Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Land Games Act 1 Finale


    Soon, a voice called to him in the darkness, a delicate vibration caressing his carapace. 
    “Soon?” he asked, bleary and confused.  Everything was dark, his far-sense was muffled, and though he was aware of his body, he could not seem to move it. 
    You must come, soon.  Your deliverance awaits.  The truth lies with the sea. 
    “The sea,” he spoke, his far-sense rumbling up clear at last.  It extended, bouncing off the surface of the room he lay in, suspended in a hempen hammock.  The walls and floors were built of wood, not the sun-hardened mud that was commonly used, and to the east, only a canvas tarp covered the open wall.  Beyond it, he could feel the constant flow of the coastal breeze.  Birds sang, half a dozen of them roosting on the roof of the strange building he rested in.  Below, waves crashed against jagged rocks, throwing up spray that occasionally splashed against the underside of the wooden floor.  Across from the open wall, a good solid stone cliff stood, this odd wooden box seemingly held to it with strong cables.  An opening in the cliff led to a labyrinth of twisting tunnels in the stone.  His far-sense echoed down their chambers and bounced off several of his people, who shouted back reverent greetings.  So, he was somewhere safe. 
    He opened his eyes.  A glorious splash color of met his sight.  The ceiling was painted with an alluring mosaic of every imaginable hue.  It seemed to represent nothing in particular, only soothing swirls and sprays of bright colors, the sort of calming tableau presented on the walls of hospitals.  But this was no ordinary resting place, that was certain.  He turned his head as best he could, suspended in a net-like hammock, and looked out through a gap in the canvas covering.  The sea spread out as far as he could see, it’s deep green waters deep and opaque.  The truth lies with the sea.  Was it the spirit again, guiding him towards some new destination.  One thing he now knew: he would never again doubt the spirit that had led him to that battlefield.  The thought was nearly overwhelming in its triumphant memory.  He had defeated a golem, long thought to be invincible.  But one was not enough.  There were many thousands of them belonging to each demon.  More power would be necessary. 
    Moving gingerly, he disentangled his legs from the hammock, wincing as his broken leg sent out sharp jolts of pain everything time it touched something.  He stood, feeling shaky but capable.  With only three good legs, he had to stagger and limp, but he could balance well enough.  He took a few slow steps and reached out for the tarp, meaning to sweep it aside so he could view the ocean.  But he paused.  The tarp was held by a pair of simple ropes looped loosely around a pole.  He could move them easily with his hand.  Could he do so with his far-sense?  Surely he could, now that it had proven capable of destroying a golem. 
    He tried.  His far-sense pulsed out, and he felt it strike the ropes, sending back tactile feedback of the ropes rough texture and fine weaving.  But the ropes did not even quiver.  He focused on one, again pulsed out his far-sense, then narrowed it into a single tight beam.  He could feel the ropes as though he had slapped against them with his hand, but still there was no response.  A flash of anger rose up in him, and he reached out and tore the tarp away in a single fluid motion.  The ocean rolled towards him continuously, distant islands of greenery, wave-melons growing atop them, dotted the horizon.  But he saw no pillar of light, no sign.  The spirit was silent, for now. 
    “Farseer?” a voice called to him.  It did not come from the room, but from one of the tunnels a dozen paces back.  A small contingent of Woken waited reverently, awaiting his permission to enter.  His far-sense crawled over them, and he recognized the stalwart shapes of Defender and White Flowers, his loyal followers, among them.  The others were unknown to him, but all three were very old, two male, one female.  Their far-senses fluttered against his weakly, like insects flying against the breeze.  He remained where he was, eyes turned to the sea.  It would present a striking image to his audience. 
    “Yes, I am awake,” he spoke.  “Please come, join me.  I have slept too much.  I need to know what has happened.”  Now that he was awake, he could remember bits and pieces of the last few days.  First the delirious journey out of the battlefield.  He’d come down with a fever in the aftermath of the battle, and with his broken leg they could move only slowly.  He remembered being taken to a small grotto, a hole burrowed in a nearby cliff by some huge creature, and lying there drifting in and out of consciousness as his followers tried to keep him alive.  After a couple days, young Scarlet, had returned with a drawn wagon, and he had been taken…somewhere. 
    “Greetings Farseer.  We apologize for your rough conditions.  After our doctor saw to you, we thought this would be the best place for you to rest and recover.  This sight-box was built on the orders of another of your kind, long ago, as a place of mediation and reflection.  We thought what worked for one Farseer might work for another.” 
    “Ah, I thank you.  It is indeed a wonderful place,”
Farseer answered. 
    “My name is First of Many.  I am the head monk of this monastery.  It is an ancient place of thought and meditation, where we who live here dedicate ourselves to the study of the gods and their Farseers.  The monastery was built around this cave, by the son of the Farseer who dwelled here.  In three hundred years, you are the first of your kind we have had the honor of serving.”  First of Many knelt before him, moving slowly on old and tired knees.  Farseer touched him lightly with his far-sense, indicating that he should rise.  Then he extended his far-sense to its full limit, reaching out and upward, searching for this monastery the old one spoke of.  He saw his followers quiver as his far-sense brushed them, as though buffeted by a powerful wind.  I will have to be careful now.  If my powers can destroy golems, then surely it can harm my fellow Woken.  The thought troubled him, and he wondered if ever before another of his kind had used his gods-given powers in such a manner.  Surely they would have been destroyed, for daring to pervert such a divine gift. 
    Another revelation amazed him.  His far-sense extended to its full length, usually about a mile, and then blossomed out even farther.  Much farther.  A cluster of thirteen buildings stood on the cliff above and north of him, a large eating and meeting hall, a pair of dormitories, one for each sex, and a number of storehouses and buildings used for the raising of livestock and greenery.  His far-sense was not only stronger, but could now reach even farther.  It seemed that the Spirit had led him truly to the next step in his journey.  Feeling through the monastery, he touched dozens of Woken, then hundreds.  They filled every building, and dozens of tents had been placed around the monastery to hold the rest. 
    “Where did they all come from?” he asked.  The others stared at him in wonder, realizing how far he could now reach.  One of the females, with a lovely deep green shell, answered him. 
    “Word of your battle with the Demon’s golem has spread quickly, Farseer.  Not a day after you arrived, the first pilgrims followed.  We have nearly a thousand now, with many more on the way.”  Her tone seemed a mixture of pride and anxiety.  No doubt she wondered how they would possibly be able to feed so many.  Farseer shared her worries.  The gods might provide guidance, but earthly matters must still be attended to. 
    “I will need to see them, and speak with them.  And then, I will need a boat,” he told them. 
    “A boat?  Do you plan to travel already?” First of Many asked. 
    “I do not know.  I have been called to the sea.  I cannot keep the Spirit waiting,” he answered.  They began to object, citing his wounds as good reason to rest, and heal, but overrode them quickly.  “The Spirit has been silent since my battle with the golem.  Now, it has called to me.  Who am I to deny such a being?” 
    “At least let us come with you,”
Defender said.  “We will protect you, even if it means our lives.” 
    “No.  This is something I must do alone.  The Spirit speaks to me, no one else.”  He was not at all certain of this, but felt uneasy at the thought of others seeing him humbled before such a more powerful entity.  His people needed to see him as strong.  He would be better on his own.  “I can walk well enough on three legs, though I will have to go slowly.  Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a staff…” 
    They quickly fetched him a long staff, which helped increase his speed somewhat, but he still had to move slowly, and felt a twinge of pain with every step.  His broken leg was not his only injury, merely the worst.  Beneath his shell, his clammy skin was covered in small cuts and bruises.  It made him sharp with his far-sense, cutting swiftly and carelessly, until he remembered again to be careful.  He had spent his whole life watched over, protected because of the colors of his shell.  He was not accustomed to pain. 

    Standing atop the highest point of the monastery, he bellowed his far-sense strong enough for even those back at the tents to hear him, trying to reach them all and convey his own feelings of determination and optimism.   When he finished his speech, he couldn’t help feeling he had completely failed.  He stammered and paused too long, he lost track of his thoughts, and the great event that had occurred, back on the battlefield, seemed mundane when told in his own words.  Yet still, the entire crowd erupted with applause, shaking the air with their far-senses, when he finished, and he was able to breath a sigh of relief.  Speaking, though necessary, was not his function.  A Farseer was remembered for his actions.  The thought made him feel yet another quiver of doubt.  Since the golem, he had not again been able to manipulate physical matter with his far-sense.  If it had been a one time occurrence, than those cheers would quickly die away.  He tried to put it out of his mind.  He would simply need to ask the Spirit about it. 
    He sailed out the very next day, alone, in simple sailboat, allowing the wind to take him where it may.  Though given a vast bounty of food, he barely touched it, preferring to pilfer melons from the floating islands, fending off the small monkeys that harvested them with his walking staff.  He slept and ate, thought and slept, in silence and in peace, listening only to the wind.  He practiced pushing his Far-sense to its limit, reaching deep beneath his boat to catalogue the swarms of aquatic creatures swimming beneath him.  A few times, he was able to nudge a fish so that it darted quickly in an evasive direction, apparently thinking it was under attack.  But they were light touches, no more, nothing like the shattering power he’d felt when he’d taken down the golem.
    Time seemed to pass both slowly and quickly.  Always he was surprised when by how soon the sky began to darken, but the days felt endless, unbroken in their simplicity.  He had almost forgotten how peaceful it was, not to constantly be pressed on from all sides by private conversations, trying to put them all out of his mind.  Ever since his far-sense had began to grow past normal range, about a decade ago, he had come to prefer the wilderness to crowded cities.  Even his disciples could be a source of irritation.  They meant well, and they were all loyal, and good people, but they still did their share of petty complaining and whining. 
    On the third day, a storm broke on the horizon, dark storm clouds blotting out the sun.  For the first time, Farseer found himself trying to turn his boat against the wind, to outrun the storm.  All day, the thunder rumbled louder and more ominously in the distance, as the waves grew higher and higher.  About midday, they had begun slamming against the side of the boat hard enough to send a buckets worth of water spraying over his shell.  He turned towards the nearby blood-red water of the coast, and saw a crescent shaped stretch of sandy beach, a perfect, safe harbor from the storm.  He turned towards it, then paused.  The thunder continued to roar periodically, rumbling through the air like the far-sense of an enormous creature.  The truth lies with the sea, the Spirit had said.  Would he still be able to find the truth if he fled to safety from a mere storm? 
    I hope this Spirit isn’t overestimating me, he thought as he turned the ship once again towards the storm.  The sails stretched, buffeted by the wind that was blowing him almost directly towards it.  Now sailing into the waves, the boat rose and fell, sending water spraying up all around him, leaving rainbows in their wake.  Farseer had grown up on this very coast, about a hundred miles south, so he was not ignorant to the intricacies of sailing.  Still, it had been many years since he had had to do so, and his legs kept slipping on the water soaked wood, without his fourth to balance.  He tried to calm himself, telling him that it was all up to the gods now, but that did nothing to diffuse his fear. 
    By the time he hit the storm the skies had gone black, and lightning shattered the sky in all directions.  He pulled down the sail and folded it away, lest it be torn apart by the shrieking wind.  The waves now lifted the boat off the surface of the ocean, letting it flop down each time with a feeling of nauseating weightlessness.  He was flung from side to side, nearly spilling over into the water, and his eyes became useless, unable to distinguish from the rain and waves on all sides.  But his far-sense could still pick out the coastline, and for the first hour he stayed near it, but soon the storm threw him further into the sea.  The ocean floor receded further and further away, until he could no longer sense it at all, only a vast, gaping emptiness held back only by the fragile bit of wood and rope he rode on. 
    When day broke, he was far out at sea, the ocean one wide surface in every direction.  He could tell from the sun which direction the coast was, but he had been pushed so far out he could not tell how long it would take him to return.  As he was wrestling up the sail, his far-sense picked up a disturbingly large presence beneath, a creature so large it could have swallowed his boat whole.  He moved quickly to set up the sail, but by the time it was ready, the wind was blowing to the east, opposite the direction he needed to go.  He resolved himself to floating aimlessly for the time being, and dipped carefully into his stores, rationing now that he was no longer amongst easily attainable food.  At least the rain had provided plenty of clean water for the time being. 
    All day, the current pushed him further northeast, and his anxiety grew.  That way lay the dark continent, ruled over by the Black Demon.  It had been a grim place already, filled with infidels who had led numerous raids against his people, and it had surely not improved since the invasion.  His own land might be ruled by demons, but at least it was familiar. 
    Night fell.  Where there had been calm, relaxing silence before, now it seemed the silence of a stalking beast, creeping forward before the strike.  He did not try to sleep, instead he stood at the bow and flung his far-sense out as far as he could.  The Spirit wanted him to come, to find something in the vastness of the ocean.  He wanted to find it, and return home. 
    He soon got his wish. 
    At first he thought it was another of the huge fish he’d felt before, a large object floating beneath his boat, slowly rising.  But as he felt around its surface, he could find no end to it.  It extended all the way to the end of his far-sense, in every direction, a sleek, polished surface covered in clinging barnacles and parasites.  It pulsed, the water vibrating around it, a deep and continuous drumming sound rising up from its depths.  He swayed, feeling as though he were standing on the edge of a tall cliff.  How can something so big be moving!  He had to sit, nauseous.  He briefly considered throwing up the sail, running, but he knew it was futile.  Something so large could not be avoided.  It stretched from horizon to horizon.  It was like trying to flee from the sky.
    As it got closer, he felt something pushing softly against him, spreading around him and up into the air.  A far-sense!  Now he was certain.  He’d only hoped to follow the Spirit, to be guided on the next step of its plan.  It would seem he was now considered worthy to meet with a god itself.  He was overwhelmed by awe.  To his knowledge, no other Farseer had ever had this honor before.  No other Farseer has lived through such perilous times, he thought. 
    As it rose, now only a few yards beneath his boat, the water around him began to move as though boiling.  Fish leapt out in the hundreds, as though they might escape from above.  He thought that it would rise like an island onto the surface of the ocean itself, but it stopped, settling with a hiss, its far-sense questing out around it.  He could now feel empty spaces inside it, vast chambers filled with oddly shaped devices.  The sea went calm again, all sea-life having fled as far as possible away from this vast being.  Silence. 
    Light erupted from below, filling the sky.  Beneath the green waters he could make out the shining white surface of the god, and a disturbing thought began to form in his head.  The feel of its surface under his far-sense, and the shape of that smooth, unbroken plane… it had much the same feeling as the demons golems.  He refused to consider it, tried to put it out of his mind, but then there was a great hissing sound, and something began to rise from below, a single cylindrical segment extending from the vessel, directly ahead of his tiny boat.  It rose above the water, a white pillar, shining in the darkness, and a pair of metal doors slid apart smoothly, revealing an inner chamber, lit by an inexplicable glow.  Its emptiness was an obvious invite, and he found himself struggling not cower before it.  The far-sense pressed harder against him, clenching like a giant fist, and the same familiar voice spoke.  But this time it was no mere vibration.  Strange sounds, like words without far-sense, echoed out from the machine in an alien voice.     
    “Welcome, Farseer.  I have been waiting a long time to finally meet you.  Enter.  We have much to do.” 


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