners. But they would lapse into their old ways, or new men, just as evil, would take their place.
Dragoneyes could use his power to free the slaves. To break their chains. Maybe even transport them somewhere else. But it would do no good. An army if Etoran slave traders would rush in to undo the mage's action.
If Dragoneyes took the most extreme route possible, forcing his way into the mine, invoking the True Name of Stone, and destroying the evil mine, someone would simply start a new one, and the very same salt deposits would be extracted by the very same slaves.
"Not to hurry you," I said, "but we really do need to hurry."
Dragoneyes look up at me with his eldritch eyes. He was sitting in a chair, and it was clear I had interrupted his thoughts."If we can't save a hundred miners in an Irinian border town, we cannot stop Ochekol'kan."
"True, but if we spend all of our tune saving a hundred miners in an Irinian border town, we won't be able to stop Ochekol'kan."
"The people in the mines need me."
"The people in the world need you."
"Think of this as practice," he said. It was nearly dawn, and I could tell he hadn't slept. "I need to think of creative ways to use my power. Not just forging a lot of swords."
"I'm not sure I buy that," I said. "Wouldn't you be better off applying your creativity to making creative defenses for the Green Tower?"
"It's not just about the Green Tower," he snapped. Flames danced around his fingers.
I was a little intimidated. Honestly, I considered abandoning the topic. But the fate of the world rested on my shoulders, and I didn't think me friend would hurt me. "As long as the Green Tower hosts a monstrous goddess as old as creation, and as long as a powerful shade is marching on the Green Tower to set her free, yes, it is just about the Green Tower."
Dragoneyes knew I was right. But he couldn't abandon the people in this mine. Not after he had seen their suffering. "A compromise," he suggested. "I have until sunrise."
I looked outside. I could already see the beginnings of dawn. "Very well," I said. "We leave tomorrow morning."

As the sun rose over the horizon, Dragoneyes made his way into the mines. He stared at the white piles around him. He looked into the crystals, the cubic systems formed when the world was young. He saw the the nature of salt, and he saw the True Name. He spoke a name. Not the name of salt, but that of wood. A staff formed in his hand. He pondered the staff, the knots and whorls. Then, only then did he speak the True Name of salt. He bound that Name to the staff. He infused it with power.
He needed to write. To leave a note explaining this staff. He could make thin sheet of wood or... a tapestry.
Dragoneyes thought about the True Name of cloth, and a tapestry formed. It explained the use and purpose of the staff. It had detailed diagrams explaining how to make more. It would be easy to make more, given the first one. The power had been set free.

"What did you do," I asked.
"Well," he said, "I saw your Aeronautic Shaft back at the White Tower, and again when we made the windmill. I remembered what it looked like. I focused on the image in my mind, and I knew how to make one. I made a shaft that could control salt. I made it so that it could be split in two. There will be no need for slaves in the mines. It can all be done with magic."
This gave me some measure of satisfaction. The relentless progress of magic want improving lives. But I also saw the bigger picture. "You could understand a complex piece of magic, not even by seeing it, but by remembering what it looked like?"
"Yes." That made me realize something. It wasn't just his eyes that had changed the day he blinded that dragon. His mind, too, had been transformed. He was connected to the world in a fundamentally different way from the rest of us. I remembered a few days ago when he had read a letter before I had sent it, arriving already knowing that Cassinder had been cured. Would his vast senses continue to grow? I had a strong suspicion that they would.
Dran interrupted my thoughts. "So, what do you think will happen to the slaves now."
Dragoneyes frowned. "They will likely be sold into some other conditions. Likely better conditions, but this is still not ideal. When this is over, when Koteph is defeated, I will return for them."

That night, Cassinder couldn't sleep. But she didn't want to. She waited.
The door to her tent rippled, and Dragoneyes stepped through it. Just like she knew he would. "Sorry for showing off," he said. "But the thought of actually walking through a door was tempting." He spoke a fraction of a Name. "It should be back to normal."
Cassinder knew that Dragoneyes would ask her a question. And he knew that she knew. And she knew that he knew that she knew.
"What happens to them?"
"The slaves? They are resold. Most of them will work in houses. They will be cooks and cleaners. Some will starve." Cassinder shuddered.
"Was I right? Was I right to do what I did."
"I don't know."
The two of them regarded each other. One could see the future. One could see the past and present. But neither of them could see what was the right thing to do.
"Have you ever seen the stars," Dragoneyes asked.
"I don't know how they will end."
"I do." Dragoneyes walked outside. Cassinder followed. "They are great flames, like our sun. Some much larger, some much smaller. They dwarf the powers even of the Shapers of the World. They are ancient beyond reckoning, and will survive long after the last man has breathed his last breath. But one day, they will run out of fuel, and those great flames will go out. But seeing the lifetimes of the stars, it gives you perspective."
"If they were merely endless, that would be one thing," he continue. "But they have a definite lifespan. A set number of days. A number too great to hold in the mind. The world isn't endless. It is a speck inside a speck inside a speck."
"The world is wide, and the future is long. Both unimaginably so. It boggles the mind's eye."
Cassinder was confused. "What is your point?"
"I don't have one. I just thought it was interesting." 

No comments:

Post a Comment