Skulls and Shackles - PFO

Through A Glass, Dimly

The glitter of celestia on the ocean’s waves makes for quite a serviceable focus of premonitory trance.

I recall, as through deep waters, past lives in which I was born a woman, though I do not remember ever being so solitary among a group of men. Sava, if she feels any tension, seems to bear it with the casual stoicism of an animal always wary. Stehlen’s favorite toy is probably sailing westward on the Wormwood, currently, and I am sure he must feel her lack. The horny devilkin must be descended of a particularly lascivious fiend, though gods only know how his lying tongue can remain serviceable with so many knots in it. Perhaps that is the entire secret. Waku, La’Luka and Owlbear seem far more concerned with the matters at hand rather than, shall we say, survival on generational time scales.

I don’t remember ever, in my many lives, being castaway on an island, so this is a unique experience. I wonder how my future selves will regard it. I cannot pretend that I am not still discomforted by the rudimentary resources we have available to us. Even growing up as a pariah of a small marsh village afforded a number of creature comforts which most people will never have the misfortune to do entirely without. Little do we realize, until at sea, surrounded by empty wastes of water, how much we each rely on the web of commerce, the “security” of social justice (if one is not entirely an outcast, of course, I imagine), the simple things like bread, cups, candles, wine and nails which civilization makes available.

Tabitha once told me that our little cottage, humble as it was, should be understood with content gratitude. “Our existence here,” she said, “is an illusion. What comfort we find in our surroundings bears no significance on the wider cosmos. Have a care, child, for each moment of grace, joy and contentment you feel is but a breath from death’s door. And yet, still not a step through the threshold.”

Death is but a breath away. Life is but a dream. Nightmare or sweetness, it is for us each to create within ourselves. Happiness cannot come from without, for the world is wasting of want.

I must admit, I have not her knack for finding peace “whatever may be”. Even when a storm caused a tree branch to crash through the roof, even during drought and when the villagers were furtively cruel — she bore it with a serene patience, though not without a stinging witticism when warranted in the latter case. Her focus was always on the ephemeral nature of mortal existence, knowing wisely that whatever pains the present brought would pass.

I remember once, while exploring the little cottage we shared, as small children do, discovering a simple mirror kept in a box under her bed. I had never seen a mirror before, at that age, for none in the village were so wealthy or so inclined to share such a treasure with the witch’s bastard.

When she discovered me staring into it with awe, she snatched it from my hands with a look of pain and smashed the thing to pieces then and there. “Turn your eyes inward to see yourself,” she cried over my tears, “Spend your life staring over your shoulder and you’ll never live!”

I only pieced together over the course of my youth what the significance of that mirror was to the old crone. A beauty, she was, in her youth. She loved a man of the village, but he loved another. Tabitha, vain as only a pretty young girl can be, was still the source of legends about her jealous feud with her homely rival. The stories I overheard are rife with exaggerations about how she employed the blackest of Arts against the good wife of her passion. Invariably, they concluded that her bitter frustration led to a long life of suffering for her while watching the happy couple spend their days in idyllic bliss. The common folk meant it as a lesson against the, ultimately futile, abuse of power and pride, as good myth should be.

When I asked Tabitha herself about the mirror, years later, her eyes never left the fire.

“The Craft grants a mortal heart many Arts, but not the wisdom for their use. ‘What might have been?’ is, at best, a fool’s question quite apart from ‘what may be?’ and regret is a poison more painful than hate or envy. The glass shows truth only dimly, reflected, flat, unreal. When I finally grew to accept what I could not change, I put the glass away and found contentment in what is.”


sintaqx AuntTony

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