The Oracle’s Game – A Random Picture Prompt

The Oracle’s Game – A Random Picture Prompt

When I started writing prompts based on random photos found during my many stock photo combing sessions, I figured they’d all stand alone. After all, the idea shows up, you write it down and you move on with your life. But one day a sequel just so happened to show up. And when the muse sings, it’s usually best to record the words. So here is a sequel to The Oracle’s Disk (one of my most popular random picture prompts), because it arrived one morning and asked to exist.
. . .

The Oracle dreamed often, though she rarely slept. That was the point of the sanctuary; to soothe her weary soul. To give the magic somewhere to work its whiles without constantly troubling her. But also to contain it, to give it shapes and boundaries.

She had grown fond of the images the magic tendrils projected across the blank walls and ceiling of her abode. She often lounged upon her cushioned couches, watching the shifting shapes through half-lidded eyes. Distant cities and growing civilizations were so much more interesting to behold than bright flashes of shifting light and random color. The magic of the modern age was so much deeper and far more nuanced than the forces of old. She rather liked the evolution.

Even in the depths of sleep, she was aware of the magic surrounding her. It ebbed and flowed like some great ocean, though it kept her always at its center. An island that rose above the madness. A focal point. A gravitational pull. She wasn’t certain anymore how she had gathered so much of it. In the beginning, Sight had been her only talent. She had pressed that Vision until it had few boundaries, allowing her to See anywhere and everywhere all at once.

Maybe it was that determination that woke the seeking tendrils that now answered her every call. Perhaps the secondary effects of her abilities had been birthed by her desire. She still remembered the first time she had broken the barrier to Touch as well as See.

Now she did it without thought. Without effort. Sooner or later, she would be powerful enough to re-write the whole of history according to her whims, though it was well beyond the realm of her ambition. She had no desire to be a god.

She closed her eyes, allowing the soft motion of the magic surrounding her to lull her into a trance-like state. Things had been quiet since the artist. Though many humans desired a taste of her power, few actually summoned the courage to make use of it. Which left her alone with her thoughts most of the time, to monitor the shape of history as it spread in all directions, etching a myriad of possibilities upon  the surface of the universe.

She sensed the exact moment something disturbed the steady channels through which her mystical energy flowed. It was like a shadow, a drop of darkness falling into a bright sea, causing dark ripples to cascade outward from the origin point.

Her eyes snapped open. She pulled herself into a sitting position and spun to face the door of her breached sanctuary. Her hair flowed around her, binding and covering her wide eyes, protecting the vision of her visitor from their bright countenance.

“How come you to this place?” the Oracle demanded, her voice harsh and crisp as the crack of a whip.

“I paid the fee,” a rich, sultry voice answered. It belonged to a woman of about twenty-six. Her luscious hair flowed in thick curls across her shoulders, cascading down her chest and back in equal waves. Her skin had a bronze tint to it. Her cheeks were infused with a hint of fire and gold adorned her eyelids. Her irises were a stunning emerald and they glittered with a strange hint of mirth no human had ever dared bring to this room.

The intruder set her palms against her hips. Her long fingers ended in thick, sharp nails, painted crimson to match the color of her lips. Anyone else might have believed they were fake, but the Oracle saw the truth of everything.

“You are not welcome, Fae creature. My services are meant for humans.”

The intruder laughed. The rich, tinkling sound reminded the Oracle of bells. “Money is money. I’ll have my disk now. Unless you’d like to give me a refund?” The Fae arched one perfect, auburn eyebrow, as if challenging the Oracle to break her established rules.

The Oracle choked on a soft growl before it could escape her throat. There were no creatures more infuriating than Faeries. “Define, then, the moment you wish your disk to detail and it shall be made.” The Oracle forced her voice to be overly sweet to hide her impatience.

The Faerie lifted one finger and traced the base of her chin, somehow managing not to claw herself with her wickedly sharp nails. “Hmm… Let’s see. Yes… Yes, I believe what I want most is a disk detailing the day you first came to power.” The Faeries eyes bored through the hair covering the Oracle’s face, forcing her to make direct eye-contact. It was as if the Fae creature were trying to bore a hole all the way through her soul.

But this was not her first time dealing with magical tricksters. She rebuffed the challenge with a snort. “In order to claim a disk, you must have been present for the event in question. If you cannot call forth a memory, the disk cannot manifest.”

“Ah! Is it that simple? Very well then.” Emerald eyes still shimmering, the Faerie began to weave the image the Oracle requested. Her memories were crisper and sharper than human memories, not dulled around the edges by time and bias. It was as if she had recorded that day, long ago, when the Oracle first reached a hand into one of her visions.

She saw herself as the memory unfolded, though she seemed to watch from a great distance. Her eyes were bound with black cloth, yet a bright light seeped through the fabric. She sat in the center of a clump of trees, her perch cushioned by leaves, her back propped against the meeting of three gnarled roots that formed a looping snag. Around her swirled the bright, shapeless light of her magic, now purple and sparkling, now green and gleaming, now orange and dim, as if all the light had gone out of it.

As she lifted her right hand and pushed it tentatively forward, the magic formed a circle around her wrist. It pressed outward, forming a whirlpool in the air. The motion of her fingers pressed it back, forming a shallow tunnel, a tiny wormhole.

The memory shifted perspectives. Now the Oracle saw herself from behind. In the center of the swirling vortex, just beyond her fingertips, was a void of deepest black, speckled with the distant pinpricks of stars. The young Oracle tilted her head to one side, curious at this sudden and unexpected development. Then she reached forward and allowed her fingers to twine in the fabric of the universe.

In the sanctuary that sat in the nexus of time, the present-day Oracle waved a hand, shattering and dismissing the image.

“These memories do not belong to you.”

“What foolishness! Of course they do.”

“They cannot.” Even the Fae could not be two places at once.

A wicked smile danced across the Faerie’s lips. “They may not have originated with me,” she admitted, her tone as sickly sweet as the Oracle’s had been before. “But they are mine now. Mine enough to manifest your disk.”

“Be gone, Fae creature. I will not summon a disk that will be my undoing.”

“Oh? But you’re more than happy to undo everyone else with this little service you offer.” The Fae’s voice was polite, but the Oracle was familiar enough with their kind to read the cutting undertone.

“I do no such thing,” she replied primly. “If humans wish to ruin each other with their petty little ambitions, what should you care? You have more than enough magic to make yourself immune.”

The Faerie clicked her tongue. “Care you so little for the lives you touch? Lives are lost, Oracle, for the changes you accommodate. Souls are crushed. Culture is lost. Chaos replaces the order of the universe. By what authority do these decisions rest solely within your hands?”

“I do not force the humans to use the disks. I merely create them.”

“What course would the world inhabit without you, I wonder? What great minds would thrive? They rarely have the money to achieve an audience, you know.”

“That artist you’re so worked up about managed just fine.”

The Faerie pursed her lips. “And what about those who are confident and content enough with their lot in life to never question where they’ve ended up? What deity bestowed upon you the right to decide who should succeed and who should fail? Or to subcontract it to the pawns who play your narcissistic game?”

The Oracle sighed, allowing the breath to fall noisily from her throat as she rolled her glowing eyes behind their nest of concealing hair. “Stop preaching your high and mighty rhetoric and simply tell me which human wronged you so that I may correct the mistake and allow this meeting to come to its natural end.” She could not, unfortunately, banish the Fae. She had already wrapped her magic around her like a cloak, shielding her from the effects of the Oracle’s tweaks. And since she had no actually offensive magic, no way to form a genuine attack, she would have to convince the Faerie to leave.

Again, the intruder clicked her tongue. “It’s far too late for that, I’m afraid. You had to know that sooner or later someone would get sick of your meddling. And you’d be foolish to think I’m the only one.”

“So it’s revenge then, is it?” The Oracle tried her best to sound bored but she couldn’t keep dry bitterness from invading the last few words.

The Faerie smirked. “It’s something, that’s for sure. I just thought I’d give you a chance to play nice before the fun begins.”

“I have no interest in feuding with you, Fae. Do as you please and leave me in peace.”

“I shall do as I please, thank you. But you brought this disruption on yourself.” She turned, her thick red hair swirling around her. But she paused halfway through the motion to glance over her shoulder. “I’ll take my disk now, thank you.”

“I have already told you that I will not create the disk you want.”

“Then I’ll take one of this very moment,” the Faerie made a sweeping gesture with both hands to indicate the room surrounding them. “So that I may easily return when the moment is ripe.”

The Oracle sighed. “Have it your way.”

She held up her hand. Electricity crackled in the air as the magic responded to her will, swirling into the same void she had created in the Faerie’s memory. The darkness of space lingered but a moment across the disk’s dark surface before an image replaced it. The image was of the Faerie with her arms spread, a pretty smile lighting her face. The Oracle had been flattering to her, a peace offering of sorts.

The Faerie took the disk and chuckled lightly as she looked on it. “Until next time, Oracle,” she said and then winked out of existence.

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