The moon stares at me through the rough window; its bluish light shines across my table. A clear night, with stars scattered across the pitch-black sky, appears to me like great handfuls of seed strewn across rich soil. I can only wonder what he sees now.
I take the name Aberan Eft; it is to cover my guilt.
Not the name of my birth, when I broke out upon the island, yet it will remain always the only name I care to claim. The label attached to me by my parents — the man and woman whose passions burned hot for a moment but chilled their bones as I came of age — those years and years ago swallowed up by misty shadows, never could it truly allege to name me. No, like words thrown together to list the plumage of some arbitrary bird, some rufous-sided yellow-crested warbler, a name should offer an honest hint at a man’s heart. Only the king knew my name, and only he knew when it would become a likely description, able to truly know me.
Confession must make my beginning, for surely the things I have seen I have not always understood. Many before me have undertaken to write of what has come to pass, but did they see? Have they comprehended? My pen leaves its dotted prints across the parchment now to record the truth I have seen, and what I have learned also from those witnesses from the beginning. But from the beginning, I confess I did not understand. Not until these final moments have my darkened eyes finally lit, washed at last by honest tears of grief and joy. And yet still not so; but he grants me peace.
These events I have known — Lord, they haunt me, some of them haunt me still. Yet the blessedness of their burning would I offer no other man, out of greed and yet still pity. Who am I, the scribe of such crucial workings? To see through the shadows offered up by the past; to know the minds and muscles of men only pour into the mold of the future; to realize the present is held in hand, though it tease the fingertips: These sweet Sirens could drive the most determinedly anguished man into utter peace. To know the suffering of the day is not without reason ...
What else am I to do? His messenger has so commanded me. Deep in my chambers he visited me: “The king requires it of thee.” He reveals the forbidden scrolls, even those from the inner sanctuary, and allows my eyes to see. “But only one is worthy to read,” I say. “The king requires it, and so all generations will know it of thee, that thy work bears the seal of the king.” The scrolls lay like shackles upon my wrists, and the candles and incense and words burn hot; they sting my eyes and nose. Like a general in disgrace, I acquiesce to fate, I fall upon my pen.
So I take up my quill. The black of his ink lends the scribe his only boldness; my enclave, stones so heavy from the ancient quarry, makes my comfort and safety. And what fear still lurks, at least until the time? So I must transcribe, a troubadour — though what trust should lie to me to write of such things? My king, have mercy upon me. Much have I seen, and much have I learned through the wretchedness born of this little kingdom, and the caress of grace. And for what reason walk we here, but to reveal your wonder? To what purpose torment was ours, but to demonstrate your kindness? Magister, though we are fallen into wonder and doubt, still your praises rise among the mountains. But how can I bless you, such knave as I, arrogant to presume upon the king’s abundance? What I can offer would be only insult to you. My king, if only I could bless you! The scratching of the quill speaks comfort in the warm loneness; my pen bleeds truth.
My poor, tired eyes, they peer blankly like the great stones of this cleric’s cell — ancient and hard, a random glistening of moisture, a hint of green. I am a man, and that is all. A noble creation, perhaps, but cursed by the frailties of my kind. Frail, but with a whisper of power, to endure the conflict of our appointment, too often abused, too often neglected. Powerful, but proud as well, proud of that power in such a way as to destine failure. The humility of our mundane lives, sacrificed to brutish pursuits and tragic ends, we suffer no greater affliction, and therein opens the door also to our greatest victory won. And surely I stand foremost of all who have abandoned themselves to those first things, if not the second. But perhaps I fulfilled his designs all along, for “where offense is greatest, there mercy proves finest.” Regrets make for poor company, anyway.
Never did a figure come less important into a tale, never a chronicler more like a villain. The boy I was passed through the community like every other. Ages ago all seemed pure; how shades of the past fail us, to remember well, to remember rightly. Was not all deceit, even then? Lies spin upon themselves in demon rage. During the days of the stone law, in the shadow of the high mountains, I existed blissfully ignorant of both, but surely I lived always under the baleful eye of Domen. The day I learned my debt to the stone, so also I knew to fear the mountain. The strength of my limbs as I had run through the meadows and raced past the orchards, the beating of heart and bursting lungs my only concern — ah, cast that day into the prison of memory, and my spirit limped feebly within. One heart stops, and many die. On that day I wept more for myself than for my homeland; how the times would change such impudence.
As a man I thoughtlessly bent many labors at the behest of my countrymen and received benevolence from many others. The quarries required their share of my sweat, and the docks allowed me to taste the sea spray. Maidens well hidden in the covers and shadows drew me into their own adventure, feeding my flesh and yet leaving it always hungering. Never did a man feast more on pastries yet desire dense, rough bread. Blinding lies, and yet the truth more so. And always the stone. Always that rock hung over me like a great granite foundation stone suspended, waiting, longing for some great structure to take up and support. Slowly it frayed its ropes, never bending at my failure, always menacing me with the mountain, beckoning that damned mountain spirit, the cold spectre of doom. Oh, how I longed for that shadow to retreat from my head, to allow the brightness of the sun — and then it did. But mine is not the story I must tell.
No, I must sing of my homeland, the tale of a bloody battleground. Having seen as a child the blessing of the island, I reaped unto myself only more grievous mourning at its curse. But have you not established it for this very calling? My feather tickles at my chin, it entangles my beard, long and gray in these latter days. The events that now flow in ink first flowed in your mind, my lord. Did you not place your people upon this solitary, secluded land for your purpose, long before you placed this pen in my hand? May the telling of your story, Magister, bring fruit from these desiccated, sinewed branches, these limbs dried by age and cares. Oh my king, take this little pearl, take this charred wasteland, and redeem it for the destiny you have decreed.