Darklaw – Episode 59

HE LEFT, AND by the time he returned, she was falling asleep. He woke her and had tea brought. She sat with him at the table, where he set down a very old and weathered book.

Kami struggled to hold the cup tightly between her wrists.

Rook sat down opposite her. “Wrist caps aren’t just for looks. They actually help with grip.” He seemed to be making a decision, and when he had made it, he pried off his own wrist caps, using the edge of the table. He unwound the lavender silk covering his wrists.

His bare wrists were a sight Kami couldn’t recall seeing. The wrappings had worn away the hair from his arm in a circle just above the notch of bone. The ends were mottled purple and gray. They were bumpy and deformed and more hideous than her own.

He waited for her to offer her arms, which she finally did, and then he wound the cloth around her wrists and slipped the caps onto her. They were loose, so he used his teeth to tighten the buckles.

“What will you use?” she asked.

“I want you to have the Sahrdon Hawks.” The caps he had been wearing since her return were elegant and expensive, made of thick leather, studded with gold. A gold hawk—the symbol of Sahrdon—spread its wings across the breadth of the end. “I will have others made.”

He propped the book on his lap and opened it. He paged toward the middle, his bare wrists slipping across the ancient parchment. “This,” said Rook, when he found his page, “is the Book of Emanations.” He pushed it across the table.

The book cover was leather with a bronze-plated cover. The pages were yellow parchment. The ink was fading in hues of purple and red, and illustrations highlighted every page. He said, “Start here. Read this.”

Kami pulled the book closer and took a moment to adjust to the intricate letter style. It was written in Sahran:

“In the beginning, Eternity desired to look upon Eternity, and Will first moved. Will drew back the All which was Nonexistence where no thing moved, and created a void, and into this void, light shone in six emanations of Life.

“The first two emanations have been held in perfect balance since the beginning: Mercy, as active emotion, which is the expansion of Will; and Justice, passive emotion, and the subsequent contraction of Will. The primary emanations of Mercy and Justice control the flow of all lower emanations, and Will maintains their balance.

“As light moves from the edge of the void inward, it expands under the influence of the emanation of Mercy to become Wisdom. Wisdom is the revelation of the Divine, the active intellect experienced through inspiration. As the light moves farther inward and downward, it contracts under the influence of Justice to become Knowledge. Knowledge is the reception of the Divine, the passive intellect experienced through reason and tradition.

“The next set of emanations begins with Instinct, light as active sense, experienced as bodily awareness, which is an expansion under the influence of Mercy. Justice then contracts the light as it flows into the next emanation, Cognition, passive sense experienced as environmental awareness. Beneath the lowest emanation of Life is Foundation, which grounds Will in Existence and returns again to Nonexistence. Here the Divine joins with matter.

“The first pair of emanations, Mercy and Justice, is the closest to Eternity, and perfectly lived only through the divine. The lowest pair of emanations, Instinct and Cognition, is the closest to matter, and perfectly lived only through beasts of the earth. The middle emanations, Wisdom and Knowledge, are lived perfectly only through men.

“These are the paths of devotion, forming the Mirror of Life as created by Will in the primordial desire for self-knowledge. As the Initiate contemplates Eternity, he contemplates himself and, in time, he will find his purpose among the six emanations of Life.”

She looked up. “You’ve mentioned this before.”

“It was written by Demid, an Essanti of Mercy, in the Seven-Hundred-and-Eleventh Year Before.”

“Before what?”

“Before the founding of Darklaw.”

Kami looked back over the text. “There are six kinds of Essanti in a full Society. Avestar talked of that. He said even his father lacked a full Society most of the time.”

“It’s tradition to establish a Society of Essanti, all the powers of life and death in service to the Emissary. Kami, I’ve never had reason to question an Essanti’s loyalty before.”

“You don’t need to question mine.”

“You’ve returned, your hands taken by Avestar, and you say you’re not bound. You haven’t spoken about Sahrdon. You haven’t explained why Avestar kept you alive.”

“What are you accusing me of?”

“It’s essential that you accept the discipline of a master, Kami. It’s essential that you trust the Emissary. Losing the hands is to remind you that you are a servant. The Essanti are a people born with pieces of a god inside them. With only part of the god and with that will divided, the Essanti must rely on the will of an undivided soul for guidance. Do you see? This is the problem with Free Essanti, with those coming of age outside the law of Sahrdon. If you had been raised there, you would have learned the history, begun your apprenticeship in the devotions. You know the language but know nothing of its sacred nature.”

She felt sick to her stomach. “I want to believe her, but I don’t. I don’t want to believe Avestar, but I do.”

“It would explain why you’re still independent of Avestine. Why Avestar didn’t kill you.”

Kami paused in thought. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say her name before.”

Rook’s jaw tightened. “Nothing makes sense anymore. Not you.” He glanced away. “Not me.” After a moment of silence, he continued, “Avestar is a liar. It’s what he does best. Besides, do you think he knows something she doesn’t? Why would he know the secret of the Avatars and not her?”

Even before Rook said it, Kami realized Avestar did know something Avestine didn’t. He knew no one would have ever found the Avatars because they had to be created. And the way to do that was the kill all the others. She remembered what Avestar had told her in the palace at Sahrdon, that Raret experienced his power when Avestar killed the rest of his emanation. He had expected Kami to feel the same sensation when he killed Umoman, the last of the Essanti who served Instinct. That would mean three Avatars remained. She peered at Rook with new eyes.

“A Society is one thing,” said Rook. “Powerful yes. But the six Avatars would mean something more, and if one of the Avatars has returned, they will all be returning.”

“But can you cage a god?”

Rook looked her over. “Tell me what it’s like, these sensations of other creatures. Do you know where Avestine is right now?”

“My mind feels quite dull here.”

He scooted closer to her, moving his chair around the table where they sat. He leaned toward her and spoke quietly. “Avestine is a descendent of Vadim. She possesses the ambition of an imperial.”

Kami recognized his need to confide a new level of truth, perhaps desperation to convince her of his viewpoint. That told her he believed her. He believed she was the Avatar. She felt a chill.

“Those who rule see all of life as an exchange,” he continued. “They take something they value less and trade it for something they value more, and this way they feel they owe nothing to anyone. All their life is this way—wanting, taking, hoarding. Envy is the emanation that lights their path. That’s the only path allowed to the world. Except for us. The Essanti. We know a better path. The emanations as set forth by Demid. The rest of the world serves only one, the Emanation of Envy, so how can they understand there’s no trade to be made with the Essanti? We are a people of the Gift. That’s what ‘Essanti’ means. We serve, we care, we correct, and we forgive. Our gifts build bonds, build community, build the world, while their exchange ignites war. Even now, she might destroy everything if only for the sake of besting her brother. Despite all this, she is the Emissary.”

“Why didn’t you kill me?”

“You know I tried.”

“No. You stopped before it was too late.”

“The gods wanted you alive. It wasn’t my decision. It never is. You’ll find you don’t have the control you think you do, either. You have a duty.” He nodded at her missing hands.

“Truth, not a person, is the spring from which duty flows, Rook.”

“She is Truth. Your truth. You have no other.” He took the book back and paged through it. When he returned it, the page showed a large circle divided into six parts. In each section was a symbol—a Sahran letter or syllable. “Since we don’t have the teachers for you here, you’ll have to do much of this on your own. You already read Sahran. I know the symbols and the Mystery of Devotions, and I can answer your questions after you meditate on it. This is the Wheel of Six, each symbolized by a Sahran syllable. Every Sahran name has a sacred meaning associated with the six modes of life. Each mode is governed by one of the emanations, and yet each one is a step in the life of every Essanti.”

Published in Darklaw |
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