by David C Lawrence
"...and in that fashion, all -- Rathen, Patunnen, Flaegthrosen and
Selenian alike -- saw the ending of the unknown bliss of the First
History." The wizened man leaned forward from his position on the
rock and rested his weight on a gnarled oaken cane. His long white
beard swung between his knees and he gave a faint smile to the
children who were gathered to hear his tale. Those that watched could
see the dim twinkle of a distant star under his stern brow and bushy
lashes. A fair sized group of adults had gathered, too, stopping from
their daily business to listen to the tales of days gone by. They
remained quiet as they pondered the words of the story. A fair-faced
man leaning with one leg against a tree looked up from his
woodcarvings and surveyed the crowd. Straightening his waistcoat, he
stepped into the circle and faced the man. The tale-teller lifted his
head slowly from the faces of the children and met the glance of the
"Why do you fill their heads with tales of old, Dariel?!" said the carver, looking at the now amazed group. "You know as well as I that they are not true, and even if they did hold some measure of truth, it would do these good people absolutely no good. You bring them all out of their way so that you might receive a kind penny or an invitation to stay the night." Once more the carver scanned the crowd, looking for some approval in his denouncement.
"Those who find they have nothing to go out of their way for soon find they have nothing at all." The tale-teller was still unflinching in his stare at the carver. "My tales are every bit as true as the fact that the woodcarving you make is to be an ornament for..." The man lifted his cane and pointed to one of the observers. "...him."
The carver looked away to the man the tale-teller had indicated. It was the very man who had hired him to do the sculpture. He turned his eyes slowly back to the old man on the rock and caught his never loosening stare. "How is it that you know my business, you who live in the past and have never been seen in these parts before?"
"You called me Dariel in jest, but there may be more wisdom in this white-headed old fool than you believe. To your statements in your question, I will say this: I have been seen in these parts before. It is not my doing that your mind closes out that which it can not comprehend." The carver's jaw swung open as he strained to determine if he had just been insulted. "My life is here in the present with you and now it would seem that your business is also mine. The past holds much that will benefit us in the future, but it must be studied and repeated to discover all that it holds. Come with me and we shall talk; I am not a beggar and I do not desire your home or your pity. I have my own place, and that too you shall see. The sun wanes nigh four hours in the western sky and these good people should be getting back to their lives."
The carver remembered the people that had gathered to listen to the tale-teller before he had so rudely interrupted. He bowed sheepishly and apologized as the old man bid them farewell. The tale-teller stood and started down a little used path out of the clearing which the people of the valley used for festivals. Heading away from the protection provided by the castle and the Royale Guard, he said only "come", and the woodcarver walked by his side under the tall forest trees.
"You have a name, perhaps?" asked the old man without looking at the carver, but rather concentrating on the path at his feet.
"Zefcairn, the South Wind, I was named at birth, but I am now called Flurthros, Flowing Man, owing to my interest in all but mastery of none."
It did not appear to the tale-teller that the carver was particularly proud of his nickname. "Interest in all is good, and someday it may blossom to mastery, if you let your past mesh with your present to form your future. I will call you Healthfor, as I see you are very self-willed. I deem, though, that one day your name will change once again." The tale-teller stared at the path and they walked awhile in silence.
Healthfor had never been to this section of the forest before and he wondered where the tale-teller might be taking him. Sparks of light danced from torches unseen in the forest as the sun sank behind the mountains to the west.
"Do you have a name?" Healthfor finally asked, trying to start the conversation that the old man had invited him to participate in.
The tale-teller stayed unblinking at the path, but another twinkle of light visibly gleamed in his eye. "I am called Laslingis in this region, for I am the story-teller. I am starting to feel like the story-yeller, though, for even as people will still listen to my tales, they no longer take heed of them, and soon forget even what they have heard."
"But what good do those faery tales serve?" asked Healthfor. "All they do is fill people's heads with illusions of the past. They tell them nothing of what lies ahead."
"They tell them all of what lies ahead. It is not infrequent that we lose sight of the way our causes cannot see their effects. The past holds all of our causes. By realizing that, we can anticipate the effects."
"Wha...?" said Healthfor with a puzzled expression. "I don't understand. What do you mean by 'our causes cannot see their effects'?"
"Only that people often do things without consideration to exactly how much could happen as a result. People generally think for the present, and when something happens, they fail to see its origins. Of course, there are exceptions. Very few statements can be made all inclusive." Laslingis had turned his eyes towards the woodcarver and Healthfor felt a surge of inner warmth.
Laslingis held up his hand and Healthfor fell silent. "I have existed through three Histories and will see it through the rest. I have been given the Eternal Curse -- to live as long as Earth lives. I have seen all the causes, so with that comes my sight, sight into the future. I do not speak of the future, though, for once it is told, it will not change, even if an effort is made to oppose it." He stopped abruptly and looked straight into Healthfor's eyes. After a moment, he strode quietly to a fallen log and bid Healthfor to sit down. "I sense you do not believe me; a small example should help cure that. I am neither phantasmist nor enchanter, so I cannot charm you to do anything. But I do see that you will take your carving knife and whittle that dead branch."
Healthfor immediately sat on his hands in defiance. What seemed like an eternity had passed when he suddenly felt removed from himself and watched from afar as he did what Laslingis had predicted. After his amazement subsided, he spoke once again to the tale-teller. "But I was able to resist for so long. It can be controlled. What you suggest is predestination."
"Nay, you did not resist. I did not say when you would do so, but only that you would. My 'powers' are good, but they do not extend to pinpointing times. As for predestination, the future is not set until someone of the Higher Order declares it set, and fortunately, they refrain from doing it. Have you ever been to a ruskin match?" Healthfor nodded and Laslingis laughed. "Oh, I am sorry. It was a rhetorical question. Anyway, at a close match, you will often hear fans remarking, 'Now if it only stays this way'. Well, that is all a High Order declaration does -- it makes everything stay that way. You see, causes are always happening, right up to their effects. If no more causes happen, predicting a singular effect upon the basis of the causes is a greatly easier task. To run rampant spewing facts about the future would make life a monotony. 'Tis strange, but when you know less about the future, you have more control of it. Then it becomes a matter of choice."
The tale-teller began moving down the path again. "Come," he said, "You should learn the Histories and the Beginning before we get on to the task before you."
"Wait. There's a few things that bother me. For one, you say that you have seen all the causes. How?" Healthfor didn't move from his spot on the log.
"Ah, I wasn't actually there when they all happened. I read about them in this." Laslingis waved his hand through the night air and a large red book appeared amidst a sparkling cloud. On its cover was embossed The Passing of the Histories in golden lettering of many languages. Laslingis delivered the book to Healthfor and said, "From this you shall learn all that was. It should take care of a great deal of your questions."
Healthfor looked at him wondrously. "How can I know all that was from one book of such small size? Small, of course, compared to the scale of history."
"Histories," Laslingis interrupted. "This earth has seen much more than believed by any one History. It may be that you know not all, nor nearly some, for there is only one in an age that can unlock all that it holds. I believe you are the one for the Fourth History. I have done a fair job of picking them from the first three, with only one mistake. But that is not for us now. This book is special and continually scribed. In its reading you will discover the magnificent while always realizing the mundane, right down to knowing where the whetstones lay that the heroes used before combating their foes."
"I have noticed the normalities of living strangely absent from your tales."
"Of course! How long would you listen if I paused for every detail. The Book holds the mundane among its magick, so that even those who cannot learn it all will still be entertained and enlightened by its tales. Now, let us go, for the end of the path is near."
Healthfor got up eagerly and kept with the tale-teller's brisk pace down the path. Moments later, they stepped back into the glen from whence they had departed, with the sun still waning four hours and the people just beginning to disperse from the tale-teller's session. Healthfor looked at Laslingis, puzzled by the seeming time stop. "How...?"
"Perhaps one day, you will know that, too," said Laslingis as a final glimmer came to his eye. "We shall meet again. Heed the words of the tale-teller." The old man vanished in silence and Healthfor could hear the whisper of the wind through the boughs of the surrounding trees.
I have met Laslingis under many guises in this, the Eighth History. He has called himself JRR Tolkien, RE Howard, Fritz Lieber, Jack Vance, and many more, and his tales can be found among many of their writings. Perhaps it is unfair to say he has assumed their guises, but I cannot ascertain which one among the many is truly the original loremaster, for they are all equal save when they first appeared to Earth. When a History is complete, the Earth is remade and begun anew, and then comes another loremaster, always as many as there are Histories. More will be spoken of them later, though, for they are deserving of their own tale; much of what they say is quite cryptic and leaves much unanswered in the minds of Men (as evidenced by Healthfor's encounter in the Fourth History). What can be said of them now is that Ai, the Eternal, calls them Aelevaen and they are of the High Order.
I was given the distinct honour and meeting one and finding his favour. He taught me that in our age, there are to be two that have the Gift of Reception of Knowledge, not only the one of which Laslingis spoke to Healthfor. The first has come already, little less then two millenia before present; the next is to come before a great battle which will severely disrupt this History. He -- the loremaster left no name -- has allowed me to transcribe much of the Book, so that others can find the same enjoyment as I have found. Now come ... come and explore the Tales of Old.