|Favorite Wonder:||Aquae Sucellus|
Shaddis slipped quietly into the room. Although not comparable to the vast antechambers and lofty halls of the public part of the Halls of Sabathiel, the room was large enough, roughly cubic and a good six meters from floor to roof. The roof was vaulted, with supporting columns built into the four walls, dividing each wall into three segments.
The room was also plunged into darkness, something which simply drew your attention to the fact that the huge figure lying on a carved stone bed in the centre of the room was emitting a faint glow. Sabathiel was sleeping again. He'd probably been sleeping since last Shaddis spoke to him, two weeks ago.
It wasn't really sleep, Shaddis reflected. He wasn't quite sure what it was. It was like Sabathiel's body was there, on the stone bed, but his mind and soul weren't. The Deacon of Winds had never asked Sabathiel where his mind went when he lay like that. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.
As Shaddis approached, there was a sucking sound, like a sharp intake of air, and Sabathiel sat bolt upright with startling suddenness.
"Something has happened."
The voice sounded like a million voices speaking softly at the same time, and it carried a note of simultaneous accusation and certainty that infuriated Shaddis. Sabathiel was scrutinising him, probably finding out what was wrong even before Shaddis had a chance to say it. And the angel was right, both in the statement and in the accusatory tone. Something HAD happened, and Shaddis was at fault, albeit indirectly.
"They will be punished, of course. We must teach them that they cannot defy Law and hope to avoid repercussions. But I am disappointed in you, deacon. You knew about this. You could have stopped it earlier."
Shaddis bowed his head in shame. He had known, but he hadn't found it important. Dealing with it at this early stage would have required taking appalling measures. So he had left the problem alone, hoping it would burn itself out. Instead it had exploded. The cleaning up would be a mess.
Sabathiel floated to his feet. As he did, the room erupted with multi-hued light. The sight never ceased to awe Shaddis. Every section of wall was now a huge window looking out across a landscape far below. It was as if the room was at the top of an impossibly tall tower. But the view was not uniform. Each window overlooked a different landscape: In one window, all you could see was mountains, ice and snow. Another showed rolling hills, fields and peaceful pastures. A third looked out across an endless desert.
The angelic ruler of the Bannor drifted across to a window that showed the sprawling urban vista of the capital. He stood there in silence, his hands clasped behind his back, for quite some time. Shaddis didn't speak. Holding a conversation with Sabathiel was a frustrating affair--the angel knew what you were going to say before you said it, and generally answered before you even had a chance to open your mouth. So the Deacon waited patiently for his master to break the silence.
Finally, Sabathiel let out a long, shuddering sigh. It reminded Shaddis of a wind whistling through a mountain pass. Still facing his city, Sabathiel started to speak:
"I don't blame you. After all, you're only human. You're all only human. Invaluable tools in Junil's service, but still only mortal flesh, fallible and prone to faltering. Sometimes, my friend, mercy must take a back seat to peace, stability and Law. This was one of those times, and you failed to recognize it. You reached the limits of your human capacities. I'm not angry. I have no real reason to be disappointed either. But you are a product of my people, of my children, those whom I lead into the light, those I protected through Mulcarn's reign. I suppose... I suppose I have expected too much from you."
Sabathiel paused. To gather his thoughts, perhaps. Who knew? His mind appeared to work on an entirely different plane. While humans had to stumble through their choices, hoping the one they made was the best possible, the angel simply knew. He was capable of total mercilessness, of deceit and exquisite cruelty, but the results of an action commanded by Sabathiel would always be better than any alternative course of action could have brought. The angel, however heartless and wrong he seemed at the time, was always right. The window suddenly started showing many different views, flickering past at an astonishing speed.
"So much to watch. So many to care for. So many things that can go awry. I wish, oh, how I wish, I could take a more direct part in the affairs of my people. These things would not happen. I would be there to stop them. But I am not strong enough. Not yet. I need to conserve what little strength I still possess. Someday, after you are gone, perhaps, but some day soon, I will need it. We will all need it."