“You seek vengeance upon those murderous raiders?” King Taq’ii queried.
“Vengeance could be sought from the local magistrate,” Tammath shook his head. “I have come to the god-King Taq’ii for power he alone possesses.”
“Of course. Why else would one come here, but to call upon the deep magic? No, no, you needn’t apologize. I am not offended. After all, that is the purpose of my station, is it not? To preside over the power of the deep magic and distribute it to whatever cause is worthy. So, Tammath, what is your cause?”
“It is said that the deep magic is interwoven with the very fabric of reality. That its cords draw through life and death, space and time. They say that it can undo what has already been done, can make what never was. My request…” Tammath licked his dry lips, trembling with excitement to finally make the petition he had traveled all this way for. “My request is that the slaughter of my people might be undone. That though they were killed, they might be alive again.”
“Hmm, I see,” the god-King pressed his fingers together and rested them against his lips.
“Could it be done?”
“Well…it depends…there is something that you must understand about deep magic. You are correct that it is a thread that winds its way through all of reality. But it is a part of that reality, too. Wherever it is pulled, the surrounding parts of the tapestry are changed as well. There are effects and side-effects. And once one change is made, then other changes are forever closed off. Things must be balanced. Thus, while deep magic can do anything, it cannot do everything.”
“And so, you say you wish to bring this village back to life, but I must know the manner of how. We must consider whether it is possible within the balance of all else.”
“Yes, of course. Well, I would have it be that the morning when the raiders landed on our shores…that it simply was not so. There were no raiders, there was no slaughter, and the village lived on until this very day.”
“Hmm, I see. Perhaps it would be that the raiders boat sunk in the sea, and they were all drowned?”
“I do not care.”
“Or that the winds changed and carried the murderers to a different shore.”
“That would be fine as well.”
“Just so long as the sun rose that day upon your hamlet and brought no raiders with it?”
“Yes. That is all I ask.”
“But then, they would have been alive all this while.”
“And all this time you have been walking here to me. So, you would like me to return you to that place all those years ago as well.”
“That is not necessary.”
“Is it not your aim to live again with them?”
“I have lived my life. I only want for them to have the same opportunity.”
“So, if this were granted…would you leave to rejoin them?”
“What would be the point?”
“What would be the point indeed? For you are past the median of your life…”
“And you would perish before you could reach them.”
Two lone tears escaped Tammath’s eyes and he nodded. “It would be enough for them just to have had their lives.”
“Well…in terms of deep magic and its connection to reality, you have made things about as simple as it could be. If you had asked me to return you back to the village as well, it would have been entirely untenable. There must always be a symmetry of sorts when deep magic alters the world. As there was originally a loss of lives, so there must still be a loss even after lives are brought back. And now there would be. You had your life, but you have spent it, and it would remain spent, just to bring back theirs.”
“So…you will do it?”
“Hmm…I can accept that it is possible. But there is still the matter of whether I should.”
“You assured me that it was a good cause that brought you to my throne. And I must ask, is this cause necessarily good?”
“Of course! The saving of life is always good!”
“But do we not hold that the creator is just when he consigns the wicked to a fitting end?”
“They were good people in that village, not wicked!”
King Taq’ii smiled deeply. “Please…tell me about them.”
“Surely the divinely-appointed god-King knows the children he watches over.”
“He does. Even so, tell me about them.”
Tammath stopped speaking for a moment to calm himself down. He took a deep breath and shivered all over. Much to his surprise, he realized he had not thought of those old friends and loved ones for many years. His focus had been so intent upon this end of the journey that he had long ceased dwelling on the other.
At first, he was not sure he would be able recall those long-lost faces, but suddenly he felt transported back to the small, two-room house he had grown up in, the air filled with the smell of freshly baking bread, and the dull thud of his mother’s wiry hands kneading a slab of dough.
“My mother was a tired woman,” he said softly, his eyes fastened shut as he felt his way through the memory. “And there seemed to be a sadness about her that I never understood. I believe she bore great weight and that she feared for us every day.”
Tammath was transported to another memory, this one with the taste of salty water and the chilling breeze coming from the sea. His father stood upright in his boat, somehow keeping his balance as he wrangled a net of fish.
“My father was a strong but quiet man. He never raised his voice to me in anger, but at times he would silently stand and leave the room, and I would know that I had offended him.”
A laughing boy came to Tammath’s mind next, lunging from side-to-side in mimicry of the young lamb he was playing with.
“My brother was as carefree as my parents were weighed down. Sometimes he stayed out too late, played too long, but he brought a necessary relief to the rest of us. His joyful innocence reminded us of what it was we were sustaining and protecting.”
“Mmm. Very good. Now tell me of the others.”