Achara jumped out of bed and dressed hastily in the dark of her room. She had no idea what time it was, but she ran to the door, unbolted it, and ran out into the tunnel. She could not see anything, so she tried to retrace her steps back the way that Laoren led her. She heard voices coming from down one of the tunnels, and she followed it and eventually found the room with the table where she had eaten bread the day before. There at the table was Laoren and Jorn, along with another person Achara had not met. There was better light in the room than before, with a few candles burning on different sides of the room. She could see there were several cupboards and a floor level hearth that was smoldering at the moment with smoke rising to the opened sky. The place was cool with the night air.
“Young Achara,” Laoren greeted. “Great to see you have rested. Let me introduce you to my colleague Maeshen.” Maeshen rose and gathered his white robes and bowed to Achara and said nothing. He then sat back down next to Laoren. Achara looked intently at his face but could see no eyes on the man as if they had been removed and skin had grown over where his eyes had been. His hair was gray, and he wore a patchy braided beard.
“What day is it?” Achara asked.
“You’ve slept through the day, and it is now night again,” Laoren said. “You’ve been asleep since you arrived early yesterday morning.”
“Come, child. Sit and have a bite,” Laoren invited.
“I can’t,” she said. “You’re not going to believe this, but Camon is alive!”
There was a long pause, and no one said a word before Laoren spoke, “Child, I am not sure how to put this to you, but I think you need to accept the fact that Camon is dead.”
“I told you so,” Jorn added.
“Achara, anyone who has ever encountered an amphiptere and lived to tell about says the only way to come out alive is to run,” Laoren said. “Camon chose to face it, so he sealed his fate. But it is oftentimes after someone close to us dies, we want them to be alive, so we imagine that they are. Why do you think he is alive.”
“Just a few moments ago, I felt something,” Achara explained. “Well, not only felt it but saw it very vividly in my mind. It was Camon. He was on a ledge overlooking what looked to be the salt flat. And he was in pain. Immense pain. And he was trying to reach me.”
“A vision in your sleep,” Laoren said. “That sounds like a dream, perhaps.”
“It wasn’t a dream. I think as a seer, I would know the difference,” Achara objected.
“I’m a seer too, and I acknowledge that fact,” Laoren said. “But even so, Camon is not a seer. He wouldn’t know how to use seer magic, especially something as advanced as projecting visions across great distances.”
“I get that,” Achara said. “But he is a skilled magic user. He’s mastered two different schools. Most magic users can barely master one. And he’s practically a walking encyclopedia. He may not be a seer, but he knows something of seer magic.”
“Even so, the seeing gift is rarely a learned art,” Laoren said. “It’s usually inherited from one’s mother, just as yours was. And are you so confident in your skills to separate dreams from projections?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “But this I do know. If there is even a slight possibility that Camon is alive, then it at least warrants looking into it.”
“I would agree with you,” Laoren said, “but you are going to need more convincing proof than a vision you had in your sleep.”
“But I am sure,” she protested. “Do you remember when you told me you only gave me a premonition as sufficient knowledge to prod me one way or another in my ambivalence?”
“Yes, quite well.”
“Well, this is more than a hunch. I’m certain of it, just as certain as I see you, Maeshen, and Jorn.”
“But this is against prevailing knowledge of visions of the dead in our sleep,” Laoren said. “It’s not merely ambivalence.”
“So by that, you say that my vision needs to outweigh prevailing knowledge,” she summarized. “In my mind, it does. I was beginning to accept that perhaps Camon was dead. After the attack, I went back out on the plane to look for him or anything useful. I never found him and a hollowness crept over me that didn’t let go, so in my head, I assumed the worse. I would have waited otherwise. But I never let go completely, clinging to just an inkling of hope.”
“Which is all the more reason to doubt.”
“But is it? I know that Camon is not a seer, but he chose me of all people to reach out to at whatever it cost him to do so. Because he didn’t know exactly what to do, I suspect that he threw everything he had at it, which is what he does. The reason he chose me is that he knew I wouldn’t abandon hope. He knew I would be listening for him if he somehow managed to reach out. And against all odds, he found a way to do it. I have no idea what he did, but it worked. And I am certain of it.”
“Achara, hope is a powerful motivator,” Laoren said. “It can get us through the worst crisis. But it can also lead to wishful thinking. I fear that you are suffering from that.”
Achara’s eyes began to fill with tears, and then she welled up with anger. “Fine,” she said. “You want to explain away what I saw as a byproduct of my mental state. I grant you that I am distraught, but what I saw was real. I have experienced dreams. But I have experienced visions too. I have had people reach me across distances and speak into my mind. I know what these kinds of perceptions feel like. And this is exactly what Camon’s vision felt like. It was real. You may not believe me, but I don’t really care what any of you think. I am going back out there, and I won’t rest until I am sure he is dead or alive or I’m dead.”
“Don’t be a fool, girl,” Jorn said. “Camon threw away his life. Don’t throw away yours.”
“Shut up!” she shouted at Jorn. “No one asked you!”
“What, are you going to kick me mercilessly again?” Jorn chided.
Achara said nothing and turned about to storm out of the room when Maeshen spoke, “A powerful wave of magic did pass through here moments before she came in the room.”
Achara turned and looked at Maeshen, “So you saw him too?”
“I saw nothing,” he answered. “Only magic.”
“Maeshen is a seer too, but not like you and me,” Laoren said. “He sees magic the way you and I see the light. He sees its movements, ebbs, flows, intensities, and many other things.”
“But that can’t be a coincidence,” Achara said, walking back over towards the men at the table. “If that was Camon’s way of reaching me, then no doubt he would have made it as loud as he possibly could to get my attention across whatever distance he could conjure.”
“I admit that it’s too much to be a coincidence,” Laoren said. “But it only makes things slightly more certain than before. I am still not convinced because even as a seer, we can sometimes pick up on magic as such and interpret it according to our own biases. What was the nature of the magic, Maeshen?”
“Raw power, chaotic and unbalanced,” he replied. “But, it was purposeful.”
“That sounds like desperation to me,” Achara said.
“Or an explosion,” Laoren rebutted.
“And that’s exactly what it was,” Achara said. “Camon once used magic to create an explosion. Out on the plain, when Jorn attacked us, Camon used a common stone to create an explosion to serve as a diversion. It worked, allowing us to get in a flanking position and root out Jorn over there and his pal. I’m willing to bet everything I own that he probably used his focusing stones to create that explosion, only this one would have been much more powerful in terms of magic. Those stones have a much higher threshold for channeling magic before they explode. He uses the stones as part of the Paladin arts, so to sacrifice a stone like that would be an act of desperation.”
“It was luck,” Jorn said.
“It worked well enough to fool you,” Achara said.
Laoren shook his head. “Purely circumstantial,” he said, “but it does fit.”
“Circumstantial is better than nothing,” Achara said.
“True, but not much,” he said. “You are inferring a lot based on your relationship with him. And I fear that you want that to be true.”
“There you go, explaining it away again based on my emotional state. But, until you can give me a better explanation, I have no reason to doubt it is the case.”
Laoren was silent, then sighed, “I admit I don’t.”
“You’re telling me that you think that she’s not out of her mind?” Jorn interjected.
“She is suffering from a traumatic loss,” Laoren said. “But she is not out of her mind. And Maeshen’s testimony, along with her vision, cannot simply be ignored or explained away. She may be telling the truth. She certainly does believe it to be so, as I can detect no deceit in her.”
“Fine,” Jorn said. “Have it your way, but don’t expect any help from me.”
“Nobody was asking you,” Achara scorned. “Like you could be of any help in your useless state anyways. And you didn’t even believe this place existed until I brought you here.”
“Seeing is believing, girl,” Jorn said.
“And I saw Camon. I’m going after him.”
“It’s your life,” Jorn remarked.
“If you go after him, I cannot help you,” Laoren said.
“Why not? If he’s alive, then he needs our help! He deserves our help!”
“Achara, he does deserve help. But what he represents and what I am cannot be reconciled.”
“I don’t understand,” she said. “What does he represent that can’t be reconciled with who you are?
“This place where we are, do you know what it is?” Laoren asked.
“Yes,” she answered.
“Then you know why I can’t help Camon. This place represents everything that the world has thrown away. The knowledge here was discarded, and those that keep it were too.”
“Why do you see yourself as discarded? Are you not a servant of the Light? Do you not want to help people in need? Because that is exactly what Camon stands for as a servant of the Light. He’s done so much for so many people. How can what he represents and what you stand for not be reconciled?”
“I was a servant of the Light,” he said mournfully.
“You were?” she asked. “Being a servant of the Light is a personal choice. No one forces it upon you. You choose to serve the Light, and you can do so now.”
“Achara, I am afraid not. I am old now. My days are spent. I did not come here to serve anyone or anything. I came here to die as all who come here do. It’s not that we don’t want to serve the Light. Rather it is that we can’t, bound by frailty, age, handicap, or any number of things. We are here because the world has no use for us, so we choose not to help the world.”
“I’m not the world, and neither is Camon,” she said.
“But by helping you, we help the world,” Laoren said.
“You think so fatalistically. You have strength yet in you. And besides, was it not you that helped me on the mesa?” she asked.
“We can do only one thing, and that is give knowledge. We exist to give knowledge, but one has to seek it. You sought knowledge, and we gave it to you,” he answered.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ve about had enough of this debate. I’m going out there with or without your help.”
“I wish you good fortunes in finding Camon,” Laoren said.
“What good it does,” she said. “It would be better if you helped.” She then turned and went back to her room and found her cloak and put it on. She found her way back to the stables, and she saddled two horses and looked around for as long a piece of rope as she could see. She located several sections in a bag hanging next to the stables, and she packed it in a saddlebag. She then looked around for anything else that might be useful. She found some tack, hooks, and pulleys. She put all this in her bag. She walked the horses out of the stable and back up through the tunnels until she found the garden and then up the ramp onto the mesa to find Camon if he was still alive.