unknown, could be 15 Coloine still (continued)
The th’an on my body activating had been agony. Being insubstantial while inside another object was a different kind of pain—not so much pain as the kind of discomfort you want to crawl out of your skin to get away from. It disoriented me for a few seconds as I felt my bones and my organs and my brain adjust to sharing space with something else. I hoped that the discomfort would lessen as my body adjusted, but it only got worse. Soon all I could think about was getting out of there, and it took an effort of extreme willpower to remain where I was. I’d lost count of how long I’d been part of the ruin.
Then I realized that when I became substantial again, I’d be a permanent part of it.
I began struggling to move, trying to keep track of what was me and what was stone as I walked in what I hoped was the right direction. If there was a right direction. I needed to get out of the ruin; touching it from the outside would be enough to keep it insubstantial. I couldn’t see, because I didn’t have enough concentration to spare to make my eyes work.
I was having to remind my body with every step that my muscles were connected to a brain that could make them move, all the while fighting the tide that threatened to make me part of the ruin. The air I’d inhaled before I did the pouvra…it wasn’t like I could tell it was running out, but it was becoming more difficult to convince my body that it was separate from the stone.
Then I was out, first my legs, then one arm, and I had to move more carefully so as not to lose contact with the ruin. Finally I was at a point where my palm was the only thing resting against the stone, but I could barely remember what I was doing or why I had to go on doing it. And then I went unconscious.
I woke up at some point and lay looking up at the sky. It was late afternoon (it’s nearly evening now) and there were big, puffy white clouds trailing across the sky. I was probably still a little light-headed, because I lay for a while imagining shapes in the clouds: a shell, a crab missing a leg, a dragon. The th’an had disappeared from my body. My left hand hurt a lot, and when I looked at it I discovered it was missing all the skin of the palm and fingers where I’d rested it against the ruin.
Oh, yes, the ruin. It’s not a ruin anymore. I think the original buildings were split in half—not evenly, not down the middle like cutting a cake, but like a brick wall, jagged where it’s missing bricks—and the merger put the pieces back together to look the way they had before the original disaster. Well, not perfectly. I suppose you could still call it a ruin, because large chunks are lying on the ground, but it’s not nearly as destroyed as it used to be. I think you could live in it if you didn’t mind the mess, though it’s not much more than a couple of rooms with a roof.
I wonder why there were books there, if the buildings were only made to be part of the th’an. Just one of the many things I’d like to ask its builders, though “What the hell were you thinking?” is at the top of that list.
But it seems the worlds are one again. I don’t know how much destruction has happened. I also don’t know where I am. I thought, though now I realize Cederic never said this, that the kathana would take me to where I needed to be and then return me to the circle. I’m trying not to panic over the fact that it didn’t, that I’m sitting here in a clearing in a forest (I forgot to say it’s in a forest) next to what used to be a ruin, with no shirt and my only possessions being Audryn’s hair clips and these two books that I always keep on me. I’m grateful it’s the end of summer, and still warm, rather than midwinter, but I have no food and no money and my stores of gratitude aren’t very high.
I’m going to wait for nightfall and hope it’s a clear, moonless night, so I can find my bearings by the stars—it’s been a while since I’ve had to do that, but I still remember how. Then I’ll start walking. If I’m really lucky, the mages will have some way to track me down, but if not, I’ll have to find a town and hope I can convince them to be friendly. Then I’ll make my way to the Myrnala River and see what happened to Colosse. Cederic and the mages might stay there, or they might go back to the Darssan, depending on whether that desert wasteland is still there. Who knows how many other changes there might be? But I’ll find him. I’ve faced worse than this and survived.