Monday, May 26, 2008

Past the Well of Igne:
Original fiction by Jason Campbell

New Picture All around them, thunder crashed relentlessly in a gloom-shrouded sky. Two men sat one behind the other in the bow of a boat of willow wood. Beneath its prow swirled a river of dark, surging waters here and there pocked with void-like whirlpools filled with stars. The men strained to remain upright as the boat twisted and rocked beneath them. A fierce wind rushed past, their dun-colored cloaks snapping behind them like pennants. Rorgan sat closest to the prow and watched their progress upon that strange river, his eyes the eyes of an experienced mariner. The other man, whose name was Cambur, sat agape, his face the soul of wonder as he watched the sights which flashed by.

Suddenly, the mariner thrust a slender paddle into the raging torrent and began furiously working their boat toward a great rift in the river. At first, the current fought them, slapping away the approach of the boat as if it were no more than a wandering bottlefly. After straining at stroke after stroke, Cambur felt their boat fall forward a little, as if some subtle boundary in the current had been passed. Quickly the mood of the river shifted, and now they were drawn hungrily toward the cataract which yawned before them.

Still Rorgan worked his paddle as they approached the churning hole in the river. Their boat pitched forward; steeper and steeper climbed the walls of water around them until the roar became thunder incarnate and shook them to their core. Cambur and Rorgan were flung together out of the boat and into the torrent, the darkness consuming them in ten thousand vermillion lances.

The rift shattered behind them. The two men knelt weakly upon the smooth stone beneath them. Strands of vermillion raced about the room, the dying echoes of their wondrous journey. Their clothes contained no trace of moisture.

For long moments, Cambur sat speechless, trying to catch his breath. Rorgan had stood, waiting for the young man to come to his senses. At last, the youth looked up at him. His enthusiasm had renewed itself in his face, replacing the fear with exultation. Standing unsteadily, Cambur said "How my mind shivers at that experience! It was like dancing on the tendrils of roaring flame! Never have I seen such sights! I have always known that you are master of strange worlds, that the speech of the rocks and stars is known to you, but I did not know into what strange dreams knowledge may carry you!"

Rorgan shook his head and smiled, "You mistake what you have seen. It seems to you that by command and artifice that I travel the ways between worlds, that somehow through the study of great books I have learnt some secret which grants me power. It is rather the opposite--that which I learn upends me into greater mystery, and though I gain knowledge, it is knowledge which provokes awe rather than bestows power."

"But, how can this be?" asked Cambur, confusion darkening his joy. "At your will you can pry open the barriers between worlds! With a wave of your hand, you call forth a rift and step into it, riding it like some master horseman astride his stallion!"

Rorgan's face grew stern in the dim light. "You speak from ignorance, so I shall not chasten you--but know that your words are foolish and lusty. When we step inside a rift and ride it, I have precisely the same fear as you, though my knowledge is by far the greater. When you follow me into the rift, you trust me to know that it is safe, that my knowledge will preserve you. Moments ago, when we passed by the Well of Igne in all its darkening horrors, you saw only the flashing of bleak skies rushing past and vague forms which swirled in the mist and were gone. You knew nothing of the fate which might have overtaken us both, had the Current of Zin carried us instead into the malign borderlands of Igne. You trusted that I knew the way, despite the fleeting but fearsome sights.

"It may surprise you to hear that such journeys are much the same for me. When we enter a rift, I do so by following faithfully the paths trodden before me by my master, trusting that he had rightly learnt the way from his master, and so on through the passing of ages to the advent of our Lord, who was first to travel these ways and called us to follow him. Should you follow the threads of my knowledge, you would discover the fact of which I am continuously and fearfully aware: I know nothing save this First Master, and trust in the ways which he made for my fathers. I do not so much know the way, as I know and trust the Way-Maker. I enter the rift knowing the greater danger, but also following behind the greater master. Know this Cambur: it is faith, rather than knowledge, which bears us on."


James Wood said...

Good stuff! I want to know more about these worlds and these people. One critique: vermilion is not so common a word that it can be repeated in the space of two sentences without seeming odd.

Tim Lewis said...

Yeah, you could say cadmium instead.

preacherman said...

Wonderful bother.
I enjoyed this post.
God bless you brother in all you do.
In HIm,
Kinney Mabry