Journal Entry 8: Broken Dreams
Artificer Ellis was true to her word. In three days, the armour was fixed and Lord Tallien departed.
Two days after his leaving, I found Meris lying at the bottom of a staircase in one of the tower’s minarets. Her arms and legs were twisted at awkward angles and her head lay in a stain of clotted blood.
I wasn’t sure how long she’d been there. The minarets are not often used. They branch from the highest reaches of the tower, far above the clouds and observation of the populace. They contain some of the order’s more rarefied objects and are connected to the main building by walkways at the top and angled stairs at their base. At times, Melmoth or one of the other alchemists would lock themselves away in the minaret rooms to conduct experiments that might endanger us, if they were attempted in the laboratories.
Poor Meris would have no reason to be in such a place unless sent on an errand, like me. She wore her acolyte robe, adorned with more runes and symbols than mine, testimony to her hard work and diligence. Around her I noticed broken glass and a dark powder; evidence of her given task, or something she chose to steal?
From my vantage point I could not see her expression. Her hair had come undone from its knot and obscured her face. I crept closer, until I crouched on the stair above. My hand reached out and touched hers; cold and dry, like my mother’s on the last day, after...
No, don’t think about that!
A spell came to my lips instinctively, before I considered using it. Up here, far from the land below, the magic seems easier, more natural and dangerous. What I would attempt I had not attempted before, but I knew how it should work.
I spoke the words and Meris’ head jerked and turned towards me. Her eyes caught mine in a lifeless stare. “What do you want of me?” she rasped in a terrifying whisper.
I clasped onto her fingers, knowing the casting needed us to remain in contact. “How did you die?” I asked.
“Did someone push you?”
“Yes. There were... hands...”
“Did you see who?”
I could feel the spell draining the breath from me. The strain of performing magic in Limbo is great. The vortex sucks the power from our weavings as soon as we cast them. I have read stories of wizard necromancers out in the Fractured Worlds, who force the souls of the dead back into their bodies, making them into powerful servants, but I was only an acolyte, practicing my art from within, not without. Whatever questions I wanted to ask, would need to be asked quickly.
“Who sent you up here?”
“What were you asked to retrieve?”
Dead Meris did not answer me with words; instead a deep groan escaped her lips, her body convulsed then lay still. My heart thumped hard and my chest heaved. My gift had failed me.
I knelt over the body for some time after that, staring and thinking. This lonely fate could be what awaited me; no living creature cared if I lived or died in this grim place. All that remained was the magic and our quest to face the door.
I thought over what I’d learned in the days of study, training and obedience. The gift came easily now, but still abandoned me when I needed it. Nothing in all my acquired experience and knowledge hinted at what I should do were I to be sent to that room and be given my chance, almost as if the elders did not want to prepare me, to prepare anyone.
Those who exceed their position, always face consequences, Ellis had said.
I bent down to Meris’ body once more and brushed my hand over the shards of glass, retrieving a pinch of the dark powder which I dropped into a pouch at my waist. Next I dipped a finger into the congealed blood, wiping it on a cloth which I also stored.
After that I retraced my steps and went to raise the alarm.
by Allen Stroud