The Black Glass

“Hmm?” Uri the jeweler mumbled with a stone in his hand.

“Lapis, from the Shore of Songs,” said the boy.

“And, hmm?”

“Jasper. Red Rock.”

Uri furrowed his brow. “Don’t heed the tale of every thirsty fool, boy.”

The boy seemed to ignore him. He pointed to a small, dusky shard the jeweler kept in a phial on the high shelf of a pine cabinet. “Did it madden Priam, truly?”

Uri glanced over his shoulder at the black glass and sighed. “Indeed, boy. Though I’ve heard it told all kings are mad. Who else would think themselves fit to rule as Eaters?”

“From which shore was it culled?” asked the boy.

“None of this world. Do you know the tale of Ptoh?”

“No,” the boy lied.

“When the Eaters lived and skirred the stars, they visited the worlds of a thousand thousand different beings, and those beings likewise visited our own world. Several of those beings had assembled a coven that spanned the firmament, and they welcomed the Eaters into its fold. For ages the civilizations of the coven knew kindness and prosperity, and to all reaches of the clustered cosmos did the domain of the coven stretch. One of the beings of the coven hailed from a faraway and darkling star. With Its mind It could fold the fabric of space and time as you or I might fold a supper cloth. To the coven It was known as Ptoh.”

“For reasons we can but fathom the civilizations of the stars indicted Ptoh. It was the will of the coven that It be held on our very world in the bondage of the Eaters. They contrived for Ptoh a prison from which It could not fold Itself away, and there Ptoh languished for eons. In time, the Eaters left or perished, and the coven was forgotten to our world. Yet here Ptoh remains imprisoned.”

“And what of the black prism?” asked the boy.

“A handful of black sand, drawn from the shores of a dreary rock that spun about Ptoh’s star. The sands were fired in the burning gases of that star and cooled suddenly when Ptoh appeared in Qud a moment thence. It is said that Ptoh bestowed the glass to an ancient custodian of Its prison so that the man might free It. Once the man had chosen to wield the glass, it began to mantle with an amaranthine hue. You see, those that peer through its faces are given to fits of madness, for they see the world by the light of Ptoh’s star, and they see themselves as Ptoh does.”

“What will become of it? Does it frighten you?”

“Immensely. I mean to see it destroyed. But it bears the properties of no earthly glass, and my guild would never forgive me if I forsook the chance to study it first. It was the jewelers who bartered the thing from Priam’s grieving sister. Now, enough of this splendor. You are to study still.” Uri lifted another stone. “Hmm?”

But the boy’s eyes stayed fixed on the prism.