Order of Four: Part Ten
So he had lied to me. Of course. I cursed my foolishness for having trusted a word he said to me, and I tried to understand what his motivation had been in helping me at all. But try as I might, I could find no answer. Finally it occurred to me: Carlisle had wanted to help me because, so long as the Order of Four lacked its Conjurer, the diamond piece would remain in his possession. Why it meant so much to him, I had no idea. He seemed like someone who would be loath to part with his belongings; perhaps that was the beginning and end of it.
"I don't know how to open a portal," I said hopelessly.
This time it was the Seer who answered me in his hissing voice. "Your power comes from the diamond. All of it. Ask its aid, and you will find that you do know." Just as I was wondering whether to point out how unsatisfactory this explanation was, the Hissi pressed a dark grey coat into my hands. "Whether you like it or not, and for however short a period of time, you are one of the Order. You will look like one."
I put the coat on, marveling somewhat reluctantly at its fine tailoring, and the delicate silver threading on the sleeves. It was certainly far more magnificent than anything I had ever worn, and with my black boots I thought it looked quite well. But I had more pressing things to think about than the cut of my coat. Hesitantly I moved toward the enormous glowing diamond, feeling its electric power as I drew near.
I gained no instant understanding; the feeling was not so clear as that. But there was a feeling, a strange connection between us, and a sensation that I was reaching a part of my mind I had never reached before. I felt, too, an almost irresistible compulsion to touch the massive gem. In spite of myself I stepped forward, reaching out for it.
A hand came down gently but firmly on my wrist. Jerked out of my reverie, I turned to see the Hissi. "I would advise that you wait," he told me. "The diamond will have less sympathy for someone who does not share its cause."
Even through my dread of what was going to happen, I was annoyed at this – at the fact that he should presume to advise me, and perhaps even more so at the fact that I had been taken in, even for a moment, by the diamond's power. "As opposed to someone who killed my mother," I retorted angrily.
"That was, perhaps, ill done," he agreed gently. "But you see, Ilyis thinks in larger terms than you or I. She did what she thought had to be done; in order to save thousands, she was willing to sacrifice one."
It sounded so much better that way. So much better, if it had been anyone but my mother.
The Seer retreated to a seat in the dark corner of the cave, a sort of rocky bench carved out of the wall, so roughly that it looked almost natural. He beckoned to me to follow; I did. "How much injustice have you known, Felix Blakesley? How many lives have you seen wasted, squandered in the dark tenements of Neopia Central for lack of a chance at anything better? How many times have you wished that you could change something – anything – everything – to bring a little peace and honor to this world?"
I could hear the conviction in his words, and I felt myself swayed by the truth of what he said. But you created the injustice, I thought. You and your Order of Four are the ones who destroyed everything I ever cared about. How could they fight for something they so flagrantly failed to practice? All the same...
"I know what you are thinking," he continued with a wry smile. "But you must understand that we are operating in an unjust world. One day, when we are able to set the rules ourselves, we will not have to resort to such measures. You must understand, Felix. Your father did this Order a great wrong, and in doing so deprived the world of nearly twenty years of peace. We had to do what we could to restore the balance."
"And now you mean to kill me."
The Seer hesitated. "I hope not. Believe what you will, we find no joy in killing. Not our Leader, not I, not even our Sword. If there is any safe way to transfer your power to one of our chosen without harming you, we will take it eagerly."
I was silent.
"The path of the Order is never easy, I am afraid. Not for any of us. We are allowed no friends, or family; our entire lives are devoted to the diamond. Every one of us has given up everything to be part of the Four."
"Well," I replied sardonically, "at least it was your choice to make."
His smile was sad now. "If it had been, I might never have made it. My choice was made for me. I had a family once, a lovely young wife and son. They were killed in the Darigan wars. I will not lie to you, Felix. If the Darigan soldiers had told me that my family was gone because they needed to be sacrificed for the good of Neopia, I would not have believed them, nor been won over by their cause. I cannot blame you."
Somehow his words troubled me. Countless times in my dreams and in my waking imagination I had encountered the ones who had hunted me, but they were always shadowy figures, unambiguously evil, whose sole motivation was to torment me cruelly. How could a man who seemed so empathetic – so kind – be part of something so terrible? How was it that he believed in the Order of Four, and I could not? One of us was very, very wrong, but I could not say which.
"Come," he said, seeing my distress, "think of it no more. I will teach you the words of transfer."
Yes, I thought, but under what circumstances will I be using them? I was faced once again with the stark possibility that these words would be the last I ever spoke.
"They are simple," continued the Seer. "But you must remember them exactly. Rehearse them, do not let them leave your mind."
I could see no point in protesting, so I nodded.
"Very well then. This is what you will say: I, Felix Blakesley, by the power of the Order and the Diamond from which it is drawn, do hereby bequeath my role as Conjurer to..." He broke off for a moment. "Well, to whatever name we give you. We are not finished yet with the selection process."
I couldn't help but wonder who would voluntarily join the Order of Four; still, I was more than pleased to relinquish my role to them if only I was allowed to remain alive in doing so. In my head I repeated the words, thankful for the endless reading and memorization of my childhood. For better or for worse, there was no sense in forgetting them.
Suddenly I recollected what my real purpose had been in coming over here. "I still don't know how to open a portal," I said.
"Direct your attention to the diamond," he told me. "Feel it. Let it breathe its life through you. And then concentrate on the air in front of you, but realize that it is more than air – it is space and time, and you are opening a hole in it."
Reluctant as I was to make any connection with the diamond, I did as he instructed. I could feel it pulsating, and I recognized its strange electric tingle from the feeling I had once received from the Sword's touch. I could almost understand what the Seer was saying, somewhere near the corners of my mind. But the understanding was like peripheral vision; just when I thought I might be able to seize it, it disappeared, always a little beyond my reach.
"Think about the one you just went through," he urged. "Remember how it felt."
I did think about it. I focused on the space in front of me, and tried to recreate the feeling, but to my frustration it would not come. And then – to my immense surprise – it did. Suddenly understanding simply came, the way it sometimes does, in a rush. I didn't even need to think about where the portal was going; somehow I knew. I could feel every place I had ever been, right there at my fingertips, and for just a moment I felt that the power of the Order would be worth something.
My reverie was interrupted by Ilyis, who had approached and who now addressed the Seer. "Can he successfully open a portal?"
"I believe so, my Leader. Yes."
Ilyis's blank dark eyes flicked over me. "Have you taught him the words of transfer?"
"Indeed I have."
"Good." Her words hit me like arrowheads as she spoke in the voice of command. "You will repeat them correctly when it is time for the transfer."
And there, I thought, went any chance of somehow sabotaging the process by refusing to cooperate. Whoever had designed this Order had done it well – with the sole exception of the Leader, it was impossible for any member to throw a wrench in the works. Except that it seemed my father had once found a way – whoever he was, and whatever might have been his motivations.
"Then we are ready," she announced. "Conjurer, open a portal to Carlisle's manor."
So I did.
To be continued...