From Certain of the Chronicles, by Levi Stahl (2006)
“This robe,” the man continued, “is decorated with all the scenes of human life. All things a man might do, or have done, or suffer through himself—all joys and fears, disappointments and surprises, loves and hates, art and destruction, begettings and murders—all are here, in discrete scenes that, with a shift of my shoulders, I rearrange. Every possible story is here for you, every beginning and every ending.”
He paused, rustling the folds of his robe as if calling on its guidance, then he spoke again. “A learned manipulation of this robe tells all tales. His Imperial Majesty need never be bored again—the robe contains infinite surprises.”
The advisors, old and troubled, wanting only a pleasing lack of disturbance in their last days, had sat, apprehensive, through this recitation. But on hearing the infinite spoken of with such blithe disregard for propriety, reflexively they cried out as one, dooming the man as an abomination for claiming such command of all knowledge. Their cries echoed around the chamber.
Unshaken, the man raised his voice and continued, almost shouting, drowning out the protests of the counselors. “But everyone understands that a mortal toys with the infinite at his peril. Knowing that, I have left a space untouched by my artistry. In that space lie all of man’s dreams—all things, however inconceivable, unknown as yet under the sun. In that absence all roads are open, no possibility foreclosed. And I have brought it for Your Imperial Majesty, in exchange for his recalling his armies from the land of my people.”
The counselors were uncertain, but as the Emperor turned his heavy head from the window, they saw in his eyes a brightness they had not seen since the early days of his reign. Though he said nothing—he spoke very little these later days—it was clear that the visitor’s offer had been accepted. Lands to conquer were many; this robe was singular. The armies would be ordered to keep moving, across the farther mountains.
The young man bowed, slipping the robe over his shoulders and into the arms of two pages. Forehead to the floor, he crawled backwards out of the hall. A counselor slipped from the room behind him to carry word to the generals.