"You are frightening me," Rhissa told him once after they
finished their combat lesson.
15. The Ethereal Bridge
Nlaminer sat under a tree and smiled back. "I am frightened
myself," he replied. "I never dreamt to have such skills."
This time they made their camp in a warm, but mostly lifeless
world, where they lived at a small archipelago, comprising eight
They jumped there immediately after Nlaminer woke up. Rhissa told
him something was changing in the Realm. They did not wait for
emissars of the false god.
Nlaminer felt no oppression now. Was it some Zartin magic or
anything else, but he discovered world again. He was writing songs,
travelling across islands, he seemed to be reborn. They knew they
were not safe, and Nlaminer proposed that they would continue their
He wasn't a clumsy novice any more. Rhissa was brilliant at maces
and staves, but she was far below his present abilities. Nlaminer was
quite another creature now - thoughtful, concentrated, but quick and
vigorous. When they began their first fight in this world Rhissa was
defeated ten times out of ten.
Rhissa couldn't understand where her friend took this
extraordinary energy, knowledge, vigor. He only smiled when he was
asked. During their second combat lesson she saw something that made
her not only surprised but terrified.
They were fighting with ironwood staves. After a series of
maneuvres Rhissa tricked his defense and was about to touch him with
a knob - to indicate a hit - when she saw Nlaminer outlines changed
for a moment... he became combined from several different
creatures... she saw all of them melting together again and in the
next instant he half-turned gracefully and disarmed her.
"There," he said, with his staff raised above her. "That's what
Zartin has given me. He calls that Thought."
"I am astonished," Rhissa said, wide-eyed, and indeed she was.
"How could you impress him so much to receive such gift ?"
Nlaminer shrugged. "I told you everything. I thought someone else
was speaking with my lips... as if several separate Nlaminers were
dwelling inside my mind. When I was weak, they helped me to speak
to the god."
"I think I saw your other selves," Rhissa whispered. "Right now,
when we fought."
"Tell me," Nlaminer asked. After Rhissa described her vision, he
dropped his weapon and sat on the ground.
"This is wonderful," Rhissa added. "If we manage to return home
you will be a living legend. A mortal who spoke to the gods
themselves and has been given many gifts from them." she saw a shadow
passing across his face, "Something bothers you," she said and sat
near him. "What is it ?"
"To return home," Nlaminer echoed. "He forbid me to return to my
Nlaminer repeated Zartin's words.
Rhissa shook her head and added,
"It's hard to understand gods. You can only be sure in one thing.
Zartin would not try to trick you."
The shadow left and Nlaminer turned to her, smiling.
"You are right. We will confront our opponent once more. But when
we return home, we'll both be living legends." he laughed. "I never
thought I could take such hazards ! They are not yet passed, but the
whole story's enough to write a wonderful book. Well," he added,
winking at her, "Probably I will write it some day. I had a good
training, you know."
"You are a perfect fighter," Rhissa added. "Why do you insist on
training me ?"
"You should be able to confront my double," Nlaminer became very
serious. "The false god has stolen a part of me. The double's my
mirror. I know he would be glad to destroy you. He cannot harm me.
But he will venture to kill you."
"That's impossible !" Rhissa felt despair. "One cannot defeat
Nlaminer took gently her hand and despair was gone.
"He's a mirror," he said, softly and slowly. "Only a mirror. He
can only imitate me, nothing more."
Rhissa was silent.
"Besides, my Voice, my inner Voice will help you."
Rhissa looked at him. "How do you..." she stopped abruptly.
He winked once again. "I know and you know. In the Museum.
Remember ? You were in trouble and my Voice helped you. Rely on it,
"But I cannot summon it by will !" she protested.
He shrugged. "We will train until you can control it. I lost this
Voice, I think - after my conversation with Zartin I do not sense it.
But you share this ability, and without it you are doomed. We both
After several long minutes Rhissa stood up. It was former Rhissa,
alert, ironic and quick. "Let's continue," she demanded. "If we are
meant to return home, I would like to return as soon as possible."
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