Nlaminer woke up. The embers in the fireplace were dying. It was
warm in the room. He slept with a silver key and ironwood staff in
his hands. He scanned his backpack. Nothing missed. Whoever ran the
place, he was honest enough.
10. Alone in the mist
Time didn't flow here. He felt his inner clocks stopped. This
gave an illusion of stability and being protected from everything.
Well, if he stayed here, probably it would be the case.
He gathered everything he had and looked outside. The corridor
was the same - voices, soft music, footsteps... Nlaminer went out
and tried to remember the door that led in his apartments. If only it
makes any sense, he thought. The mind was tired of endless tricks
with space and time, it would be so quiet to live in a place where
walls do not move and all paths always lead to the same destination.
He sighed. A passage led down, towards depths of the Theater.
Figures walked in the distance. The way seemed to be no worse than
any other and Nlaminer moved on, looking around. Pictures were
attached to the walls - landscapes, abstract paintings, but not a
portrait among them.
If only I knew where Uaron dwells, he thought. Too strange
creature, he must be. But everything in this twilight realm was
strange, sometimes eerie. I need to find Uaron, but where and when I
manage to do that ?
Still thinking, he made a turn to the right and stood amazed.
It was a great restaurant, all filled with people. Different
races sat here. None paid too much attention to the newcomer. He
walked by the richly decorated tables; a low hum of conversation
filled the brilliant hall, nearly two hundred feet in all dimensions.
A barman was an elegant Human, with white hair and smiling eyes.
He silently offered him a cup of the herbal tea. Judging by smell, it
was the same mixture he drank there at the Palace. The understanding
suddenly came over him. Nlaminer sat by a counter and thanked the
barman. The latter made another cup for himself and sat, intently
looking into Nlaminer's eyes.
"Uaron ?" Nlaminer asked, after he sipped a bit off the cup. The
taste was wonderful. It brought him the memory of the Eternal forest
and its fragrance. Nlaminer shook away the images and noticed the
"Welcome to the Theater," he pronounced the last word with a
capital letter. "It seemed you need a good rest."
A music, unknown and weird for Nlaminer, started to play. He
widened his eyes; the inner rhythm was charming. "Where are we?" he
asked, looking around. The place was irreal, fragile, unnatural.
"This is the Theater, that's all." Uaron answered him, playing
with empty cup. "This is my place. I saw you in the Palace and
decided you could need my assistance."
"The Twilight Palace ?"
"How charming ! Is it the name you gave it ? Wonderful." Uaron
smiled and made himself another drink.
"Do you know something of me ?" Nlaminer asked.
Something very unusual was about this Human... or what he were else.
Something mysterious and powerful. Not the magic power; not even
godlike powers. But powerful still.
"Nothing you wouldn't give me. I know only you are in trouble. I
have very few visitors, you see. These," he made a gesture and the
hall became empty; the music was playing still, "These are illusions,
images of my mind. I have strong nostalgy for my home." His face
darkened for a while. "So I decided to remain here and welcome
whatever stranger passes through this place."
"What's the Theater ?"
"That's all I want. You see, great emperors possess much power
and rule large countries. But they live for a short time. I would
like to live longer... So I placed the limits to my empire and fled
from whatever world I could live in."
"A Tunnel," Nlaminer nodded. "I see it now. This is a Tunnel. So
you are a god ?"
Uaron shrugged. "In a way. I rule this place; it obeys the rules
I'd once introduced. Nothing more. But I will live as long as I
desire, for Tunnels are outside of any time flow."
Nlaminer was amazed. "I thought all Tunnels were under gods'
Uaron laughed. "There are always things nobody could imagine. I
thought the same until I visited the Twilight land. There are no gods
here, at least I evade them. We do not interfere into one another's
"No gods at all ?"
"No, no gods. They never visit the Twilight land. No one knows
how it was created. And any mortal can find here a refuge from
anything, if he succeeds to come here."
"It's rain outside," Uaron added unexpectedly. "Do you like rain?"
Nlaminer shrugged. "I do not mind it, anyway."
Uaron flapped his hand and the splendid hall vanished. They stood
on the vast domelike roof of the Theater. A warm rain was falling.
Uaron made another gesture and two chairs, under a gray tent,
appeared out of nothing.
"You can help me ?" Nlaminer asked. "I seem to..."
"No !" Uaron interrupted him. "Do not tell me anything. This is
not necessary. You want to find someone, right ?"
"And you are ready to do anything to save her ?"
Nlaminer stood up. "How do you know ? You were..."
"Easy, my friend, easy." Uaron laughed again. "I saw you both
from the window. No need to get annoyed. Believe me, if I wanted to
play with you, you could wander the Theater forever. I had such
visitors; some of them wished to discover my treasury. Stupid ones !"
he laughed again, more shortly than before. "I have no treasure but
the Theater, you know. Gold and everything else has no value here."
He stopped laughing and looked at Nlaminer earnestly, offering
him to sit again.
"You think I am crazy ? No. But... from the other hand, craziness
is like spice. It brings stronger sensations. So, judge me any way
you want, but I can help you. The price is high, though. Very high.
Are you still willing to continue your journey ?"
Nlaminer thought for a while. Then he looked into dark eyes of
his host and nodded. "Yes, I think so."
"I am glad. You will think I am mad and the price is too cruel.
Maybe it is. Let us come to my library."
They stood and entered a door that appeared in front of them.
Uaron led their way. "When you live in a place like that for several
hundred thousand years, you will learn its rules perfectly."
"If there is no time here, how you could measure time ?"
"You are clever. Well, I brought my watch with me." He showed him
fine watch, fastened on his wrist. Nlaminer heard of such things, but
never had one or even saw. They cost awfully much.
"This is the only thing that shows me the time," Uaron added.
"Well, we are here." He opened wide the great doors and they entered
a vast room, going far into distance. Bookshelves were placed in
rows. Nlaminer stood fascinated. He never saw so many books at the
same time. They were going for several minutes, and there was no end
to the room. If it could be real...
"It is real," Uaron replied. "Here everything's real... except
for all that isn't." He smiled. "Well, this collection is quite real.
The only way to keep one's mind working. And here's the table."
He led Nlaminer to a massive hazelnut table. A thick heap of
paper lied on it, inkwells and pens stood in rows.
"There is a door in the far end of the library," Uaron waved his
hand. "Here comes the price for your freedom. You will sit here
and write everything that occurred in your life. Every day you
remember, every adventure that befell you, every hue of your life."
Nlaminer had nothing to say.
"You may believe me or not," Uaron added in low voice. "But
that door will let you out only when you finish writing all that
happened until you stepped into the Theater. That's a rule. I cannot
change it. Nobody can."
"She will perish while I write this chronicle," Nlaminer said
bitterly. Despair fell upon him, a dark and endless mist.
"No." Uaron shook his head firmly. "There is no time here.
Decide for yourself. You cannot trick the Theater, but you can play
its rules. Does her life cost the price I've named ?"
Nlaminer replied at once. "Yes."
"Then pay it. Until then, be my guest. I am a good host, you'll
see that yourself. Pay the price, Nlaminer. You will find no other
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