A window into time; that was the Overseer’s understanding. Something flushed through a silver pipe, and out the other end, light flickered through expensive glass into the subject’s eyes, quicker than a blink, not that the recipient could. The Alchemist took the charred clasps from the Scholar’s eyelids. He was crying, heaving rasps of broken baritone. Blood seamed his binds, yet he kept pushing on them. Pale smoke curled from his eye sockets.
“Has he said anything?” asked the Overseer.
“Y . . . yes, a repetition. I think it’s the same thing, at least. A phrase in old Cornucopic. ‘I wish I could give more.’”
The Alchemist shook her head. The Overseer’s Cornucopic was rusty, but with his good ear, he could make out scattered remnants. He made a mental note of it and hefted the heavy wheellock, resting it upon the Scholar’s head.
An explosion. Liquid dripped, matter coated marble. Away from the machine, of course. The Alchemist shrieked, ducking, covering her ears. The Overseer didn’t hear the whining echo. He began reloading, packing ball and lard, pinching powder.
“We don’t need his testimony, only the imprint. Extract them.”
The Alchemist muttered acknowledgement and approached the twitching Scholar. The wheellock was left on the table, and the Scholar’s eyes, cleaned, were dropped into the Overseer’s waiting hands. The dilation and discoloration fit one appropriately dosed, but the imprints were what mattered. If the eyes of the present could act as a window into other times, then the Whalefall could be secured eternally.
An eye was placed within the Lens’ receptacle. Projected against the blood-painted wall, images flickered for mere seconds.
A battleground. The view shakes as if the viewer was running. A hand reaches out, and the eyes peer upward. Radiance blooms. The Whalefall.
The viewer topples, their vision obscured by blossoming flax. Turning around, a man stands above, wringing the viewer’s throat. An emaciated, desperate barbarian, skin taut around his ribcage. His grip is frail; he is starving.
Blurs. Struggle. A rock is found, brought down once. Twice. The viewer crawls inches closer to the Cornucopia, but their head spins, feet grabbed by the dying. The Alchemist guessed he was an ancestor of the outlanders. The Overseer knew the starving wretch was a covetous demon.
Tears streak down dirty cheeks. He screams in a silent image. The hands grabbing the viewer are not vengeful. Shaking hunger. Pleading. The viewer grabs his hand, almost in solidarity.
The man begins to gnaw the viewer’s fingers. The image fades.
The Alchemist was crying. The Overseer, disgusted, plucked the eye from its stand and crushed it between his fingers. The Alchemist had pleas on her lips. Things about helping the heathens, how the impenitent still deserved charity, how we had plenty yet gave so little.
The Overseer wiped his hands before they found the wheellock. Another bang, another unheard ring, and the Whalefall’s resolve was left untarnished.