“From here onward, you go alone,” the white one, the Deceiver said, the doorway opening before him, a crackling wall of invisible substance holding the ocean back. The path ahead loomed wide like the maw of a giant beast, ready to swallow him whole.
“Why? You brought me here to show me something did you not? Is this not all a part of your plan? Don’t you have any more self-serving lies to tell me?” he’d asked indignantly, trying to hide his fear.
“You have called me a liar again and again, but beyond this gate lies the truth. You must find it for yourself. When you return, I am confident that your mind will have been transformed,” it said.
“And if I do not return? Perhaps I would rather die free than live as captive to a demon.” “Then I will have wasted a good deal of my time, and I will certainly be cross. What does it matter to you? You won’t be there,” it said, amused. “Well? What are you waiting for? Are you scared?”
“I am the Farseer, chosen by fate. I have nothing to fear,” he said, and forced himself to step forward. The energy crackled across his shell, and though the ocean’s water was right there, only an arm’s length away, it was pushed back the further he advanced, as though he were walking in a clear bubble of air. He tried not to be impressed at the sight.
Beyond the ship was a mountain of rock and coral, with a swirl of colorful snakes swimming in and out of every crevice. From a distance, it would appear unremarkable, just one of protrusions rising up from the ocean floor. But as he ran his far-sense over it, he could sense the open space within, a network of tunnels arranged in a spiral like the inside of a conch. Exactly like those the Woken had been building for thousands of years.
An unremarkable split in the rock wall led to an opening large enough for him. It was near the top of the spire, a window that would have commanded a high view of the surrounding area were this a home. He slipped inside, batting away the angry snakes with his far-sense, and emerged in darkness. A light began to rise up from nowhere, and he realized that it was coming from the edge of the shield that surrounded him. He wondered how the demon could be doing such a thing, and if it would suddenly cease if he strayed too far from it’s machine. The light revealed the curve of the spiral wall, leading down and widening as it went. The walls here were dark and covered in more coral, but below, he could see a hint of color…
Farseer descended. As he got lower, the coral ran out, and the walls began to shift and grow brighter before him. Splashes of color, no doubt once bright and cheery, covered every surface. Some of them made up mosaics, long pieces of art with a new piece revealed with every turn of the shell. A wave of homesickness washed over him, surprising him with its intensity. His home, before he’d been moved to the grand temple in Hope Beneath The Petals, had been much the same as this structure, a tall tower with a single spiral chamber narrowing the closer it got to the top. As a young child, he had been assigned to the top with three other hatchlings, and they had ran wildly up and down the tower with little regard for the other tenants personal areas. Six families of many generations had lived in that spire, and they were all so close that the separation of blood was a mere formality. He had grown up with half a dozen grandmothers and grandfathers, and more uncles, aunts, and cousins than he could count. His own parents had painted several of the mosaics, his father in particular was a devout and talented artist. Since he was born, Farseer had often walked past the painting of an older Farseer on the thirteenth turn, the orange markings on his shell shining like fire.
Here and there were signs of a long ended life. Old refuse littered the alcoves built into the inner wall of the tower, the small cells created for those who needed to focus on their work without the constant distraction of those coming and going. He peered into one such alcove, its walls painted teal like blood, and realized there were dozens of smaller holes on the sides of the walls, probably meant to hold scrolls, now covered in little crabs and sea slugs. Every home had such a place, where all the books were kept in one common spot, so that any tenant could read as they pleased. Though of course, some books were kept in secret…
In the next alcove he found a corpse. Its shell twinkled in the light, having transmuted over the centuries into a diamond-like form. He could no longer guess its sex of color, but it was facing him, as though it had died trying to climb the tower. He ran his far-sense over it gently, and felt a number of small holes riddling the back of its shell. He didn’t know what sort of weapon had been used, but this Woken had been murdered. Is this the truth I am sent to find? he wondered bitterly. Even without the presence of demons, his people had often turned against each other, fighting wars for the sake of greed and pride. He did not need to see this.
The bottom of the tower held a much worse sight.
At the lowest level was a pair of huge doors, their frames shattered open. A huge pile of crystal shells covered the floor, untold dozens of Woken cut down as they tried to push their way in or out of the home. The bodies were stacked as though some had been trying to climb over each other in their desperation to escape. Others had been brought down on their way up the first landing, trying to reach the top of the tower. For what? There was no escape there, they would only have delayed their deaths.
He shuddered as he clambered over the corpses surrounding the entrance. If there was some truth to find here, he wanted to find it fast. He was tired of death and destruction. He braced himself for more corpses when he emerged from the home. What he found made him drop his far-sense in shock.
A large plaza waited before him. More towers, more homes of countless numbers of his people rose up on all sides. Hundreds more corpses littered the floor. But standing tall over them all were a familiar, terrible sight. Long spindly legs holding up hulking weapons of destruction. Unseeing eyes of soulless glass. Cannons that fired long hot streaks of burning death, stronger than any crossbow. Golems.
But these were not the golems of the demons. His far-sense reached inside of them, and the horrible knowledge he withdrew could never be unlearned. The bodies of these golems stood on four legs. Their heads were a huge triangular shell, painted in bright and florid colors, bearing crests painted in painstaking pride. Tendrils hung down from their backs, spiked and capped with another cannon. And the space within was arranged so that ones left legs would go here, their right legs there, and have just enough space to access the controls wrapped around on all sides. These machines were a horrible caricature of his own body.
The mind of the Farseer recoiled at the knowledge that his own people had built such golems, used them as weapons of slaughter against their own kind, and declared with full certainty that this discovery should never be revealed, lest his people be once again tempted down that road.
But the mind of the revolutionary, the mind of the one who shook with fury at the thought of the demons enthralling his planet, not with malevolence, but with cold degrading indifference, looked on these weapons and thought Yes, I can use these.