Wednesday, July 26, 2006

vignette: quisling

(I'm recasting this as a full story...soon.)

Tenet paused at the ridge, licked the dry dust from her lips and looked at the small settlement that clung to the side of the mountain in the distance. Behind her, the uneven path was an unending brown, broken only by the heavy footprints of her mule.

“Well, Alister,” she said to her mule, “let us hope that this one is better than the last.” She tugged at the reins and squinted her eyes, looking for the best way down. “Though I doubt it.”

As she neared the town, Tenet briefly considered passing it completely. The few houses that she could see looked tired and worn down, as if abandoned by the hope of better days. A few fields were marked by erratic stone fences, with only small clusters of greenery managing to break free from the brutal earth’s embrace.

At a nearby well, a man and a woman watched her approach.

“Stranger,” the man in rough homespun nodded in her direction. “Are you passing through?”

“My name is Tenet, good sir,” she replied, offering a smile. “And I will pass through if afforded no opportunity for gainful employment.”

“What?” the man scowled.

“She’s looking for work,” the thin woman said, scratching at a sore on the side of her neck. “Paying work.”

“Do we look coin-made to you, stranger?” the man said, tightening his grip on a long piece of wood.

“A few coppers, good sir, on a regular basis,” Tenet said, extending her hands palm outward. “Perhaps there is something I can do for you or this place.”

“There’s nothing for you here,” the woman replied. “Fortune left us years ago, along with the weather.”

“I think I can work with the weather,” Tenet told her.

“Truly?” the woman’s eyes widened. “Are you a Weatherworker?”

“Not exactly,” Tenet answered. “But I am a Craftsman.”

“If you are Crafted,” the man said, a little fear edging his voice, “what is your Craft, if I may?”

“I am a Quisling,” Tenet said simply.

The man and the woman exchanged a look.

“Forgive our ignorance,” the man said, “but we have never heard of that Craft before, have we, Maery?”

“No,” Maery said, shaking her head. “Can you show us what you do?”

“Stay right there, Alister,” Tenet told her mule, pointing to a precise spot on the dry ground. She walked some distance away from the well and faced the man and woman who watched her every motion with distrustful eyes.

Tenet considered the environment and sought to encompass the nature of the everything in her immediate vicinity. When she closed her eyes, her Craft opened up and showed her the pattern of things: the heavy lines of climate interlaced with overlaying concentric circles of heat; the solid granulated outlines of the ground and earth; the folded dimensions of the receding water in the well; the harsh strokes of the woman Maery’s suspicions and the immutable texture of the man’s frustration.

As Tenet’s understanding of the status quo increased, her Craft began to present opportunities to betray the established parameters, giving her potential openings to create unexpected change, identifying weak areas that could be subjected to traitorous incidents.

When she opened her eyes, she knew what to do.

“Good sir, good lady Maery,” she called out to the spectators. “The rule of drought is the law in this place. But it need not always be so.”

Tenet smiled as she engaged the spark of Craft within her, selecting a weak point in the pattern of dryness and heat, slicing her mind through the layers of lines, sequences and strokes. Inside, she inserted a memory of rain and imbued it with all the desire she could muster. This wasn’t very difficult because she did want rain, had wanted it for days; she felt her need wash over her and into the pattern, invisible rays of persuasion emanating from her. Above her, dark clouds quickly gathered and grew heavy with water, as moisture betrayed the rule of drought and rebelled against the nature of things.

When rain began to fall in thick and weighty drops, Tenet opened her eyes. The man and the woman Maery had their arms extended to the sky, their faces raised up, mouths open to the welcome precipitation.

Tenet walked to her mule Alister, who stood as mutely as usual.

“I think I got the job,” she whispered into his big ear.

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