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The Guardian
10. Alone in the mist

In the beginning it was mist. It filled the space all around, lit with soft reddish glow and created walls and floor and ceiling.

The mist was clouding in any forms the mind could imagine. It had no form, no sounds, nothing at all. It spiraled into ruby feathers, turning on and on.

After mist, pain came. It had many hues and colors, too.

It seemed to be endless and strengthening. Every bit of the body ached; the mind was in agony, too, with terrible efforts having taken most of its powers away. The core of his mind was full of pain; it was like he was thirsty, hungry and deprived of everything possible.

The will came the next. It was the impulse that forced him to fight the deadly fatigue. The battle was short but violent.

Eventually, he rose on failing legs and sat up, in the middle of the devastation.

Memory was the last to come.

Strangely, the last events did not weaken him any more. He could not allow himself to sit and bemoan his losses. Rhissa was in danger.

He felt she was alive, but in danger. The room was a weird look; deep cuts and scratches everywhere. The reptile blood, dried up, was splashed all around. 'I forced you to feel my anger,' Nlaminer thought, but the thought did not bring him joy. He was tricked again and from now should behave most carefully.

First, their possessions. He went into the other room. His backpack and her belt were lying in the heap of skulls. Disdainfully, he kicked them; they immediately turned into a cloud of white powder.

Nlaminer collected all they had brought here and reached for the amulet.

There was none. He studied his inventory: nothing. He felt for a moment floor falling under his feet... then he fought panic back, sat in the same chair and tried to make up something.

The situation: he is in unknown reality, Rhissa in some other reality, the only known way to move between is lost. Good time to panic, if only it could help him.

Strangely, a cup with the 'tea' still stood on the table filling the room with fragrance. He studied odor; it seemed to be not dangerous. Anyway, there was too many ways to kill them both before.

Owner of this place was indeed a strange creature, with a particularly specific sense of humor, but not hostile.

He prayed briefly to all gods and drank.

The mist left his vision at once. Then the room began to change.

It was growing larger; the walls moved to bring more space. A dome-like building appeared again, then a bridge span the distance between the two buildings. Part of the wall moved aside to open the entrance to the bridge. It was three feet wide, with no railings.

Nlaminer had seen too much in the previous several days to be astonished any more. He grabbed his and Rhissa's belongings, took one of ironwood staves, with a knob in the form of a dragon head and left his worn sword instead. With the staff on the belt, and Rhissa's items packed in his own backpack he came to the bridge and looked down.

Myriads of the paths were entangled in a maddening maze. Lights shone here and there down in alleys. Probably, some nocturnal insects. A wind was blowing, soft and warm. Nlaminer waited a moment and stepped on the bridge. Nothing happened. Then he crossed it decisively; in five minutes he stood on the other side.

The bridge didn't disappear or shrunk or anything else. It was still there. The Palace was nearby, a mountain of a castle, giant, splendid in some dark way and motionless. Nlaminer shrugged and entered dark corridor. A plaque was hanging above his head. It read in fine Thalen letters: 'Welcome to the Theater'.

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-- mecenat --

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