The village was abuzz. Rumors rippled in the wake of those rushing to see the crowd thronging the longhouse. The High Council was holding a special meeting. Some said Coryn the Seer was to be there. Vulryn, the village smith, caught up in the tide of the curious, arrived at the longhouse in a sea of onlookers jockeying for position. Valir blocked the street; crowded into the longhouse door and perched in the open widows. Vulryn was more than big; he was a mountain. He had arms like steel bands and big hands that the old timers said could crush a coconut. He shouldered his way easily through the crowd as far as the longhouse door. The defenders of the doorway saw him coming. They linked arms and strained to hold him back.
“What’s going on in there?” he asked.
“Sssh, keep it down,” a short fellow in front answered. He chanced a glance over his shoulder, saw the giant and hastily added, “Sir, keep it down please, sir. Nothing has happened yet. Old Coryn’s just arrived.”
“Do you think he’s here to trouble the Council?” Vulryn whispered and was immediately sooshed again by all those around him.
He returned a glare that made his neighbors cringe, but they held their places. The Council chamber was filled to capacity. The seer’s distaste for certain of the Council was well known as was theirs for him. There were sure to be fireworks.
On the dais, members of the High Council spoke behind cupped hands. Meetings of the Council were boring affairs, avoided by villagers. It was not unusual to find the Council members napping through long speeches. Today was different. The rumors on the street were true. Sitting in a high back wicker chair and leaning heavily on his staff was the hunched figure of the seer in his robe of bouja leaves. The stern faces of the Council looked back at him. The air inside the longhouse crackled with electricity. This would be a day to remember.
The Valir people of the Boubouja had a king. The title was hereditary and largely honorary. The real rulers were the Council of Seventy; one representative from each village of the Valir. The High Council was made up of five council members elected from the seventy. These five decided when and where the Council met and what it discussed. They sat in a raised semi-circle at the head of the hall. Officially, only the High Council was meeting with the seer. That did not preclude the other curious members from attending. Fully half the regular council seats were occupied. The seer himself had no authority to convene the High Council and this seer in particular was not well received in any circumstance, but his requests for a meeting were never denied.
Magryn, son of Goryn, presided over the Council. He was a respected scholar at the university in Bouja and looked the part. Wire rimmed spectacles perched at the end of his beak; his intelligent eyes were as sharp as any schoolmaster. His smooth skin and plumage were testimony to his lack of warrior service. Still, no one questioned his courage or capabilities. He had a sharp tongue and was not afraid to use it.
“Order, order!” Magryn commanded. He pounded the table for emphasis. “Quiet or I’ll clear this hall,” he shouted above the din.
Magryn had no authority to make anyone leave. Instead of a legal demand, he peered down through his glasses using his schoolmaster’s scowl to achieve his goal. Silence reigned where his eyes went. Enjoying the moment, he cleared his throat and pounded the table once more.
“This meeting of the High Council will come to order,” he announced. “I remind the members of the full Council in attendance that they may speak if they wish, but only the members of the High Council have a vote during this session.”
Magryn looked around the chamber and sensing no objections, pressed on to the business at hand.
“Today’s attendance suggests everyone within a day’s journey knows the meeting is at the request of Coryn, son of Sethryn, Seer of the Valir. So, let’s get on to the business at hand. Seer, you have the floor.”
The old prophet used his staff to leverage up his right side and then the left to the sound of popping, creaking joints and a soft groan. His hands trembled with the effort. Blind, white eyes fixed somewhere above the heads of the Council saw nothing and everything. Few of those present that day knew Coryn for the showman he was. There was not an arthritic joint in his body.There was, however, a certain power in portraying the popular picture of wise old sage.
“I have had a dream,” he began and paused to let the words work their magic. The Valir believed dreams exercised power over life. The elders held that dreams were omens of the future. A buzz spread through the crowd.
“Order,” Magryn shouted.
The seer bowed slightly to him and continued. “This dream is no ordinary dream. It is an omen; a warning of things to come. In my dream, I stood in the mists on the banks of Hiddekel…”
Coryn recounted his dream while the crowd listened in rapt amazement. No one spoke; no one interrupted the rise and fall of his voice. When he finished speaking, Coryn slowly returned to his seat. Conversation exploded. Magryn let the noise go on for several minutes before trying to restore order to the meeting.
Raryn, the Councillor from Apex was on his feet, waving his arms seeking recognition. Magryn granted it with a warning that regular order would be preserved.
“That’s it?” Raryn asked whetting his voice with a sharp edge. “You called us together and caused all this commotion because you had a bad dream? Has all reason abandoned this chamber? Please tell us there’s more.”
“Raryn’s hatred of religion is well known,” Calryn interrupted. “Anyone can see this is more than someone’s bad dream? This is a warning of calamity. It’s a sign.”
“A sign?” Raryn was incredulous. “Signs? Brethren, are we reduced to this? Are we still to live in ignorance scattering runes and gazing at the entails of pocts? I was under the impression the Valir are beyond relying on this kind of religious nonsense.”
“It’s only nonsense to those who have abandoned faith in the Creator,” Calryn shot back.
“Faith in a Creator is not in question here,” Raryn countered. “Coryn’s principles and integrity are without reproach. However, in all honesty, they are his beliefs, not mine and certainly not universal among the Valir. I cannot see a government crisis in his nightmares. If there is a crisis, it is a crisis of men. The Valir have no dealings with men or dreams of men.”
“Brethren,” Byryn the Elder of Vix rose to his feet. “We are getting ahead of ourselves. Coryn has told us his dream. This course is right and proper in the tradition of the Valir. It is a nightmare to be sure. Furthermore, Valir is not an island. Whatever affects the kingdom of men eventually affects us. We do well to hear the seer’s concerns regardless of our individual beliefs. However, we are arguing as if he made demands of us. Coryn has made no request of us except to hear him.”
The longhouse drifted into silence. Raryn and Calryn glared at each other across the table, but said nothing.
“Byryn is right,” Magryn said at last. “We have heard no request and no one on the Council has asked the seer his reason for bringing this word to us. Do you have a request to make Coryn?”
A smile pulled at the corners of the seer’s eyes. He did not rise this time. He leaned forward on his staff and spoke softly.
“A small one,” he said. Coryn cleared his throat and looked up. “I wish the High Council’s permission to send a personal envoy to Eeryn, son of Enoryn.”
“To what end?” Magryn asked. “The seer knows there is a ban on travel to the kingdom of men. He also knows why that ban exists. Why will a letter sent in the diplomatic pouch not suffice?”
“Because I wish to consult Eeryn, not the Ambassador.”
“You presume a privilege that does not exist,” Raryn was on his feet. “We are not your messenger service. If this dream concerns the Kingdom of Salem, as you say it does, Ambassador Dorryn must know the details.”
“I’m sure the ambassador will be fully informed,” Coryn said. “A blind one can see he will know all well in advance of the pouch’s arrival. However, it is not my intention to inform the ambassador. This envoy will seek Eeryn’s advice on my behalf.”
A murmur worked through the hall and spread through the crowd outside. The Seer of Valir seeking advice? How could this be? Coryn was renown throughout the kingdom for his wisdom. What was this that he needed council?
“I must protest,” Raryn said. “Advice concerning Salem is also the purview of the ambassador. Eeryn no longer has access to King Zedek or the palace in Shiloh. He is a disgrace to the Valir.”
The seer rose to his feet without aid and rapped the floor twice with his staff. Thunder sounded with each blow. Fire lit the prophet’s blind eyes. Anger, shook his frame; his hands clenched in tight fists.
“I do not wish to consult King Zedek,” Coryn’s voice crackled with electricity. “I do not wish to consult Ambassador Dorryn nor do I wish to debate with you the trustworthiness and abilities of either of them. I have made my request, the Council will be so kind as to answer yea or nay without further slander of my friend.”
The intake of breath around the room was audible. Magryn staggered back a step, his wide eyes blinked as if he had been punched. Several of those in the windows dropped from their perch and melted into the crowd. There was no rush for their abandoned seats. Silent moments passed, every eye locked on the seer trembling with rage. Byryn the Elder broke the spell.
“Whom do you wish to send?” his mild asked.
Blood rushed back into Coryn’s hands; his grip on the staff relaxed. He took in a deep breath and let it out. His voice was controlled.
“One of my own choosing and,” he paused a heartbeat, “Someone known only to me.”
“Absolutely not,” shouted Raryn. “We will not be bullied into giving you a free hand to meddle in affairs of state. I vote, Nay.”
“I concur,” Bowryn spoke up for the first time. “Eeryn is disgraced for a reason. He’s lucky King Zedek didn’t take his head. Nay.”
“I don’t remember calling for a vote,” Byryn said. “However, the best course may be to have it and be done. Without knowing the envoy or what protection he will be given, I have no choice but to abstain.”
“I vote Aye,” Calryn said. “May the Creator be merciful to us.”
“I must add my voice in opposition,” Magryn said. “Eeryn still has influence with the Queen of Salem and Prince Luz. Your dream did not mention them. As far as we can tell, they may be plotters with Eeryn in this bloodbath. The High Council cannot bear even a hint of impropriety in this situation. I too vote Nay. Request denied. Do either of the other Councillors wish to speak?”
“I did not invite this dream,” Coryn said when no one spoke. “I did not conjure it from my imagination as some of you suppose. Nevertheless, the dream has come. I am responsible for what it says to me as are every one of you here today. I have heard your decision. So be it. You may deny me; you cannot deny the will of the Creator.”
“I warn you not to defy this Council,” Raryn warned.
Coryn did not reply except to nod; turn slowly on his heels. He made his way to the door ahead of the rumbling within the longhouse. He did not look back. None tried to stop his departure. The big blacksmith stood aside meaning to let the seer pass. However, the prophet stopped; dug inside his robe and pulled from it a craved figure that he handed to Vulryn.
“For your wife,” the seer whispered and passed through the crowd on his way home.