The Path Of Dreams
The old man, known as the Witch finder for deeds accomplished in times long past, watched through a scrying focus as his creature apprehended some of those he felt sure would lead him to the girl. His thoughts turned sour as he reminded himself that he could no longer trust anybody not directly under his control to accomplish a task for him. His former underling Maolsechlan had shown him that. Despite his years of service and unswerving loyalty, indecision had proven his downfall, and he had been sent to the eternity of torment that awaited any of those unlucky enough to be taken by the Golem, a creature of stone and darkest magic. He should have taken the chance when it presented itself, and captured the girl he was sent to look for, not return with assurances that they would not get far. His chance had now passed to another though, as he had been enveloped by the dark magic of the old man's greatest achievement to date, the binding of a mortal by use of the darkest focus ever conceived into the creature of stone that now filled the vision in his focus. It had always been a means to an end, and the souls of countless mortals had been used to keep the ever-increasing hunger of his creature at bay.
“Will it ever reach a point that there are not enough people left for the magic to consume?” Armen, his long-time aide, watched the focus from behind.
“It matters not. By the time that ever becomes a possibility, I will be the owner of the book, and the source of a stronger magic.” He frowned again, twisting parchment with meaningless scribble from one of his scribes into a tight knot. “I walked the land ere most of these lower beings were born. I have waited long enough, but I am patient.” In the highest tower of Raessa, where he could view the world with a magical eye, he was as impotent as a mule when it came to controlling the destinies of mortals. He had captured the tribe that harboured the Tome of Law – the book of the Gods, but that had yielded nothing to him. Even though he had not been successful, his reputation had spread far and wide, and rapidly so. It was this that kept the ways to Raessa clear of any traffic, and it was this that had allowed him to gain knowledge surpassing that of any being in the world.
“One day soon we will no longer need these rocks to cast a spell. The time is at hand when emotions will rule. Heavy, useless rocks. They will be obsolete.”
“You will see, if you live that long. The Golem grows ever hungrier.” No matter what his servants tried; no matter what magic they employed through other means, it did not work. The cold rock was still the source of all magic. Something had garnered his interest somewhat more just now. “Look, Armen, what do you see beyond them in the focus.”
Garias shifted so Armen could get a better view. “I see nothing beyond them, master.”
“Exactly. That is what you are supposed to see. There is a distortion there, much like that of the Forest people. It is something the focus cannot penetrate, and something that the Golem and that fool O'Bellah will not notice by being there. There is a distortion in the focus, designed to divert the eye.” As he had watched the capture of the tinkers through the eyes of the Golem and the focus generated by what was left of the Earth guilds pitiful circle, it dawned on him that there was something special about this valley. There were differences to the forest. The distortion concentrated on a single point whereas the great forest had generally encouraged one to look elsewhere. None of it fooled him. Weak in power though he may be, the wisdom of countless years showed him what he needed to see. “There is something of great importance there, and I will have the answers.” If he had to travel for years to get them then he would do so, but there were other ways.
“Get out, wizards.” He dismissed the few old men that had survived the backlash of the explosion. Once young and full of vitality, they had had nearly all of their ability to focus taken away from them in the harshest possible manner. They scuttled out, fearfully avoiding his gaze. He looked out of his tower, full of contempt. Once he would have gained pleasure from watching lesser creatures timidly stepping around him, looking down, scared to tempt his wrath. He had lost all pleasure in such entertainments as he had gained wisdom. They were no more than a distraction to him. The book that he quested for consumed his thoughts. His zealots were enough to keep the public scared that he should ever pay them a visit in person. He could do without all that, but he would never let on to anybody of that fact. Even as he stared out over the mountain range to the South, so close to his window that he could almost touch the nearest peaks, he pondered the conundrum. In a rare moment of reflection, Garias spoke normally to Armen, as he guessed others might do. “Twenty seasons back or thereabouts, the book was on its way to me, courtesy of that lowlife thief from Dupodi's Tail. All of a sudden, the book and the thief disappeared. Not a word, not a clue as to where it had been. I had people set in place everywhere. The plan to bring the book in secrecy to my hands had been executed perfectly, but not to fruition. What went wrong?”
“I… uh… don't know.”
“Spoken like the true commoner you once were. I swear to this very day that those forest rats had hidden my book in an attempt to call on their pathetic Old-Law Gods, but they too escaped my plans.”
“Well what else is there to do?”
“There has been time enough to try stealth and clever ideas. Now it is time for me to try something more straightforward. The armies I have created with the taint of the Golem's evil will do the grunt work. They will drive out the scattered tribe from their temporary hiding places in the lowlands, and scare the villagers into believing that they are coming for them as well. There will be no place for them to hide in the flat grasslands of Ardicum and Ciaharr. He will see them rounded up and dealt with, and I will have my Tome! But that was not for now, no. I have waited for so long, I can wait another year or two. The Tome will be mine!”