“Everyone is dying. Of course, in Pishtar, this is the way of the world.”
-Salvatar, Ctharu General
In the Caverns of Diamond Eye
Sergio rose from his pallet and selected one of the gray robes in the branch-woven wardrobe. After washing his face, beard, and hands, he left his cell and followed the smell of baking bread to the main hall.
All monks had the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fresh baked bread, porridge, and water tapped from the walls of the stockroom. The lack of taste to their food was supposed to keep minds clear for contemplation of the Eye.
Sergio took a place in the servant’s line as he entered the dining hall. He saw his friend Goli, the folds of his robe arranged in neat falls to keep up appearances, shifting from one foot to the other in front of him. Meditation was never on Goli’s mind.
His friend took the tray of bread and water. That left the tray of clay porridge bowls to Sergio. Could this morning get any better, he thought. Sergio set down the bowls of porridge in front of his brethren with a little more force than usual. Lost in thought, he finished his service duty and breakfast like a gray-robed automaton and strode towards the cavern of Diamond Eye.
Maybe contemplation on the Eye would help him deal with this news.
Goli had other plans.
“Sergio! Wait! You know the line is longest in the morning!”
“I need to see the Eye, Goli. If you wish to continue to fill my head with nonsense about the Khazad finding the sky, you’ll have to follow me there.” Sergio needed reassurance, and the heart of his faith seemed the best place to find it.
“Alright, I’ll go with you. But it isn’t nonsense, Sergio. The Council may release the proclamation today. We can only ignore the truth for so long.”
“Water comes from the roots, Goli, you know this. We tap them and it flows. What great mystery is there in discovering water? Even the Ecumbul agree that some exists.”
Sergio kept up his steady pace down the hallway, thrown on robe making small swishing sounds in the tight corridor.
“It pains me that you are too stubborn to see the great benefits of discovering a body of water beneath the Eye. Tamali die for water every day, in Khazad, Silandre, and Ctharu.”
Goli enjoyed lecturing. He spent more time teaching new monks than anyone Sergio knew.
“Be quiet for a minute, Goli, and let me enjoy my first glimpse of the Eye today.” Sergio never ceased to be amazed by this sight.
The floor of the cavern they entered gleamed a golden blue. The walls looked the same as any other cavern in Nieondred, but the Diamond Eye was the floor of this cavern and it was the most beautiful place in the world to a Monk. Peace of mind filled him, and he decided then that whatever was beyond that light, he wanted to know it. Sergio looked to the walls of the cavern, glowing blue and gold with reflections from the floor, and groaned. Goli was right, he thought. The line for the Axe was all the way around the cavern already, all one hundred spans of it. They would be lucky to have lunch.
“And this, my friend, is why you should wake up before the gong if you want to see the Eye in the morning. A fine stew.”
Goli didn’t leave though. With all his politics and classes, he hadn’t taken a turn at the Axe in a week or more, and would be given a solitary cell to consider his commitment to the Diamond Eye if the council realized his lack of duty.
“More time to prepare for our true calling, friend,” replied Sergio.
He was here everyday, but later. The line always happened in the mornings. After midday, most who would Dig that day were off to other things, or waiting on the side for another turn.
“With this news I think our calling might change. I wonder if the monks will survive it,” Goli said. The council must be worried about what will happen after we concede to the Khazadian truth, Sergio thought. What will happen to us if we find water, and not the sky?
He must have wondered aloud, because Goli replied, “Not even the council knows yet, Sergio, nor believe they will until we break through. If we ever break through.”
“It’s been five thousand years, Goli. We will break through, one day, and if not, the magic we’ve gained from the diamond shards is enough to study for another thousand or more. The Monks will survive this, as we always have. Some may leave for the Ctharu to join the fight, but most of us will stay, and more will come. The histories are full of this.”
“I forgot that you live in the library, Sergio. As one who lives in the present, it is nice to hear the opinions of one who lives in the past.”
“It has always seemed best to me to learn from the past rather than fumble blindly through the present. The monks will survive, Goli. And if it’s water instead of air we dig for, well, that’s almost better, is it not? You said so yourself.”
Sergio had enough of talking. He must work this out before it was his turn. The work always went better when his head was clear, the feeling of peace while being surrounded by the diamond greater. Goli never tired of talking, at least in Sergio’s experience, but he was good at judging moods. He left Sergio alone.
This quandary of the “sky” over Khazad was clouding Sergio’s mind, no matter what he told Goli to silence him. After twenty years of training and five being one with the Eye, it was hard for Sergio to imagine the Monks’ philosophies changing. He decided to join the Monks of Diamond Eye instead of the fight at Pishtar because he wanted to be in a world that didn’t change much.
Yet, Goli did make a good case for the work’s importance. He remembered the stress of tapping the roots in his native Ctharu, knowing they could lash out at any time. Sergio wondered what color the sky was, maybe blue, maybe something stranger. He would ask Goli, but that would start another debate, and looking up, he found the line had come a lot closer to the Dig.
Though the Khazad might win the race to the sky, the Monks of Diamond Eye had magic to preserve their place in the world. The power to make whole structures from a shard of diamond, as well as a longevity that rivaled all other Tamalian clans. The beards of the monks grew very long, from hours surrounded by the Eye and working to break through it. The shards and dust from the Dig were carefully gathered by the proctor and the monks waiting around the hole for their turn. All monks were instructed in how to use the nets, magical devices made with the diamond that attracted light to light.
After five thousand years, the hole was about four Tamali deep, reached by an ancient elevator system operated by the collectors. The proctor directed both the collection of diamond and the operation of the elevator, in a soft yet firm voice, reverberating in tune with the dig site below.
The morning proctor broke into Sergio’s thoughts.
“Please approach the edge of the Dig if you wish, but be respectful of the Digger’s solitude.”
“Ah, yes sir, please excuse,” Sergio replied, edging around to look into the Eye. Its smooth, clear surface was the floor of the whole cavern.
“It is almost your turn, monk. Please join the circle.” The proctor handed Sergio a net, then ushered him to his place.
Colors swirled in his mind, covered by a veil of blue. The dig site was a span on either side, wide enough for all but the heftiest of monks to maneuver.
“Your turn,” said the proctor, “Enter the elevator and take up the Axe. What is our purpose?”
“To break through the Eye,” replied Sergio, by wrote.
“Why were we called?”
“To see what is beyond the Eye.”
“Who called us?”
“She that has no name, who made the Eye.“
This line was misunderstood by most monks, but required none the less. The circle of collectors, the line, the ritual. Traben fell down into throws of prophecy, and intoned the liturgy in two voices. Sergio traced the path of myths, but Her name was sacrosanct, not to be named. The elevator stopped. He felt his body shudder, thoughts broken by the scape of rock against stone.
Sergio was surrounded by diamond walls. The blue beyond was brighter here, refracted off the Eye thousands of times. He felt encased in light. The Axe in his hands hummed in tune with it, and his heart felt at peace. He raised it up for his first strike, trying to be one with the Eye, one with the Axe, one with the hum. Sergio struck, hard and fast, the only way to make any progress at all, even with the ancient instrument of the Tamali. He paused with the Axe still in the diamond, feeling the answering vibration in his bones. He tried to pull it out, but the blade wouldn’t budge.
Stuck! That was impossible! The blade of the goddess could not be held or withstood, even by the roots themselves.
Looking down, Sergio saw cracks begin to spread out from the Axe of Kuitanina, spiderwebs infiltrating the center of the Eye, span by span. With a bit more force, he pulled the weapon out. Looking back down, he saw a trickle of water escape from where the point used to be.
“I guess the council was right,” he said to no one in particular, but the words were lost in the hum and the cracking of the Eye around him, building and building till it threatened to overload his body.
The floor of the shaft gave way, sucking Sergio down into the unknown blue beyond the Diamond Eye, shooting a geyser of backwash in his wake.
His brothers christened the cavern Wellspring, after they gathered to erect their own magic dome around the surging spring of water. The Axe of Kuitanina was lost to the waters beyond.
The clans of the Tamali mourned its loss, and the Courts of Silandre arraigned Sergio as a thief in absentia.
The Monks of Diamond Eye no longer assist the Tamali, and Sergio has never been found.