Beyond the wall of glass, a limitless stretch of cerulean water drifted by. Though they were deep beneath the waves, he could see for miles, the water startlingly clear. A school of giant sea dragons were passing by a mere hundred yards away, the sea lit by the iridescent lights of their bodies. The sight was uplifting, their light an emerald beacon of hope in this dark place. But his hope turned to despair. He had not yet given up, but the fact was that he would most likely never see the sun again. Not unless he gave in and agreed to work with the Deceiver. But that was something he could never allow.
Stumbling on his still-injured leg, he put his hand to the glass, reached out with his far-sense. Just beyond that narrow barrier, he could feel the force of an entire world’s worth of water, pushing against him. It was an awe inspiring feeling, as though he had felt the touch of a god itself. He pushed his far-sense out farther, the water rippling as it forced its way through, and lightly touched the distant dragons. All at once their bodies shone like the sun, their light swelling to blinding brightness, and they fled in every direction in a swirl of color. He pulled back his far-sense, feeling numb.
He turned and descended again towards the center of the chamber. It was an enormous room, a circle divided into four distinct rings of varying height. Each ring had its own wall of glass to provide a view to the outside, and the lowest ring, where he ate and slept, had a floor of glass as well. He found it comforting, that he could send out his far-sense and feel it trailing across the many creatures that swam beyond, reminding him he was not alone, that there was a wider world outside this cell. The Deceiver had provided him with every luxury, yet it was a prison nonetheless.
He had been trapped in this undersea shell for two days, as near as he could tell. When first the sea split apart and this white vessel rose from the depths, shining with white light, he had been supremely moved, at last being given the attention a Farseer deserved, attention from the gods themselves. That awe had turned to ashes swiftly. He was not so blinded by faith as to believe that this vessel belonged to an actual Spirit. He had been deceived, and he knew now that one who had claimed to be the Spirit was nothing more than another alien demon, empowered by soulless technology. It had admitted as much, just after he’d arrived.
“In what way have I deceived you Farseer?” the Deceiver had spoken. The sound of it’s voice made his shell clench with anger. It was a flat, dull voice with no hint of melody, devoid of any hint of its owners sex. Though it spoke his language passably, the inflection was all wrong, and most annoyingly, it continued to speak very slowly, as one did to a child. “I never claimed to be this Spirit you so desperately seek. I never claimed anything at all. All I did was tell you to follow. You have no one but yourself to blame for your misunderstanding.”
“I had faith that I would be led on the right path. As Farseer it is my destiny to save my people. Do you find my faith amusing, demon?” he said.
“On the contrary. I respect your faith very much. I cannot remember what it was like to believe in something so thoroughly. Maybe I never did believe. But have you considered that you are jumping to the wrong conclusions? Maybe you were right to believe. Maybe this is the path you are meant to take.”
“What, you suggest that the avatar of the gods, the sole hope for my people was meant to waste his life imprisoned by a demon? Obliviously this is how I will save my people. How could I not have seen it before?” Farseer said.
“Alien sarcasm, how amusing. The fact that two separate species developing independently both came up with a term for the facetious use of insincerity is quite an intriguing one. Do you think it more supports the theory of intelligent design or of evolution? Personally I am inclined towards the former.”
“You are wasting your words Deceiver. Get to the point. You obviously have no desire to kill me. What is it you want of me?”
“I should think that is obvious. I want your help,” the voice said.
The Deceiver had been irritatingly cryptic ever since. It had spoken on occasion, to offer him food and point out sights of interest from outside the vessel. Any attempt to get it to explain itself further had been met with insistence that he wait and see. Everything would be explained when they reached their destination.
At first he had been loathe to accept the offered food and water. But pragmatism won over righteous fury in the end. If he died here he would be a failure as Farseer. Though it did not seem likely that he would ever be able to escape, much less fight back against the invaders, he would have to remain alive if there was going to be any chance of victory. He had considered shattering the glass of this vessel with his powerful far-sense, and letting the ocean bury him in silence. But he had been given a task, impossible as it may seem. His body belonged to the gods, to his people. He did not have the right to let himself die.
He returned to the table to see what had been placed. Every five hours or so, except when he was sleeping, a number of strange mechanical claws would descend from the ceiling and set a collection of food and drink for his use, far more than he could possibly need. He had wondered where the arms escaped to, and if he could somehow follow them and escape this cell. But the openings they used were much too small for him to enter, and too high to reach besides. He had at least concluded that the arms were a type of golem, and not a living creature. He supposed he could destroy it with his far-sense, but then he would have no food. He couldn’t see how it would inconvenience his captor anyway. He went to see what had been provided today.
The main course was a magnificent crimson berry, sliced in half and hollowed out so that it could be filled with a soup of leeks and roots. For every ingredient he recognized there was another he did not. He sampled them all, pausing at each foreign taste, but found he was opposed to none. He had wondered, a bit queasily, if some of these were in fact alien plants, the very sustenance the demons had been raised on. But the Deceiver had laughed at that, and assured him that all had come from his own planet. It made him realize how little he actually knew of his own people. Well he was young. If he survived, he would have time to learn.
“Are you there, Deceiver?” he asked. Sometimes he found the silence in this place soothing. Other times he found it maddening. And the thought that the demon was always watching him, with no sign of itself, continued to grate on his nerves.
“Of course I’m here. Did you think I would abandon you, my sweet friend?”
“Why don’t you show yourself? Obviously a creature so despicably powerful has nothing to fear. Do you enjoy this air of mystery you cloak yourself in?”
“Hardly. I must admit I haven’t thought about it. I have remained hidden for so long, it has become my nature. But my reason for not showing myself is rather more pedestrian than some petty play for obscurity. I am not there. At this moment I am physically several hundred miles from your location. Any image I showed you would be an illusion. And I know how much you despise trickery,” it said.
“Even an illusion would be better than conversing with the air.”
“As you wish. Give me a moment to prepare something.”
He paused, wondering what had made him think to ask that. He did not care what this demon looked like. He shouldn’t even be talking to it. Besides, logically it would have roughly the same appearance as the other demons. He had spent half a year in Green Towers, the city ruled by the Jade demon. Though he had never had the opportunity to see her in person, he had seen the many paintings her pathetic followers had made in her honor. The demons were comical, ridiculous creatures. They tottered around clumsily on two legs, with tiny heads and soft flesh like that of a peach. They were all around an uninspiring sight, a dull, colorless race with no elegance or beauty. The so called Green Goddess was not even green, except for the tiny circles in the middle of her exposed eyes. He had been astounded such a pathetic creature could ever have gained such power. They were probably mere minions of some more threatening demons, perhaps even slaves. It was the only thing that made sense.
“Does this form meet your approval?” the Deceiver said. A shimmering stirred the air before him, detectable both by sight and far-sense. A figure coalesced like a painting done in extreme speed, first a rough sketch, then color added, followed by shadows and depth. He bristled at the appearance chosen. It was a shaped like one of his people, four legs strong and sharply pointed, long tendrils hanging down its back, upper body lithe and slender. It had chosen to appear as a female, assuming the Deceiver even knew how to tell the difference. Her shell was a milky white, unblemished and pure. The color made him shiver. Though nowhere near as highly lauded as the orange on black of a Farseer, white shelled Woken were extraordinarily rare. White was a funereal color. White was the color of a benevolent death, the satisfied death of one who had lived a good life. Was it meant to be a threat? More likely the Deceiver did not know its significance.
“I would rather you not profane the sacred image of my people. Have you not done enough in sparking this apocalypse?”
“hisssssssss,” the Deceiver rattled her illusionary carapace, making it hiss to show annoyance. “You are such a downer, Farseer. Misery and woe are all you ever talk about. Don’t you ever get tired of listening to yourself mope? Is that a positive personality trait for your people? Do the girls line up to listen to you spiel your tragic manifesto? Try to be a little less sensitive, it’s a repugnant quality.”
“Oh, I’m quite sorry I haven’t been as amusing as you’d like. Imprisonment tends to put a damper on my sunny disposition,” he responded.
“And the way you keep throwing around these absolutes without thinking… you’re blaming the wrong person for peoples trouble. Have you ever once heard of any damage caused by a white army?”
He kept silent as he realized he hadn’t. White golems were seen on very rare occasions, but never in force, and never had he heard of them participating in the battles that tore his world asunder. In fact he had nearly forgotten that there was a white demon at all. Could this demon truly be willing to help me? It was an amazing thought, that he could have the force of all that power, an army of golems, at his disposal. He thrust away the tempting image. These demons could not be trusted, and this one shared the blame for his people’s suffering, even if it did not partake in the war itself. By all accounts the white ship had been the very first to land. It could well be that it had led the others here.
“I have little interest in the game the others are playing. Despite what they think, it’s meaningless. No one will win, though I expect there will be losers. This petty struggle is only the prologue to my story. When all is over they will look back and wonder how they could have wasted so much time and resources squabbling like the children they are.” The Deceiver seemed to be speaking to itself, as though it had forgotten Farseer’s presence.
“So why the guise? If you really want my help, why not show me your true form? I have never seen a demon first hand,” he said.
“How about no. Sorry but I’m a bit sensitive about my appearance. No one has seen me for many years now. At first my solitude was due to necessity, but eventually I began to feel that I should make something of it. I do not plan on revealing myself until I can speak with the one who forced me into this hermitage. Only when his world is shattered and he is trying desperately to hold the broken pieces together, then will I reveal myself. That will be a sweet moment. I will savor it a good long time,” the Deceiver said.
“So your reason for all this is simple revenge?”
“Don’t start getting worked up again. Your planet was chosen to be the site of this battle long before I decided to get involved. Even if I had refused to come, nothing would have changed. Your peoples struggle was an inevitability. But their defeat doesn’t have to be. But we’ve talked about this long enough, I’ve given up on trying to convince you until you see what I have to show you. I just wanted to explain why I choose to speak with you in this form. And speaking of secrets, I think it is disingenuous of you to insinuate that I am the only one withholding information. Why, you go so far as to hide your name, don’t you Farseer?”
“My birth name is of no importance to you. My shell has marked me as a Farseer since my third year. My old name has no more meaning. How would you even know about such thing? Your kind do nothing but cause death and destruction. Our culture and history mean nothing to you.”
“Oh I wouldn’t say that. Studying your people has kept me occupied while I wait for certain events to begin. I do have to pass the time somehow. So tell me, Farseer, what did you mother call you?”
“That is something you have no right to know.”
“Why not? Had you been born with a different shell, everyone would know you by your common name. Do you hate your name? Does it remind you that, if not for a simple genetic anomaly, quite a common occurrence from a cosmic viewpoint, you would simply be another Woken? You quite like your new name, don’t you Farseer? It is such a grand name, one that is spoken with such reverence and deference. You do love to be held up high, don’t you, where you can look down at everyone. Oh ho, did I strike a nerve?”
“Shut up demon. My name is a sacred issue of trust from the gods to our race. I wear it with pride. I do not look down on anyone,” he said. He was speaking extremely slowly, measuring out his vibrations with a distinctly insulting lethargy. He realized his tendrils were rising in anger.
“Come now Farseer, you don’t have to pretend with me. I’ve been watching you for well over a year now. No matter how alone you thought you were in the midst of the wilderness, my eyes were always nearby. You’ve made quite an intriguing story for me to follow. Almost Shakespearean in its bluntness. You make quite the tragic character, full of flaws which will surely drag you down in the end. Normally your story would end in despair, but fortunately for you I am here to change things up. Normally you would only be a minor character, a bit of dark comedy to distract from the true tale. You make an inspiring play for justice, the lone visionary sparking revolution with spiritual fervor. But of course you will fail. How can you possibly win against beings who make your gods look like insects? But I can change that. I will be your deus ex machina. And together we will turn this story on its head and force its writer to tears. Are you ready to wreak some havoc with me Farseer?” Her body was quivering now with each word, speaking faster and faster, not in respect, he guessed, but due to some wild enthusiasm. She drew closer as she spoke, and with the last question reached out and put one hand on his head-shell, a light and gentle touch. He froze as he realized he could feel it. What he thought was an illusion was, somehow, actual solid shell and blood. Was there anything these demons were not capable of?
“You expect me to understand what you’re talking about? You refuse to tell me your goals, to tell me why you need my help, to even explain what it is you want me to do? Why should I listen to anything you have to say?” he asked, stepping away from her touch.
“Ah, Farseer. You have such good timing.” As she spoke, the entire vehicle suddenly shuddered and ground to a halt. He extended his far-sense and realized they had arrived in the midst of some massive underwater complex, filled with towering spires and deep pits. “We have arrived at our destination. Follow me, and I will show you what I want you to do, and more importantly, why you will agree to do it.”