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March 2008

March 2008 -- Crystals

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  • Behind the Art:
    Working with Your Reference Photos
  • Wombat Droppings:
    You Wanna Put My Art... Where?
  • EMG News:
    Marching On...
  • Myths and Symbols:
    A Harmonic Connection of Body and Soul
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Change Over Time
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Richard M. Powers, February 24, 1921 – March 9, 1996

    Features

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  • Tutorial: Extracting Images in Photoshop

    Fiction

  • Fiction: Pure
  • Poem: Crystal Stories
  • Fiction: Eye of the Beholder

    Comics

  • Tomb of the King: The Map, Pt 2
  • Falheria: Crystals


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  • Eye of the Beholder
    by Shannon Wolff

    Illieanna, chief caretaker to the sacred crystal, spoke not a word and surveyed the temple in silence. Everything was as it should be. The ornate tapestries had been pulled back to let in the morning light, the offering plates were polished and set out for the day’s use, the slate of the temple floor had been swept clean. One caretaker had even thought to start the incense burning. By all appearances, the temple was ready to receive visitors, pilgrims seeking answers from the sacred crystal, the Eye of the Beholder. Yet... something was wrong.

    Illieanna could feel it as she allowed her feet to guide her to the grotesque statue holding the sacred crystal. Yes, something was definitely amiss. She could hear it in the wind whistling through the corridor leading from the outside world to the statue at the temple’s heart. She could taste it on the scented smoke rising from the incense. Her very bones ached with the feeling of absolute certainly that something was very, very wrong.

    Yet, nothing was wrong. She could feel that as well, in conflicting contrast. Everything within the temple walls was exactly as it should be, therefore, nothing was wrong, despite all Illieanna’s instincts to the contrary.

    But instincts honed over a lifetime shouldn’t be ignored.

    Now just as confused and curious as the hundreds of pilgrims who would soon set upon the temple like an invading army, Illieanna gazed into the Eye of the Beholder, a question in her heart.

    “I see,” Illieanna muttered as she looked away from the glorious crystal in the clutches of the hideous stature. “If that is how it is to be.”

    “Mistress,” a caretaker mumbled in humility as he approached with his eyes to the floor. “The pilgrims are waiting, many since well before dawn.”

    “Then we had best let them in, Consarna.” Illieanna smiled and tilted her subordinate’s chin so it was level with the floor. “By all means, let them in.”

    ~~*~~

    Jentanno cursed under his breath as he waited in the merciless mid-afternoon heat. He couldn’t believe this. People journeyed from all over the kingdom just to look at a pretty rock. Some of the travelers making up the sea of people he now found himself all but drowning in had come from beyond the outermost territories.

    Amazing how far people would go for answers they didn’t want. Oh, Jentanno had heard all about the encounters. How people would travel hundreds, even thousands of miles, driven onward by a question. A question that would not let them rest until they’d thoroughly racked their brains for an answer. Even then the question would not let them be.

    He’d heard how people haunted by an unanswerable question would travel to gaze into the legendary Eye of the Beholder, for any who looked into the sacred crystal with a question in their heart would be granted the answer by the Eye. As the asker gazed they’d be able to feel the mystic powers of the crystal probe their minds, seeking the question. The Eye would then telepathically inform the person asking this question of the answer, whether for good or ill. All one had to do was gaze into the Eye of the Beholder and the answer was his.

    Yes, Jentanno had heard it all. And he didn’t believe a word of it.

    Of course, people would find answers in the Eye of the Beholder! Jentanno huffed in disgust at the thought. Far as he was concerned the people seeking these answers already knew them. It just wasn’t possible to rack one’s brain to that extent and not come up with an answer. He was certain that people flocked to the temple because they hadn’t liked the answer they’d come up with and were hoping for a different one. Yet, when they gazed into the eye and no other answer came they had no choice but to accept the one they’d come up with in the first place. Likewise, the ones who’d received favorable answers to their questions had simply come up with another answer without realizing it. Either way, the moment they relaxed their minds while looking upon the Eye, the answer they’d already figured out for themselves bubbled up from the depths of their unconscious mind. They’d had the answers all along!

    Jentanno felt torn between laughing at the absurdity of it all and snorting with disgust. Here he was surrounded by fools, many of whom had faced dangers he couldn’t even begin to imagine on their travels, all waiting to look at a beautiful rock held by an ugly statue.

    Jentanno decided against both laugh and snort as the crowed surged towards the welcoming shade of the temple entrance. He ran his fingers though his sweat-drenched hair instead. The Eye of the Beholder was nothing more than a glorified paperweight! He was sure of it. Yet it was regarded as the most valuable treasure in the land. The caretakers, even the king himself, would pay anything for its safe return should it go missing.

    Which was exactly why Jentanno intended to steal it.

    ~~*~~

    “Something wrong, Mistress?” Consarna tentatively cleared his throat as he and Illieanna surveyed the mass of people seeking the crystal’s advice.

    “We need to send out another water bearer, Consarna. A day as hot as this calls for water.” Illieanna's voice sounded as though it were a thousand miles away. “You would be astounded at how many travelers neglect to bring water on the last leg of their journey.”

    “Is there anything else troubling you? You seem distant today.”

    “The Eye has revealed a disturbing development which doesn’t have to come to pass. I will attempt to derail this chain of advents before it comes to fruition.”

    “But Mistress, surely you do not intend to go against the Eye,” Consarna gasped. All color fled his face. “The wisdom of the crystal has been nurtured for generations. You of all people know it is folly to simply disregard--”

    “I defy no one this day. The Eye of the Beholder mealy showed me what shall come to pass should the advents of this day go unaltered. I intend to respect the wisdom of the Eye by altering them in hopes of preventing a senseless act.”

    “Of course. I beg you to forgive my doubt; it was not my place to question you.”

    “There is nothing to forgive, Consarna. Without questions there can be no answers.” Illieanna sighed and cast her subordinate a weak smile. “Now, about that water bearer I wanted sent out...”

    ~~*~~

    “Finally.” Jentanno muttered, spotting a water bearer making her way through the crowd.

    Whatever else he thought of the Eye of the Beholder and those who kept it, Jentanno did have to admit that the chief caretaker took those seeking answers into consideration. He’d never even heard of water bearers been sent through the crowds at other temples.

    Other temples would gladly let people fall down dead from the heat so long as enough got through to make the exorbitant offerings that sustained the temple and its caretakers. Here, not only were water bearers sent through the crowd to offer drinks to thirsty pilgrims, but offerings weren’t even mandatory. An answer seeker could come without fear of being turned away if he hadn’t offered enough. Here, it was only considered poor manners to seek an answer and offer nothing, if one is able to give something. Whenever asked why this was, the caretakers would simply say that all were equal in the Eye of the Beholder.

    Jentanno personally thought it was because the chief caretaker was far too feeling for her own good. Still, she had given thought to those waiting patiently in the hot sun and he was grateful of this fact as the water bearer made her way towards him. His mouth grew dryer at the thought of the water she would soon offer him.

    It was almost enough to give him second thoughts about sealing the Eye. Surely the chief caretaker would not retain her post once the crystal was discovered missing. Fortunately for Jentanno, this wasn’t his problem.

    “Water?” The water bearer asked in a soft voice as she offered Jentanno a drink from her ladle.

    Jentanno snatched the ladle and drank greedily, hardly even looking at the woman who’d offered it to him. He drained the ladle and returned it, still without looking at her.

    “It is often best not to seek what is not yours for the taking, for ambition and greed can be a fatal mix,” The water bearer said in a near whisper, as though she intended her message for Jentanno alone.

    “What?” Jentanno mumbled and turned to look towards the water bearer only to discover that she’d moved on with her duties as though she’s said nothing.

    Jentanno considered following her to ask what she’s meant by her parting remark, but decided against it in the end. She probably amused herself by making cryptic remarks as she moved on and Jentanno didn’t want to risk her remembering him come tomorrow when the Eye was discovered missing.

    Pushing all thoughts of the water bearer out of his mind, Jentanno moved forward with the crowd and into the much-welcomed shade of the temple entrance. From there it was easy to slip behind a tapestry and into an alcove. The tapestries had been untied so they covered the windows and kept the relentless sun from turning the inside of the temple into an oven. The next time they would be pulled away from the windows again was the next morning and Jentanno planned on being far, far away by then.

    All he had to do now was wait until everyone left for the night.

    The long hours ebbed away as Jentanno waited first for the pilgrims and then the caretakers to leave, sustained only by the thought of the ransom he’d receive for the crystal he was about to steal. By now the last good-night had been said and the last footstep had faded away. It would be hours before the caretakers returned.

    The Eye of the Beholder was now his for the taking.

    Hesitantly, he peered into the semi-darkness of the temple. After hours behind the tapestry Jentanno’s eyes had long since become accustomed to the dim light, so the thinned moonlight trickling into the temple proved more than enough light to see by. To commit his crime by.

    Jentanno couldn’t keep the smile from his face as he made his way towards the unsightly statue in a forced clam stride. It would be hours before the caretakers would return for their morning duties, there was no need to rush. Still smiling, Jentanno paused briefly to admire how the moonlight reflected in the Eye’s facets, causing the crystal to appear to glow from within, and thought how it was no wonder people believed it to be magic.

    His admiration was short-lived for no sooner did the word ‘magic’ cross his mind than he fished a small iron bar from his pocket and shoved the flattened end between the statue and the crystal. Without hesitation he threw all his weight against the slim bar in the hopes the gem would be pried free. Yet, the stone held fast in the statue’s grotesques clutches.

    Swearing under his breath, Jentanno struck the crystal with the side of his fist in anger and remembered nothing more.

    ~~*~~

    “Ambition and greed, a fatal mix indeed,” Illieanna sighed she entered the temple and saw the aftermath of Jentanno’s attempt.

    A crystal figurine now stood next to the hideous statue, its fist raised against the Eye.

    “I tried to warn you,” Illienanna sighed again, making a mental note to have the figure removed before the temple opened. “Now all I can do for you is make sure you’re dusted once a week.”

    Shannon Wolff was born in Alaska and grew up in a little town called North Pole. This fact has lead every one of her relatives not familiar with Alaska, and complete strangers, to ask if she knows Santa Claus. She now resides in Cartersville, Georgia and is having mixed results with informing her new neighbors about her previous residence.
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