03.08 – Elucidated Symbols

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Isla wakes up feeling generally like crap. She opens her eyes slowly, and sees a blue ceiling and walls. Her head feels foggy.

“Isla,” Aurel says from beside her. “Are you feeling well?”

Isla turns to see Aurel sitting in a chair beside her bed. “Where am I? What happened?”

“You lost consciousness in the gardens about an hour ago, and I brought you to the infirmary immediately,” Aurel replies. “The conditions are harsh for humans at this altitude, when you are not acclimatized, and I apologize for not being more mindful of it. How do you feel?”

“I…” Isla slowly sits up, and immediately regrets it. “My head hurts.”

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03.07 – The Palace Grounds

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Isla wakes up feeling light-headed and woozy. It takes her a few moments to remember she’s in the palace, Aurel’s palace. She looks at the bedside clock and sees it’s half past ten.

She stares at the white walls of her palace room–and what a strange concept that is, that she would have a palace room–then goes to wash her face.

She aches all over, but in a distant sort of way that she can ignore if she doesn’t move too quickly. There’s a new set of clothes set at the foot of her bed, so she goes ahead and changes into it. As she does, she notes that the bandages that had been on her arms that morning are now gone. Maybe she took them off before she went to sleep–she can’t quite seem to remember.

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03.06 – Old Histories

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Isla stares at the crackling flames for a while longer. She’s still a bit chilly, though the fire has helped significantly. “I…I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help more,” she says. “That was the only wayfinding spell I know, and my book, uh…” Her eyes widen. She turns towards Aurel. “My bag! Sorry, the servant earlier said you found my things with me? I had some really important stuff in there, and…”

“Do not worry,” Aurel says. “Your possessions should be in the same state in which we found them. I had them delivered to your room while you ate. We did not return them immediately because we were concerned you might wake up confused, and that is clearly not the case.”

“Oh, thank you.” At least she doesn’t need to worry about that.

“As for what you can do to help find your friends, well, this palace has an extensive library, which includes many resources on magical arts,” Aurel says. “It focuses on artifice for obvious reasons, but you may find information about magic that is more topical to you, as well.”

A library. All of this enormous palace with its strange and magnificent constructions and artifice and contraptions, and Isla hadn’t even considered that there might be a library.

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03.05 – Spells and Words

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After Isla describes the necessary preparation for the spell, Aurel takes her to a large and empty room with stone floors and a high ceiling. It’s nowhere near as ornate as the main atrium or the dining hall or Aurel’s study, but it is still elegant and clean.

“We used this room for storage until thirty-two and a half years ago, when we completed a new tower, and moved everything there,” Aurel says. “Except for special experiments, this room has remained empty since. This should be more than sufficient for your spell casting needs. Your requested ingredients should arrive imminently.”

Isla nods. “Thank you.”

Not even a minute later, another servant–or perhaps the same servant, it’s difficult to tell with their masks–arrives, bows, and hands off a tray with her needed ingredients. Isla accepts it gratefully, then takes the chalk and starts to draw.

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03.04 – The Automaton

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It takes Isla a whole twenty seconds to realize she’s supposed to respond. She bows clumsily and says, “H-Hello, I’m Isla. Thank you for helping me.”

Aurel makes a motion with his eyes that Isla can only interpret as a smile, then says, “It was the least I could do, Isla. Come with me. I’ve had a meal prepared for you, and you may eat as much as you wish.”

He sweeps around and leads Isla out a door on their left, into what is unmistakably a dining hall. It’s large and just as immaculate as everything else Isla’s seen so far, and clearly meant for parties of tens or hundreds of people, not two. White silk tablecloths are carefully draped over large round tables spread across the hall, and each table has plush seats with white cushions and dark frames. Only one table has been set with blue napkins and food, and Aurel invites Isla to sit.

Isla sits.

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03.03 – A Palace in the Clouds

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“What are you doing?”

Isla blinks. There’s nothing around her but darkness. She doesn’t know where the voice is coming from.

“You have a deal to complete,” the voice says. “Pay to me what is due, before I take it from you.”

Isla steps back. “I can’t!” she protests. “I don’t know what you want!”

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03.02 – Beneath the New Moon

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They head out, much to Solanus’s dismay.

“What? We’re leaving already? But we just got here!” Solanus says. “I wanted to see some cool stuff!”

“You don’t have eyes,” Lucian says.

“You don’t have to rub it in,” Solanus says with an audible pout. “And you could at least tell me about it. I’ve always wanted to see Gold Valley.”

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02.09 – Promises to the Past

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Caelan’s body is strewn out front on the shore, face down. It’s probably best that way, judging from the still wet blood flowing down the rocks and into the lake. They might not even be recognizable anymore.

Isla moves on and sits down at the end of the dock. It’s well into the day now, with the sun shining high in the sky, without a cloud to be seen in any direction. The lake is clear and calm and it’s quiet except for the distant crash of the waterfall. Other than the body on the shore, there’s no indication that there was a fight here last night. No claw marks, no scorching, no magical residue. If she pretends hard enough, she can pretend that last night was all a big, horrific nightmare.

She takes a deep breath.

Liam and Caelan let them into their home and spoke to them and were good, friendly people. Now they’re dead.

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02.08 – Memoirs of the Cursed

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“So, we took care of the demon,” Isla says.

Lucian collapses against a post on the dock, looking worse for wear. Her shirt’s been sliced and torn across the torso and sleeves, and she’s drenched besides. “Yeah, I’ll say. Fucking demons. No wonder it was so huge, it had your memories the whole time.”

Isla opens her mouth to respond, when–


Isla looks at the screaming purple rock in her hand.

“Solanus,” she says, relieved. “We’re back. Everything is okay now.”

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