The Fateful Well
Section I: Episode 16
November 2, 2014
But Galavar did know something. The particulars, the relance of his ambition, were vague, yet the ambition itself glared like the sun, and, beyond the particulars, beyond any such distractions, he knew he wanted to be great. He yearned to explore his potential, seek out pleasure and glory, and determine and discover a great many things. And he wanted to change the world for the better. He wanted to see all of it, learn all of it, and make the world great too. Greatness, to him, could not exist apart from multitude and mate. Only together could both the individual and the wider world flourish. So there was form to his ambition, if not yet a road to follow.
He hadn't lied to Javelin, but he could have put it more sincerely, and that was on his mind now as they walked together to the Fateful Well. As a pair they were alone, but as revelers they were surrounded by dozens of others who were also heading for the well. The revels themselves were over. The end of the fireworks marked the end of joviality on Dawn's Eve. Many went home and to bed afterward, or cleaned up their carts and dishes, or sought out otherwise private company, but for those who remained the terminus of the fireworks snuffed out the festive air, and an awestruck sobriety took hold. It was time to go forth and see God. And that meant going to the Fateful Well.
"Javelin, there's another thing I know about my desires for the future."
"What is that?"
"I don't think I can stay here."
This was a conviction he had grown into all his life, from learning history and philosophy, from witnessing sickness and malady firsthand, but most of all from growing into his own powers as a mate. Every year brought him greater understanding, greater responsibility, greater agency to carry out his will. There was so much he wanted to do, so much he could do, and it dazzled him. How extraordinary it felt, to be so strong in his main. Ieik alone could not possibly be the stage for his ambition.
"I'd like to see the world."
Her question puzzled him, and he considered it for a trice.
"Hah! Galavar, the world is no different from Ieik. Just bigger. Maybe the ground is a different color, or the air thicker. Maybe the laws are different. But people are the same everywhere. Wouldn't you agree?"
"I would agree with that, but…"
"There's just more to it."
"How? There's so much to learn about the people all around you. Why deny them in favor of foreigners? You'll never find more in common than with those who share your stars."
Galavar kept his ambition to himself, and always had, over the years as these ideas had begun to coalesce in his mind. But Javelin had just a little while ago confessed one of her own tender desires, and perhaps he could trust in her enough to do the same now.
He said, "Just because they're far away or I have less in common with them doesn't…that doesn't change anything. Misery is no foreigner to the Village of Sourros, and it's worse beyond the Sheer. I think those who know better should strive to make the world better, and people beyond Ieik need even more help than we do here."
That much, at least, was a sentiment no one would dispute. Sure enough, Javelin offered no resistance to the premise. But she objected anyway.
"There's enough work to do in Ieik for a lifetime." She turned her head toward him and smiled. "I'm looking forward to it."
And, again, he could only agree with her. She didn't realize, not yet, what he was really trying to say.
In the tradition of the Ieikili, what Galavar wanted was a way of life called Keda Jayaj, and it was a profound taboo. Personal ambition was regarded as inherently ulterior, and that was why Galavar concealed his own so closely. People were encouraged to strike it from themselves, in favor of peaceful coexistence and nobler pursuits than glory. In Ieik only the practical ambitions were acknowledged legitimate. Galavar had always found that to be hypocritical and narrow-minded, but he knew well enough not to go making a bad image for himself. In this moment, though, he decided to trust Javelin.
"We could do so much more," said he. "I'm bigger than this place. So are you."
She looked at him, and he was prepared for a negative reaction, but her face was written in desire.
"You have a far vision. It's no wonder Sourros spoke to you. I wish he'd had something to say to me, too."
"I'm sure he was speaking to you as much as to me and Ornithate. He was speaking to everyone. And maybe he'll have more to say at the Fateful Well. We're there."
Sure enough, they were. It was no water well, but a great amphitheater carved into the rock, looking down upon a deep bore, and, beyond, a shimmering point of light. All of Ieik could congregate at these bleached terraces of stone, and the very most important assemblies in Ieik were held not at the White Tables but here in this place, before the presence of God.
Most years, two out of every three on the average, Sourros would speak to those who assembled here at the conclusion of Dawn's Eve. There was no discernible rhyme or reason to why he appeared some years and not others, nor was there anything predictable about what he would say. Opinion was divided tonight as to whether his earlier words meant it was more likely, or less, that Sourros would speak again here in his customary manner. The prevailing view was that he wouldn't speak again, since it was rare for Sourros to speak twice in such a short span of time. But those who held the view that he would speak again at the Well were ardent about it.
The Ieikili did not reject ardor, any more than ambition itself. They didn't reject personal worth, or self-enrichment. Yet, personal ambition, the desire for greatness, that was one mindset that the ways of the people of the Village of Sourros wouldn't countenance. It led to conflict, said the teachers. It led to waste, and loss. And it led to despotism, not the enlightened autocracy of the Empire but the tyranny of the Derishean Kingdoms. Galavar didn't see it that way. Perhaps those of weak character might show their inferiority in the crucible of power…
But what of the worthy?
The both of them wanted to sit down in the front, so they walked all the way down, and took their seats there. The torchfires in the amphitheater burned blue and dimly, only enough to see one's footing by. It was dark, and the murmurs of quiet conversation were all around.
"Do you think Sourros will speak?" he asked.
"I think he already said what he wanted to say. If it were me, I wouldn't."
And Javelin was right. They sat there for an hour, and then another, sharing stories and jokes and dreams, until finally, among the few mates left waiting, the cold and late hour drove them home.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!