Rowan grabbed for me before I could crash to the fossilized tree sap coloured ground. I sagged against his height, and worked to keep my stomach in it’s place as the world around me spun in an unyielding kaleidoscope. “Your world is freaking weird, Rowan. Not meaning to diss on it, I’m just not used to the idea of see through trees.”
“See through? What do you mean by that?” Rowan glanced around at the couple of trees in the courtyard I found myself in. The bricks were swimming blocks of glass and water, glowing black creatures slithering between the edges.
“Everything? Like what’s with the things in the walls? They have three hearts. They’re ticking away like tiny red meteors.” I tried to explain, but the longer I stared at the strangers, the worse my head felt for it.
“The walls are stone. They’ve always been stone, Wal-Mac. Sorry. Uh. It’s grey. That’s all I’m seeing. Here.” He led me over to an archway that led into a part of what turned out to be a castle complex. “See, they’re solid.” He rapped his knuckle on the see through blue blocks. The little black creatures, their bright yellow eyes too big for their slender little heads, dashed away, their red hearts pounding. Waves bounced around, sending light raise dazzling about the courtyard, shimmering through the grasses and trees.
“Yeah, that’s not what I’m seeing here, knight,” I quipped, touching the block. My hand slid through the block into a thick, cold liquid. My skin shimmered in the blue. The little creatures scurried toward me in excitement. They twisted and wiggled around my hand and I pulled one clear as fast as it took for Rowan put substantial distance between himself and me. “So, what are the weird black newts?” I held my hand up for him to look at it.
He looked about ready to wretch at the slimy thing desperately trying to escape my grasp. I shoved it back into the brick where it scurried away to hide in a writhing mass of others like it. “So, what am I not seeing and what are you seeing?” I turned back to him, ringing the drops of liquid off my hands from the creature and the bricks.
Stammering, he worked to compose himself before giving up. He ushered me through a pair of cobbled courtyards, past a blacksmith forge and stables and into the great hall of what looked to be a see through 12th century castle. “Where the hell did you go, Wallace, and who the hell did you leave in your place?” he muttered under his breath as he pressed me up the stairs, through a maze of hallways and up through a tower.
At intervals, this tower contained a series of floors, each one crammed with books and a pedestal to set them upon. The hide binding on each one wiggled and stretched at my passing. The smell of the creatures used to create them left the rooms smelling of a barnyard. “I’d like to know where your Wallace went too. I’d like a refund. He sees some weird shit.” I muttered back as we entered the top most room where a bedroom, a blocked off corner led to a chamberpot and larger bathing tub, and a cloth covered mirror. A massive swirl of brilliant paint in concentric circles and stars burst across the rose quartz floor boards.
“Everything still strange in here?” Rowan held tight to both of my shoulders, trying to get me to look at him. A sinking pit inched it’s way through my chest at the affront to my personal space while I glanced about the room. A set of maids were working in a different room way below the tower. The hills spread out around us. The sun ticked past noon, throwing rainbow sparks through the foliage. It was too much.
“Let go,” I hissed. A clap of thunder in the distance and he was plastered against the far wall where the black newts crawled out of the water bricks to hold tight to the man in plate armor.
“We’re taking that as a yes,” he swallowed, his face going sallow.
“What is Wallace, and where am I?” I clung to the shreds of my tunic if only to have something to hide my nervous fingers in.
“He thought he could become a wizard,” Rowan admitted as the black newts let him slide down the wall.
“Thought, more like was. He’s awful powerful.” I stalked off to a table with a pitcher and basin. Hunting around, I found a wash cloth and pulled my tunic off to wash off the black smudges.
“You’re not him. He’s never been able to do more than make fire drops. Grant it, that can be terrifying when most of your flooring is based on grass. You just pulled a Mander from a wall. You trapped me with a word, and not a spell. You didn’t summon anything through chants or wards. He’d memorize for days to get fire drops. Who the hell are you?” Rowan demanded.
“I’m a dancer from New York! Well, from the Midwest. This was going to be my first season as a backup dancer.” I pulled the sheet from the mirror to see if I had gotten all the black soot off. What I saw looking back at me was not what I had expected.