Camon heard a rustling from the other side of the door, “Coming, coming,” said a voice. The door opened, and there was an old man hunched over a cane. Camon could not see his face, only the long white wispy hair covering the man’s head. The man’s clothes were a patchwork of bright material, clean and mended. He turned his head up and looked at Camon, studying him up and down muttering. He then pointed his bony hand at Camon and said, “You look like one seeking. Seeking to know. Seeking knowledge, yes…yes,” he said. The man’s face had a gentle smile with a crooked nose and heavy eyebrows. “Do come, enter, seek, learn. Come come. Please. Sit down. While there is time. Yes.” he said.
Camon entered the old man’s place. It was a simple one-room dormitory with a washbasin, a bed, and a table with a pair of chairs next to a small wood-burning stove that had a fire. The walls were covered with maps and scribblings all neatly tiled. The man walked over to the table and pulled back a chair, “Do sit. Rest. Come, come,” he urged.
Camon wordlessly went over to the chair and sat down. The man went to a shelf, fetched a cup, placed it on the table, and then poured some hot water from a pot on the stove. He put some tea in the water, “Do drink. You look cold. Warm thoughts. Yes. Tea is good.”
Camon took a sip of the tea. His lips puckered at the taste, but then he relaxed as the hot drink went down his throat, giving warmth on the cold day. The old man then pulled back the second chair and sat down across from Camon, “Tell me. What do you seek? To know? What knowledge? What understandings?”
“I want to understand the connection between demons, seers, and a pregnancy,” Camon said.
“Demons? Seers? Pregnancy?” the old man asked. “Prophecy. Yes, prophecy. The world’s making. And its unmaking.”
“What do you mean?” Camon asked.
“Seek knowledge first,” the old man said. “Do you see? Demons?” Have you seen?”
“Yes,” Camon said. “North of Rahtneua almost three months gone.”
“Not when I asked. Not where. Only yes or no.”
“Yes or no,” the man asked again.
“Yes,” Camon said.
“Fear. Did you fear it? Were you afraid?” the old man asked.
“No,” Camon answered.
“Gone then. It must be. You destroyed it.”
“Yes,” Camon said.
“Did I ask a question?” the old man asked. Camon said nothing to the question.
“You see the quandary. You gain wisdom already,” the old man said. “But truth now, you know. Yes. Yes. Truth you have seen,” the old man continued.
“Truth? What truth?” Camon asked as his forehead wrinkled.
“Fear. Demons. Do you see?” the old man said again.
Camon hesitated then answered, “No.”
“Good. Knowledge first. Then Understanding. Now. The seer. Did she fear it?”
“Which seer?” Camon asked.
“Which seer? You said one seer. How many do you say now?” The old man asked again.
“I’m sorry,” Camon apologized. “There were two seers, one who was pregnant, the other was not.”
“Changes things. Details are important for prophecy. The pregnant one, did she fear?” the old man asked again.
“Yes,” Camon said.
“And the second one, did he or she fear?”
“I see,” Satda said. “You understand fear then, yes?”
“Fear…” Camon paused. “Do demons feed on fear?”
“Not what I asked,” Satda said. “You understand fear then, yes?”
“No worries. In time you will. Knowledge is not always understood. In time, yes. You know now though. Yes… yes you do. But that’s not all. No. You seek more. Not all your questions answered. No.”
Camon was silent for a moment while the old man sipped his tea, and he moaned a bit. “I was sick, you know. I thought myself dead, but I live on. Sometimes, I wish it were not so. Sometimes, life is a prison. Death is freedom.” The old man looked around the room and at the small window letting the light in. “This is my prison – these four walls. I’m too old to leave now. My grandson and nephews, they locked me away. With my books and things. Oh, and tea of course. Too much tea. No one to help me enjoy it. Lots of tea. No guests. No justice in that. Agree do you?”
Camon didn’t know what to say, so he just answered, “I don’t know what to think.”
“You are wiser than most,” Satda said. “Yes. But you don’t understand knowledge. You don’t. But you will. So, I will tell you what… you want to know. Yes. The woman. Her child. The demon. The seer. All important. Not all are necessary. Yes. A witch’s brew. A sorcerer’s concoction. The foul work of undoing. Unmaking. Yes, it is. One to the next. Corruption. A great fall. A rise. Then… The past. Do you understand prophecy?”
“Yes,” Camon answered quickly, then regretted the answer.
“Tell me. This which has come to pass, is it prophecy?” Satda asked.
“No,” Camon answered.
“But it is!” the old man shrilled. “It is! It is!”
“How?” Camon asked.
“This is the knowledge you seek,” Satda said.
“Then show me,” Camon commanded with a hint of impatience in his voice.
“I will. Patience. Patience. Patience. It took me a lifetime,” said Satda.
Camon bit his tongue, but wanted to say, “I don’t have a lifetime.” He instead sipped his tea and inhaled its aroma, then exhaled.
“Learning takes time,” Satda said. “You’ve done well to clear your head. Try to know first.” He went over to a chest near his bed and opened it up and rummaged through it, and he removed two items, both carefully wrapped in thick cloth and bound with twine. “Here they are,” Satda muttered, and he carefully laid the pieces on the table. He used his feeble hands to loosen the binding on the first item, then he unwrapped it, then handed it to Camon. Camon studied the artifact.
“What do you see and feel?” Satda asked.
He turned it a few times, then said, “I see a shard of some kind of metal. It’s incredibly hard and feels too heavy to be iron or steel. The patina is mostly pitting and scratches, but no signs of corrosion. The smooth edges seem to suggest it was forged quickly – more functional than ornamental. The breakage along this rough edge is not clean, so I guess it was not caused by cleaving, but rather impact. If I had to guess, I see a piece of armor, but from where, I don’t know.” He then handed it back to Satda.
“Deduced correctly, yes. From what was seen. And from the unseen. You saw the unseen. And the previously seen. Such is prophecy.”
“What is that?” Camon asked.
“Armor,” Satda said. “It’s origin, you don’t know. It’s wise to admit ignorance.”
“Can you tell me?” Camon asked.
“Not the knowledge you seek. No.” Satda remarked. “But I will tell you. It’s orcish. A pauldron forged of orcish steel.”
“Orcish?” Camon said skeptically, “No one has seen them since before the First Reformation, and even then, most accounts are sparse and unreliable.”
Satda smiled, “Are they?” Camon said nothing.
“Not as it seems. No.” Satda said. “Old isn’t unreliable. Am I unreliable?”
“No,” Camon said.
“Someone told you about me. Yes?” Satda asked.
“Yes,” Camon said.
“Because I know things. Because I have studied. Because I have learned. Few appreciate this. But knowledge. Knowledge is timeless. It grows not less true with time.” He wrapped the pauldron back in its wrappings and tied the binding around it. “Suppose you never saw the armor. Would you believe orcs exist?”
Camon thought for a moment, then answered, “Probably not.”
“Respectable,” Satda said. “But credibility is built. One source is okay. Two is better. Multiple makes it believable. Corroboration makes certain.” Next, he untied the bindings on the second piece, pulled back the wrapping, and then handed it to Camon.
Camon recognized it instantly, “It’s an elven dagger.”
“Not asked you what, did I?” Satda asked. Camon bit his lip. “Yes. An elven dagger. But your knowledge. It blinds you. Tell me, what do you see? And feel? But try not to see. Unsee what you know.”
Camon closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them, and he stared down at the blade turning it in his hands. He examined the pommel, grip, crossguard, and the blade carefully before saying anything. He spoke, “It’s an elven dagger, no doubt. But it’s old. The pommel’s sculpting is a style that I’ve never seen in contemporary or even old elven artifacts. The blade’s luster suggests it was forged in a technique that leaves the blade soft for sculpting more than hardening. The steel is untarnished as one would expect of elven weapons. But the balance is slightly off. And there’s no detectable magical signature to it as one would expect an elven weapon to have. I’m guessing this is an ancient ceremonial piece.” Camon then handed the dagger back to Satda, who wrapped it up and retied its bindings.
“You have knowledge of this. Yes,” Satda said. “But at first, you assumed. More assumed then saw. Yes?”
“Yes,” Camon admitted.
“Knowledge is good. Yes. But never assume you know. If you assume, you can’t understand.” Satda then stood and gathered the things and put them back in the chest and closed it. Satda sat back down in his chair and sipped his tea, “You think you understand prophecy. You don’t. Not because you can’t. You can. You assume knowledge. Assumed knowledge, worse than ignorance.”
Camon said nothing in reply but sipped his tea again. He and Satda sat in silence for some time before Satda set his cup down. “Learning to be patient. Takes time. Prophecy now. Do you see it?”
“No,” Camon admitted.
“You are unlearned. Humbled. But nothing to be ashamed of. Admission of ignorance. This is wisdom. And one must be humble to learn. Now, understand prophecy. Prophecy is not the future. No. It’s the past. The past revealed in the present. Do you understand?”
“No,” Camon answered.
“Good. This is knowledge. Know the past to understand prophecy.”
“How can the past be prophecy? Is it prophecy given and fulfilled?” Camon asked.
“Stop trying to understand,” Satda snapped. “Prophecy is knowing the past first. Then understanding the past second. Then seeing it in the present, third.”
“Teach me the past then,” Camon said.
“Now, you are beginning to understand,” Satda said. “Understanding begins with knowledge. What do you know of the ancients?”
“Very little,” Camon answered.
“A little knowledge is worse than none. Until you know you know little.”
“That’s me,” Camon said.
“Good,” Satda said.
“The ancients. Before the Empire. Before the Church. When man was young. This is the Ancient Times,” Satda said. “Yes. A time of innocence for most. The world was not like it is. Elves guided man. The orcs fought the elves. Wars upon wars. Men were pawns. And elves and orcs. The Light against the Dark. These were the Ancient Times.” He paused, and he sipped his tea again, then continued, “But there was an undoing. An unmaking. And a remaking. Yes. When men rose. The Age of Men began. The Ancient Times ended.”
Satda folded his hands, put his fingers on his lips, and then spoke, “This is the past. At that place, history made. It was a demon, a seer, her child, and another seer. Do you see?”
“No,” Camon said.
“What happened. After you slew the demon?” Satda asked.
“Well, it burned up,” Camon said.
“No, to the pregnant seer.”
“She was corrupted, but I was able to reverse it,” Camon said. “I took her to the Healers in Rahtneua to have them examine her, where they found no evidence of corruption in her.”
“So, you’re a priest?” Satda asked.
“Then you studied to be a priest then?” he asked.
“Prophecy indeed,” Satda remarked. “Yes. Yes – there’s foul play. At work in our time. See the past to understand the present. Do you see it?”
“Not yet,” Camon said.
“More knowledge gives rise to better understanding,” he commented. He stood up from his chair and walked over to a wall and started moving his finger along a line, up and down, studying it intently. “Here,” he said, pointing to a map.
Camon stood and walked over to the wall. As he did, he heard a door creak, then the “thwock” of a crossbow. The old man was caught in the back of the neck by a bolt, “Here…” he said, pointing to a spot on the map before he fell forward in the wall and collapsed, dead.