I woke up on a black bed, with a black pillow, black blankets, and a black frame.
These people had a fascination with black.
I was in a small nondescript room with a torch burning on the wall. There was a soor to my right and it was open at the moment. I tried to look out it from where I was laying and caught a glimpse of a room reminiscent of the hub, but smaller and with less doors.
I sat up slowly and felt a twinge of pain in the back of my head. I’d have to have a word with whoever had clocked earlier. Whether I needed it or not… well that wasn’t important. I left the room that I assumed was my dorm and peaked in a few other rooms. They were just like mine. This must have been the residential area, but I didn’t see anyone else in it. Finding the door that led to the Hub, I left the dorms behind and decided to do a little exploring of the compound.
I also had a good bit of thinking to do.
From the hub I took a hallway that had been labeled “Garden.” My stride was long and leisurely; I wasn’t in any hurry to go somewhere. Quite the opposite in fact; I wanted to be as far away from somewhere as possible so I could sort through things.
The garden was a refreshing change. Instead of just black there was a myriad of color here; blues, purples, greens, and yellows. However I did notice that while there was color, each of the plants, flowers and trees alike, had a little bit of black on them.
Looks like I had another question for Traynur.
I sat cross-legged between two potted trees and took a deep breath. The air had a pleasant earthy smell to it; almost pleasant enough to make forget my problems.
“I don’t want to fight.” I said to no one in particular. “That “warrior spirit” just isn’t something I have. I don’t want to kill and I don’t want to be killed.”
“That is a good thing.”
I tried to spin and stand up at the same time and nearly knocked over the tree to my right. The person who spoke was leaning against the door. It was Traynur.
“It is often forgotten that winning a battle does not rely solely on brute strength and a killer mentality. I cannot speak for Earth, but we’ve seen our share of battles. More of them were decided by a well thought move, than by mere power.”
“That reminds me of something Traynur. Along the outside of the Compound there are arrow-slits, what are they for? And Griitur mentioned a war that took place nearly seven thousand years ago. Who was the war between? Do you have enemies? And why do you hold fights for entertainment? It doesn’t seem to fit.”
Traynur quirked an eyebrow at my questions and after a quick deliberation spoke.
“Remember I told you that I would make you earn your questions. Since you completed your first task by choosing your Shroud power, I will answer one of those questions. Which will it be?”
As I deliberated over which question I wanted Traynur to answer, I was struck with a thought. Traynur only answered questions when I did what he told me. He didn’t say anything about telling stories. I could essentially ask question without it sounding like a question.
“Who was the war between?”
“It was between some of Cyst’s first citizens. The nameless and Monark, and eventually Skrybe.”
I waited for him to go on but he had finished talking.
“You’re not going to tell me more?”
“There is no need to. I answered your question.” Traynur said with a smile.
I thought about my wording and grimaced, he was right. That was when I decided to try my earlier theory.
“Tell me about the war.”
Traynur grinned, “Ah! Well done Juewuhl! You have completed your first lesson. Its lesson is two-fold. Number one: The art of asking a question without it sounding like a question can be an invaluable tool. Especially if you know how to lead up to that non-question with actual questions in such a way that it draws attention away from that non-question. If you are fishing for information, you don't want the other party to be aware of it.”
“Care to run that by me again?”
“I’ll use an example.” Then he blinked as if something had occurred to him. “Just so you are aware, you were out for a while after Stryfe knocked you out.”
“Stryfe? That’s his name? I didn’t happen to catch his face. How long was I out?”
“Nearly a day.”
“Yes. It is the day after your arrival.”
“But… that doesn’t seem possible!”
“There is much that doesn’t. Like Skrybe’s quest for information about Earth. There were many who advised him to give up on searching for answers.”
“But then I arrived.”
“Yes. It was quite unexpected. Much like your departure I imagine.”
“That’s right. Well, I think it is. The last thing I remember was going to sleep in my dorm at college. I can’t quite remember how I got here. And you’re changing the subject! You were going to give me an example on how to ask a question without seeming to."
“I already did.” Traynur said through another wide grin.
“Wait, but what were you trying to find out?”
“That is for you to figure out Juewuhl. Your mind is your most powerful weapon. You must learn to use it effectively before you take on a lesser weapon such as your Shroud.”
“Ok. I’ll think about it later. You mentioned that this was a two-fold lesson. What is the second part of it?”
“Learning the importance of a loophole. When fighting the rules, it can provide you with an exception. When fighting an opponent, it can provide you with the opening you need to achieve victory. Think about what you have learned here. You will meet me in the arena tomorrow with two ways in which you can apply today’s lesson to your Shroud. We are done for now.”
Traynur pushed off of the doorframe and made his way back down the hallway and out of sight. I remained in the garden for a long time, thinking on both the information that Traynur had extracted from me, and how I could apply a simple conversation to my mystical new power.