by Helen W

Kit rounds the corner to the alchemical laboratories. Edward Holtz has his own private lab here, a poky room full of strange noises and odd smells. She raps on the door and goes in.

Holtz is standing next to a smoking alembic. “I just can't seem to get it to come right, Professor,” he says with a note of sadness in his voice as Kit enters. He turns to her, and the flesh of his face is melting. “No matter what I try, it won't come right.” He starts towards her as his lips begin to bubble and drip away, revealing white teeth and bone. She sees a glitter of light as the bone begins to vitrify. She bolts.

The Statecraft lecture theatre has been converted into sleeping quarters for the High Guard that Belor has told her will soon begin to pack the College. As she slows her headlong run by the door, she feels a compulsion to enter. Inside, makeshift blankets and rags have been hung up between rows of simple pallets to provide some sort of privacy for their occupants. The central dais is an armoury now, stacked with gleaming racks of breastplates. It does not seem strange that her mother is one of the servants working hard at shifting chairs aside and clearing space for the soldiers who should start arriving tonight.

“Christina. Have you seen Jarek? The baby's been crying for him.” In her arms, her mother is holding her little brother. Not Tom, the sailor, but the unnamed one she miscarried when Kit was twelve. The half-formed thing looks at her with blank, mirrored eyes, and laughs. She falls.

She's standing on an endless, glittering plain, under a violet sun that gives no light. Echoes and screams reverberate around her skull, and she can feel something bigger than the world dragging itself upright in the far distance. It's noticed her. She turns to run again, and feels something soft under her feet. She won't look down - she can't look down - but her eyes are dragged to the ground. Under her boots, a bloodstained wolfskin cloak covers a figure with a dark ponytail and a black headband. By one outstretched hand, the hunting horn has shattered into pieces. By the other, where Jac's shield should be, there is only an oval mirror. Her eyes meet her reflection's awful gaze…

….and Professor Fisable wakes just in time to cut off the scream building in her throat, curled into a ball in the corner of a bed, fully clothed and sweat-soaked. For a second the panic that overtakes her whenever she awakens under an strange roof rises, and then the room comes into focus; the wave of fear passes as she remembers that she fell asleep some hours ago in her official quarters on the ground floor, exhausted and not willing to face the climb up the Cartography Tower to her old rooms. Is that why the dreams are back? No, these were too intense. Something's wrong. There is an all-too-familiar pain at her temples, and a whispering noise she knows she's not hearing with her ears.

She checks the walls, first. Of course she'd had the mirrors taken down when she first moved in, but it was always possible that some servant had made a mistake. Nothing. Next the bed and her clothes; with a shiver she remembers the horrible moment of realisation in the Isles when they discovered that Fal-Kar's armour had been stitched with glass. Nothing, again. There's no Silverleaf taste in her mouth, and no memory of any attack before she slept. She hears a faint noise from her office.

She crosses the bedroom to pull open the connecting door. Under the desk, there is a pile of blankets which occasionally twitches or mutters. She strides over, kicks the pile until a head and neck emerges, then grabs it by the collar and drags it to the outside door. Roland the Subtle - who bears, Kit notices for the first time, an uncanny facial resemblance to those white-furred things which kept creeping up to their campfire on the Breathing Isle - barely awake, makes a confused whimpering noise as he is forcibly ejected into the quad adjoining the deer park.

“And don't fucking come back!”

misc/fiction/ghostgum.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/31 21:00 by osj01
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