The pain was unexpectedly dull even as the knife cut through my skin. The priest stopped right above my wrist: the blade had made its way from the tips of my fingers to the confines of my palm. Seemingly satisfied with his work, the priest backed away as I resisted the urge to scratch. He began chanting words in a language I didn’t understand; it was old tongue.
As he spoke the pain on my arm subsided only to be replaced with a soft throbbing. I looked at the priest; his gentle eyes were now blank, his face devoid of emotion. I could sense the power in his voice; with each word the throbbing increased. It wasn’t long till blood started pouring; gently at first then faster. Within a few seconds, it was like a waterfall of red.
As the blood poured, I looked down, wondering how they were going to clean it up. To my surprise the blood never touched the floor; instead, it flowed into the magic circle in waves. With each pulse, the runic words glowed a dull red as if in agreement. Like a heart, each breath powered the runes and they, in turn, fueled something else; my grimoire.
The black book was floating in the air; its pages turned as if some invisible hand was rummaging through it. As I watched the book rise, I could feel my legs give way. It didn’t take long for me to fall; my magic being syphoned into grimoire. With every word I could feel myself losing consciousness while the grimoire flew higher and higher; its power radiating throughout the hall. I tried to hold on but I had no strength left to do so. And even as the priest stopped chanting, my mind slipped into oblivion.
It was cold when I woke up; my hands and legs were both numb. It took some time before I could stand up again, my body was still drained of all its energy. I looked up; the sky was grey, and there were no buildings around. I was definitely not in the village.
As I began walking, I noticed that I was on some sort of reflective surface. With each step I took, ripples formed. I looked around, the lake-like surface was spread as far as I could see. I continued walking.
I had lost count of how many hours had past when I came across a large mirror. It was easily twice my height and three times my width; but other than that it boasted no unique features. I walked around it wondering if any secrets lay at its back, but all I saw was my reflection yet again. I walked back to the front and observed the mirror.
It wasn’t long til I noticed the man standing in the mirror. At first, it thought it was my reflection, but its eyes were grey; like tiny blue islands in a sea of mud. As I raised my right hand, it raised its left. Curious, I touched the mirror and fell into its cold embrace.
I could feel the sensation of falling, the fear of weightlessness. But there was no wind nor sound; even my voice was inaudible. I was dark, darker than even night itself. I was helpless, suspended in this alternate reality and I could do nothing to change that. So I closed my eyes waiting for this nightmare to be over.
It wasn’t long till I was back on the ground; I had landed face first, but I felt no pain. I quickly stood up and looked around. The sky was now blue and there was no trace of the mirror nor the darkness that I had fallen through. Yet after all my efforts I had returned back to square one; a stranger in an unknown land.
I stood up again, my legs faintly aching. I battled whether or not to resume my search for an exit. My curiosity got the better of me again, I hoped this time it wouldn’t kill me.
Before I had walked a few metres a man appeared in front of me, his body half submerged in the lake. His face was blurry as if covered by and invisible veil but I could see his eyes clearly. His left eye was grey with a blue pupil while his right was grey with a red one. His face was without emotion, yet it terrified me.
“You seem afraid,” it said.
“Have you looked at yourself in a mirror? Who wouldn’t me.” I retorted. I had had enough of wondering around and wasn’t in the best of moods.
The creature smiled, rising up from the lake as it did so. “You would talk to me about mirrors?”
“Look, I have spent the last few hours wondering about this forsaken place. I don’t care who you are I just want to go home.”
“What if I said I could offer you true power?”
I paused for a moment, his words echoing through the silence.
“You would offer me true power?”
“Yes, I would.”
“May I ask your name?”
“I am Aruer, Deity of Mirrors?”
“So Aruer, why would you offer me power?”
“Because you have peaked my interest.”
“Is that all?”
“Is it not good enough a reason?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Then what do you propose I should have said?”
“Maybe because I was chosen, or that it runs in my lineage?”
Aruer laughed as if possessed by a jackal. “No one is chosen for power, only by the whims of those with it is it granted.”
“What about the acolytes, the sages, the eunuchs? Or the sovereigns and alchemists? What about them?” I asked.
“They possessed something unique, it’s true. But they weren’t chosen much like you aren’t either.”
“You’re telling me that people are just given world-changing power by whim? It makes no sense?”
“Nothing does Naulius.”
“Of course it doesn’t …. wait, how do you know my name?”
“I know a lot about you, why wouldn’t I know your name?”
“I never said do you, I asked how?”
Aruer smiled; his lips suppressing a chuckle. “All will be explained, the more pressing matter is do you accept my power?”
I pondered for a moment. Worst comes to worst, I was dreaming, and this never happened. In the best case, I achieve unimaginable power, and my parents stop calling me a failure.
“I accept,” I said hesitantly.
“Good,” Aruer replied as he put his hands on my head and I once again fell into a deep slumber.