“So, what’s the prophecy?” Azarial settled in the shadows just beyond the light of the fire, his back against an enormous oak three times his width; his dark skin nearly a match to the bark. One of the curved blades of his Reziatch caught the fire light in a brief flash as he balanced the center staff on his left knee and began cleaning the two and a half-foot, right blade that curved toward him. The blades on opposite ends, curved in opposite directions, symbolizing, so his people believed, the circular flow of all life. Following suit, he had named his blade “Rebirth.”
“Come again?” Straya plopped down beside the fire, directly on the cool earth. Any dirt she picked up blended with the rest of the dirt on her soft, tanned leathers, bordered with light brown fur at the neck, wrist cuffs, waist, and pant-cuffs tucked into fur-lined boots that looked much the same. In fact, the only color to her was the thick, auburn-red braid of hair that stretched to her knees and the splash of freckles on her tawny face. Even her eyes refused colour, holding a steady, slate-grey gaze.
“You know, the prophecy,” he said without looking away from his weapon. He slid the staff across his knees to begin cleaning the other blade. “These things always have a prophecy.”
“These things? What things?” Straya kicked off her boots and stretched her feet toward the fire.
Azarial sighed heavily, his deep bass exaggerating the point. “Whenever a band of adventurers get together to defeat some great evil, there’s always some kind of ancient prophecy.”
Raejst groaned. “This isn’t one of those adventure stories you’re always reading.” The healer of the group spooned some of the stew he’d been preparing into a little bowl and sipped. He made a face, and added more herbs and some little seeds, then proceeded to stir them in. His shoulder-length black hair mostly veiled his expression. He muttered a curse as some of the hot stew splattered on his thin trousers. He quickly wiped it off with the sleeve that refused to stay hiked above his elbow.
“There’s no such thing as great evil.” The husky sound of Xavyra’s voice caused everyone to look up from what they were doing. The sorceress rarely spoke and when she did, her voice commanded attention despite its lack of an authoritative tone. “We must understand that those we intend to defeat are people too, with real feelings. They are not evil, just different and opposing. To them, we will be the evil ones. There are two sides to every leaf.” She leaned against an Ash tree opposite the camp from Azarial and looked evenly at them all, her eyes alight with an eerie emerald and cerulean glow.
“If there’s no great evil to defeat, then why do you travel and fight with us?” Straya kept her eyes on the fire, not wishing to meet Xavyra’s unearthly, penetrating gaze. Every time she did, prickles of ice coursed through her body, starting with her own eyes and racing to her fingers and toes. It always gave her a headache. Silence followed her question for so long that Straya thought she would not answer.
Xavyra chuckled, a humorless and hollow sound, more like falling rocks than any natural laughter. “Incidently? There is a prophecy.”
“Ah-ha! See! I told you!” Azarial grinned at Straya and Raejst.
Straya stuck her tongue out at him and looked into the shadows where Xavyra stood, careful not to meet her glowing eyes.
“So what is it?” Azarial went back to polishing his weapon.
“What does it matter? After all those books, you should know the prophecy is useless. It will happen whether you know it or not. That’s the way it always is. If you know it, and try to change it, chances are, your attempt to change it will be what brings it about in the end. This is the way it always is. The prophecy is a paradox, a dangerous one that can steal too much focus from the task at hand. The prophecy never helps. It is better for you not to know.” Her eyes disappeared first and then they heard the whisper of her footsteps on the dead leaves, walking away.
“Where do you suppose she goes by herself?” Raejst sipped noisily at another sample of their supper.
“I don’t want to know.” Straya shivered and moved closer to the fire for warmth. She could still feel Xavyra’s eyes, burrowing holes into her brain, and the onset of a headache. She didn’t like the way it was all said. The prophecy must be pretty bad. She talked of changing it bringing it about, which means we’d probably want to change it… It left her feeling unsettled and uncertain. Emperor Caestol’s people would definitely see them as a great evil, Straya could see that point easily enough. However, an irritating little insect of a thought buzzed in her brain, one she didn’t like. Someone was wrong, even if no one was evil. She was becoming increasingly uncertain who that someone was.