Samir was getting tired.

He’d been interrogating this feeling for a while now. Trying to figure out if this was truly driven by his body, or a shadow thrown by his mind—by this place. If it was real—and it felt very real—that made another solid data point in the column of he was actually here, wherever here was.

He’d been thinking about Peyter, which was strange, because it had been years since he’d let himself think about Peyter, but with Peyter came the memories of everything that had happened in that time. Memories Samir didn’t want to face—especially in this place where memories could engulf you and drag you down until you were reliving them.

Because of that, Samir had been very carefully avoiding letting his mind travel too far down that road, but one thing bubbled up to the surface despite his best effort: if he was tired, if he was here, then this wasn’t the same kind of imprisonment as he’d suffered before. At least, not exactly the same.

Which was both a relief and not, because as terrible as that had been, he had escaped. If this was different, then he had a whole new set of problems to identify and solve.

“I really am tired.” He was thirsty, too. Not hungry yet, but that would come. None of that was good.

Water was going to be an issue for him and Krys both. He still had his pouch where he kept food for her, so that wasn’t a crisis yet. Water, though…

If he got desperate enough, he could try to create water with magic. He knew it was possible, in the sense that, if you could wrap your mind around it, anything was possible. Creating something from nothing, however, not only was that difficult, but it was the sort of magic that, if it failed, it failed explosively.

Far better to find water. Samir had more faith in his ability to cleanse whatever water existed in this cursed place than to make it.

In the meanwhile, though, he was so very tired.

It was impossible to know how long he’d been here. He couldn’t trust his own memories, or any sense he had of how time was passing. If he could believe his body, though, it had been a while.

“Maybe a nap.” Krys chittered at him, possibly in support of the idea. She seemed to be drooping as well. “Just a short one. Enough to clear my head.”

What he wouldn’t do was just lie down in a corner and trust that sleeping would be safe. He was going to take some precautions.

Poking his head into some doors, he found a sitting room that wasn’t too terribly decayed. There was a rug on the floor that wasn’t too decayed. He could stand to lie on it. There was a chair in here, too, with a high, dramatically arched back that Krys would be able to hang from. He pulled that over to the rug, then set about making them safe.

Samir pulled out his cards. The Star was on top, from when he’d used it to find Varajas. That was good. He was going to need it again. Along with the Wizard of Air, with his own face on the card, to be his focus. Sorting through, he found the rest of the cards he needed.

He lay out at pattern beneath the chair, using the cards to define the magic he needed. Himself at the center. Above him, Night to represent this place—which seemed particularly appropriate, given the warning he’d received with exactly that card. He crossed Night with the Moon, which was mastery over those hidden forces. With Moon crossing it and Samir’s power behind it, that should keep him and Krys safe from the influence of this place while they slept.

To his left, he set down the bright red and gold Vitality card, which bore the face of some long-dead Archwizard of the Flame. He needed this nap to rejuvenate him, to give him all the energy it could. To the right, he set the three of Stone—a sentry that would keep watch and wake him as needed.

At the base of the layout, he set Revelation. That was what he needed. Some path to wisdom. A leap of understanding. This was grasping at straws, but he had no better ideas.

With the cards in place, fed with magic, Samir felt as safe as he could reasonably be. He lay down on the rug, closed his eyes, and slept.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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