The Destiny Mask
an extract from the novel
The Chamber of Visions,
Oracles' Cloister, Seriattic Palace
Entuzo -- the most senior of all Seriatt's seers -- entered the chamber,
accompanied by her six, young vilume attendants, the hem of her
heavy outer robe trailing on the floor. The attendants lit lamps that
cast pools of cream light across the brick walls, polished wood, and
brass, and candles beneath small glass bowls filled with scented oil.
As the liquids warmed the air became rich and intoxicating.
Oracle Entuzo shed her robe and handed it to Coulieq, her senior attendant.
Like all Oracles, Entuzo was taller than other vilume, and without
her robe she looked brittle and fragile, her limbs and neck appearing
a little too long, and slightly out of proportion.
She lay on the smooth black couch in the centre of the
room, her movements slow and precise. Its sleek leather skin undulated
gently as it changed shape to accommodate her. "Are you certain
you wish to do this?" asked Coulieq. "The lack of a focal
consciousness concerns me."
"Calm yourself, faithful Coulieq," said Entuzo, her voice
soft and warm. "There is no specific individual or event on which
to focus, that is true, but perhaps this will make the visions easier
to interpret, more accurate than the usual possibilities."
"Or perhaps it is not possible at all and your individuality will
be in danger. Can you afford to take such a risk? We should inform the
"Did the mask not predict the Great Plague? The Denessil Catastrophe?"
Entuzo challenged, her tone gentle but firm. "It is true that sometimes
it cannot be relied upon, but given the current crisis we need some
indication of what the future may give us. As for the Administrators,
they need know only if I see anything of importance. If I see anything
at all. Leave me now, Coulieq. I must open my mind to what may come."
Coulieq nodded. From experience, the vilume knew that entering
into an argument with Entuzo was futile. Prompted by a slight movement
of Coulieq's right hand, the other attendants stepped back to take up
designated positions near the circular room's wall.
As she lay, Entuzo glanced at the circle of plush seating overlooking
the Chamber, where the Administrators and other Oracles would normally
sit during important projections. She felt some uncertainty at using
the mask without their approval, but knew her reasons were valid.
Entuzo relaxed, her pure black eyes reflecting the intricately carved
wooden ceiling above her as she stared. Her breathing began to slow
as she relaxed completely, but her eyes remained open. A few moments
later, when Coulieq recognised that Oracle Entuzo had entered the dormant
state of transcendence, on the cusp of departing the physical world
and entering the spiritual environment beyond, accessible only to the
Oracles, the senior attendant slowly turned to face the wall behind
her. She touched a small square button and a panel slid to one side.
It revealed Seriatt's most precious artefact -- the Destiny Mask.
Ancient and of unknown origin, the mask had been discovered by archaeologists
in one of Seriatt's most barren regions, but was believed by many to
be non-Seriattic. Bearing the appearance of polished golden glass with
a slightly metallic quality, it was delicately fashioned from a substance
scientists had been unable to identify. Covering the front of the upper
head when worn, the mask's features possessed androgynous characteristics
similar to those of Seriattic vilume, yet there was something
nonetheless different about it, a subtle otherness to the facial
expression and distribution of the features, as if modelled on an ancestor
of modern vilume. The wide, oval eyes conveyed innocence, wisdom,
pity, and also great sorrow, as if continually dismayed by the ineptitude
of those who wore it.
Coulieq picked up the soft black leather gloves that lay in front of
the mask and put them on, then reached out and lifted the artefact carefully
from its cradle. She turned, carried the mask towards the couch, and
carefully placed it on Oracle Entuzo's face.
Despite its apparently solid construction, as Coulieq backed away,
the mask briefly emitted a very faint, high-pitched whine, then became
slightly luminescent. Entuzo's lips parted, her fingers began to twitch
slightly, and her back arched a little as if she were anxious or aroused,
the couch moving with her body. Oracle Entuzo licked her lips and swallowed.
Her fingers gripped the sides of the couch. She seemed tense, disturbed,
mumbling softly. The mask seemed to glow more brightly, and then its
edges began to soften, losing definition and extending down the sides
of Entuzo's face, until the strange substance started to merge with
the Oracle's skin. As it hardened across her ears, eyes, and the top
of her nose the bond with her pale flesh was seamless.
Then, a few moments later, Oracle Entuzo began to see the future.
Some time later Entuzo seemed to relax. The mask darkened, and separated
from the vilume's skin, returning to its original, solid form.
Coulieq stepped forward and gently removed it from the Oracle's face.
It felt warm to the touch even through the leather gloves, and Entuzo's
skin was slightly pink where it had made contact with her.
Coulieq placed the mask back in its cradle and closed the panel. When
she turned she saw that Entuzo was already awake, and had gratefully
accepted a drink of iced water offered to her by one of the junior attendants.
As Coulieq walked towards her, Entuzo sat up on the couch. "What
did you see?" asked the senior attendant, recognizing the elated
expression on the Oracle's face. "The projections in the chamber
Entuzo reached out and touched Coulieq's wrist. Her fingertips were
icy cold. "I have some wonderful news, faithful Coulieq,"
she said softly but with clear elation. "I have seen something
marvellous. I have seen the coming of Seriatt's Saviour."
in infinity plus:
Elsewhere on the web: