The Telest Seer
Gray gave Shel an hour and a half to refresh himself.
Then he walked through the open door into Shel’s room and hopped up on the table, crossing his legs beneath him. A stack of books sat next to him under the window, and as the moments passed and Shel did not emerge from his dressing room, Gray grabbed the top volume and glanced at the spine: The Love Story of Isa and Urden. He nearly snorted.
“Research, Shel?” he said.
At the sound of his voice, the servant who had just set a vase of flowers next to the bed straightened up and looked around the room, eyes wide. When she crept out a few moments later, she still had that tense, bent-shouldered look of someone who had just seen a ghost. Or heard one, in this case. She shut the door behind her, and Gray could nearly imagine her locking it from the outside.
He was on the second chapter when the dressing room door finally opened, and Shel appeared. His hair was still damp from his bath, and he didn’t seem to like the belt he was wearing because he kept pulling at it.
Gray set the book on his lap and watched.
The sage glanced through the room and his gaze stopped on the window, the one closer to the bed. Walking over to it, he leaned against the sill and peered down into the courtyard, and there he spied on people for about half an hour. The longer Shel stood at the window, the harder it was for Gray to keep his mouth shut and not laugh aloud.
Eventually Shel turned around, and his attention swept the table where Gray was sitting. He looked away—and then looked back, frowning at the stack of books that was now one fewer than it was the last time he’d stood in this room.
“You have an excellent eye for detail, my friend. And a keen interest in observing others from a distance.” Gray shifted, taking a form the lander’s eyes could behold.
Shel grinned and shook his head. “Not just from a distance, I assure you.” Nodding toward the book in Gray’s hands, Shel said, “I should have known you would pick a love story about the islands.”
“It was the top one.”
“Yet you picked it.”
“I told you—it was on the top. If I had taken the time to sort the books, I might have caused your poor servant to collapse in terror.”
“Well, if you had come into the room like a regular person, you could have sorted to your heart’s satisfaction.” A smirk wrinkled Shel’s nose. “Perhaps you did sort to your heart’s satisfaction, eh?”
“I have better, more direct ways of learning what I need to learn about the islands than a book written two hundred years ago. And by a man who was not an Islander himself.”
“He lived on the islands for four years as he wrote this book.”
“How long have you lived on the islands, Shel?”
Shel pretended to give the matter deep consideration. He reached up and rubbed his chin, where he had left several days’ worth of beard unshaven. “If I collect all the times I have visited and consider them together, then perhaps thirty-three years?”
“Then you are a much better reference for me than a reader who wrote love novels.”
Laughing, Shel walked up to the table, turned around, and hoisted himself up, sitting next to Gray with the stack of books between them. He lifted the top book and studied it a moment, but then a sigh escaped him. “This is an unfortunate situation, my friend.”
No explanation was needed. Gray murmured, “Unfortunate indeed.”
“The House of Rayme is the backbone of the continent.” Shel snapped the book shut. “If the enemy can succeed in damaging our spine, we will not have strength to stand against him. What alarms me the most about Gannon Dre is that he knew what was about to befall the spine. Not the king himself, mind you—yet a member of the king’s family. And he did nothing.”
Shel hissed between his teeth. “Gannon knew what would happen, but he waited to tell you until he knew it was too late for you to stop it yourself.” He shook his head, and when he spoke next, his voice had filled with mourning. “What has deadened the man’s heart to the extent that he will not lift his hand to save what needs to be saved? There is coldness in this man, and truthfully I am concerned for his soul. With a gift as powerful as his, this kind of behavior can draw the attention of gods no one in his right mind would choose to serve. But Gannon is not in his right mind. The more powerful the gift, the greater possibility for harm.”
“You said he is a different type of seer.”
Shel blinked as if surprised by the slight redirection. He nodded. “As you know, we landers typically refer to only one gift as ‘seer,’ but that isn’t fully true. There are many types of seers, and all of them operate in slightly different ways. Oracles are a kind of seer. My wife was an oracle, as I’m sure you remember, and she could look into the realm of the gods; that was her gift. Then there are thievers, of course, but I refer to them as a lost gift, because very few thievers operate in the way the gods intended.” He grumbled, “It is like they have chosen the worst possible thing they could do with their gift, and then they made it the only thing they do with their gift. It is uncommon to find a thiever who is wise.”
“You know I find the seer gift interesting. We’ve discussed it several times.” Gray set the love story back on the stack. “But I’ve been sitting here and trying to remember if you have ever, a single time, told me about a seer who is powerful enough that you would actually compare him to a prophet.”
Shel shook his head. “There is a reason for that. Gannon’s gift is very rare. So rare, in fact, that in the history of the earth—not the continent, but the earth in its entirety—there have been perhaps two of these seers. And both lived many years ago.”
For Shel to say that something took place a long time ago, it implied an age when he and his brother the prophet were still children, back when the stars still walked the earth. It was a length of time Gray could barely fathom.
“Gannon Dre,” Shel continued, “is a type of seer called a telest. It means ‘watcher,’ but specifically it is a watcher of events, not of people. The first thing you should understand about this gift is that it operates in strength only in conjunction with another kind of seer.”
“Then why—?” Gray began, but Shel waved him away.
“Just listen for a moment, and then I will answer your questions. A telest seer requires another kind of seer in order to function. The gods created the telest gift to need the thiever gift in order to operate in full.”
“Yes. Certain gifts require other gifts, and the telest seer is particular in this way. If Gannon Dre did not associate with thievers, it is likely that he would be nothing more than a standard seer, with the standard seer’s capabilities. But Gannon, surprisingly, was born into the thiever clan, which means that he has been telest since his childhood. And it has punctured his soul. I believe that is why he struggles with insanity now—because he has seen horrific things that have injured him.”
Gray stared at Shel. “What horrific things?”
Shel sighed and looked down at the book in his hands. “That brings us to the second thing you should know about the telest gift. It is given by the gods only in a period of war. I don’t mean a war between two houses or even two countries. I don’t mean what is likely to happen in Rak-Min because of the assassination of Tallus Rayme. I mean a war that has the potential of changing the earth.”
Not the continent. The earth. “Shel…we have no such war.”
Shel rubbed his face. “I know.”
“There is not even the threat of a war of that magnitude. And who would fight this war? The lawmaker gift has made it impossible for wars to be fought on the continent. King’s Barrow and Dasken cannot go to war against one another according to their treaty, and Theraine and King’s Barrow hold a similar treaty. Who is the enemy, if there is no enemy?”
Shel hesitated. “That is the question, isn’t it?”
“You don’t know?”
“My brother and I have discussed this matter at length. Like Gannon, he has seen that a dangerous war is coming. Also like Gannon, he has seen that you somehow play a significant role in that war.”
Gray leaned away from him. “Me?”
“Yes—you. My brother and I believe it is because of the par’salthaine, but beyond that, we don’t know what your role will be. And somewhat unfortunately, it seems that Gannon Dre does know what that role will be. Or at least he thinks he does.” Shel made a face. “I don’t believe he understands the threat he himself has become. When people lose wisdom, they tend to think themselves wise. That’s the way of it. Those who have wisdom will be given even more wisdom, while those who have very little wisdom eventually lose what they have.”
“But believe they have more?” Gray asked.
Shel nodded. “Yes, because they do not have true wisdom. I am concerned with what this man will do because he thinks it is ‘wise.’ Lukas has already received some strange letters from him and has had to undo portions of what the seer has done along Ra-Faal’s borders.”
“Yes, he mentioned that, but just briefly.”
For the next few minutes, Gray and Shel sat in silence. Shel fiddled with the book, while Gray considered the report he would give the king about a Dasken seer who was nearly as powerful as a prophet.
Eventually Shel remarked, “We know that in nine days, the assassin who murdered Tell’s father and brothers will arrive to finish the job.”
“If Gannon Dre’s gift is accurate.”
Shel grunted. “It is not the gift that should be called into question. It is his ability to use his gift. He needs wisdom and doesn’t have it.”
“Do you have any doubts concerning his information? You said he’s insane.”
“If he says an assassin is coming to kill Tell, then I say we need to take steps to ensure that does not happen.”
“What do you have in mind?”
Shel opened his mouth to answer but then paused. He looked at Gray closely and then made a noise in the back of his throat. “You already took steps, didn’t you?”
“Steps to do what?”
Shel laughed. “I know, I know—it’s the king’s business so you will tell me nothing! But if I know you at all, then I can say with confidence that you have taken one of your own men and assigned him to the remaining son of Tallus Rayme. So the boy is highly protected and has something that is rare anywhere on the continent, save for Theraine itself—he has an e’nethaine bodyguard. And in all likelihood, he has no idea. Because it’s the ‘king’s business.’”
Gray let his breath out slowly and found himself looking down at the love story he had returned to the stack of books. “One day I am hoping to be more…open with him than I am now.”
Shel set his hand on Gray’s shoulder. “Your dedication is commendable. It always will be. But you could be more open with the boy right now if you wanted to be. The par’salthaine would allow for it.”
“But I took a vow.”
“Yes, to the throne of King’s Barrow, and he is a member of the king’s family.” Shel shrugged. “Obviously, there are certain things you would need to keep to yourself. Certain things you wouldn’t need to tell him. But you have been known for wisdom all your life, my friend. I know that you will make a wise choice in any matter concerning young Intelligence Rayme.”
– H –
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Copyright notice: © 2018 by Lauren Stinton. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.