Sunday, January 8, 2012


I am Watcher, and I am Untempered's shadow.

She has a name--they all do, come to that. Long ago, in her first age, in their first age, some would ask her for it. They spoke the language she had, then, so recognized that what they called her--Watcher--was no name, but a title. The askers faded in numbers, slowly, slowly enough that she didn't notice for centuries when they stopped altogether.

She picked up new languages as most people adjust to new temperatures. One might put on a coat, or take one off, but one barely notices any minor shifts. Old German to new German, or to Old English; Latin to French and Spanish and Italian...she was there, alive. In the first years, only her family noticed, and she when they told her, that she slipped into the accent of those she spoke with. As languages changed, she slipped into the new ones, hardly noticing the change.

She could notice, when she paid attention: hear the subtleties or obvious differences. But the only time she had to notice was when they spoke her title, her for-all-practical-purposes-name, in one of the new tongues. Her name was still Watcher to her, and these odd words for it always sounded uncanny--I am watcher, and watcher, and one who watches, yet they only know me for Watcher. None asked her name, anymore. Watcher was a name, now, though uncommon in most of the world. Even in those places that would find it an odd name for one of their own, it made perfect sense that she was Watcher. Some tried to make meaning of it, but few, and ever fewer. It was like a child named Violet--hardly anyone mentioned it; fewer sought meaning.

They had trouble guessing why she had her 'name'. Why was a trickster called Watcher? She made mischief. Perhaps it was for a habit of making particularly ingenious plans, for watching every angle? But the myths did not speak of planning, merely of a shadow that tripped the mighty.

And no one--no one at all--guessed why Untempered was called that. They guessed that it was because he was known for fighting bare-handed, so lacked any tempered steel. Which bothered Watcher intensely whenever she thought of it, because they were going by a pun that did not exist in the language, or hadn't when he was titled first: To temper steel and to temper oneself. Temper became what one did to steel, because they had no word in their language, so they translated the word the other languages had and used it for both.

His hands clench into fists, now, as another says just the wrong thing. And Untempered is strong, and quick in movement but not in thought, which means that he never turns off a train of thought, having started on it.

I see this, as I must see it always, as I do see it as often as I can.

(I am a watcher. A shadow that trips the mighty needs to see who, how, and when.)

Then a rubber ball from the display behind me finds its way into my hand, and who am I to deny the poor thing its purpose? It might cheer me up, at least. "Hey, Untempered!"

His head whips around, ready to snarl, just in time for the child's toy to snap into his nose. "Ow!" The train of thought does not break, but he's after me, as I laugh in his face and skip away. Never running, of course: I might get away.

Untempered is my charge. Willed as such to me when our guardians passed, for he learned more slowly than I. Those of shorter generations forget, for I was not to speak of it, nor was anyone else. For he would not stand being a charge. So I walked beside him as a shadow, and waited through centuries for him to grow up.

After the first few millennia, though I yet walked, I gave up waiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart