By Accipiter G. Goshawk
The third episode of Points of view. Trav’s use of the Focus takes a turn for the worse…
The story picks up from where it left off in Points of view:part II…
The next episode will conclude the story. I hope you enjoy it and please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.-
The next day was worse.
At the crack of dawn, he was standing in the centre of Matthews’ study staring up at the trapdoor in the ceiling, waiting for the grumpy Obseran to toss down the ladder.
“All you need to do is pull the lever you know,” exclaimed the crotchety crone as she whirled into the office from a side door and sardonically revealed a wooden lever hidden behind a heavy curtain. The trapdoor sprang open and the ladder unrolled easily.
“Up you get Observer. I expect a full report this evening!” she snapped once he was halfway up.
He entered the Focus sluggishly, his mind heavy after a long night of restless sleep. Once his thoughts were spiralling free in the magical laboratory, he called up the sea.
A blue mirror of endless water appeared around him and immediately Trav began to feel soothed by the gentle movement of the waves. Gently, he directed his attention downwards and his mind plunged easily under the foamy surface. He held his breath as his mind-body’s head ducked under the waves, hesitantly letting it out once he remembered that all he was seeing was an illusion.
His first hours passed easily in the underwater world. Once again, he jotted down notes in his notebook -the extension of his memory in this place-. Colourful sea creatures sped by him and for a while his thoughts were filled with wonder. Playful Wolphins sped by and snapped at the waves, soaring out into the warm air, their sleek bodies gleaming in the sun’s last rays.
This time, the Focus’ visions overcame him suddenly.
He had just finished studying a particularly fascinating clump of seaweed when a dark shadow passed above him. A cold chill of fear wrapped around his soul and he pretended not to notice, concentrating instead on a small fish that had just emerged from a nearby anemone. The shadow flew by again and the small creature vanished back into the safety of its hiding place.
Slowly, Trav turned his gaze upwards.
He saw nothing.
In the last few minutes, the surface of the sea had grown agitated and lances of stray lighting illuminated the waves crashing above. Around him however, the water had turned murky; he could hardly see his outstretched hand. He shivered, his eyes straining to make out anything in the thick soup that surrounded him.
He looked down and the inky depths looked back up at him. His heart began to hammer wildly in his chest as imagination reared its ugly head and twisted the Focus to tailor to its dark fantasies.
Suddenly, Trav noticed a minuscule white speck beneath him. It seemed far away and for a moment, he wondered what it might be. Then it grew larger.
Terror bloomed in the young man’s mind as he realized that something was rushing up out of the depths. Dark dead eyes stared at him from atop a white snout that gave way to horrible gaping jaws filled with endless lines of razor teeth. Trav scrambled upwards, floundering against the sudden current that seemed to be fighting him, dragging him towards the approaching monster. He let go of his notebook and pulled with all his might, braking the surface.
Immediately he was rolled over, as a titanic wave crashed into him and filled his lungs with saltwater. He gasped and choked, but he still swerved widely this way and that, hoping this would help him escape the thing.
The sea boiled around him and the predator from the abyss exploded upwards into the storm-whipped sky taking the poor scholar with it. Milky-white jagged blades tore into his leg and ripped downwards. Trav barely had time to scream before the nightmare submerged him underwater and dragged him down, down. This time, water filled his lungs completely and he started to drown, even as the horrible pain of his mangled leg threatened to render him unconscious. Darkness swirled around him. Cold soon followed and then bones crushing pressure.
The thing finally let go of him and soared off into the icy shadows, leaving Trav alone to face an endless almost-death.
He didn’t know how long he floated in his own personal hell. Ages later, the Obseran ripped the Focus from his temples and he crumpled to the ground.
He regained consciousness propped up in Matthews’ own armchair. The scent of mint tea filled his nostrils. At the other end of the room, the Obseran was busy puttering with a pot of boiling water.
“So, what did you see, Observer Zorn?”
The question was quiet and lacked any of Matthews’ usual sardonic inflections. If anything, she sounded odd.
“Well, I-I…the overall marine ecosystem…”
He went through all his observations meticulously as he had the day before. His voice trembled a little, but he grew more confident as he lost himself to the scholarly minutiae. During his long-winded explanations, the Obseran had turned and brought him tea in a large chipped mug. She had studied him carefully but she had said nothing.
When he finished his summary, her eyes narrowed.
“Impressive. To use the Focus twice and come back with all that information…you must be indeed gifted Zorn.”
Trav beamed inwardly.
“However, that does not explain,” she snarled, her tone growing in volume, “why you passed out when I removed the Focus! Nor why it took me two hours to bring you back to consciousness!”
Her anger caught him off guard and for a second he considered telling her the truth.
But then she’ll kick you out! She wants someone who is strong; she thinks you’re gifted. Don’t give her a reason to doubt you.
“I-I was just tired Obseran,” he said, feigning embarrassment, “all that information…it was a little much for me.”
If possible, Matthews’ eyes narrowed even further.
“Observer Zorn, did you skip the midday meal?” she asked sternly.
“I knew it! You are dedicated Zorn, I’ll give you that. But you aren’t practical. No wonder you collapsed. Very well; from now on lunch is mandatory, do you understand me?” she snapped with her usual angry tone. For a moment, Trav thought he detected relief in her voice.
“Yes, Obseran. I do.”
“Good. Tomorrow your Focus session will be split in two. In the morning you will observe mountains and in the afternoon forests. Go!”
Two weeks passed.
Every day, Trav dragged himself up to the Focus room and studied a new facet of existence. Every time he did, it twisted and assaulted his mind. He was constantly tired and the little sleep he managed to catch was filled with ever-changing nightmares. His body began to wilt, a consequence of his mind’s stubborn pursuit of knowledge. Initially he had respected the Obseran’s orders regarding food. However, he soon found that it became increasingly difficult to abandon the Focus midway. As he weakened, he became unable to walk down to lunch and back up to the third Spire without wheezing.
So, he stopped going. And he lied.
Even as his body slowly withered, his resolve strengthened. He wasn’t going to fail. He would prove his worth to Remex Matthews.
For her part, the old scholar was becoming increasingly nosy. She would spend more time with Trav than before and had even taken to appearing out of side corridors when she thought he wasn’t looking, trying to catch him off guard. So far, he had managed to hide his illness from his stern mentor.
Cassie on the other hand was not so easily fooled.
“What in the Crevasse has she been doing to you?”
He’d been avoiding her. He knew that if she saw him, she wouldn’t let him go without an explanation.
“Leave it alone Cas,” he wheezed as he descended the steps of the Hall of Thaums on to the lawn of the Observatory. She’d emerged from the Menagerie smelling of manure and had dashed towards him. The sight of his thin, whitened frame had stopped her dead in her tracks.
“Trav Zorn, how dare you! I won’t leave it alone! She’s poisoning you, isn’t she, that wretched old hag! You have to speak to His Excellency! This has to stop-“
“Please Cas,” he groaned weakly as her endless word-barrage smashed into his migraine, “it’s ok, I’m fine-“
“No! No! I’ll go and find that witch, that-that-“
“Cas ENOUGH!” he roared shoving her away from him.
The push barely did anything; she was strong and burly accustomed to long hours of manual labour, while he was diminished.
But the hurt in her eyes was worse than any physical harm he could ever inflict.
She turned and ran away towards the Menagerie, tears streaming from her eyes.
“I’m sorry…” he finished lamely.
The sky darkened and rain began to fall. As the cold set in, Trav looked upwards toward the Third Spire. Damp and miserable, he shuffled back up the steps of the Hall of Thaums.
It took him almost an hour to reach the top of the Spire. During that time, his mind had gone dark, as endless shadowy spectres gripped at him with nightmare hands. He paused outside Matthews’ office door, listening intently for any noises within.
Satisfied that the Obseran was most likely out for dinner, he entered and made his way to the Focus room. Once he climbed up the rope ladder, he unhooked it and let it fall to the ground far below.
“So I won’t be disturbed,” he thought dreamily.
The opal circlet slid easily over his head and closing his eyes, he cast his mind outwards to the object of his summons.
“Show me the world.”-
The story concludes in Points of view:part IV…