The Courage of Lions [iv]

Long time coming!


Othneil’s howls lodged themselves further down his throat with each infinity small world he came across. This new place, this throbbing, amber theatre, was brimming with collections of the small spheres, like the one from whence he had come. For a while he noticed no pattern between them, scrambling from one to the other, desperate to find one with an entrance to escape the reality he now faced. Then, as he became more acquainted with their strange, glassy appearance, the more they reminded him of the eyes of the people he had met. People, if he remained in here, which he had lost. People who themselves had been lost, like he had, before wandering into the Anvil camp and finding the Suns of Corous. Many of them were Draughir, seen as reminiscent of death to many, but an opportunity of a new life for him. A lot of them had come from the kinds of tragedy he had, and despite feeling that betrayal was rooted in his system, Othneil had felt complete relief in passing the tasks he needed to be accepted into their world, and then being able to help them – and, being a Chirugeon, sometimes save their lives – on the field of battle. He had gone from being one who abandoned to one would do his best to leave no-one behind.


The iris’ of the Draughirs’ eyes were more animated in colour than their human cousins, and this is what made these spheres feel so painfully familiar to Othneil. Each one had a kind of funnel-web, like the white one he had come from, but the lines would vary greatly in tone and shade, some even distorting in the shape of the web within. Infinite worlds – infinite labyrinths? – which he could barely see, let alone explore. This was an enslaving freedom Othneil could not bear. He had freed himself from a small world, but now with so many within his grasp, all he could do was continue to wander aimlessly, caressing their silky surfaces, unable to reach anyone.


With his madness dulling, Othneil began to pry apart little questions cycling round his mind, hoping the curiosity of this new hellish space would settle his nerves. He wondered, for example, why each sphere was suspended so perfectly at his chest-height, equal spaces apart, how he imagined the gallery Nora dreamt of to be arranged. What forces, too, were working that apparently allowed him to walk on another apparently invisible floor that held him down, like the real world did when one tried to jump, yet none of these spheres would wobble or fall when tapped. If he had not emerged from one, he would have assumed they were models… or were they?


Othneil stopped in his tracks – they could be models. He had been so convinced of the makeup of the first that it had seemed utterly logical, given the ludicrous nature of the spaces he had been through, that dimensions could be shrunk to the size of these spheres. Then again, it would be far more logical in the old world, his world, if these were models suspended by some sort of levitation spell.


Bursting into disbelieving laughter, Othneil bent double, feeling all tension leaving his spine. He then yelled, with all of his might, for the magician to appear. He was back in his reality! Through the other side of this seemingly endless cave was a mighty sorcerer’s gallery. Othneil would not know how friendly or fearsome this sorcerer would be, but it would be better than spending the remainder of his life in an apparently timeless space.


Yell after yell, nobody came. From joy, to fear, to rage, Othneil emptied his lungs, now thoroughly breathless between the hollow echoes of this unforgiving hall of spheres. Was he in the Cliff of Eyes after all? Is this what insanity was meant to appear like, for those approaching the end of life? Had Othneil stumbled into some mad Draughir’s paradox? He was about to receive his answer: a staggered ticking noise came echoing from below his feet.


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