Chapter Five

MELKAZ

Seeing the Tear in the sky had changed Melkaz. For a time these changes worried him, keeping him awake at night. But as time went by he became more accustomed to this new way of thinking.

The village, once the center of everything he loved, was no longer of interest, neither were the inane activities of his fellow humans.

His obsession with the Tear in the Sky had him convinced that he was the most important of the sons of men. After all, wasn’t he the one who had discovered it? And hadn’t he seen wonders and heard words that no other had? As his infatuation with the Tear grew, so did his suspicion of the Book of Woade, how could anyone trust a book that sought to hide such wonders from the eyes and ears of men?

As the weeks went by, Melkaz thought he noticed a subtle change in the way the other villagers were treating him. At first, it was the way they seemed to look at him. Next, even lifelong friends appeared to be avoiding Melkaz. The clincher was when he overheard a council was being held that he had no knowledge of. As a scholar of the Book of Woade, Melkaz was part of every council. In his paranoid thinking, this could only mean one thing, the children of men had turned against him and were plotting to keep him from his prize. On the night of the council, Melkaz packed his bag and fled.

He headed directly toward the Tear; in his heart, he believed it was calling him. But as the leagues lengthened between him and the village, his thoughts became a little more lucid and he went back to his plan.

While at the village, Melkaz had come up with a scheme that would allow him to reach the tear in the sky, and he would need to visit the world of the tribes to do so. In those days the access between the worlds was still open, so he made his way to the closest gate, which was a mere half day’s journey by foot.

Paranoid of pursuit, Melkaz made great haste and arrived at the gate just before daybreak. As always, the large stone gates were open. Each of the gates was richly decorated with scenes from the worlds they linked. As a scholar, Melkaz would usually have spent time interpreting them, as was the custom of all scholars, but without giving them so much as a glance he leaped between them into their star speckled void.

Time and falling are not a healthy mix, so in the void, they are separated. Scholars frequently discussed this anomaly with great enthusiasm, delighting in the many and varied theories of how it was done.

The instant Melkaz landed on his back in the world of the tribes was precisely the same moment he left the world of men. He was eager to get on with his journey, yet he knew if he didn’t eat and drink his body would hinder him, delaying his destiny.

Taking a piece of cheese from his bag he cut a slice that he judged big enough to sustain him until he got to the Gnarlish tree of the Stovall Kern. While he chewed, his mind was leagues away, plotting and scheming on how best to get the Stovall Kern to aid him in his mission. The Stovall, like all Kern, were great lovers of the Book of Woade, and if they got wind of his pursuit of the Tear in the Sky, his plans would be thwarted.

Melkaz had hatched a plan whereby he could use the Book of Woade to deceive the Kern. Deviousness was not only new to Melkaz, but he was also the very first human to anticipate using it. He disliked the way it made him feel, but not enough to turn his back on his goal.

Brushing the crumbs from his beard, Melkaz packed his bag and resumed his journey. The distance from the gates of Alcor to the Gnarl of the Stovall was eight hours’ walk; Melkaz could do it in five if he ran.

Jogging through the plains of Alcor his mind drifted back to his discovery of the Tear and all its wonders. Finding it had seemed serendipitous, as after countless days searching he’d almost lost heart and was ready to return to his village. On the very last night, while he lay under the blanket of the heavens, he spotted something he had never seen before. Directly above him was a large gash in the start speckled blackness. From it a cold, clear light spilled, looking like a celestial waterfall. As he lay there mesmerised, it seemed to draw closer and closer until he felt he could almost reach up and touch it.

Behind the light, he saw something moving. At first, he thought it was just his mind playing tricks on him, but as he studied the Tear, he became more sure it was real. Whatever it was, it was incredibly dark and seemed to be pacing from one end of the Tear to the other. As Melkaz watched, the shadowy figure paced to the middle of the Tear and stopped. With a start, Melkaz sensed it was staring right back at him.

He leaped to his feet, afraid. “Silly fool,” Melkaz said aloud to himself. “It’s nothing to be scared of.” Yet deep down he wasn’t quite so sure.

Melkaz rekindled his fire and spent the rest of the night in its warmth. Occasionally, he peeked up at the Tear, but the light from his fire had dulled his night vision. As the evening wore on, he made the decision to return to his village on the morrow and tell the others of what he had seen. Just before daybreak, he fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake until late afternoon. Both the good sleep and bright sunlight had banished his fears from the night before. ‘Well,’ he thought, ‘there’s no point in heading back this late in the afternoon, I’ll have one last look, and then I will start my journey early in the morning.’

When night made the Tear visible, Melkaz nervously studied it. Like the night before it moved closer and closer, until it dominated the moonless sky. The white light was more intense than it had been the night before, spilling its icy shards into the inky blackness of the sky. This time, however, there was no shadowy figure, and Melkaz began to wonder if he had merely imagined it.

As the night wore on so did the enchantment of the Tear in the Sky. By midnight, Melkaz was convinced nothing evil could dwell in such a beautiful place. As if to confirm his thoughts, light of every conceivable colour dripped from the Tear, falling towards the earth in a light show more spectacular than anything he had ever seen. But even the amazing beauty of the lights failed to compete with the incredible sounds that emanated from its midst. At first, they were indistinct, but gradually they became clearer until he could distinctly hear a choir, composed of countless thousands of perfect voices. Though he didn’t understand the words, the singing was so beautiful it reduced him to tears.

The night sped by much too quickly, and to Melkaz’s great disappointment the sun was soon rising, fading the Tear and silencing the choir. As the sun’s rays warmed the earth, he decided that he would stay just one more night, promising himself that he would return to the village after that.

Even though he was exhausted, he found sleep difficult. Eventually, it came, filling his dreams with visions and raptures.

Melkaz woke with a start, afraid that he had wasted some of the night. To his relief dusk was only just beginning to dull the horizon. He had a terribly dry mouth and a blazing headache as he had not had so much as a sip of water for the last 24 hours. Absently fossicking around in his pack, he located a leather water bladder, the contents of which he drained. His mind was so focused on the Tear in the Sky that thirst had become nothing more than an unwanted distraction as had his interest in food.

That night the Tear was more vivid and the choir more beautiful than ever. As he lay entranced by their stunning perfection, he heard someone speaking. It was a voice of utter perfection: and to his great joy, he realised it was speaking directly to him.

The voice spoke of the wonders of paradise and its inhabitants’ longing for Melkaz to join them. That was the night Melkaz began to become a despiser of the Book of Woade and a loather of the world of men. 

Melkaz spent 11 more nights drinking in the wonders of the tear. During that time he ate nothing and was skin and bone when he finally arrived back at his village.

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