Cleetz 33, 1357
Sand cushions my bare toes as I walk along the beach, watching the horizon. The sky churns with dark storm clouds. It’s as if an angry artist had taken a palette of watercolors and mixed each one of them together, leaving faint smudges of pale blue here and there. Lightning splits the air with a streak of white.
It isn’t until I look down that the thunder can be heard.
Just feet away, Azure lies on the sandy shore, very close to the water and clearly unconscious. The tide is rising rapidly. We’re whole worlds apart, and yet only feet away from each other. Soon the water will swallow her and the boundaries between us will be physical… There’s no apparent reason but somehow I know…
Azure’s voice echoes on the wind and the waves, singing softly despite her comatose state. I take a step forward. Thunder cracks through the air, shaking the very ground.
The sand slowly starts to shift underfoot. At first, I have myself convinced that I’m delusional. I risk a glance at my feet.
It takes a moment for it to dawn on me that the ground is actually moving.
I look back up at Azure. Even from feet away, I can tell that she is beginning to stir. Her eyes flutter open, and her fingers clutch at the sand.
Something has gone wrong.
I blink. This cannot be, a tiny voice whispers in my mind. This isn’t right.
What is this?
The sand swallows my feet, rising up to my ankles. I plow through it, suddenly certain that I have to reach Azure, have to get to her at any cost.
Yellow sand swallows me up to my calves, but still, I plow through it. Azure seems to be sinking further and further away, now deep under the waves. I think I should be closer to her by now… shouldn’t I?
Her eyes widen abruptly. Her mouth opens, bubbles pouring out into the water, her face turning whiter than snow. I run faster, but I’m not really running at all anymore, and the sand is past my knees.
Lightning splits the air in the distance, close enough that I can feel the earth shake beneath my feet.
Then it all stops.
The water sinks away, taking Azure with it.
I wake abruptly in a tangle of sheets, having fallen off of my bed. A dull ache pounds in my head where it hit the floor.
Dim light fills the room. At first, I think it’s from the window - until I see the brilliant blue glow being emitted from the wooden box on my desk.
I rub my head, running a hand slowly through my hair. What was it I had been dreaming? I can’t remember now, except that it had been important, and it had to do with Azure. It had had something to do with a beach, I think.
I stagger to my feet and limp to my desk, my slumbering foot prickling. Leaning over the desk, I stare at the stick lying on top of my copy of an old, leathery book - The Gold Man. I wince at the blue glow, too bright on my eyes.
As if in response to my thoughts, the light from the stick grows faint.
I eye the dark piece of wood warily, picking it up and bringing it close to my eyes. I turn it over and inspect it - the flaking strips of bark, the pale wood beneath. I’m about to set it down when something close to the end of the stick catches my eye.
My brows furrow. I peel back the bark, and it comes off like an old scab.
Beneath the bark, there’s a finely written inscription. I comb over it with my eyes, trying to read the tiny Desovese characters. The Briiche Wand.
A chill traces down my spine. I set the stick down on my desk, leaving my room.
I’d been hesitant to go back into the Miner House this morning. After his explosion on the previous day, I wasn’t sure whether to be wary or suspicious.
In the end, I hadn’t gone back for the sake of education, or because I’d foregone wariness. It was because I needed to avoid Azure.
Now I’m packing away my newly-organized medical notes, having endured another long lesson from Milo Sinclair, hoping against hope that I won’t have to be here to face another outburst. The window casts light and shadow across the paper, glinting off of my shimmering black ink.
I shovel up the rest of the notes, somewhat unceremoniously dumping them on the desk. At the sound, Milo flinches but doesn’t react otherwise.
“Are we done for the day, sir?” I ask. “May I leave?”
“Yes, Peter,” Milo says, his voice not unlike that of a sleepwalker. “But watch out for spies.”
“What, in Saiopia,” I ask in an alarmed tone, “are you talking about?”