The boy looks at me confused and tearful, but I stand, my chest heaving like a current, terrified at what I see. He'd seemed like a young boy at first, but now I see it like a mirage clearing. His eyes are old and rheumy on a clear, youthful face, edged with wrinkles like defined scars and run through with red veins around his dull blue irises. The rest of him is beautiful, cherubic even, but it's the eyes that I can't stop seeing, and the eyes that pierce through me like shards of glass.
"What are you?" I demand, trying not to panic. This must be a monster, the kind that tricks child-loving women to devour them whole. I'm defenceless, and worse, if I try to run, how can I in this dress?
The boy answers in a soft, childish voice. "You're mine." The words run through me, it's not the answer I asked for, and yet it makes me shiver through to the marrow of my bones. Then, the boy breaks into a smile and begins to laugh, the kind of sweet, innocent laugh that would make any heart melt, but makes mine seem to burst.
"You -," I begin to say, but he runs away, oddly fast, towards the main doors. It passes through my mind to run, but I don't, instead, my legs kick into motion and I follow him. Ahead, he pushes the doors open and lets through an unnaturally bright light. I throw my arm across my eyes as I keep running, losing track of the boy as he fades into the light and I soon after. The light settles, and as I pull my arm away, I freeze.
In front of me is Ideón and the cella chamber, and when I turn to look behind me, the main doors, as if I have turned around, but I know I haven't.
What's happening here? What trick is this?
I spin and rattle the doors that had been open moments ago, but they refuse to open. I take a deep breath, pressing my balmy forehead against the cold gold, and swallowing I call out.
"Whatever you are...I have magic!" It's a lie, a bad one at that, but my mind runs dry of what else to do. This creature, this old-eyed child is toying with me, in foreplay, in cruelty, I have no idea. I only know that if I act frightened, if I give in, it'll only be worse. If this is a strange dream, then I need only wait for Akantha or Calliope to wake me up. If it's a dream...if they wake me up...
"I have old magic!" I continue to shout, my voice ringing through the marmoreal hall. There's a treasury room to my left, and I hurry towards it, but standing in the doorway, I see only the central chamber again. I turn, and it is there again. "More - more powerful than you can ever imagine!" I continue to shout, trying to will strength to myself. I hurry back to the main doors, and again, they refuse to open.
"And if you don't let me go, I'll use it on you!"
The laughter comes again, sweet, soft, mocking. It knows I'm bluffing, and turning around, I hear it drifting from where Ideón stands. I fumble my hands at my sides, trying to find anything to defend myself, and when I reach my hair, I realise I have a bejewelled hair-stick in there amongst all the twists and plaits. I pull it, and my hair tumbles out around my face in rippling waves wanting to spring back up into curls. The end is sharp enough, enough to gouge and scrape. I can't imagine ever hurting anything, let alone something in the effigy of a child, but with my stomach clenching, I realise I may have no other choice.