He didn't bother dressing. No one would be awake this time of night, and he didn't feel like taking the time to don anything more substantial than the light cotton pants he wore to bed. For a time he roamed the hallways, bare feet silently padding across tile and marble floors. When he'd first begun staying at the estate of Her Ladyship, Prince Vanora, he'd explored every out of the way corner he could find in the depths of night. Now he knew them well, and his aimless walk turned out to be not so aimless at all. Through no conscious decision to go there he ended up in Vanora's rose gardens. 

They were immaculately maintained plants of many different breeds. He hadn't known so many different types of roses existed until Vanora had walked here with him, pointing out the horticultural names of each in turn. Some had thorns, some didn't. Some had been grown to have more layers of petals, or for a specific shape or shade. They weren't even all the same color. Most were red, but some were orange, or lavender, or even white. 

A cool breeze gently pushed at their leaves, a sign that their time was almost over. It had been warm and rainy when Noman had first arrived in Marsten. Now winter was fast approaching, and Vanora's garden would turn from verdant foliage to dormant skeletons.

He chose to sit in the grass amidst the bushes, ignoring the benches in their strategically chosen niches. Legs crossed he looked up at the moon and tried not to think about anything at all. The moonlight was bright enough to cast faint shadows. For a time they sat motionless, unmoving. Then they began to stir. Pieces of darkness detached themselves from the corners of the night and swam toward Noman, filling the cool air with hisses and clicks.

He let his eyes linger on the moon for a moment longer, then looked down at the shadows that approached him. A small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth, and he reached out with one hand. The shadows began to swirl around him like an oily black smoke, tendrils of it wrapping around his outstretched arm. If he looked closely he could see emerald green spots glowing within the smoke. They were eyes, all focused on him.

"There are more of you this time." His words were soft, and answered by swell of chittering noises. "More every couple of nights," he mused. That was both good and bad. Good that so many of the shadow demons had survived the destruction of the Ivory Tower. Bad, because that meant other demons would have survived as well. He'd hoped that the magical shockwave that marked the end of the Incursion would have killed most or all of the demons in Marsten. More and more it was looking like they'd only been pushed away. 

Unfortunately hunting them down was not his foremost concern. He had bigger problems, like finding a missing Old God that had somehow managed to stay on the mortal side of the barrier. And so far, it was turning out to be just as hard as he'd thought it would be. 

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, letting the alternating sensations of numbness and pinprick itching on his skin be his only distraction. He tried to concentrate on the chaotic, disjointed mass of information that was his mind. When he'd died atop the Ivory Tower he'd gone right past dead and onto something else, pulled into the realm of the Gods themselves by a combination of powerful magic, a hole in the barrier, and Airea's will. For a short time he'd been a demigod. He'd known so many things, things that might have helped him find the missing God he sought... but then he'd come crashing back to the mortal world. Back down into a mortal body made from scratch, which couldn't hold all that he'd become. 

According to Vanora it had taken nearly a month for him to wake up without babbling incoherently. He was back to normal now, mostly. But there were still pieces of the puzzle rattling loose, waiting to be put back into place. Maybe, if he was lucky, one of them would be what he needed.

The End

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