Faylor woke to the sound of people working on something outside. The sounds were not the usual sounds he knew in a mage’s tower, but the sound of men working was unmistakable. He had gone to bed early after the conversation the night before. The combination of physical exhaustion, and revelation, was enough to drive all energy from him.
Now that the morning had come, he blearily remembered being brought to a guest room, set aside for travelers. He rolled out of bed and the two days of flight could be felt in his legs. When he stood, he was shakier than he would have expected. Still the mattress was not made of straw, the house was warm. It was a luxury compared to the cold stone and straw he was used to.
As he looked out a window, he looked across the settlement. The rich smell of freshly cut wood came to him, as well as other forest smells. The settlement was well situated in a forested valley. Anyone who did not know to look for it could not see it. Flying mages would see only thick trees. The path leading to the place was not well cut, and wound around, so it was unlikely to be spotted from afar. The buildings used the trees and cliffs as part of the structures. It was not truly invisible, but it was unobtrusive.
As Faylor looked about, he saw people working on small gardens with unfamiliar fruit. There were men and women working on bread at an outdoor oven, and the sound of a livestock could be heard, though he was unable see where they were.
“Good. You’re up.”
Faylor turned to find John standing in the doorway. His clothes were impeccable, his face clean and his clear blue eyes carried a sense of myrth. He grinned and walked over to the window to join Faylor.
“Have you recovered from your run?”
“Not quite. I feel like legs are stuffed with iron.”
“I bet.” John quietly watched what went on for a moment. It stretched to the point of being slightly awkward then he asked, “Are you ready for what comes next?”
“I don’t know what comes next.”
“Are you ready to join the fight proper?”
“Fight? I am a glorified man servant. I dont know a damn thing about fighting.”
“You killed a mage and lived to talk about it. None of our other agents can say as much.”
“Wait, you said three others succeeded.”
“They did, they just didn’t survive it.”
“That doesn’t sound much like a success to me.”
“Three powerful mages have been struck down in their homes. It cost three lives but there are a lot less of them than they are of us. That is a trade worth making.”
Faylor felt ill and sat in a chair near by. At this moment, he would normally be making sure inkwells were filled, and helping to arrange the ingredients in his master’s chamber. He would be oppressed to be sure, subject to the whim of one man, but it was a mundanity. A banal and boring life was still less likely to get him killed than fighting in a war against mages. It also meant he was likely to be killing anyone. He had killed before, and the sickening part was part of him enjoyed it. He wasn’t certain he wanted to feed that.
“I am not sure I can be involved in fighting, at least, not any more. I am not certain I am certain it is what I should be doing.”
John turned, and looked down at Faylor. His eyes did not hold much sympathy.
“You will. You have to. We need symbols right now and you are one. You fought mages and lived.”
“But I don’t want to fight.”
“What you want is irrelevant here. What your people need is you to stand up, and help lead the way. Their need is stronger than your desire to be an aimless, lazy, little..!”
“That will be enough, John.” Carnith stood in the door with a bucket in one hand. “Perhaps you should go cool down by helping with the fermenting pool.”
John looked like he was going to say something else, anger in his eyes, but he stopped. He pulled himself together, and let the anger slip away. He sighed heavily and turned to leave. He grabbed the bucket from Carnith, and she patted his shoulder. It was a gentle rebuke, but it said much of where influence flowed. John turned back once more before leaving.
“Think about what I said.” With that, he turned and left.
Faylor watched him go. His own emotions were more numb than he expected. He maybe should have been angry or scared, but all he could feel was numb. Something inside him was just not awake.
“Sorry about John.” Carnith began as she sat on the bed. “He is a good man with hard path he has chosen. He doesn’t always remember the whys and whats of what he is fighting for.”
“He seemed pretty clear on the goal. Maybe he is right.”
“Maybe, but that isn’t always up to him.”
“Why not? He is the leader.”
“No, he is A leader, not the leader, but that is not my point.”
“What is your point?”
Carnith stared at Faylor for a long moment. She looked at him as she could see clear through him. She rose and beckoned for him to follow.
They walked through the house, which was like a manor house, but less refined than powerful mages home. The smell of cooking food came from the main hall. The stew was cooking over a fire that appeared be kept burning all the time. Carnith led Faylor out of the main hall and down to a large cellar downstairs. It took Faylor a moment to realize that he had not truly seen the settlement before. The small hidden buildings and gardens up above were nothing compared to the large underground structures. Halls went in every direction and well past the manor house’s foundation. Carnith led him through a few intersections till they turned into a mid sized room. In the room were work tables. Scattered on them were various bits of some sort of machinery. Faylor failed to understand most of them. There stood, off to the side, a mechanism with many threads and odd wheels of metal. It had decorative flares, and spots of rust could be scene all over it.
“What is that?”
“That is a mechanical loom. It is a lot more advanced than what the weaver women in the cities have.”
“Where did you get it? From across the sea?”
“Nope. I found it near here. It was buried in a ruin that was centuries old. I brought it here, and restored it?”
“Absolutely. I restored it, and figured out it’s workings. This is my shop.”
At Faylor’s incredulous look, Carnith simply shrugged, and walked over to the machine. She sat at it, and worked the foot pedal. There were odd movements of the wheels and a click noise, as the mechanism moved racks of thread back and forth.
“The mechanism is very old. I suspect it was a museum piece before the great fall. We were a mighty people once, with machines that were every bit as wondrous as any magic. The Fricans, across the sea, didn’t fall under sway of mages centuries ago, so they recovered from the fall faster, but even they have not gotten back to the point we once stood. “
“So.” Faylor found himself asking. He knew was a stupid thing to say, but he continued anyway. “That is nice for them, but we are not a great people now. What does this have to do with me?”
Carnith frowned. She stopped working the machine but grabbed at some of the cloth that had been made on it.
“The cloth a weaver makes is made up of many threads. No single thread is all that important, but enough of them out of place and the cloth is ruined. Fate is like that, I guess. It is made up of many threads, choices, and together those threads make a fate. How those choices fit together determine our fate.”
“I don’t understand what you are talking about.”
“Listen, Faylor, you are a thread out of place. You haven’t made any choices. You have pretty much done anything you were told. You are not yet part of your own fate, of our fate, because you have made no choices. You let life just happen. Jason wants you to do what you are told, which in it’s way, is no different than what the mages want.
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
“Well, I want you to make a choice. I want you to be part of the fate we are building. I want you to choose. You could choose to do nothing, or you could choose to fight. Hells, child, you could choose to go back to your former master, but I want you to choose. It is important, because your choice helps to make our fate. Maybe our fate is to be great people again. Maybe our fate is to be conquered by the Fricans, but we are weaving it right now, and I want you to be a part of it. Does that make sense?”
Faylor thought about it for a moment. He realized she was right about one thing, at least. He hadn’t really made any choices. He ran, because he had to. He killed, because it was his only choice. He was born servant, and never chose to serve. His whole life was a series of times other people made his choices for him. He wasn’t sure he bought this notion about fate, but he was certain that for the first time in his life, someone wanted him to make a choice.
The moment of revelation was dizzying. He locked up in fear for a moment. That numbness in him broke, and for a moment he felt sheer unabashed terror. For a moment he saw all the things he had done, and all the consequences of different things before him. It made him want to sick up. He swayed for a moment, and grabbed the loom. It’s metal was cool to the touch. The frame was strong and intricate. He marvelled at it a moment. This was a thing which he reasoned he could understand, better than the radio anyway. It was motion, reaction, tension, and return. It was thing made for a purpose, but even still the choices in its design made him think. So much beauty went in to it. So much could come out of it.
“Are you okay?” Carnith asked with her hand on Faylor’s shoulder.
“Yeah.” he said as he pulled himself together. “I suppose I am.”
“I don’t suppose, I could simply choose to learn how make these.”
Carnith smiled, and nodded. Faylor learned much.