Tuesday, 13 August 2013


Once upona time, there were a people who lived on a lovely fertile plain. Every hour, every day, every year was the same as the one before. The slow rhythm of the seasons lulled them, the abundant harvests blessed them with wealth, and they grew complacent in their contentment.

One spring the slow river that watered the plain rose up in a mighty flood and swept away their village and their fields. In the aftermath of horror, they looked around on the devastation - the roiling mud spewing the bloated bodies of beasts and men - and grew fearful. There was no safety here. The placid giant was a ravening beast. How would they know what horrors the morning would bring?

They packed what they could salvage and headed for the far hills. That night the survivors huddled around their fires and whispered their fear. For the first time, they could not look to the future with tranquility. They could not - as had their Fathers and their Fathers before them- foresee the patterns of their days.

They climbed the hills and found them too low to offer safety, and lifted their eyes to a great mountain. On the slopes of that mountain they found olive trees growing and planted vines; in the shallow valleys they planted corn.

The first winter was harsh: bitter winds and snow tumbled down from the icy crest, they were cold and they were hungry. One cold night a strange woman, great with child, scraped at the Elder’s door and was taken in. She was young and silver-eyed, silent and strange, and some questioned the wisdom of sheltering such a one, but the Elder stood firm, and on the Longest Night, the woman gave birth. She’d held on to the Elder’s wife’s hands during her travail, and scored them with her nails, but no sound did she utter. When her daughter was placed in her arms she smiled and kissed the vivid welts in the older woman’s hands and, as if by magic, the marks did vanish.

The woman rose to her feet, the baby in her arms.“By thy kindness art thou blessed, ask and it shall be given unto thee, in as far as it will not infringe on the Covenant of Man.”

The Elder and his wife were frightened and awed. They saw before them one of the Young Immortals and fell to their knees and groveled in the dirt.

“Rise now and receive my thanks. Name now thy boon, for an Immortal may not leave such a debt unpaid.”

The Elder, a shrewd man, spoke thus: “Thy debt, Great One, is not to me, but to my people, whose Elder I am. For them, I would ask that you lighten the burden of darkness that blinds us to what is to be, that they may no longer fear the unknown.”

“That may not be, none may see the Future and speak it, for to do so would be an unbearable burden,” and gazing down on her child, she smiled. “Yet there may be a way to lessen the fear of the unknown and leave a soul unmarred. From now on, in each third Sun-season shall a child be born to your people who can See a small parcel of that-which-may-be. The child shall See only until it begins to speak, and on that day shall it lose its Sight, and all memory thereof.”

So it was that a woman of the People bore a child that Spring, and the child was bright-eyed and sunny, and held up her head on the first day from her birth. The child laughed and clapped at the sight of some, and hid her eyes at the sight of others, and those from which she turned her face died. One, a woods-man, was lost beneath the crashing of a great tree; another left to trade on the hills and did not return; a third, a young girl - though healthy - lay in her bed one night and did not rise again.

Thus it was that a woman with child would come before the Child and if she smiled, knew she would bear in joy; and a trader would not travel if she hid her face. The very day the Child spoke her first word, did her Sight leave her, nor did she later recall any of what she had Seen.

Not two months later another Child with bright knowing eyes was born, and once again the People had an Oracle. From season to season the People settled into their ways, and always a Child with the Sight peered into the Future for them, and lessened their fear of the Unknown.

One terrible Summer a Pestilence came upon them, and many were stricken. The Child clapped her joy at those that would live, and hid her face from those that would die; and before one boy she did neither, but stood with silver tears bathing her face. The boy’s mother spent many sleepless nights in fear until he finally recovered, but recover he did. Many summers later did the Girl-who-had-Seen wed him, and much joy attended the feast; but the wedding breakfast brought grief. In the night had he slaughtered her, his bride, in her bed of flowers, and none knew why.

The girl’s mother raged her fury at her daughter’s death, and cursed the loss of Sight and Memory that had failed to save her, when she had saved so many. The Mayor (for the People were now prosperous) gathered the Elders and spake thus: “What does it profit us an Infant Oracle that remembers not its Visions? If Speech does not attend, will the Sight remain?” Much did they ponder and argue, but eloquent and cunning was the Mayor, a finally it was agreed.

The Gift was held at that time by the daughter of a woman who had no husband, and lived perilously on the town’s charity. The babe was of an age to begin speaking, so the Elders and the Mayor hurried to her Mother’s hovel and summoned forth the Child. The Child screamed in terror at the sight of them and sought to hide behind her Mother, but the men took her up, and the Town’s Heal-All cut off her tongue.

Thus was evil brought into our Town, and the Sight became a Curse.

As the Girl-who-could-See grew into the Woman-who-Knows, so did madness grow in her, apace with her Visions. The Mayor traded on her Sight, and men came from afar bearing ivory and amber and furs for the privilege of consulting the Mad Oracle.

Yet the Oracle was as apt to answer with savage screams as in her clumsy language of gestures; as likely to smile at disaster or tear at her own flesh with dirty hooked nails.

One night, the Mayor was summoned to her cell in the middle of the night by her frightened keeper. The Woman-who-Knows groveled in her filth and chains as always, but before her stood a luminous presence. The silver eyes of the Young Immortal shaded to scarlet at the sight of the Mayor.

“What abomination hast thou wrought with my Gift? What perversion hast thou visited upon this poor child?”

“Great One, we sought only to serve the People better...that all might be Blessed by your generous Gift...”

“I See thee clearly: thou hast Served, thou hast hear thou my judgment: now shall thou See, not dimly as children See, but clearly shall thou look upon what-may-be” and reaching forth her hand She did pluck the scales that hid what-may-be from the Mayor’s eyes.

Screaming he fell to his knees: before him unfolded the interwoven intricacy of a thousand possibilities. Each decision shone as a knot from which a hundred more probable outcomes branched. Dimly he perceived the possible outcome of other’s futures, but his own shone most brightly, absorbing his fascinated and horrified attention to the exclusion of all else. The pain of his future losses overwhelmed him, and understanding the Vision blinded him.

Gently the Young Immortal drew up the Woman-who-Knows, and kissing first her lips then her eyes, first restored what was stolen, then withdrew her Gift and with it all memory of what-may-be.

The Man-who-Knows begged for Her mercy, for Death, for ignorance. He was not heeded.

The Young Immortal scattered the People from the slopes of her Holy Mountain, back into the plain, and forth did they go. Yet every generation, one would be born who could See but dimly, and though the Sight did not vanish with the speaking of the first word, no-one believed them. They screamed and cried their warnings in town squares and hilltops, and were not heeded.

Mouths that spake Truth were labeled Liars, and soon all forgot that once the wise use of the Gift had been a Blessing and not a Curse.

So the Wise of our People say: Seek not your own Future in the flames of Vision, least you be Blinded; Speak only charitable words of what-may-be, seek not Glory and trade not your Truth for Fame.

So Speak we, to our scattered seed, to Cassandra’s Children; so pray we for the blessed Blindness, for the bliss of ignorance.

Manuela Cardiga

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