Skulls and Shackles - PFO

What Dreams May Come

My nature as a Samsaran is still a mystery I struggle to understand, young as I am by the standards of my “kind”.

Thinking on Flipps’ possibly deceased mother stirs in me a reverie of — what? Nostalgia? Anxiety? The sense of having lost a part of myself irretrievably. My own parents were not the most gentle, loving folk with respect to me. I was born in a mist-shrouded village of the mossy deltas of the Sodden Lands, east of the Eye of Abendego. I did not stay long, for my empty white eyes and “unnaturally colored” hair and skin marked me as different immediately. My parents were, frankly, ill suited for the task Fate dealt them, and they abandoned me on the doorstep of a witch who lived not too far from the village outskirts, figuring that she had some hand in my conception and so she should raise me. The crone was well withered even in my infancy. To the simple minds of ignorant folk, an “unnatural babe” simply seems to naturally require a supernatural fecundity — and who more responsible for such a feat than the local mystic, eh?

She did occupy something of a paradoxical position in the society. Simultaneously a “wise one” who could be petitioned for magical aid (notably, the Crafts of Healing of course, and I did learn such Crafts from her wizened hands) while also an object of weirding dread and loathing. I now know that this is not an unusual state of affairs for wonderworkers in any given locale of the world, but as a child, this status caused me no end of frustration at my alienation. Yes, my strange appearance, born to a faithful human couple, did magnify the attributes that were already ascribed to me simply by dint of being the reputed bastard of a witch.

I still consider myself amazingly fortunate that the old hag was aware of the Samsaran race, a people adrift on the currents of history, if you will forgive a lapse into melodrama for so trite a phrase. She somehow recognized what I am, though human herself, and was able to aid in my development while also teaching me some of her Craft. It was a cruel thing, to inflict a needy babe upon an ostracized old woman, though even in this, a strange sort of mercy might be found. The humans who birthed me, I was to discover, still suffered for my conception at the hands of their fellow townsfolk, for the ignorance of man knows no bounds. Yet even so, my fate was kinder than murder. I still to this day wonder if they had hoped the lonely old hag could provide for me something they realized they could not, and that by knocking on her door they believed themselves to be performing a profound act of charity.

Tabitha, as she was called, never once complained in my hearing for it. If I did not know her, it would seem suspicious, but she was a kindly wretch in no ambiguous way. Bitterly pragmatic, as is the habit of those who have seen much grief in a long, hard life, she bore me with rolled up smock sleeves and a stern will to leave the world with a satisfied smile on her wrinkled face.

And so she did.

I was barely of-age when she died. Perhaps she had been waiting all along to be sure her work was done, for such was her way. It has been more than fifty years now, and my body has scarcely aged. I am glad she did not linger in pain, and did not witness my seemingly endless youth while her arthritic fingers curled into useless claws and her back stooped into a shepherd’s crook.

I know only a little about the life cycle of my kin. I know I have lived before, for I still dream of past lives and sometimes seem to witness snatches of events long past in those quiet moments when a moth’s wings seem to still and candle flame freezes in mid-wobble. I know when it is not the future I see just as easily as I can discern the nature of any other memory whether distant or not.

Good Mistress Tabitha taught me of the natural cycles of the cosmos, of the seasons and stars, the sun and moon, the tides of life: she believed me to be an incarnation of the cosmic attribute she called “The Veiled One”. A spirit, an entity, a force of the secrets beyond mortal existence. That which exists only in dreams and vanishes when the wakening world threatens to impinge, the afterlife, the before-birth, the in-betweens of reality and the very nature of what it is to be secret and unknowable, she said. This is why I touch my other lives, so she believes, why I remember who I have been. She even hinted that I may, in fact, sometimes, brush against who I will yet be. It is implied, is it not? In a cycle, one part touches the “before” just as much as it touches the “after”.

I remember once listening to her teachings by the fire, young and with clovers in my shaggy hair, when she uttered the advice that, though I am still a creature in the present, I am not bounded by it as others are. I asked, in the manner of children hearing things they cannot understand, what did she mean by such a silly phrase?

And her rheumy eyes regarded me with an expression I still do not recognize and she said, “What dreams may come to you, I do not envy, child. Yours is a fate burdened and blessed most peculiar, and it is your purpose in this life to serve as witness to it.”

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