Tales From a Thousand Worlds

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Echo of the Ages – The Crown of Fire – Song of the Earth – Chapter 5

Chapter 5 – Dreams and Visions

A curious detachment settled upon Kathri, a haze that clouded her emotions, leaving her intellect alone behind. She looked down, to see her body laying upon the cushions, with Sudha and Amaran standing above her.

Is this what death feels like? she mused, only to dismiss the thought straight away. No, that makes little sense. If they wished to kill me, why take all the effort to tend to me first.

Before she could further ponder the situation, she felt herself drifting upwards, passing through the roof of the tent. The land fell away beneath her as she rose. She could see the site where the Digari camped beneath her, the ring of tents beside the cluster of trees, shrinking away as her view expanded.

The higher she rose into the air, the further her view broadened. Deserts surrounded her, ringed by hills that formed a vast bowl in that region. To the east she could make out the dried out river she had followed, while to the west, closer to hand, a shallow river ran. Beyond it, the deserts gave way into broad grasslands.

Yet, as she watched, the view beneath her shifted and she became aware of another land beneath her, one that lay upon the familiar, matching the contours of it but one where forests and farms proliferated, while water gushed down the dried out river, fed by many smaller tributaries. Cattle grazed upon lands that was at the same time desert and fertile grassland. Small villages dotted the land, at times growing to the size of towns. Far off in the distance a shimmering city rose, gleaming white in the sun, sitting upon the flowing river.

It all had a vague transparent quality about it, a ghostly imprint of the past resting upon the present, of a time when the Hajanri had ruled there.

As she turned about slowly, taking it all in, she became aware of another figure rising up to join her, a slender young dark skinned woman with burning hair and laughing eyes, clad in flowing white robes. Her face had a vague, familiar aspect to it, one that took a moment for Kathri to place.

“Sudha?”

“It is so, child,” came the reply in a much younger voice, one full of life and vitality and joy.

“Where are we?” Kathri inquired. “What is this place and how did I come to be here?”

“The latter is the simplest question to answer. You drank a brew that set the mind free so that you could enter this place. The where, now that is the thing. Is this a dream, a vision, a hallucination? Is this in fact real? There are no answers and many answers. Many have put forth theories that seek to understand it and explain it. I do not concern myself with such matters, for me it just is. If you must call it anything, call it the memories of the blood.”

“You are talking about the Sleeper’s Curse aren’t you?” Kathri asked, certain memories crystallising in her mind as Sudha spoke. “Why would you bring me here given all the dangers?”

“You have been listening to the Mages too much, child,” Sudha responded. A sigh came from her as she shook her head. “There is no danger, at least not in the way that the Mages speak of, for they fear this place as it is not one that they can touch, and they seek to denigrate those who can. Only those with the blood of dragons, such as you and I, can come to this place and a power that the Mages do not have control over is one they would see gone and forgotten. As to your questions, let us just say that we look upon what is and what was and what could be.”

“The past I can see,” Kathri mused, still slowly turning about to gaze upon the lands, “And the present, but the future? I see nothing that could match that.”

“The paths of the future are not easy to see, revealing themselves only reluctantly, and seldom come clear. Here, though, the past and the future are as one, a return to a state of what was.”

Kathri pondered the statement, finding that with the detached state she was in that her thoughts flowed clearer. She watched as two bands of horsemen rode across the lands beneath her, one Digari of the now and the other Hajanri of the past, mirroring each other. They were one yet at the same time separate, a view of what they might have been had Hajana not fallen. “You are not just referring to the lands, are you?”

“Perceptive, child.”

“How could that be? The Hajanri are no more. The Empire fell and the lands changed.”

“Perhaps could be is not the best of terms,” Sudha replied, circling around Kathri, her white robes flowing out behind her. “Maybe what could have been if things had been different is a better explanation, a view of the lands if the fall had never happened, though even that is not necessarily the truth of the matter.”

“I am not sure that I follow that.”

Sudha laughed a soft, pealing laugh, one of genuine amusement. “It can take some contemplation, that is true. I find it best just to accept it without thinking too much on it.”

“I am not sure that I will live long enough for that.” Kathri looked around further, noting a spot much further north where a village stood out in the past, a place of white, flat topped buildings. Around it were fields of crops, bounded with low stone walls. At the same time she could see drifts of sand sweeping over the remnants of ruins that jutted up out of the ground, a place of broken walls and the mournful sighs of the wind.

“I know that place,” she said. “I have visited it before, a number of years back. There are so many lost places I could discover from this vision, sites of ruins that have never been seen or even known of.”

“If only it were that easy,” Sudha told her. “Where is the tomb of Ajanathad from where you retrieved the figurine?”

Kathri looked about, tracing the course of the river to the east. “It is that way.”

“Then go to it,” Sudha instructed, drifting off through the sky towards the river.

Kathri let herself float along, towards the river and then along it, following the route she had taken in previous days. Where there was barren lands also existed thick forests that lined it while ethereal boats plied the waters. Fishermen cast out nets and merchants carried cargo in boats that were of the Hajanri style.

When at last she reached the location of the tomb, she could see Hajanri craftsmen at work, labouring to excavate a tunnel into the side of the hills. “This is the place.”

Sudha nodded and descended from the heights towards the tomb. “Until now this place was not revealed to me, remaining hidden from sight.”

“You did not know of it?” Even detached from her emotions as she was, Kathri still felt surprised by the revelation.

Sudha waved a hand across the surrounding landscape. “All this that you see, the past and the future memory, it is taken from within, a shared vision if you will, building on our memories, our knowledge. Places that you and I have seen, blended together. What I know of this land, you now know as well.”

“These are memories passed down from generations past, from one person to another?”

Sudha laughed as she nodded. “It is so. It is the collected memories of all who have shared the vision, of the seers of Digara extending all the way back to the times of Hajana.”

“You have shown me much, more than I ever knew existed,” Kathri replied, watching as ghostly Hajanri labourers loaded a barge with rubble from the excavations. “Why bring me here, knowing my nature, knowing what I could do with it?”

“A good question child. Long before we had met, I had seen you and I knew that this I must do, regardless of what I may have felt on the matter. You walked through my dreams many times and there was a reason for it.”

“You saw me?”

“Indeed child.” Sudha came to rest upon a rock that may or may not have still been, solid enough seeming though one Kathri could not recall seeing when she had visited the site.. “From time to time I see visions of people whom I must give aid or advice to. I do not always know the whys or even see the results of my aid. It is part of what being a seer is. Sometimes it is a small matter, a simple offering of food or water, while for others it is larger. One man whom I had never met before I was to give my favourite horse to. The outcomes of those actions vary, those that I know of, from the minor to the seemingly important. In all things, though, looks can be deceiving. All actions can have effects that spill on further, the consequences of which can keep blossoming in ways unexpected and unseen.” She smiled, one that had hints of remembrances to them. “When I was young, and my talents were first emerging, I dreamed of a very old man, one not far from death due to his age. He had lived a long and full life and wanted for nothing. I was to do something seemingly unimportant for him, to just talk to him. I spoke with the seer who was training me and he told me that there was no such thing as unimportant when it came to the visions in the dreams and that I should do as my conscience dictated. I did not come across the man for a year. When I did though, we talked, of simple things, of riding free in the wind beneath the open sky. After he had talked, he thanked me and went on his way. I never saw him again as he died a few days later.”

“That was kind of you to spend time with an old man.”

“It was more than just kindness.” She sighed and a wistful look descended upon her. “A couple of years later a handsome young man sought me out. He was the grandson of the man I had spent time with. Anasar was his name. He had told me that before his grandfather had died, he had told Anasar of the simple kindness I had done for him, and bade his grandson to seek me out and thank me properly. He spent two years searching for me before he found me.” A smile touched Sudha face, lighting it up. “Anasar later became my husband. Were it not for my dream, were it not for me talking to Andradar, Anasar’s grandfather, we would never had met, never have married and never had had the children and grandchildren we had. My grandson, Amaran, would not have been born. I believe that the whole purpose of that vision was for Amaran to arrive, for he is most important, being the bhadtra of the Armakur Digari. And, if I am not mistaken, destined for even more.”

“Now that is a tale to make me almost believe in fate.”

Sudha tilted her head to one side, observing Kathri closely. “You do not believe in it?”

“I have seen plenty who claim to have had glimpses of the future, but they invariable prove to be charlatans. Maybe it is the circles that I move in, that attracts that type. Where is it that the dreams you have come from?”

“This place, child. It is all linked together here.”

Kathri contemplated Sudha’s reply, watching the echoes of the Hajanri workers at their tasks. A glimmer of an idea rose in her, driven on by an intellect devoid of distractions. “Have you looked back on that moment, when you met Andradar? Through this shared dream I mean.”

“Of course.”

“We can see the past,” Kathri said, speaking slowly as her thoughts turned over, “But can they see us in turn? Perhaps that is where the visions come from, a glimpse of the future through those that observe them in the future, as it were.”

A silvery peal of laughter came from Sudha, a joyous, vivacious sound.

I can see why Amaran’s grandfather fell for her, if she was this vibrant when she was young. It is curious, though, that she retains her emotions here while mine are repressed.

“Ah, child, if only Chadaur was alive still, he would have loved to have spent time with you.”

“Who was Chadaur?”

“He was the seer that taught me of this place and how to use it. He was ever one to contemplate the whys and hows of it, seeking to understand its nature. He was of the opinion much as you are that the act of observing the past in some manner triggered the visions. He spent much time pondering such weighty matters. The desert left little else to do but think he told me frequently.”

An ethereal boat glid upon the waters past, docking near where the workers laboured. Soldiers emerged from it and then a tall, flame haired Hajanri. A surge ran through Kathri at the sight of him, a feeling akin to shock, a shock of the mind rather than the emotions.

“He is here,” she stated in hushed tones.

“Who, Chadaur?”

Kathri shook her head and pointed to the man. “Ajanathad. The Emperor.”

Sudha frowned as she looked to where Kathri pointed. “Are you certain? I see nothing there.”

“I am certain. He is the same man I saw entombed.”

“That is unusual,” Sudha relied, her frown deepening. “I see nothing and yet we should see what the others sees. It is the nature of this place. What is he doing?”

“Talking to the labourers.”

“I see them, though none other.”

Ajanathad looked around as he spoke. As Kathri watched, he raised his head and stared directly to where she was, or would be, fifteen hundred years distant. At the look another surge ran through Kathri, stronger this time, and she felt a shiver run through her. “He saw me.”

“That should be impossible.”

“Perhaps there is more to Chadaur’s theory.” Below her the image of Ajanathad and his men dissolved away, leaving behind just the workers. “He is gone now.”

“I will speak with the others, to see what they can make of this. It is strange though, for I did not see this. There was a reason that I brought you here, even if you and I were never to understand why or to see the ultimate results, and this was not it. You are to listen, child, listen close.”

“Listen to what?”

“To everything.”

Kathri stopped still and let her eyes shut, all attention focused on listening, to attempt to hear whatever it was that Sudha wished for her to hear. At first there was nothing, a silence profound, with not the call of animals nor the whisper of the winds to be heard. Then to her ears came the faintest of sounds, a deep melodic throbbing, almost like the beat of a heart, one into which was woven and ancient song. She had heard the sound before, once only, when she had stumbled upon the cave.

“What is it?” she asked, opening her eyes.

“I can not hear what you hear, for it sings for you, for your blood. It is the song of the earth. This is the reason that you are here, this is what I was to show you. The reasons were not revealed to me, only that you needed to be here. I hear my own song, that of the flame, just as you hear the earth. Others can hear the song of the sea or the storms, the forests and more besides, depending on the nature of their blood. Listen to it, let it guide you, for this you are here for.”

Kathri closed her eyes again and listened to the song. The sound of it grew more intense, sweeping over her. It caught her up in its wake, swirled all around her, filled her mind and throbbed through her veins. All else was forgotten in the storm of the song. As the crescendo reached it speak, she felt herself falling into it, down into the darkness again.

~~~~

Within the tent, Kathri lay upon the cushions in a deep slumber. The fatigue and the tight lines of a guarded nature that normally marked her face had gone. They had been washed away, replaced by an expression relaxed and at peace, her face softened.

Sudha stood above her, her face one of deep thought and consideration. Amaran moved over to join her.

“What do you think of her?” Sudha asked of her grandson.

“She is tough,” Amaran replied.

Sudha laughed quietly. Kathri shifted for a moment at the sound but did not wake. “She has the bones of the earth in her, my boy. Of course she is tough.”

A smile flickered across Amaran face. “I think in her case it goes beyond that. She seems to be seeking for something as well. I would say that even she does not know what it is she seeks and that is why she does not settle down. And she has pride. You saw the way she reacted when you made the implication that she was a robber.”

Sudha nodded, her eyes narrowing in thought. “Yes, I had noticed. It is good that she stands up for herself. She will need that, I think.”

“A vision?”

“No, merely a feeling.”

“With you that is often the same thing. What did you see, grandmother?”

“She was very guarded,” Sudha replied, her wrinkled brow creasing further. She brushed away a stray wisp of white hair. “It was hard to get a read on her. She had a tough upbringing, that much I could see.”

“That does help explain her guarded nature, her pride and also why she does not settle down in one place.”

“Yes. Despite that, she has a good heart but will it be enough?” Sudha exhaled a soft sigh. “I just can not say.”

“Why is she so important, grandmother?”

A rueful laugh came from Sudha. “Of all those who have walked through my dreams, she is the first who was not Digaran. For good or for ill she is tied up with the fate of our people and the coming darkness. Too many seers have caught glimpses of what is to come, and she has appeared to many of them as well. All I know is that I was to aid her this day. The future will take care of itself.”

~~~~

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