Part 1: Purple Haze
The dark is all fuzzy. It hurts, too. Fuzzy, hurting darkness is not good. It's bad. I don't want to open my eyes. I'm afraid that the trolls with the hammers cracking away at my forehead will explode my eyeballs if I do.
The bullyboys have bound me up. They aren't very careful about how rough they are in dragging my limp carcass back to the surface. I fade in and out. It doesn't seem to take as long to reach the upper levels of the tunnels as it did getting down. It's still night outside.
I'm woken up by being hauled onto something straw-like. Must have passed out again. Where's Eric? Don't know. We've split up, been separated. The hay lurches. Oh. It's a wagon. I'm being carted away. A lantern glows. Iron wheels creak, and the wagon sways back and forth...
I wake again. We've stopped, and I'm being hauled to my feet. I groan. One eye cracks open, but everything's a blur. Is that a glass house?
I wake again. I'm lying on some kind of table. Pale ghostly women with gauzy cloths flutter over me. Am I dead? This can't be heaven, and it's too cold for The Belly...I'm dabbed with stinging ointments. Needles stitch my skin, thread binding wounds. My burned hand is anointed with cool cream and wrapped up. One of the ghosts breathes a sweet-smelling powder in my face. I giggle a little and think of snowflakes. And then I remember no more.
I don't know how long I've been dead to the world, but when I wake it's to a ray of sunlight in my face. I've missed sunlight so very much. I try to move, and instantly regret it. Ow. There isn't a part of my body that does not hurt right now. I groan instead. Ow again.
My limbs are stiff and sore from the last few days. My cuts have been stitched but they sting. I have bruised my bruises. The burns on my poor, abused hand ache at the slightest twitch. Still, I can move my fingers. I'll eventually recover. I think.
I try to raise my head. The world lurches, so I stop and fall back. Whoa. Dizzy. About this time I realize I'm laying on a very soft bed. I take a few deep breaths and try to sit up again. The dizziness comes, but I'm expecting it this time. I take a look around, and my gaze is drawn up.
Spend enough time anywhere, and you tend to get a sense of what that place considers normal. In Calisapas, wood is common in buildings, and you get stonework only for the really important place. The buildings of Miir are built of either clay brick in the poor areas or heavy, black stone, and wood is a luxury. Large panes of clear glass set into domed ceilings, like the one I'm looking at now, aren't a common sight in either city.
Glass is expensive and fragile. In Calisapas the summer storms would shatter a glass window to bits, so shutters are more practical. Here, glass is still a rarity, and the only place you'll see it is in decorative stained windows set into the noble manors of The Bastion. Large panes of glass like this means whoever has taken me in has money. And isn't afraid to show it off.
Well, that explains the sunlight. I have a wonderful view of the Western Ivthian Mountains and the rest of the city in as the sun goes down. But the view only emphasizes how blocky and grim the rest of the city is from the place I'm now resting in, and how very, very strange it is.
I see lightly glowing fireglass on the wall, arranged into an artistic mosaic showing a willowy figure frozen in a high dance step. The wall its set in is a delicate porcelain china, polished to a high shine. Spidery arches of the same ceramic form the dome. It's lovely but it seems fragile, as if a strong enough wind would shatter the whole structure into a million pieces of raining crystal death.
Something moves. I start, and hiss in pain. Ow. Sudden movements bad.
“Please, lie back sir. You are not well." A feminine voice says.
"I figured that out, thank you very much." I groan. I suddenly realize I'm naked underneath these silken sheets. How embarrassing. Slowly this time, I turn and look at the speaker. She seems almost to be made of porcelain herself, with her slim build, pale skin, and...
...silver hair, almond eyes that are slightly too large to be human, slitted pupils, pointed teeth, and pointed ears. She's an elf.
It's not that I have anything personal against them. It's just that as a child in Calisapas you hear these nasty stories about elven pirates. The elves don't like us very much, and the feeling is rather mutual. Bad blood that's been simmering between Arden and Horeti since the war. And it's unsettling to find Elves in Miir, several thousand miles from Elisar. Previous encounters with bogeymen in Miir make me paranoid.
She lowers her gaze. She has a chalice in her hands. "You are startled by me." she says dryly. “Why?”
"I'm startled by a lot. Being an Exile tends to do that." I say. "Um...where am I? And where are my clothes? And why am I not in a cell?”
"You are in Lair Dythanus, home to my House. Please drink this. It is for the pain." She hands me the chalice.
Um. Ok then. Still unsettled. The cup is filled with a sweet-smelling purple liquid. I take it, but I don't drink yet. Something is off here. "So. Are you Lord Dythanus?"
I didn't think it was possible for her to get paler. "I am of House Dythanus, but I am no lord, sir, nor wish to be. I am a mere physician with the Healer's Guild." I've heard elves are haughty and aloof, not trembling and servile. She's like a kicked cat, eyes darting around looking out for a cruel boot.
"So...hm. This is a little awkward. Where are my clothes?" I ask again. I dislike being naked in a strange Noble's mansion. Feeling exposed.
"I am sorry. Your clothes were torn and dirty, so they were discarded."
Great. There goes my favorite pair of pants. My ONLY pair, anyway.
"Do not be bashful. We will provide you with clean garments when you go before our Lord." We. As in more than one.
"And when will that be?"
She shakes her head. "When he sends for you. I apologize, but I cannot be more specific than that. Please, drink your medicine and rest." She pads lightly out of the room, leaving me alone.
There's this bad feeling in my gut not caused by my wounds. I watch the sun set for a while. The aches I have all over my body dull the beauty somewhat. I contemplate the cup in my hand.
I have no way of knowing what's actually in here. I don't know what Lord Dythanus wants with me, but I have a lot of paranoid guesses. Eric said this House took over all the Bliss Dens in town. There are lots of ways to dull pain. Some with worse side effects than others. But I've been in their care all day. They've had plenty of chances to dose me with something unpleasant.
The sun slips lower. I set the chalice aside. I can live with pain. Pain keeps me alert, stop me from being complacent. I watch the sun slip under the mountain. Night comes. I sit and ache for a while after the sun goes down. The dizziness eventually passes replaced by the occasional dip into drowsy naps.
I'm woken by movement, as the elf lady returns. As I suspected, she's not alone...she has a couple of friends bearing clothes. They move alike, they're dressed alike, and they even look alike. I wonder how closely they're related. The one who spoke to me is the prettiest, though.
"Our Lord requests you. Would you like us to dress you, or would you prefer to dress yourself?"
Exotic elf chicks dressing me up? Yes please. They get to work. It's not as fun or sexy as I thought it would be. They don't so much as comment on my nudity. Way to make a guy feel inadequate. Still, it's nice to be back in clean clothes. I have a white shirt, canvas trousers, and even boots. I feel as good as new. One thing missing.
"Where's my cap?" I ask.
The head nurse wrinkles her nose. "That bloody thing? It was discarded as a danger to your health."
"Give it back."
She arches an eyebrow. "I beg pardon?"
"I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I want my hat back. Get it,” I glare at her, pointing to my head, “or I make a new one from someone's skin."
She gasps. I don't blame her...I'm shocked at the words coming out of my own mouth. It's just a hat. Nothing to get violent over. She excuses herself hastily, and her two friends stare at me in silence. I'm beginning to wonder if I've gone deranged.
"So...um...on to the lord?"
Not a good recovery.