Land of Lore (d)

The metronome of shoes on steps echo throughout the marble tower as a young man ascends his way to the pinnacle.  His violet robes shimmer even in the dim light of the thin windows; the color would challenge even the richest of kings’ raiments.  Beneath a golden head of hair is a young face, full of knowledge and charisma.  He is a student, the best of the best’s best, and it is an honor like no other to ascend the hallowed steps which he now does.

The steps end as he enters a vast room beneath the roof of the tower.  All around the walls span wide windows, peppered with all manner of telescopes pointing in every direction.  Where there are walls, parchments are hung, obscuring every square inch of stone and displaying diagrams, charts, and lengthy lists.  The room itself is a Spartan one:  the most minimal of living amenities are huddled in an alcove, a handful of tables house even more maps and charts, and nothing else, save a curious alter in the center.  It is a wide circular platform at least a dozen feet in diameter, made of God-knows-what, and polished to such a mirror shine that it seems to amplify the light it takes in.  Stationed near and above it are other mirrors and lenses of a seemingly similar material, which to the bright student’s eyes are designed to take an image from one of the telescopes and project it clearly onto the alter.

The student bows to the only other inhabitant of the room, an old man with a magnificent white beard, garbed in the same violet robes as himself, though his are faded and frayed with age.  The old man stands tall for one so advanced in years as he, and the young one believes at a first assessment that he looks extremely melancholic.

“Walk to the windows,” the old man says enigmatically, motioning with a wrinkled hand.  “Look down on the world below, and tell me what you see.”

The young one does as commanded, and places his hands upon the stone sill as he cranes his neck into the open air.  Only now do he truly realize how immensely tall the tower is, even unnaturally so; a thin unbroken column stretching upwards for thousands of feet, yet the ravages of wind and rain and dust have made no dent upon it.  For quite a spell, he reels at the mere realization of how alone he feels, so far above the world below that people are invisible and structures are a blur.

He circles each opening in turn, surveying the vast continent from shore to shore.  The rocky mountains to the north, the icy mountains to the south and the jungles around them and the deserts around them.  The great cities which stand as beacons to their citizens, whatever creed they may follow.

Seeking to impress the old man, the student gives an answer more than one of simple sight.  “I see here to the north a state that is good, and next to it a state that is allied with good.  To the south I see a state that is evil, and next to it a state that is allied with evil.  And in the middle I see an untamed wilderness full of monsters and danger.  On the edges I see neutral states, allied with no one.  And beyond that a vast ocean, and beyond that shadowy states whose alliances are uncertain.

“The evil state makes war against the good state constantly, and the allies of both rally to their defenses.  The neutral states do not involve themselves, unless they are forcibly involved.  The wilderness is a danger to all, at all times.  None can see the shadowy states well enough to know what it is that they do or do not do.”

Folding his hands behind his back, the old man nods, though his response is oblique.  “As a future Assessor, you will see many things.  You will learn to see many more things that you do not see now.  You will learn what it means to see the things which you see, and you will learn what the things you see mean.

“Within this tower,” he continues, walking to a telescope and readjusting its angle, “The entire continent can be seen, both near and far, through diligent use of these lenses.  Nothing can be obscured from an Assessor:  not by distance, nor walls, nor dark of night, nor mystic craft of any kind.  It is not a privilege to be taken lightly, for neither is it given lightly.  But know that what is done up here is only to see.  An Assessor may have an opinion, but he has no side.  He may judge, but he may not pass judgment.  He may offer council to those who seek it, but he may not seek those whom he wishes to council.  An Assessor sees, but does not act upon what he sees.  This is the law; this is the price.”

{Finally beginning to prose this thing up.}

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