The meal flap slid aside, screeching rust an all-too-familiar leitmotif for another day's bowl of beans.
"What's the weather going to be like today, old man?" asked the guard on the other side of the bars.
The old, frail man smiled, dirty purple robe flowing as he went for the beans, replying, "It's raining caterpillars."
The guard shook his head. "Whatever. Senile old bat's gift is broken." He turned and left the prisoner to his breakfast, making a mental note to convince the other guards to let him starve.
"Another nonsense answer," he told his commanding officer in the other room.
"What was it this time?" the officer asked him.
"Gods, he's not broken, he's making fools of us," the officer said, pounding his fist against the table in front of him, omelette jumping in surprise. "Yesterday it was 'a stormy stampede,' the day before 'a camel hurricane'. Tell me, what is his behavior like?"
The guard replied, "He was happy." His officer stood up forcefully, knocking his wooden chair back and toppling it. He drew his scimitar and rounded the corner, marching down the hall towards the cell. The guard followed hesitantly, keeping his distance as the commanding officer approached.
"These are the best beans I've had this week," the prisoner said.
"You mock us," the officer said. "Am I correct?"
The old man shook his head. "Not at all! They truly are delicious!"
"You know what I mean!" the officer spat, leveling his scimitar at the prisoner through the bars of the cell. "Your visions. 'Raining caterpillars,' was it?"
"That was the forecast," the prisoner insisted.
"What the hell does it mean, then?" the officer asked.
"For starters," the prisoner said, taking the spoon to his mouth. "You have company." The building shook at his words.
"Intruder!" echoed through the halls. There was the sound of a far-off scuffle. The guard at the end of the hallway turned towards the source of the noise and drew his sword, walking off towards the skirmish.
"Hey!" he cried, just out of the officer's sight. The officer heard a sound like vomiting, one he quickly identified as the cry of a camel soaring through the air and pinning the newly deceased guard to the wall. A tall, afro-bearing figure stepped into the hallway, looked down on the motionless camel and guard, and locked eyes with the captain before shooting a single inchworm at the guard's head from his fingertip.
"Who the hell are you?" asked the captain. There was a tremble in his voice.
"I'm the Faunamancer," replied the intruder. "I've come for the seer."
"Well you won't have him," said the captain. The Faunamancer leaned to the side, peaking over the captain's shoulder.
"Is that right? Mr. Seer, he says I won't have you," he said. "Is that true?"
"Not true at all, my friend!" the seer responded brightly.
"Well, you heard him, soldier," the Faunamancer said."Would you care to stand down? I did offer, usually I'm not so benevolent."
"He's a looney," said the captain. "He's wrong if he thinks you'll take him."
"You're the one willing to risk your life to imprison a man you think is a lunatic," the Faunamancer pointed out. "Have some sense now." The captain drops into battle stance.
"I don't do swordfights," said the Faunamancer.
"I don't do defeat," replied the captain.
"Oh man, I liked that one," the Faunamancer said. "How you just took what I said and just put it back at me, only changed a word. That's really intense. Can I use it?"
The captain said, "You'll never have the chance."
"Shame. Bye now," the Faunamancer said with a bow. He put his hands to his mouth and whistled. Twelve founds phased into being behind him. "Go get him." The hounds barred down the hallway lightning fast. While the captain did his best to fend them off, there were twelve of them and one of him, and he did not have an otherworldly haste about him. The Faunamancer called them off when the captain was in pieces, and they dissipated soundlessly.
With a slow stroll over to the body, the Faunamancer plucked the keys from the captain's belt. "I've come a long way for you, seer."
"I have looked forward to it," the seer said. "Truth be told, I've taunted them for days about your arrival." The Faunamancer pulled the door open.
"Can you walk? You look thin," the Faunamancer observed.
"I'll manage," the seer said. "Yes, I will have one, thank you." The Faunamancer paused.
oh, yeah, right." He produced a piece of chocolate from his pocket and began to lead the seer out of the building.
"I take it you would like me to repay you with a vision," the seer said.
The Faunamancer nodded. "You can do that, can't you?"
The seer replied, "Oh, of course I can. But I fear your expectations may not quite be exactly what you expect."
"Why do you say that?"
"My visions aren't the definitive future," the seer said. "My visions are a potential future. What I show you is the result of one particular thread of decisions you can follow. I cannot tell you what the decisions are, I cannot tell you when they will come, and I cannot tell you the alternatives."
"But you see flashes of the future all the time," the Faunamancer pointed out. He led the seer over some rubble and guard corpses.
"Yes, but I am afraid those arrive with some regularity, and outside my control," the seer said. "I have agency in providing people with visions, but it is still not in what they see. It is the nature of my relationship to the universe. It will tell me what I need to see and occasionally it will offer me a morsel should I ask for it, but I'm the scapel, not the physician."
The Faunamancer seemed to hesitate.
"You were looking forward to this meeting because you thought you would get your answers, but now you find that even if I show you what you might have hoped, you are not guaranteed to make the right decisions," the seer observed.
The Faunamancer nodded. "The world needs order. Your gift offers that. There's a shape to things and not everyone has to shoot blindly, but..."
"...but there's still free will," the seer finished with a smile. "The past is organized. The present is being sorted. The future is something different. There's a structure, but that structure is complicated. It's thousands of threads constantly branching off into thousands more, and the only way to have any idea of our trajectory is to braid the moments as they come. It's never been about following history's predetermined synthesis, Boris. People don't need to know the plan. They just need the courage and the eagerness to chase the future they see, fully aware it can be achieved." Boris nodded along to his words. "Observe."
The seer pressed his thumb to the Faunamancer's forehead and there was a submersion of the real like falling into swamp water. The Faunamancer saw himself, surrounded by crowds staring at him in awe, strolling down streets of gold in white robes. He was not alone. He saw other important figures gathered, though he found their faces blurred by the barriers of unwritten history. He saw gods. He stood among them. And though he could not see beyond the nameless city, there was prosperity. Perhaps there too could be peace.
And then he was back with the seer.
"You saw what you wanted to see, yes?" asked the seer.
"I was a god, standing among gods," the Faunamancer said.
The seer asked, "Are you certain?"
"I felt it in my chest," he replied. "There was more than one divine presence in that vision. It really is possible. And the city prospers under us! Why not the world?"
"Why not the world?" the seer repeated. "Do not forget what I told you. You don't need to know the plan. You just need to be courageous and eager to follow the thread you see."
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