It’s been the strangest day. I don’t know what to make of it. Especially the part where I felt I played a vicious game with the God-Empress, and may have won—it’s hard for me to tell when I don’t understand Castaviran culture well. Or, possibly, at all. I really don’t want to think about it, but I can’t leave things out of this record just because they’re unpleasant and uncomfortable and frightening.
But I have to get to the question of the worlds coming together first. After our lovemaking last night, which felt a little desperate, me wanting something good to hold onto and Cederic showing more than he probably intended of how afraid he was for me, we lay together and talked for a very short time about the question of what the worlds would look like when they were reunited.
Cederic, surprisingly, said, “I don’t know,” and then went silent for about a minute. Then he said, “You said the place where Thalessa is in our world has never been successfully settled, correct?”
“That’s what the mages from Helviran said,” I said.
He was silent for a bit longer. “And the ruins all overlap,” he said, but it sounded like he was talking to himself, so I didn’t respond. Then he rolled out of bed and began dressing.
“What are you doing?” I said. I felt miffed at his abruptness.
“I am going to get some maps,” he said. Then he saw my face, and closed his eyes briefly—he looked like he was wrestling with himself. “I am sorry,” he said, “but I am not used to having to explain myself to anyone. Let alone to the wife I am about to leave alone in our bed for the sake of an academic pursuit.”
“I think there are a lot of things we’re going to have to learn to understand about each other,” I said. “I’ve been alone for a long time, and I’m used to doing things without consulting anyone, too.”
He smiled at me—a real smile, not that thin little twist of the lips, a smile he saves for me—and said, “I intend to retrieve some maps that may help me answer your question. I further intend to bring them here rather than examine them in the circle chamber, so I can make use of your perceptions. Will you pardon my abruptness?”
“Of course,” I said, and got out of bed and began to dress. “I’ll be waiting.”
I didn’t have to wait long. Cederic returned with what turned out to be small versions of the large maps we’d used the day he figured out I was from the “shadow world.” He spread the Castaviran map out, then overlaid it with the Balaen map. “Where did you get this?” I said.
“I had Master Serelssor make copies of the large ones. She has a very accurate eye,” Cederic said. “Look at this. None of the major cities overlap any others. In your world, what exists where Colosse lies?”
“Nothing,” I said, starting to feel excited but not sure why. “There are a lot of smaller towns along the river, but none of them have ever grown very large. Except Garwin, and that’s much farther south.”
“Unusual, since river traffic usually encourages settlement,” Cederic said. “Can you think of any other cities located where Castaviran cities are?”
“None,” I said. “What does it mean?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know, and I—”
“Don’t want to guess,” I said, grinning at him.
He smiled back. “I am rather predictable in some ways, aren’t I?” He turned his attention back to the map and touched it, right at the center of Colosse. “Though it seems as if each world has left space for its counterpart. And the ruins overlap exactly—that is the greater mystery.” He touched three of the X’s, one after the other, then let the maps roll up and stared off into the distance for long enough that I became impatient, and said, “What will you do?”
He looked at me, and his smile became teasing. “I will remove every scrap of clothing you are wearing,” he said, “and explore your body until you forget everything except the feel of my skin against yours, and then I will make you cry my name—” at which point I pulled his shirt off over his head and kissed him, and then he did exactly as he’d promised.
Just remembering that makes my body respond as if he were still touching me, which I wish he were. But he and Vorantor are working late, and while I still intend to spend the night here in his room, I don’t know when he’ll join me. And now I have no more excuses; I have to write what happened with the God-Empress today.
to be continued…