"And More Revelations"
Korremar stood in the middle of the sand bar, while Rayje and Sinder watched from the riverbank. He raised his staff, held it to the bright sun and then plunged it down into the sand. A wave of dry heat washed over the observers on the bank, and the river water began to steam. The sand lifted, swirling around the staff and then growing to consume the magi holding it as well. Soon, there stood a whirling column of sand, its form wavering with heat mirages.
Korremar’s voice rasped from within the column, "Direct your will toward the column and it will show you what you seek."
Rayje focused his thoughts on the image of Warrada and her Twin brother. Nothing happened. Sinder glanced over at his master nervously. "What’s going on?" He whispered. "I don’t see anything."
Rayje shook his head, "Neither do I." He thought for a moment. "Perhaps…the Twins are separated? He focused his thoughts upon the image of Warrada, as best he could recall her appearance.
Suddenly, the column of sand darkened and revealed a wavering image of Warrada seated in a very small and dark room. She was laughing and pulling on knobs and levers. "That’s Warrada, all right," confirmed Sinder. "But we still can’t see where she is."
Rayje just nodded, his jaw set in grim determination. He focused his thoughts again, this time looking for a bigger picture. Immediately the view shifted to show a huge lumbering giant, stalking through what looked like the swamps of Bograth. It was mostly metallic, but here and there a bit of wood could be seen. It seemed to carry a smoldering fire within its belly, and several smokestacks on its back belched thick black smoke into the air.
"Whoa! What is that thing?" asked Sinder. "It looks kind of like your construct, Rayje!"
Rayje was studying the image with a deep frown. He nodded slowly, "It is…much more terrible."
"You know this thing?" Sinder asked.
"It was just a theory…once. A mental exercise, written by Agram himself."
"What’s Agram got to do with this thing?"
Rayje sighed. "Agram was once an amazing…scholar…of the animite arts. He was fascinated with the idea of gathering energy from multiple sources to create stronger and stronger maginings. This was one of his…darker…ideas."
Sinder frowned, "So how did Warrada get her hands on it?"
"This must be what she and Hrada sought in the Great Library. The old archives of the Magining Academy were stored there. She must have found the plans and? Rayje stopped speaking.
"And?" prompted Sinder.
"But she would have needed a very powerful energy source to make this thing. Something really big, a relic perhaps, although it would have to be a very powerful one." Rayje was speaking mostly to himself now, thinking out loud. "Where could she have gotten such a powerful relic? And where’s Hrada?"
Rayje focused his thoughts on the spinning column of sand once more. This time it showed a sunlit canyon, high in the mountains. Snow lay all about the ground. Rayje frowned deeper. The canyon appeared to be empty.
"What? What is it?" whispered Sinder in his ear.
"I asked to see Hrada. Where is he?" He concentrated harder. The view zoomed in to show a series of elongated lumps in the snow. The tip of what appeared to be a boot was peaking out of one of the mounds. Rayje closed his eyes and shook his head, letting out a deep breath.
"This Warrada is…without shame…or mercy. It seems she has betrayed even her own brother."
Sinder’s mouth was gaping. "No! You really think so?"
Rayje just pointed at the image and said, "See for yourself."
Rayje accepted Korremar’s hand in a firm grasp. "It has been? Rayje paused, searching for words. "I…am glad you’re here, old friend."
Korremar nodded, his youthful eyes seeming suddenly very old. "I will have my people spread the word. We will send envoys to Cald and the Weave immediately. Then the sands can carry a message to Jaela and Nimbulo, whose Arderian Guard can alert the rest of the Moonlands far swifter than any others." Korremar’s cape suddenly whirled about him, even though the air of the valley was still and peaceful. "We will meet again, soon."
The d’Reshi turned and walked away. His form seemed to shimmer, as if he were veiled in heat mirages. Sinder squinted to watch the retreating form. Suddenly, Korremar had disappeared altogether.
He turned to his master and declared, " Alright—it’s time for some answers! I want to know?i>now?/i>just who or…or what I am following!"
Rayje met his stare evenly, no trace of an expression upon his face. Sinder’s Calder temper had finally gotten the better of him, and he persisted. "I mean it Rayje, I’m not takin?one more step with you until I know what’s goin?on!" Sinder glanced away, his eyes searching the place where Korremar had vanished. "That old ghost just implied that you and Agram are…what? Related somehow? And…what was all that about you and the Dream Plane?" Sinder’s normally ruddy complexion had paled considerably and he had taken a step back from Rayje.
Rayje let out a long breath, and finally dropped his eyes from Sinder’s. "Ah well…I guess it’s best that you know the truth. And then…if you no longer wish to follow me…I will understand." His voice was quiet and held a note of vulnerability that frightened and angered Sinder even more.
Rayje turned, holding his hands behind his back as he paced slowly toward the shade of a grove of silverthorns growing along the river’s edge. Sinder followed, still struggling with his temper.
"I am not…like you," began Rayje. "I am a dream."
"You’re not real?" asked Sinder, his face growing even paler.
"Oh, I’m real enough. But not in the same way that you and the rest of the magi are. You see, I was magined by one of the greatest of all Eliwan dream conjurers—Agram." Rayje searched Sinder’s eyes with his own. "The Eliwan had the ability to magine permanent dreams, whose existence needed no further sustenance from their creator’s energy."
"Agram? Permanent?" Sinder was trying hard to comprehend Rayje’s words, but his mind felt sluggish and dim, an unfortunate side effect of the Calder temper.
"Nowadays, when a magi invokes a dream creature, all they are really doing is calling upon a pre-set pattern that is already established in the dream plane. No one truly makes up anything new anymore; well, with the exception of Tony Jones and the blue furok." Sinder just nodded, still trying to catch up with Rayje’s words amid the whirling of his own thoughts.
Rayje continued, "Well…Agram was a strong leader among the Eliwan. He was extremely powerful in the animite art of magining—of true creation—not just the invocation of someone else’s dreams. He used this power to create…me."
Sinder’s brows drew together as he asked, "Why you? You’re not a creature."
Rayje smiled a bit, "Well, I was a creature…a bit of a monster really…until the Eliwan got me under control." Rayje saw the blank look on Sinder’s face. With a sigh, he reached up and pulled a ripe fruit from a low branch. "Agram was…hopelessly in love, with a high councilor named Une. Surely you’ve heard of her?"
Sinder nodded slowly. Everyone knew the legend of the mighty Une, she who had led the exodus of her people to the safety of the moon.
"Well, although Une considered Agram a dear friend, she did not return his feelings. In fact, she had fallen in love with Agram’s brother—Padram."
Sinder’s mouth fell open a bit. "Agram has a brother?"
"Had," corrected Rayje. "Agram was terribly jealous of Padram, and also determined to make Une see that he was the more powerful, and therefore more desirable, of the two brothers. And so he set forth to bring into existence the greatest single magining ever achieved: a magined being with a mind, a will and the ability to magine creations of its own." Sinder’s eyebrows rose questioningly at Rayje. Rayje nodded in reply, "Me."
"Unfortunately, Agram’s jealousy and anger toward Padram had colored his magining with Void energy, and I was formed in the image of vengeance." Rayje was silent for a time, as he bit thoughtfully into the pearlescent white flesh of the fruit he held in his hand. Sinder kept his own silence, and watched his master’s face as ancient memories flickered before his eyes.
"I? Rayje began, "I don’t really have very clear memories of that time…but I saw the destruction later." He looked up and held Sinder’s gaze once more, his expression one of grief and sorrow.
"Daer Garoon…the capitol…was in ruins. I had formed as a seething white-hot mass of energy, incapable of containing the uncontrolled Void energy pouring into me from the dream plane. Everything around me that had been magined was suddenly dissolved by my fluctuating energies. Since much of the city had been magined in the first place, this caused massive destruction. The city fell around me." His voice was almost a whisper.
"What happened? What stopped you?" asked Sinder, his voice having lost the edge of anger.
Rayje took a deep breath. "Padram and Une gathered the most powerful Eliwan leaders, including Agram who seemed shocked at his loss of control. They surrounded me and channeled their energies through one another, trapping me in a sort of cage. Then Padram used his Dream Gaze ability to enter the Dream Plane and cut off the flow of Void energy that was feeding me. This had the effect of damping the energy fluctuations, allowing me to get control of myself, as well as diminishing my physical size. Then they put me in chains of black animite and imprisoned me.
"I was alone for a long time, and it was in that prison cell that my clear memories begin. I remember being very angry, but I did not know why. I kept seeing visions of my creator’s face…Agram’s face. And suddenly I realized that I was not angry at all. He was angry. It was his anger. That’s when I first realized that I was my own separate being.
"Padram came to visit me, gasping when he first looked into my cell. For you see, in the time that I had been imprisoned, I settled into my final form. It seems I had been patterned after the one thing Agram felt most strongly about: himself."
Sinder gulped, suddenly realizing the import of Rayje’s words. "You are…the product of Agram’s anger," he proclaimed. "A tool designed for vengeance…formed in his own likeness." His voice shook slightly as he made his declaration. He let out a long breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. "No wonder you keep this to yourself!" The Calder hung his head and rubbed his bleary eyes.
Rayje began to speak again, sounding more as if he were speaking to himself than to Sinder. "Agram was punished for his act, of course; although he professed it was all a mistake, that it had merely been beyond his control. Eventually, people believed him, for he continued to be a strong leader…and his powerful magining skills greatly helped in rebuilding the city. But he was very ashamed, and he never, ever came to see me. Padram did, though. After a while, he came every day. He told me stories. He told me about the world of El and the wonders of the new animite science, and explained to me how I had come to be. He told me of the terrible damage I had wrought upon the city.
"Then one day? Rayje paused, his eyes shining with ancient memories. "One day he brought Une to see me. She was the very vision of grace, beauty and elegance. She spoke kindly to me, and I found myself weeping; begging her forgiveness for the destruction I had caused.
"Soon after, Padram came to me and led me from my cell. I was given my freedom, although I was still in Padram’s charge. More than a year had passed since my creation, but many people were still frightened of me. But when Une herself vouched for the goodness in my heart, her word seemed to be reassurance enough for most of her people. Agram, however, was scandalized at my release. I was his greatest embarrassment, loose upon the streets for all to see. He argued with the council and Une, begging them to help him find a way to destroy me. They told him that it would keep him humble to have a living reminder of where his ambitions had taken him and sent him away."
Rayje wiped the sticky fruit juice from his lips with his sleeve. "I saw him once, you know? He looked down to where Sinder was leaning against one of the silverthorn trunks. "He was giving a speech…a magnificent figure…resplendent with authority. It was no wonder that people followed him. I watched him for a while until he saw me there and stopped his speech in mid-sentence. He just stared at me, above the heads of all those people. He just stared me down until the eyes of everyone in the assembly were upon me…watching…waiting to see what I would do."
Sinder leaned forward, anxious to hear how his master had faced down Agram himself. "What did you do? Did you kick his butt?"
Rayje turned his head aside, avoiding Sinder’s questioning stare and replied, "I turned and ran."
Sinder kept silent, although his mouth drew into a thin line.
Rayje looked up through the leaves overhead, his face dappled with sunshine. "I knew, Sinder. I knew."
"I knew the darkness in Agram’s heart. I felt his rage and jealousy toward Padram in my own heart. I knew it was there long before anyone else ever suspected and yet…I never told anyone."
"Oh? breathed Sinder. "But that means?
Rayje nodded. "If I had told Padram and Une what I had discovered about Agram’s heart, then maybe all of history would have been different. Agram could have been watched more closely. He may not have been able to betray us all the way he did. If only? Rayje trailed off into silence, shaking his head wearily.
The two shared a thoughtful silence for long minutes, as the day wore on into early evening.
"If only? Sinder said. The Calder regained his feet and moved closer to Rayje. "Those are lonely words…master," he said, reaching out to place a strong and understanding hand on the legend’s shoulder.
Rayje returned Sinder’s gaze and nodded once in silent gratitude. The two turned and walked out of the trees as Rayje said, "We can join up with the Naroomi, and I suppose someone should go check on Hrada, or whatever’s left of him." Rayje turned to lead the way to the Barlbridge.
As they trudged up the opposite river bank, heading for the great Spirals that would lead them up and out of the northern river canyon and out onto the broad plateau that was the precursor to the great forests of Naroom, Sinder turned to Rayje and asked a final question.
"How did you come to be called Rayje?"
Rayje was thoughtful for a moment before answering, "I named myself."
Sinder nodded, and was about to ask why he had chosen such a name when it occurred to him that he already knew the answer. The pair walked on in silence as night began to fall.
Warrada’s yellow teeth gleamed in the darkness inside the Nightmare Construct. She leered down upon the sleeping swamp village below. With unnatural silence, the construct’s golden tentacle-chains snaked their way through the open windows—their barbed claws seeking fresh prey. Soon the screams of the Bograthians began to fill the night air as Warrada drained them one by one. The construct grew larger, its metal frame groaning with the stresses of increasing its mass.
Above it all, Warrada’s maniacal laugh echoed out across the chaos. And when the last drop of energy had been drained from the last whimpering swamp-dweller, she turned her construct toward a more obvious form of destruction. With mighty swings of its gargantuan arms, the Nightmare construct began tearing the village apart. Moss, timbers and unconscious magi were all sent flying through the air. When nothing was left standing, it began to pound the remains into the ground. When at last Warrada tired of her entertainment, she turned the construct back toward the heart of the swamp. Of the village, nothing remained except a flattened patch of muddy and water.
As the last echoes of the Nightmare Construct’s footsteps faded away, the Moss Quido’s arose in their millions and began to drink of the suddenly sweet waters.
What happens next? Read Part 4 "A New Leaf"
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