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We moved towards a market area. I stopped by one vendor, seeing a florid, boisterous man. He was shouting and carrying on like there was a war that was about to come through, like he had got something lodged in his intestines, like... well, like he was too excited about something to talk in a normal tone of voice. Morte glanced around at the crowd, than at the speaker.
"Ooh, an auction! Maybe we can sell Annah here."
"I'd gut yeh if yeh had somethin' t' gut, skull." Annah replied.
"It must be love. It's love, right, boss?" Morte rolled his eyes at me.
The auctioneer tried to interest us in something, but not until he mentioned rooms did he get a response. I quickly agreed, and we went off to rooms nearby for the night.
I resolved to try reading Dak'kon's Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon again. I opened up the fourth circle, and began to read.
"*Know* that the Rising of the People
against the *illithid* was a thing built upon many ten-turnings
of labor. Many of the People were gathered and taught in secret
the ways of defeating their *illithid* masters. They were taught
to shield their minds, and use them as weapons. They were taught
the scripture of steel, and most importantly, they were given
the *knowing* of freedom."
"Some of the People learned the nature of freedom and took it into their hearts. The *knowing* gave them strength. Others feared freedom and kept silent. But there were those that *knew* freedom and *knew* slavery, and it was their choice that the People remain chained. One of these was Vilquar."
"Vilquar saw no *freedom* in the Rising, but opportunity. He saw that the *illithid* had spawned across many of the False Worlds. Their Worlds numbered so many that their vision was turned only outwards, to all they did not already touch. Vilquar's eye saw that much took place that the *illithid* did not see. To the Rising, the *illithid* were blinded."
"Vilquar came before his master, the *illithid* Zhijitaris, with the *knowing* of the Rising. Vilquar added to his chains and offered to be their eyes against the Rising. In exchange, Vilquar asked that he be rewarded for his service. The *illithid* agreed to his contract."
"At the bonding of the contract, a dark time occurred. Many were betrayals Vilquar committed and many were the People that the *illithids* fed upon to stem the Rising. It seemed that the Rising would die before it could occur, and the *illithid* were pleased with Vilquar's eye."
"It was near the end of this dark time when Zerthimon came to *know* Vilquar's treacheries. In *knowing* Vilquar's eye, Zerthimon forced the Rising to silence itself, so that Vilquar might think at last his treacheries had succeeded, and the Rising had fallen. He *knew* that Vilquar eye was filled only with the reward he had been promised. He would see what he wished to see."
"With greed beating in his heart, Vilquar came upon the *illithid* Zhijitaris and spoke to his master of his success. He said that the Rising had fallen, and the *illithids* were safe to turn their eyes outwards once more. He praised their wisdom in using Vilquar's eye, and he asked them for his reward."
"In his greed-blindness, Vilquar had forgotten the *knowing* of why the People had sought freedom. He had lost the *knowing* of what slavery meant. He had forgotten what his *illithid* masters saw when they looked upon him. And so Vilquar's betrayal of the People was ended with another betrayal. Vilquar came to *know* that when Vilquar's eye has nothing left to see, Vilquar's eye is useless."
"The *illithid* gave to Vilquar his reward, opening the cavity of his skull and devouring his brain. Vilquar's corpse was cast upon the Fields of Husks so its blood might water the poison-stemmed grasses."
The meaning behind the fourth circle seemed much clearer than it had before. I told Dak'kon of what I had read.
"When one chooses to see only what is before them, they see only a part of the whole. They are blind. And just as Vilquar was blinded by his promised reward, so were the *illithids* blinded to the true Rising. For when they heard Vilquar's words, they turned their sight outwards again, didn't they? And the Rising was free to strike?"
"*Know* that you speak truly. Vilquar's Eye blinded both Vilquar and the *illithids.* The tentacled ones thought the Rising to be no more. When the Rising occurred, the ground drank deep of *illithid* blood. So was victory born from treachery."
"It is a curious lesson. Why would it be part of the teachings of Zerthimon?" Dak'kon's blade bled into a dead, night-black, and his voice deepened - for a moment, I thought he was angry, but I was not so sure.
"There is much about the Way of Zerthimon and his path that is difficult to *know.*"
"Do *you* know why Vilquar's Eye is part of the Way of Zerthimon?"
"It is part of the telling of how our People came to *know* freedom. It lets us *know* that there are those, even among the People, who are not of the People. And that even in the greatest treachery, a greater *knowing* may be achieved."
I accepted that, and Dak'kon passed to me another githzerai 'spell.' He also unlocked the fifth circle of Zerthimon at my request.
I began to read the fifth circle.
"Zerthimon was the first to *know*
the way of freedom. Yet it was not he that first came to *know*
the way of rebellion."
"The *knowing* of rebellion came to the warrior-queen Gith, one of the People. She had served the *illithids* upon many of the False Worlds as a soldier, and she had come to *know* war and carried it in her heart. She had come to *know* how others might be organized to subjugate others. She *knew* the paths of power, and she *knew* the art of taking from the conquerors the weapons by which they could be defeated. Her mind was focused, and both her will and her blade were as one."
"The turning in which Zerthimon came to *know* Gith, Zerthimon ceased to *know* himself. Her words were as fires lit in the hearts of all who heard her. In hearing her words, he wished to *know* war. He *knew* not what afflicted him, but he *knew* he wished to join his blade to Gith. He wished to give his hate expression and share his pain with the *illithid.*"
"Gith was one of the People, but her *knowing* of herself was greater than any Zerthimon had ever encountered. She *knew* the ways of flesh, she *knew* the *illithids* and in *knowing* herself, she was to *know* how to defeat them in battle. The strength of her *knowing* was so great, that all those that walked her path came to *know* themselves."
"Gith was but one. Her strength was such that it caused others to *know* their strength. And Zerthimon laid his steel at her feet."
I told Dak'kon what I had learned.
"There is great strength in numbers, but there is great power in one, for the strength of the will of one may gather numbers to it. There is strength not only in *knowing* the self, but *knowing* how to bring it forth in others."
Dak'kon proceeded to unlock the sixth circle, so that I might study it. I began to read the sixth circle.
"Upon the Blasted Plains, Zerthimon
told Gith there cannot be two skies. In the wake of his words,
"Upon the Blasted Plains, the People had achieved victory over their *illithid* masters. They *knew* freedom."
"Yet before the green fires had died from the battlefield, Gith spoke of continuing the war. Many, still filled with the bloodlust in their hearts, agreed with her. She spoke of not merely defeating the *illithids,* but destroying all *illithids* across the Planes. After the *illithids* had been exterminated, they would bring war to all other races they encountered."
"In Gith's heart, fires raged. She lived in war, and in war, she *knew* herself. All that her eyes saw, she wanted to conquer."
"Zerthimon spoke the beginnings of that which was against Gith's will. He spoke that the People already *knew* freedom. Now they should *know* themselves again and mend the damage that had been done to the People. Behind his words were many other hearts of the People who were weary of the war against the *illithid.*"
"*Know* that Gith's heart was not Zerthimon's heart on this matter. She said that the war would continue. The *illithid* would be destroyed. Their flesh would be no more. Then the People would claim the False Worlds as their own. Gith told Zerthimon that they would be under the same sky in this matter. The words were like bared steel."
"From Zerthimon came the Pronouncement of Two Skies. In the wake of his words came war."
I told Dak'kon what I had come to *know.*
"I know that Zerthimon's devotion to the People was such that he was willing to protect them from themselves. He knew the *illithids* had come not to *know* themselves in their obsession with control and domination. So he chose to stop Gith before she carried the People to their deaths. There must be balance in all things, or else the self will not hold."
He twisted the circle of Zerthimon, but this time there were two plates with gith spells, not one. I switched my gaze from the plates he was holding to him.
"Dak'kon... is that second plate for you?"
Dak'kon fell silent. His blade had ceased shimmering, the film freezing upon its surface. He was staring at the second plate, paralyzed.
"Do *you* know the Sixth Circle?" Dak'kon looked up, but his coal-black eyes did not meet my gaze.
"*Know* there is nothing more I may teach you. You *know* the Way as the People *know* it, and it shall give you the direction by which you may *know* yourself."
"That's *not* what I asked. Do you *know* the Sixth Circle or not?" Dak'kon was silent for a moment, then spoke, his voice slow and careful.
"It has come to pass that I do not *know* the Sixth Circle of Zerthimon. Once, I *knew* it, but I *know* now I only saw the words." Dak'kon's eyes stared through me. "That is all. It is my path that I no longer *know* the Way of Zerthimon."
"Dak'kon... there is one other thing I would *know.* Why is Vilquar's Eye in the Circle of Zerthimon? It seems strange. It tells of how the People benefited from a treachery from their own. It seems... " Dak'kon's eyes flashed.
"I have told you it is part of the telling of how the People came to *know* freedom. Do you not listen?" His voice flattened, as if he was reciting a passage from memory. "It tells the People that even in the greatest treachery, a greater *knowing* may be achieved."
"It doesn't sound to me like you believe that. I think there's another reason Vilquar's Eye is in the Circle of Zerthimon. It is set there because of the Sixth Circle and the Pronouncement of Two Skies. It's there to justify Zerthimon's treachery to the People upon the Blasted Plains."
Dak'kon was silent, and his blade bled into a dead-black, teeth rippling along the edge.
"He divided the People upon the Blasted Plains, Dak'kon. He divided your race, when they were on the path of victory. I would *like* to believe that it was because he wished to save the People from themselves - but I don't think *you* believe that."
Dak'kon was silent for a moment, then he spoke, slowly. "I... do not *know* the Sixth Circle as it is *known* to others. I fear that the Third Circle, the Fourth Circle and the Sixth Circle are more closely linked than many *know.* It is in that *knowing* that I have lost myself."
"In the Third Circle, Zerthimon submerged his will to deceive the *illithids,* then in the Fourth Circle, it speaks of the benefits of *treachery.* Then in the Sixth Circle, Zerthimon divides his people before they exterminate the *illithids.* Do you think Zerthimon's words may not have been his own?"
"*Know* my words, and *know* the wound that lies upon my heart: I fear that when Zerthimon was upon the Pillars of Silence, he did not submerge his will. I fear his will was taken from him by the *illithids.* And when he spoke upon the Blasted Plains, it was their words he spoke. I fear that what he did was not for the People's sake, but for our former masters."
"It's possible, but *know* it doesn't necessarily mean that h..."
"Then *know* this and speak of it NO MORE." Dak'kon voice was like a knife. "*Know* that I shall never *know* the TRUTH. There is NO resolution to this matter, for I shall NEVER *know* Zerthimon's heart upon the Blasted Plains." His coal black eyes glared at the stone circle in his hand. "And so I do not *know* myself because of the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon."
I could find nothing to say. I was sorry to once again have
forced Dak'kon to reveal his inner anguish, and I did not know
what to do. I settled down to sleep, but lay long awake.
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