Fate is a Great Excuse
The blonde dokkalfar woman was cognizant of a bothersome buzzing noise before she even opened her eyes. Was that a bee? She hated bees. It couldn't just be one bee as it was pretty loud. Unless the buzzing was right by her ear. Was she going to get stung? She should move. Unless moving startled it and made it – them? – sting her. What was the rule about bees?
The weight was the next thing she noticed. Something was on top of her. It felt like a someone and she opened her eyes to find what appeared to be a corpse lying on her. Well when it looked like a corpse it usually was one so she quickly pushed it off only to discover that she was lying on a whole pile of misshapen bodies that, from a glance, appeared to be in pain. Were the bees here for them? Or were they maggots? Did maggots buzz? Did flies? Damned if she knew.
But what was important was getting off of them so she forced her way to the top of the pile. Standing on a mountain of corpses. This was not a good sign. She tried to think of how she got there and found she could not. Was she the sole survivor of a massacre or something? She certainly felt like it. She didn't seem to be injured so who knew how she was mistaken for dead. Maybe she was unconscious and no one checked all that much? It was a pretty massive pile of dead people.
She was breathing far harder than she should be for just moving a few feet away from the mound of bodies and she was coughing like she was trying to expel a lung. What was going on?
She appeared to be in a cave and alone except for all the corpses. It was a pretty giant cave. Maybe this was the work of a nefarious serial killer and she had to get out of here before he came back to finish the job. Yeah, no matter what was going on getting out of there seemed to be the best move so she took off.
Along the way, she happened upon a staff. Excellent. She definitely needed it more than whoever just left it lying around in a locked chest somewhere. She heard someone and would have started towards them but they sounded pretty ominous with 'No child of dust shall escape' and she didn't know if she was considered a child of dust or not but escape was pretty much what she wanted to do just then.
The call for help sounded much less evil so she went off that way. The guy in question must be some kind of ventriloquist as he sounded a lot closer than he actually was. She finally found a gnome surrounded by some very weird-looking people and fortunately they stopped harassing the gnome in order to attack her. Well, fortunately for the gnome. She didn't exactly appreciate all the attention but she managed to shoot some bolts of light at them and it seemed to hurt them. And then kill them.
Well maybe now she'd get some answers.
"Thank you so much for saving me!" the gnome said. "I don't know who you are or what you're doing here but…wait, never mind. Yes I do."
"Well that's more than I know," the dokkalfar said. "Care to fill me in?"
The gnome frowned. "I don't know. I don't think I should. I'm not nearly so important as to tell you the plot."
The dokkalfar crossed her arms."I just saved your life. The least you can do is tell me what's going on."
"Well what's going on should be obvious," the gnome said. "We're under attack by the Tuatha Deohn."
"Oh, obviously," the dokkalfar mocked. "Except, no, that's not obvious at all. What's a Tuatha Deohn?"
The gnome stared at her incredulously. "How do you not know what they are? Do you live in a bubble or something? Or do you have memory problems?"
The dokkalfar thought about it. "I…yes? I guess. So just tell me."
The gnome sighed. "I have neither the time nor inclination to get deep into the history of all of this so…fae. They die but then come back to life because they're just lucky that way. But it's not like a immediately rising from the dead so there's no point in killing them thing. It sometimes takes a few years, I think. And I don't know if they're born or fall from the sky or what since it's never occurred to me to ask before. There are two types of fae. The summer fae are your basic commune with nature and look down on mortals type of fae while the winter fae are your basic celebrate death and look down on mortal fae. About ten years ago the winter fae were taken over by a radical group called the Tuatha Deohn who want to kill everybody to bring back some sealed god that might not even exist or something."
The dokkalfar blinked. "That's…not very precise."
The gnome shrugged. "What are you going to do? The Tuatha are usually more in the mood to kill everybody than to explain why they're killing everybody."
"Huh. So since I appear to be suffering memory problems and you said you know why I'm here, could you maybe tell me that?" the dokkalfar asked.
"You died," the gnome said bluntly.
"I…what?" the dokkalfar asked, uncertain she'd heard him correctly. "Was that why I woke up on a pile of corpses? Who killed me? Was it you? Or the Tuatha?"
"Damned if I know," the gnome said. "Except it definitely wasn't me."
"Then how did I get here? And how did I come back to life? Am I a fae?"
"Oh, you're definitely not. They have blue or green or purple skin," the gnome explained. "Here at the Well of Souls, Professor Hugues magically recreates the bodies of dead people he's never seen and hopes that their soul will be in their bodies and they'll be alive again."
"…is there any point in asking how?"
"Magic. I just said that," the gnome replied. "Weren't you listening?"
"That's awfully convenient, isn't it?" the dokkalfar asked.
"Not really since it has never worked before. We have been able to get them to start breathing but they're all zombies and usually we just grow corpses," the gnome said.
"Why don't you use bodies that are already on hand?" she asked. "Surely if there is a war you can't be hurting for them. It just seems easier."
"Are you kidding? Desecrate the dead? We've all read Frankenstein. But while there's a good chance that the Tuatha won't show up again until we're done talking, I know that I'm not important enough to avoid being tragically impaled right in front of you while you watch uselessly instead of helping me so let's go and try to stay ahead of things, shall we?" the gnome asked rhetorically.
The two set off. Despite the hurry that the gnome claimed to be in, he stopped to show her off to literally every other gnome they came across. Despite the fact she seemed to be better at fighting than anyone else around, they wouldn't let her stay and help because it was really important that she not die again. Well, honestly she'd rather stay alive long enough to figure out what was going on, too. But the suicidal last stand all of the gnomes, including the one she was with, insisted on seemed a little unnecessary.
She found another gnome standing over a giant cauldron, completely serene.
"Um…hi," the dokkalfar said. "Are you not aware that there's a Tuatha invasion going on right now?"
"Oh, no, I'm aware," the gnome said. "That's why I'm trying to get this last bit of research tied up. My name is Hugues. What's yours?"
The dokkalfar hesitated. "I…don't know. I appear to be having some memory problems."
Hugues approached her and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Are you now? I wonder if that has anything to do with you being brought back to life."
"Okay, how does everybody know that you brought me back to life? Did you memorize all the corpses? I know there was a lot!" the dokkalfar exclaimed.
Hugues shook his head. "No, of course not, but you're not a gnome nor a Tuatha so what else would you be doing here?"
"That's…actually a really good point," she admitted.
"Oh, we had no idea you were alive or we never would have thrown you out with the rest of the corpses to be burned!" Hugues cried out. "And not just for moral reasons but because doing that would completely defeat the purpose of trying to bring someone back from the dead! Maybe I should have waited longer than thirty seconds after you were formed before deciding it didn't work and tossing you out…"
"Maybe," the dokkalfar agreed, quickly growing alarmed. "How do you know that I'm your first success? Maybe you brought back all sorts of people only to burn them alive."
Hugues shook his head. "That can't be it. I'm not dead."
"I don't see the correlation between these two unless you expect your god to smite you for burning people alive," the dokkalfar said.
"It's really weird that you don't have a name."
The dokkalfar narrowed her eyes. "I'm sorry if it's strange for you but I can't help that I don't have my memory."
"Oh no, I don't blame you for that at all! In fact you could just go on a killing spree and join the Tuatha and I would still like you for coming back from the dead for me," Hugues said. "Though please don't do that. It's just that I want to know what to think of you as. Frankenstein taught us all about the value of not just calling the person you brought back to life the creature or else things will end badly and everyone will think of the creature when they say your name. I wouldn't want you to be known as Hugues with everyone forgetting me."
"Do we really have time to name me?" the dokkalfar asked. "I did mention the invasion, right?"
"If you don't name yourself then, as your sort-of creator, it will be up to me to name you and I've always liked Huguesella for a girl," Hugues said pointedly.
The dokkalfar started coughing. "I just…give me a minute…"
It took fifteen but finally she said, "Fayne. I can live with Fayne."
"Well, Fayne, it's good to meet you," Hugues said smiling. "I wish I could have known you longer or that most of the time we were acquainted you weren't busy quietly trying to come up with a name that could beat out Huguesella but that's life for you."
"Wait, why are you acting like we're never going to see each other again?" Fayne asked. "Everyone wanted me to come up here so we could escape together."
"Oh, I have no intention of escaping. I'm going to suicidally charge them and hope I live long enough to get them to inexplicably chase after me and ignore you while you go find a friend of my name Agarth in Gorhart."
"You're saying these words but I don't know who that is or where that is and am I really just supposed to ask everybody until I find your Agarth guy? What if he's not where you say he is?" Fayne asked.
Hugues shrugged. "I don't know but that won't be my problem as I'm about to die."
"Yeah, that's another thing. Why would you want to do that? That's a really stupid plan. I have never heard of any stupider plans. Literally. And while that may not seem like it means a lot given my amnesia, I want you to know that that does not detract from the stupidness of this plan," Fayne informed him.
"I'm not saying that I like it either," Hugues said defensively. "But it's not like I can do anything else."
Fayne stared at him. "Uh…yes. Yes you can. You can do literally anything else and it wouldn't be that stupid."
Hugues sighed melodramatically. "You don't understand. I have to do this."
"You're right; I don't understand," Fayne agreed. "Care to explain?"
"Not really. I'd like to have a little mystery with my death," Hugues said.
"So really you have no good reason for doing something you agree is stupid," Fayne concluded. "You are really not impressing me here."
"I'm not here to impress you. All I need is for you to live on and be proof that my Well of Souls worked and I brought someone back from the dead," Hugues told her.
"How can I be proof of that?" Fayne asked.
"I…don't follow," Hugues admitted. "You were dead and I brought you back to life so you are proof that this worked. It seems pretty simple."
"But you say you don't know who I am. Unless I was really well-known, but not to you I guess, and my death was really public then how does me living prove anything to anyone? Anyone could go around claiming you brought them back to life but it doesn't prove anything. If you stuck around maybe you could prove it or lend the claim validity but I still don't understand any of this and to be honest I don't think your assistants do either," Fayne said.
A distraught look crossed Hugues' face. "That actually-"
The door flung open and the gnome from earlier came in. "You two still aren't gone yet? But what about our heroic sacrifice?"
"What did you come up here for if you thought we'd be long gone?" Hugues asked.
The gnome shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. I just didn't want to stand there and wait for the Tuatha to kill me, I guess. And hey! Now I can give you a two-second warning that they're right behind me!"
With that, he was pierced by an arrow and collapsed.
Hugues brushed himself off. "Well, I guess it's my turn. Remember, I brought you back to life so you owe me so find a way to prove my genius!"
"I'm not even going to do that," Fayne said. "Stop being stupid and come with me."
"No, I'm going to go do this," Hugues told her before charging at the Tuatha. They did all turn and look at him and the ceiling of the tower started collapsing for some reason cutting them off in case they decided to go after Fayne anyway.
"You know that this makes your drawing them off even more stupid, right?" Fayne called after him.
When Fayne finally made it out, she was surprised to find just how cheery everything looked. She woke up on a pile of corpses, apparently came back to life, Tuatha had just killed a bunch of gnomes she didn't know but probably owed her life, and now it was a bright and shining day. While it might be unrealistic to expect that the weather would conform to her personal drama it would still be appreciated.
She saw some injured gnomes outside of the tower but they clearly came from the same place she did and if they were Agarth surely Hugues would have mentioned it so she ignored them.
She realized she didn't actually have any money and would probably need to get some and so tried to pick some interesting looking plants but she kept somehow failing which was rather odd. Maybe she needed to learn more about picking plant things?
She walked right up to the first non-gnome that she saw, a man drinking and playing cards by himself. "I don't suppose you'd like to be incredibly convenient and be named Agarth? And be acquainted with a gnome named Hugues?"
The man nodded. "I am indeed Agarth and friend to Fomorous Hugues."
"Well I never got a first name," Fayne said, "but that's probably right. I am so glad you just happened to be out here! I had no idea how I was going to find you on such little information."
"I'm a Fateweaver," Agarth said modestly. "It's my job to be convenient."
"I think I like you," Fayne decided.
Agarth chuckled. "I'm glad. Not many do."
Fayne eyed him strangely and stepped back a little. "Oh no? Any particular reason why?"
"Oh, no, not me personally," Agarth assured her. "Actually I've got a lot of friends. But I'm a Fateweaver and it's a terribly unpopular profession."
"Unpopular as in not many people want to do it or unpopular as in no one really likes them?" Fayne asked.
"It's the same thing, isn't it?" Agarth asked rhetorically. "If no one likes them then it's not going to be a popular position to have, is it?"
Fayne quickly rallied. "Not necessarily! Maybe it's such a difficult and strenuous job that it's in high demand and everybody loves them."
"Well I can confirm it is difficult and strenuous but no one likes Fateweavers. No one. Even I don't like us," Agarth said.
"Then…why did you go into Fateweaving? And why stay in Fateweaving?" Fayne asked.
Agarth shrugged. "I thought it was supposed to be some great honor at first. They always let you think that or else they'd never be able to recruit anyone."
"And you somehow failed to notice how much everyone hated Fateweavers while you were a part of the everyone hating them?" Fayne asked pointedly.
"…Yes? And once you become a Fateweaver you can't just quit. You know how to read Fate and you can't just unlearn this skill."
"You don't have to use it," Fayne told him.
Agarth fixed her with an unimpressed look. "I would like to see you have the impulse control to resist checking fate every five minutes, I really would."
"It sounds to me like you're describing a Fate addiction," Fayne said. "Have you tried getting help?"
"From who? Everyone hates Fateweavers and if we could get help and stop being one then do you really think there would be any Fateweavers left?" Agarth challenged.
"So you're not even going to try to do something else with your life? Maybe obsess over Fate on the side if you truly can't help it?"
Agarth shook his head. "What's the point? I'm probably fated to be a Fateweaver forever anyway."
Fayne just stared at him. " 'Probably fated'? What in the…First Hugues and his need to go get himself killed and now you! Is no one capable of accepting personal responsibility or what?"
"I don't believe in personal responsibility," Agarth replied.
Fayne rolled her eyes. "Shocking."
"What's the point when you have no choice in the matter? Forcing you to be responsible for things that aren't your fault seems terribly unfair."
"I don't disagree but how is your own actions not your own fault?" Fayne challenged. "I mean, I chose to walk past all the injured who escaped the tower to come over here but that was all on me. I'm not blaming anyone else for my apathy and being kind of a terrible person in this scenario."
"I feel like maybe you haven't heard of Fate," Agarth said delicately.
"Well I don't know about that but I do know that you never bothered to explain to me what Fateweaving was," Fayne said.
"Fateweavers are people who have been trained to see the tapestry of Fate. We see what is going to happen and people pay us money for this. Unfortunately, the news isn't always good so everyone hates us. With the way the world has been heading, it's usually bad. Come to think of it, it's kind of strange just how often we have to give bad news. You would think that somebody somewhere could have a nice happy future. Maybe if we just stuck to some positive things and not the inevitable death they'd be a bit happier with us? Something to consider," Agarth mused.
"Doesn't that create kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of situation?" Fayne asked. "If someone is thinking about whether to accept a marriage proposal, for instance, and they find out that they marry somebody different and turn down the proposal because of that. If they hadn't asked then maybe they would have accepted."
Agarth shook his head. "No, trust me, it doesn't work like that. People have tried. I've had a man who was so horrified at the thought that he might kill his father and marry his mother that he left home, accidentally killed his father on the road, then won the hand of a widowed queen and four kids later found out he was adopted."
Fayne narrowed her eyes. "I know I've heard that story before."
Agarth shrugged. "So what if you did? The more famous the better. You can't fight Fate."
"What if he just never got married or only married someone who wasn't old enough to have given birth to him?" Fayne challenged.
"There are spells for things like that," Agarth said. "Potions. You can never really be sure."
"It still sounds a little bit unlikely," Fayne said.
"Unlikely or not it's true. Which should actually make it quite likely," Agarth said. "How adorable, not believing in Fate. I almost want to tell you what's going to happen to you but you do look like you know how to use that staff."
Fayne wrinkled her nose. "No thanks."
"It may save me a flight for my life later," Agarth said. "But you said you were looking for me? You must have come from the Well of Souls. Let me guess, Hugues wanted you to tell me that he finally succeeded in bringing somebody back to life and now he's dead."
Fayne's eyes widened. "How did you know that? Wait…was he planning his whole stupid suicide thing for longer than I thought?"
"Not exactly," Agarth said. "He just came to me and asked me if he would ever succeed in bringing someone back from the dead. I had good news for once, sort of, and told him that he would but on that day he would be killed. He took it pretty well after miraculously surviving alcohol poisoning. Called it a new lease on life and went on to minor fame as a daredevil before getting back to work. Even I don't know how he didn't die with some of those other than it being Fate's will."
"So you convinced him that just because he succeeded he was going to die? That's why he insisted on dying so pointlessly!" Fayne exclaimed angrily.
"He probably just wanted to face his inevitable death bravely and not cowering," Agarth suggested. "And who can blame him?"
"Why didn't he just never try to bring someone back if that was what was going to happen?"
"We all die sometime," Agarth said reasonably. "For all he knew he'd be dying of old age when he succeeded. And he thought this was worth dying for. And who knows? If he succeeded maybe he could one day be brought back."
"What is even the point of Fateweavers?" Fayne demanded.
"I just explained it," Agarth said, offended. "And you just argued extensively with me about it. Do you have no short-term memory?"
"No, I actually think my short-term memory is okay," Fayne said. "But ask me again in an hour. I just don't see the point in knowing your fate if you can't change it, especially if you're going to fail. What if you told Hugues that he was never going to succeed. Would he still have tried? According to you he would have had to."
"We were consulted by great leaders and kings," Agarth said wistfully. "Well…I wasn't but earlier in our order's history we were. They would ask things like 'Will this invasion I'm planning succeed' or 'will the crops be plentiful this year' and plan accordingly."
"How?" Fayne asked. "If the invasion was fated to fail then that means it was fated to happen, wasn't it?"
"I think you're just putting too much thought into this," Agarth accused.
"And I think that if you all want to run around pretending that you aren't responsible for your own life you could at least try a bit harder with the rationale!" Fayne countered.
"Not literally everything is set in stone. It's not set in stone that you must stand here and argue with me about the existence of Fate, for example. How you die will be written in stone, perhaps if you get married or have children or any other big accomplishments. The details do not matter. A king could hear that he would conquer an area or not conquer it and if he were fated not to conquer it he might as well save everyone the trouble and not try in the first place," Agarth explained.
Fayne perked up at that. "You say that you can see what will happen to people? Can you see the past? Because I would actually really like to know how I died."
Agarth's eyes lit up. "I'm sorry, I can only see the future. But how you died? So you're the one! I guess that makes sense since you're not a gnome and came from the tower but I didn't want to assume."
"Everyone there did."
"I was here waiting to meet with you. Since I've discovered who you are, I should probably warn you that Fate says we will be attacked by Tuatha," Agarth said.
Fayne glanced behind her. "You're sure you're not just saying that because you can see them approaching?"
Agarth didn't answer but he did put quite a bit of force into his first blow against the attackers.
After a few hits, Fayne began to see some strange purple lines emanating from the Tuatha. She focused on those, a giant ethereal sword appeared, and she used that to kill it. It made her feel a little lightheaded but also sort of humming with energy. Well that was abnormal. But what hadn't been ever since the amnesia? And who was to say things were any less weird before to land her in such a situation sans memory?
"What was that?" Agarth cried out, apparently not taking the weirdness in stride like she was. So she was getting too weird for Mr. 'nothing I do has anything to do with me.'
"I don't know. I think I'll probably do it again the next time I see that weird purple thing, though," Fayne said.
"What are you?" Agarth demanded.
"I'm a dokkalfar. I know it's hard to tell dokkalfar from ljosalfar sometimes but I don't see why that's relevant here," Fayne said.
"That wasn't what I meant! You can't just do that! I'm used to seeing the threads of Fate but not like that and not manipulated! Fate…it can't be changed. You can't change it. You just did. You changed the way the world was supposed to work!" He looked quite distraught though that all sounded pretty good to her.
"How was that? Were we fated to be killed by the Tuatha?"
"Well, no," Hugues conceded. "But you weren't supposed to kill them like that!"
Fayne threw her hands up in the air. "And what happened to 'the details don't matter'? If I was fated to kill them and I killed them then it's fine."
But Agarth was shaking his head. "This is all wrong. Tell you what, I'm going to do a Fate reading for you. Having learned my lesson the last time I was nearly executed by a group of angry soon-to-be Tuatha victims, I won't tell you how you'll die again."
"I would really rather you didn't," Fayne said. "For all I know you're right about people having no free will and my path is set so the least you can do is allow me my illusions and not tell me what life has got in store for me."
"Sorry, no can do," Agarth apologized, not sounding sorry at all. "I'm curious and you can't stop me."
"I could always hit you with my staff."
"Isn't that a little extreme?" Agarth asked, laying the cards out. "I'm just looking at cards."
Fayne glared at him and crossed her arms.
"Well that's odd," Agarth said, shuffling the cards and laying them out again. "I don't see anything for you."
"How do you not see anything for me?" Fayne asked reasonably. "You are looking at cards. And how precise can you possibly be with things like 'on the day you succeed in bringing someone back from the dead you'll die' if you're going off of fortune telling cards?"
"It would take years of training to explain it to you," Agarth said disdainfully.
"I'm just saying this all sounds incredibly sketchy."
"I'm not saying I believe that this is true but…what if you can control your own life?" Agarth said, lowering his voice to a whisper.
"You mean like a normal person?" Fayne asked.
"There is literally nothing normal about this," Agarth said. "Unless it turns out you're an alcohol-induced hallucination in which case this is pretty typical. But you did kill those Tuatha. Unless they were hallucinations, too!"
"The fact that you find this to be a plausible explanation worries me," Fayne said.
"The fact that you appear to be immune from Fate worries me," Agarth said. "You can't just be some sort of a Fateless One. Has this sort of thing ever happened to you before?"
"Honestly, I don't know," Fayne admitted. "I don't remember anything before coming back to life. In fact, I have to take it on faith that I was even dead."
Agarth's eyebrows shot up. "And so the plot thickens! That does remind me…you know who I am but I never got around to asking who you are. Quite negligent of me. You say you don't remember who you are…do you at least have something you want me to call you? Because if not then I have to say I think Agarthiza is a lovely name."
Fayne groaned."You don't say. But don't worry, Hugues was similarly concerned by my lack of a name – I'm just some random dokkalfar after all – and so I came up with one. Until we find out my real name, or assuming my real name is stupid, you can call me Fayne."
"Fayne," Agarth repeated thoughtfully, stroking his beard. "I get it. Like Fateless One. The first part of the first word and the last part of the last word."
"That…did not occur to me," Fayne said, perturbed. "I guess kind of."
"It must be Fate," Agarth declared grandly before he frowned. "Except maybe not if it's you. This is just too weird. Maybe I broke something. Or I could blame you."
"Let's just be sure. I know this guy, Arden. He's kind of a terrible person but he's the best damn Fateweaver I know. Go see him and see if he can see anything. If he can then mystery solved and I'll try and lay off the liquor. If not then there's nothing wrong with me so either way win-win," Agarth said.
Agarth blinked. "Why what?"
"Why should I go see this guy?" Fayne asked.
"Why…because you have no Fate, of course! Or no Fate that I can see! This is rather a big deal!"
Fayne shrugged. "I don't think that it is. I don't really care. I don't like the thought of Fate anyway and I really have more pressing concerns such as finding out who I am."
"Do you have any other leads or really any other concrete plans?" Agarth asked knowingly.
Fayne opened her mouth and then deflated. "No…"
"Then you might as well go get this sorted. Who knows? Maybe I'm wrong and it is your Fate to find out who you are. This could help," Agarth said enticingly.
Fayne sighed. "Fine, whatever. I'll see if I can make my way over there. Um, where is 'there' exactly?"
"Oh, just Arden's home. It's to the east," Agarth said helpfully.
"So are a lot of things I would imagine," Fayne said dryly. "You can't be more specific than that?"
"No, sorry, can't. I have to go help the injured. Fate said so," Agarth said, strolling off.
"You're not all that invested in solving this puzzle, are you?" Fayne called after him. She was not going to demean herself by chasing after him.
Agarth glanced back over his shoulder. "Don't worry; he's a Fateweaver. I'm sure something incredibly convenient will happen and you'll find him."