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The Forbidden Memory

Section I: Episode 26

January 25, 2015

When Galavar opened his eyes, he was still in his seat at the amphitheater of the Fateful Well. And he imagined he could still hear the ringing of the bell Ar Nindar, but it was like a fading dream, and simple observation told him there was only silence and a cold breeze around. He looked at the bell itself, and found it at peace.

Galavar, however, was alarmed, for there was nobody else here. The amphitheater was empty. He was the only one. A thrill ran through him. How unusual! This must have had something to do with—

His thoughts halted, for suddenly they no longer made sense. Whatever he had been thinking was slipping away from him. The absence of people must have had something to do with the bell. Somehow. There had been people here before. Hadn't there?, he wondered. But obviously there was no one here, and the bell couldn't just make a person vanish.

As his previous thoughts faded, Galavar's sense of unease faded too. But in his well-ordered mind, a question arose: What am I doing here? He had no reason to be at the Well by himself. By the look of the sky it was late in the morning. The temperature, cold as it was, told him it must be summer. Yet as he thought about it, Galavar realized that he couldn't account for these things. He didn't know what day it was supposed to be, any more than he knew why he had come here.

Perhaps he had fallen and hit his head. But it didn't hurt, and his mind felt clear. Curious, Galavar rose to his feet. It would behoove him to…go…find…

To go find what? He had just been thinking about a course of action, but it was completely gone now.

Galavar looked back at Ar Nindar and frowned. Tentatively, for no apparent reason, he rose to his feet. Some part of him had been thinking that he needed to stand up for something. But what?

The obvious thing was to go inspect the Fateful Well. Perhaps Sourros had summoned him here. He walked down the steps to the torzaykeos, the sacred stage of ceremonies, at the base of the amphitheater, and over to the railing at its very edge. He looked into the bore of the Fateful Well and saw the customary shimmering light far below, like a twinkling…a twinkling…

"Like a twinkling what?" he snapped.

He sighed, and took a breath to calm himself, then stared back over the railing into the Well.

"Sourros?" he asked. "Did you bring me here?"

There was no answer.

"What am I doing here?" he wondered, turning around to behold the amphitheater in all its solitude. It was the kind of question a less self-aware mate might not think to ask. As far as his thoughts told him, everything was fine. Everything was as it should be. But the question persisted. Galavar never went anywhere without a reason. That was the kind of person he was. So why was he here now?

Off to the side, at the edge of the torzaykeos, he spotted Ar Nindar, one of several holy instruments that resided in this place. Seeing the bell made him feel as though he were forgetting something, but Galavar had no hope of recalling what.

After staring at the amphitheater itself for a while, he looked up at the sky. Something about it caught his gaze. Bits of translucent white clouds were passing overhead—at much too fast of a clip. They must have been very low above the ground to have the appearance of moving so quickly.

Perhaps he would climb the steps and see…

And see…

He struggled to hold onto his thought as it fled from him, and began reciting the words again and again to keep them in his psyche.

"I should climb the steps and see…"

He couldn't remember what, but at least he was holding onto the first part.

"I should climb the steps and see…"

He kept repeating it, and, against some unknown hesitation, he began to climb out of the amphitheater. The very first step he took, off the torzaykeos and up to the first row of seats, felt wrong. What he wanted was to stay where he had been. But he couldn't account for that desire, and in the meantime he couldn't fail to notice that he was repeating a mantra that prescribed a very specific—and contrary—course of action.

"I should climb the steps and see."

He had no idea what that meant, but the strangeness of his desire to remain at the base of the amphitheater made him suspicious, whereas Galavar trusted himself completely. So he continued climbing.

Each step felt wrong, but as he went farther away from the torzaykeos the mysterious draw to remain upon it grew weaker.

Something else began to happen too. The light grew dimmer. Galavar looked up. He couldn't see the sun, but the shadows cast by the cliffs all around him clearly told that it was morning. Nor were there any clouds in the sky, except for some thin, insubstantial clouds blowing with incredible haste. The clouds didn't normally blow that fast. They must have been low to the ground.

He was still speaking, still repeating the same line over and over. It made no sense to him now. What was he supposed to see? He tried to think about it as he talked, but for all his resolve Galavar could think of nothing that might lie beyond the amphitheater. That thought greatly concerned some part of his logic. There should be something. Yet for his life Galavar had no idea what was beyond this place.

"I should climb the steps and see."

At last he did. As he climbed the final steps out of the amphitheater, a great vista came into view. But he didn't have time to see it, because a column of wind hit him so hard that he fell to the ground. Outside the sheltering alcove of the Fateful Well, the wind was ferocious. It was lethal, so violent he couldn't even breathe.

Even so, curiosity was not about to fail him. Galavar ducked back into the lee for a few deep breaths, then bolted back up to the top and held onto a metal rail to keep himself from blowing away.

Again the great vista surrounded him. Galavar gasped, and turned around several times to take it all in, holding tightly to his thin anchor.

The world…much of it simply wasn't there.

This was the Sheer. He recognized that much. He could see some of its rocky fingers jutting into the air, but in between them were lakes of shimmering yellow and black. They were everywhere, all the way out to the hazy horizon, but also under his very nose—for, all around him, where he knew there should have been something else, there was only this same strange haze. In the distance it appeared to form lakes, but up close he could see the truth: This substance was not liquid, nor was there apparently anything beneath it.

And the clouds above him, those weak, half-invisible clouds, they were not low to the ground at all. They were vastly far away, and moving impossibly fast in the wind. With the wind as strong as it was, that much made sense now.

Then he saw the sun, Rhya Kimbrii. Except…it wasn't. The sun had been in the east, hadn't it? It had been morning? Hadn't it? This sun was in the west, and dimmer. Nor was its luster steadfast, but instead appeared to dance.

"I should climb the steps and see…what? See this?" In the storm of blowing wind he could not hear his own words, and immediately regretted having spoken them at all, for he could scarcely recover his breath. It was easier to hang onto his thoughts here, he realized, but they had led him to a dead end.

There was something very wrong about what he was seeing, but it didn't feel wrong, and if anything his only emotion was intrigue. The only clue he had as to the wrongness of his predicament was the logic in his mind whispering to him that, for some unfathomable reason, none of this was correct. And it didn't sound particularly logical when he thought about it like that. But the question of why he was here still pulled at him.

There was no hope of exploring in such a gale. The instant he let go of the railing he would be blown away like a pebble of sand. Instead there seemed to be only one conclusion for him. He turned and looked back down into the amphitheater of the Fateful Well. It was peaceful in there, and complete. His eyes caught the bell, Ar Nindar. There was something about it…

Shaking his head and squeezing his eyes shut, he looked away. When he opened them again he was staring back out into the Sheer. The wind was deafening. The image of a pebble on the sand made him realize that there was no sand in this wind, none of the flying debris that was inevitable in a windstorm. The air was perfectly clean. And with that he realized that, for as cold as it was, he wasn't cold. Galavar was comfortably neutral. He was also breathing normally, even though that wasn't possible.

Arching a brow, a thought occurred to him, and he tried letting go of the railing with one of his arms. The force of the wind was insurmountable…but…

But it wasn't entirely there. Somehow, he could will himself to be unaffected by it. He let go with his other arm, and stood up straight. The wind crashed against him like a disaster of dragons, yet it did not touch him.

He could go wherever he wanted.

Though he had nowhere special in mind, the feeling of freedom pleased him.

Then, before him, a twinkling white light appeared, growing larger by the trice until it became twice as high as Galavar and equally broad. It was too bright to behold at first, and Galavar averted his eyes, but then it faded somewhat, and he discerned a figure. The being's form slowly took shape, first as a silhouette, and then the revelation of flowing white robes and a vigorous face, but wan. The light surrounded this being, augmenting his every feature and curve, and to Galavar he looked very much like an angel, but he also had the countenance and height of a simple viutar.

The being spoke:

"Mate of Relance, you are lost."

His voice cut through the roaring wind easily, though it was not the least bit deep or loud.

"That may be," Galavar replied. "I don't know why I am here."

"As you shouldn't. Go back."

"Go back down into the Fateful Well?"

"Go back there. Wait for the bellsong to die, and you will be safe again."

"Where am I?" Galavar asked.

"You are in your village, in the holy amphitheater, asleep—enchanted by the forbidden ringing of the bell."

"The bell!"

It was ringing? It hadn't been ringing before.

"But where is this place?" he pressed. "This is no dream."

"It is a dream to you."

"Why is the world all in bits and pieces? What is this wind?"

"Save your questions for your own kind, Mate of Relance."

"Who are you?"

The light around the angel grew stronger, and for the first time his feet touched the ground. When they did, they each made a thunderous boom, and some unseen strength pushed Galavar backward, toward the steps.

"Go back whence you came."

Galavar was overrun with questions, but the angel's force grew stronger, and Galavar stumbled backwards, falling onto the steps. Instinctively he rolled to protect himself, but it did no good as he caught a stone step right to the side of the head.

Yet there was no pain. Was anything about this real? Was it a dream after all?

A terrible fear filled him suddenly. He turned back to the angel and shouted:

"This is Ieik! This is my village!"

The angel stomped his feet again, and Galavar tumbled farther back down the stairs. The last thing he saw as the boundary of the well eclipsed the world from his view was the shimmering haze of yellow and black where his village should have been. Ieik simply wasn't there. The world itself was all but gone, save for a few remaining bits and pieces.

In the din he screamed one last question to the angel.

"Is this the Other World?"

The aura of light around the angel convulsed, and the whole world rippled outward. The shock of it caught Galavar and sent him tumbling back down the stairs, all of them, until he lay sprawled out on the torzaykeos again…

He was bleeding, not that he especially felt it, and was sick with vertigo from all the tumbling. And Ar Nindar was ringing, filling his mind, driving him mad.

A stubborn thought came to him, like a floating branch of a tree in a wild and hateful river.

I should climb the steps and see…

But then the thought was gone.

The Great Galavar: A Curious Tale
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O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!