Lucian walked by my side, hands bound and feet bound with shackles that were connected with thick chains, forcing a very short stride and clattering noisily with every step on the silver black stone floor. He was wearing an ancient Serein robe I had discovered and revitalised from Sephael’s quarters, turned to black to make it more bearable to him, and he had finally admitted to wearing it. It was certainly a most disconcerting sight to see him thus attired and bound as he was, but we had both agreed that for everyone’s safety and ease of relaxation, it would be a better option than to trust that he would be able to contain himself and his mixed up memories that were infested with mine, a disease that was burrowing, unbalancing and breaking apart structures he had build to support himself and that had stood for 600 years or more.
I had brought him up from the dungeon level and he had swam in my pool. He was very impressed with it and would not believe me when I told him how easy it was to shape the malleable tower material into anything your mind could imagine.
I had ordered him to eat the rest of the day’s provisions but half a bottle of wine later, he was actually feeling quite content and the battle over the Serein robe had only been brief, then he had made me bring the shackles and fasten them securely about his wrists and ankles.
And so now, we entered Sephael’s quarters and he hesitated greatly at the threshold of the master bedroom, still and after all these years, bound by a small child’s fear of punishment beyond understanding, and terror.
Once I had him inside the room, he could not stop shaking his head at the Serein white and layout, and I must say that I can’t imagine what it must have been like, for although I could share his reasonings, I really would not want to lay claim that I could begin to share what he felt in the sum of all he was.
He lay on the bed eventually as instructed, and raised his hands above his head so I could fuse the centre of the chain into the wall behind. There was nothing to attach his feet to and we both agreed that this would be enough to delay a surprise attack for long enough for me to be able to take some action on our behalf.
I stood looking down at him.
The fine Serein robe material just painted his outlines a silky black below and made his skin look extravagantly pale. He was contained and no-one who did not feel him as I did would suspect how deeply afraid he was, and how much he disliked being restrained in this way, it not being in the right context of the table in the dungeons and the posture unfamiliar. My eyes slid down his body, more comfortably now that he was clothed in a fashion. At the level of his thighs, where I stood, his robe nearly touched mine, black to purple, and with a thought I swirled my pattern to be a matching shiny black as well. It was correct to wear a uniform that would distinguish us and tell all and ourselves that we were on the same side now, even from a distance.
He said nothing but I knew that he approved on a level that way far beyond the colour of my robe.
I walked around to the side of the bed nearest to the door, and sat down beside him. He did not turn to me and continued to look straight ahead under half closed lids across the room at the shelves where the glass shapes pulsated loudly enough for him to be aware of them as well, giving me an opportunity to study his profile again. The desire to snuggle to his body, stretching myself long against his entire length and wrapping a leg about his, rose strongly in my and I had to close my eyes for a moment and sent it firmly into a place where things wait for their rightful turn. Resolutely, I lay down beside him, straight and square and with a good handspan’s distance between us although this brought me closer to the edge of the bed than I would have preferred to be.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes again, feeling for his familiar pattern and extending the invitation to join me in a link. He came to me gracefully, easily this time and we went straight to a depth that surprised me for an instant. With great reluctance I steadied the link at a level where we were connected but there was no confusion as to who thought what, beyond the general confusion of not knowing that half the time anyway with any degree of certainty.
I ascertained his readiness and he struggled briefly with a resurgence of the fear, of the not wanting to know, not wanting to hear, before sending an acknowledgement that was not entirely steady but willing enough, considering the circumstances.
Rationalising to myself that it was in his best interest not to go straight to the purple shape, I searched for and found the very first entry Sephael had made, the one Lucian had already seen through my mind. I aligned us both to the right place in the multilevel currents and the vision exploded upon us.
It was a sensible choice, for here I was, watching the young black haired boy triumphantly setting out his plans for the future, and Lucian was right beside me, not wearing the cloak but his ordinary clothes and looking a great deal older and far more scarred than he actually did – his view of himself, no doubt. He was staring and trembling whilst fighting to retain composure; I steadied him respectfully and when the vision had completed, played it again, and one more time after that until Lucian no longer needed to lean on me and his mind had found his own sharp focus, full of questions in response to what he had seen and what he had heard, and what that meant for who he was supposed to have been for all these many, many, many years.
I want to play this memory one more time, and link us tighter this time. The ones we are going to be looking at will not be as easy as this one, and we will need each other’s strength.
You mean, I will need yours.
(Mixed consent, re-focus). We will need each other’s strength.
Do you intent a full merging?
(Hesitation) Would that be safe?
(Wry amusement) There is nothing here worth killing.
Apart from us, of course.
I am aware of taking a deep, deep breath and then I begin the process of moving through the link, closer towards him, and after a short hesitation, I can feel him coming towards me to meet me half way. We touch, dissipate, touch, withdraw, and finally begin to resonate in harmony, partially at first, then more profoundly until I am growing larger, stronger, older, lighter, more profoundly aware of all there is on every level, and rise above our combined memory with a feeling of freedom and that the entire universe belongs to me by rights.
For a time, I stretch and flex into many dimensions, half remembered, darkly not explored, unfamiliar and yet so familiar, a clarity to the perception that is greater than I can recall and a firmness in my mind.
Eventually, I remember why I am here and what I am supposed to do, and I become aware that deep below me, there are old fears writhing, legless atrocities, ugly and suppurating, stretching with tentacles and poisoned barbs to draw me back into their lairs of nightmare, draining me of my powers and my will; yet here, and so high above, I can look upon them with a kind of pity at their monstrous existences.
Clearly and purposefully, I seek out what I remembered I came here to do. In the distance, rising like a lighthouse over the mists that cloak the waves below I can see the purple light and I move towards it swiftly and with a budding joy at my own freedom.
I flick the patterns with an ease of shuttles in the hands of the master weavers, and search for entries about the boy, Lucian, who once may have been a relative of mine, or the son of a good friend. Curiosity is what I experience, and when I find the first one that feels right, I enter the pattern like a silver fish will blend into the waters of its birth. The vision explodes around me and I find myself standing in the master bedroom at the Northern Tower. I am lightly balanced on my feet and power crackles in my fingertips. I am here to discover.
A shrivelled man with hair that once was black, demons dancing in his eyes and eating away at his insides like maggots inhabit the body of a dried up toad, wearing a blue black robe and many symbols of power uselessly strung around his wasted neck, is talking rapidly, waving his claw like hands in the air, sometimes leaving smoky traces of coloured lights in the wakes of his movements.
I stare at this old one and I am amused by his antics. He seems fragile and as though he would come afire like an old dried tree stump if he passed too near an open flame. But there is the mission and I must concentrate and listen to his rasping voice.
“The boy has finally arrived. And a poor specimen he is, to be sure. Should have brought him straight here from his father’s house, what were they thinking of? He is in a poor state of health and will need feeding and restoring before I can even begin to work on him. And as to his mind - dah.” He waves a spidery hand impatiently and forms a reddish figure of two circles ending in a streak with a sharp down drop at the end briefly and without volition. “Now, the convergence loss in the time fractals …”
I tune him out and leave the vision, returning to the same room, with the same shrivelled man. He is speaking nonsense and I move him forward faster, faster until his movements become a ridiculous dance of hopping and waving and rushing from side to side in lurching motions, his voice a squeaking burr until I hear the name I am looking for.
I move him back a little way and listen.
“Why it had to be Lord Tremains only son, I never know. The council is insane, that’s what I think, and they play with us all any which way. But that boy is stronger than I thought. And there is a place within him, something within him, that will be the devil’s own work to break. Still, I’ve got all the time, all the damned forsaken time in the world to make good, to deliver him to the council and buy my freedom.”
The next entry is thus:
“Lucian continues to surprise me. I am waiting for the boy to go insane, to break irredeemably, half of me is hoping that he will, but he does not. Not yet, anyway. There is hope for me. This boy is my only hope and I must make sure I don’t make any mistakes.”
Then, I find a very unusual pattern in the line as time progresses linearly and from young to old. I tune in.
I am in the dungeon level, and Sephael is right close up to my face which makes me wrinkle my nose in disgust. He seems to rotate my field of vision, until he is satisfied and steps back. I can see once his grey shape has receded that there is a child, a blond boy child with long, untidy curls, lying naked and cuffed to a large black table of which the child occupies only a half.
The child’s eyes seem closed and Sephael walks around to the other side of the table so I can see him and the child both. He waves a hand across the child’s head and the boy opens his eyes slowly and wide. I cannot discern the colour of his eyes from this angle.
Sephael speaks. “How are you feeling, Lucian?”
The child answers obediently in a high voice. “Well, master.”
“Are you ready for your next lesson?” Sephael enquires, with a near kindly tone of voice.
The child’s face starts to contort and I expect him to cry, but he does not. His skinny chest is rising and falling swiftly now, and his stomach muscles have contracted, showing a deep indent between his ribs and his hip bones.
“Yes, master,” the boys whispers between breaths.
“Very good, my boy,” Sephael replies evenly and turns to the devices, hanging neatly racked and ordered to size on the wall behind him. The boy is biting his lips so hard that a trickle of blood begins to run down into the groove between his bottom lip and his chin, then slowly snaking down his jaw and onto his neck held firmly by a thick blue steel collar.
Inside me, I become aware of a far away screaming, a howling and a crying that feels familiar somehow and I have the thought that it is trying to attract my attention. Yet I am riveted as the old man brings forth an object that resembles a paintbrush. I recognise it and a sharp twinge rushes through my spine. Below, the screaming is getting louder and my head begins to hurt so much now that I can hardly see clearly as Sephael applies the tool for burning nerve endings to the boy’s feet and the boy's high pitched screaming, reverberating around the stone walls and coming into harmony with the screams inside my head. Oddly enough, the harmony helps to reduce the pain and steadies my vision. The burning tool leaves vermilion welts and Sephael is systematically painting the child’s body with tightly spaced magicals, with a steady hand and calm expression that betrays neither sympathy nor enjoyment of his actions and their effects. When the boy’s body has become a tapestry in pink, white and red and only his neck and face remains untouched, and his screams have receded to intermittent whimperings, a shudder runs through his entire being and all is silent.
Sephael straightens, turns off the tool and returns it to the rack, carefully placing it back into the iron holder specially made to fit it snugly.
He glances briefly at the child, then addresses me directly.
“Really, this boy is a mystery to me. His pain tolerance is simply remarkable, and he never cries, nor begs or pleads. He has not asked me why I do this, or asked me to stop. He has never once asked me to stop!”
Sephael looks down at the unconscious child’s body, takes a deep breath and begins to move his hands above the boy in slow circular motions. Where he does this, it affects the skin below, reducing the swelling and the redness and returning it back to its original pale off white. I watch him and am struck by the inefficiency of his healing and the amount of energy he wastes, but then he begins to speak again in the monotone of dry rasping that is the hallmark of this era.
“Every single day, three or four times a day, I bring him to this state, over and over again, yet he does not question me, does not try to resist me, and he never complains. Now I know nothing of children, but this one cannot be the norm. Perhaps the council were right in their choice after all.”
He stops and looks to the boy’s mouth and the lips he has chewed through, causing a pool of blood that has soaked into his blond hair and covers most of the lower parts of his face. The deep red turns to rust when he applies his hand movements to it, then black, then grey ash that rises like mists and dissipates, leaving the boy and the table clean and as though nothing had happened at all. Whilst repairing the child’s lips, Sephael continues.
“In a moment, I will wake him and I will ask him. I have tried to work it out but he simply defeats me in his stubbornness. No grown man alive can take this amount of pain and fail to fall apart. I truly need to know what it is with this boy.”
There was a momentary silence as Sephael continued to work on restoring the boy, a piece of skin and nerve endings at a time. Half of the child now looked like an ordinary sleeping child, save for the bindings, and the other half like a mangled corpse.
“I am having trouble reaching into his mind. It should be easy and yet it is not. This boy seems to have no past beyond arriving here at all, or has locked it away so severely that even I cannot unlock it. Well. I’m sure I will manage in time, or perhaps it is as well. For what the council has in mind, soft memories of loving mother’s breasts and warmth will not be of much help, I wager.” He actually cackled there for a moment, before continuing, “Yes, perhaps it is as well. I shall leave that well alone. It is the future we need to concern ourselves with at this point, the glorious future of the newest weapon of the council. And here it lies, their weapon. Hah!” The boy’s restoration was near complete now, Sephael having chosen to finish where he started, with the soles of the boy’s feet.
The old man straightens out with some difficulty and takes a moment to recharge himself, then passes his hand once more in front of the child’s forehead.
Slowly, the boy opens his eyes.
“How are you, Lucian?” asks Sephael, a tiny vibration of exasperation or perhaps tiredness in his voice.
“Well, master,” the child responds obediently.
“Are you ready for your next lesson?” asks Sephael, leaning forward slightly and watching the boy with the intent of a snake about to strike.
The boy’s face contorts into a mask of agony and he bites down on his lower lip, hard enough to cause a trickle of vermilion blood to run down the groove made by his lips and his chin, snaking its way down his jaw and onto his thin white neck.
Near inaudibly, the child whispers, “Yes, master.”
Sephael shakes his head and takes a step back. He stretches out a hand bearing a flashing ancient red ruby ring and with a loud snapppp! the bindings fall open all at once.
The child swallows hard and does not move, his head remaining centred and still and his eyes on Sephael alone.
“This is a different kind of lesson. Sit up.”
Obediently, the boy moves first one arm, then another, holding the neck brace aside so he can pull out of it. He sits up carefully and without the use of his hands from a contraction of his stomach muscles, and conscientiously slides his ankles away from under the bottom braces, draws his knees up to his chest and wraps his thin arms about them.
Sephael walks over towards me, and I have a strange sensation of disorientation as he must have picked up the purple glass device, holding it in his hand and turning it towards the child on the table, bringing it in closer, making the child sitting on the table grow until his head, eyes and arms folded around the tops of his oddly shaped knees are filling my entire vision. The boy’s eyes are a blue green, huge, and there is not a single mark on his face, not the smallest of scars. With his fair loosely curling hair framing his pale face, he would not have been out of place in the depiction of an angel, had it not been for the small rivulet of blood from the bite mark in his lower lip that moves like a bolt of lightning down and to the left.
Sephael’s voice is right behind me and gives me a start.
“Lucian, look directly into this device at all times.”
The boy obeys and I reel as he seems to be making direct eye contact with me.
Sephael’s voice behind my head speaks again. I am trapped between that old man’s terrible voice and that young boy’s terrible eyes and for an instant, I feel myself dissipating before I remember who I am and what my mission is here. Power sparks from my fingertips and I observe dispassionately.
“I will ask you questions, and you are to answer in absolute truth. Do you understand.”
The child’s eyes flash to a point above me and he nods swiftly, repeatedly.
“Keep your eyes on the device,” Sephael reminds him and the child obeys, but this time the shock of his presence and awareness is bearable.
“How do you feel about being here?”
The child blinks rapidly and at one point, flashes a quick glance up and then forces himself to remain steadily looking straight at me again.
“I am not sure, master,” he finally says. I can tell that he hopes it was an answer that would satisfy Lord Sephael.
“Do you like being here?” Sephael asks and there is a sharp tone of sarcasm in his voice.
The child keeps his eyes level and answers, “Yes, master.”
Behind me, Sephael gives a half snort.
“How do you feel about your lessons?” he asks.
The child closes his eyes for a moment and a look of intense discomfort washes across his face. When he looks back at me, there is a resolution there and he says, “They are very painful, master.”
“Would you wish them to stop?”
The child shakes his head in an automatic movement and without thinking even. I wonder whether Sephael has spotted this too.
“I am here to learn, master.”
There is a silence, then Sephael asks, “Why do you never ask me to stop the lessons?”
The boy nearly looks up at him in surprise but catches himself in time and keeps his eyes straight and unblinking.
“I am here to learn, master,” he says evenly and it sounds very strange from that high voice with such resignation.
The boys face sweeps away and the vision ends there.
I feel a call, far away, for a homecoming of sorts, and turn swiftly and silently towards it. A moment of confusion, and there are two voices when I speak, together and in harmony at first, then moving out of orbit and I become aware of Lucian nearby, as he is aware of me.
Softly, I land back inside my own body, relaxed and sleepy even on the bed in Sephael’s chamber.
Beside me, Lucian tries to bring his arms forward and causes the chains to tighten and twang.
I roll over to look at him.
“Easy there,” I say and he is frowning, resistant to the opening of his eyes and blinking.
He turns his head towards me and oh, dear creator, I remember those eyes. I can see that boy in his features still, as long ago as it was, as unlikely as it was, and he shocks me by speaking loudly and with force, straight into my face, “Isca, I don’t care what you do, and I don’t care what you say, and I don’t care what oaths I have to break, or whose neck for that matter, but I will never, NEVER, return to that place again.”
I reach out to touch the side of his head and he moves it out of reach of my finger tips, causing a strain in his neck and against his tied arms. He shakes his head and says with every intention he can muster, and on all levels at once,
“I will not ever return there. Do you understand?”
I’m not sure that I do entirely, yet on a level, I think I do and I certainly understand that he really means it.
I nod to let him know that I have heard him, withdraw my hand so he can relax somewhat, and say, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I swear I didn’t know he could take those book things out of this room. I would have never put you through that if I had had known.”
He snorts, shakes his head then throws it hard into the pillow behind him, twice.
Finally, he says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
He twists himself around sharply, causing his wrists to cross and faces me directly.
“You do, do you?”
I sigh and wish I had had the courage to have checked these memories before making him look at them. I was always doing everything all wrong. I rub my tired eyes with the heels of my hands and say to him, “I just understand about not talking about what we’ve seen, that’s all.”
He lets out a hard breath that is half an exasperated sigh and half a moan and rolls himself back into a position where the chains don’t cut off the blood supply of his hands. Eventually, he says tersely, “I don’t hold you any anger. None of this has anything to do with you at all, in truth.”
I am very aware of how tired I am. After these months of loneliness, just being in his presence was not easy for me, although in truth, I was glad of it too, even if he was angry. That was much preferred to hacking away at his own eyes with a shard of glass, and I don’t know why, the thought made me smile.
“Would you like to be untied now?”
He flashes me a suspicious glance, then says, cautiously, “Yes, I would indeed.”
I unlock the wrist restraints – no theatrical waving around of the hands from me, Sephael! – and he grimaces and very carefully brings his arms down, rolls over on his side and lies waiting for the pain and stiffness to recede. I physically bend over and remove the leg shackles with my own hands, and let them slide in a loud clatter to the floor.
Absentmindedly, I stroke his ankle, just where the heel of his foot sweeps inwards and up, tight sinews there beneath the skin, and red marks where the metal has pressed and chafed.
He flexes his foot and startles me. “Why are you always touching me?” he asks, not unfriendly, more sincerely curious.
I think about it, then reply, “It is comforting. Nice.”
“I would have you stop that.” he says calmly and I feel a small bereavement, an anger that he would not even give me this much. So I slide off the bed and straighten my robes, strange and black and unfamiliar. My eyes go to the window and out through the glass and beyond, the mountain range stretching sharp and pitted, beneath a deep blue cloudless sky. What was there to do? Was there anything at all that should be done, and least of all, be done by me? For all the things I knew, and all the things that I could do, what did I ever truly understand about anything at all? Second hand memories in my head, and in my body too. I was no better than Sephael, punching the air with his fist, shouting out like a child, “I’m going to be the greatest magician that ever lived!” and who went on to become a bitter old man who tortured children so he could finally be allowed to die.
Lucian said something, but I didn’t catch it and thought, no doubt it is just another hurtful accusation, some comment of how I don’t know anything, how useless I am to him or anyone else for that matter; then I thought that I was feeling sorry for myself and should snap out of it and behave sensibly.
I note that he sits up on the bed and then I feel a cautious link being extended towards me, but I don’t want to talk to him right now and swish it away like an irritating buzzing, flying thing.
I am tired in my body and tired in my mind and I want to swim in the pool. I just turn and leave him to do whatever he wants, and make for the pool room. I cannot wait to get out of the cloak which falls to the floor and lies like the shadow of some shrivelled tree or shrivelled witch, what do I know, and step into the sparkling water, immerse myself completely and just float face down until I have to come up for breath eventually. It strikes me how sick I am of breathing. In and out. I’m sick of it and wish I could just stop and stay beneath the water, right at the bottom, looking up through the wavering green white and all that is above is pointless and far away. But up I come for a breath anyhow, and he’s there, shadowy black as well, isn’t he always, and he’s crouching right at the side of the pool, his bare toes right up to the edge, looking down at me.
He calls to me, and I let myself sink under the water once more, wishing the pond was much, much deeper so I could just go on sinking for a very, very long time, and never touch the bottom.
He speaks right into my mind then, authoritatively.
Involuntarily, I take a sharp breath but I fill my mouth and my lungs with water instead. Panic. Disorientation. Thrashing for the surface, bursting through, not being able to breathe the air there either, coughing, panic struck, water in my mouth and in my nose and I still can’t breathe.
Lucian is by my side and I can feel his hard arms around my waist, he carries me up to the safety of the tiled floor and forces my head down and beats me hard on the back. Water in my nose, and finally I can cough and pull in some air, coughing and gasping, leaning hard against him and holding on to his wet cloak with white knuckles. He holds me cautiously and uncomfortably in return, and tries to push me away as soon it becomes apparent that I can breathe by myself again and without further assistance. I dig my nails into his cloak and won’t be moved. Just hold me, for the creator’s sake. Just hold me.
“What are you doing?” he asks of me. I can hear his voice but I can feel it too, straight from his chest to the bones in my skull and I hold on tighter to him. He is warm and dripping wet and I am wet, cold and naked, and I need you to hold me, Lucian, for if you don’t, I don’t know where I am, who I am, or why I even exist here in this strange place that is vibrating all around us and shaking the floor beneath my feet.
With a deep sigh, he finally puts his arms fully around me, wet cold then warm, then hot across my shoulders and across my waist, one of his hands cupping my shoulder and the other my hip.
The shaking of the tower seems to intensify and is takes a moment of disorientation as I realise he is trembling, all of him. Within the embrace, he moves his hips back from mine and now quite forcefully, takes me by the shoulders and moves me out until my fingers lose their grip on the slippery material of his cloak and he is holding me at full arm’s length, my arms twining like pale snakes about his as I try to fight him pushing me away again.
“Isca, listen to me,” he says intently and underlines the sentiment with a clear thought command to make sure that I really hear him this time. “Listen to me. I forget how young you are, and I forget that you are - fragile, trapped in my own thoughts as I am. I did not intent any harm to come to you, and I would offer my sincere - regrets - for any – discomfort – my thoughts, words or actions might have caused you.”
I stand naked and ashamed like a child, nailed into position by his strong hands and his pale eyes and wish he would not treat me so unkindly.
He cautiously lets go of me and takes a step back, rubs one wrist hard, then bends to pick up my cloak from the floor. He half makes to throw it to me, then curtails the movement and comes over to me again, keeping his eyes on mine the whole time. He holds out the garment to me for what seems an eternity, until I finally take it with a limp hand and hold it to my chest.
“I will wait for you outside,” he says, turns and leaves, his wet cloak clinging to his legs and slapping as he strides out into the corridor.
I remain standing for a long time, until he nudges me again and asks if I am dressed yet. Then I just drop the robe over my wet hair, I have to pull it because it is sticking on my back and on my arms. He nudges me again, and comes back in when I send an acknowledgement that I had done as I was asked, just one step beyond the threshold. He reaches down, picks up some of the material of his wet robe, and wrings at it.
“You would know how to dry this, yes?” he says to me.
I nod and reach into the fabric, aware that he is link tracking me and so I slow down and make it extremely obvious how you first separate out what is the fabric and what is the water clinging to it, then to find the vibrations of the water and to dissipate it so it rises like a fine mist, but without heating it by accident and cooking his skin in the process. He tracks me with fascination and I leave a small patch near the hem, and encourage him to try it for himself. He finds the water and separates it out, but instead of dissipating it gently, he pushes the pattern too hard and there is a hard crack as the patch in his robe instantly freezes rock solid. I gentle his frustration, return the ice to a steady water state and help him fine tune into the correct mode of approach. He is very clumsy and uncertain, too, but eventually and with some surreptitious help, he manages to get most of the water to turn to mist; what he leaves behind, I quickly clear up so the end result will be a perfection he would be able to accept.
We open our eyes simultaneously. Lucian touches the cloak, and picks up the hem, tracing it right around to check for any remaining moisture, but there is none. He nearly smiles then, drops the fabric which now swirls lightly once more and says, “Don’t think I don’t know. I was there, in fact, I was the one who taught Sef how to clean the kitchen floor.”
I shake my head and half laugh, half cry. When I look back to him, he is really smiling at me. “Come” he says, and actually holds out a hand to me in invitation. “Show me how you get the food delivered.”
Together, we walk through the silent corridor with the unwaveringly oblique illumination, and we enter the room I have constructed to take my meals. This time, he actually notices and I notice through him that it is really much of a replica of the morning room at his Tower Keep and he raises an eyebrow briefly but says nothing about it. There are no soft chairs here, just the fire place, a low table before it, and a window in the same position where the windows in the morning room would have been.
My hair is still wet and I decide to dry it in front of the fire, fully aware that I am replicating our first meeting on a level.
“Would you light a fire for me please?” I ask him and sit down on the stone surround that I have chosen to be a soft pale gold with deeper veins of gold in various shades streaking within like organic lightning. He complies and a red gold fire springs into being in the hearth that has never known any fires made in any other way, no kindling, no wood, no coal, nor their ashes to stain its immaculate inner tiles of a pure reflecting gold and sumptuous russet.
He sits cautiously on the table, not trusting it with his full weight until he has tried it for himself, then relaxes fractionally and leans his elbows on his knees, looking into the fire yet watching me too at the same time.
I let the fire’s warmth slide down my face and my neck.
Lucian says, “I cannot …” and then stops. After a short silence, he continues, tightly controlling each word and each inflection, “I cannot give you what you want from me.”
“What is it that you think I want from you?” The reply comes over my lips before I have a chance to curtail it.
With full focus on the fire, he says, “You want me to lie with you, to be your husband. You want me to be like – ah what’s his name …”
“Chay. Chay Catena.”
“You want me to be Chay Catena.”
I consider this accusation, for I believe it is an accusation rather than a statement of truth even if he perceives it as such, for some time whilst my back and sides warm deliciously and my hair begins to steam with real heat and not with pattern magic, even though the fire itself was not hard.
Eventually, I say, “And you want me to be Sephael.”
A shocked silence falls upon us both that lasts for quite some time, until Lucian says, “Why would I want that? What do you think it is I want from you?”
I sigh and stretch my legs out long. “I think you want me to give you more pain.”
He smiles at that and nods. “And you would have me give you love.”
For some reason, stated like that, it didn’t seem quite so bad any more, not quite so insurmountable an obstacle.
I smile as I suggest, “Perhaps we could trade, one for the other. That way, we both get what we need.”
He buries his head in his hands and shakes it repeatedly. Muffled, he says, “Oh but how you undo me. You are a better Sephael than Sephael himself.”
Fluffing my hair and spreading it to the fire, I remark quite practically, “I told you he only had half of the answers.”
Lucian drops his hands and raises his head, shaking it. “And you have all of the answers. Sephael would have ripped you to a hundred thousand screaming little pieces.”
I don’t see any point in commenting on that, but a thought occurs to me.
“What is the worst pain you could imagine, Lucian?”
He responds before he has time to think about it or censor his words sufficiently.
“To hurt you.” and he actually bites his lip in much the same motion I remember from the small boy in the torture chamber.
I smile to myself and say, “Well, there is your trade then. You can love me and you can hurt me. And we both get what we want at last.”
For the very first time since we have entered the room, he looks at me directly. “I can not do that,” he says with a warning and intensity.
I hold his eyes easily. “I can make you if I want to.”
There is a hesitation of fear there although he tries not to show it.
“I won’t. I will not. I will resist you with everything I have.”
I mimic Sephael’s rasping voice, from his own memories, from the day his training in the ways of desire began in the tower room above our heads that I had never visited in all the time we both had spent here, “Oh Lucian my boy, when will you finally learn to control your control?”
Lucian gets up from the table in a fluent stride and moves towards me. Before I know it, he has me by one wrist and raises me easily off the floor, hurting my arm and making my joints creak under the strain. Without any seeming effort he puts his face and mine on a perfect level and says clearly, “You could not even stand the miserable fumblings of the butcher boy. How dare you even begin to imagine you would survive me at all?”
I reach into the patterns of his arm and weaken his muscles slowly, drawing the strength and warmth from them, one by one until his shoulders shake in the desperate effort to compensate somehow, and slowly, slowly he has to lower me to the ground. Physically, I remove his hand from my wrist which is too weak to hold on now and let it drop by his side. He reaches across and rubs his shoulder and tries to regain a sense of movement in his arm and hand. I raise myself onto the balls of my feet which is as close as I can be to coming eye level with him and tell him, “I can survive you, Lucian.”
“So you can survive me,” he says bitterly and not best pleased at having thus physically been bested by a small woman, “and what of the after? How will your mind be, and mine?”
“Are you afraid I will no longer love you as I do?”
“I do not love you and I care nothing for your love – whatever that may be, a misplaced allegiance, a heat of the flesh, an illusion you have built around yourself, the small wooden waterwheel a child may have constructed and that is washed away in the spring floods.”
I made a sharp movement with my left hand and was nearly distracted that it left the hint of a shimmering trail in the air that faded before the words were spoken.
“I will have you, Lord Lucian!”
“Ah,” he said with a half triumph yet he takes one step away from me.
“Isn’t that always the same tale, told by all? I need not want you to be Sephael to me, for in truth, you are one and the same. You care nothing for my will, and you would possess me and make me into whatever you think that I should be. You would have me kneel and swear my allegiance to you, to use me for your own ends and purposes, to fit me into your own illusions.”
I struggled with his words and the emotions he invoked with me, my mind racing, trying to find a way out of this for me, for him, to end this circle for everyone, somehow.
Then it came to me, and I addressed him clearly and on all levels, watching him, his posture that subtly suggested a sword fighters wary stance, “Recall our agreement, Lucian. I hold that your education was never completed, and that you operate from misleading information.
You would talk of illusion? You live in a world that is only consistent of suffering and shadow. That is as much a fantasy as any young maiden’s dream of her prince arriving at the window, dressed in purple robes and love beds, strewn with scented petals that will never fade.
The truth and the reality is that I am no better than you are in that way, we both live in illusion and both of us have no control – just an illusion of control. You must know this, for if it wasn’t this that Sephael was trying to teach you in all those years, then I don’t know what were his meanings and purposes. It is true and it is right that I would possess you, totally and in all ways, on all levels, just as Sephael wanted to posses you, or even the monks at the Holy Gate.
We all want to possess you because you are a treasure that shines brightly beneath your black cloak, you have a light within you that seeps through the cracks, and that would somehow bring a hope into our own darkness if only we could touch it.
You don’t know who you are. Sephael tried to find out, tried to show you, lead you to yourself and he failed in spite of all his efforts. I don’t know who you are or what you could be, could have been, will become, and I don’t know what I am either. Let me posses you, give yourself to me with willing and with grace, and perhaps there is the smallest chance, the thinnest light of hope that we can find out something about you, about me, about ourselves.
That is my desire, my purpose and what I want. You have nothing to stand against that, no desire beyond pain, no purpose beyond ending the pain, and what you want most of all you cannot reach from this your place in the shadows, the eternal victim to those who seek like I do, who seek what I seek, and who see it when they look at you.”
Lucian’s shoulders and posture had dropped throughout my speech. Tiredly, he said, “You speak of treasures and of victims, but what of my victims? What of the mountains of corpses that line my path? That fill the still clear lakes from the bottom to the top? What of their screams, their suffering? What would you say to them, if they arose on mass and like an enormous army would stand before you now, each carrying their pain in a bundle held to their chests like a woman would carry a stillborn child and holds it out to you to make it better?”
I shake my head hard to clear my mind of the images he is placing within me.
“At this moment, I don’t know what I would say to them. Perhaps I would send them healing or soothing or waves of blue and green, I cannot know. Yet are not you the one who told me that what’s done, is done, and it is not what was that matters, but what is now, and what will be?”
He resumed his previous position on the table, sighing heavily.
“How do we know what is past, and what is future? How do we know which way time is flowing, if it is flowing at all or if it should be the same for all time simply because we go from young to old ourselves and lack the power or the will to stop and go the other way? I know that Sephael would often talk of swimming with the tide of time and he was always looking for a way to step on safer shores. For sure, I cannot know if ever he did, of if he did, he did not think to tell me.”
I hear myself say and I truly did not say or choose to say this, “You were a beautiful child.”
He snorts but does not lash out at me as I had half expected. “A skinny little runt, more like.” Then both of us, against our judgement, drop into a remembrance of me holding Sef tight in my arms, his small bony body trembling and seeking my softness and my heat in comfort, and me loving him so very much.
“Ah, no. Not that again,” Lucian hits his temple hard with heel of his hand, then with a fist, twice more. I can feel the reverberations through the link and into my own head and ready myself to make him stop but he controls himself and forces the white knuckled fist to stretch out, looking down on the ruby that returns the firelight with much beauty and seems quite alive, shifting and flashing with the trembling of his hand.
“What happened to Sephael’s ring?” he asks me, striving for normality and conversation and to have some focus somewhere in amidst the treacherous swamps, the traps and quicksands that our minds were now, and I responded swiftly, holding out the back of my hand to him with the round and luminous diamond that was flashing gold and red reflections of the fireplace and fire. He does not take my hand but just looks at it and frowns.
“You changed it?” he asks, “it seems nothing like it was, before, and it is not just the colour?”
I nod and flow the metal of the ring so I can pull it off my finger. I hold it out to him; he takes it from me gingerly and places it into the palm of his other hand, raising it up to eye level and looks at it closely.
“I have stripped Sephael’s patterns from it and embedded my own,” I say quietly. “Once I knew whose ring it was you gave me, it felt like the right thing to do.”
He said nothing but continued to look deeply at the stone, reaching for the patterns in a confused and dissipated way that would never give him entrance there beyond a surface level half awareness.
“The colour just became like that, I did not choose it to be not red anymore. I always loved yours. It is so beautiful.”
He gave no sign that he had heard me but continued to grope at the structure of the ring, inefficiently, helplessly, and with mounting frustration.
“Will you let me show you?” I ask him politely and after a short but intense struggle, he gives a small nod. I link to him and very carefully support him when he moves in the right direction, letting him lead the way, just little nudges here and there, illuminating a key pattern for him that made it easier to perceive, and not long after, he gets his first glimpse of the tightly packed self enforcing lattice that makes up the gemstone. He is so surprised when it happens that we fall out of the link with a shock.
Wide open, unguarded bright pale eyes regard me with excitement and not a little awe. “Did I … did I really see that?” he asks with disbelief and when I nod a yes he returns back to gazing at the ring.
“Do you always see like that?” he asks me wonderingly and I suppress a small laugh. “No, only if I look real hard,” I say and catch an imagining of walking around and all I saw were patterns and not the familiar outlines of the walls and our bodies moving within. It was a disturbing thought for sure and I was glad to put my attention back on him and his efforts to repeat entering the pattern. He had learned quite a bit from his first attempt and the adjustments I made were much more gentle than before, and this time when the lattice came into focus, I was ready and able to steady him to keep him there, so he could begin an exploration of his own. He fair swooped amongst the lattice strands, following them in their perpetual re-feeding of themselves, punched them experimentally here and there and shot back in fear when he caused a rippling that ran right through the entire system and changed it in a heartbeat.
We both re-emerged to see that the gem in the ring on the palm of his hand had changed colour. It was no longer white but had a hint of suffused greeny blue about it and at once, it reminded me of the colour of his eyes.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said in a reflex and looked up at me, confusion settling when he saw me smile at him.
I took the ring from his hand and held it up to the light. It was a vast improvement, I thought. Sunlit spring water on the clean rocks of a stream, more translucent than it had been before and with his imprint gently nesting in the patterns.
“It is perfect.” I said sincerely and gave it back to him. He took it automatically, closed his hand around it, held it, confused as what I wanted of him next.
“Would you put it on my finger?” I asked him gently and he understood then, and hesitated.
I just stood with my hand outstretched, relaxed, palm down, a white place on my middle finger where the sun had burned my skin and turned it red and brown during the long ride, and even though the time in the sunless tower had faded it mostly, there was still a clear place marking where the ring belonged.
He reluctantly took the ring, holding it between finger and thumb and made as to reach for my waiting hand, then stopped in mid movement.
“It seems strange for me to place this on your finger,” he said reflectively. “I am your apprentice now, not the other way around.”
“Perhaps a great many things are back to front and inside out as how they should have been,” I answered him gently. “But it would please me much if you were to give this ring to me, it is new and different for the third time since I wore it.”
He nodded slightly and concluded the act of sliding the ring across my middle finger, softened the metal and set it in a reflex action that was nothing more than a trick he had been taught, and I interceded and took him to the level where he could be aware of just what he was doing to the fabric of the metal with his mind and his intention.
It awed him deeply.
This would be our answer for now, I thought. I will show him how to navigate amongst the basic patterns so he may lose his fear and his entirely mistaken beliefs that somehow, he was born without the ability to do this kind of work. And when he was a little more accomplished and much better tuned, I would show him the Serein world too – and I could imagine his utter confusion at their lack of direct cause and effect, their slipperiness and I would have to be well at hand to stem his frustrations.
We will focus on the calm regularity and challenge of the patterns – and why not? It always served me well to keep my mind away from things too disturbing, too painful or to hard to come to terms with. As well there was for him a pleasure in the patterns that I had not quite experienced in the same way as I had when I had watched him rush about my ring. I guess it all came far too easily to me.
He interrupted my thoughts by asking if I would share the last bottle of wine with him, and if I could procure a meal.
I was pleased to have us both engage in such safe and mundane tasks, and so he went to get the wine, and so I went to order an extra set of rations early and immediately. By the time he came back from the dungeon level the strange food from the horse people was sitting on the straw mat upon which it came, on the centre of the low table.
“Where did this wine come from?” I asked him after a slow draught of it and I’d passed the bottle back to him. We were both sitting on the floor, at an angle but within easy reach, like two soldiers would at a night time when they had made camp.
“I brought it with me,” he replied and closed his eyes briefly as the wine slid from the neck of the bottle into his mouth.
“You dragged a whole crate of wine with you, all the way here?” I asked incredulously, remembering my journey and that I hardly managed to get myself across the vast distances involved.
He smiled. “I thought I might need it,” he said easily and as though that was any kind of explanation at all.
“So, that’s my wine. Where does this stuff come from?” he said, pointing at the strange shaped breads, twisted dry meat of unknown origin, unusual fruits and nutlike mushroom things that lay in a colourful arrangement on the woven straw mat.
“From the horse people,” I replied. “They have been very helpful.”
He snorted and shook his head. “You are anything if not resourceful. That would have never occurred to me. I thought they were only good for horses.”
I put a mushroom thing into my mouth and spoke around it. “That’s the trouble with you. You don’t really see people as people at all. I bet you never thought Marani could play a major part in our defeat of the Serein, did you.”
When he didn’t ask, I supplied the information anyway. “She is very well and she has learned how to be a healer.”
“You taught Marani?” he says in disbelief. “Surely, she cannot have any talent whatsoever?”
I sigh and really, I don’t want to preach at him, but there we are.
“It’s not a question of talent. Anyone can do it, anyone at all, and all it needs is your will to learn and someone who can show you how it works. That’s it. Our cook, Demma, doesn’t want to know and so no-one could teach her. But even the housemaid Dory can clean windows now, set fires and choose the colour of her dress so it matches her moods when she rises in the morning. It really is the simplest thing.”
He says nothing to that and chews on a piece of unleavened bread like crust; I know just how tastes to him. Sand and earth and dust. After a long silence, he finally says, “I will require your help to sleep, and upon waking.”
And so I did. I created a new room for him so he would sleep without the shadows of the past as directly upon him as they had been in his own rooms; I cursed myself for a fool not to have thought of it before. I made a good sized window for him to be able to see the sky and the stars if he so desired, and turned the base black silver stones into a subtly soothing grey with traces of grey green and blue green, very easy on the eye and neither too luxurious, nor too sombre. The royal blue tapestry I left as it was for he had no idea where that had come from, and made a bed for myself on the opposite side of the room from his.
When I sent the food remnants home, I placed an order for the items to be delivered I had carried with me, notably the stones, Lucian’s book and his sword from Tower Keep. I thought that he might like to see these familiar objects.
Over the small fireplace in his new rooms, I lightly fused the sword to the wall so he could see it but not yet take it or use it on himself or me; spread the stones out on the mantle piece and placed the book on the bedside table.
I was playing house again, and it was a soothing occupation that made my thoughts, tired though they were, gentle and flowing easily for once.
Once in a while I checked on him at the Serein levels, and every time I did so and found that he was thinking nothing in particular and just resting, leaning against the wall and looking into the fire, I had a little twinge of knowing that soon enough the time would come when I would be quite unable to be doing this without him knowing, and without him being able to shut me out there, too, if he so chose. Each time that thought occurred I sent it back and made a note that I would have to watch myself for holding on to any power I might have for fear of losing what control I might be use upon him. I had promised he would be free to chose for himself in all ways, on all levels, and if he chose not me, nor life, there would be nothing I could do.
Finally I was satisfied and went to fetch him. He looked as tired as I felt and the last bottle of wine was now empty. Yet he was not as unhappy as he had been and even send me a small welcome on my return.
More, he made an effort to thank me for his new quarters and was quite amazed to see the sword above the mantle piece. For a moment he struggled, then he asked, “You brought but one of a pair of Tadara? What were you thinking? What happened to the other?”
“It’s on the wall in your room at Tower Keep. If you want it, you better go and fetch it,” I replied, taking his words for criticism, that I’d done wrong again, that my efforts, once again, had not been good enough.
He turned to me and shook his head. “Isca, it is a fate with these swords. One of them is male, and one of them is female. They are forged from one piece of steel, folded hundreds of times and then spit in half to make the two weapons. It is extremely bad luck to deliberately break the Tadara marriage for a warrior. I am surprised you did not remember this.”
Even as he spoke, I did remember. I remember the place where I had acquired them, a strange monastery many years ago when I was still just a section commander patrolling the Northland borders. I set them to make the pair and when it was completed, I returned and razed the whole place to the ground. These two were the last Tadara swords that were ever made.
It was my turn to shake my head. “I don’t know why I didn’t remember it then.”
“Ah, no matter,” he said firmly. “I have broken enough sacred relics to have bad luck until the stars expire. It is but an old woman’s muttered superstitions. I offer no criticism of your actions, or intent.”
I was still not happy, and he noticed and added, “We will just have to return to Tower Keep and re-unite the swords. It is of no concern.”
A little brightness went to me as I re-ran his words inside my head. He said we will return to Tower Keep. We. Both of us alive, and leaving this place together. It was the first time since I had found him that he had made an image of a future beyond here at all, and this one included me as well. I did not dare say anything for fear that he would too become aware and destroy the thought and moment, so I pointed him to his book on the bedside table.
“I thought you might like to make notes on the pattern work,” I said and my voice seemed rather higher than normal.
He turned his back on the lonely sword and walked across to the standard square tall Serein type table with the two shelves, reaching out and lightly tracing the lock and copper band around the large, heavy book with an outstretched finger tip. “You brought this with you all the way?” he asked, incredulously.
“It seemed wrong to leave it in the house, alone, in the empty house,” I explained.
He looked at me directly, as though he had never met me before and we had just been introduced. Seriously, he said, “I thank you.”
There was an uncomfortable silence, and he finally stopped looking at me and sat down on the bed, turning his attention back to the book.
“You have come all across the middle kingdoms, all by yourself.” he said, finally.
“Yes.” I replied.
I went to my bed across the room and sat down too. The surface was very giving and comfortable and with a sigh, I drew my feet up and leaned back against the wall, allowing my body to be supported. Then I returned to his question and it made me smile.
“With some difficulty, my lord. I killed one of your blacks.”
He made a small movement of dismissal. “No matter,” he said, thought about it some more and continued, “Although that is a strange thing, there are twelve and there should not have been a problem with the journey as long …”
“… as they are kept in sensible rotation,” I finished off the sentence for him. “Well I did not keep to a sensible rotation on that occasion and I rode the black into the ground, getting away from the siege of Pertineri and Trant’s evil work.”
He looked up with interest. “Show me,” he said, and we linked and I showed him that part of the journey. At one point, he took over and shifted me across to other memories as well, including the time I got myself stupidly surrounded by the soldiers in that town. I did not wish for him to see for I knew he would call me a child and chide me for such carelessness but he took the memory nonetheless, in its embarrassing entirely. When it came to my breakdown after Pertineri, I struggled with him and forced him out, because there was no way he needed to share my guilt over the devastated countryside and the dying of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, soldiers and simple folk alike, that had caused me to lose control.
I think he got a hint of it anyhow for he rose from his bed and walked over to me, looking at me closely again in that unfamiliar way.
Eventually, he said, “There you are. You sit there, small and fragile as you do, pleading helplessness and needing to be held, and always crying. Yet you ride into an occupied town and slay a hundred soldiers or more, alone save for a warhorse and half a Tadara. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I don’t see people the way they are, for I cannot conceive of this, nor how you could find such strength of purpose.”
I wondered if he would touch me in some way, but of course, he did not, and shook his head again. He went into the cleaning room just by the side of my bed and sealed the door.
When he returned, he stripped his robe and slid under the tapestry, stretching out long and folding his arms under his head.
“Where is your covering?” he asked me across the room. I shook my head. “I haven’t one.”
He raised his eyes to the grey blue ceiling above for a moment, then got up and lightly walked across to the fireplace. He reached up towards the hilt of the sword and after a short hesitation, I took the leap of faith and unlocked its patterns from the wall, allowing it to fall into his waiting hand. He took the sword to his bed, cautiously flexed his fingers so he was holding it by the blade, and used it like a knife to cut the blue tapestry in half along its length. Once the original cut had been made, it tore easily and fairly cleanly along the weave and just the border at the bottom required a little more cutting to separate the pieces entirely.
Satisfied, he got up and picked up the sword by the hilt, flexing it a little and I knew he was suppressing the desire to swish it through the air. Very controlled he held it up to touch the wall above the silent fireplace and I re-bonded it for him.
He brought me half the tapestry and laid it at the foot of my bed. It was longer than it was wide now, but still more than enough to cover a single sleeper with ease.
“There,” he said. “Now you have one, too.”
I thanked him with a nod although in truth, I would have much preferred the night blue tapestry to not have suffered such a fate on my behalf. He returned to his bed, sorted out his half so it covered him well, lay back and closed his eyes.
I reached out and send him the usual soothing waves of green and blue, then adjusted them to turn darker until they had become a night sky, filled with falling stars and unfamiliar constellations, and this soothed him deeply and soon, he was asleep. I deepened his sleep gently, deeper and deeper still so he would not recall his dreams or know a thing until I chose to waken him again.
It really was quite like singing a child to sleep, I though and went to wash myself and comb my hair which took a long time for it was in many tangles from the drying by the fire.
When I finally lay down in my bed and drew the tapestry across my body, I was so tired that I thought I would faint, yet as tired and as far away as my body was, I could not sleep for the racing of my mind.
I tried to contact my stone, in its pouch on top of my clothes in the wash room, but even the waves did nothing to still my mind at all; it kept above the relaxation in my body and it was as though it was trying to break free completely and be off and away, catapulting itself straight up and through the top of the tower and into the night sky above.
Ultra-aware of everything around me, the ever buzzing tower structures, Lucian sleeping, breathing, deeply below his own awareness, his beating heart, and even now, the sleepy humming of the guardian stone just across the hallway, and the confusion of the glass book shapes. Into this cacophony, the heavy oozings of the high tower room above I had not entered as myself – just had never thought to do so, how strange that was – and every imprint of every object adding to the noise until I was shaking fast, oscillating fast and faster still and finally something shifted and I could find myself rising up and out of my own body like a ghost, looking down and seeing myself lying there, seemingly asleep, in the semi dark, with a luminescence playing all around me.
It was the most peculiar sensation.
I tried to will myself to rise and rose very fast, straight through the ceiling above which caused me to flinch in fear but I passed through it, seeing it in a way that was totally unusual, not like the pattern world at all, but everything was sliding and shifting like dye you put into fresh water and then swirl it round.
I moved a little, here and there, and bounced against the outside walls of the tower’s energy curtains which extended even into this bizarre domain – how many more were there? Was there an end to them at all, were there a million layers and levels or more, each one stranger than the next whilst we walk blithely and unknowing in the hard, for the most part?
I tried the tower walls again and they were not as clear and rigid as they were in every other way, but there were swirls and little gaps through which I could glide and so I did and swam outside the tower in an unfamiliar space where the mountains were soft and oozing, and the clouds were ragged pinpricks wrapping tentacles around the spears of starlight from above.
I turned around in fear that had befallen me – what if I should get lost? What if I turned and the tower was gone? I might be trapped in this strange place forever! But down below me, far down below me, I could sense the tower with its edges sharp amidst the flowing mountain mass and I had quite enough of this and squeezed myself back through the little gaps and sought and found my body, unfamiliar mass that stretched out into the walls and seeped through the ceilings into the rooms below. I willed myself close up to it and felt a dragging sensation as though I was caught in an invisible sling that pulled me back inside myself quite without further doings on my part, and into my body I fell with the most tremendous sense of relief that I have ever known.
I sat up and I was shaking, my hands knotted into the fabric of the tapestry. Now I was tired as can be and too afraid to try and sleep again.
I got up and rather than getting dressed, wrapped the tapestry around my shoulder, drank some water from the wash room pumps and went into Sephael’s room instead.
In spite of the throbbing of the glass books, it was a strange relief being here again, and I lay on Sephael’s bed and contacted the guardian stone, waking it gently and just enough to task it with my safety and sleep.
Very soon after, the powerful waves from the stone began to sweep across my mind and body, battering me like a seashore, relentlessly, rhythmically, and at last I merged and was no more.