By Kim McFarland
"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."
-- Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
The Oracle dreamed.
He gazed into the fire he had built in the shelter of a cave at the peak of Mount Imperium. The dancing flames helped him enter a trance. He hoped to catch a glimpse of the future beyond those events he had already foreseen.
Visions always came during his trances. He could not dictate what they would be; often they were only memories of the past, returning with the startling clarity of lucid dreams. That was the case more often than not these days. He could sense that his role as a foreteller was coming to an end.
In his dream he saw, as if watching from a distance, his own arrival in this world. He had been sent here by a powerful spell, one meant for another target. He had intercepted it, taken the attack meant for another. He hadn't expected to survive. But instead of destroying him, it had sent him here.
For the second time in his life he had been displaced by magic, and as before it had taken him years to understand that there was a purpose for it. His fate had been tied to He-Man in a minor way. Maybe not so minor - a single stone, insignificant by itself, in a stream could alter its current, eventually changing the course of a river.
He had found this world both familiar and eerily different. The city of Eternos was no more than a large village. Castle Grayskull was there - but it was bright and new, and was in the middle of lush, green land rather than being surrounded by an abyss. Then, when he had seen this era's ruler - King Grayskull - it had all fallen into place. He had been sent away not in space, but in time.
The spell he had intercepted must have been meant to send He-Man somewhere so far away he would no longer be able to defend Eternia from its enemies. Then, he hoped, he might somehow return. He had read of the Oracle in Castle Grayskull's library. On those shelves he had even found a journal written by the Oracle - in Trollan. He had been from Orko's home world! If anyone could help a temporally lost Trollan, he could!
But there had been no Oracle.
Nobody had heard of the Oracle, and the floating temple he had inhabited was empty. It was as if he had never existed. He had realized that he must have come here before the Oracle's arrival. The only thing he could do was wait. When the Oracle turned up, he would ask him for help.
He had waited for years, then decades, wondering when the Oracle would appear, and in the meantime he had passed the time studying and absorbing the magic lore of this era. And, in time, it had changed him. He had begun seeing bits of the future, but as dreams and memories, as if his memory was starting to work forward, remembering things that had not happened yet. Could that be because he came from the future? He didn't know. By now it had ceased to matter to him.
Then the Horde had come. With a frightening sense of deja vu he had watched violence erupt in a formerly-peaceful land. He knew from history that someone had to nudge King Grayskull in the right direction, be a stone in the stream of events. But the Oracle was nowhere to be found! By then he had become used to seeing glimpses of events to come. He decided to fill in until the real Oracle turned up. He would be better than nothing, he had told himself.
The flames reflected off the eyes of the Oracle as, hidden in the shadow of his cowl, he smiled to himself. On retrospect, it was funny. He had been blind to what should have been obvious. Time had passed, and he had become accustomed to the role, had learned disciplines that helped harness his forward memories. Without realizing it, he had become the Oracle. Maybe he had been all along.
Now he had nothing to do but to wait. He had several hours more, he judged. He set a metal flask of water in the edge of the fire to heat. Then he took out a small leatherbound book and, sitting on the floor of the cave, opened it in his lap. He had been keeping a journal for years. He had needed some place to put the thoughts that he couldn't tell anyone else about. Talking to himself on paper, he supposed.
He skimmed through the pages. He remembered each entry word for word; he had reread them often enough that the first few words were enough to recall each to mind with complete clarity. Now that he had decided what to do with his journal, he needed to prune it a bit. Regretfully, starting from the beginning, he removed those pages in which he had mentioned his former life. Those must not make it to the future, he knew, because they had not.
A neat pile of pages formed by his side. All the reminisces of He-Man, the other Masters... his family. That had been the hardest part of accepting his role as the Oracle - knowing he could never return to his family. He couldn't tell Dree Elle and their children what had happened to him, that he hadn't died in battle that day. He had thought of trying to send a message forward that only she would recognize. He could write in Trollan; only another Trollan could read it then. But if he himself found it... the risk was too great. Even the smallest interference could knock the stone out of its place in the stream. If he learned of his fate too early, he might try to avoid it.
Might have tried in the future? This language was not designed to deal with time travel, he mused.
When he finished he held a thinner book, identical to the one he had found in Castle Grayskull's library. He had not even recognized his own handwriting - but, to be fair, it had shifted over the years. He would give it to Veena, this era's Sorceress, to place in the castle's library. Looking at the pile of loose pages he had removed, he considered feeding them to the fire. They must never be read by anyone else. But... no, not just yet. Carefully he rolled them up into a small tube, tied it, and hid it in a magical pocket in his sleeve. They would be safe there.
The water must be hot by now. He gestured at the metal flask. It lifted and poured water into the goblet he had set by the fire. He dropped several leaves into it and waited for the tea to steep.