Thomas's First Day

Thomas looked up at the enormous mansion before him. The training had been long and hard, but at last he was ready to work for the Port of Glass embassy, the latest member of the Aster family to serve as a bodyguard for the nobility. He was somewhat excited to be at last fulfilling his main purpose in life, but briefly stopped to wonder why he had been invited to such a mansion very much above his station. Whilst he would be serving the embassy as a whole, he had apparently been assigned this family as his main charge, and they had invited him to spend a few nights with them before starting. He recalled what he had been told about them. Celeste de Verlay, her husband and their children. Relatively recent arrivals in the city, but quite a major branch of the de Verlays, the woman's uncle being the current head of the family. Perhaps a “getting to know you” sort of thing. Thomas shrugged and wandered towards the house, briefly catching a glimpse of something pale blue sparkling in a window above. He made his way to the door, where a servant ushered him through.

He was welcomed inside by Celeste de Verlay, a woman still in her prime but definitely starting to get on a bit. There she had gathered what Thomas recognised to be her husband and son, and even seemed to have dressed up for the occasion with a brilliant silver dress with detail in light blue, the colours of the de Verlay family livery that judging by the decor this branch of the family seemed to go for in a big way. This all seemed a bit much for just a guard. Celeste motioned at him with some enthusiasm.

“So!” she exclaimed with an excited edge that no sane person would ever add to an introduction. “It's Thomas, yes? Thomas Aster, the fresh, young new guard?” Something about the way she said this was somewhat disconcerting.

“Ye-” Thomas began, before the woman interrupted him.

“I knew your father! You don't tend to see good guards like him around these days!” She paused, before cocking her head to one side, giving Thomas a worrying look and speaking with a far more serious tone. “Shame about the fire. And the shards.”

“Indeed, Lady de Verlay.” Thomas replied, his face completely straight.

“Oh! You don't need to be so formal!” Celeste cried, lapsing back into overt enthusiasm. She motioned to the man standing just behind her with a slightly bemused, slightly disgruntled expression on his face, and then to the young man behind the two. “This is Edward, my dear husband. Oh, and this is our son, he's a Thomas too!”

“Welcome to the embassy.” Edward stated simply.

“It is a pleasure to meet you.” Thomas de Verlay added.

“A pleasure to meet you too, my lords.” the guard replied. “I look forward to serving y-”

“Right!” Celeste interjected again. “And you're Thomas! Though that could get confusing, so you'll- well, never mind, I'm sure you'll get a new name soon enough.”

“I'm sure, Lady de Verlay.” Thomas responded, for a moment wondering just what she meant by this before something else occurred to him. “From what I was led to believe, you also have a daughter living here with you.”

“Oh, don't worry about my daughter!” the woman replied. “I'm sure you'll meet her soon enough. Now, let's get on to the matter of dinner, shall we?”

“Yes, Lady de Verlay.”

After an extravagant dinner the remainder of the evening was filled with small talk, largely about Thomas' family, until he was at last showed to a room on the opposite side of the mansion to the main family rooms, a small and relatively unadorned servant's room of the sort he was more used to. As he entered he noted the somewhat large bedroom at the end of the hallway, more blue and silver decorations just visible through a door left slightly ajar. He lay down, sighed, and drifted to sleep.

Thomas found himself standing in what seemed like a vast and dark room of some sort. Whilst there did not appear to be any light sources there was definitely something illuminating his surroundings ever so slightly, although he was unable to make out any walls as far as he could see. In fact he could see nothing else there, or for that matter smell or taste anything, even the air. Beyond his own breath he could hear nothing, and the place felt unnaturally isolated and empty. Thomas picked a direction and began to walk.

It took a few minutes of ever-unchanging scenery before he decided to stop. It certainly felt as though he was moving, but with no landmarks or indication that any progress was being made there didn't seem to be much point. He sighed and sat down, intending to think his situation through, when he became aware of a soft patting in the distance, like light footsteps on the stone floor. Perhaps it was the lack of other sound, but each step seemed to reverberate within his head. The footsteps drew closer and he looked up, catching sight of a figure approaching him. A young woman in a plain silver shift, bare feet pacing across the cold stone, light blue hair trailing behind her. In the non-light of this chamber she seemed to give off a faint glimmer. She had some of the looks of a younger Celeste de Verlay, and Thomas wondered if this was the daughter that he had heard mentioned. She stopped a short distance from him and looked down to where he was sitting with a somewhat quizzical expression.

“Lady de Verlay?” Thomas tried.

“You're… short.” the girl stated. “People don't come here often. They're not supposed to be here. But when they do they're not usually short.”

“Short, my lady?” he asked, before her meaning dawned on him. “No, I'm just sitting down, see?”

He stood up. The girl looked surprised and jumped back with a startled yelp. She seemed to look around for a moment as if frantically searching for something but stopped and stared at Thomas intently when he spoke.

“Don't worry, I won't hurt you.” he said, holding both hands raised in what he hoped she'd take as a peaceful gesture. “I'm Thomas Aster. I'm going to be a guard for the Port of Glass embassy.”

“Taller.” she replied simply. “You got taller. You can be… Tall Guard. Are you… here to… protect me too?”

“Tall Guard… sure.” Thomas said, smiling. “I'm here to protect all of the blessed nobility, and if that includes you then I guess so. So, lady, if I'm Tall Guard, who are you?”

“Nobility…” she pondered, before continuing in a somewhat hollow tone. “I'm… I'm corruption. An empty blessing of nothing. But people call me Sylke.”

On hearing her name, Thomas recalled the talk among the servants who had introduced him to the workings of the embassy of a de Verlay child whose father was notably Absent. Sylke de Verlay, a child of the Vitriarchs whom the family saw to be one of the few and far between blessings of the Absent Lord. There had been no mention of which part of the family she came from because most of them prioritised her revered father over her mortal mother, but it didn't take much to figure out that she was Celeste's daughter. He briefly remembered the distinct manner in which the woman had talked of “our son” and “my daughter”, and considered the fact that a mother and father with auburn and black hair did not generally produce a child with pale blue locks. Of course, this wasn't a natural hair colour to begin with, but this was only further indication of the involvement of the Vitriarchs, who were unnatural and unpredictable at the best of times. Having spent a moment lost in thought, Thomas realised that he was staring at her, and she seemed to be shying away. He broke his gaze and looked around.

“Right, Sylke.” he replied at last. “Well, Lady Sylke, do you know where we are?”

“Mm.” she nodded fervently. “This is the Empty Hall. I was born here, and I come here each night. But you're not supposed to be here!”

Come to think of it, how had he ended up here? He had been shown to his room and tried to get to sleep, before suddenly being in this room. A dream, perhaps, or maybe an illusion of some sort. He figured it was worth trying to find a way out, if one existed.

“Sorry about that, Lady Sylke.” he said. “Do you know of a way out of here you could show me to?”

The girl shook her head. “There isn't one. I just come and go sometimes.”

“I see.” Thomas replied.

“But you should go!” the girl said with a sudden urgency, as if remembering something. “People shouldn't be here. It's… it's bad if people are here.”

“I can't go if I don't know how to, my lady.” he responded. “Or would it help if I went somewhere else, away from you?”

At this suggestion Sylke jumped backwards again, flailing about for a moment. “Umm… uhh… umm… I… don't know.” She sagged somewhat.

He didn't want to just leave her since she was nobility and it was his duty to protect her even in odd circumstances such as these, but she seemed to know this place well enough and didn't seem so bothered by it herself. “Well, I'll go if you want me to.”

“Uhh…” she uttered, looking confused again. As she did so, she seemed to become slightly transparent.

“Lady Sylke?” Thomas pointed. “You're fading.”

“Ehh?” she looked down surprised, seeing that she was growing fainter. “That's… it's too late… I'm going now… sorry.”

He nodded. “Don't worry about it. Maybe this even solves the problem. Either way I'm sure we'll meet again.”

“Okay!” she replied hurriedly, her voice fading as she did. “But not here, okay? When I see people here too much… I don't see them again.” She trailed off, by now quite faint.

“I'll try, Lady Sylke.”

“Bye Tall Guard!” she called quietly as she disappeared.

Thomas was left alone. He had just started wondering what to do next when he noticed that it seemed to be getting darker. Perhaps a trick of the eye, as there wasn't anywhere for the light to come from, but… no, it was definitely growing darker. Colder, too, and somehow more empty, even though there had been nothing there before. He couldn't even hear the sound of his own breath any more. Blackness seemed to rise up around him, closing in on him, and he felt hollow as a dull pain welled up inside him. He tried to shout out but no sound came out, as the darkness grew and grew and consumed him.

Thomas awoke with a sudden gasp and bolted upright in his bed. He felt tired, his breathing was heavy and he had a dull headache. He stood up, rubbing his head, and wandered out into the corridor. From the light trickling in through the window he figured it was early morning, and about time to get up anyway. He turned and looked towards the doorway at the end of the hallway, now left open revealing the bedroom beyond. A girl's room, decorated in silver and light blue, the bed now empty but recently slept in. The guard recalled an old Port of Glass children's rhyme.

Beware those born in the Glass ones' sight,
Let not their blessings become your plight,
For those who lie with them at night,
Shall come to know the Shattered Plain's bite.

The phenomenon of Shattered Blood… those who are particularly touched by the Vitriarchs acting as conduits to the Shattered Plain and bringing its nightmares to those who sleep too close to them… whilst he had been warned about it, Thomas had never experienced it first hand before. He sighed, his head still aching. Perhaps this was the real reason for being invited to stay here. He turned and left to prepare for the long day ahead.

misc/fiction/thomasday.txt · Last modified: 2011/07/25 06:53 by chaos
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