“Is it better to endure a demon-haunted world or a world devoid of all magic? Sometimes knowing one thing excludes knowing many things besides.”

Kelmak the Wild

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“Efface that once celebrated blemish then be on your way, quick and quiet. Here is recompense matching the king’s pleasure. Have a care with your ladder. The tiles are polished to the point of becoming treacherous.”

 

The instructions, the warning, the overtone of censure, whispered around the weaver’s ears even after he had been left alone. He brushed away dust with his fingers and set to work with a ripper, looking back to a time when he was much younger and lighter on the swaying ladder.

In his youth he had completed the final stitches in the brocade border of the throne room tapestry and expected a bright future in the king’s favour. He had succeeded in a commission to surround the Lual throne from floor to ceiling with its historical battles, pennant draped castles and besieged fortifications crowded with courageous knights imbrued in glorious blood.

 

But now history offended, in the slightest detail. A slim silver capsule rocketed at the head of a long, fiery trajectory sewn into a concatenation of astrological icons. After many wars, when the crown could at last claim the rampant devils had been all but vanquished, it was not the voracious monsters and tortured figures in the tapestry they effaced but this single cryptic reference, an omen of the end times.

 

Imagine the master weaver about to pick out the unwanted thread. While he regarded the event he himself had sewn as a younger man, ambitious to serve his liege, eager to show the mastery of his craft, delighted by the historical conflict he was appointed to portray, whatever ran through his mind, his aged face showed little now except stoic detachment. Marvelled at during the battle by all, even astonishing the king, the bright dart burning so high aloft belittled the war-torn lands below. It was only a detail, close to the selvedge and not even the size of a hand, but it made the realm’s epic struggle to suppress the uproarious denizens of the underworld seem a local squabble in the mud while elsewhere an unfamiliar people pursued a loftier heavenly destiny.

The weaver finished undoing his work, declaring it done with a shake of his head. After he had descended his ladder, while he caught his breath due to his age, he inspected the results from the floor. In the making the tapestry had required painstaking labour. He had often despaired to finish, but the masterpiece had generated work for him all over Lual, one royal appointment opening the coffers of every noble under the crown. He had not seen it since, making it fresh to his eyes after so long.

An observant courtier, should they look up, might spot the absent feature where a lack of fading and dust produced a silhouette of the piece the weaver tucked into his satchel as he departed, folded in a white cloth. Of all the warring figures, it was not only the king, clad in bright armour, his helm open to show his goodly visage, who looked upward at the now empty spot on the edge of the sky but also the demon overlord Tseudon, whose upturned craven eyes expressed a dread and loss uncharacteristic in the mightiest of the dark few.

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