Book 4, Chapter 17 - The Tower of Aetorin

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City of Alloyis

"But I still don't understand how it would have happened the first time," Antonio was saying. "It seems like if Keldon has yet to be sent back in time, then you shouldn't have met him yet...several hundred years ago." He scratched his head, squinting over at Hawk as they walked through the city together. "Does that make sense?"

Hawk nodded. "It does, and there is nothing wrong with your logic, Antonio. However, the flow of time is much like a great river. It flows peacefully and calmly, and very predictably if left undisturbed. For seasons and years and centuries it will follow its allotted course from spring to sea, its path remaining consistent. But when disturbed by some catastrophic event such as an earthquake or a great flood, or some civilization building a dam to restrain its waters, it becomes bitter, vengeful. And when the opportunity comes, it takes out its vengeance and builds a new path, and no mortal is capable of restraining it."

"Are you saying when you disturb time magically, it no longer follows a straight path?" Arthur asked, walking just behind alongside Hans.

"Rivers do nae follow straight paths, laddie," the dwarf said. "And even peaceful rivers change their courses over time."

"Quite right, Hans," the mage said appreciatively. "But more often than not, the changes are subtle, and they take generations to realize. Most do not live long enough to see such things, but a careful study of old maps will show some differences. The long-lived races, the children of Nara and Morab especially, tend to notice these variations and how they repeat and form patterns. In rivers, in seasons, in the flow of tides and weather, even in the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. There is much wisdom in their perception of these things."

"Alright, I see that," Antonio said, "but back to Keldon. How...if..." he struggled to put it all together in his head.

"You are still trying to think of time as linear, Antonio," Hawk admonished. "It is not. Even when undisturbed. However in this case, as in some notable others, time has hit an obstacle and forked in two directions. Keldon does not yet know me because in his timeline he has not yet been sent back to meet me in my youth. In my timeline, I have already met him. There will come a time when the two timelines will converge, and the river of time will find its proper course, and yet Keldon and I will have vastly differing recollections from the divergence."

"Yes, but he hasn't gone back yet!" Antonio said, exasperated. "How can you have met him already if he hasn't gone back yet? It hasn't happened!"

Arthur laughed. "I'm glad you asked, Antonio. I don't entirely understand it either."

Hans spat loudly. "Mages, fiddling with time. It's nae wonder the world is broken."

"You are a font of wisdom this morning, my friend," Hawk agreed.

"What did ye call me?" Hans bristled.

"Friend," Hawk said.

The foursome passed into a narrow street, crowded with tall shopfronts built directly against each other, a slightly wider court formed at its end. To one side, a building only slightly taller than the rest sat rather nondescript, with a heavy set of double doors set deep within an arched alcove at street level, a few curtained windows on two floors above that, and a steeply-pitched roof. A large, circular window was set out just beneath the angle of its roofline, convex in shape and formed of numerous panes cut at angles to give it a distinctly gemstone-like quality, though it appeared dull and lightless within.

"That is the famous Tower of Aetorin?" Antonio asked, obviously struggling with disappointment.

"Yes. And no," Hawk said with a smile, stopping in the midst of the street. "Do not assume what your eyes see is always the true nature of a thing. The eyes are easily deceived."

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