Burn the Map

...and the atlas and the guide book and the GPS and everything else that thinks it knows where you're going. 'Cause I'll tell you a secret, friend: They don't have a clue.

Welcome, traveler!  Is it a new world you're looking for, or perhaps a very old one?  Either way, your journey begins as soon as you click one of the links to the left (or up above, if you're inclined to the mobile devices).  Think of them as portals to other times and places... I mean, you could think of them as simple navigation buttons, but if you're going to do that, there are zillions of websites you could visit.  But you didn't.  You came here.  So saddle up, suit up, buckle up...  Grab your blaster, your sword, your spellbook...  Basically do whatever it takes to feel ready for adventure and dive into stories where no explorer or mapmaker has dared set foot.  Oh, and I almost forgot...  Where you're going, you might as well burn the map. 

Chapter 13

            "Perhaps I should begin again," Roland said.  "In my zeal for meeting you all, I may not have begun at the beginning."

            "Hang the beginning," Rebekah blurted, "start with how Reuben just recognized you even though you mistook William for him."

            "I was told to be on the lookout for a tall man travelling with two youths.  William certainly matches that description.  Some of my brothers have met Reuben, but I have not had the honor until now."

            "While we are about the business of clarifying who everyone is and how they know one another," Reuben broke in, looking at William, "perhaps someone would be so kind as to explain to me who this massive personage is."

            "Not now," Daniel rebutted, his tone inviting no challenge.  "Roland has answered Rebekah's question.  Now you answer it."

            "It is that I," Reuben responded, "was contacted by those selfsame brothers whom Roland just did mention in the days following the death of my family's most prophetic steward.  These brothers did bear messages to and fro' Roland, and at one time described his slightest of frames and baldest of pates, but as yet we have not met face to face."

            "So this association with a prophetic brotherhood is just another detail you chose to withhold?" Daniel challenged.

            "I did," Reuben answered, "and perhaps the situation as it now stands would imply that I chose poorly, only I must say in mine own humble defense that I thought the brotherhood's part in all this was played to its end.  They warned me that by their reading of things, the sword should have appeared…"

            "We have many allies," Roland interrupted, "and we tasked them all to search for the blade.  We were not surprised, though, when it was the firstborn of the tribes himself that crossed paths with it."

            "As I was saying," Reuben began again, "and regardless of the extent of your fellowship of watchers, the fact remains that at the conclusion of your brief message announcing the sword, you told me in terms most clear and pointed that I should not expect further or subsequent contact from your fraternity, is that not so?"

            Roland nodded.

            "And so with young Daniel's permission, I will once again submit my original query: What are you doing here?"

            Daniel watched the eyes of the two men keenly, alert for signs of deception.  So far he saw none, and the sword was quiet.

            "We did intend to stay clear," Roland replied.  "My brothers are watchers, listeners, and recorders in the main; we provide information and wisdom where we can to those who act, but our own capabilities and defenses are wanting, and so we seek to remain out of sight.  We did not anticipate to have any further information to provide, but dark omens have surfaced.  The latter verses of the prophecy have begun to unravel, as though the promised salvation from war was now in doubt.  We cannot suss out the shape of the divergence.  We know only that the signs suggest it will occur tonight."

            "Tonight," Reuben answered, "is already planned.  I have secured an audience with Lord Aidan.  That illustrious lord is gracious enough to grant us a meeting to hear our plea, but he wishes to judge the authenticity of the blade before making his final decision."

            "I urge against it!" Roland gasped.  "Lord Aidan's decision could be the very thing that causes the prophecies to fray!"

            "Or your prophecies could be a load of manure!" Daniel argued.  "You were quite impressed that this new prophecy matched the one we heard yesterday, Rebekah.  Well, you have your explanation now.  Of course they were identical; they came from the same source!  I'm sure I do not miss my guess that Reuben's steward was one of these 'brothers' all along.  So, with that similarity explained, there is no proof…"

            "I don't know…" Rebekah replied, clearly unconvinced.

            "I have not had reason to doubt these men or their visions," Reuben countered, "but Roland, even you yourself do admit that you have not seen trouble tonight.  The divergence might be caused by something else entirely.  Was it not you who told me how dangerous it can be, what great risks men can cause when they do undertake to speculate too much when interpreting prophecy?  I see now an opportunity to tip the scales enough tonight to at least delay the coming war, and in the process to give aid and comfort to good Daniel's Lord Hector, who by now is like to be hard pressed by Baron Willhelm.  Perhaps I have not been as truthful as I ought, but I am a knight of my word.  I swore to Daniel to undertake those goals, and so if my noble page will submit to accompany me with the sword, then I must take the chance that fate has offered to us."

            "Still I advise caution," Roland insisted.  "It is possible that neither Aidan's decision nor some far-flung event has anything to do with the changing prophecy.  Indeed, some of my brethren believe that fate's tapestry is twisting because, by tomorrow morning, one of you will be dead."