And lo! The Saviour shall be sore afraid. And the people shall know him by his fear. For he shall be a solitary figure wandering the wasteland aftermath of the battle. He shall roam the chaos and destruction with wonderment and terror and bewilderment fixed upon his pale befreckled face. For the sight of the Seawyrm and the Sandwyrm shall be new unto him.
Falcon flicked a dozen more pages, skimming the text. More of the same.
He gave up in disgust and stepped away from the book.
It was an accurate account, as far as it went, of his time in Xandria. Only in overblown language as elaborate as the illustrations that bordered each page. And the writer had made far more of the protagonist than Falcon had ever made of himself.
“I’m nothing like that,” he told the Vizir, who stood hovering behind him like some hummingbird expectant of nectar. He’d be disappointed. “That’s the reason I came here. Because I’m not a damned bit like that.”
“Then you came here seeking change. A new path. A fresh chapter.”
“Yes. Something like that – but – ” Falcon waved at the book on the lectern as though a simple gesture might have the power to dismiss it from sight. No such luck. “Not like that. Nothing like it says in your damned bible. I’m no saviour. No hero.”
“None of us are. Until we are.”
“What? What kind of rubbish is that? Did you write this book? All this rot?”
“No, sir. I did not.” The Vizir hurried to the lectern to lay a protective hand on the open pages, as though covering the book’s ears against profanity and blasphemy. “This rot, as you call it, is one of the Great Prophesies Of Magracorus. The writings are more ancient than Xandria herself.”
“Wait, you’re saying some guy wrote this way back, however many centuries ago?”
“Millennia. It is impossible to say how long ago exactly.”
“But how could he possibly have foreseen – ?”
The Vizir shrugged. “Impossible to say. That is the nature of prophesy.”
Falcon wanted to kick over the lectern. If only the Vizir would budge out of the way. And the Prophesarium guards were still present, in any case. Impassive observers to Falcon’s general displeasure. They probably wouldn’t remain so passive if he expressed it the way he wanted.
“You don’t get it. Your prophet – yeah, maybe he saw stuff. Foresaw, whatever. But he didn’t see me. He didn’t see inside me.” Falcon laughed. “‘Named for a bird of prey.’ Sure. Falcon. Know where I got that from?”
The Vizir shook his head.
“Foul Ken they used to call me. Foul Ken Moskirk. Because of the smell. Never could do much about that. Moskirk with a ‘k’, by the way. It’s with a ‘q-u-e’ now. Sounded fancier in my head. Foul Ken. Useful moniker on the streets. They used to say they could smell me coming. But they said it with dread, you know. Never a joke when it was me coming to shake them down or administer a harsh lesson because they’d upset the boss. Defaulted on payments or stepped out of line some other way. The why didn’t matter. All that counted was what they were in for.”
He wandered back from memory lane, leaving more than a few bruised and battered bodies behind him on the cobbles. He met the Vizir’s distant smile. A smile from a foreign land and a past that wasn’t foreign enough.
“That, right there,” he said, “is a sketchy portrait of your precious Saviour. That’s the hero your people have all been waiting for.”
“None of us know what potential lies within us,” countered the Vizir. “Not with any certainty. You came to Xandria in search of something, my son. Something new inside yourself.”
“Kind of.” Falcon nodded. “But not really. I’m looking for a change, yeah. But on the outside. Just a chance to do something different. Yeah, to make amends some. But mainly just to move on, forget. Eventually. A job. That’s all I want. No grand redemption. And definitely – definitely – not fighting dragons.”
“I see.” The Vizir rose slowly from his protective stance over the book. Calm as a stagnant pond on a breezeless day.
“Do you?” said Falcon.
“Well, I can’t say I’m ecstatic about it, but it’s not as if you’re the first ever Saviour to disappoint.”
Falcon coughed. “Excuse me?”
“However, if it is a job you have come looking for, there I believe we may be able to help you.” He crossed the dais to his desk and plucked a scroll from among the charts and documents. “The work is quiet and not terribly challenging, but the Prophesarium is vast and I grow no younger. I could use an assistant.”
He held out the scroll.
“Here. Take this to the Seventh Archive.”
“The Seventh – ?”
The Vizir nodded and thrust the scroll forward, obliging Falcon to take it.
“Yes. The discards,” he said.
Prophesies that didn’t quite bear fruit.
And lo! thought Falcon. The ‘Saviour’ finally figured it out. Truth dawned. Let there be light.
The Prophesarium was a house of hopes. Some of them didn’t work out. A lot like lives really. Potential in every single one. People had advantages over prophesies, mind. Experience and hindsight. Falcon knew his potential, knew how far he could travel from his ‘Foul Ken’ past. And he was just about there. This would do.
He filed the scroll in one of the countless pigeonholes.
Then wandered back to the Vizir. Job done. Except there was another task to replace it: the Vizir immediately sent him off to fetch another scroll.
“I will transcribe its text into the Great Book. Recorded onto the leaves of pathyrus the prophesy will spread to the consciousness of the people of Xandria. Thus, one hope takes the place of another in the hearts of men and women.”
“Which one?” asked Falcon. And his gaze roamed the endless honeycomb of shelves and all the millions of prophesies.
“Any one you like,” said the Vizir.
And waved Falcon on his way.