(Note: This is not official version and may be removed in the near future. This do not reflect what is read in the podcast version, nor any other version you may encounter. I have preserved the rough form for posterity — or something like that. This novel has since been rewritten.)
By the time dinner had come and gone James had a sense of accomplishing absolutely nothing. He hadn’t contributed to the plan to spy on the towers, nor had he been involved. He had simply sat around doing little of anything for an entire day. Even when Iliad, Triska, and Darl had returned from the inner city he remained, to put it simply, antisocial. Something inside him made him not want to be involved with the others. He knew it had to do with the way they looked at him. For some reason it felt much like how he had been looked at when those he had first come to know found out he had been marked by Luthien. He still didn’t know what that meant for sure, but he knew all too well that Luthien wanted to know about him. He wondered what it would be like to know the future.
Dinner turned out to be far more respectful than in previous nights. Bourlinch’s shop had a wood stove and a modest supply of wood and kindling. Before long the flames were crackling, pots were steaming, and a meal of rice, eggs, and salted meats were laid out on the wood table. James ate his fill.
Mirdur’eth rustled outside, perhaps sympathetically or out of irritation at being tied up for so long. The horses and Blaersteeds had been relieved of their panniers. James proceeded to unpack a blanket, found a spot on the far side of the room, and laid down. He didn’t sleep, or rather, he couldn’t. He watched the walls while the others muttered to themselves, then soon everyone had found a place on the floor and all the talking ceased.
Silence did not reign. Bourlinch, still tied up on the opposite side of the room, sobbed and whimpered. The sound traveled over the room as if it were a roar. James could hear Triska sniffling. He sensed the melancholy that had come over the room. He frowned at not being able to see some joy in what they had accomplished. They had crossed the Fire Rim, escaped Luthien, and run all the way to Teirlin’pur. Laura was so close he could almost see her as a real being before him. Her face was forged in his mind, a constant reminder of the one thing he had promised to do and that the entire town of Woodton told him he couldn’t.
The night was wearing thin by the time he fell asleep. REM took him for a ride, but it all seemed so short. He dreamt of Luthien again, in the same strange room with the same bizarre transparent ceiling. Then he woke with a start and it was morning, the rays of the new sun sending a soft glow into the room. He wasn’t sure how long he had slept, but he knew that Luthien had tried to read his future again.
James sat up and looked around. Bourlinch’s head slumped over to the side and a thin trail of drool wandered from the gag, to his lip, to his chin, and onto the front of his tunic. James might have found it comical if last night had never happened. He looked over at the others. Darl lay with his mouth hanging open and blankets half covering his pasty white upper body. Pea lay curled in a ball like a cat, occasionally fidgeting, and Triska faced away from him, but from the way her chest moved up and down in slow motions he knew she was asleep. Iliad, on the other hand, slept with his back propped up again a wall, bow and arrow in his hands, and his eyes half open, like something from a horror movie. James shivered.
He stood up and stretched. He sniffed his armpit and cringed. They smelled distinctly like rotting onions, having not been cleaned in a long while. Somehow he knew he was getting used to his own filth, though, or at least would get used to it soon enough.
James walked over to the wooden table in the center of the room. He ran his fingers delicately over the wood, feeling the cracks and bumps. His eyes wandered to the scars on his hands. He flexed his fingers; his left hand was still in the same condition.
I wish I were right handed, he thought.
Then he looked at Bourlinch. Bourlinch coughed and startled awake and in that brief instant their eyes met, as if Bourlinch had known who was staring at him before waking. Crust had formed under the Daemonkind’s eyes and long streaks where tears had flowed discolored the already grayish skin.
James walked over to where Bourlinch was tied; the Daemonkind flinched as if expecting to be struck at any moment. James simply leaned low enough to make eye contact. For a moment he was mesmerized by those eyes, curious even of who this creature was and where he had come from. He pondered what sort of life Bourlinch would have without magic.
“I’m…sorry,” James said, for lack of anything else to say. He spoke soft and calm, pulling up a chair and sitting down nearby. “I am. I don’t know what you must be feeling. I don’t know what it must be like to know you have had everything taken away from you. Not in the same way at least.”
Bourlinch looked at him with peaked interest, eyes wide and fixed.
“Have you eaten?”
Bourlinch shook his head.
James stood up, went over to the stove and produced a small chunk of bread from a loaf and filled a wood cup with water. He gestured at Bourlinch.
“If I remove that gag, you can’t make any noise. Okay?”
James set the items down and gently lifted the gag and let it dangle around the Daemonkind’s neck. For a moment he thought Bourlinch would start screaming, but when the silence persisted he tipped the cup to Bourlinch’s lips and let the man drink. Bourlinch gulped the water like it was his last. James took the cup away and pushed and let Bourlinch chew on a chunk of bread.
“Where are you from?” James said, trying to strike some sort of conversation.
A long pause ensued before Bourlinch said with a mouth full of bread, “Peren.” He slumped back as if afraid that James might do something violent.
“Is that by the coast?”
“You already know about me.”
“All of it?”
A shake of the head.
“Probably a good thing.”
He nodded understanding.
“By the Eye. As they say.”
“I hear. Rumors. Things.”
James perked up, his brow raising slightly with interest. “What sort of rumors?”
“Other. Not Farthland. Not Angtholand. Visions.”
“Visions of what?” he said anxiously.
“Men. Women. Luthien. Dark. End.”
“I don’t understand. What are you talking about? What men and women? Why do you keep saying ‘end’?”
“He is end. He is all. Bringer. Stealer.” Bourlinch quivered.
James paused, somewhat awestruck by the tension in Bourlinch’s voice. “You fear him,” he said.
Bourlinch said nothing, but James could see in the man’s eyes fear and something more—terror. He knows something that many others must don’t, he thought.
“You’ve seen something. Something bad.”
“And nobody will believe you because you’re a Spellweaver.”
He hesitated for a moment, taking a couple long breaths in apprehension before saying, “Tell me.”
“Visions. Torture. Pain. Capture. Others held. Others held in…stasis. Asleep, but not. Awake, but not. I saw. Visions of Luthien planning…something. Planning the end. Turning light for dark, dark for light. Sending armies to destroy. No saving. No living. He brings Zagra. Al’na ner’avón ul al’soral la’muért!”
He went still. His hands started to sweat. “Where did you learn that from?”
Bourlinch only looked at him with two quivering eyes.
“You read that from my mind. Who is Zagra?”
Bourlinch shook his head, but James wasn’t sure whether it meant that Bourlinch hadn’t read it from his mind, or that Bourlinch didn’t want to talk about Zagra.
James grimaced and leaned back in the chair. He ran his right hand through his hair and left his other hand on his knee. His brow curled in thought and his eyes watched the floor. Then he looked up at Bourlinch again.
“What is Luthien keeping in the towers?” He spoke sternly, straight and to the point. His voice didn’t falter.
“I…” Bourlinch coughed and started to mutter.
“Bourlinch, tell me. What is Luthien keeping in those towers?”
“O-others…” A couple tears fell.
“Others like me?”
Something banged in the back of the room and before James could turn to see what it was a hand flew past him, followed by an arm, and a long body. In a matter of seconds the gag was over Bourlinch’s mouth again. Bourlinch whimpered; James looked up into Darl’s eyes.
“You’re a foolish boy,” Darl said. “Don’t ever trust the words of a Spellweaver. He weaves lies, deceit.”
James started to speak, but a stern look from Darl cut him off.
“What did he tell you?”
“What did he tell you?!”
James relayed everything that Bourlinch had said. Darl’s face contorted into a scowl, which looked to James like nothing more than an even wrinklier Darl look, all the little lines in the old man’s face increasing and lengthening inward and to the sides.
Then Darl raised his hand as if ready to strike. James and Bourlinch flinched at the same time. Darl let his hand fall.
“What’s going on?” Pea said from behind, little footsteps sounding, and then Pea was next to James.
“Apparently our little hero has been conversing with the enemy.”
“I was only asking questions!” James said, upset at being singled out.
“What sort of questions?”
He told Pea the same thing he had told Darl, only now with a hint of attitude in his voice. He tried his best to convey his irritation with the situation.
It worked. Pea eyed James with a glimmer of anger in his eye and James only stared back. James couldn’t accept that he done something wrong, and wouldn’t.
“You’re questioning reason, James.”
“Who’s to say that there isn’t some truth to what Bourlinch is saying? What if they are keeping people from my world in those towers? What if Luthien is torturing them or using them for something? It’s possible!”
“It’s also possible he’s lying to you,” Darl said, snapping the words angrily. “We can’t trust him. He invaded your mind. He tried to glean information from you, and succeeded. Or have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t forgotten. But you seem to be forgetting that he’s a Spellweaver. Nub wasn’t exactly normal either.” He had to force his tongue to mentioned Nub. Deep down he grimaced at the thought of her dead someplace, and he could see her empty, lifeless, dull face sitting amongst other faces, just as empty and lifeless.
“I think there’s one thing you are forgetting most of all, James.” Now Pea had come forward with a curled brow, lips pursed, eyes narrow—the face of an irritated Littlekind. “You’re not from this world. You might think you know everything, but obviously you do not. The enemy is sitting right outside your door, sitting right before you tied to that chair, around you, and everywhere. If we trust Bourlinch, we’re putting our fates in the hands of someone who may very well stab us where it counts. I’m not prepared to die for a risk. I’m not prepared to trust anyone but those I have come to trust.”
James held his tongue. There were so many things he wanted to say. His anger would have loved each and every word, but he didn’t let that emotion control his mind. He pushed it back and encircled it in happier thoughts.
“I think there is one thing all of you are forgetting,” he said, crossing his arms. “I was under the impression that people aren’t our enemies, only a ruthless dictator! Someone once told me that the people of Teirlin’pur are good people, only misguided. Maybe that person was lying to me.” Then he walked away, fuming. He went to the far side of the room with teeth clenched and put his hands on the wall, his eyes to his bag, the etiquette book, and the egg-like rock. Then his eyes wandered to his Fearl and for a moment he thought St. Brendan’s Cross glimmered as if Dulien were somewhere in his mind listening in on everything.
James watched Iliad, Triska, and Darl leave once more for the inner city. He watched as they gathered their things, worked out yet another plan, and made new excuses to go buy supplies they didn’t really need. Then they walked out of the building and shut the door. He glared at the door handle for a while before passing a glance at Pea. Pea hadn’t talked to him in hours, and James had no desire to open a conversation. Then he looked at Bourlinch, who watched him intently, begging with narrow eyes to be freed again.
“You know,” James said bitterly, “I’m a little tired of being left out of things.” He didn’t really mean it. It had only been one day and while he did dislike being stuck in Bourlinch’s shop, he could handle another day of it knowing that doing so would help save Laura. Still, he was bitter from the argument earlier, angry and upset that nobody seemed to take him seriously and that Pea and Darl had dismissed him without even second guessing.
James stood up, dragged the chair he had been sitting in with him, and walked over to Bourlinch. He sat down, reached over, and before Pea could utter a word he removed the gag.
“Don’t!” Pea said.
“Why not? He knows something and I’m going to find out what it is.”
Pea started to argue, but stopped for lack of words.
“Tell me more Bourlinch.”
The Daemonkind’s mouth hung open in surprise and awe. Foul breath hit James in the face and he secretly wished he had a piece of gum stowed away someplace.
Bourlinch immediately began to ramble, incoherently at first with words that weren’t really words, and then in such a way that the words didn’t seem connected at all. Then slowly things began to make sense, as if the flow of thoughts were winding down enough so that Bourlinch could actually speak them properly.
“What kind of vision did you have?”
“Death of others. Death from Luthien. From powers. But some live. Some live in towers. Others live.”
Bourlinch shook his head. “You cannot go. Not now. Not through gates. They see. They know. Take paths. Under. Below. You cannot go like everyone. Not at night.”
“James,” Pea said, appearing at James’ side and looking up. “He can’t be trusted.”
James stifled a glare. “And what if he’s telling the truth? I have to know if Laura is alive.”
“And what if he’s lying?”
Bourlinch looked from one to the other as they spoke.
“Have Triska check him then. She did for me remember?”
“You ask her when she gets back then. I’ve asked enough of her for this part of the journey. You can bring up what will obviously bring her discomfort.”
Then Pea walked away and slumped into a chair on the other side of the room.
James turned back to Bourlinch. “Tell me about this other way. Tell me who Luthien killed.”
Bourlinch spoke clearly, smoothly, or at least as smoothly as a Spellweaver could. James listened with great intent and he didn’t let his attention slide, not through Pea’s obvious displeasure with it all, nor through the sounds of bustling streets and neighbors sticking their noses into business that wasn’t theirs as they knocked on the big wood door and called out Bourlinch’s name.
“I,” Bourlinch began, “am marked. Marked by Luthien.”