I awake slowly; my mind fights for consciousness but it feels unbelievably difficult and I can't even remember what happened to me. I concentrate on wakening myself up and open my eyes, blinking quickly trying to clear the blur from them. Once I can see clearly I wish I could have closed my eyes and slipped back into nothingness again.
I'm in a huge room; the walls are grey stone, lamps of fire sit in every corner but their glow is strange and I am sure there is something flickering in the centre of them; a slightly whiter light then the surrounding flame.
I pull my eyes away from the mysterious fire and look towards the ceiling but the room doesn't seem to have one, the light from the lamps should illuminate it but it doesn't, the darkness above my head seems solid and impenetrable by light. There isn't any furniture in the room, well except for what ever I'm strapped to, which from this angle looks like some sort of wooden frame, tilted at a forty five degree angle. On the wall to my left is a long, shimmering olive green curtain - maybe the exit considering there are no doors in this room?
I begin to thrash around but my arms strain against the leather straps around them to no avail. I try the same with my legs but soon give up as the leather begins to cut into my skin and that's when someone walks through the olive green curtain.
I can't see who it is under the long cloak but as soon as he talks I immediately recognise his voice.
'You have been causing quite a stir Dione.'
'Inigo? Why am I strapped to this like some prisoner?'
'You are not a prisoner even though the restraints may make you think you are. We just had to keep you somewhere safely away from the other Amarians.'
'Why for goodness sake?'
'Do you not remember what happened?'
I think about it for a few moments and then frown. I really can't.
'No, not at all.'
'Well then, let me explain. When Alistair was accessing the other parts of the Justice, do you remember the wall and him using his magic upon it?'
As soon as he says it the memory comes flooding back. Alistair's hands on the wall, his essence wrapped around us like a warm blanket and then my moment of stupidity, the moment I touched him. I come back to myself with a gasp.
'I remember now' what did I do?'
He chuckles lightly before he answers.
'Only you can be so powerful and yet so naive Dione, surprisingly that's quite refreshing,' I frown harder at him and he continues, 'When you touched Alistair something very unexpected happened. Somehow your power melded together creating something far too powerful for the both of you. You passed out and so did Alistair. He is fine before you ask but there has been a few changes to the entrance to the resting. There has been a bit of an up roar and a lot of the Amarians were ready to come and find you. We had to stop them of course and this room is the safest one we have but you could still not be left to roam freely so we attached you to this.' He finishes by gesturing to the frame underneath me.
'What happened when our magic' fused?'
He reaches up and slips the hood of his cloak back. He stands inches from me with a look of wonder on his beautiful yet dead face. Like a spark of movement in a seemingly dead insect; totally unexpected and slightly disturbing, all at the same time.
'It has been many centuries since I have felt excitement like this Dione. So many years of routine, so many years of boredom and then you walk into our home and suddenly the world is an exciting place once again. I now realise what the fuss is about when people talk of thee. I now understand why Alistair would sacrifice himself for you like he has and why he would lose his freedom, willing to prevent you from being one of us, because you are beyond everything here.'
'Inigo enough with the riddles, tell me please.'
He chuckles, a beautiful soft sound and I frown again.
'You're so human Dione. You let your emotions rule you where as all of us here do not even feel most of the time. Those few minutes after you entered our home you have managed to instill so many reactions, so many feelings from us that we have not had in centuries. I am telling you this because you need to know of the impact you have laid upon us. We the almighty Justice, and you a sheltered Marcusees witch - there is no comparison - yet you have brought most of us to our knees, not with rage or anger but with respect for who and what you are.'
I hang there on that uncomfortable rack and my mouth hits the floor; my remaining hope, following seconds after.
I don't want this! I don't want to be interesting to them! I just want be left alone that is all. Now I have done something, something big and I can never take it back. I can see from the long lost glint in his eye; they will not let me go now. I will be there play thing, something to be poked and prodded and analysed. I am in bigger trouble now than I would have been if I had just let them kill me. At least that would have been quick' now I face the very real possibility of never walking from this cave again, even if I do live.
'Please Inigo, I do not want his. Please let me leave and I promise I will not try to find Alistair. I swear I will leave him alone!'
'Such fear in your voice, why? We will give you everything you have ever wanted; this will be your home now. After what happened in that hallway, after what you have shown us, the game has changed pace as it were. You will be treated as an honoured guest and you can meet with the Sovereign at a time of your choosing. This is our gift to you.'
And there they are - the words I have been dreading - this is my home now, forced upon me. I would rather die.
I can't speak; my heart crashes against my chest from a renewed sense of fear and hopelessness. I won't escape them, I can't fight them all and now I understand the need of this damn rack because I would have struck out at Inigo if my hands had been free. I need to see Ali, I need him to help me.
'Dione, do not look so terrified. We will take good care of you.'
'I don't belong here Inigo and you know as well as I that I will be a guinea pig for them and I don't even know why, exactly!'
'When you touched Alistair you changed some of the magic in this place. The entrance to the very place you lay in now is a great hall, with pews and marble floors. It use to be dark tunnels that would eventually lead you into the main parts of our home. The hallway you walked through before Alistair touched the wall is now covered in black iron and silver. The very doors are made out of it, as are the walls. You have created a labyrinth from one single touch.'
'Okay, say that I believe I have caused this but there is one major flaw to your theory. Alistair and I have been metaphysically tied for over three years up until recently. We have shared each other's essence and nothing like this has ever happened before.'
'Ah yes, a very good point. Let me explain; when you were tied together that very connection restricted the both of you in some ways, not with your own individual power but what you were capable of when your essences touch. When Alistair severed that tie he did something that will change your lives forever - he gave you both the ability to be much, much more than you would be without one another or even tied together. Also there is another element to this puzzle, you are in the birth place of all Amarians, this is where our life began. Everything is more concentrated here and we think that with the denseness of the power around you, it gave you and Alistair a little' boost.'
'But Jakisher said that tied together we were more, not the other way around, was he lying?'
'Ah yes, the demon. He was telling the truth in part but he didn't understand exactly what he was doing. The metaphysical tie between you both did help Alistair to grow and have his evolutionary movement but it hindered you. Alistair was unknowingly sapping your essence from you in order to gain so much. This is what usually happens when people are tied in this way; the weaker one magically speaking feeding the stronger one. So now that you are free from one another there is no shield between you, Alistair is no longer eating the best parts of your essence and you will become stronger and stronger with our help. You have already proved you are a raw, uncut diamond waiting to be polished and moulded, waiting to be given the opportunity to shine the way you always should have.'
'Have you forgotten Inigo that you are the very people that have hindered me in my spell casting?! You are the ones that sheltered me from it all, you are the ones that have put these very real, very big barriers up between myself and my own magic. How can you stand there and say I'm the best thing since sliced bread when you have done everything within your power to prevent me from being who I was always meant to be! I am the last Marcusees witch and I didn't even know!'
His eyes avoid mine as my words ring truthfully. I'm sorry but someone had to say it to them and by the looks of things Ali had totally avoided the whole subject.
'Yes, you are right Dione and we will try to make it up to you.'
'Ha! The damage has already been done, hasn't it?! How can I erase everything and start again?'
'We will help you, it is achievable I promise.'
'No, don't you dare promise me that! Don't you dare raise my hopes when you have no way of knowing whether it will work or not. It's bad manners!'
If I was free I would have stalked towards him and jabbed my finger at his chest; cutting through his 'so say', compassionate promises. He's just so oblivious to the truth; he thinks they can fix everything but undeniably, the truth of the matter is, they don't understand at all.
'Alright, let us leave this subject for now. We will win your trust eventually and I now realise it will take some time. Another product of my life here; we lack all of these human emotions and all of this passion, so please be patient with us.'
I sigh, ducking my head at him. This is like trying to teach school children about the fabric of time, it's utterly beyond them. So I agree to leave it for now. There unfortunately will be plenty of time to pick it apart later.
'I will release you from this contraption now and show you were you will be staying.'
He walks towards me and begins to un-strap me immediately. He frees my hands and then he asks me to brace myself with his shoulders. I do so, wrapping my arms around his neck as he unclips the shackles around my ankles. He then lifts me down and I untangle myself from him, stepping well back as quickly as I can. That's enough contact for me of one of the Amarians. I grab my boots that lie next to the rack and slip them on.
He looks at me for a few moments and opens and closes his mouth several times like he's trying to figure out how to say something. When he speaks I am a hundred percent sure it's not what he wanted to say.
'Follow me, please.'
He turns on his heals with a swish of his cloak and I follow him through the olive green curtain.
We exit into another long dark hallway - I'm sensing an awfully horrible theme here. We walk all the way down this one until we come to an opening on our right. He turns into this and we walk out into an enormous cavern. The air is sweet and chilly, the floor beneath my boots is sandy and I cannot see where the walls begin and were the ceiling finishes. We walk past a huge pool of dark liquid that smells suspiciously like oil and carry on. Eventually we come to the end of the big cavern and exit through another giant opening. This room is just as black but as I look up from my feet and see what is standing in the middle of this huge place, I gasp.
This cavern is bigger than the last, at least two hundred feet wide and tall. In the centre of this barren dark space is a castle - a castle that would look at home in any sixteenth century village back in Earths Realm. It has the normal spire and traditional finish to the very upper edge of the walls giving it that conventional castle feel. There is a patch of green, green grass surrounding the whole building and an enormous wooden door at the front, all accompanied by brass brackets and hinges. Lamps of fire illuminate the whole thing and as they sway and dance from the distant breeze, it comes to life. The building looks alive, alive and breathing.
I had stopped in my tracks and hadn't even realised.