In the same menhir that had transported Rem and Hea, two human priests sat mehakan casting mandalas. Taipai, the elder, said, “A God is dying.”
“Who?” his protege asked. “Which one?”
“Rem. Rem Ossilo.”
“Should we fear,” Dymal asked, “or be relieved?”
“Fear, boy. With his father dead, the Shambler will be free of restraint.”
Taipai pushed the runeboard away, disarraying the counters. His hands shook and his face was pale. Dymal reached out and touched his shoulder, giving what comfort ai and a human contact could provide. They were alone in the midst of the menhir; Taipai had sent all the other priests away. Beyond the circle of stones, the thorngall hedge threshed in the dry wind of autumn, and in the Great World beyond the hedge, all the creatures of sensitivity quailed before the outpouring of power that signaled the change.
On the runeboard, only partially scattered by Taipai’s movement, the counters told their story. There in the heart of the heartstar, the symbol of the double-face lay touching the symbol of the twisted branch. The sons of Lorric had joined with the Shambler, and Rem Ossilo’s counter had been shoved aside, all the way left to the deathside of the runeboard.
Rem Ossilo’s era was ending and the era of the Shambler would now begin.
# # #
She sat mehakan in the glade where she had been conceived. Her name was Lyré, and she was a Goddess. Where Taipai interpreted the surge of ai that shook the world through a wooden runeboard with counters of brass, she felt those powers directly, moving through her body as she sat, and redirected by her will.
Before her hung a sphere of swirling, buzzing golden bees of ai that were her counters in a three dimensional runeboard of pure will. Unlike Taipai who depended on the symbols embossed on his physical counters, Lyre saw directly what her counters of ai portended. From time to time, she reached out and touched one of them as it flitted by, and the entire pattern of the sphere changed. Between the counters, lines formed and faded, making a blue cobweb of light which disclosed the forces that impelled the counters.
She saw pictures, and not only pictures, but the forces that lay behind the pictures. Of all the Damesept of the Gods, Lyré’s ai was the least attuned to action and most attuned to understanding.
Nothing like that could be said of her mother or her son.
# # #
Argella and Argat stood in the open air on a hilltop overlooking the Dzikakai encampment. They were protected from the heat and dust, and from prying eyes, by the forces Argella manipulated. She was dressed in woolens and lace and power. He was greaved and plated and helmeted, with sword at his side and a longbow across his back. She had transported them to this place by the power of her will, and the ai of Whitethorn; that was a feat he could not have matched, but all the creatures who defend Whitethorn bowed to him, not her, for he was their general.
Different, but well matched; grandmother and grandson, they might have been taken as siblings, for the Gods show little age until their third century.
They watched as Rem Ossilo, mounted on Margyr, reviewed the Dzikakai army he had recruited; watched as the Shambler with three of the sons of Lorric in wereform came down from the hills together, and watched the final battle as father and son strove together until youth and rage overcame experience and a harnessed ai.
They watched as the Shambler killed his father and the world changed. Argat’s interest in Rem’s passing was academic; Argella watched with bloodlust and hatred. more tomorrow