Circles in the Dark - Part II
At midnight the dunes appeared endless, long curves of shadow folded into a deeper dark, like the frozen swell of some inky ocean.
Hectar plodded on, mechanically, one foot rising before the other.
The difficulty, he brooded, is not the pain in my calves, or the weight on my back. Fatigue is bearable. No, the trial is this endless monotony. It crushes the soul.
Above him a breathtaking span of stars twinkled their indifference. The effect was hypnotic, as if he were treading water in a black infinity, moving towards a bejewelled hemisphere which never drew any nearer.
The only distractions were his thoughts, and these were no less muddled than under yesterday's moon.
Isn't this what you wanted? Shacruna had asked. Are you not searching for meaning, for something greater than yourself?
But he had found only a growing list of questions, and no answers. His life had suddenly been thrown into a chaos far deeper than ever before.
Am I truly a Shaper? If so, then to what end should I turn my power…
Who are these hidden enemies who stalk us? Why do they pursue us, and who has commanded it?
And then there are the dream-visions. What to make of them? What do they hint at, and why am I all of a sudden so prone to them…
These questions had a fatal gravity; quite unlike any of his previous existential troubles: depression, purposelessness, wanderlust – already these were but memories, childlike, a stark contrast with the discovery of a mysterious Gift within, and a mortal threat without.
Step, step. Step, step.
He worked through his questions, probing where he could.
Shacruna suspects it’s the Chimera who chase us. If she’s right, there is little hope of escape. Their craft with disguises renders them all but invisible, and their hunts end only in death, their own if not that of their prey.
What troubles me more is that only someone with a tremendous amount of wealth – and thus power – is able to command their services. The Chimera are not political. They don’t set their own prey...
Step, step, step.
The attacks in Yptah were not the work of one assassin, but of dozens...perhaps all of them…
So, then: a conspiracy to eliminate the Shapers! It wouldn't be the first time one group of gifted people is persecuted to the advantage of some other group, or that a particular hereditary line was culled from the human strain...
But one question haunted Hectar deeper than any of the others: Does this murder plot cover all the Shapers, or – is it directed at a select few, perhaps only at those whose interests do not align with the conspirators’...
So many intolerable questions…
He came suddenly to a resolution.
I’m sick of the dark, and of the inside of my own head. These broodings bring no answers. This is the maelstrom I've been sucked into. For now I just have to survive it.
Shacruna remained silent, wrapped up in her cloak and deep thoughts of her own. She too was trying to puzzle through each of these tangled threads.
Hectar turned to her."Trading some chant," he spoke into the night, "will do us both good. Perhaps we can tease some understanding from this mess."