Aug 23 2011 4:00pm
Suddenly conscious, Shannon dropped the text he had been holding. It fell to the wooden floorboards and shattered.
He frowned at the scattering golden runes and then yawned so powerfully his jaw cracked. Wincing, he rubbed his temples and wondered why he had awoken standing up and holding a spell. Even more disconcerting, he had no idea where he was.
Looking up revealed a circular room with white walls and rows of bookcases. Bright sunlight poured in through an arched window that looked out onto a small sunlit city.
The city’s many sandstone buildings huddled so tightly that in most places only alleys ran between them. Only a few wide streets were cobble stoned. Tall, crenellated walls divided the city into different districts. Every thing was wet from a recent rain.
The closest districts boasted an abundance of gardens—squares filled with flowering vines, walkways flanked by palms and cypress, tiled courtyards with leafy trees, almond and orange.
Farther districts were filled with dilapidated buildings and sprawling shacks. A portion of the farthest district seemed to have recently burned down.
Along the city’s edge ran massive sandstone walls crowned with brass roofed watchtowers. Beyond the city, green savanna rolled away under a lacquer-blue sky.
All this indicated that Shannon was in a city of Western Spires. But which one?
It was too small for Dar. There was neither ocean nor steep mountains nearby, so it couldn’t be Kara. Avel, then? The gardens and savanna suggested so.
But how in the Creator’s name had he come here? He rubbed his eyes and tried to think straight. Thoughts moved through his mind with strange speed, as if he were dreaming.
The last thing he remembered was living a hermit’s life in the Heaven Tree Valley hundreds of miles away in the Pinnacle Mountains. He had been training his pupil, who was named . . . was named . . . It was hard to remember. Did it start with an n?
He knew the boy’s name, to be sure. But the memory of it was buried in his mind. His pupil’s name was . . . It was . . .
In the distance, voices began to wail. It was a quavering sound, haunt ing, not quite musical. Perhaps a chant? Shannon frowned. He was in a tall Spirish building filled with something that might be devotional song. A sanctuary?
Shannon nodded to himself. He had to be in either Avel’s sanctuary or the infirmary built next to it. Either way he was in a building sacred to the city’s ruler, the canonist Cala.
But what in the Creator’s name was a canonist?
He had to think hard to find the memory: a deity could invest part of its soul into a human to create an avatar. But if a deity placed all of its soul into a human, the result was a canonist, a demigod more powerful than an avatar but weaker than a freely expressed deity. Only Spires had canonists because . . . because the sky goddess Celeste maintained a list, a canon, that named all the demigods she allowed in Spires. She did that to . . . Shannon knew it had something to do with the Spirish Civil War. Hadn’t he fought in that war?
Another yawn popped Shannon’s jaw. Exhaustion was making him stupid. Things would make more sense after a nap.
He turned, looking for a place to lie down, and was surprised to dis cover a large redwood door and table. On the table lay several cloth-bound books, the nearest of which had been splattered with red ink. A square of paper lay on its cover. Something had been written on it in black ink. Shannon leaned forward to read. It was difficult to make out. There was a red blotch on the paper, then the thin spidery words “our memories are in her” and another blotch. No punctuation or capitalization.
Despite his growing confusion, Shannon yawned once more and blinked. He examined the note again, and his breath caught. The blotches weren’t stains of red ink.
They were bloodstains.
A thrill of fear ran through him. Remembering the dropped magical text, he looked at the floor for the rune sequences. They had been written in Numinous, a magical language that could alter light and other magical text. To those fluent in the language, Numinous runes shone with golden light.
The distant wailing was growing more insistent.
Despite his fear, Shannon’s eyelids grew heavier as he examined the scrambled spell. It had broken into two heaps of rune sequences. He must have been holding two sentences, each of which had formed its own small mound.
Pieces from the larger pile had scattered farther, some disappearing under the door.
He turned to the smaller pile first and pushed the fragments into a line.
When translated, they would read: gain eea ’red Youcans use beca you ead.
Another yawn. He shook his head and tried to focus. The period behind ead meant it should come last. The capitalization in Youcans indicated it should come first.
Youcans lacked spaces and so would likely become you can s or maybe you cans. He paired this capitalized fragment with others that might follow. Youcans’red? No. Youcansuse? No. Youcanseea—
He froze. Youcanseea? He inserted three spaces: You can see a . . .
Shannon looked up again at the walls, the window, the city, the sky. “Creator, save me!” he whispered. “What’s happened?”
Though some of Shannon’s memories seemed hidden, he knew he was supposed to be blind. Decades ago, he had looked at a forbidden text; it had destroyed his mundane vision. Since that day, he had seen only through the eyes of his familiar, a parrot named Azure. But now he beheld the mundane world with his own eyes. How in the Creator’s name was this possible?
He turned back to the runes and added the gain, beca, and use to the translation.
You can see again because
His fingers shook so badly he couldn’t pick up the remaining sequences.
But it didn’t matter.
He already knew how the sentence would read. The last three fragments—you, ’red, and ead—were already in order.
You can see again because you’re dead.
Spellbound © Blake Charlton 2011