The prophets never married. They never died either. At least that is what the people believed, not that it was really true. In fact, many of the most ancient prophets had past long ago and the eldest among the community was now aged enough to warrant his end.
One out of every generation was born with the gift of foresight, insight, or discernment and was brought before the ancient prophets for an offering. These youths became a part of the prophets’ community, learning the trade of prophecy. As one became a full prophet, the eldest among the prophets would ready for his death.
It was an endless cycle of entrance and death. Entrance because the one becoming a prophet was not really being born, he was just entering service. But the death was always death. As with Sorcerers Supreme of the Orders within the Rings, the prophets chose their successors from the adepts within their communities.
The power of the prophets was such that even the Sorcerers of the Rings listened and took heed. Deaths were prophesied, new mages were foretold, battle outcomes were decided before they even began, and a god’s return would be announced. All were spectacles to behold. Galas were thrown to celebrate the births of every special child and chosen servant. Whole cities would gather to hear the blessings of the prophets when they were spoken.
Darakkys had long served as elder prophet. He remembered when the bard had been a young rebellious noble, long before he had become the bard. He knew full well what power the bard truly possessed. He knew Bez was no ordinary bard. Bez had been a formidable Magus. His power rivaled that of even Olgath, Lord of the Dark Ring and perhaps Tryl of the White Ring.
He had warned Bez what the price of his rebellion would be, but the noble in Bez wanted to hear none of it. The Magus wanted to hear even less. Darakkys knew that Bez had to learn in his own way by paying the price. Yet it had not put an end to their friendship. Instead, it had made them closer.
Now, Darakkys had one more prophecy to pass to his friend before death claimed the aged prophet. And though age had dimmed his vision, it had not diminished his foresight, insight, or discernment. Something big was about to take place. A child was going to be born to Bez’s son, a boy with a great destiny.
“Page,” Darakkys called, sensing a youth near his arm, “go seek my old friend the bard. Bid him to follow you to me. Tell him I have great news.”
“Yes, oh venerated one,” came the answer.
He smiled as he felt the vacancy left by the page. The adepts were great messengers, and they all knew what the bard looked like. The boy would be back with Bez in tow, of this he had no doubt. Bez always came to him when requested. It had been the hallmark of their friendship.
He heard Toulor enter. The younger mage would be his successor when he died. But, at the moment, the youth was his eyes and-often-his ears, especially beyond the temple. He smelled lentil soup. It must be dinner time.
Lentils, especially with pork or some other salt meat, was always preferable to the bland gruel of they were often served that was made of barley, rolled oats, and meat grease that passed as broth. No salt, no garlic, and no seasoning was ever added to the gruel. It was always extremely tasteless and dry. A greasy dry, not a dry that could allow it to be fried and salvaged by serving it drizzled with honey.
Fried gruel sounded good right now. He loved honey. Then, again, anything he could savor tasted good at his age.
“What be the news, lad?” He asked as Toulor placed the bowl of lentils in his hands gently, guiding him to tighten his grip. “What be the news from beyond the temple?”
“Ulgrun, Seer of the Grand Temple in city’s center says that an evil is on the rise,” came Toulor’s rich baritone, “He says that there comes a time when the inhabitants of our city will have to vanish.”
“Aye, and what else?” He might’ve been blind, but he still knew truth when it was spoken.
“Eldanezar of the south temple,” his apprentice began, “says that the lands are ripe for judgment.”
“What more does Eldanezar speak?” the master pressed. He had heard the hesitation in Toulor’s voice.
“He says that this will be the last you will see of the bard, milord,” came the hesitant reply, “he says that you die this night.”
“He does,” the old prophet began, chuckling, “does he? Well, boy, are you ready to take my place upon this dais? Are you truly ready to become prophet for the Great Eastern Temple?”
“If it be the will of the gods,” came Toulor’s humble answer, “it is not by my will, but theirs that all is given.”
“Indeed,” Darakkys agreed, “but Eldanezar’s vision is true, lad. I have one last prophecy to deliver. After that, I will bequeath unto you my throne. Rule prophecy well, and with much wisdom, and you shall remain upon the throne for as long as I. Be unwise and you shall cause much sorrow.
“We are not priests, such as those who go and serve the gods in the other cities. No, we are the prophets. We are the tongues of the gods among men. We speak what they show us.
“My boy, when the darkness falls, it will be up to you and your four fellow prophets to take this city out of harm’s way. You will have to unite with the sibyls and the oracles to make this city vanish. If you do not, then all will be lost until the promised one comes of age.”
“The promised one?” Darakkys’ young successor seemed genuinely surprised.
“Ah, but I mustn’t speak anything more until my dearest friend, the bard, arrives,” Darakkys smiled, “else all will be quickened. Besides. We must go and perform the ceremony of your ascension after I eat. All must be done before Bezreddyn arrives.”
Darakkys grew quiet long enough to quickly eat his evening meal. Toulor was amazed at how quickly the old prophet could eat. It seemed almost as if he inhaled his food. Darakkys handed him the empty bowl.
“Here,” Darakkys gestured with the bowl, “Take this to the galley, then come and guide me to the ceremonial hall. We have a ceremony to perform.” He turned blindly toward the youth. “afterward, you must bring your pen and several rolls of parchment. Do not forget your ink. My last prophecy must be recorded without err as I pronounce it.”
“Yes, milord,” Toulor replied.