The Night of Dreams gave way to a lovely, clear morning, tinged in hues of blue and pink, with thin veils of mist covering the barley fields in a soft blanket of moisture. Gradually, the sun rose over the fields and dispelled the mists of morn', but the mist over the heart and mind of the learned one remained, with many burning questions and dark thoughts of doom.  

"Your countenance bears the furrows and shadow of a man twice your years, O learned one.  Whither went your soul this past night?", questioned the preacher.

With some trepidation, the learned one attempted to recount the details of the dream before they faded from waking memory, "Everything I saw was clear then, but now surrounded by fog.  Yet, the impressions contained therein remain with me: a dark maw opening upon the visible world, swallowing all meaning and life, illuminating sources of evil, and eliciting screams of horror; these things have to do with the nature of existence, deep things, deeper meanings...Still, the very nexus of the truth evades me..."

The voice of the learned one trailed off, and his gaze reached off far into the distance,  seeming to search for some visible sign to return the dream to full recollection.  

"Mayhaps continuing our discourse will jolt the details of your dream into memory?", posited the preacher.

Again, the learned one nodded his assent, unable to speak for distraction, and the preacher began once more:

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"Once upon a time, I was the Chief of the Counselors to the king of a nation in the East.  The old king was so in awe of my wisdom that he made me the Teacher of his household; all servants received their education from me, as well as all of his own children, who were numerous.  Perhaps the most promising youth I ever met and had the chance to teach was a youth by the name of Alcibiades, a youth with great physical beauty, a ready intellect, and a quick understanding of the Oracles.  Never before had I seen a youth with his promise.  I observed his movements from the days he was a mere swaddling bouncing upon his mother's knee, to the day he rode with the king's own guard against the men of the north; by then, he had become a mighty warrior with an even mightier mind, terrible to face in combat, and capable of stratagems to baffle generals twice his age.  

From his youth up, I taught him the Divine Oracles, which he memorized readily when his powers of cognition began to come of age.  He often would quote them in the religious assembly, when most simply took the Oracle Scroll and read aloud from it at the beginning of worship.  As his teacher, I could only stand aside with great pride and hope: pride in his victories and hope that none of my fears and darkest thoughts would ever come to pass, for men of great talents and abilities can do great good or great harm.  I prayed for such for years as I watched him mature, and, for a time, it seemed he would be a king ten times the degree of his father, exceeding him in wisdom, martial might, and religiosity.  

After a number of years his father died, and, after the time of mourning was observed, one of his brothers rose up against the kingdom with an army of traitors, in an attempt to usurp the rightful kingship from Alcibiades. Alcibiades rallied the king's own guard, seasoned veterans one and all, and met his brother on the plains in sight of the very gates of the city, where he easily smote his brother's army into great ruin, confusion, and disarray.  I rode with him past the heaps of corpses to greet the captured and cowed younger brother, a lad of merely fourteen, saw the rage rise in Alcibiades eyes, and witnessed him dismount, drawing his sword.  Although I counseled the rightful king that mercy becomes the divine ruler and to remember his own flesh and blood, he grasped his brother by the scalp, and hewed his head from off his shoulders.  

"Witness the fate of traitors to the crown, be they blood relative or sworn enemy!", roared Alcibiades with thunderous command, and his legions cried as one, "All Hail the Red King!"  

I could only watch my beloved pupil with horror, bathed in gore as he stood atop a mountain of corpses with his brothers ghastly head in his hand, flinging it wildly into the air.  After the battle – though slaughter may be a better word – I approached the king and prostrated myself, saying, "All hail, but does Alcibiades the Red suit your majesty's celebrated lineage of philosopher kings? Would not Alcibiades the Wise be a greater title, worthy of renown and honor, even love, from north to south, east to west?"

At that my pupil smiled, laughed as if he was merely the child I knew, caught at the trick of a boy first gone to school, and said, "Oh, my friend, be reasonable, the sword-work on the field today was merely an act to consolidate power in the crown. You need not fear your pupil becoming a wicked man!  I only did that which best served the kingdom and its people."

I witnessed his seamless transition from blood-crazed fiend to gregarious man of the crowd, and realized in a single explosive instant the monster that stood before me.  

At that moment, the learned one gasped with horror, visibly shuddered, with eyes aghast, as if scenes of death were playing out before him: "Your tale brings to mind a portion of my dream", said the learned one through clenched teeth, "I saw fangs dripping with blood, but not the fangs of ravenous beasts, but of men, men glorious to behold and kingly in bearing, standing in the chambers of power, having ended some great cannibalistic feast."

The preacher responded with a question: "Do you have any sense as to what this image may mean?"

"Verily, a sense of the meaning occurs to me after hearing a portion of your tale of woe", responded the learned one gravely, "some men, having great prowess in all things and abilities to do great good, use their powers to wreak slaughter, devouring the people whom they should protect and guide."  

"You have interpreted the image correctly, my son, and even more, you have verged upon things in my tale which I have yet to account, things more abominable than what you have heard as of yet."

"While my soul recoils, we must gaze into the abyss to master it.  I pray you to continue!"

And so the preacher continued his tale:

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In the Days of the Council, the king maintained a demeanor of propriety in all things, showing mercy often, ruling with justice; for awhile, it truly seemed that the blood-rage of the battlefield had merely carried him away in the early days of his rule.  Often, the king was seen praying, and he still stood in the assembly and quoted the Oracles with great reverence.  

If things had gone on in this way, this tale might have ended in happiness...

On the Great Day of Feasting, instituted by the Oracles from time immemorial, the King arose in the assembly and quoted with great passion, as was his wont, finished with the scroll, but neglected to return it to the Shepherd of the People, which was in keeping with the custom; he remained upon the dais at the lectern, and waited till all eyes and ears in the assembly were fixed upon him with immense anticipation.

Thus spoke Alcibiades the Red, sovereign of the Cities of the East and the Southern isles, the third of his line, in the final year of the Council, the 12th year of his reign:

"Behold, all ye people, this, the cathedral of beauty and splendor, enshrining the Words of the One for all ages and all peoples, that all may come to knowledge of the truth, and observe how the One hath given unto us this, the Oracle of His Testimony", lifting aloft the Oracle and continuing his iconoclastic speech, "Behold the grace and honor bequeathed to we, the people of the Oracle, and behold all the more the mercy shown, in that we have been lead by many a wise king prior to the present.  Moreover, witness the majesty enshrined in the lineage of Alcibiades the Red, and how the One hath wisely granted the kingship to the line that most hallows his Oracles, for verily you yourselves hath known how my grandfather, and his father before him, have taken great pains to commit the Oracles to memory, till they themselves were considered by some to be prophets of the One Himself!

For as the prophet says, "Blesssed be the one that keepeth Thy words in remembrance to also do them!"

And even more, "Blessed be the house whose God is the One, to whom He shall not impute wrong-doing."  

And yet, even more, "Blessed is the Nation who flees from the evil way: oppression of the sojourner, worship of the abominable, and pleasures of spirits."

But yet, hath not the Oracles also said, "In the last days it shall come to pass that a king shall rule wisely, and his rule will cover the earth, as waters cover the sea?  And in another place, 'thine eyes shall behold the king in his beauty?' And still more, 'the king which hearkeneth unto thy law shall be called, "Ruler of Nations?"

"All ye people, this day, witness the fulfillment of prophecy, witness the ascension of this, thy Nation, to the status of the Blessed Ones, the very sons of God!  Witness the ascension of thy King, who hath loved thee as the One loves his own, to the status of Shepherd of the People, for hath not the Oracle said, "...and the King shall stand as Shepherd of the People, and the Word of Thy Law shall be in His mouth?"  

And with that, Alcibiades the Red quoted the Oracle from first line to last, while the assembly sat in awe and enrapturement.

The Sun set and rose again, while still the people sat transfixed; finally, at the twelfth hour of the following day, the King finished his work with the final line of the Oracle, "...and they shall no longer kill or destroy on all of My Holy Mountain, neither shall death be any longer, and he shall wipe away tears from every eye, for sorrow and sighing will be no more."

At this, many wept with joy and delight to hear the Oracles spoken with such faith and Deified Essence!  

But the aged and wise amongst the assembly wept aloud and rent their clothes that they should live to see such days, for the Abomination of Desolation had come.

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Again, the learned one cried aloud, but this time in greater horror, saying, "I saw a fiery pit full of unspeakable terrors, from which emitted screams of terror, and leading the herd to the pit for slaughter were the shepherds themselves!"

For the first time, a tear streaked the grizzled cheek of the preacher, but he responded with care and poise, "You have witnessed perhaps the greatest of the evils of this age: the shepherds themselves, the keepers of the testimonies, and now finally, the ruler of the World, who quickens them all, lead the people to perdition and confusion beyond all repair."

"How could such things be?" cried the learned one, on the verge of despair.

"Recall to mind our earlier example of the field ready to plow and till.  Quite simply, the Prince of this World used time in such a way that he reaped the harvest of what he had so long sown in quietness for many years.  None of us knew until that fateful day of feasting...but then it became all too clear."

"But how could one possess the deepest of knowledge of the Oracles, a lineage bathed in the grace of Divinity, and still commit such abominations?  Would not the Oracles themselves rage against these actions within the mind of the person in question?'

"No doubt they did for some time, but, having set an end of every action, the Prince pursued his ends to the point of obsession, till the very words of the Oracles could only speak of him, his attainment of Empire, which he has since achieved and continues to propagate in the world against all Good.  There have been countless many like him, and perhaps many more yet shall come."

"So it seems that the bulk of the Prince's wrongdoing was unobservable wrongdoing within the inner sanctum of his mind and soul? How did the Prince come to achieve Empire, and did his actions have any negative effect on the Cities of the East?"

"All this will become clear in time, my son.  Next let us consider the use of the time of the Merchant, who lived in the city of which we have spoken, and bore witness to much of the atrocities we have covered."

"Very well, and perhaps the rest of my dream will come to light."

"Perhaps."