The small crystal mirror was ancient.
Older than mankind, it predated the Elders, the Archons and even the Ancients who had come before them. This was an Earthlord artifact, washed up when the Isle of Danu Talis was ripped from the primeval seabed.
For millennia the mirror had hung on a wall in a side room in the Palace of the Sun on Danu Talis. Generations of Great Elders, and then the Elders who had come after them, had puzzled over the small rectangle of crystal in the plain black frame that was not wood, not metal, nor was it stone. Although it had all the appearance of a mirror, it wasn't a true reflecting glass: its surface showed only shadows, though those who peered closely claimed they caught a hint of their skulls beneath their flesh, of the impressions of bones beneath skin. Occasionally--infrequently--some claimed to catch glimpses of distant landscapes, polar ice caps, expanses of deserts or steaming jungles.
At certain times of the year--at the fall and summer -equinoxes--and during solar and lunar eclipses, the glass would shiver and show scenes of times and places beyond comprehension and understanding, exotic worlds of metal and chitin, places where there were no stars in the heavens and a black sun hung unmoving in the skies. Generations of scholars spent their entire lives trying to interpret those scenes, yet even the legendary Abraham the Mage could not decipher its mysteries.
Then one day, when the Elder Quetzalcoatl was reaching out to straighten the glass, he had caught the side of his hand on the edge of the frame. He felt a sting and pulled away in surprise to see that he'd wounded himself. A single drop of blood spattered onto the crystal and suddenly the glass cleared, the surface rippling under the curling thread of sizzling blood. In that instant, Quetzalcoatl had seen wonders:
. . . the Isle of Danu Talis at the heart of a vast empire stretching unbroken across the globe . . .
. . . the Isle of Danu Talis burning and shattered, rent asunder by earthquakes, the great streets and massive buildings swallowed by the sea . . .
. . . the Isle of Danu Talis just visible beneath a sheath of ice, huge spike-nosed whales drifting over the entombed city . . .
. . . Danu Talis rising pure and golden in the center of a limitless desert . . .
The Elder had stolen the mirror that day and never returned it.
Now, slender and white-bearded, Quetzalcoatl spread a blue velvet cloth over a plain wooden table. He smoothed the cloth flat with a black-nailed hand, picking off threads and dust. Then he placed the black-framed rectangle of crystal in the center of the cloth and gently wiped it clean with the edge of his white linen shirt. The glass did not reflect the Elder's hawk-nosed face: the polished surface twisted with a gray smoke-scape.
Quetzalcoatl leaned over the glass, pulled a pin from the sleeve of his shirt and pressed the tip of the pin into the fleshy pad of his thumb. "By the pricking of my thumbs . . . ," he muttered in the ancient language of the Toltec. A ruby droplet of blood slowly gathered on his smooth flesh. ". . . something wicked, this way comes." Holding his hand out over the glass, he allowed the drop to spatter onto the mirror. The surface instantly trembled and shimmered, the ancient crystal running with a rainbow of oily colors. Red smoke steamed off the glass; then the...