Twilight Tea – Part 2

This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.

“’Tis never been easy to put things past you, Scylla. That I’ve always known,” Amon laughed in a friendly way. Then he folded his hands in front of him in a dramatic storyteller’s pose, speaking in a rhythmic cadence.

“You and I were both members of a high court from what is now considered an ancient civilization. We were once mages of some renown – though you appear to have fared better with retaining your magics than I have. We were also keepers of knowledge and developers of technologies, all which have been blown away in the winds of time.”

Amon’s tone fell with a hint of sorrow, though he didn’t need to do much to act this part. There was true regret in his words.

“Then, at the height of it all, a great Calamity struck our empire. We… may be the last of our kind.”

His gold eyes squinted over the rise and fall of the ocean waves. When he lifted the tea cup to his lips, he found it was empty. That was almost as depressing as his talk.

“I was not aware that you were here, therefore, I’m not sure how you managed to survive,” Amon told her truthfully. “The Gridanians have kept eyes on me, as well. For as I said, they mistrust that which they don’t understand. It seems they know who you were and sense a potential for trouble should you and I meet. ‘Tis likely they don’t want me to share what I know. They don’t want your memories to wake.”

The Elezen tapped his chin, his gaze sharpening as he focused back on her.

“I could recount stories of the past until your ears rang, my dear. But I know that neither you nor I can trifle with wasted time,” Amon tilted his head and slowly eased into the pitch.

“What I could show you is far more valuable than what I can tell you. For there are still relics of our homelands that exist in this world. Places that hold secrets and power. Should we go there, I am certain we will find something that will expedite your quest to return to your former self.”

Scylla just gave a distant stare, nose wrinkling in a half-snort at the absurdity of the tale.

Me?  A great and powerful mage of some ancient civilization? Talk about absolute, utter, complete lunacy!  I was found alone, with nothing at all.

It was a story of fantasy and absurdity, far out of the reach of reality.  She picked at her plain white woven shirt.

I don’t even have the first clue of how to act like a person at court!  And those dresses… please!

Trying to picture herself in fancy, fur-lined dresses made her think that Amon’s mind had fallen completely off the seat of reality. Not to mention that he had a bit of paranoia when it came to Gridanian authorities.

But he really believes this!  Maybe he’s suffered from the same mind-fever I had when they found me? They say that madness that fuels bard-tales are often born of these maladies.

E-Sumi-Yan was patient, but he never came off as deceptive. She tried to push the thought of her mentor deceiving her from her mind. However, the Wailers, they always seemed to be around when she was accused of “mischief.”

Others never got the attention that she did.

I’m starting to get paranoid!  Like him!

The mage wondered if the kindest thing to do might be to call the authorities to have him committed to the local sanitarium.  But as much as she wanted to press this off to being a product of an Elezen bard partaking too generously of the local sake, there was a sinking feeling in her chest that just maybe there was a distant inkling of truth.

How could it be true?  Scylla, how could you even think to believe an iota of this story?  

Her face belied the conflict, as she curled her lips inward, and looked down.

It’s a bard story projected from an ill mind.  It has to be…

As much as she tried to push it off, the unsettling mysteries filled her mind.  Her nightmares took place in great cathedrals of gold and crystal.  She would at times burst into a language that was not her own.

There has to be another explanation for this.  I’ll go back to Koh and explain that Amon needs to be checked out by a mind-healer. Maybe even in Foundation… they specialize in Elezen medicine there.

“Okay, Amon.”  Scylla almost slurred, looking at herself in surprise as if the words she spoke were not her own.  “I’m willing to give this a chance.”

What am I doing?  Why am I trusting this man?  

“I will go with you to this magical place of secrets.”

He’s been hit in the head one too many times by opo-opos! Still, even madness belies a hint of truth. If it does have the treasures and wonders he speaks of, I could secure myself a nice place in the hollows of Bentbranch.

Scylla smiled to herself at the thought.  Besides, for now, her life could use some adventure outside of the glade hunting squirrels and pesky monster-wasps. Surely, she could find some work on the way to fill her empty coin-purse, even if it did amount to nothing.

And she reasoned if this Amon character tried any funny-bard-business, she could hold her own.  His aetheric presence was not so strong that she couldn’t bury him under a pile of elemental earth magics and flee.

And if his treasured world consists of a castle of acorns made constructed from fever-dreams, I think I’ll have the Padjals keep a closer eye on him… in the back of mind-hospital where he belongs.

Scylla pounded her fist into her opposite palm with a resolute smile.

“So, when do we start?”

Amon watched as Scylla deliberated on his words, carefully reading her expressions. For a moment, he thought that she might have been so overwhelmed by what he told her – despite it being the facts – that he had overplayed his hand. But true to her nature, and the one thing they both shared – curiosity – she finally responded the way he hoped.

Not only had she agreed to go with him, but she indicated she was eager to leave.

“The better question is — how many people know you’re here? And who might be out there to intercept us?”

“Why does that matter?  I came across the ocean by myself.” Scylla looked closely at him and shook her head. “I can handle myself just fine, Amon.”

Definitely suffering from severe paranoia.

The Elezen tried not to pressure her, but he was aware that time was of an essence. He didn’t know how long he had before someone stepped in and rescued her from his agenda.

Worse, he didn’t know how long he had before something triggered Scylla’s memory. Should that happen before he subdued her and took her power for his own, then he’d have an enraged archmage to contend with. A fight he knew he wouldn’t be able to win.

“I know that you’ve only just arrived today, and that the trip was long. But if you’re asking my thoughts on the matter, the sooner we can leave and shake the eyes that are no doubt watching us, the higher our chance of success. There are some who won’t want you to make this trip.”

“Well, most of my things are already packed up.” Scylla nodded with Amon in agreement. “So, we can make haste if you desire.”

However, she secretly decided that she would leave a note somewhere inconspicuous near her bedroom set…

If Amon was really sick with madness and dropped me off a cliff somewhere, I at least owe Koh and the others a warning.

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