Outer Flower, 23

Before the Throne con’t

“You had no right–“

“I had every right.” A’Sing’s voice gained strength. “Have I not earned two stripes in the Deep? Have I not earned the privilege of sitting under the shade of the Tree of Life? And if I choose to look up among the branches, searching for a tender sprout or the beginning of a bud, is that such an awful thing?”

“Your presumption is beyond me,” said Elymas, choked with anger.

“I doubt that,” replied Vue.

The two Skylls glared at one another. The power struggle that had long been rumored between them was clearly evident now. Sides would be taken, camps drawn after this day, William knew, but looking from Elymas’s hate-filled expression to Vue’s rigid one, William couldn’t say which he preferred. “Stop your bickering,” he ordered.

“There may be a simple solution to this seemingly complicated problem,” said A’Sing. “Majesty, may I speak?”

“Speak loudly,” said William, with a sigh.

“Let us begin by viewing this situation objectively,” said A’Sing. “Oren Whitehair comes unarmed into our city and in full view of Open Court delivers a message from the Shautu. The heavens, according to the revered Keeper of the Blue Stones, have let fall the legendary Sea Star. In addition to announcing the arrival of the Axis, the subsequent patterns reveal the birth of a new Earth Skyll, along with a portent the Shautu feels may signify a great danger to both. Now we know that the Shautu has never been proven wrong nor is it in his nature to lie. But Elymas, our present Earth Skyll, contends that the Sea Star was nothing more than a brilliant burst of swamp fire and backs his claim by citing the barren boughs of the Tree. Also, no one has brought forth a child with a disfigured foot. These are the facts. Am I correct?”

Everyone, including the blustery Hulse, nodded.

“True, but not difficult to comprehend,” countered Elymas. “None of this is new.”

A’Sing smiled. “These are the plain facts. But what is the un-fact? The part of the puzzle that can’t be proved?”

“Really, A’sing,” said Sarris, after a moment’s hesitation in which they’d all had time to think and all failed. “We’re not schoolboys detained here to be taught. If you know something, tell us.”

“The only un-fact, the only random element, is the danger,” A’Sing continued. “The Shautu surmises a great deal of danger. But from where does the danger come? He doesn’t say. But danger, even the thought, produces panic. And panic produces error.”

“What is your point?” demanded William. “Are you saying the Shautu has simply made a mistake?”

“Not in the least. What I’m suggesting is that these things, while they may be true, are not true yet.”

“What?” Somehow the King’s voice rose about the burst of voices surrounding his throne. A’Sing waited out the chaos and began again.

“Let us suppose that the star the Shautu saw was really the Sea Star. Let us assume the Shautu did see what he believed to be disastrous patterns afterwards. This sense of danger gives him a sense of urgency. He feels that what will happen must be happening right now. He hasn’t misread what but when. The truth may be that, though the occurrences will happen, they will not happen soon.”

“There is logic there,” conceded Ondred.

“He’s grasping at straws,” Elymas said flatly.

“I am the King,” said William. “I will decided what is possible and what is not. Continue, A’Sing.”

A’Sing bowed.

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