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The Guardian
4. Up and down

Nlaminer woke up. Rhissa still manipulated something; the glass lightly rang; something poured; pages were turned... He looked at the book he had. He opened it at the page where the history of the lighthouse island was written.

This part of land had drowned several times; all the towns and other settlements were abandoned and lost in the abyss. Mysterious Akaeff towns were lost forever. Only their crypts, built up throughout the whole land, left after the vanished race. Nlaminer looked at the image of an Akaeff... much like the stranger he was talking to in his vision. A simple thought preoccupied him... but he couldn't hold it.

He stretched, left the chair he was sitting in and reached for another book. This one had maps; Nlaminer took a piece of paper - there were several heaps of the thin perfect paper on the shelf - and began to make drafts. The underground passages... the lighthouse plan... more and more maps. All these books seemed to wait for him.

Whose will ordered all of this in this manner ? What plans did that stranger have ?

He put the pen aside... Good pen, he thought. Pity it will break in my backpack... some things are not meant to survive disasters. He examined himself. After that night his fur became light gray, almost colorless... His face, surrounded by gray beard and a set of grayish whiskers made him seem one of the ancient sages.

He smiled and reached for a comb to do his fur. Being his natural dress, the fur required care, and he was several times soaked in salty water... time to tidy up his appearance.

When he finished, Rhissa called him. "Come here, Nlaminer. I have found many useful things here."

He walked to her, through many narrow passages between stands, tables, shelves. Rhissa sat at the huge stone table, covered with vials, retorts, burners and other alchemical glassware. She showed him two dozen small colored vials and books lying nearby.

"These," she pointed at seven opalescent vials, "will heal you. I've written down the recipes. Many reagents are quite rare and the process is complex, but the results are great.

"These four," she continued, "will make you resistant to poisons, though I'm not sure to which ones.

"And these," she pointed at nine small black flasks, "will boost your energy, though it will hurt you a bit."

"And these ?" Nlaminer pointed at three green small bottles.

"Well, these..." she paused. "I suppose they will sharpen your senses. I do not know how much... I hadn't much time to study them."

"Good for you." Nlaminer was quite frank. He was fascinated by all magic or magic-related things; the simple and quite obvious steps that transformed several strange things into a powerful potion could not leave him uninterested. Especially if his own friend could master such transmutations. For him this knowledge was opaque and indecipherable. "How we will carry them ?"

"Well, I made something right here..." Rhissa showed her belt.

She had made something like an oblong bag, inlaid with fur-like stuff.

Indeed, in such a container the vials could survive even falldowns.

Rhissa offered him the similar bag. "When did you make it ?"

Nlaminer was astounded.

"While you were... traveling," she paused, as if picking the correct word. She was always particular in psychic matters; his state was indeed more like traveling than simple dreaming. "Don't worry," she added. "It was quite simple. Besides, there was much leather here. I cannot even guess why. If only..."

Nlaminer looked around. Heat suddenly enclosed him; he felt on fire. Something wrong could happen, if...

"STOP !" he shouted. Rhissa stopped, bewildered. "You shouldn't... speak... about that..." he added hoarsely and then the feeling was over. "I understand what you mean. But if you speak that aloud, unpredictable things can happen." He looked around again. The room was vibrating. It looked like an earthquake was coming. Glowing globes began to pulsate. "Come out !" Rhissa said and pulled him to the staircase. "We should leave at once. Our time's at an end."

They rushed to the exit. The room was vibrating more violently; everything seemed to stand firmly. Nlaminer tripped over a step and was hit by a railing. A bit confused, he ran upwards; the room was trembling and... getting transparent... their time was indeed at an end here. Rhissa pushed the door and it obediently slid away; they came out and the door closed immediately behind them. Nlaminer looked around. No signs of a secret door. The island shook gently and all became quiet again. Nlaminer noticed his backpack was unfastened and remembered a metallic clanking as he ascended the stairs. He browsed through the inventory... his pot was missing. I hate raw fish, he thought suddenly and began to laugh.

Rhissa looked at him in surprise but said nothing. She was glad to escape some unknown danger they had just awakened. Nlaminer laughed a minute or two and then stood up, wiping tears off his eyes. "All right, Rhissa," he added. "Let's wait a bit. I think we should examine the wall again."

If only someone had left this room intentionally for us. He repeated this thought again. Nothing resulted from it. Whatever reacted to this simple idea, it was far away now.

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-- mecenat --

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