Shel Galen Has a Theory
Gray found the book he wanted in Lukas’s library and nearly made it out the door.
Eight steps away from freedom, he stopped as an angry voice spoke up behind him.
“Excuse me, sir.”
The man appeared to be the librarian. He was tall and thin and scowled at Gray like a grandmother who was highly offended. Gray felt he would have been able to describe the man without actually turning around; the fellow’s voice “looked” just like him. In this occupation, the man was surely a reader.
“You cannot remove any of the prince’s books without filling out the proper forms. Didn’t you see the signs—the great many signs throughout the entire library? If you have no respect for protocol, you will just need to give that book to me.” He held out his hand.
Gray lifted the book. “Shel Galen is the author.”
“Yes, I am aware.”
“Shel Galen is upstairs. I am merely taking the book to its writer.”
“Shel Galen is not receiving visitors just now, and you have officially lost the privilege of taking any books out of this library.”
“Have you read this book?”
His hand still outstretched determinedly, the librarian glared. “Of course. I have read every book in the prince’s library.”
“Well, then, maybe I’ll just take you to see Shel Galen. Do you come with proper forms as well?”
Before the librarian could respond, the smell of the sea wafted into the open area where Gray stood, and a girl maybe sixteen years old stepped out from behind a row of bookcases. She was nearly as tall as the librarian, but unlike the librarian, she bore the blood of the sea. Salt was her perfume.
As she met Gray’s gaze, her eyes widened, but her surprise passed in a handful of blinks and she offered him a smile. Going to the librarian, she set her hand on his arm. The moment she touched him, the man quieted, and Gray had the impression that this was a scene the two of them repeated quite often.
“Father,” she said, “this is Gray Adorin, the prince’s friend. The prince has ordered the entire fortress open to him, so he can access whatever he wants, and I’m certain the library falls into that category as well.”
“Ah,” her father said. It was like his mind had to stumble a few steps before managing to get itself upright again. “Ah, in that case—take the book, sir.” He sniffed. “But please do try to return it. Don’t just leave it somewhere, as you young people like to do.”
Gray thanked the man politely and nodded to his cousin. She smiled and nodded back.
A FEW MINUTES LATER when Shel stepped out of his dressing room, Gray was sitting cross legged on his desk, the book in his hands.
“Now here’s a scene I recognize,” Shel declared with a wide smile. “Have you decided to make a habit of this? To just appear while I’m in my dressing room? This is very rude of you. I will tell Nari, and then you shall get in trouble.” He laughed.
Dropping his cloak onto the bed, Shel looked up at Gray and said more seriously, “I have thought of something you and I should discuss.”
“Of what nature?”
“Of a princely nature. I want to take Tell back to Theraine.”
“I thought you might.”
Holding up his hand, Shel stated, “None of this nonsense where my brother doesn’t give the boy a prophecy. I want a prophecy, and I have learned that to get a prophecy, sometimes I must take the prophet by the shoulders and hold him captive until he speaks. Prophets can be quite distracted, you know. And their sense of timing can be very…unique.” Shel waved his hand toward the window. “Indeed, timing often takes flight and tries to fly away from them. My brother struggles with this as well, even though he is a sage. He has more wisdom than is typical, however, and that usually helps him. Usually.”
Shel snorted. “I’m sure you do, O Prophesied One.” He pointed at Gray. “I know Tell didn’t get to see the prophet on his last venture with you, but did the prophet give you a word when you were in Theraine?”
Gray sighed. Shel didn’t ask because he didn’t know. That was something Gray constantly had to remember with Shel Galen—if it was written, Shel had read it. That was how his sage-reader gift functioned. Shel didn’t need to ask the question, so when he did ask the question, there was a reason.
Gray glanced down at the book in his hands. The cover declared in flowing script, The Cultural Practices of the South Islands. Realizing his questions would have to wait, he set the volume next to him on the desk. Then he gathered his thoughts and leaned back against the window. “Yes, unfortunately he did.”
“How unfortunate was it this time?”
“Before numerous witnesses—the king, his sacred scribes, his private guards, and ten members of his council—”
Shel’s brows rose. “In Theraine, that is an audience indeed.”
“—your brother told me that concealment is my occupation, but it is not who I am.”
Shel began to smile.
“He said I can no longer rely on the lawmakers to keep my mouth sealed for me.” A grimace pulled at Gray’s features. “Physically, this is no longer possible and so wisdom is necessary. But he insists this is actually a good thing for me, because the gods never intended that I remain a shadow. That is what he called me—a shadow on the continent, and for a time, this was beneficial. But now I should listen to the gods, use my judgment, and prepare to be seen more than I wish to be seen.”
The sage had started laughing at the word shadow. “How wise it was of me to have given you similar advice.”
“Well,” Gray said, “I like the way you said it much more than the way the prophet said it. I also appreciate that you said it privately.”
“Only because you are determined not to like prophets! It doesn’t matter where you are, does it? On the land or in the sea, all the prophets want to look at you and poke at you and tell you about your future. How very curious.”
“And seers, too, so it seems.”
“Only one, for the moment.”
Those last words—for the moment—seemed fairly ominous.
Shel’s smile faded. He twitched in his boots in a way that strongly reminded Gray of Hamal and then looked up again. Nodding toward the book Gray had set down, Shel asked, “Are you certain you do not wish me to tell you about the next letter the seer has written you? It bears only one word, and you will not mind this word. In fact, it may even ease your mind a bit.”
“I have not changed my mind.”
“Ah, well. You are not required to do so. As I’m sure you know, the letter will be given to you at some point, just as all the others have been. You won’t have any choice eventually.”
“That’s unfortunate, too.”
“Aye. That it is.”
Shel’s brow wrinkled. “On a slightly different note, I must say that I am intrigued by the one who delivers the letters. She has become of far greater interest to me than the letter writer himself. This Amie Avi person, the woman who does whatever your seer tells her. I’ve been thinking about her, and I believe I’ve put together something interesting.”
For Shel, this meant books could now be written on the subject; it meant he had handled, sorted, dismissed, and accepted a great number of theories in a very short amount of time.
“And what have you found?” Gray asked. He didn’t have much interest in Amie Avi himself, but every time Shel announced he had put something together, Gray would want to hear it.
“There is a very old prophecy that I believe might be about this woman. Does that intrigue you? It certainly intrigues me—Amie Avi has a prophecy. It was written by the Prophet of Audofek nearly two thousand years ago. Do you know much about her?”
A moment passed before Gray realized the Prophet of Audofek was a woman. “I’ve heard the name, but I can’t think of any specific prophecies she gave.”
“Well, much of her work remains in Audofek. And most of it was lost in a fire that, oddly enough, she also foretold. She warned of the fire and requested that her books be moved to a secure location. Did anyone do as she asked? No, and so most of her writings were lost.”
Shel shook his head. “But never mind that now. What you need to know in this moment is that the Prophet of Audofek wrote about every prophet who would come after her. Every lander prophet, I mean. This includes the future Prophet of King’s Barrow—the man who is about to appear, but has not yet appeared.”
Shel looked at Gray pointedly. “In this prophecy, she talks about a woman who will have some kind of role in the prophet’s life. She doesn’t mention this woman by first name, but she says quite clearly that the woman is of the House of H’avi, of Theraine.”
“Wait. You think—” Gray heard the tension in his voice, paused, and started again. “You think the seer, Gannon Dre, sought out Amie Avi because of this prophecy and somehow manipulated her into his service?”
“No, I don’t think he knows about the prophecy at all. It was one of the destroyed manuscripts, so no one alive has read it, not even my brother. Gannon Dre cannot know of the prophecy, and Amie Avi doesn’t know of it either. I think Gannon tracked her down because he can see the prophecy—that is, he has seen her future and is trying to get his hands into it.”
“Well, that’s just lovely.”
“That is not the word I would use for it.”
Gray rubbed his face with both hands as he considered all these things. The Prophet of King’s Barrow would appear when Hamal was eighteen years old; that much was known. Hamal had been seventeen since Gray had been twenty. So it was likely that Hamal would have a birthday soon. Perhaps even this year, which meant the Prophet of King’s Barrow would likely appear within the next few years.
When the prophet finally did appear, everything would change in King’s Barrow. That was what happened with prophets. They led nations and brought change within those nations.
Thinking of the king, Gray lowered his hands. “What does the prophecy say about Amie Avi and the Prophet of King’s Barrow?”
Shel shook his head. “Not very much, I’m afraid—just that she is somehow important to him.”
“That could mean a great number of things, Shel.”
Shel grunted. “I know. Perhaps she leaves Gannon Dre so she can serve the prophet instead. That’s one possibility. Or perhaps she does one thing to assist the prophet, but that one thing is very great—worthy of prophetic mention two thousand years ago. Or maybe she marries his father.”
Gray blinked at Shel’s unexpected turn. “His father?”
“Or maybe an older brother. Just, well—” Shel hesitated. “You said she appeared to be forty years old. I have observed that most e’nethaine choose to marry landers who are similar to them in age. Not in years, but in appearance. Take you and Nari, for instance. You are quite a bit older than she is, but no one would know this just by looking at the two of you side by side. You are matched well.”
Shel leaned up against the bedpost as he said, “We know that when the Prophet of King’s Barrow appears, he will already be twenty-three years old. I am not saying that such a match could not occur, but it seems more likely that Amie Avi’s association with the prophet will be something other than her marriage to him. What do you think? Do you agree?”
“I will always agree with you.”
“Come, come. That’s not the answer I want.”
Gray sat there quietly, rolling the conversation and its wild pieces around in his mind. “I believe,” he said at last, “Amie Avi is well aware that the man she serves is injuring those he tries to help. Whatever her reason for staying with him, it must be something strong, something important to her and worth the effort. It seems likely that this reason will somehow affect her association with the prophet.”
Hesitation crawled through Gray, but he spoke the words anyway. “Perhaps one day I will find it necessary to discover more about her.”
Shel sighed. “One day, Gray, we will all know more about her. Because of the Prophet of King’s Barrow.”
– H –
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Copyright notice: © 2019 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.