Haleth watched the apple fly across
the room. I knew even before opening the door what the grey-haired
Master of the Guard was about to do, one of the benefits of being a
seer. Perhaps he expected to catch me by surprise. Like all
servants, I was expected to drop my eyes when entering a room. I
stepped into the room, still keeping my eyes low and waited until the
last possible moment before catching it, barely an inch from my nose.
“You are a good shot,” I
said, “for a politician.”
It was a good shot for anyone. Behind
his desk in the massive study, he had thrown the apple almost thirty
yards from a sitting position and, had I not caught it, the apple
would have struck the bridge of my nose. The stinging in my hand
suggested that it would have left me with a nasty nosebleed at the
very least, something I hoped he was not trying to do.
I looked up to make eye contact, a
breach of etiquette that would earn any other servant a flogging. Of
course, I was no ordinary servant. I was the son of a noble, an
arbiter at that. It just happened that I was bound to servitude.
“And you have good reactions for
a servant.” he replied.
“I am a seer, it is our job.”
“I was not complementing your
precognitive ability, I was saying you had good reactions. That is
one of the reasons why I chose to employ you.”
“You were looking for someone to
throw fruit at?”
His silence filled me with dread, had
I just overstepped a line? Had I just pushed a member of the ruling
council too far? As a noble, I was above the 'justice' of the
arbiters but the ruling council of Enareth were qualified to
“It may have escaped your notice
but I do know what you did. I was there when you were sentenced, I
was the one who suggested you be bound to servitude rather than
“And for that I am grateful.”
I said quickly and honestly.
“Do you remember why you were
before the council?” he asked.
“For being in possession of
illegal information, as I recall.”
Haleth turned away from me, staring
out of the large windows at the falling rain. This room was an
exercise in decadence. In a city where the poor built their houses
on top of one another just to build within the city walls, space was
at a premium. This room was thirty yards long by perhaps twenty
wide, with Haleth's desk two-thirds of the way down. The ceiling
thirty feet above us was intricately decorated by some of the
greatest artisans in the city. Full length windows looked out onto
the city and bookshelves lined the walls.
“You were arrested,” Haleth
continued with a smile, “because you were found with a
seven-foot sharpened sword in your hands. Not only that, but you
were using it to practice Ke'Shai; a martial art that was made
illegal by your own grandfather.”
I couldn't argue with that, it was
true. After the last civil war, before even my father's time, the
city council had been formed to govern in place of the deposed
prince. My maternal grandfather had sat on that council as Master of
the City Guard and had proposed laws which prevented the use of
bladed weapons and any practice promoting their use to all but the
armies. Hence, I was caught for two breaches of my grandfather's own
“Had you been a commoner, you
would have been ejected from the city as a dangerous and subversive
element. Even with your father's status and his plea to the council,
you probably would have suffered the same punishment had I not
And there he had me. I escaped
banishment at his request and so I was in his debt, for the moment at
least. I had never understood why he spoke on my behalf that day,
explaining away my actions as those of a misguided youth. I had, on
occasion, asked him why but never received an answer.
His predecessor in the position had
been my grandfather, so I suspected a bizarre form of loyalty may
have been a factor. No other member of the council had shared this
trait, however. My grandfather had been Weapon-Master to the Royal
Household and the last royally-appointed Master of the City Guard.
Unpopular as that may have made him, he was allowed to keep his
position because nobody else was trusted to maintain peace in the
“But enough of this, I called
you here for a reason.”
“Of course, your grace.”
He paused at that, before continuing,
“You may be aware of a young servant named Sarel.”
I nodded with a smile, she and I had
known of one another. It was no great secret that she and I spent a
great deal of our free time together. For a second, I saw an emotion
cross his face. Knowing what was to come I can almost believe now
that he had shown a hint of sympathy.
“She was murdered last night, as
she left the estate.”
I was speechless for a minute or two.
I had spent the evening with her before escorting her to the gates,
she assured me that she didn't need me to walk her through the area
she had grown up in. When I could finally bring myself to speak, I
could only manage to ask him, “Why?”
“We don't know why, we don't
even know whom. That is why you are here. We think your gift could
be useful in finding her killer.”
“I am sorry your grace, my
training deals with predicting the future, not with unravelling the
“And that is how you caught the
apple? With your gift?”
“How do you see the future?”
he asked bluntly.
“I… I beg your pardon
but I don't think I understand your question.”
“By what manner does the
knowledge of future events come to you? Do you see the events? Do
you gain some kind of supernatural intuition? What mechanism do you
use to divine the truth?”
“I tell the most likely future,
that is all. That is why we are sometimes wrong.”
“Ah, but do you see only the
most likely future?” he asked with a smile.
“Yes,” I said firmly,
finally sure of myself, “it is only a possibility, not a fact.”
He held up one hand and smiled at me,
an act both confusing and terrifying at once. I though back over my
words to see what he objected to, what I had stated that could be
untrue. Since I was talking about my gift, I was fairly certain that
I was more of an expert than he would ever be. At last, he spoke.
“Did you know I would throw that
apple at your face?”
“No, I simply saw that you would
throw an apple at me.”
“So you couldn't see the apple
strike you?” he suggested.
“No… I did see it hit
“In the face?”
“Well, yes… among the
“So you don't only see
the most likely possibility?”
Suddenly, I could see where he was
leading. I still couldn't see what he meant to prove by it but at
least I could see my earlier mistake.
“I see…” he replied,
“And not all seers can do this?”
“No. It is a rare trait.”
“How rare? Do you know how many
seers currently have that gift?”
“Well, Master Garren I suppose…”
“What if I told you that there
were no others, just Garren and you?”
Haleth stood and walked toward me,
taking the apple from me and finally leading me back toward the door.
As he reached the door, he paused to collect a stout walking staff
that was taller than he was.
“Your gift is for seeing the
paths of fate, ” he said between mouthfuls of fruit, “though
you are wrong to think that means only the future. The sight is half
the gift, intuition is the other half. The sight will show the
future but intuition and instinct tell you which possibility to
“I suppose so…”
“Give me a chance, I just want
to test a theory.”
I shrugged and he led me down through
the house, through rooms as large as the one we had left and
corridors decorated with art that I knew to be worth more than most
citizens would see in a lifetime.
“I know you saw her that night,”
he said, turning to me, “show me what happened.”
I led him to my quarters, where we
had shared a bottle of wine and each other's company. I told him
about the wine but I chose not to tell
him about our other activities. Among the Elari, as among humans,
some topics were not discussed. After that, seeing that the rain had
stopped, he asked me to take him to the gates as I had done that
night. We walked an indirect but scenic route through the gardens
and to an apple tree, where we had rested and talked about our
He asked what I had seen, both with
my eyes and with my gift. He kept asking whether I had felt a sense
of impending doom, whether I had seen shadows, anything I might now
interpret as a portent. It was hard to retain my composure but as a
member of the nobility, disgraced or not, I had a fair amount of
practice when it came to hiding my feelings.
I told him truthfully that I
remembered no portents or signs, though I was not sure whether there
hadn't been any or whether I had just not seen them for what they
were. I even confessed as much with tear-filled eyes, so affected
was I by having to relive the experience.
“What happened?” I asked
him when an awkward silence fell.
“Wait, I will explain it when we
I led him to the gates, where I had
sent Sarel off with a final kiss, and turned to him. He asked me to
imagine that I had decided to walk her home and led me through the
streets that she would have walked. Suddenly, he went to walk down
an alley and I realised he had taken a wrong turning. I could see a
great darkness cling to the shadows here, something no light could
“She would not have walked that
“Why not? It is the fastest
“I am not sure why, I just don't
believe she walked that way last night.”
Haleth just nodded and carried on
along the road. Perhaps he knew something, perhaps not. I could
almost smell her as we walked, though I put it down to grief and
stress. In my mind, I could see her walking these roads. Tears
began to well up as I imagined her being grabbed while she walked.
I saw images of a cloaked figure
dragging her back, toward the alley we had just passed. My foot
slipped on something that made a metallic sound as it slid across the
slick flagstones. It was Sarel's bracelet. A feeling like iced
water trickled down my spine as I picked it up and faced the alley.
This could not be true…
Haleth's voice behind me but I could barely hear it.
I just walked with dread back toward
the alley, imagining that I could still see a trail in the grit where
she had fought to regain her feet. I stepped into the alley and was
overcome, falling to the ground as I was assaulted by the smell of
sweat and lust. I could hear muffled screams, hear his heavy
breathing and promises of what he would do to her.
When I see things to come, they are
like vague memories. Some details are unclear, as though I am not
sure of them, and there is just enough to piece together a few
possible outcomes. This was different, like a vivid nightmare. I
closed my eyes and covered my ears but I couldn't shut it out as I
staggered along the alleyway. In my mind, I could still see it. I
still heard her muffled protests. I could still smell him. I
started to vomit and I must have lost consciousness.
I awoke to find myself lying against
a wall, in a confused state. My face and arms were wet and sticky,
it felt like dried blood and that brought the memories back. I sat
and opened my eyes to see Haleth staring back at me with a mixture of
concern and shock. My hands and chin were covered with what I
assumed to be grime from the pavement, though my nose was still
assailed by the metallic tang I associated with blood. I could see
around me the ground was stained a reddish brown, it must be Sarel's
blood I could smell. I stood and looked back to the wall.
A fading image, not as strong as
before. I thought for a second I saw a symbol in the ancient Kithani
text, Inish'Qal, 'bloodline', but my eyes were drawn to the figure at
the base of the wall. I saw Sarel's naked form collapsed as I had
been, bleeding from so many wounds. Even as she lay dying, I saw
that she was beautiful. As the spark faded from her eyes, so too did
the vision from my own. I did not even turn as I spoke my curse.
“I will find the one responsible
and he will pay for his crimes.”
“He?” asked Haleth, leaning
“A noble who will have a scar
running down his face.”
“There are no nobles with that
kind of facial scar.”
I could see the event in my mind, as
though I had been there. She had managed to draw a piece of broken
wood across his face, from temple to chin, as he forced himself upon
her. I saw his cold grey eyes inches away, as she had. I saw that
he wore fine clothes beneath his cloak, though I couldn't see the
symbol of any house. Suddenly, I could feel his hand on her thigh
and then the contact broke. I was grateful for that small mercy. I
turned to Haleth and grasped his shoulder, drawing myself up to my
full height. I was much taller than him but he tried to struggle, to
escape my grimy hands. Staring into his blue eyes, I ran one finger
down the side of his face, in imitation of the wooden shard.
“I said that he will have
a facial scar.”
Despite the warmth of the morning, I
felt him shiver as I traced my fingers from temple to jaw. I would
never forget that face, never forget what I saw and now I could be
sure that Haleth was never going to miss it either.
“Lets get cleaned up.” he
said and took me back to the estate.
As we walked, while the vision was
still clear in my mind, I described Sarel's attacker. I still held
Sarel's last memories, vivid recollections of his appearance, his
voice, his smell. Anything that could be used to find him, I offered
up to Haleth. Days later, I found that my description of him had
been passed to the city guard by an 'anonymous witness' from the
We staggered back onto the estate,
both of us drained by our experience. I had spared no detail to
Haleth, desperate to impress upon him the savage nature of the
attack. When I had finished, I asked him what the city watch knew.
He told me how he had been called to the scene and had seen her lying
against the wall, just as I had described.
Apparently, her body had been found
by a neighbour in the early hours of the morning, who had alerted the
watch at once. By the time daylight had filtered into the alleyway,
Haleth had been called to the scene. He had gone to console Sarel's
family and had promised them that he would use all the assets at his
disposal to find her killer.
He had returned, intending only to
tell me of her death. He had known we were close and suspected more,
so he thought I should be told. It was not until he had sent a
courier to rouse me that he remembered Master Garren's
gift and wondered if I shared some of his other talents.
Haleth led me to his personal chamber
and to a shower, a tall cubicle with what looked like the spout of a
watering can extending from the top. Apparently, it was a gift from
the Mage Guild, a device that could rain down warm water from its
copper spout at any temperature you desired. He taught me the
incantations to start it, stop it and control temperature and left me
with one final piece of information.
“Garren never experienced an
event like you just did. He could see snatches of past events but
never in any kind of detail. I should not tell you this but you are
ranked as the second most powerful seer in Enareth. If news of what
you just did got out, you might pull into the lead.”
I am not sure whether he was urging
caution on my part or showing me an opportunity. It was well-known
that Garren hadn't made my passage through the Guild a pleasant one
but it was also known that Master Garren could pull more strings than
most. He was often called upon to advise the ruling council and his
favour could help elevate the lowliest of serfs.
I spoke the commands to activate the
jets of water and decided to keep my head down until I knew how best
to use this information.