Freebie Mondays: The Oracle’s Intentions

Freebie Mondays: The Oracle’s Intentions

I haven’t forgotten about this little tale! (It just took awhile for the next portion to pop into my brain.)

In fact… I’ve decided to finish the Oracle’s tale as a novella which will be available for FREE to all of my newsletter subscribers! I’ll be pulling the older chapters, polishing them up and potentially expanding them a bit as part of this endeavor. I’m hoping to have an official release announcement sometime in January. So if you’re enjoying this story, look forward to that!

What started as a random picture prompt has now transformed into a serial story. This tale began in The Oracle’s Disk – which was originally meant to stand alone. But shortly after posting it, I wrote The Oracle’s Game. And shortly after posting that, I wrote The Oracle’s Choice. That was, of course, followed by The Oracle’s Dilemma and, later, The Oracle’s Ambition.
. . .

“You lied to me.” Phalaena’s voice echoed through the grand chamber, bounced off every smooth surface and ricocheted back to her ears. Her outrage seemed to linger in the air like fungal spores waiting to infect the first person who dared open their mouth to refute her claim.

In front of her, on a high platform decorated by each of their family banners, sat the Faerie Council, the most powerful fae creatures to grace the realms mortal or otherwise. These were the judges of magical creatures great and small, the ones who decided how the fae should mingle with each of the individual realms. They signed contracts into law and determined when those laws had been breached. They were the proclaimers of reward or punishment, the same people who sent her to deal with the Oracle to wipe free her mother’s stain on the court.

The faces that stared down at her wore a mix of varying expressions. Some were outraged. Some were startled. Many were annoyed. All but one seemed too flabbergasted to offer a response.

“Excuse me?” the woman sitting near the center of the group demanded. Her tone was curt, her voice high-pitched. Her eyes were so black it was hard to determine where she might be looking, but Phalaena could feel the weight of the woman’s gaze on her shoulders. This was the high advisor of the fae king and queen, the voice of the council, one of the most powerful beings in existence.

In their natural forms, faeries could be whatever they wished. The soft breath of a breeze on a bright summer day. The glaring blaze of the sun at its zenith. The sizzling jolt of a lightning strike or the gentle motion of a leaf drifting toward the ground. But when they gathered to interact with each other – or mortal creatures, for that matter – they often chose a form according to their favored element, plant, animal, insect or season.

Phalaena had always favored fire herself. She liked the fact that it was wild, that it heeded no rules but the ones it could forge, and that it always devoured those that tried to stand in its path. She lifted her chin, letting that fire flash in her eyes as her flaming curls cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. She curled her long-nailed fingers into a fist and allowed her outrage to tremble through her bronze-skinned limbs.

“You heard me,” she hissed. “You said my mother betrayed the Council so I needed to answer for it.”

“She did,” another member of the council replied primly, a man with a long, thin torso and straight, flowing blonde hair. “She granted fae magic to a mortal and taught them how to use it. An act expressly forbidden without a direct mandate from the Council.”

Phalaena bit the inside of her lip. The Council could get away with anything, of course, because the Council was always assumed to have their own mandate – whether it was written in advance or not. A foul play if ever she saw one.

“Only because you slaughtered hundreds of innocent mortals and she happened upon the results.”

The silence that followed this revelation was spiked with a different quality than the first one. Rather than nervous anticipation there was a sense of denial, as if everyone in the room would rather file out and disappear than answer the accusation.

A few members of the Council exchanged glances, and Phalaena got the impression they were ill at ease.

But there were no murmurs of surprised outrage like she expected. No one filling the seats behind her waiting for their audience or recording the proceedings for posterity shot to their feet and demanded to know if this were true.

Did everyone know about the Council’s treachery? Was she truly the last to know?

“That slaughter was necessary,” the royal adviser announced curtly. “The stars warned that they were going to produce an Oracle and that could not be allowed. Oracles are dangerous, as you have seen for yourself.”

Phalaena scoffed. “The Oracle was born as a direct result of your meddling!” This did summon a few of the hoped-for murmurs, but Phalaena didn’t have time to wonder whether or not the crowed was muttering in her favor. “My mother gave her magic to the Oracle specifically to erase the damage you caused. She was a child, frightened and alone, and my mother was just trying to help her! If you had left them alone, none of this ever would have happened.”

“You cannot know that for certain,” a fresh member of the council sneered.

“But I do,” Phalaena snarled in return. “I dove into the time stream. The Oracle isn’t trying to shape the future – that has never been her goal. She’s trying to rewrite the past.”

“A law that is equally dire should it ever be violated,” the twig-shaped man insisted.

“The Oracle’s intentions matter not,” the royal advisor insisted, slamming her hands against the desk in front of her. “Either way, she must be eliminated. Strike while she is trapped in her indecisive loop. Your mother failed the task, so it falls to you. That is why the Great Mother named you to this task.”

“No,” Phalaena replied, stamping her foot to emphasize the single word.

“Excuse me?” the royal advisor spat. She dipped her chin, then lifted it again, obviously giving Phalaena a once over, silently asking who this upstart thought she was.

“I no longer believe the Great Mother named me to this task to wash away my mother’s sin and make clean my bloodline. I believe the Great Mother summoned me to manage the Oracle because she knew I would reject your bullshit mission! The Great Mother wishes me to finish what my mother started by reversing the stain you spilled across time’s tapestry!”

At last, dramatic gasps filled the space behind her, followed by a growing buzz of chatter. More than one of those phrases included, has she lost her mind. But rather than shrink at the judgment leveled in her direction, Phalaena used it to bolster her resolve.

This was why the Great Mother had chosen her, after all.

“Time was my mother’s specialty,” she continued without giving the Council – or anyone else – a chance to respond. “And despite objections, she passed everything she learned onto me.” Phalaena set her hand against her chest. “When she set the Oracle in motion, she would have known intrinsically that affecting something backward through time requires far more power than affecting the future.” A small sprinkle of dust was all it would have taken, after all, to give the child the ability to see beyond tomorrow.

“The Oracle’s tangle is deep,” the man on the farthest end of the dais said. His voice was low and deep and almost seemed to rumble through his barrel-like chest. “If she were to escape the time loop, she would run the risk of upsetting the universe’s balance.”

“Because she stands on the precipice of completing her task,” Phalaena countered, jutting her jaw outward in another act of defiance. “If she were to unravel the full force of her power now she might just have enough to undo your slaughter of her family.” Striking the Oracle dead would merely return her to the moment in time she set her magic in motion. From then on, time would move unfettered, impossible to manipulate or divert.

But if Phalaena provided the Oracle with the extra bit of magic she needed before madness claimed her – as the Great Mother warned was coming – the child could unravel the event that had plagued her for as long as she could remember.

“You must not, Phalaena,” the royal adviser insisted as she shot to her feet. “Time must be allowed to pursue its natural course.”

“You mean the course you determined it should take,” Phalaena retorted. “Need I remind you that leaving that poor village in peace would have meant never having to deal with this problem in the first place.”

Time travel was starting to give her a headache.

“You do not understand,” the royal advisor insisted. “You do not have all the information. An Oracle was not the only danger that village posed. There are reasons why we meddle.”

“And we have always meddled,” the low, deep base of the barrel-like faerie added. “It is why we are here, why our abilities allow us to traverse through the root systems that connect all worlds. Without us, the universe would be chaos.”

“Why should we exercise power we proclaim blasphemous for mortals?” Phalaena insisted. “What gives us the right?”

“Our nature,” the royal councilor replied with a smirk. “We were born from the ashes of the universe to keep it in its proper alignment. If not that, what purpose are we meant to serve?”

“Who says anyone is ever meant to serve any purpose?” Phalaena exploded. Her temper was on a snapwire now and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could maintain her composure. She fluttered her wings at her back and allowed them to carry her high enough into the air that she was at eye-level with the Council.

“The stars?” she sneered. “Do they proclaim our course? Is everything set for us before we’re ever born? Is that why we sit here in this grand chamber,” she waved to the walls and high ceiling surrounding her, “discussing the affairs of mortals as if they were a garden to be uprooted and replanted?”

“This is how it has always been, Phalaena!” the royal adviser screamed, her eyes flashing with fire of their own.

“And that makes it right?” Phalaena clenched her fists tighter, driving the sharp points of her nails into her palms. “The Great Mother says that if we do not question, we will never learn.”

“You wish to break the course of destiny?” the twig-shaped councilor demanded. “Yet you believe the Great Mother set you on this course. Does that not contradict your act of rebellion?”

“No,” Phalaena replied, her tone flat. “The Great Mother chose me for this task so that I would solve the problem my way. If she wanted someone who would tow your line, she would have chosen someone she knew would make that choice.”

Circular logic – one of the fae court’s favorites!

The fae Council exchanged glances again. Some of them actually looked desperate now. Their lips moved, though their words didn’t reach Phalaena’s ears.

At last, the royal advisor looked back at her. “You will be exiled,” she said softly. “Before you are even born, you will be a traitor to your people. Is that what you desire?”

“I’m not sure I want to be part of a group that condones the cold-blooded slaughter of innocents,” Phalaena replied flatly. It was the same conclusion her mother had obviously come to.

The royal advisor clenched her fists and unleashed a cry of frustration. “Headstrong child! You are worse than your mother! Do not do this. You will regret it.”

“You cannot steal my soul,” Phalaena replied.

Ignoring the gasps of the Council, Phalaena spread her arms wide and stilled her wings. As she fell backward, she activated the magic that would carry her out of the Council chamber and winked out of existence. She felt the very particles of her being dissolving as they allowed the physical parts of the universe to pass between them and rode that gentle wave of energy to the place where she would finally finish her task.

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