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The Mirrors of Tizun Thane
(Adapted from R.E.Howard by SJW)

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There comes, even to dwarvish lords, the time of great weariness. Then the gold of the throne is brass, the silk of the palace becomes drab. The gems in the diadem sparkle drearily like the ice of the white seas; the speech of men is as the empty rattle of a jester's bell and the feel comes of things unreal; even the sun is copper in the sky, and the taste of green fungi no longer fresh.

Faradin sat upon the throne of his Halls and the hour of weariness was upon him. They moved before him in an endless, meaningless panorama: dwarves, men, priests, events and shadows of events; things seen and things to be attained. But like shadows they came and went, leaving no trace upon his consciousness, save that of a great mental fatigue. Yet Faradin was not tired. There was a longing in him for things beyond himself and beyond the court. An unrest stirred in him, and strange, luminous dreams roamed his soul. On a departure there came to him Corith of the Rune-Axe, his warrior captain, leaving for a land to the West.

"Lord Faradin, you are tired of the life of the court. Come with me upon my journey and let us roam the mountains for a space."

"Nay." Faradin rested his bearded chin moodily upon his mighty hand. "I am weary beyond all these things. The cities hold no lure for me - and the borders are quiet. I hear no more the blade-songs I heard when I fought as a lad in the bloody pits of Cantabria, and the air was alive with blazing spells. No more do the green hillsides beckon me as of old. There is a strangeness upon me and a longing beyond life's longings. Go!"

Corith went forth in a doubtful mood, leaving his lord brooding upon the throne. Then to Faradin stole Arnumielle, a girl of the Halls, and whispered:
"Great lord, seek Tizun Thane, the wizard. The secrets of life and death are his, and the stars in the sky, the lands beneath the seas." Faradin looked at the girl. Fine gold was her hair and her violet eyes were slanted strangely; she was most beautiful, but the beauty of her Elder Race meant little to the dwarf.

"Tizun Thane," he repeated. "Where is he?"

"The spirit of the elder wizard lingers yet here at Lake Palace - in the Hall of Mirrors, among the visions of a Thousand Worlds. All things are known to him, Lord Faradin; he speaks with other dead and holds converse with the demons of the Lost Lands."

Faradin arose.

"I will seek out this mummer; but no word of my going, do you hear?"

"I am at your service, my lord." And she sank to her knees meekly, but the smile of her scarlet mouth was cunning behind Faradin's back and the gleam of her narrow eyes was crafty.

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Faradin strode through the house of Tizun Thane, beside the Lake of Visions. Wide and blue stretched the waters of the lake, and the fine palace rose upon its central isle; many bloody-winged hawks drifted lazily over its hazy surface and ever there came the chittering of nandie-apes.

Tall and spacious, but unpretentious, rose the House of a Thousand Worlds. The hall doors stood open, and Faradin entered there, unannounced. Thus he came into the great chamber, whose walls held the many high broad mirrors of Tizun Thane, the wizard. Converse with the spirit required lotus, the odd Carbuncle having now departed. Faradin seated upon embroidered cushions by a small rosewood table with silver hookah, and lit leaves from his small onyx box. Soon his heightened senses beheld the wizard's image within a mirror.

The man was ancient as the forests of Elhadriel; like wrinkled leather was his skin, but his cold slanted eyes were like sparks of sword steel.
"Faradin of the Red Mountains, my house is yours," said he, bowing with old-time courtliness to the dwarf motionless before his mirror's frame.

"You are a wizard, I have heard," said Faradin bluntly, resting his bearded chin upon his hand and fixing his sombre eyes upon the spirit's face. "Can you do wonders?"
The wizard stretched forth a hand; his seeming fingers opened and closed like a bird's claws.
"Is that not a wonder - that this image of flesh obeys the thoughts of my mind? I walk, I think, I speak - are they not all wonders, as I breathe not?"

Faradin meditated awhile, then spoke. "Can you summon up demons?"
"Aye. I can summon up a demon more savage than any in ghost land - by insulting you to your face."

Faradin smiled, then nodded. "But the dead, can you talk to other dead?"
"I talk with the dead always - as I am talking now. Death begins with birth, and each man begins to die when he is born; even now you are dead, Lord Faradin, because you were born."

"But you, you were older than men become, and live on past death; do wizards never die?"
"Men die when their times come. No later, no sooner. Mine has not come, though my body perished."

Faradin turned these answers over in his mind.
"Then it would seem that the greatest wizard of Ulek is no more than an ordinary man's shade, and I have been duped in coming here."

Tizun Thane shook his head. "Nay! Men are but men. The greatest are they who soonest learn the simpler things. Now learn more - look into my mirrors, Faradin Kibilturgul Azaghal Hurkubun-Dûmu."

Faradin started, hearing the shade utter the secret speech: Faradin Son of Silverbeard, Warlord of Helm's Deep.

"Mirrors are the world, Faradin," droned the wizard. "All the worlds, past and future. Gaze into my mirrors and be wise."

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Faradin chose one at random and looked into it intently. The mirrors upon the opposite wall seemed to be reflected there, reflecting others, so that he was gazing down a long, luminous corridor, formed by mirror behind mirror; and far down this corridor moved a tiny figure. Faradin looked long ere he saw that the figure was a distorted reflection of himself. He gazed and a queer feeling of pettiness came over him; it seemed that the sickly caricature was the true Faradin, representing the real portions of himself. So discomfited, he moved away and stood before another.

"Look closely, Faradin. That is a mirror of the past," he heard the wizard say.
Grey fogs obscured the vision, great billows of mist, ever heaving and changing like the ghost of a great river; through these fogs Faradin caught swift fleeting visions of horror and strangeness; beasts, men and dwarves moved there and shapes neither men nor dwarves nor beasts; great exotic blossoms glowed through the greyness; tall tropic trees towered high over reeking swamps, where reptilian monsters wallowed, and bellowed; the sky was ghastly with flying dragons, and the restless seas rocked and roared and beat endlessly along the muddy beaches. Humankind was not, yet humans were the dream of the gods, and strange were the nightmare forms that glided through the noisome jungles. Battle and onslaught were there, and frightful love. Death was there, for Life and Death go hand in hand. Across the slimy beaches of the world sounded the bellowing of the monsters, and incredible shapes loomed through the streaming curtain of the incessant rain. He moved again.

"This is of the future." Faradin looked in silence. "See you – what?"
"A strange world," said Faradin heavily. "The Six Duchies are crumbled to dust and are forgotten. The restless green waves roar for many a fathom above the eternal hills of Cantabria; the mountains of the North are islands of an unknown sea. Strange savages roam the elder lands and new lands flung strangely from the deeps, defiling the elder shrines. Helm's Deep is vanished and all the nations of today; they of tomorrow are strangers. They know us not."

"Time strides onward," said Tizun Thane calmly. "We live today; what care we for tomorrow - or yesterday? The Wheel turns and nations rise and fall; the world changes, and times return to savagery to rise again through the long age. Ere Cantabria was, Khalkidia was, and ere Khalkidia was, the Elder Nations were. Aye, the Elves, too, trampled the shoulders of lost tribes in their advance. You, who have come from the green mountains of Hurkubun-Dûm to raise the ancient crown of Nuln-Kibilturgu, you think your tribes old, who held those lands ere the Cantaborians came out of the West, in the days before there were men in the Fire Land. But orcs were there when the Elder Tribes rowed from the Marches of Hyperboria, and men before them, tribe before tribe. The nations pass and are forgotten, for that is the destiny of humanity."
"Yes," said Faradin. "Yet is it not a pity that the beauty and glory of dwarves, elves and men should fade like smoke on a summer breeze?"
"For what reason, since that is their destiny? I brood not over the lost glories of my race, nor do I labour for races to come. Live now, Faradin, live now. The dead are dead; the unborn are not. What matters men's forgetfulness of you when you have forgotten yourself in the silent worlds of death? Gaze in my mirrors and be wise."

Faradin chose another mirror and gazed into it.
"That is a mirror of deepest magic. Master it and the mirrors will take you where you wish – to Fierce Axe, Seat's Keys or, with your spark, mayhap beyond the Fourth Veil. What see ye, Faradin?"
"Naught but myself."
"Look closely, Faradin; is it in truth you?"

Faradin stared into the great mirror, and the image that was his reflection returned his gaze.

"I come before this mirror," mused Faradin, bristled chin on fist, "and I bring this dwarf to life. That is beyond my understanding, since first I saw him in still-watered lakes of Helm's Deep, till I saw him again in silver-rimmed mirrors of Cantabria. He is I, a shadow of myself, part of myself - I can bring him into being or slay him at my will; yet - " He halted, strange thoughts whispering through the vast dim recesses of his mind like shadowy bats flying through a great cavern, "- yet where is he when I stand not in front of a mirror? May it be in our power thus lightly to form and destroy a shadow of life and existence? How do I know that when I step back from the mirror he vanishes into the void of Naught?"

"Nay, by Silverbeard, am I the true or is he? Which of us is the ghost of the other? Mayhap these mirrors are but windows through which we look into another existence. Does he think the same of me? Am I no more than a shadow, a reflection of himself - to him, as he to me? And if I am the ghost, what sort of a world lives upon the other side of this mirror? What armies ride there and what kings rule? This side's worlds are all I know. Knowing naught of any other, how can I judge? Surely there are green hills there and booming seas and wide plains where men ride to battle. Tell me, wizard who is wiser than most men, tell me are there existences beyond our worlds?"

"You sense the ultimate world behind that final veil. A man has eyes which, with lotus or mandrake, let him see." answered the wizard. "But who would see must first believe..."

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The hours drifted by and Faradin, hookah rekindled with plentiful mandrake root, sat still before the mirrors of Tizun Thane, gazing into that which depicted himself. Sometimes it seemed that he gazed upon hard shallowness; at other times gigantic depths seemed to loom before him. Like the surface of the sea was the mirror of Tizun Thane; hard as the sea in the sun's slanting beams, in the darkness of the stars, when no eye can pierce her deeps; vast and mystic as the sea when the sun smites her in such way that the watcher's breath is caught at the glimpse of tremendous abysses. So was the mirror in which Faradin gazed.

At last the dwarf-lord rose with a sigh and took his departure still wondering. And Faradin came again to the Hall of a Thousand Worlds; for days he came and sat long hours before the mirror. The eyes looked out at him, identical with his; yet Faradin seemed to sense a difference - a reality that was not of him. Hour upon hour he would stare with strange intensity into the mirror; hour after hour the image gave back his gaze. As time passed he grew closer to the point of discovering some vast, unthinkable secret.

The business of the Halls and Hold was not neglected – his trusty castellan saw to that. Faradin's warriors worked and trained and diced and argued with one another as ever; Faradin's student rangers tended faithfully his herb garden; and the people transiting mirror-portals murmured respects to him. Faradin heeded not. He no longer thought of the image in the mirror as a shadow of himself; the thing, to him, was an entity, similar in outer appearance, yet basically as far from Faradin himself as the poles are far apart. The image, it seemed to Faradin, had an individuality apart from Faradin's, he was no more dependent on Faradin than Faradin was dependent on him. And day by day Faradin doubted in which world he really lived; was he the shadow, summoned at will by the other? Did he instead of the other live in a world of delusion, the shadow of the real world?

Faradin began to wish that he might enter the personality beyond the mirror for a space, to see what might be seen; yet should he manage to go beyond that door could he ever return? Would he find a world identical with the one in which he moved? A world, of which his was but a ghostly reflection? Which was reality and which illusion?

At times Faradin halted to wonder how such thoughts and dreams had come to enter his mind, and at times he wondered if they came of his own volition or - here his thoughts would become mazed. His meditations were his own; no man ruled his thoughts, and he would summon them at his pleasure; yet could he? Were they not as bats, coming and going, not at his pleasure but at the bidding or ruling of - of whom? The gods? The Women who wove the webs of Fate? Faradin could come to no conclusion, for at each mental step he became more and more bewildered in a hazy fog of illusory assertions and refutations. This much he knew: that strange visions entered his mind, like flying unbidden from the whispering void of non-existence; never had he thought these thoughts, but now they ruled his mind, sleeping and waking, so that he seemed to walk in a daze at times; and his sleep was fraught with strange, monstrous dreams.

"Tell me, wizard," he said, sitting before the mirror, eyes fixed intently upon his image, "how can I pass yon door? For of a truth, I am not sure that that is the real world and this the shadow; at least, that which I see must exist in some form."

"See and believe," droned the wizard. "Man must believe to accomplish. Form is shadow, substance is illusion, materiality is dream; man is because he believes he is; what are these worlds but a dream of the gods? Yet man can be that which he wishes to be; form and substance, they are but shadows. The mind, the ego, the essence of the god-dream - that is real, that is immortal. See and believe, if you would know the ultimate truth, Faradin."

The dwarf-lord did not fully understand; he never fully understood the enigmatical utterances of the wizard; yet they struck somewhere in his being a dim responsive chord. So for days he sat before the mirrors of Tizun Thane. Ever the wizard's shade-image lurked by him like a shadow.

Day by day he seemed to lose touch with the world; all things became each succeeding day more ghostly and unreal; only the dwarf-man in the mirror seemed like reality. Until - Faradin began to catch glimpses of strange lands beyond his other self; there flitted fleetingly across his consciousness dim thoughts and recognitions: The Axe, held by a perfect dwarf with ugly eyes; an evil horde issuing from caves onto a boulder-strewn field; a mountain-road to a lake, a waterfall cascading over battlements beyond; a dwarf tomb ringed with steel halberdiers; the key-chambers beneath the Hold; a human at a desk in a strange tower; and more.

Next day he lit the better lotus, last of the Cagayan Sable. Now at once the fogs of unreality thinned, and giant vistas gleamed. Faradin felt close to the doors of some mightier existence: "form is shadow, substance is illusion; they are but shadows" sounded as if from some far country of his consciousness. He remembered the wizard's words and it seemed to him that now he almost understood - form and substance, could not he change the mirror destinations and himself, at will - if he but knew the master key that opened this door? What reality beyond these worlds awaited the bold explorer?

The man in the mirror smiled at him closer, closer - a fog enwrapped all and the reflection dimmed suddenly - Faradin knew a sensation of fading, of change, of merging. . . .

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[Rolls: INT14x5=70%: 51 (success: realize power); WIS10x5@-40=10%: 30 (fail: soul-sucked); Spot 82%: 58 (success: see beyond)]


. . . Faradin saw the mirror-image shimmer and, as that final veil fell away, knew power greater than the gods lay in the hands of his other, true self. . .

"FARADIN!" the yell split the silence into a million vibratory fragments!

Mountains crashed and worlds tottered, as Faradin turned toward the frantic shout and made a superhuman effort, how or why he did not know – then was hurled back.

A crashing pain, and Faradin saw stood in the room of Tizun Thane through the mirror again, himself - and was mazed and half blind with bewilderment. There before him was now the body belonging to Tizun Thane, whose time had come at last – and by him stood Corith, Rune-axe in hand and eyes wide with a kind of horror.

"By Clanggedin!" swore the dwarf warrior. "Faradin, it was due time I came!"

"Aye, yet what happened? Saw you - what ?" His lord groped for words, gazing dazedly at the mirror's pane - wherein lay the bloodied figure of his bettered foe, now merely a false reflection of naught.

"Quiz thiz traitor..." answered Rune-Axe, indicating an elf-girl who crouched in terror before him; it was Arnumielle, she who first sent Faradin to Tizun Thane. She but hid her face, so Corith continued.
"As I came in I beheld the haze of life-force leaving your body and fading into yon mirror as fumes fade into the air, by Clanggedin! Had it not been with these eyes, I would not have believed – the haze vanished, then you came back at my cry. That degenerate wraith followed – but I hewed and dispelled it with my magic axe."

"Aye," muttered the other, "I had lasting gone beyond the door, that time..."

"A fiend wrought most craftily," said Corith. "Now Faradin – know you how the web of magic was woven and flung? Angrauko of Galador, agent of decadent Uradili elves, plotted to do away with you - ruler of our hall and dwarf-hold. He bad the wily wench, girl of elven breed, to conjure the thought in mind of coming here. Father Clave learned of the plot today, when I returned from Thrunch Council; I know not what that mirror showed, but it enthralled the mind and by witchery drew forth the body's life-force as haze..."

"Aye." Faradin Thane seemed now but little mazed. "But being mighty, with knowledge of all the ages, and despising gold, glory and position, what do you think the foul traitor Angrauko could offer the Wizard Tizun that would make him join such a plot?”
"Gold, glory and position." grunted Corith. "Men will be men - whether wizard, king, or thrall. Knowing that, you will rule these Halls as a better Thane Faradin, with I as your loyal Captain, Corith RuneAxe. Now - what of her?"
"Naught, Captain," as the girl glared defiantly up at the dwarf-lord. "She was but a tool. Rise, child, go – and mend your ways; none shall harm you." Crestfallen, Arnumielle withdrew.

Alone with Corith, he looked once more on the mirror of Tizun Thane, seeing the blood-soaked shade lying still within. Faradin's features hardened, cold grey eyes glinted like sparks of sword steel.

"Plotting and conjuring mayhap, Corith. I doubt you not; you aided my return and shall be rewarded. Yet - it was this 'witchery' that changed me from thin mist, and with it I stumbled on a secret. Would I have faded in dissolution - or would I have joined our foe's ghost in another world beyond this multiverse? Greatest are they who learn the greatest secrets." Faradin Thane stretched forth a hand; his fingers opened and closed like a bird's claws. He had power anew: the mirror's alien vista changed in his heightened sight, the grisly reflection was gone, and infamous wizard Tizun a mere memory. "Is that not a wonder?” he mused.

Corith stole a glance at the mirrors, and his shoulders twitched as if he shuddered. "Aye, the wisdom of all the hells is here. Let uz be gone, my Lord Thane, ere they bewitch me, too."

"Go, then. Lead me back to my Halls." answered his Thane, uttering a strange laugh. So they went forth from the Hall of Mirrors - where, mayhap, are prisoned souls of men and dwarves.

None look now in the mirrors of Tizun Thane. By Faradin Thane's order, thick tapestries obscure them, save when traversed. The mirrored hall is dark; few go in the room where Tizun's dried and withered carcass lies in dwarf-made tomb before the mirrors of illusion. The chamber is shunned as a place accursed, and few footsteps echo there. Yet Faradin Thane comes still, focusing his mirrors as he will, to scan strange wisdoms of a thousand worlds; and while upon his throne meditates often on untold secrets hidden there. . .

For there is an existence beyond the worlds, as Faradin found when the wizard bewitched him by words and enchantments, and its vistas opened to let the dwarf's soul beyond that strange door; Faradin is confined no more by his reality since he gazed in the mirrors of Tizun Thane.

THE END

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(Adapted by SJW, from 'The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune' by R.E.Howard, original here)

EPILOGUE