Keeper of the Crystal

By Nick Kristof.

I can barely remember them now, my parents. They brought me to the Mountain when I was but four. I do remember them teaching me the days. They required me to recite them over and over.

Urudai. Shomdai. Oskriozdai. Lidai. Amba. Zhuèdh. He nodded down at me and turned. I looked to my parents, but they had already fled. With no choice, I followed him.

Before even the end of my fifth week, the others began to treat me differently. The cruelty lessened; I was allowed to eat. I learned only much later that He had shown his favor, and, out of fear, they began to defer. It was only much later than that when I learned of the reasons for his favor.

By the end of my seventh week, I had learned the calendar. I, whose parents could count only to manage their flock and with difficulty, could recite the calendar and all of the math that its understanding required. Six days in a week. Five weeks in a month. Twelve months in a year. Two years in a cycle. One cycle, 120 weeks. 120 weeks, one each for each of the Living Gods; although this last was heresy in the Mountain.

On the anniversary of my arrival, He, who had only spoken to me but seven times, took me to the summit. There I saw it, suspended by vines and its bamboo lattice; I thought that it would fall upon and crush me, so massive it was. Shortly after that, I was made a Polisher, for at the time, I was still one of the smallest. I was trained to dip the lubnu cloth in the cool spring water, and carefully wipe its smooth surface, cleansing it of all smears and smudges. I remember burning my hand and blinding my eyes in the noonday sun, but that was the best time to clean it, for its blemishes were most apparent during daylight. And besides, the night was for seeing, not the day.

I polished for six years, and only after that, did they begin to teach me of seeing. I learned of the stars, and constellations, the orbs, and the clouds. Then I came to understand the true significance of the calendar. The days and months were not, of themselves, important; they were merely the tools for seeing.

On the day of my fourteenth year, I was elevated to be Keeper of the Prism. As with so many things, I did not understand its significance at the time. In all the history of the Great Crystal, I was the youngest Prism Keeper. I was, until you.

And now I have been Keeper of the Crystal for fifty-seven years. We have learned much during that time, and we have watched, and waited. The learning will continue. The waiting will continue. But now, you shall become the Keeper of the Crystal. You will guard over it and pursue its use; there are other paths for me now.