Chapter 3: Across Time
Aristine watched him go, but only for a moment. The tremors had always started in her legs, but this time they started at her head. Her vision blurred as her whole head seemed to vibrate. Then her torso convulsed, pitching her forward. She caught herself on her elbows, but her arms were the next to go. As they flailed involuntarily, she fell flat on her face, and then the tremors took over her whole body. It was more violent, more painful than she'd ever experience before. Still, she knew what was coming, knew to give in.
The world turned into a blur in her eyes, then darkened into blackness. She recited the words she'd learned to tell herself.
"I am nothing. Not a body, not a mind, not a soul. I am nothing, and nothing is everywhere. It cannot be trapped, cannot be hurt, cannot be killed. Nothing sees all things and knows all things."
She didn't know if this was technically true, but it seemed to ease her passage. The first few times, she'd tried to hold on to her identity, to remember her name. She'd been held in the blackness until she forgot her own name, forgot everything about herself and her world. The very first time must have taken years, decades, a lifetime even. Since then, she'd grown adept at forgetting herself and allowing The Sight to take control.
Sure enough, the blackness began to lift, and shapes appeared in front of her. They were robed, arranged in a semicircle. And they were chanting...
"TOATH MIZZAN AKANI TOATH MIZZAN AKANI"
This was the ritual. The same one that had just happened, in a different world. Back when she was still someone. And yet, it was different. The words had the same rhythm, but they were slightly changed. There were nine elders instead of seven. No acolytes sat around the edges, the chamber was clear but for the elders. They used staffs for the gestures instead of their hands. And there was no energy, at least not that she could see. The words of power remained still, the air around the staffs showed no signs of disruption. But it was definitely the same ritual.
The world shifted, and suddenly she saw the ritual from above. There was another major difference. Instead of a warlock in the center, a woman directed the chants. Rather than the controlled power of the warlock, this woman controlled the power with a manic energy. She danced around the circle, a primal, almost beastly dance. Her guttural shouts punctuated the chant. The energy was visible around this woman, it swirled about her like a tornado.
a scream, the woman fell to her knees, her face raised towards the ceiling. Those features were familiar. The hair was a different color, the eyes slightly further apart, but Aristine could--
The vision cut out, and Aristine lay back on the ground in a chamber, thrashing about. Only now the thrashing wasn't because the visions had taken hold of her. The pain coursed through her body, it overwhelmed her mind to the point where she lost all control. She thought she heard screaming, but she couldn't tell if it came from her own mouth or someone else's.
The she heard the words. Just a whisper, but they somehow carried over the screams.
"shi relan ifan she relan ifan"
Her body stilled and the pain subsided. Sebastian knelt over her, his hands on her head. When he saw her looking at him, he stopped his whispering.
"I've heard the first time can be difficult for some," he said, "but I never knew it was that bad."
"The first time of what?" Aristine asked. "The visions? I've had those before."
"Really? When was the first time? And why have your never told anyone?"
She thought back, but found that she couldn't remember. She'd always been having the visions, as far as she could remember. Nor could she remember why she'd never told anyone. There was a good reason, she was sure.
"I don't remember," was all she could say. It was an unsatisfactory answer, and she braced for her punishment.
Fine? She'd seen a man burned to ash for refusing to answer an elder's question before. And this wasn't just an elder, he was a warlock. By all rights she should at least be receiving a whipping. Still, if insolence was going to be tolerated, she supposed she might as well push the limit.
"What do you mean 'you've heard' it can be difficult. What have I been doing?"
Sebastian glanced around, as if worried someone would overhear. Even though the chamber was empty, he still said, "We shouldn't discuss this here. Come to my quarters with me," and pulled her to her feet. They walked through chamber after chamber, him pulling her along. Finally, they reached a door of wrought iron, with patterns of gold weaving through the metal. The door looked as though it must way two tons at least, yet Sebastian opened it with ease.
He ushered her inside and gestured for her to sit down on the bed. He remained standing as he said, "I'm about to tell you truths that few are allowed to know. It's important that you maintain utmost secrecy."
Aristine was confused. She knew
everything she was told was supposed to be kept secret. Why would he emphasize that point here? Still, she knew she had to say, "Of course."
He breathed a sigh of relief. Had he expected her to say no?
"Seeing comes to everyone with different strengths. Some can only see faint whispers, shadows of the power. The strongest warlocks can see the power in its true shape, see its every motion. But there is another level of sight, one that only a few are granted. The last one with that level of sight died 30 years ago. Those with this sight can see the entirety of the universe, not bound by space or time. They can see events happening halfway across the world, or events happening centuries in the past, or many years in the future. Does that sound like what you see?"
"Yes," she replied. "At least, it normally does. But this time was... different. I don't think I saw the past, or the future, and it definitely wasn't a different part of the world."
"What did you see?"
Aristine paused. She knew that telling him exactly what she'd seen, with her taking his place in the ritual, was a bad idea. But she wanted to know what had happened, and that meant telling him something. "I... I saw myself," she said. "Or, a version of myself. She was different, different hair and eyes, but definitely me. I don't know how I know, but I do."
"This is beyond anything I've ever heard of," Sebastian said. "You did see across time, but farther than anyone has ever seen before. You see, the world goes in cycles. Everything dies and is reborn again. We don't know exactly how long it takes, or how the cycle began, but everyone's lives happen again and again, echoing throughout time. You must have seen another incarnation of yourself, either deep in the past or far into the future."