A VISION (2)
No-one knows which deities or spirits send visions. Yet it is manifest that they are often divinely inspired, or from the spirit world, and if acted upon, change the weave—even the very threads themselves—of the Tapestry of Life.
Fereg Holden ys Clo—A Mage’s Guide to Thaumaturgy.
The sun slipped quietly out of the mauve and turquoise of the western sky into the sea, leaving a scarlet wash against the dark rim of the crater. Ithilion, the guide star to the Havens, glowed incandescent against the marine gloom. A winter sunset, the smoke from a hundred thousand fires staining the heavens with blood; the air cold and still and scented with the familiar smells of the city—wood smoke, coffee, garlic and onions, roasting meat, ordure, salt water, rottenness, hot oil, wax, wine.
A day like any other. Except that the Panthra Aliya was dead. Her friend, her queen, strong and competent, who had held the empire together.
Patrika dropped her eyes from the view, and looked at her glass of mulled wine as if it had got into her hands by mistake. She took a deep draught, and felt the warm spicy sweetness slip down her throat and make a glowing fist in her belly. Tearing the curtains across the great windows, as though to exclude truth itself, she stumbled back into the embrace of the armchair in front of the fire. She stroked the cat, Tayzl, drawing comfort from his indifference, her own profound grief mixed with fear about the future.
She took another long swallow.
The news was impossible to credit. Yet she knew—who better ?—what it meant for Cappor, this rouged heartless whore of a city, threadbare mistress of an empire that had once enveloped the lands around the inner sea. Cappor—precipitous walls of the caldera, with buildings clustering like a white-ant nest, the layered houses tumbling haphazardly down to the waterside, one’s roof another’s doorstep, white or pastel at the tops of the cliffs, ochre and sepia at the bottom, slum windows like yawning mouths, leaking filth. Kept safe from its enemies by the steep walls of the volcano, with only one outlet from the caldera to the sea. Better—its ability to make money selling anything, to anybody. Information was its weapon. And if that failed, seduction. Home to a half a million, from every country round the inner sea and beyond, from every race, every religion, every sorcerous perversion.
She drew up her legs onto the sofa, and refilled her glass from the jug. She felt the prickling stabs of pain on her scalp that signalled a trance beginning. Not now! she thought, despairing. It came anyway.
The sky was dark with smoke, and the air tinctured with the bitter smells of the burning city, of the foul effluvia of necromancy, of blood and death. She could hear the shrieks as women and youths were raped then spitted, the groans of dying men. The citadel stood above the indigo opalescent waters of the harbour, white against an azure winter sky, dusted with snow, and fire burned within its windows. She floated over the burning metropolis until she came to the palace. It was in ruins, and bodies in the uniform of the Panthra’s guard lay scattered thickly over the square. The great palace doors were burnt with mage-blasts, and were split and hung askew. Inside, she knew what she would find. She did not go in.
She moved with an illusory freedom to the edge of the city, an eagle riding the thermals on the rim, indifferent mistress of all she surveyed. An army occupied the plains, the sky above them filled with long-jawed faltûthes, their bony wings of stretched leather sienna and grey against the blue. Capporean corpses were piled like maggots. Horror made her close her eagle eyes, but still she saw the men and women and children having their living hearts torn out of them by the ecstatic priest-sorcerers, as they slaked their god’s lust for pain, for blood and death.
She began to spiral deeper and deeper, and the world became purple and then inky black. In the empty darkness, a voice spoke –‘Seek the sword of Fanuiloth, and Vordath the Bearer, the rightful Panthron, the saviour of the world.’
Then the vision ripped out of her mind, gone as quickly as it had come. Her head throbbed with the post-vision headache.
She rang the bell for her servant to bring her a pot of the herb-tea she used to dull the pain.
She had seen horrible things in her mirror of truth over the last few months. Her spider web of spies and assassins, in the city and abroad, brought her more alarming reports each day. After centuries of decay, the old glories worn tatty and thin, Cappor’s riches lay ready for sacking. How in Mara’s name was she to find someone called Vordath out of all the inhabitants of Cappor and its shabby empire? And who was Fanuiloth? She went over to her bookcase, and pulled out Jnetha ys Kharain’s “Urcanthic Prophecies From the Inner Sea”, and was deep in it when her servant brought the tea, and a tiny silver dish of ajwain-scented biscuits.
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