In full awareness

Here it came. The mundane conversations.

“Hey there.”

“Hey.”

“How was the performance?”

They never talked about anything he wanted to hear about.

“He did well. It was actually more entertaining than I’d thought it might be. What about you?”

“I’ve just been here.”

It was like he wasn’t even here.

“Have you eaten?”

“Just did. Ham and swiss.”

“Sounds good. That from here or…?”

“Actually, yeah. The nurse brought it in.”

Maybe he wasn’t here.

“I’ll go down and get one. Then do you want to play some cards or something?”

“Sounds good. I’m about done with this chapter anyway.”

No. Why didn’t she talk about the performance or something? But she left and boredom returned. This was hell, he decided. This was hell.

Doesn’t count, she’s a dragon

Ling could smell it. Whatever it was, it smelled delicious. The dragon agreed with him, though remained outside without moving a muscle. He entered the building and gravitated to the kitchen on light feet and reached out for it, wanting to satiate his hunger now.

“I don’t think so.”

There was no accompanying touch with those words, like some others might do to ward him away from something Ling wasn’t supposed to have, but it had an even stronger effect. The voice was calm, but firm. Kind, yet unquestionable. Kun was the nice one, but for some reason Ling felt less like pressing him when he said otherwise. He swallowed.

“How much longer?”

“Ten more minutes. You can speed up the process if you set up the table.”

Ling thought about that. “The others won’t eat at the table! Is Shui even here?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Kun replied vaguely. But he didn’t take back his request and Ling knew that meant he might have to wait longer if Kun had to set the table himself.

Ling rushed off to set the table and Kun threw some scraps out the window, where the dragon snatched it up.

She never did

A dusty and cracked mirror sat in the corner of the attic. The golden frame was tarnished and the silver glass was smeared. No one had payed it any attention for what? A thousand years? The mirror had lost track since the civil war, when Rivky had taken him up into the hidden attic and left him there so no one could steal him. It wasn’t as if he could stop anyone himself. His spells were tired and his magic drained. No one had the power to change him now.

Rivky was probably dead. He had grieved over her, because if he had not been a mirror, he would be with her now too. Not in an attic with almost absolutely nothing occurring. Every once in a while, there would be a spider which he would, fascinated, watch until it went away or died. They were mostly unnerved by the talking mirror, so used to talking with himself that he would burst into a story and they would skitter from their webbing. Instead of talking lately however, he had humored himself by sleeping. When he woke up, everything looked the same as it had before. He wasn’t missing anything. Even if his naps took twenty five years.

He remembered dutifully serving his king and queen. He remembered when Rivky came in the envoy of ambassadors, how she had stayed, how they had fallen in love. Sometimes he remembered the sorcerer. He remembered how something he had done had angered the other man. Maybe he had done nothing. Perhaps there was no reason. Perhaps it was simply his fate to become a mirror.

The queen had left him in his position. His brain was not altered, he could still serve them. The king had taken pity on him, giving him further servants for transportation and other necessities. He loved it most when Rivky took care of him. He had savored the long talks they had even now, remembering each word so as to not go crazy.

Despite it all, the fact was she had hidden him in the attic of a tunnel room so the revels would not try to take him for his gold and silver, for the jewels adorning him.

“I’ll be back for you,” she had whispered to him.

But she never did.

How to run the kingdom that’s not yours yet

“If I rise again, it will be too early.”

The king’s two sons tried not to sigh. It wouldn’t be the first time their father had acted melodramatic that he had reached “old age”. As the wise woman in the castle was twice as old, the woman both sons had known since infancy, they had a hard time taking the king seriously. “Your lunch will be sent to you,” said the younger son, who wondered why they had to put up with this. Even if it was the king, even if he was their father, a part of him wanted to give the man a wake up call.

The older son was of a similar mindset. Less passive, yet more tactful, he cleared his throat. “Never you mind the treaties for the day. I shall handle them – a good trial as to the weighty duties that will lay heavily upon me when you are gone. I shall do you proud.”

The king grumbled under his doublet. The younger son schooled his face to be still.

“Rest and eat well, father. We shall present royalty’s most auspicious face to our audience.”

“I’m not dead yet!” the king said.

“Of course not, father,” said his eldest with the most sincere tone possible. “And we await the day your health recovers enough that you can take us both under your wing again. In the meantime, we will do our best to struggle inconspicuously without you.”

As the king’s retainers arrived with his meal, the two brothers left their father to eat. The younger gave the elder an exaggerated eye roll. “Did you have to taunt like that?”

“I have no idea to what you refer.”

The corners of the younger’s lips twitched upwards. “I suppose not. My apologies, King-in-Waiting.”

The two of them continued with their, and their father’s, daily duties.

Remember that for next time

There was a long light hair in Kotone’s sink. It certainly didn’t belong there. Her roommate would wonder where it came from.

Kotone knew where it had come from, which was why she had to get rid of it. It, and any other sign of the person it had come from. She didn’t know the name of the woman. She knew a lot more about the texture of the woman’s skin, the color of her eyes, the strength of her grip and the long, light, strong strands of hair. It had shimmered like a platinum waterfall, as it had been dyed to look. As straight as an iron could create, glowing under the dim lights that had entered through the window in the middle of the night in a room of dark colors. The stark contrast of that hair against two sets of dark skin and the laughter brought forth when Kotone had tried not to lean on any of it as, flung back on the bed, it had gone everywhere.

Apparently even here, in her sink, likely sometime during the morning after. Kotone picked it up. It was dry. She wrapped it around her fingers.

She should have gotten the woman’s name.

Some tests are bullshit

There was a tall lamp set in the center of the room. Nita didn’t know why it was there, not with all of the lights that came from the walls and the ceiling, but she assumed it was a part of the test. The room also smelled like something rotting. As there was nothing in the room but for the lamp, she assumed either something had once coated the floor that still stank, or the stench came from the lamp itself. She dreaded the idea that it was more likely to be the latter.

The stem of the lamp was made of silver metal, to a blue cone that opened up to the ceiling.The base was a cylindrical disk. There was nothing special about this lamp. Even more suspicious, to Nita’s eyes. Yet this was the next room and she had already deemed the other hallway to be dangerous. This was the only way to continue forward, so she had to try this test and hope she had guessed correctly. Hope that this was the less dangerous way.

She brought the radio up to her lips. “George? I’ve made it to the third level.”

The hum that came from the other side told her to keep going. If there was something wrong, he would say. Unless he had decided she was too much trouble for him now. Nita didn’t know. There were a lot of things she didn’t know. There had yet to be an alien race that made any sense to her. Walking over to the lamp, keeping all four of her feet a good distance from the base, she reached out suckered fingers to sense the air around the lamp. Again, nothing interesting. The smell permeated the room. She wrinkled her face and searched the room again, but there was nothing else. Inside, she decided, focusing on one of the lights. There was something resting against the other side of the bumpy glass, a faded silhouette that wasn’t obvious with all of the light in the room.

Was the lamp a red herring?

Bringing up her bat, she swung it at the wall. The glass shattered and the body came out.

This certainly wasn’t the less dangerous route. Her other hand grabbed the lamp. Readying her weapons, Nita waited for the assault to come.

It’s harder to find a spinning wheel these days

He pricked his finger on the needle without reservation and waited. The fairy flitted past his head, before looking over him oddly. “You aren’t a princess to be cursed.”

“Do I have to be a princess?” he asked wearily.

“It’s sort of tradition.”

He narrowed his eyes. There was difficulty to be had in focusing on the little creature, darting around in front of him with a glowing and pale green light. If there was a physical form there, he couldn’t see it. But he wasn’t sure if that was the same for everyone or if it was just him. He blinked, every moment his eyelids struggling.

“A princess is cursed to sleep for a hundred years.”

“I know,” he replied. “But I haven’t been able to sleep, real restful sleep, for a month. I’ll take a curse, if it will work.”

For a moment, the fairy hovered in one spot. “You want to sleep for a hundred years?”

“I want to sleep. Eight hours… one hundred years… whatever.”

The fairy bobbed up and down. “Oh.”

He turned his attention from the fairy to the needle again. “Can I try again?”

“I suppose.”

So he reached out to prick another finger.