The Soothsayer

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Chapter 7: A Waking Dream

“Thank you.” The words slipped out with ease. Colin’s eyes widened. “How did you do that?” His mind felt clear as if some great blockage had been lifted. He felt his throat. The usually tense muscles were lax.

“I spoke the Logos into you,” Samuel said.

“Logos? You said that word before.” Colin rubbed his throat and swallowed. “I don’t understand.”

“In the first light of creation there was the Logos,” Samuel started, “the true word of the Maker. Through it, order was formed out of chaos, light from darkness, and our bodies from the clay. The Logos was passed down to us on scrolls to give us life and define our place in the world, but over the millennia we lost many of the scrolls, and those that remained,” Samuel faltered for a second, his eyes downcast, “we allowed others to change.”

This is a great dream, I’ll have to write it down when I wake up. Colin shook his head and smiled. Samuel’s words had flown over him, his mind still reeling from the miracle. After a moment, his mind pulled back to the old man. “Ok, so this Maker guy gave you the rules and you blew it,” Colin said as he nodded.

“More than that, I’m afraid. You see the Maker wrote in a language that no earthly eye could read, save for the chosen ones, the soothsayers. Kings and queens paid great sums to harbor these elite prophets and, in time, such comfort, such riches corrupted them. New words were written over the old ones and the teachings found inconvenient were blotted out. The people lost their way. The Maker must have sensed something amiss, for almost a millennium ago, he sent his own sayer to set a new accordance. The man performed mighty miracles but when he spoke, his words were like burning coals on the people’s heads. Those closest to him, betrayed and murdered him.” Samuel shook his head. “The Maker has been silent ever since.”

“Sounds like you guys are in deep shit with this Maker guy,” Colin said and smiled. He felt like he was back in Sunday school.

Samuel winced. “To put it mildly, yes,” he said. “The Maker’s hand left ours empty. Gilead has struggled with disease, famine, and war since the day our ancestors murdered his chosen one. Many believed us to be a nation cursed, but I never believed it until the Maker’s light itself was taken from us. Through all those years, one true scroll was kept safe and handed down through the generations to me and still remains. It has been pieced together from pages of the Logos that haven’t been burned or destroyed, but it was incomplete. Until today.” Samuel held up Colin’s folded parchment.

“My map?” Colin asked.

“Alexandra found it near you on the shore. Whatever was scrawled on the other side is of no concern to me, but when my fingers ran across the page, I knew the words were divine. Even if my eyes are blinded, I sense their power on the parchment.”

“So, you can read those symbols? You know them?” Colin stared at his parchment, the faded letters seemed sharper now, clearer. Are dreams always so vivid?

“Would if I could,” Samuel answered. “But more than a sense of the words is required. The sayer must be able to read them with his eyes. I hold a balm for this world in my hand but am unable to use it. No, but my friends here have helped me with the reading.”

Balm. “The balm of Gilead? I read that on the other side. It sounds familiar. I’ve heard it before. Is it something physical? Like medicine, something I could use?”

Our kingdom is so named, and legends say that the name itself and words like it were carried to our shores from some distant land. But the balm of Gilead?” Samuel mused. “Certainly, the kingdom has many potions and salves for ailments, but one that bears the kingdom’s name?” Samuel thought for a moment more. “Long ago there was a terebinth tree whose sap could heal any sickness. Some say its sap could even bring the dead back to life.”

Colin looked around the room and then down at his own hands. Was he really in a hospital bed somewhere, lying in a state like a vegetable? Perhaps his few remaining synapses were firing off the mother of all hallucinations before his brain finally died. He could only play it out. What choice did he have? He looked up at Samuel. “Where’s the tree?”

“It’s dead. Has been for over a thousand years. Somewhere deep in the Dead Wood, a barren weald to the east of Gilead and north of the Royal Road. Its story is a long one and suffice to say that forest is not a place you should venture into.”

Alexandra glared at Colin. “Where did you get that paper? Who did you steal it from?”

“No one. Well, not really. It came in this box I bought, well, traded I guess, from Mr. Potter’s shop. I’m guessing you don’t have cell phones here, do you?” Colin already knew it was a dumb question. In a world where magic was a breath away and donkeys talked, phones were most likely nonexistent. Colin slowly stood up, steadying himself from the resultant dizziness and made his way to a crude window. Past the high bluff the cottage had been built on, Colin could see the shoreline stretch away under the night’s sky. In the far distance, he saw a hundred points of light dotted across the water.

“Your words are strange,” Alexandra said. “sailfone?”

“Never mind.” Colin sighed, “What are those pretty lights out there?”

“Those pretty lights’ are the doom of the kingdom,” Samuel replied, “the corsairs of the Amorites, laden with death, blockading Gilead’s shores.”

“Yeah, you said that Gilead, this hut, these cliffs, this is your kingdom?” Colin asked.

Samuel turned to Alexandra. “Take him outside, let him see the beauty that once was.”

Alexandra opened the front door of the shack and nodded at Colin. He followed her out into the night.

Colin looked around and saw the cottage rested near the edge of a high cliff. A steep path led down to the shoreline and trees.

There under the bright moonlight, not more than a couple of miles to the south, past the olive grove, across rolling hills, stood a giant white stone wall, easily a hundred feet high. Great white spires rose into the sky and opened like lotus flowers. Between the spires were countless small buildings, archways and temples, and farther back, a great castle, built on a hill. The spires glistened in the moonlight, but as Colin let his eyes wander in amazement he saw many of the city’s towers were broken and in disrepair. The wall, too, had crumbled in portions, and large sections of the city looked dark and empty.

Wake up, buddy. You’re not dead, this ain’t no dream. Colin’s eyes widened. Holy shit. “This is real? This is really real?”

“From the grand staircase that climbs the cliffs to our western gate, what we call the Lion’s Maw, and the Ambassador’s Square near the western wall to the castle is nearly half a league, and that again to the eastern gates,” Alexandra said and watched his reaction. “Gilead was built thousands of years ago. It survived storms, plagues and sieges before. It will weather this evil as well . . . I hope. Ten thousand souls call it home.”

Colin turned and nearly bumped into Samuel. The old man, led by Balaam, had quietly moved in behind them.

“Whether you’re friend or foe is still a question to me, but I’d have you hear how we now stand on the brink,” Samuel said and moved to sit on a nearby pile of stones. “Alexandra, you know this better than I, tell him your story, give him some understanding.”

Alexandra reluctantly turned to face Colin, sighed, and began.

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