Heightened awareness has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages as well. That evening, after Jean-Baptiste parted ways with the githzerai, as Wiliken attempted to go to sleep, the new level of understanding he had reached was much more taxing than ever before.
Wiliken could feel his bow through the wall that separated them. It was not just there. It was as if the bow were running its hand along the wall, tapping here and there, trying to communicate something to him. He could feel tendrils of consciousness emitting from the device, slithering through holes in the matrix of space, creeping ever closer to the githzerai.
Conscious or not, there was no reason to believe that the bow wished its owner any harm. The dreams that the weapon provoked whenever Wiliken slept within close proximity of it were frightening, just as any unexpected glimpse into some higher power might be, and yet they did not seem to mean him harm. Though the vision of the camel prompted the githzerai to act foolishly and get a group of party guests killed, the vision itself lead Wiliken to free a wise old man stuck in animal form. That man was Jean-Baptiste, and for all Wiliken knew the mystic may have been the only thing that kept Douglas, Jenkins and the Baroness of Felshore from relieving Wiliken of his head. For the most part, Wiliken believed that the bow had, for lack of better words, good intentions.
But then there was the one dream that Wiliken could not shake. He remembered witnessing death and destruction across the entire empire, and not in some abstract way. Clear scenes of real people in real turmoil had appeared before his eyes. A woman dressed in rags being raped by a brute of a man with thick hair on his knuckles. Nearby a church aflame, its bell still ringing as the flames raced up to silence it. A boy coming home to find his baby brother, still in his crib, but in pieces. The githzerai wondered how pictures like this could lead to any kind of greater good. Was he supposed to stop them? And if so, why so many scenes of the problem and none of the solution?
It was these troubling thoughts that occupied Wiliken’s mind until he finally drifted off to sleep. What greeted him in his slumber was the most realistic vision of them all.
At first, the githzerai had thought he was witnessing a continuation of his recurring dreams of death and destruction, and, in truth, he was. But this one was different. There was a woman running. At first she was carrying some clothing and picture frames, but after stumbling on loose cobblestone they all fell to the ground and she was too imperiled to pick them back up. When she got back to her feet, the hood covering her face fell, revealing Wiliken’s wife Iseley. The githzerai attempted to will the dream in another direction, to give more force to Iseley’s flight or at the very least to wake up from his nightmare, but events continued unaffected by his thoughts and Wiliken was powerless to stop them.
Behind Iseley was a hunting party of some twenty Iuzian soldiers. Guilt colored the vision blue, for it was certainly Wiliken’s decision to stand against Valgaman’s torture that brought down the ire of the empire upon his wife. Yet, there, at the head of the party, was the one Iuzian Wiliken was certain would keep his wife safe, his son, the one they called Iiuza. His laugh was a cackle, and he taunted Iseley, calling her a traitor. The hunting party cornered the githzerai’s wife in no time, and Iiuza held a blade to his mother’s throat.
“You will die an unpleasant death,” he said. “A traitor’s death. The same death that father has waiting for him.”
With a quick flick of the wrist, Iiuza opened a gash in his mother’s throat that would never close again. She collapsed as her lifeblood soaked the street and snaked eventually into a gutter. Wiliken felt his mind hovering over the scene, and with one last push, he attempted to manifest himself into the dream, to take flesh and strike his son, or at least to hold his wife in her last moments. Doing so made him feel like his skin was on fire. He remained stationary in that place of terror until his body naturally awoke.
The other visions had been of events that would happen in the future, events that the githzerai could reasonably affect and turn another way, but this one felt different. It happened under the same stars that Wiliken would be able to see were he a free githzerai, people dressed for the same weather. The vision described events that were happening simultaneously as Wiliken slept. He had just witnessed his wife’s murder in real time.
The githzerai felt guilt. He knew he had never been present for his wife. He had seen her as a gift from her grateful father, the first possession bestowed upon Wiliken as he began his life as a human. As he trained and warred and even later as he settled down, Iseley had been someone who was there in the background as he lived his own life. If he were worried about something, instead of confessing these concerns and discussing strategies, Wiliken preferred to trust his own instincts, to steel his mind and solve his problems on his own. He had been self-obsessed. And just as he hadn’t been there for his wife, the murder scene he witnessed from afar was proof that he hadn’t been there for his son. What child could grow to hate his father and kill his mother? If Wiliken had only been more involved…
Wiliken went through all the possible situations, the things he could have done to prevent Iiuza from murdering Iseley, and it kept him awake until morning. As the room began to heat and light began to poke in underneath the door, Wiliken felt dry, nauseated, and most of all, he felt that everything was his fault. Wiliken was the cause of all of the problems, of the murder of his wife, the capturing of the innocent children, the battle at Valgaman’s. He would confess his sins.
He would confess his sins and he would die. Most important of all, he would die.
Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 18.