Masigue Valley was bathed in a haze of warm moist air and radiant sunshine. A light breeze crossed the valley in gentle gusts sending ripples through sections of the flowery plain. As each flower moved in the breeze the intensity of its colour varied with its aspect to the sun, creating large swirling, ever changing patterns of differing shades across the countryside.
Tizar was leaning against the turquoise dome of a jineg tree watching his mother walking leisurely across the plain, stopping every once and a while to pick a flower she considered exceptionally beautiful. Tizar smiled to himself as she did so for no matter how many times she pointed out the individuality of various flowers they still appeared to be exactly the same in his eyes. One time when he had told her this she responded that Torathans probably all looked the same to other people and animals. Tizar wondered how this could be when they were all so different. His mother, he thought, was a particularly good looking Torathan and his father obviously felt the same way for he said so to nearly everyone he encountered. Even now, though he couldn’t see her face as she had her back to him, Tizar felt that she was the most beautiful thing in Masigue valley. The flowers and the jineg trees just didn’t compare.
As Tizar was thinking about these things he noticed that his mother had become stationary and was looking down without picking any flowers. Tizar waited and watched for several minutes during which time his mother did not move. Curious and slightly anxious he moved over to her to see what had captured her attention. Lying on the ground was a dead duhug, an arrow protruding from its heart. The duhig’s eye was not the usual brown but black. In fact it did not appear to be an eye at all but an incredibly deep well that delved deep into the earth. As Tizar stared at the eye he imagined that it started to grow in size and he experienced the strange sensation that he was going to fall into it and disappear forever.
He became aware of a hand on his shoulder and he turned to face his mother. Her clothes and hair were exactly as he remembered them but her face had been replaced with a craggy rock with a slit for a mouth and eyes of thousands of changing colours. “This is not the way to El Torath.” She said.
Between two mountainous regions stretched a long wide plain that was dull, brown and flat. The monotony of this land was broken only by two landmarks. The first of these was the snaking of low but lush vegetation as it followed a thin winding stream that, having escaped from the smaller of the mountain ranges worked its way methodically through the plain on its way to the distant sea. The second was man made. A settlement of a thousand or so roughly built structures that occupied a u shaped area of land in one of the larger bends of the stream.
The structures were small hutches of wood, vine and skin. They haphazardly occupied the land without any particular geometrical pattern or design governing their position within the settlement. While most of these structures were occupied there were rather a large number that obviously were not and which had been abandoned, left to deteriorate with no person bothering to either tend or destroy them. Apart from those in extreme state of disrepair the structures looked remarkably alike and a stranger to the settlement would have had an impossible time finding a particular person’s abode unless he knew exactly where to look.
There was, however, one exception to this chaotic mass of sameness. A structure, which as well as being much larger than the others also had the uniqueness of being made of stone, was located near enough to the centre of the settlement for one to conclude that this was its first structure and the others had slowly spread out from it.
No one in the Torathan tribe who occupied this settlement was sure of the stone structure’s origins. Legend had it that Torath himself had built it in the early days of his worldly existence. Why some one of Torath’s abilities would construct something so crude and having done so would then desert it was not easily explained and so was always conveniently excluded from the legend. At the present time, and in fact for as long as any could remember, this structure was reserved for the head councillor and his family. The head councillor was the eldest man in the tribe so his sons usually had their own families and dwellings and because as a general rule Torathan males lived longer than their female counterparts the largest dwelling in the settlement was nearly always occupied by the fewest people. This had certainly been the case over the last dozen or so years when the dwelling had been occupied by head councillor Torif and his chief messenger Gah.
The significance (or lack) of these facts were not, nor had ever been, on the mind of Gah as he sat on a rough wooden stool in one of the rooms of the stone structure. Neither was he considering why it was he was allocated for living space only one of the eight small rooms in the structure while a number went unused. He was, however, somewhat concerned about the events that led to him sitting on this stool in the room that was used as the waiting chamber for those who had requested or were required to have consultation with the head councillor. Religious and political matters were far beyond the scope of understanding for Gah and he was content to leave them in the hands of those who had been charged with them. Never had he asked questions because it was clearly not his position. His position was to give messages from the head councillor to other councillors and/or tribesmen and having accomplished that task, relay the reply to the head councillor. It was a position of great importance. One in which Gah took great pride and enjoyment, not least because it did not require the asking of any questions.Recent information that he had carried though had made him uneasy. He wasn’t sure of the magnitude of the information but he sensed that there was to be a disruption to the harmony in his life. The main reason for this disruption was now in the stone structure’s conference room with the head councillor. Despite the voices being muffled by the duhig skin partition Gah could tell that Hadel, who he had brought here at the head councillor’s demand was agitated. It was not possible for Gah to distinguish the nature of the discussion and he certainly would not question, even to himself, its nature but he knew it must concern the imminent council meeting about the young boy Tizar’s dreaming and the thought made him nervous.
He gazed solemnly at the floor as these thoughts permeated his mind until a black shape sliding past distracted him. As quickly as he could, though not quickly enough to be effective, he rose to accompany the figure out of the door.
He was stopped by a voice. “You need not follow him Gah.”
Gah turned and bowed. “Yes head councillor,” he said simply.
“The time has come Gah. You must go collect Cudat and his boy Tizar. Bring them to the meeting area.”
He bowed again. “Yes head councillor.” He then exited as quickly as he could.
Gah prided himself on being one of the very few who knew the name of every living Torathan and where to locate them. He was also proud of the looks of awe and respect he would receive from the tribe’s people as he strode past their open fires and hutches. Sometimes a person would give a look of fear, no doubt caused by some indiscretion on the person’s behalf that he or she was afraid the council had become aware of. Of course such looks would be reported to the council. No smoke without fire, as they say. As he moved through the settlement today though his perception of the other Torathans was slightly different. Although he had always been aware that he could not indulge in the fireside revelries of the other Torathans it had not unduly concerned him until this moment. He also began to feel that these looks of awe and respect would soon turn into something else entirely, something altogether ugly and grotesque. As though be would have to bear the consequences and blame for something that was entirely beyond his control. For the first time in his life his body became consumed by a feeling he could only describe as fear. As he passed through the settlement it took all the professional strength he could muster to appear calm and resolute though he thought to himself that something was going terribly wrong.
Cudat watched the dying embers of his campfire with indecision. He and Tizar had eaten early this day because he didn’t want the two of them to be distracted by hunger at the coming council meeting. This is why their campfire was dying at a time when most others were just being lit. His indecision had been caused by the fact that he felt obliged to keep the fire going for Eral who was a nightly guest at his fire but Eral, who had usually arrived by now, was nowhere in sight.
As Cudat stood contemplating with a fresh log in his hand, a figure which he at first assumed to be Eral rounded a hutch some distance off and made its way toward him. He quickly realised, however, that his assumption was wrong. Instead of Eral’s casual swagger this Torathan possessed a determined, purposeful stride. It was Gah. Dropping the log, Cudat sat and watched Gah’s approach.
When Gah was only a few paces from Cudat’s seated figure he stopped. He looked at the fire embers, then at Cudat, then at the area around the fire, then at Cudat’s hutch and finally at Cudat again. “It’s time”, he said.
Cudat gave no response. He sat staring at Gah as though frozen.
“Its time.” Gah repeated.
“Let’s go dad.” Gah turned to see a boy of about fifteen years standing outside the hutch. He was tall and well built for his age. The shoulder length yellow hair framed a face that was confident and intelligent despite slightly betraying the nervousness the boy was obviously experiencing. Gah couldn’t recall having seen the boy. He seemed to be a torathan beyond his years. Wether this was from training he had received from his father or due to something more intangible Gah couldn’t guess. Nor did he want to.
Cudat rose to his feet. “We’re ready.” He said.
Gah bowed slightly, turned and began walking. He didn’t look behind to see if Cudat and Tizar were following. He knew he didn’t have to.
The council’s meeting area was designated by eight logs that formed an octagon in the middle of the village. The top of each log had been sliced off with an axe to form a rough bench. At most council meetings each log seated two members but they were large enough to seat three or four for when non-councillors needed to attend meetings. In front of each log was a small fire of few flames but many embers. These were used to light the meetings which were always held at sundown.
As Tizar approached the council area he could see that one log had been left vacant for his father and himself. He also noticed that all but two men within the octagon were sitting. The two men who were standing appeared to be arguing. It was only when Gah motioned for Tizar and his father to stop just before they reached the vacant log that Tizar recognised the two men as Eral and Hadel.
Hadel was the one talking at present. He was shorter and stouter than most Torathans. Eral had often told Tizar that this was because he did less work than most Torathans. The skin around his eyes was black which made the eyes themselves seem brighter and harsher. His teeth were also black and in the dim firelight his mouth resembled a deep cavern capable of sucking the life out of a person. As well as the usual Torathan garments he wore a dark head dress that not only covered his head but flowed from it becoming long enough for Hadel to wrap himself in. As usual he held his jubar, a gnarled piece of wood about one half a palm wide and several hand widths in length, in his left hand. The mere sight of the dreamer was enough to make Tizar shiver but he calmed himself by focussing on Eral’s belief that the appearance was merely a gimmick designed to scare.
It wasn’t until Hadel turned his attention from Eral and began addressing the council that Tizar became aware of what the argument was about.
“I say again this man has no right to attend the meeting. He has not been invited.” Hadel peered slowly around the pentagon ensuring to catch the eye of each individual councillor before continuing. “IF we allow him to attend uninvited then all Torathans, even the women, will feel they have the right to attend. And what would you have then? No council! A mockery!” Again Hadel paused and cast his glance around the seated councillors.
“I demand the right of an invited”. Eral’s voice was strong and firm. He kept his attention on Hadel as he spoke.
“On what grounds?” Hadel hissed, turning so rapidly to face Eral his headdress swirled around his feet. “On what grounds does this non-councillor, this common Torathan have to demand the right of an invited?”
“The invited includes the entire family.” Eral replied. “I demand the right to bare the place of Cudat’s deceased eldest son Kerif.”
At the mention of his brother Tizar looked up to see his father’s reaction but Cudat remained motionless. Within the octagon there was confusion. Hadel was trying to stay in control of the situation by staring at each of the councillors but they were too busy talking among themselves and trying to gauge each other’s reactions to pay him any heed. It seemed to Tizar that Eral had created a rather large ripple in the coucillors’ permanently calm pond.
“I believe that it has been done before.” Eral added with a slight grin. Hadel stared at Eral and pointed his jubar at him. Eral stood firm and merely stared back.
At length one of the councllor’s stood. Tizar had never seen the man before for the councillors seldom mixed with the other tribe members but guessed that he must be Torif, the head councillor. When standing Torif looked as though he was once a tall muscular Torathan but now he was stooped with age and required a stick to lean on. His hair, beard and eyebrows were completely orange and his eyebrows had somehow grown so long they covered the top portion of his eyes. His wrinkles were so deep and dark they could have been etched with charcoal. When he spoke his voice was thin and frail.
“As a long and close family friend Eral does have the right to bare the place of Kerif and so does have the right of an invited. But this is so only if Cudat accepts Eral as true family. Does Cudat accept such a condition?
Tizar again looked up at his father who this time gave a short nod though he still said nothing.
“Does any council member have an objection?” Torif asked. Hadel clearly had an objection but decided not to raise it. “Hadel?” Torif queried.
“Torif knows what is best for council meetings.” Hadel answered. “I only say to Cudat beware of true family that are untrue.” With that comment he turned his back on the councillors and lifted the lower edge of his headdress so that his shape resembled that of a bat.
Torif smiled gently at Eral. “Eral you may join the council meeting with your brethren.”
Gah then spoke for the first time since Tizar had met him. “You may now enter the council area.” He said flatly, pointing to the vacant log. Tizar and Cudat stepped over the log and sat down, Tizar on his father’s right. They were joined almost immediately by Eral who sat next to Tizar. Gah stood resolute directly behind them.
Tizar leaned a little closer to Eral. “What did he mean by family that are untrue?” he whispered.
“I don’t think he knows that himself.” Eral grinned. “He’s full of nonsense. I wouldn’t worry about it.. little brother.”
“This is a council meeting.” Gah interjected. “Be quiet.”
Torif was still standing in the octagon. He paused until sure that all attention was on him and then he began to speak slowly in his soft, frail voice. “We have a grave matter before us.” He said. “A young Torathan, young Tizar who sits with us now, has been dreaming.” At the word dreaming Hadel turned his head around, scowled at Tizar and then resumed his bat like appearance. “While this in itself is serious,” Torif continued, “what makes it a grave matter indeed is that the dreaming concerns El Torath, the window to the gods.”
A low but mocking laugh could be heard coming from the direction of Hadel. Torif waited patiently for him to finish before he spoke again. “We of the council know the magnitude of this but so that young Tizar knows exactly what his position is I call on council member Tion to explain the history of El Torath.” Torif nodded his head in the direction of one of the councillors and then slowly resumed his seat.
Tizar wondered why the telling of El Torath was necessary. All Torathans knew it. It was their history. It explained their beginnings; their past; their very existence. As if interpreting his thoughts Eral leaned closer to Tizar and whispered “Council members feel the need to talk every chance they get.”
Another old man who looked remarkably like Torif was now standing in the centre of the octagon. He looked to the sky for inspiration before launching into his well rehearsed tale.
“At the first, before the white moon or the black, or even the world itself there was nothing but the Eternity. The great other world which we are forbidden to see. Populating the Eternity were the five Great Ones. Torath, Nodath, Paletaneth, Norandeth and Taigrath were their names. For eons they lived content in their dwelling in the vastness but there came a time when they felt compelled to create a monument to their greatness and the greatness of the Eternity.
And so it was that Torath conceived of a living monument. A world inhabited by species of human, animal and plant. Each great one was assigned the task of creating many species of plant and animal and two species of human. Thus came into being the ten tribes; Torathans and Ratians from the male Great one Torath; Nodathans and Donetions from the female Great one Nodath; Paletians and Palish from the male Great One Paletaneth; Norandians and Randish from the female Great One Norandeth; Taigres and Greshans from the male Great One Taigrath.
The Great Ones created the world in perfect harmony. The ten tribes lived in peace and it was deigned which species lived by consuming other species. The living cycle was ordered and all livings things accepted and acknowledged that order. Happy with their creation The Great Ones wanted to both watch and interact with it and so was created El Torath, the window to the gods through which they could watch the world. They could also visit the world though while there, away from their natural surroundings, they could not muster their great power. Even so becoming part of their creation for short periods was a great pleasure for them.
However one of The Great Ones became dissatisfied. Unbeknown to the others this Great One began visiting the world with the intent to disrupt, to turn tribe against tribe and beast against beast. When it became suspected that something was amiss Taigrath convinced Torath that he could discover the perpetrator by hiding on the world at night and spying which of The Great Ones stole secretly through El Torath.
In faith Torath did this but while he was on the world Taigrath roused the others and showing them Torath hiding on the world accused him of being the transgressor. Disgusted and dismayed The Great Ones concluded that Torath had invented the idea for his own schemes. So they denounced the world and cast El Torath into its depths. Thus betrayed, Torath was left abandoned to walk the world alone. No longer in touch with The Great Ones, the world descended into discord.
However there has always been a hope. For soon after this catastrophe one Torathan had the darkness of his sleep interrupted by images and sounds. And through this miracle called dream Torath told this man that one day one Torathan will be able to dream so clearly that he will be able to instruct this man through his dreams the way to find El Torath, restoring Torath to his rightful place among The Great Ones and the world to its deserved harmony.
When he had finished Tion shuffled back to his position among the councillors and sat down.
“That was remarkably brief.” Eral whispered.
Torif again stood to address the council. “And now we must learn of Tizar’s dreamings.” he said. He fixed his gaze on Tizar. “Young Tizar you must now stand and address the council.”
Tizar sat frozen for a moment, nervous and unsure what to do. He felt his father’s hand on his.
“Don’t be scared.” Cudat said, though it seemed to Tizar that his father was as scared as he was.
“What do I do?” He asked.
“Just tell them what has been happening in your dreams. It’ll be alright.”
Tizar looked at Eral who gave him an encouraging nod but his nerves made it difficult to stand. His legs felt weak. It was then a large, strong hand rested on his right shoulder. Tizar glanced up to see Gah towering above him.
“You must rise now.” Gah said.
Tizar rose and cautiously moved to the centre of the octagon. He was acutely aware that everybody was staring at him. All, that is, except Hadel who still had his back to the assembly. Tizar began by describing the face; how it was round; the slit for a mouth; the craggy features and the strange mesmerising eyes; the moss instead of hair. At first he spoke slowly and was aware that he said um a lot, but after a while he relaxed. His speech became smoother and he spoke at length about how the face appeared in different ways and in different situations, always with a message about El Torath. Every detail of every dream he described exactly for they had been etched firmly in his mind. He did, however, neglect to mention his most recent dream which included his mother. This dream, he felt, was too painful to share and he was worried that it might distress his father.
All the time he was talking he was speaking more to himself than anyone else, staring at the ground as he did so. He only looked up when he had run out of things to say.
“And … um… that’s about all I guess.” He said, feeling somewhat awkward again.
Torif then stood up. “Thank you young Tizar.” He said. “You may now resume your place.” Tizar walked back to his place surveying his father and Eral for any reaction to his story. His father, he thought, looked rather worried while Eral appeared to be contemplating something.
Hadel suddenly sprang to life. He moved around the inside of the octagon swirling his headdress in large circular motions with his hands. As he circled around the area he raised and lowered his body in great swooping movements. These swoops were calculated so that as he reached each fire his face would be lowered to almost the level of the embers, his eyes reflecting their redness. Two bright pinpoints radiating from the large black circles.
“It is not Torath!” He shrieked. “”It does not look like Torath! It does not sound like Torath! It is not Torath! The boy lies!”
Hadel’s circling had brought him directly in front of Tizar. “The boy lies, the boy dies!” He screamed and raised his jubar above his head.
Anticipating what was going to happen next Eral sprang to his feet and placed himself between Hadel and Tizar. Hadel was set to strike when a cry stopped him.
“Wait!” It was the voice of Torif.
Hadel stood frozen, his jubar still raised above his head. “The boy lies.” He hissed.
“It is not your place to condemn.” Torif said.
“The boy lies.” Hadel repeated, not moving.
With his jubar still raised above his head Hadel walked backwards, passing through one of the fires as he did so, until he reached the opposite side of the octagon. Then he turned his back on the assembly and resumed his bat like appearance.
Cudat leaned across to Eral who had now sat down again. “Thank you.” He said.
Eral winked. “You’re getting slow in your old age.”
“Are you alright son?” Cudat asked Tizar.
“I’m fine.” Tizar replied calmly. It wasn’t until later he realised exactly what had happened.
“Now we know the situation we are facing,” Torif announced, “ And so the council must deliberate and decide. Let any who wish to speak stand up and say their words.
A councillor to Torif’s left stood up. “The tribe laws are quite clear in matters such as these.” He said. “When there is more than one dreamer there must be a challenge.” With that he sat down again.
“One dreamer one liar.” Hadel’s contemptuous voice floated across the octagon.
To Tizar’s amazement his father was the next to stand. “My respected councillors, as many of you know both my wife and my eldest son now reside on the white moon. Tizar, my youngest, is my only remaining relative. He is young and would probably not survive a challenge. I ask you, beg you, if it is at all possible, find another way.” Cudat gazed pleadingly at the councillors for a few moments before quietly sitting.
Again Hadel’s voice could be heard across the octogon. “The boy lies, the boy should die.”
Another councillor, one not far from where Tizar was sitting, stood up. “We all feel for Cudat,” he intoned with little feeling in his voice, “and commiserate with his position but what he says is no longer correct for Eral is now his true family. Even without this consideration I’m afraid these dreams must be put to the test to see if they are the dreams of prophecy or some other manifestation.”
“Such as a lie.” Came Hadel’s voice.
Even before this councillor had sat down another had risen to take his place. This councillor was much younger than the others. He was, in fact, the only yellow one among them and could not have been much older than Eral.
“I urge caution.” The young coucillor said. “We may well be approaching the most crucial moment in the tribe’s history and so we must deal with it very carefully. Not one of us has experienced a dreaming challenge. In fact the last challenge was so long ago that even the stories of it have become dim and vague in the tribe’s memories. If we have a challenge now, how do we judge? How do we discern victor from vanquished? If we are unsure of our methods how can we be sure we judge correctly? If we are not sure we may judge incorrectly with disastrous results.” As the young councillor resumed his place Tizar thought he noticed a look of recognition pass between the councillor and Eral.
The next councillor, one seated almost opposite the young one, stood up. He was shaking his head slightly. “Cuden is new to this council.” His voice was slightly apologetic. “This is only the third time he has sat with the council since his father went to reside on the white moon and so we must forgive him his ignorant talk. We will be able to tell victor from vanquished because as we all know, the dreamer receives messages from Torath himself. Torath will give us a sign. I agree with Taged and Genat. There must be a challenge.”
Another councillor began to stand up but Cuden beat him to it. “We will get a message from Toreth you say. But how do we know exactly what that message will be or what form it will take? And if we do not know these things, I ask again how will we correctly discern victor from vanquished? Be wary fellow councillors for we tread a thin winding path and we may fall off.”
The first councillor who had spoken, the one called Taged, once again rose to his feet. This time rage filled his face. “This is heresy!” He blustered. “You shame your father with this talk. I never thought I would live to see the day when the council had a member of such disrespectful attitude and shallow belief.” Taged snorted and sat down gruffly.
Torif gave Cuden a slight smile and rose to his feet. “We older councillors are not unaware of how some of you younger Torathens think Cuden. However you are unwise to raise such ideas at a council meeting. Best leave such notions for your discussions with Eral around the night fires.” Eral gave Torif a startled glance. “We elders realise a lot more than you give us credit for Eral. You have insisted on being at this meeting and yet so far you have said nothing. Perhaps you would care to share your thoughts with the council.”
Eral gave a slight bow to Torif as he stood up. “It seems that the council already knows my views”, he said, “and it is apparent that it does not approve of them. I would not ask nor expect that the council disregard the laws of the tribe. What I would ask is that the council considers these laws, not for the sake of the laws themselves, but in light of their own wisdom and experiences. Before the council is a scared and confused boy. He did not seek nor want this position that he now finds himself in. I have known Tizar since his birth and swear to the council that apart from this recent dreaming he has always been a good, true Torathan. I wish to remind the council that they are not facing a threat or an enemy but a young boy. I believe this fact should be of utmost importance in any decision the council makes.”
“Thank you for your thoughts.” Torif said when Eral had concluded. “Now are there any more who would stand and speak?”
“The boy lies the boy should die.” Hadel’s voice proclaimed. The other councillors remained seated.
“Then if that be all,” Torif continued, “A decision must now be made. The issue before us is whether or not a dreaming challenge should take place. If it is decided that a challenge should not take place then an alternative should be discussed. I must advise Cudat, Eral and Tizar that while they have been invited to the council they are not entitled to vote. Are all councillors ready to make their decsion?” The councillors all nodded their heads. “Good. All councillors who vote for a challenge now rise to their feet.”
With the exception of Cuden every councillor stood up. Sensing what had happened Hadel turned to face the assembly. He stared at Tizar in what would have been a smile had it not been for the blackened teeth. All Tizar could see of Hadel’s face was a nose and three black holes. It was no more comforting than the face in his dreams.
All councillors bar Torif were now sitting. “The decision has been taken.” Torif said. “Let the challenge begin.”
Cudat grabbed Tizar’s hands. “Good luck.” He said. There were tears in his eyes.
Eral placed a hand on Tizar’s shoulder. “Don’t be afraid.” He said.
“I won’t.” Tizar replied. He stood up and slowly walked into the octagon unsure of what was expected of him.
Hadel too had moved further into the octagon. He sat down cross legged on the dirt, wrapped himself in his headress and closed his eyes. Figuring this must be what was expected, Tizar did the same. He had been sitting for a while waiting for something to happen when he began to here peculiar noises. He opened his eyes slightly. Hadel was shaking, gyrating and emitting gutteral sounds.
Tizar closed his eyes again and concentrated in the hope that he could manage the same reaction. Instead he found that he could suddenly see despite the fact that his eyes were still closed. The scene was much lighter than it had been and Tizar realised he could clearly see details that were previously hidden from his eyes.
His attention was drawn to a small area of ground outside the octagon and some way past Hadel’s now writhing body. The area was covered by moss and was roughly twice the size of the octagon. Tizar was at first puzzled that he had not noticed the area before as it was quite prominent within the village grounds but puzzlement turned to bewilderment as the huge mossy area began to rise above the ground. As it rose other features became exposed, most particularly two enormous vivid eyes so intense they seemed to radiate light rather than reflect it.
The face continued to rise until it was about thirty hand widths from the ground then it started to move toward Tizar. Convinced the face meant to do him harm Tizar felt the compulsion to run but he was frozen to the spot. He turned to face his father and Eral but for some reason they were oblivious to his plight.
The face was now above him. As Tizar looked up the face tilted down so that it was looking directly at him. It then began to deliberately descend toward him. Tizar fell onto his back petrified in the firm belief that the face was going to either crush him or swallow him whole.
Closer it came until it was only about five hands distant. Instead of crushing him it hovered there with one of its huge eyes immediately above him. Tizar was fascinated to discover that the thousands of dots in the eye were not just colours but moving images. Each section of the eye was large enough for Tizar to make out the details of the image it contained.
The first image he focussed on was of a large army. They were a people he had not seen before but from stories his father had told him Tizar recognised them as the Taigre nation. There were thousands of large bearded men wearing strong but delicately woven skin tunics and pants. Each man also wore a helmet that had been fashioned from the head of some mighty beast. The beast’s curved horns protruded forward from the side of the helmet as though they were extensions of the man’s ears. Each man stood in readiness with long jagged spikes firmly gripped with both hands and a short curved sword, fashioned from the beast horn, hanging at his side.
At the head of the army was one man who seemed even larger than the rest. His beard was matted and stained with what must have been years worth of sweat and dirt. Though his face carried many deep scars from old wounds and a look of fatigue, his eyes were alive with excitement and anticipation. His hands were constantly wringing his jagged weapon indicating the nature of the man’s thoughts. In an instant he became more alert, raised one arm above his head and screamed an inaudible command at which the thousands of men streamed as one mass into a field.
Also steaming into the field but from a forest on the other side was another large group of men who, Tizar realised with a shock, were Torathans. In the front row of this mass of men, but not leading them, was a man who though looked very different from the man Tizar knew, was still very obviously his father. Next to him ran a man who at first glance looked to be Eral but who Tizar gathered must be Eral’s father.
The two armies clove into each other like two colliding land masses. From his viewpoint some distance away Tizar could see Torathan swords and the jagged Taigre weapons swinging and flailing as men rose and fell from the impact of hard steel. Some blows were so devastating that Tizar could see men’s amputated arms and decapitated heads being flung above the throng of slashing, hacking bodies only to fall to the ground and be crushed under thousands of feet.
Then without him understanding how or why, Tizar’s viewpoint suddenly and radically changed. For a few moments he was confused by the shift of focus. The sword in his hands and the people around him told him that he was seeing through his father’s eyes. He looked to his side to see Eral’s father locked in combat with the leading man of the Taigre army. Eral’s father, sword clenched in both hands, swung at the Taigre weapon with such force that the weapon flew out of the man’s hands and as luck would have it pierced another Taigre in the chest. Eral’s father then lunged at the Taigre warrior but the warrior avoided the lunge and with the same move deftly unsheaved his sword. Eral’s father swung his sword and although the Taigre warrior defended, the force of the blow sent his sword spinning from his hand.
Eral’s father then raised his sword to cleave his opponent but as he did so the man leaned over and rushed at him. The two horns on the Taigre warrior pierced Eral’s father in the stomach and protruded from his back. He turned to Tizar, mouthed the word Cudat and then disappeared under a horde of Taigre and Torathan boots.
The horror of seeing the painful anguish on Eral’s father’s face made Tizar turn away and his gaze fell upon another section of the face’s eye.
Here was a calm scene of a stream embanked with low but lush vegetation. Through this vegetation moved a beautiful Torathan lady engrossed with her surroundings. Following behind her, much less enthusiastically was a lad of about twelve or thirteen years. The women would stop occasionally to show the boy a certain plant to which the boy pretended interest though he was obviously bored. His interest was, however, suddenly sparked by a small animal that appeared in front of him. The boy gave chase, wildly scrambling through the bush.
Once again Tizar’s viewpoint changed as he began to see the scene from the boy’s eyes. He was running as fast as he could considering the terrain and was steadily gaining on the animal when it suddenly veered sharply to the left. He tried to veer with it but being larger and less agile he was unable to make the turn. It was then he realised why the animal had changed direction. They had come to the edge of the stream and before he could do anything about it Tizar was falling into a fast, rock strewn rapid.
The force of the rapid pushed him under the water into the slimy mud of the streams bottom. He struggled to the surface, swallowing a few mouthfuls of water on the way, only to be smashed into a large rock and forced under water again. When next reached the surface he saw his mother standing on wet rock just down stream from him and not far from the stream’s bank. She was leaning forward with her arms outstretched. As he came level with her Tizar managed to grab her hand but the wetness of the rock gave her no traction and she slid into the water with him.
In a bid to stop him from drowning Tizar’s mother made sure that she kept him upstream from her as the two held tight to each other, trying to keep themselves afloat. Once again they were swept into a rock which his mother hit with such force that her eyes widened as the water around them became red. Tizar felt his mother’s grip loosen as the sky was replaced by mud.
There was then a change in colour so slight that Tizar wasn’t at first sure there had been a change at all. Instead of mud he was now in a large dark cavern that Tizar felt must have been far below the world’s surface. In the centre of this cavern was a very large octagonal frame that had strange, intricate markings on it. Tizar expected that through this frame he should see the ground underneath or, as in the manner of device he had heard some other tribes use, a reflection, as one sees in a stream, of the cavern roof.
Instead he saw a night sky filled with millions of stars. More stars than he could ever imagine existed, certainly far more than he had ever seen. The stars were at first perfectly clear but then they began to assume a purple hue as a purple mist began to fill the frame. Then one of the stars began to get larger and as it did so it became the face that Tizar had come to dread so much.
He looked away from that segment of the eye only to discover that all the images had now changed so that the entire eye had now come to resemble the face. This face had two eyes that also contained the face’s likeness. The entire thing started to come closer and Tizar became confronted with face, within a face within a face stretching into a vast unfathomable distance. It edged inevitably closer until Tizar could no longer focus on the image. Then everything went black.