For it is this intellect, the capability to think and to dream and to touch the mind of God, which sets the race of men in a league apart from the other mortal creatures of the world. - Book of Òreseur, 29.13
I began with the first line. It is not always typical to approach prophetic translation in a linear fashion, moving from the very beginning to the very end. Prophecies are often roundabout, wandering through segments of meaning that do not often become clear until the end, when all has been revealed. But in this case, the prophecy -- Arielle’s prophecy -- started with a location. And this, I have been taught, is a natural starting point for translation.
It has been difficult to do this work in secret. If caught, I doubt I shall be punished. After all, I am not doing anything wrong or disallowed. But it would lead to all sorts of difficult questions. Where did you get the prophecy? Why are you decoding it? And then, of course, I would have to mention Arielle. That could complicate things quickly.
So I have copied the prophecy and stored the original for safekeeping with my personal belongings. The monks never search our things these days; we have earned their trust, and besides, they have enough on their plates with the Great Exodus. The replica, the one which I use more frequently, is stashed beneath a loose flagstone in the monastery’s undercroft. At night, I sneak out of my room and work for hours on it. I can take books from the library under the guise of my studies, and I record my findings here, on this parchment. I pray to Ántou that it is never found.
Working thus, I have sacrificed my sleep schedule and, arguably, some of my sanity, to the pursuit of knowledge. And I began with the first stanza.
Where the sun sets
And the branches hang
And the stars fall into the sea
The first line seemed, at first, to be simple. The sun sets in the West. It is always possible for a phrase to have a reversed meaning, depending on intonation and context, but in this case it feels unlikely. It is merely setting the scene.
The second line required more work. Based on cursory readings and, of course, what I have learned in classes, my initial guess was a symbol for death. Hanging branches can often represent a dying, starved plant. Another possibility was grief. A weeping willow is a symbol of loss, and has been used frequently in Dántaine literature to show grief and suffering. The prophecy already seemed to have dark undertones.
The third line was where my analysis fell apart. There were too many options. Seasons first came to mind. As the year goes by, constellations rise and set in the night sky. Perhaps this phrase referred to a constellation which, at a certain point in the year, set below the horizon and disappeared from sight. This seemed to fit with the first line: constellations, like the sun, set in the West. But most prophecies do not have redundant lines. And, looking through the prophecy, I did not see any clues to a specific constellation. Therefore, I was forced to conclude that a constellation was not the answer.
I read history books on falling stars; I read through obscure scripture and through ancient songs. I looked through astronomical charts, but nothing quite seemed to fit the prophecy. And what was worse, I realized that the Grey Sea is to the East. How could the stars fall into the Gray Sea when the prophecy had specified a location in the West just two lines earlier? The ancient histories hold many answers, but I seemed to be unable to find this particular one.
Finally, after several weeks, I had an epiphany. The prophecy did not want me to search ancient history. No, it was referring to a very recent event, one which was so fresh in our minds that, paradoxically, I had completely forgotten about it. I speak, of course, about the arrival of the Comet, that great ball of fire in the sky which had streaked through the heavens, glowing even by the light of day, and vanished to the East over the ocean. This was the star that fell into the sea. The magical sign of heaven itself.
From this, I was able to conclude that the first line was more complex than I had initially believed. But I quickly was able to revise my initial translation. I realized that the setting sun can also be a metaphor for the end of an era. This seemed to fit perfectly with the comet, which has often been viewed as an omen for change.
And thus I had translated the first three lines of Arielle’s prophecy. It spoke of the Comet, a sign from the Lord, and of the end of an era. It spoke of loss, of death. But I know not whether this loss was from the old era or whether it will come from the new. All I can be sure of is that the rest of the prophecy will not be so easy to decode.