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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Kemp Paul S
 

«Dawn of Night», Paul Kemp

Dawn of Night

Book 2 of Erevis Cale Trilogy

 

By Paul S. Kemp

 

 

And they went forth into the dawn of night.

Long by wild ways and clouded light. . .

 

-Algernon Charles Swinburne

Tristram of Lyonesse

 

PROLOGUE

THE SOJOURNER

 

Vhostym wished to make one last observation before he began the final stages of his plan. He attributed the desire to nostalgia, to a need to see things as they existed at that moment. For soon, everything would change.

Propelling his projected form upward with the power of thought, Vhostym extended the range of his illusionary proxy to the far limits of his spell-the edge of Toril's sky, leagues above the surface, where the blue of Toril's celestial sphere gave way to the bleak darkness of the cosmos. From there, he looked outward through the eyes of the image and into endlessness. The void of the heavens yawned before him, the massive, limitless jaws of the greatest of beasts. In its infinite expanse, Vhostym bore witness to the immensity of creation, the perfect mathematics of motion, and the insignificance of his own existence.

He, among the most powerful of beings on any world, felt insignificant. The feeling amused him, mostly because it was true. Even his grand plan, as ambitious as it was, faded into negligibility in the face of the endless ether.

The meaninglessness of existence comforted him. Juxtaposed against infinite time and space, even the greatest of beings were small.

Distant but still obviously enormous, Toril's sun dominated his view, once of the countless blazing eyes of the beast. Though he could not see them from that distance, he knew that the fiery star continually spat jets of flame into the cosmic darkness, the smallest of which could have immolated even the City of Brass and all of the efreeti in it. Had Vhostym been looking at the glowing orb through his physical eyes, the light would have blinded him and charred his skin as black as the void. The pain would have lasted only a few excruciating moments before the rays would have reduced him to a heap of seared flesh. Even mild starlight caused his physical form pain unless he took magical precautions-hence his underground existence. His advancing illness had only made his vulnerability to sunlight more pronounced. As a younger githvyrik, he had for centuries sought a spell that would eliminate his extreme sensitivity to light, but to no avail. He could not change what he was.

But he could change the world, at least for a time.

The details of his plan marched through his brain, a progression of steps as orderly and logical as those used to solve a complex equation. The scope of his ambition appalled and delighted even him. He could do it though, of that he was certain. He would do it.

Other, less grand courses were open to him, of course. Through his magic he could have simply adopted a form that suffered no ill effects from light. He could have faced the sun, as he did then, through the eyes of a projected image, and in that way gain the Crown of Flame. But those were paltry substitutes for the reality, and both were insufficient to satisfy him. Before the end, he would see the crown with his own eyes, feel it against his flesh. And to do that, he needed to stand on the surface of Toril. The thought of it caused him a pang of longing, a desire to feel the coolness of an unfettered breeze against the pale skin of his face.

He set aside his reverie and continued the observation.

In the infinity beyond Toril's sun, innumerable planets and stars spun through the deep, pinpricks of light dancing through the dark. Vhostym observed their motion for a time, his intellect automatically translating their movement into equations that only he could understand. Calling upon the library of data stored in his mind, he observed several distant planets, derived their mass, their precession, the length of their seasons, their aphelion and perihelion. The exercise made him smile; he recognized it as an attempt to use mathematics to make chaos predictable. Such ordering was the curse of sentience, an irrepressible desire to engage in an ultimately futile exercise.

Still, the countless celestial bodies enthralled him. To the uninitiated, the night sky seen from Toril's surface probably appeared to be a veritable ocean of twinkling lights, as though the universe was a sack stuffed full. Vhostym knew that to be fiction. All told, the entirety of the celestial bodies in the universe filled the vacuum of the cosmos no more than fish filled a sea.

The universe, Vhostym knew, was emptiness, a vacuum filled with dust motes and beings ignorant of their own insignificance. The irony was, due to Vhostym's congenital hyper-sensitivity to light, he could see the multiverse only through a projected image, itself a fiction, itself an empty form.

But soon he would see it through his own eyes rather than through the lens of his magic. Then the Crown of Flame would be his. And when he had that, he would have everything he wanted.

Millennia ago, not long after the revolution that had freed his people from their illithid tyrants, he had been of a more philosophical bent. Then, he had hopefully pondered how one being could meaningfully affect the cosmic vastness for the better. Initially, he had thought the answer to be ever-increasing power. But as his power had grown-grown so large as to be nearly unparalleled-so too had his understanding. In the end he had come to realize that attempting to affect the universe was the desire of fools. It was too big, too random, too uncaring. He was a dust mote, as was everyone and everything else.

Life had no overarching meaning, he had learned, no grand purpose. Not even his life. There was only sensation, experience, subjectivity. That realization, equivalent to an epiphany for a religious zealot, had freed him from his self-imposed moral shackles. In a flash of insight, he had realized that morality was as much a man-made construct as a stone golem. He had come to the abrupt and stunning realization that characterizing an action as good or evil was absurd. He had elevated himself beyond good and evil. What was, was. What one wanted to do and could do, one ought to do. There was no other ought, no other objective standard.

That principle had informed his subsequent existence.


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