The Importance of the Impossible
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Chapter 8 of Gravity’s Revenge

Posted by A.E. Marling in Uncategorized

Chapter 8

Dream Laboratory

If only I could sleep for three days straight, Hiresha had often thought over the years, then I’ll free myself of this weight of fatigue. I’ll be cured, awake, and wide-eyed as the other girls.

Once, she had tried it. After gaining her first enchantress gown she had received a windfall of independence. She had taken the luxury of keeping her bed company for three days. The sun had dawned and set without her notice. She had abandoned her covers only long enough to tend to the necessities, for Maid Janny to ply her with a few mouthfuls of milk and rice. Returning to her pillows, she had dedicated herself to the sleeping cure.

On the fourth day, she had lifted herself from bed. She had stretched, yawned, and felt as tired as if she had not slept a wink. If anything, she had felt even more exhausted. I should have tried sleeping for four days…or five?

So it that was that even after the Lord of the Feast’s claim that her most sacred and secure of places had dropped an enchantress to her death, she had no trouble sinking into slumber.

The Provost of Applied Enchantment dreamed of her laboratory. A dream of mirrors and jewels. Hiresha floated above a glittering dais, her magic buoying her into the air. Enchantresses could not cast spells while awake, but here her power pulsed as near as the green and red garnets floating by, each glowing with its own nimbus of color.

Mirrors orbited the domed ceiling of a round room of black rock. No doors or windows cluttered the laboratory, except for one skylight opening on constellations of pink and blue gems. The mirrors showed Hiresha in a sleek dress of spiraling amethyst designs. Her breath leaked from her lips as wisps of grey, but even in the frigid air and wearing a single, backless dress, she did not shiver, not in this dream she ruled.

“Lord Tethiel must have forged the writ of admittance,” she said to herself.

“Not by himself,” a reflection answered her. The woman in one mirror looked similar to Hiresha, except that she wore a yellow dress alight with topazes. Where Hiresha appeared upright and composed in the other mirrors, this reflection leaned forward with a grimace, wriggling her yellow-gloved fingers. “Bright Palms broke his hands, remember. He couldn’t hold a quill.”

Hiresha accepted the fact that most of what her reflection said would be pointless. Provost Hiresha had isolated the distracting elements from the rest of her consciousness into a mirror, but she was still relieved to have someone else in her dream to talk to.

“The pertinent questions are what is he doing here—”

“He came to see us.” The reflection held one hand over her heart, and the other clutched her throat.

“—and can we trust his word of Enchantress Miatha’s fall?”

Hiresha could remember the woman’s name now, in this lucid dream. One mirror flashed, opening as a portal into the enchantress’s memories. The image within the glass shifted to a remembered scene of Miatha being awarded her green gown, with Hiresha half-dozing among the faculty.

“What if,” Hiresha said, “Lord Tethiel knew of Enchantress Miatha, and he cast an illusion to make me see her falling. That is why none else noticed. Perhaps she is not dead but kidnapped.”

“We like to think so.” The reflection bunched her hands into glittering fists. “No, we changed our mind. Why would Tethiel want to trick us?”

“To shake my belief in the Academy, perhaps.”

Hiresha made herself focus on another mirror. It displayed memories from earlier that day. In the glass portal, the falling Enchantress Miatha gazed back, framed by an unforgiving blue sky.

“She was dazed, disbelieving,” Hiresha said.

“We agree with Tethiel. She didn’t jump.”

“Probably,” Hiresha said. “Note the detail in her clothing, the fluttering ribbons. The wind interfaces with them in a most realistic manner. If this was illusion, Tethiel must have crafted the masterpiece, not Minna.”

“But it was day!” The reflection stretched her hands out of the mirror’s field of view. “Feasters can’t cast in daylight.”

“Anecdotal reports say the Lord of the Feast can,” Hiresha said. “I remain incredulous.”

The reflection pointed across the room to another mirror. “What about Minna? She was touching us, and she’s a Feaster. Maybe Tethiel worked his magic through her.”

“For a more direct link? A possibility.” Aches crawled through Hiresha’s chest. “Either the Academy’s magic is deteriorating, or Tethiel has a scheme.”

“Not good. Not good.”

A mirror showed Minna on the Skyway when she had dropped the fennec. Hiresha idly watched the scene play out while wishing enchantresses could better protect themselves from falling. Only spellswords could activate enchantments such as Lightening to stop a descent. Hiresha could save herself using her innovations in impact enchantment, a field of study by no means in the endorsed curriculum.

“We were so worried for Lord Black Toes,” the reflection said.

“I forbid you from calling the fennec by that name. His paws are white, besides.” Hiresha touched the amethyst bracelet on her wrist, the stones a match for those on the fennec’s collar. A warmth of thankfulness filled her that her magic had saved the fennec’s life. Yesterday’s one redeeming moment.

With a wave of Hiresha’s hand, a mirror displayed the Recurve Tower. Hiresha had no intention of stinting on her nightly contribution to empowering the Academy. A stream of jewels embodying her magic descended from the skylight to sink into the mirror’s glass and be absorbed by the building.

“Tonight I’ll give my dream tithe a hundred times over, in case the enchantments are in some manner weakening.”

“We can’t imagine why,” the reflection said. “Everyone else should be doing their part like always.”

“And the Academy keystones should overcompensate in the event of any temporary shortage of magic.”

“Chancellor Oily Locks won’t like us saying there’s anything wrong with the keystones.”

“Not when they are her responsibility, no.” Hiresha had to admit, Tethiel’s meddling seemed more likely than any failure on the Academy’s part.

Thinking of the Lord of the Feast made Hiresha consider the girl she had invited onto the plateau that day. Two mirrors displayed Minna. In one glass she covered her birthmark with a hand after Janny had taken away her veil. In the other, Minna stood without a mark or stain on her face, holding her hand mirror, grinning with the power of Feasting inside her.

Hiresha floated in her dream, and her hair bobbed around her as if she were underwater. Even so, she felt heavy with worry.

“I do enough wrong by condoning one Feaster’s visit to the Academy. Minna cannot stay here. Her presence alone will scare enchantresses from their sleep.”

“We can’t expel her.” The reflection clapped her hands against her chest. “Janny’s heart would break.”

“Shove the girl off a cliff,” a third voice said. Ten shards of black sapphire clicked against the inside of a mirror. They were the nails of a woman whose graceful hands were studded with jewels of purple and green to the point they looked colorfully scaled. “She needs to die. The maid will cry but won’t blame you for what looks like an accident.”

The yellow-gowned reflection shied away, refusing to look at the other woman in the mirror. Hiresha faced her. The enchantress rubbed her gloved hands together, feeling the garnets imbedded in her own fingers. She had shown great restraint with her jewel piercings compared to this third woman. The lady looked like Hiresha, except more beautiful, her smile so wide and sharp that it threatened to split open her exquisite face with gashes from chin to ears.

“Even more ruthless than usual,” Hiresha said. “I would think that you’d preserve a modicum of regard for a sister Feaster.”

Hiresha resented the elegant and deadly intruder, the essence of Feasting magic that had snuck into her consciousness and plundered a piece of her mind.

The black-clawed lady in the mirror said, “Feasters have no true sisters. Only competitors.”

“I should murder someone so like yourself?”

The Feaster gave the enchantress a pitying smile, the same an adult might give a child who was worried a cloud would fall from the sky and smother her. “You care for Minna because you think she’s like you. Flawed. Teeming with Feasting magic—”

“I have never once—”

“—but she is weak. When you begin Feasting, you’ll be strong.”

Hiresha had mastered her composure in her dream. Her indignation only showed in the sharp turns as jewels zigzagged through the air of the laboratory. “I have no intention ever to begin Feasting.”

“Truth.” The lady tapped a black-sapphire claw against the inside of the mirror. “You’ll not let me out until you see no other way. So Feasting always is, and it is freedom. Even if Lord Tethiel finds it fashionable to claim regrets.”

“‘Claim?’” Hiresha asked. “This is even more amusing. Do you not trust Tethiel?”

“Of course not,” the Feaster said. “He’s tricked you from the beginning. Now he’s come to your domain to take your everything.”

“No!” The reflection peeked out from the corner of her mirror, fingers of one yellow glove pressed against the glass. “Tethiel cares for us.”

“He only visited,” Hiresha said. “Likely, he has already left.”

“Would you care to make a wager?”

Hiresha scoffed at the Feaster. “Don’t tell me you want him murdered as well.”

“Pointless.” The lady tossed her midnight hair and gazed away. “You would never listen to me even to save yourself. That is obvious.”

“I would if you ever spoke reason.” Hiresha blinked, which ended the dream. Even as the laboratory dissolved upward into blackness, she realized exactly what she had said, and she was frightened.

Next chapter…

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