As an aside before we continue… This is a post for 23 in 2013, a project detailed here. It’s my NaNoWriMo project from 2012, a year I failed to complete the 50,000 words. It’s also the first draft – there will be typos, inconsistencies, mis-named characters and all of the other things that plague a first draft. The comments are there both for you lovely readers to post words of encouragement, point out “but he said… in the last chapter, that contradicts…” and keep me straight, and for me to bash ideas around. File this one under Urban Fantasy | Edinburgh | Parallel Worlds, as they might one day say on Angry Robot.
If you missed anything earlier, they’re here – come back when you’ve read it…
What has Gone Before – 1
A tower, brightly lit, flickering with electronic pulses towers over Locutia. If you stood at the top, you would be able to see all Edinburgh below you. Then you would realise that there was no such tower in Edinburgh, that the Castle ahead and to your left should not be surrounded by a shimmering wall of blue energy, that the Palace of Holyrood, the Scottish parliament buildings away to your right don’t usually pour plumes of steam from tall chimneys. It is Edinburgh and it isn’t, both at the same time.
High up on the tower, a small room looks out towards the shimmering Castle wall. Calling it a room dignifies it far above it’s station, though. It is a cell. Behind the barred windows are a basic bed, a battered writing desk and a single chair. The chair, tall with thin legs, is enough to make sitting at the writing desk bearable for long periods of time – bearable but not comfortable. A figure, dressed in grey robes, a hood pulled over it’s head, sits at the chair with pen in hand.
The only movement in the room is that of the figure’s hand, moving from inkwell to paper and back again. The cowled head doesn’t seem to follow the hand, it gives the impression that it has been doing this for so long it is all automatic, the hand needs no instructions from the eye to carry out it’s task. The current task is illuminating a large capital T on the paper in front of it, surrounding it with tiny bolts of lightning, circuit diagrams, electrical symbols.
Drawing the final resistor in place, the figure holds the completed paper up, studies it briefly and holds it out towards the door – a door with no handle on this side. It opens, someone was watching, waiting for the movement within the cell. The man who enters looks nervous in his rich, deep red, uniform. From his walk you might say he had not been wearing the uniform long, new into the job of guarding the illuminator. On his lapels, the gold lion-behind-bars, the symbol of the Closed Gate. He takes the piece of paper, a travel permit, without speaking and leaves.
This is his day, his night, his life. The illuminator is told when he can sleep, is brought food three times a day. When instructed, he writes out travel passes, illuminating them in his own style to ensure forgery cannot be undertaken lightly or easily. Occasionally they would bring him suspected forgeries, taken from travellers at the Gates. Depending on how he was feeling he would confirm or reject those suspicions.
In the silence that follow the departure of the guard, the illuminator takes another piece of paper and begins again. This time, though, his whole frame radiates energy, excitement. His eyes follow the movement of the pen closely as he draws, faster than humanly possible, another travel permit. The T this time is illuminated as a dagger, drops of blood forming into animal shapes as they fall.
The door opens, another uniformed guard enters. The writing slope in front of the the illuminator is suddenly empty.
“Yes?” His voice is soft, quiet, tired.
“Er, Icarus,” the guard mumbles. “To and from Darkwater by whichever route he chooses. No dates.”
“It shall be done. Please wait.”
The guard stood to attention just behind the illuminator.
The illuminator took a fresh piece of paper from the pile to his left and began, slowly, to write out another travel pass.