“Men once assumed that the world had edges. They avoided them out of fear that they might sail off the world’s cliff and float away to be with the spirits as some believed the stars to be. This belief was unquestioned during the Clan and even during the Tribe Age, long before lume rocks powered the trains that hauled goods and people from one nation to another, at a time when sticks and vines were used to build rafts instead of the great iroko used in building today’s boats. Man also believed that the tallest branches of the great Shades touched the heavens and that ever so often, evil spirits would climb down from the branches, only to be lost in the forest.
These beliefs were strong and lasted long for good reason. Only a few men who ventured into the forest ever returned. Less gullible men, on the other hand, were not so quick to believe the made-up stories, and preferred to believe that wild animals, or the elusive Bush Babies, were responsible for the tragedies of the forest, or that the travelers were simply lost in the vast darkness and thickness of the Shades. This made sense at the time, and it was a kinder thought, which suggested man was in many ways still in control of this world. Still, the majority of men the more superstitious ones, believed the Shades possessed mysteries beyond our understanding and was the home of the spirits that guarded and guided our world.
At the Horn, we believe in nothing but certainty. When one visits the Horn monastery, they will find no crests, armies, or deities, only many questions, and many answers. We at the Horn have a saying; certainty for humanity’s sake. Before the Order of the Monks was founded, the wise Mountain Men, as we were then called, guided weary travelers through the deserts of the Horn, tending to their wounds and ailments.
Many years ago, during the Clan Age, the mountain king, Rawani, had nearly finished his campaign of bringing all the Horn tribes under his rule, except for the wise Mountain Men. Marching with soldiers, both cavalry and infantry, he was met not with arrows or steel, but medicine, food, and care. For some time, he was suspicious of these wise men, certain that their kindness came at a high cost. He was suspicious when they healed his sick soldiers, and when they taught him to read and write, and when they taught him numbers and told him stories of the Olive men of the north and the forest people of the east. But the night his third wife, the only person Rawani ever truly loved, fell ill, the wise men of the mountains became his lords. That night for the first time, they asked for something in return. If his wife were healed, Rawani and all his men would be taught the answers to a thousand questions. A foolish ask, Rawani thought. A gift upon a gift.
And so, Rawani’s wife was healed, and the king, as promised, commanded his armies to learn from the wise men. For years the wise men taught Rawani’s army, and for years they grew in wisdom. The more wisdom they had, the more soldiers Rawani lost. Before long, all of the Horn was made up of men of both scroll and sword, and the wisest and strongest amongst them became the Horn’s leaders.
When the order of the Monks was inaugurated, it was intended to serve man, all of man. It looked past nations, tribes, and religions, to find consistencies and truths. We wanted to know what lay beyond the Southern Ocean. So we built bigger boats and discovered the frozen vastness that lay far out when one sailed deep enough. We wanted to find out what lay north of the Scarcelands, and again, we found nothing but frozen vastness. The eastern sea, we found, met the western oceans. These facts led us to state with certainty that our world was edgeless, a sphere, with every side curving into another. We calculated that the third sister appeared in the heavens every fourth rain or so, and was more likely a comet than a moon.
The monks of the Horn believe that this knowledge ought to be shared with the world in the hopes that the world would be united – united through truth. If peace and unity cannot be based on bloodline and shared history, at least, it can be based on knowledge and truth.”
The Sky Sage is the debut novel of the SageLand series. It is a work of fiction set in an alternate African universe.