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The Shape Of Things To Come
by Orakio of the Domes

Author's Note: This story is meant to be a follow-up to Pale Flower. Please read that first before proceeding further.

"Welcome," she said as soon as she opened the door, moments before Maia had even knocked. "I have been expecting you." The queen looked as equally surprised as I. The old woman was bent and weighed down with age. Wild tangles of gray hair peeked out under a rather dirty bonnet. Her house, I saw, was kept immaculately clean.

She shifted her gaze towards me, with piercing green eyes that seemed as vibrant as one who might have been one-third her age. "A cyborg?" she inquired, turning back to Maia. "I usually don't allow them in. They disturb the mystical energies that have to flow."

"Gunari," the queen replied. "I beg of you to make one exception this time. Mieu has orders from my husband to see to my well-being." She smirked a little. The old woman mumbled the affirmative, and went back into the hut. I noticed that she didn't care to address Maia as "my queen" or "Your Majesty".

Inside, motes of dust floated lazily around, like slovenly children on a particularly hot summer day. It was, to my relief, considerably cooler than the air outside, though. Just last night, Maia had acted in a very strange manner that frightened me. She had gone out to the beach for some reminiscence, and I joined her. In the middle of our conversation, she bolted upright and ran like the wind. When we found her later, about a mile from Cille's castle, she was incoherent, and struggling against Rhys as he tried to coax some sense into her.

It was very unsettling to see, and I wondered if she had somehow slipped over the brink of insanity.

Maia recounted her part of the story to me this morning, telling me about the strange vision she had. She decided that she had to see Gunari, an old fortune teller of sorts, that lived on the outskirts of Shushoran. Many people believed Gunari to be half-crazy herself, or at least senile. But Maia had an idea that she might know something. After fibbing a little to her husband, and bringing me along, I finally met this bent shape that floated along like a ghost in her old home, careening from wall to wall.

Finally, Gunari took a seat, behind a squat wooden table covered with an unclean rag. She motioned for Maia to sit across from her. I stood in the corner, watching everything with a keen eye. The silence that followed was disturbing, and nobody made a move to dispel it. Finally: "I know why you have come. You have received a vision of great import, and have come to seek my wisdom. Is that not true?"

Confused that the old woman knew about her dilemma before she even told her, Maia stuttered, "Ah...yes, b-but, how in the world did you know that??" There was that smirk again. It wasn't altogether unpleasant.

"I see all," she began in a dry and brittle voice. "and know all. I am the one omniscient, recalling the past, recording the present, and foretelling the future. Pray tell, explain this vision of yours to me, and I shall do my best to decipher it."

Her words were twisting and convoluted, that it was hard to figure out what she was talking about. Finally, after taking in a few breaths, Maia told the story of the past night's events to her in full. I stood, ever silent, in a red bodysuit, watching the whole exchange. Gunari didn't seem to pay much more attention to me after Maia requested my entrance.

After Maia was done with her story, more moments of silence ensued. The old woman was looking directly at her queen, but her eyes were distant, as if she were thinking about some particular things. Deliberately, slowly, she said, "I believe that you have experienced a sankrashar."


The room seemed to dim a little, and Gunari's face seemed to be bathed in an eerie light, as she responded, voice strong. "Imagine time and all existence as one vast, never-ending mountain." She paused to let the queen absorb that information. "You, I, your cyborg," she gestured towards me. I was feeling a little uneasy. "We are the mountaineers. Time exists on all planes, forever flowing. It is the mountain with no peak, and yet we still continue to climb. Sankrashar is a term from an archaic language no longer in use. It means descent. Think of it as a momentary slip in your foothold on your location on time's mountain."

Taking in this information quickly, I found myself wondering what kind of things Gunari knew. I heard Maia swallow audibly. "So...I was experiencing something from...another time?" The old woman nodded sagely, and seemed to transform into a wrinkled mass of flesh again, instead of the bold prophet that had appeared in my eyes a few moments earlier. "But...why do sankrashars occur?"

Gunari looked off to the side, as if she were purposely ignoring the queen. Then: "Their ways are shadowy. One can never be sure. Usually, however, a restless spirit induces them, to convey...a message of sorts. In your particular case, I believe that spirit to be the woman, whom you said to be running from a dark shape. Describe her in full detail to me."

Maia was thoughtful for a minute, placing a finger on her lip, trying to recall. "She was about my height, perhaps a little taller. Her hair was blue, also, but a darker shade than mine. Her eyes were brown, I think... Or was it blue? Anyway, she had a thin nose, of regal bearing, and I could see that she was terribly frightened."

"Any noticeable marks? Skin breaches, moles, scars?"

Maia closed her eyes, desperately wanting to remember. Her brow was furrowed in concentration. "No...well, maybe there was, but it felt like a dream, almost, so I can't be sure. I...oh, as she was running past me, I noticed something!" She was excited to have been able to recall, and took a moment before going on. "She was running in sandals, and I could see her right foot. She had a strange marking on it, in red. My, I never payed this much mind to it before, but now that I think about it, I recognize that symbol! It's the one that's printed on Layan gates!"

"I was told that it means 'peace'."

"Indeed it does," said Gunari. "I have an idea of who that woman may have been." She stood up, and I noticed that she was quite short, maybe only a little more than half my height. She hobbled down a hallway to the left, disappearing into the shadows. Maia took this time to talk to me a bit.

"Mieu?" she called out. "What do you think of this?"

"I really don't know," I replied truthfully. "Gunari seems to know what she's doing, but I'm not sure if I believe this mysticism stuff." Maia turned back around, lost in her own ponderances. At that moment, the old fortune teller shuffled in, cloak draped over her shoulder as always, and holding a book in her hand. It looked to be large, and esoteric, perhaps as heavy as a small child.

It looked to be leather-bound, and the cover was a plain brown. The words, A Complete History of the World was written upon it in nondescript letters. She opened it up, and I could even smell the drying parchment, that unique scent that old books have. "This," she said, sitting herself down. "is an accurate tome that chronicles our history extensively. It tells of important events from the times of Orakio and Laya to today."

Silence again.

"The woman you mentioned, could it possibly be her?" Gunari opened the book to a dog-eared page violently, and her voice rose almost to a shriek. Time seemed to stand still for the briefest period. We were locked into our positions, Maia's eyes still widening, the old woman showing the book to her triumphantly, and me standing in my corner, unable to do anything.

I sharpened my optical receptors a bit, and strained to see the contents of the book. On it were several pictures, all of which matched Maia's description of the woman she had seen being pursued. "That's it! That's her! But how-? Wh-who is she?"

"Who is she?" smiled Gunari. "Look for yourself." She let an worn, aged finger drift to the top of the page, her skin and the paper making a scratchy noise from the friction. I focused even more, and I saw the words, Of Laya printed. Gasping a bit, I saw that Maia was stunned also.

"L-Laya?" she stammered. "The Laya that my people worship? B-But what is that supposed to mean?"

Gunari leaned forward, and her voice was once again powerful. "Listen carefully, Maia. You have brought me much concern, for your sankrashar was one that holds destinies of you, I, and everyone. You told me that you saw Laya being chased by darkness. I can tell you now, that indeed, she was, and she overcame it."

Gunari's eyes looked so weary all of a moment, like she had suddenly aged another 200 years. "But, as I said before, and much to my fear, sankrashars are messages sent from spirits of the past. This particular one, I'm afraid, says that although the Darkness has been dormant for many a year, it is going to rise from its slumber once again. Darkness is near, and the earth itself will tremble upon its reentry."

In later years, fighting alongside Maia's grandson, I found out how true her words had been.

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