Rahab passed the next six hours in conversation with the clockwork. Among the construct’s languages there also included the Iron Tongue of Dis and All The Hells. The wizard began by quizzing the librarian on the proportions of the room, analyzing dimensions, ranges, and geometries. Further query led to the revelation that extra-dimensional travel within the library was impossible, and though the clockwork did not know, the conjurer hypothesized that extradimensional travel into the chamber from without was also prohibited. The proportion and quality of magic enveloping the space almost certainly ensured it. There also followed careful discussion about the extent of the catalog, subjects therein, the method of ordering, and similar esoterica. At one point Rahab had to explain that Escher posed no threat to the precious collected materials. The entire conversation took place on the far side of the library so as not to disturb his companion’s sleep.
But at least I can converse without recourse to spell! It was the smallest victory, but in his blindness it felt triumphant indeed.
Among the others, Abby awoke first, as she often did. Rahab heard heavy footfalls approach, the soft ring of steel over creak of leather.
Abby knelt next to where the wizard sat with his back to the marble wall. “How’d you get over here?”
“I woke up blind. And then I discovered that the librarian speaks languages other than Thassilonian?”
“Draconic and Infernal, to name but two. There are others.”
“You’ve been up all night talking to the thing?”
“What have you learned?”
“Much, and much more yet to learn. We should take some time today to make further inquiries.”
“We need to find the prisoners.”
“When that is complete, then.”
“When that is complete, you will teleport them home.”
“Abby, I regret being the one to tell you this, but I’m BLIND!”
“You can’t teleport blind?”
“I cannot read my books to memorize the spells!”
“Oh. Right.” A weighty silence followed. Finally: “I learned something, too.”
The wizard inclined his head. “Pray tell.”
“Fighting in that room with the strange curves and no edges: It was difficult to get the distances right.”
“Mayhap also your magical diminishment contributed?”
“Maybe,” the warrior mused, “but I was thinking about the fight with the Hounds, and then Mokmurian, and I figured out some things about the spacing, the distances, and focusing in battle.”
“Avenger is always there. I’m so used to it that I almost forgot, but in those two fights I wasn’t using the shield in the same way. I was looking out, do you know what I mean?”
The wizard rolled his head back and forth against the wall.
“I mean, I was trying to figure out the battle from all the distances and everything: the curves, the strange feeling that the walls disappeared on either side whenever looking straight ahead. I was trying to build the room in my mind, instead of starting from my own view.”
“I begin to understand,” Rahab murmured.
“The fight isn’t out there coming at me. I need to remember the fight starts at me.”
Rahab lingered in silent thought. Then: “Avenger is always there.”
“Yesterday’s events served as reminder and redoubling of first principles in your martial skill.”
“Yes. I think.”
“Let us all strive for such renewal.”
Abby looked over her shoulder to where the others had begun to rouse. “C’mon,” she slid an arm around the conjurer and began to help him stand. “Let’s go see what the others learned.”
As they strolled arm-in-arm Rahab suddenly laughed and groped along her improbable arm and shoulder.
“Abby! Your stature returned!”
The warrior seated the conjurer in one of the chairs. Lem voiced sympathy that Abby’s size had reverted to its normal, inferior state, then began to hand out rations for a cold breakfast. Gloriana greeted everyone, hugged the burly warrior, then linked arms with Kara and led the alchemist around to the northern arc of the room, away from the others.
“What is it?” Kara whispered. “Is Abby well?”
“Abby is fine. The magic wore off. She is back to size.”
“Why lead me here? Where are the others?”
“We will rejoin them shortly. I needed to speak with you alone, first.”
“Is something wrong?” Kara suddenly whipsawed her head, the panic of blindness finally become too much to hold at bay with her own, incredible will.
“Shh. Shh. Everything is fine. I’m here. I need to tell you something, and I have to whisper it, and then we can go back to the others.”
The alchemist slowly calmed. “What is it?”
“Something the haunts told me. Now, listen . . .”
Gloriana’s lips at Kara’s ear shaped air into light, thought into warmth, love into vision.
The alchemist stood still for a long time. She faced the gentle curve of the library’s wall. It was difficult to see, not because she was blind, but because sight had returned, and with it tears to fill her eyes.
Gloriana draped her arm around Kara’s shoulder until the elf finally remembered human custom and turned into the oracle’s embrace.
“That is a potent magic,” the alchemist ventured when her quiet weeping finally waned.
Gloriana nodded gravely.
Kara looked around, eyes lingering on the lights, the furnishings, the marble, the well of lore, the clockwork librarian about its duties, the faces of her friends. “Does your manifestation of the spell require privacy?”
“No, but it is new, and I was not entirely sure . . . what it might do.”
“The feeling is . . .”
“I was your test subject, then?”
“No. You are my friend.”
“Ah. Rahab has been . . .”
Gloriana sighed. “I was afraid that if I tried it, and his sight did not return . . .”
The alchemist nodded. “I am delighted to confirm the magic’s efficacy.”
The oracle squeezed Kara’s hands. “I am so glad,” and her smile was a sight to behold.
The alchemist returned the gesture, and then looked across the room at the others. “It is still a risk.”
“I think the return of his vision will—”
“That is not what I mean.”
A pause. “I know.”
“A sensation like that . . . Glori, if I had never even known you, and you restored me from blindness, and it felt like that . . . I think I might fall in love, and that is no trivial thing for an elf.”
The oracle said nothing.
“When you cast it, do it here, as you did with me. I will engage the others in conversation.”
“It is just healing.”
“Glori, you are about to return a faculty that allows him to read, to study, to learn, to engage with magic, to realize his power.”
Again, the oracle said nothing.
“And that is after how he already feels . . .”
“It is just . . . healing.”
“It is more than that, and you know it.”
Gloriana glanced at the long table.
Realization struck the alchemist, exothermic and chain-reacting, bringing a smile to her face, silver to the oracle’s gold. “By The Brightness! Glori! You’re not worried about him.”
“I . . . I don’t—”
“You have nothing to fear. You are the strongest human I have ever known. And I think Rahab knows that, too.”
“Yes,” Kara nodded, “he is. You two are going to be fine.” She left the remark there and slowly began to walk to the others, gazing around at everything, and finding it all beautiful.
“Why are we at remove?”
A gentle hand at his chest startled him, and another caressed his cheek. “I want to tell you what the ghosts said.”
In his ears pulsed a hum. Wit he found absent, cynicism departed, sarcasm abandoned. “Something good?”
“Yes.” A scent of rain-touched jasmine, and roses, and faintest campfire carried the word. Hum became heartbeat. She shared a story, a song, a haunted dream that was ancient, immense memory greater than the language it inhabited. The sound had heat.
And then she was there, eyes azure, all he could see. Gloriana leaned closer, or Rahab did, and when it happened they were only two people, and the only two people for thousands of miles around, the only two people in all the world.