by Michæl W. Bard
©2009 Michæl W. Bard
-= Epilogue =-
The Oldster in the owlfeather cloak looked over the fire at the other centaur, Olcynther. He, too, was old, but age did not pour out of his eyes as it did out of the first one.
The cloaked centaur, Stephan, finally said, And thats the story. The end sounds kind of silly, doesnt it? But then I dont really understand it myself, any more. I cantI gave up the knowledge of the underlying laws of reality Id need to understand it.
The other centaur looked at him. Your story is interesting but Im not sure how much of it I can believe. He motioned up at the silver arch in the heavens that stretched from horizon to horizon. I take it that the humanity you spoke of created that before they grew into infinity?
Next the youth said, You claim to be the Stephan, the godlike creator of our race. If thats true, why the masquerade? Why disguise yourself as a mere mortal?
Because if I went among you as myself, youd all have obeyed me and fawned over me, and Id had enough of that. I wanted to see what you would do, what youd create, without a god looking over your shoulders.
There was silence for a time, as Stephan let the other centaur think. Then Olcynther asked, Why am I here? What is it you want of me?
To make you an offer.
An offer that needed you to spend four days telling your story and leading me away from my tribe?
Yes, the Oldster said, because you couldnt make an informed decision without the necessary background information.
And now I do?
For the most part, yes. Assume that Im Stephan, assume that the story is true. Given that the other mythic space/times were also opened, other races exist on the earthincluding humanity. I made a choice when I left: I made my body ageless. I wanted to be here no, its more that I felt an obligation to be here. To guide, to protect, to advise.
Is this obligation the only thing that keeps you here, then? Thats a harsh burden.
Thats much of it, certainly but not all. I changed the world to bring this about; I made our race that way it is; I made the choices. I could have known the results, but Id rather not learn that way. Thats the point, really; I wanted to learn, not just know.
The younger centaur nodded. Why tell me all this? Why not anybody else?
Olcynther, Im not infallible. I never was, not even when I knew everything. As Apollo told me, omniscience does not guarantee perfection. You still make choices; you just have more information to aid in making them.
Stephan waited for the other centaur to digest this information. Then Olcynther said, Youre trying to recruit me, arent you, and his voice was as solidly certain as granite.
I am, the Oldster replied. Im not the only adviser, you know; the first one I told the truth to was Phillipa. We still see each other. We marry for a generation or so, and then go our own ways. It keeps us from hating each other. There are more, not many. Together we provides continuity, a voice of wisdom, a watchman over the race as we grow and learn.
And you want to make me one of these? Why? How?
Why? Because you figured it out from just the hints I dropped! We can use minds like yours. As for the how, Olcynther, you forget that I created our race. I had infinite time to work out the details. I only let bits of future knowledge slip through to ensure that the race would not die out because of a mistake I made in the creation. I also put little things in the genetics. There is call it a potion, one only we Oldsters know of. If you drink a cup of it, you will become ageless. Not immortal, mind you; a sword or an arrow in the wrong place can still kill you. So can disease, but itll have to work harder. You just wont ever wear out.
What if I choose to live only my allotted time?
Stephan shrugged. Then we part. Youve heard a legend; if you tell others, nobody will believe you. Even if someone does, Ill just leave for a generation or three until I become legend again. Other Oldsters will join your tribe and watch it, offer advice in council. Stephan paused, and looked up into the sky.
Someday well go there. If you join us, you can go there, too, or you can later decide that your time is over and pass on to whatever lies beyond this mortal life. Stephan chuckled. And before you ask, thats another thing I made sure not to know. As for myself, Ill probably pass on some day, but I can wait for it.
Because Ive had enough of knowing, Olcynther. I want to learn what we can become. Ive seen how things run on the path taken by Western civilization, and I want to explore the universe in a different way. I want to learn and change. Someday Ill grow tired, and that will be time enough for me to die. Somedaybut not yet!
Olcynther would have asked more, but the Oldster silenced him with a gesture. I think Ive talked quite enough already. Now, you know what I want of you, and why. What do you say?
Without hesitation, the younger centaur said, I accept.