© 2010, Patrick Hester. All Rights Reserved
In the Tower of Valles, where the walls are covered in cream and gold, a discordant note vibrated the very foundations as the Magistrate, high atop the Tower, staggered as if struck and cried out. Spiraling to the floor, he collapsed into a heap of robes and lay there twitching; arms and legs refusing to respond.
Valenz appeared as if from nowhere, melting away from the walls and rushing to his master’s side.
“My Lord? What is it? What has happened?”
Eyes that could not see him stared unfocused at the ceiling of the room and a voice that was strained answered, “Evermist… Take me… Hurry… Engineers…”
Valenz nodded with understanding. If the Wall had very nearly been attacked, his master would know it immediately, though he’d never seen him affected by an attack the way this one had. Obviously, more had happened than he could know. Perhaps a breach at last? After all these long years?
Helping the Magistrate to his feet while shouldering the burden of his master’s weight as best he could, Valenz stumbled to the far wall of the chamber, placing his hand on the stone there. To anyone entering the chamber, the wall looked quite solid; that was a deception. The small stone beneath his hand glowed briefly then the wall slid aside. As always, his mind wondered that it made no sound whatsoever. He pushed that thought away and staggered into the room of solid light beyond. The wall slid back into place and then everything became very cold…
* * *
In the highest tower of Deisarch Dain, the southern keep of Evermist, a suite of rooms are kept for the Magistrate, just above the Captain of the keep. They are bare in comparison to those in the Tower of Valles, as keeping with the idea that they are a part of the military installation below. Austere was the word Valenz had heard his master use once before to describe them; fitting for a place on the island of Evermist.
Stepping from the room of light, Valenz struggled under the weight of the Magistrate. He was not an overly large man, but very tall and gangly, making it difficult for the more demure Valenz to keep him upright and moving forward. It took several moments to cross the room to the cold stone throne and settle his master on the ancient and flat cushions providing the only comfort in the thing.
Why must everything be carved of the blasted stone here, he allowed himself to wonder if only for a moment. Would it be such a terrible crime to import a damned chair from Paerleon? The wall hiding the room of light behind them slid closed plunging the room into absolute darkness.
“Engineers,” whispered the Magistrate and Valenz nodded. They should already be aware of their arrival, but they’d been very full of themselves of late and he didn’t doubt they would take their own sweet time in making an audience.
“And Shen,” the Magistrate added. “He’ll be sending troops.” Again he nodded, mostly to himself since he wasn’t sure the Magistrate could see him. Valenz adjusted his spectacles and started across the dark room, perfectly able to see despite the lack of light. It was one of the ‘gifts’ afforded to him by his ‘association’ with the Magistrate, and had come in handy more often than he liked to admit. Again, he stood before a seemingly normal stone wall. One by one, he touched certain spots on the stones until a dozen or so points glowed briefly and a section of the wall slid away to reveal a recessed, oblong panel filled with switches, buttons and dials of varying sizes and shapes.
Flipping a row of switches caused the long glass window, the Magistrate called it a ‘screen’, to flair to life and glow dimly. The ‘picture’ was the same as always; a gray and black room with no furniture that he could see and no Engineers that he could see either. It looked perfectly empty. He’d searched many times, but had never been able to find that room. Part of him suspected it was some sort of trick but he didn’t know what or how they managed it. He didn’t even understand how the picture thing worked, he simply trusted in the Magistrate to tell him what he needed to know and when.
Leaning over (he was never sure how close he was supposed to come to it for it to work correctly), he said rather loudly, “The Magistrate requires your presence immediately in the keep. No dallying!” There would be no reply, of course, there never was, but he knew the Engineers received it and would come running. Well, they couldn’t run, they more slithered.
He shuddered at the thought before flipping all the switches back down and triggering the wall to close again. He would have to physically find Shen and bring him to the Magistrate, which would take time if he were attempting to organize a response to the attack.
“Shall I turn some lights on before I go?” he asked the darkness.
“No,” came the reply from his master. Shrugging, he pushed his spectacles back up his nose with a finger and made his way to the passageways. He preferred the secret ways as opposed to navigating the wide stone hallways used by the militia themselves.
“Valenz?” he paused with his foot halfway through the crack in the wall cleverly hidden by an optical illusion of the stone. He didn’t exactly understand how that worked either, but once the Magistrate had shown him, he could see them everywhere. “If you see… if you see the one we seek, tell me of him? I am so very tired…”
“Of course, Master,” he replied, taking a moment to bow low before slipping through the crack and into the passageways. Something told him it would be a long day.