Following the banishment of the Betrayer in the Dark Dance Cycle during the scene on the Great Bridge, the Pentarch sailor-turned-actor Benda Betrayer was officially relieved of his duties in these ritual re-enactments of Quatrian myth and history. Though his countrymen and companions on his sea voyage, Tendar Trustless and Ofend Fool, decided to stay on and complete the Dark Dance Cycle performing various bit parts and choral accompaniments, Benda took this time for much needed relaxation and recuperation.
He had gained much acclaim through his performance of the part of Betrayer, and he was already being heralded as a natural. Rumors even circulated in the streets of the Temple Mount and the village of Elum that he might be nominated one day soon to lower ranks of the Virtuosi. Benda had no interest in any of this talk, though he was grateful there was a way for him to repay for the accidental death he had caused of the previous actor, Jan Re, who played the Betrayer. Though he was no longer legally required under Quatrian Code to retain his performance name, everyone everywhere he went called him, honorably, Betrayer, or Benda Betrayer, in recognition of the luminosity of his performance.
Though he initially accepted social invitations from local notables and dignitaries, Benda quickly grew tired of being feted everywhere he went. And with his countrymen currently absorbed in the pageants, from which he had happily retired, he found himself lonely and lacking in true companionship. Which is why when the High Augur one day sent a messenger to him to come and share tea, he gladly accepted.
“So glad you could make it, Benda,” said the High Augur, gripping both Benda’s wrists in Quatrian traditional greeting.
Benda gripped the other’s wrists in turn. “I was pleased to receive your invitation… your lordship.”
The High Augur waved a hand, smiling lightly, “Please, call me Emachus.”
Benda had never heard anyone call the High Augur by name before, and rightly understood this privilege to be a sign of honor. Emachus ushered him to a small round table and two seats, indicating he should sit.
“Thank you, Emachus,” said Benda.
The High Augur sat down in the chair beside him, and the two looked off into the distance at Quatria, the Bay of Erasure, and the sea beyond.
“You must be tired from the stairs,” Emachus said at length.
“It is my first ascent to the Crown of the Pillar of Song,” Benda admitted.
“And it shall not be your last!” Emachus smiled broadly. A servant then appeared in the garden terrace atop the Pillar of Song, bearing a tea set, and silently went about preparing and pouring a dark steaming liquid known as grel into cups for each. It was sharp and bitter in taste, but Benda had grown accustomed to it during the weeks he’d now spent in Quatria rehearsing and then performing in the Dark Dance Cycle. Grel gave one fortitude, and the will to carry on.
“I am the quaranteenth and final High Augur, the last of my office,” Emachus began, sipping the dark hot beverage. His one eye studied Benda carefully.
“It is so told in the tales, that during the time of the quaranteenth and final High Augur, the Temple Mount itself would shake, the walls crack, and the Pillar upon which we two now are perched would crumble.”
“I have averted such a future as long as I have been able, ever reading more favorable outcomes from unclear omens, and feeding back instead into the long steady processes of destiny joyous and happy occasions, wherever it was given to me to do so.”
Benda, sensing not yet his part in this monologue, opted to remain silent rather than respond.
“In that same aim, I have at times introduced alterations into the fabric of things which seemed right and necessary at the time, but which lead, ultimately, to later ruin.”
Benda began to feel this was not idle chatter.
“Emachus, of what do you speak? Take courage in my ear and in my understanding.” It was a classical Quatrian saying, and the High Augur smiled upon hearing it.
“It pleases me how you’ve so readily adapted here, torn away from the bosom of your homeland.”
“My time here has been well spent; it is certain. I do one day soon wish to return. To see my wife and children again. To report all the marvels that I’ve seen to my King and captain.”
“Indeed,” Emachus replied. “Indeed.”
The two looked off to the sea.
“And if I were to tell you, you should never return…” Emachus began, carefully.
“For in so doing, you would set off a chain of events which would not only destroy this fair land, and doom her peoples, but which would irrevocably change the face of the Five Kingdoms as well?”
Benda was quiet then, and deeply ponderous. When he came back from his thoughts with an answer, he was saddened to hear himself say it.
“Without the aid of your people, and the luck of landing on these shores, we three would have died on the deep ocean, where our ghosts would wander restlessly about as tempests.”
“So to you we owe our lives, and thus our loyalty.” He added heavily, “Though it would grieve me sorely to abandon my family to wild fortune, if you forbid us to go, I would humbly obey.”
“It is not mine to command,” replied Emachus.
“I grant you your freedom, you and your countrymen. You have earned it most truly. All debts are paid. You are free to come and go as you wish. And as reward for excellence in the performance of duties, for which you three had such little preparation, the House of Song hereby grants you three a holding, the Isle of Ovarion, and a small but sturdy ship to take you where must be gone.”
“Whether you choose to stay and settle there now, or return first to your own land to retrieve your family and report to your King, we greatly wish you to take this land as your own, and build there a palace. In fact, our tales foretell it. And of what the tales foretell, we must consider already done…”
Despite the apparent generosity of the gift, Benda sensed a dark foreboding to the other’s word. “Of what else do they tell, dear friend?”
“Of the beginning of the Fourth Age,” the High Augur replied. “The coming of the King Over the Sea, and the ultimate ruin of our beloved Quatria.”