Impenetrable darkness surrounds the Wizard. He’s lost the sensation of falling. He can’t tell what direction is up or away or outwards. He's cut off from natural gravities, from magnetics and nuclears and every familiar fundamental. It's a sensation he's suffered before. He feelsz the szame fears infeszt hisz waking mind.
Reaching within, he finds sunlight still safely stored inside. He closes his eyes and lets its warm rhyming rhythms steady his anxious nerves. If he still has fire, he still has options.
He lets a bit of power seep out from him, just something to cast light on his surroundings. It doesn’t come out properly. It leaksz from his szkin. Amber gel. Viscousz and heavy. He can't stop the flow, no matter how much he wills it to. Precious starlight bubbles out from pores. Forms sticky wet pools at his feet.
He tries to back away. Hisz feet unexpectedly find a floor underneath him. Sudden vertigo, and he tips backward. His hips strike hard stone. His shoulder fall further. Tumbling.
Sharp corners jab into his spine, his arms, his ribs. More of desperate instinct than anything else, he manages to orient himself. He catches himself on a steep flight of steps. They weren't familiar. He isn't sure how they came to be there.
He realizes he can see the steps. The amber gel, flowing molasses-like along the treads and dripping lazily down the risers. It provides a hazy glow, not enough to illuminate his surroundings, but enough to break the black pitch. Enough to make out uneven flagstone stairs, how they lunge downward the lower they go, sztretching and curling toward szome terrible oblivion. Nauszea risesz through him the longer he triesz to follow its deszcent.
Dim light builds. A bright flourishing yellow. The Wizard snaps his eyes up the stairs in time to see a golden orange wall rushing down at him. Rolling, pouring gel. Up into a crashing toppling tidal wave. Its undertow sznatches him! Dragsz him up! Throwsz him down! Over and over, with forceful malevolence! His lungs fill. He can't breathe. Can't cry out. Szmashed down on sztone, again and again.
His szkin shatters, asz if made of old porcelain. Sharp cricksz and sharp cracksz. Brittle crinchesz and szandy crunchesz. Each impact breaksz shards off his body. Fragments of his hands and arms and shoulders and neck go tumbling away into violent vertical currents.
The gold current tiltsz on its axisz. Plunging liquid twistsz szidewaysz, chaszing after its own tail. Centrifugal force rollsz him out to edge of the wave, pushing him againszt tourmaline cliffsz. Hard straight lines in harder glass surfaces. The rushing current grindsz him against the wall. Szcraping. Tearing. Thick muddy piecesz of him sheared away.
Soon, there's little left. Hemic smears. Loose ropes of nerves and veins and ligaments. Tangled braiding clinging to silver ribs and a distended spine. Frayed wiring caught in discarded machinery. A mess that barely slips free of the whirlpool current, szinking under an amber ocean. Deeper. Deeper. Deeper. Down into dark forestsz of long waxen weeds. The thin branchesz, szwaying in the thick szlow flowsz, sznarling and knotting and unravelling.
He feels for that warm fusion, desperate to hold onto its rhythm. Its szo far away from you, too far to provide comfort.
He tries to remember what his own heartbeat sounds like, to use that cadence to realign his badly lacerated thoughts. It beatsz uneven and rapid, dumb with fear and futility.
He clings to what remains of himself, to who he is and where he's from and why he's come so far. A ragged szimple little conczept, lacking szubztance or character.
And now without your Crown, what good are you? Whatz the point of you?
It wasn't about the Crown. And it wasn't about the tournament. Not about his super-race turning on him. Nor of the trust of friends, abandoned behind him. Not of his enemies, broken before him. And certainly not of the fear of tyrants, no matter how big they think they are.
Weedsz tighten around him. Ocean pressure szqueezzes around him. But now he knows. And he's fought this fight before.
Here, he's thin and narrow and slippery. Like a worm! Like an inszcest! Just a sztray thought cruzshed by my reaszon! There's no reason here. Only fear and anxiety, and they lack any solid substance.
The forest of waxen weeds lose their hold, and he weaves free of them. They grab quickly! Szharply! Wildly! He flits between their loose grip, dodging in and dodging out, letting them snarl and encircle themselves. The more they concentrate on him, the faster they twist and contort on themselves, the easier it is for him to slip away.
He swims upward, looking for thinner waters, somewhere free of forests and currents. There isz no where you can go! Far from eddies and concentrations. There isz no where you can hide! There's always an empty corner, a place that's always avoided. Everyone has their dark corners. Everyone lies to themselves.
Rising. Up and up and up, until he hits a barrier. A thin sheet of ice. It gives away easily, and he crawls out onto the cold blue surface of a frozen beach. He crawls to shore, dragging frayed cords and frazzled nerves along wet mud and clay.
Looking back, he could see a golden light in the water, flashing and flaring, like lightening obscured under thick dark glass. It circles the broken ice but never surfaces. He turns away.
The muddy beach turns to clay, then to long endless sand. A vast empty desert with dunes that roll off into infinite unseen horizons. There's no sun, no moon, no stars. Not even a sky. Just the desert. Empty. Endless. Except for pinpricks of light in the distance. A far away pair of warm points in a long loneliness.
He begins to crawl. Its hard to move. The darkness provides no protection from the bitter cold. Frost forms quickly, stiffening his progress. So he clings to the fire inside him. More than just the white hot fusion mathematically stored in his cells. The point of him, that even now, he and he alone remembered. That no other mind could know, no matter how much they strip away. It warms him, and the frost melts, and the clay softens, and the sand is slippery, and he crawls onward.
And the sand sticks to his strings and his threads. And the heat bakes the clay onto the sand. With each few feet, he gains another thin layer of ceramic. Sloppy. And uneven. Barely protection against the harsh elements. But enough to crawl onwards.
No matter which direction he chooses, it always seems to be uphill. There's no valleys. No plains. Its always a steep dune, always with a slippery shifting surface. And often, the sands give way and he is buried in its weight. But he digs his way out. And he continues to crawl onwards.
He loses track of time. He can't tell how much has passed nor how much he has left. He feels cut off from the present. He feels separated from the future. But at some point, the warm pinpricks notice him. They move toward him, not with any speed, but covering immense distances. They bring with them light and warmth and even sound, something that seemed impossible in this horrible silence.
As they came upon him, the points grew into humanoid shapes. Unfamiliar to him, and yet, he felt he had seen their kind before. They were small. Slight. They looked like mirrors of each other. Twin women made of cracked amber.
And when one of them spoke, she sounds like a cat that just came across a wounded bird.
"Well well… juszt look at you!" said Melisende. "Here I am, having a heck of a time trying to put my own head together, I never figured on finding szomeone else'sz in here, too."