The awakening from her dream state had been brutal.
In 3721 of the Third Age, Atherian Calendar, when she had secluded herself in her tower and banished herself to a half-life―an unconscious state her kind could reach, in which there was no time, or space, but only darkness and dreams―she had set alarms that would penetrate the half-life to wake her. Alarms on a rockshield in the ground in the abandoned gardens under her abandoned tower in the north wing of the castle. Those alarms would tell her if anyone was disturbing the Naratus or his sister, the Magisphere, ancient weapons of Rosa’s people, dreaming in their own sleep states deep below the ground, hidden away until the next time they would be called.
Nearly ten days ago those alarms had been triggered by a furtive-looking blond man in military dress burying a stained kettle. Rosa had reached out with her mental tendrils, through the blare in her mind from the alarms, and discovered something that had knocked her back on her rootfeet.
Terrabane. It was unmistakable. She’d recognise the poison’s signature anywhere. She should, for she had been the one who’d developed it, millennia ago, during the Magi-Terran Wars. She doubted any Terran knew that part of history very well; they were so incredibly good at self-deception.
How did they get hold of the poison? It had not been growing anywhere near their settlements when she’d gone to sleep. I suppose they’re more than settlements now, but I’ll forever think of them as young and new to this world. It must have migrated down from the far north, where the abandoned cities of her people lay, empty, the Schools collecting dust, winds blowing through the organic, timeless structures. The question was, had it done it by itself or had it been moved by Terran hands?
The former she could understand, for plants had a level of consciousness―lower than hers, of course, for she was Magi, but related, for she was kash-corasin Magi, a being who was part tree. The flower with the bright orange leaves and the blue petals could have decided one day, in the limited way of non-Magi plants, to simply start migrating its seeds south, down to where the Terrans resided.
The second option…well, that meant that the Pact had been broken, and a Terran, or many Terrans, had violated the oath they’d made so long ago, and desecrated her people’s sacred cities.
Not that they’re unused to breaking oaths, she thought somewhat bitterly. It had been half a lifetime ago, it was true, but still hurt to think on. The Terrans had eliminated what few of her kind had remained. She―and Corinus, she thought, for she’d not felt his death―were all who still lived.
Either way, there was nothing she could do about it, save turn off those blasted alarms. It had taken almost ten days of standing by her dirty window, soaking up what little of the weak winter sun there was, to replenish her energy enough to shift down to the gardens and reset the alarms, check on the Great Powers resting beneath the rockshield, and retrieve the kettle.
She still had no idea how long she’d been asleep; with the mental noise from the alarms blaring in her head she’d not been able to do much more than garner the strength needed to get down to the gardens and shut it off. Now it was blissfully quiet in her head, and once she got the kettle back to her tower she got to work reading the minds of the Terrans around her, gathering the information she needed.
Midwinter Eve, she noticed soon enough, stretching her mental vines beyond the confines of the abandoned wing she inhabited. Quite an occasion, she knew. They put such stock in solstices and equinoxes. Her people’s holidays had been something somewhat different, though she barely remembered them now.
Stretching down into the castle, she noted the soldiers back from another Terran military “victory”, the busyness of the cooks in the kitchen, preparing for the next day’s feast, the sleepy contentment of those servants already in bed, dreams full of the excitement of the next day, wondering if Goddess of the sun, Kore, would bring them gifts during the night as She brought the sun out of its resting time to make the days longer. Stretching up again, she noticed nobles and courtiers sharing time with their families, letting the children stay up later than usual; she saw the Queen―no, Empress now is it? Interesting―pacing in her room, unhappiness the only mood she seemed to know. Going further up, she noticed a wall around the study in the Spire that she could not penetrate.
Frowning, she knocked away at it, but it would not budge. It was large and black and smooth, and soon she was knocked back, away from it, with a rush of anger from another being.
Rosa landed solidly back into her body, shaken. She’d encountered a force like that once before, and she shuddered to think what it meant, that it was back in this time and place.
Gripped with sudden urgency, she would have marched from her tower walls right that moment and gone to do something, could she have thought of what to do. She brought her patience to the forefront again, the capacity her type was famous for, and made herself stand, and wait, and rest. She was still tired, not at full strength. She should sleep now. The next day, maybe, she would roam the castle and find out more.