The Next Morning
Journal Entry 2: The Next Morning
Shadows and shapes flickered on the other side of my eyelids. I knew they were waiting for me to awaken, but I ignored the temptation, luxuriating in the soft bed given to me on my arrival, the last rebellion of humanity among its rulers.
A hand touched my shoulder, gently but firmly. Still I resisted. “You can lay here no longer,” said a testy voice. Finally I opened my eyes.
The thin face that leaned over me was solemn, I found myself staring into an elderly man’s grey eyes, his skin pasty white, a contrast to mine. A trembling hand seized my wrist from under the covers and turning it to reveal the caduceus brand. On seeing it, he grunted in acknowledgement. “Prepare yourself. The mistress is waiting.” With that, he let me go, turned away and left me be, closing the door behind him.
The room was no brighter that it had been when I’d been brought here and told to rest. The lambent glow of the vortex from the window barely lit the stone walls and wooden floor. Candles burning in brackets at intervals and a large pile of blue rocks glowed at the end of the bed. A steaming cauldron of water and fresh clothes were left for me on the back of a chair. A plain white robe, spun from thick cloth. I picked it up, trying to feel its origin, but couldn’t place it.
I stripped off my worn garments and climbed into the cauldron. Magic warmed the water; it came from etched symbols carved into the iron. I could see them all the way to the bottom, lining the whole interior of the vessel. Water this pure outside of the domain of wizards did not exist. But it was not unfamiliar to me. I remembered the experience from my first visit to a tower, more than ten turns ago.
I thought about the words spoken to me on waking. Who was the mistress? Where was Vyasa – the old mystic who’d brought me here?
I bathed slowly, enjoying the sensation as I scraped away the grime of the world below, the dirt of Limbo’s tunnels and passages; all I’d ever known apart from that one brief moment when I’d been plucked away as a child, tested and given the mark. This time I would not be hurried, no matter who waited the other side of the door.
As I dressed, I looked around again, trying to memorise the details of the room, comparing it with my memory. A single tapestry hung beside the bed. The faded colours made it hard to recognise everything, but I could make out castle walls and misshapen figures climbing them from outside while soldiers fought in defence with bows, arrows, axes and swords. Above them stood a figure holding a staff, the flames from its tip, still visible.
The door creaked open again. The man peered around the door, his face set in a stern expression. “Hurry now,” he said. I considered asking him about Vyasa, but held my tongue. His answers would not satisfy me. He bore no caduceus. Instead, I nodded and moved to the door. He grunted in approval and walked on.
I followed him noting the etched icon on the wall in the corridor; a strange white star on red. We turned right and went up some steps before coming to a set of doors, both engraved with the same symbol and illuminated by beds of blue glowing rock. The old man produced a key, opened a door and gestured for me to go inside.
by Allen Stroud