Taris

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Prologue

Kyr woke up and noticed that he was, in fact, quite dead.

Apparently, he had been dead for a while, but hadn’t bothered to notice it. He stifled a large yawn and decided that this was probably because he had been asleep at the time. Assassinations tended to happen that way. His wife would be so mad at him for oversleeping again.

After a few moments, he decided that maybe it was time to actually open his eyes and take a look around. After all, he’d probably be staying here a while.

Kyr opened his eyes, and discovered that he was not alone in being dead. An old, dusty figure sat over him, staring keenly as if he were a specimen of extreme interest. Deciding to ignore the old man for the moment, Kyr took in his surroundings. He was lying comfortably on a wooden platform situated at the edge of a large lake, though he could not see the other shore; it simply disappeared into the mists. Large, inviting trees towered idly above him, and the ground seemed soft and loamy. If this was the afterlife, well, he might just like here.

Finally Kyr decided to address the only other person in sight. He sat up and eyed him carefully. The old man, with wrinkles covering his body and a few strands wispy white hair sprouting from his otherwise bald head, was dressed simply in a deep golden yellow robe that betrayed no luxury, no indulgence. He looked frail, weak, slow, yet when Kyr met his eyes he felt the force of brilliance striking deep within him, stirring the deepest founts of his being, and suddenly Kyr knew why.

He was in the presence of a divinity.

The old man smiled.

“Are you…a god?”

“As much one as you.”

Not one to show his surprise, Kyr took the old man’s statement in stride.

“How do you mean? I’m only dead. Your eyes…”

“Alas, and I too am only dead. Yet I too am ‘divine’, as you say.”

“That…makes no sense.”

“Most who die are simply given a short break before they return. Some attain the hush of serenity, and are granted rest. A select few end up in your shoes, Kyr of the Daecians.”

“What of me? It seems…rather clear. You are either ‘granted rest’ or you aren’t. Where does that leave me?”

“You have been granted a reprieve, and are here to give…a gift of sorts.”

“A gift?” Kyr looked down at himself and noticed that he, too, was dressed in a simple robe, though his was a dark leafy green. “I don’t think I brought anything with me when I died.”

“You brought yourself.”

“Myself?”

“Yes. You have brought your spirit, your story, your life, such as they are. You have brought the essence of you. And you have brought a gift.”

Kyr pondered the old man’s statement idly, then sprung on a different idea. “Old man, you said I am…granted a reprieve?”

“Yes, Kyr.”

Kyr stood and ambled over to the edge of the platform. “What is your name, old man?”

“You may call me Orson the Guide, Kyr.”

“Let’s walk. My wife would kill me if I just lounged in bed all day.”

The two men found themselves walking idly along the lake, a cool wind landing gently on their bodies. The surface of the water was still, save a few small ripples that lapped idly on the pebbled shores. Though the men walked without footwear, there were no sharp stones, no jutting edges, upon which to cut their feet.

“Surprising how this place is so calm and cool, given what the rest of Alcis is like.”

“You have many fond memories of a cool forest in the north. The Lake’s Shore is merely showing you those memories made real once more.”

“Convenient.” Kyr bent down to pick up a pebble and skipped it lightly across the shore of the Lake. “So, why am I here, Orson?”

“You are here because you have a gift to give, Kyr. You may choose to grant it, or you may withhold it if you wish.”

“I did not bring anything here to give.”

“Yes, you brought only yourself and your story.”

“Right. So what gift do I have to give?”

“What did you bring?”

“Just as you say, Orson, I brought only myself and my story.”

“Exactly.”

Somewhere in his head a dim thought came to mind. Legends and teachings about the Lake’s Shore. How each spirit must find balance, harmony, before granted the long peaceful rest. What happens when a spirit loses its way.

“I’ve made mistakes, haven’t I? I was close…I’d almost found harmony…but in that last life I…”

“Exactly.”

#

The two dead men were again sitting on the platform, facing each other.

“The…legends. I’ve done something terrible to someone in my last life.”

“Yes, and it is good that can see that.”

“If I remember those stories, those who are…like me. For a price, I can correct those wrongs. What must I do, Orson? Who do I repay?”

“’Who’…is something only you know.”

“And how is it done?”

“You just sit, bring yourself to a state of peace. If you are truly willing, it will simply happen.”

“And you know all those old stories, about those so-called ‘deities’. That’s what we’re talking about, aren’t we. In a way, granting a mortal something like…divinity.”

“Yes.”

Kyr chuckled. “There are a lot of stories out there, you know. A lot of them say those people drain their own spirits away for that power. He’d become a dead shell by the end.”

Orson smiled broadly. “They are wrong. No, the spirit ‘drained away’, as you put it, is not the mortal’s own. It would be…well, in this case, it would be yours.”

Kyr blinked twice, then chuckled. “That sounds inconvenient.”

“Hmm. I must ask a question of you, Kyr?”

“Go right ahead.”

“Who did you wrong? Who did you hurt?”

Kyr remained silent.

“You worried about ‘his’ spirit, his life, immediately wondering if those old tales are true.. And yet, when I told you that it would be you, your essence and person that is drained into that power, you merely laugh. I can see as clearly as I see the waters of the Lake that you are not afraid. So I must ask: who is he? …Who will you repay?”

Kyr closed his eyes. Seated cross-legged on the little wooden platform at the edge of the Lake, he let his soul weep silently, without tears or motion. A cool breeze blew in from over the water and gently rustled the leaves in the quiet, contemplative forest about him. Though no birds nor other creatures of the woods lived in this cold and peaceful place, Kyr’s ears heard the singing of a jay, the chatter of a squirrel. He could feel the strength of the massive trees whose crowns reached farther than the sky in his body, his being. Every leaf, every breeze that touched the leaves, every ripple on the Lake, every swirl of leaves and earth on the floor of the wood – he felt it all. In his grief-stricken mind, he became it all.

He felt the waters of the Lake swim against the Shore. As the water weaved farther and farther over the ground, the tension, the grief built higher, stronger, faster until he could not bear it any longer.

And then the waves washed back into the Lake and the waters were still.

And for the first time in many years, Kyr felt peace.

With his eyes still closed, but his weeping ended, he answered Orson’s question.

“He is my son.”