Tarik took a long drag on his pipe and then blew a set of three perfectly concentric smoke rings. I’d seen him do it often, but had never mastered the trick and Deridean knows, I’d tried more times than I could count. Tarik says that it has to do with the shape of my tongue, but I don’t believe him. I think he cheats and uses magik.
The wizard patted his stomach. “That stew was delicious, Jerilyn. My compliments.”
“It’s easy to make,” I replied modestly. “Even you could make it, but thank Zerina, not me. It’s her recipe.” During the meal, we’d chatted about a number of topics, none too weighty. We tended to save the more esoteric conversations for after dinner. For some reason, serious discussion was easier after a few brandies and a full stomach, unless one of us ate too much and fell asleep. Tarik had spent more than one night in that chair.
Tarik inhaled deeply. The man certainly enjoyed his pipe weed! “Why don’t you pick this evening’s topic?”
“Well,” I hesitated, “I thought we might discuss Limbo. It’s been ages since we’ve touched on it.” I couldn’t help but smile at my weak pun, knowing that Tarik would jump at my suggestion.
Our talks covered a wide range of topics. Some, like those touching on arcane theory, played to Tarik’s well of knowledge and others ran more to my areas of expertise. Limbo, or the Greater Realm as it was known to those who comprehended the Balance, was one of those. Tarik hungered for knowledge of that which he could not reach.
Our debates were always lively, though the wizard was at a distinct disadvantage even when the subject was one of his choosing. Having relied on magik for ages to accomplish even the simplest task, Tarik was no skilled orator and his ability to influence by words alone was sorely lacking. I found it easy to trap him in a maze of logic, which frustrated him to no end.
Secretly, I realized I ought to savor my victories now, while I held the upper hand in our contests of intellectual might. Tarik was new to debate as a form of expression, but one did not live as long as he had without learning from mistakes. The more we debated, the more he improved. Soon I would not be able to take my verbal victories for granted.
In the Sangrar of old, Limbo was unknown; beyond the Girdle lay only the Void, where the Primals found the Flame of Creation and the Herald. When the Prophecies were fulfilled, the Girdle fell and the Herald took me into Limbo, which I knew only as the Void, and exposed me to the Greater Realm.
From him, I learned about the Balance and the Necessity, and that the Void was just one of Limbo’s infinite manifestations. As powerful as Tarik was, he never traveled beyond the Girdle’s confines before it fell, and in this new age, he was similarly constrained. He could not reach Limbo and that inadequacy left him eager to hear about my travels with the Ancient One. I’ve always thought that his inability to reach the Greater Realm was connected to the source of his power, but that’s a theory I’ve never proven or disproven.
Earlier, I told you that I’ll never know for certain why the Herald cursed me, but I think he did it to save my life. Tarik is right in one regard, the wonders I saw with the Herald were more than I could handle. Without the Herald’s curse, the knowledge might have torn my mind asunder.
I can hear the question in your thoughts. If that’s true, you’re thinking, then why didn’t the return of my memories cause harm? Once again, Tarik supplied the answer. My time as the chronicler has changed me. I’m no longer a mortal man, much as it pains me to admit. My experiences have transformed me into someone more than mortal, or less perhaps – that is a discussion Tarik and I will save for later – someone capable of attaining the Greater Realm. My mind is now strong enough to hold the forbidden knowledge acquired during my sojourn with the Herald.
Tarik always hungers for the full recounting of my journey beyond the pale. I’ll admit, to you but never to him, that I’ve intentionally spoon fed him tiny morsels, just to keep him coming back.
“Nonsense,” said Tarik. “There hasn’t been a new age since the Long Night. You may have lost a few millennia to the Herald’s curse, but that’s a far cry from an entirely new age.”
I laughed. “Tarik, my friend, don’t take me so literally. Now, do you want to hear what I have to say or not?”