“So, Amberlin, you are a truth seer.” The voice echoed in her head.
The door clicked shut and Amber came to herself in the greyly dim corridor, her hand still on the handle. It was cold under her palm.
Wait, what just happened–?
Amber shook her head. Why’d my memory stutter like that just now? She remembered with perfect clarity talking to the Headmaster, down to the warmth of the teacup in her hands, the taste of the aniseed biscuits, the questions he’d asked about books, law, the theater, music. She remembered thinking how gentlemanly and knowledgeable he’d been, sitting there across from her, a pipe between his large, square hands.
He held out a book to me and I took it. But—what did I do with it? I don’t remember putting it down. Next thing I knew, I had the teacup in my hands. The tea was spiced, with honey in it. The cup was porcelain with a leafy green design and a gold rim. The biscuits were oval, arranged on a plate with scalloped edges…
Memories crowded into Amber’s head, almost overwhelming her with details—the myriad scents, the flashes of light, the splashes of color, every line and every curve. What she really wanted to remember—that book!—had drowned in the depths of impressions.
Her head hurt.
With a sigh, Amber let her hand drop, her fingers brushing the metal of the door handle. She turned, and blinked.
An unfamiliar corridor stretched ahead of her, low-ceilinged and smelling of damp and mildew. Tiny rune lights flickered in the walls. As Amber stared, they winked once, then vanished.
Darkness descended on her like a heavy hand.
Stiffening, Amber took a step back, reaching for the door handle to the Headmaster’s study—and safety.
Her hand found only rough stone.
Oh no. Heart hammering, Amber swiped frantically in the dark.
Still no door.
“Help,” she squeaked. The sound was pathetically small, coming from a constricted throat.
“This isn’t funny. I mean it.” Amber meant to sound firm, but her voice wobbled.
No one jumped out with a sheepish grin, abject apologies, or welcome lights.
An illuminating rune was the first thing a novice rune mage learned. A basic spell, it was practiced over and over, until scored deep into muscle and memory.
Amber’s facility with runes was shaky at best, but she had something better.
Taking a deep breath, she switched on her mage sight.
Slowly, the pattern emerged around her in dark, glitter-dusted strands. Tiny knobs stood out here and there, glistening with residual energy. With a half-sight, half-sob, Amber twisted them.
One by one, the lights came back on.
She was back where she’d started, but not for long. The lights would stay on only for a bit. The pattern was buried deep here, almost beyond Amber’s reach, and she had little magical energy of her own to draw on. Getting out of this miserable corridor was her first priority.
Amber hurried down it, senses alert. The corridor forked ahead of her, plunging into darkness on her right, ascending to a gold-tinted dusk on her left.
The way out. Thank the Maker! Breathing out a small sigh, Amber turned left.
Something tugged at her, pulling her towards the other path. Amber squinted into the heavy blackness. There was something wrong. The pattern right here was weirdly lopsided, stretching too thin in that direction. She felt a strange bunching in the distance, like tightened stitches puckering fabric.
It reminded her too much of her earliest sewing projects.
Amber couldn’t tell whether she heard the exhausted whisper with her ears or in her mind. But she couldn’t mistake that tired hopelessness.
Whatever it was, it needed help.
She bit her lip, still poised to hurry into the meager light.
Please. The word brushed against her with a dry rustle, like the fragile wing of a dead moth.
Amber made up her mind. Swiftly, she reached as far as she could into the pattern as it spread into the left passage. It had soaked in some of the light, at least. She tapped the tiny nodes within it, releasing a thin stream of brightness. It flowed towards her, and she directed it towards the right. A soft glow illuminated a few feet of corridor.
It’d be enough.
Bracing her shoulders, mage sight glued to the deformed pattern, Amber took the right fork.
Author’s Note: Amber to the rescue! What’s she going to find at the end of this path? I hope I figure it out soon! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! Fyi, episodes are likely to be sporadic until the New Year.