The Courage of Lions [iii]

TCOL-Chapter-3

The Grey was blissful at first; it was new, and mild compared to the chilling nothingness of the black before, or the cutting contrast of the monochrome web. Where he had danced up the web, Othneil now felt himself floating. It seemed ludicrous to be hovering in the air when every part of his surrounding was the same colour, so he concluded that it must be the repeated motions making him feel heady, the same way dancing with Nora had done. The same way he had felt leading her to candlelight.

His calves began to harden with the strain of the sensation, reminding Othneil of one of his first cases as a Chirugeon – a patient cursed on the battlefield, afflicted with a stomach of stone, which could only be remedied by inscribing a scripture from the stone onto another surface and uttering it, shooing it away. Thankfully Othneil had sussed the riddle quickly, despite his youth. Unfortunately he sussed quickly, too, that he now felt heavy with the pressure of falling, and the stony sensation rippling through him was the kind of nervousness only the soul could feel approaching death. This was a dream in which he was falling, but could not stir himself awake to avoid the drop for his eyes already watering, hot. The Grey grew hotter with him, not the kind of warmth that invited lips in ambient night but the kind of wars in summertime.  The encased gut of the patient, via the tightening of his torso when he had seen Nora drifting from him, manifested now into the tightening of his whole body as Grey turned to Amber turned to Red.

The shudder came before the thud. The delay of pain running through him only further stifled Othneil’s attempt to cry out in an emotional and sensual numbness. He looked around him, now, and he saw dark, dried-blood red. An occasional blemish pulsated through the far distance; tarnished beige, like a cursed cyst. Othneil convinced himself that he had landed in a living wound.

He stood up slowly, wondering if the pain of this new world would reverberate through him. So far, he continued to feel nothing. His stream of thought was perturbed by curiosity, disturbance, violence. As a darker beige blemish squirmed across his periphery, Othneil envisioned the eyes of an Orc Sorcerer, much like the one he had been tested against in his first battle. Orcs have ruled the moments Othneil craved to shred from childhood. Their glare had pulverised him into cowardice in his first real battle, and so he had run and left his parents for dead. Their laughter governed the nightmares he and his Sister had shared on their aimless journeys together. In this memory, only a few days after Othneil had returned to the camp of his ancestry and made new friends in a clan there, this spell-wielding Orc could kill them, too. His clan, the Suns of Corous, had been entrusted with rescuing something they needed to win a war that raged since Othneil’s birth. It was heavily guarded, and ferociously defended. With only a dagger in his possession, Othneil ran from one clanmate to the other, keeping them from death when struck down, while dodging shots and swords from the fierce flesh-eaters. Eventual victory aside, the eye of the Orc Sorcerer remained in Othneil’s head, always, whenever something grotesque or out of place passed Othneil’s sight.

Suddenly, the pupil of the Orc appeared. Othneil scrambled backwards, terrified that this beast would be his companion for this sickly space. After a few moments, though, it simply remained there. It had appeared in the centre of the dark blemish, forming a resemblance to a pupil and iris, but as the beige faded back to red, it remained static. A small, perfect black sphere. Gingerly Othneil approached it, expecting it to get larger and becoming more curious as it stayed the same size. Confronting it, he realised it was palm-sized. He leant in, staring in deep. He yelled in fury at what he saw, running from it. In the black sphere were white, silky, swirling lines which creating a funnelled web. This was the tunnel Othneil had danced through, and was therefore the world he had come from – trapped inside a constantly miniature sphere.

 

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