His mother picked him up and hugged him close, before walking out onto the balcony and gesturing at the twisted centre of the city of Junnes.
“Do you see that, my love. Do you see the Immaculate? Is it not wondrous?”
Eyes fixed on the incomprehensible geometries beyond, the boy struggled against his mother's embrace and then, thwarted, began to howl his displeasure and fear to the neighbourhood. After a few seconds of enduring the din his mother lowered him back to the floor.
“Don't worry, my love; you don't have to look today. They will be there tomorrow, and every day thereafter. The Immaculate are always there for us.
When the first ant scurried across his face and into his nose the boy began to struggle against his bonds despite his father's stern gaze. The ropes were firmly tied however, and the motion only encouraged the insects crawling over his skin to intensify their explorations of his body.
“Horrible isn't it, son? Forced to endure the touch of their tiny legs all over you. And some of them bite of course. I doesn't hurt you, not really. But you want it to stop don't you?”
“Please papa, please. Let me go.”
“If I let you go then you'll crush all these little ants. Industrious little things; all working to make a good life for their queen and their children. Do they deserve to get crushed?
“They're just ants. Get them off me, get them off me! Please!”
“That's right, boy, they're just ants.”
His father knelt besides him and started to brush the insects from his chest and face before loosening the bonds that had held him. When he sat up he could see his brother grinning on the other side of the courtyard. Ferd had done this last year, and not complained for a full hour. Their father had said that he hadn't grasped the lesson.
“You remember that feeling son. Remember how much you cared for those ants when you were all trussed up and they were making a home of you.”
“He is the heir.”
His uncle's words filled him with pride and looking at his father he saw that feeling reflected back at him tenfold. To his right Ella was holding back tears of disappointment and offering him a false smile of congratulations. To his left Ferd looked…relieved and the look he shot at his younger brother held more sympathy than congratulation.
His uncle's hand on his shoulder guided him to his feet and he stood before his father and said the words.
“I accept the charge laid upon our line. I give myself to the duty handed down by the Immaculate themselves. I will shatter myself in service to their perfection. I will break this world that its chains loose their grip.”
His father's eyes brimmed with tears as he took up his knife and began to carve an intricate sigil upon his boy's breast. There was pain, but his pride swallowed it up and made it something to be cherished. As the blade claimed his future, his voice held firm.
“I shall seek the song of ruin and should I be blessed to find it I shall sing to the earth, to the sky and the stars. To the sand and the rain, the beasts and the plants. I shall sing to all the people of the world and as one we will shatter and free our makers from bondage.”
With a flourish his father produced the family blade from the air and with a practised slash of the great sword left a shallow bleeding rent across his son's torso.
“Congratulations, my son. You will be the Glass Singer one day”
He helped his mother across to the balcony and stared out into the city. A harsh wind blew desert sands across the view and threatened to tear the veils of mourning from their faces.
“Tell me what you see, son.”
He reached into himself and pushed, felt fractures run through his body and up into his eyes.
“Buildings collapsing beneath their own weight. Paving stones crumbing beneath the touch of the sands. The trees are too dry to thrive, the moss by the well shrivels in the shadow and the water is befouled.”
She nodded sadly and he hurried to speak again
“But I also see perfection. I see angles that are straighter than our eyes can perceive or minds comprehend. I see darkness untouched by the harshest rays of the sun. I see tendrils as thin as a blade of grass but stronger than any diamond. What I see is better than our world; a glimpse of what might be. I see the Immaculate and it is glorious.”
His mother leaned against him and clutched his hand tight in her own.
“Go and follow your path and know that you will always have a home to return to here. We will pray for you every day.”
He squeezed her hand and then gently pulled free.
“Don't fret for me, mother; pray for those who have been suffering. Pray that I succeed mother, pray for their salvation.”
The Glassinger stood on a hillside and looked down upon Acryn. Thousands of building, miles of streets and scurrying everywhere about them were its citizens. As fine a city as one could find. It almost sickened him to look at it; to see the results of so many people's earnest efforts, of lives spent to better the world, and all of it hopelessly, pathetically flawed.
They would be hunting him again, he knew. He could see it in the eyes of his companions as they emerged from Mudra. Suspicion and fear shifting into a determination to take action. Good people protecting their homes and families… or perhaps bad people protecting their own skins. They had heard his holy word, and as all those before them they had rejected it. Still it made him proud to speak it; to declare his family's work to the world, to risk his life in the hope that one day someone would nod in agreement and join in the quest.
His master's contempt savaged him and for a moment he thought that he would simply come apart at the seams or else collapse into nothingness beneath the shame of his own hubris.
His pride was a shackle, holding him back from his task.
His legacy a fetter tieing him to centuries of failure.
His precious title a noose that would strangle him as he moved forward.
Even as these thoughts rushed through his mind, green fire erupted all about him. He staggered away and felt the power of the Immaculate tear through his bonds. For a brief instant the man he had been, The Glassinger, stood outlined in fire before him and then there was nothing.
For a heartbeat he felt somehow lessened but then the Song rushed into that part of him and he was glad of the extra space in his soul. Whatever he had cast away was a burden he didn't need. His purpose was all he had, and it was enough.
Humming to himself he started to walk down the hill towards the city.