“A kiss. You talked about one the other day.”
“It’s when two people press their lips together… It’s a sign of affection on Earth.”
I stared open mouthed.
“You… you don’t know what affection is?”
“I… I don’t think I do.”
“When a guy and a girl have feelings for each other?”
“That is affection?”
“Ok. I suppose I have affection Rainjur then. I hate him.”
I guess I could have explained that a little better.
“Ok. Not quite. It’s positive feelings towards another person. Attraction… Love.”
“Love is basically is affection, only stronger. Different people will tell you different things, but love is when you like a person so much, that you will continue to like no matter what they do, what they say, and what they become.”
“Oh… do you get shivers or warmth in your heart when you are with the person you love?”
“I wouldn’t say that always happens, but it is common. Why?”
“Because I’ve felt something like that.”
“Oh.” I said, wondering why I sounded so disappointed.
“It’s time we get back. You have a meeting with Skrybe today instead of training right?”
“Ok. You won’t want to be late for that.”
A pall seemed to have settled over both our moods. Pailadyn didn’t look at me at all as we descended the cliff and began to make our way down the path. And there was no conversation of any kind.
For Pailadyn, that was very unusual.
We came to where the path split off into the road to Skrybe’s house.
“I guess I’ll see you at the dorm then?”
Pailadyn just kept walking. She had seemed pretty deep in thought so I didn’t take it as insult, but… it was still-
Gah. Why did I care? She wasn’t my girlfriend. I didn’t like her that. And she didn’t even know attraction was. If it continued then that’d be one thing, but so far it’d been about 20 minutes.
A thought came to mind, unbidden: Who did she love?
Was that what was bothering me? I wasn’t jealous was I?
Of course not.
I mean… I didn’t think so…
Srybe’s house came into view, and I had no choice but to push thoughts of Pailadyn out of my head. It was time to get down to business.
Pushing the door open, I saw Skrybe hunched over a table strewn with what looked like paper.
“Ah Juewuhl! How are you?”
“Well enough I guess.”
“You guess? In my experience, whenever someone adds ‘I guess’ to their sentence, they are usually guessing wrong. What’s wrong?”
“Well that’s part of the problem. I don’t really know. It’s kinda personal.”
“Ok. Well I respect your privacy, but I am willing to help if you ever wish to discuss the matter.”
“Thanks. So, you wanted to speak with me?”
“Why yes, I did. First things first however, how is your training progressing?”
“Very well. I continue to surprise myself and even Traynur as I grow in controlling my Shroud. II didn’t tell him this, but it feels like I’ve done this all before.”
“Very unlikely, because that would mean…”
He began to see what I was getting at.
“That would mean you’ve been here before.”
“Is that possible?”
His eyebrows furrowed and he frowned in concentration, “I really don’t know. Logistically it’s possible. But I don’t think that’s the case. If it was possible there’d be others wouldn’t there? And Traynur’s reaction to your training results suggests that your development is a rare occurrence.”
“Yeah… that’s what I was thinking… only it didn’t sound quite so… intelligent when I thought it.”
Skrybe smiled, “I suppose I should take that as a compliment. Now do you have any questions?”
I grinned ruefully, “Lots of them actually, but Traynur won’t answer any of them until I do something stupendous.”
“Well getting here and doing as well as you are counts as stupendous in my book. Ask me something.”
I thought back to my first day here. I had meet a man named Griitur. He told me about the numbers on my tag and when I went to look… he acted like he was about to die.
“Why can’t you look at someone else’s tag?”
“Because on that tag is one wo-“
He stopped speaking and his eyes glazed over for a split second. Then he shook his head as if coming out of a sleepy haze.
“Um… tags… yes. Looking at another’s tag is forbidden because it will make the looker go crazy.”
“Are you ok?”
“I don’t know, your face went kinda blank for a moment.”
“Probably just your imagination. Now let’s see, you asked your question so it is time to begin.”
I hadn’t really been told why I had been summoned so I didn’t know what begin meant. Skrybe motioned for me to sit then proceeded to question me about my arrival to Cyst. After about ten or fifteen minutes he began to repeat the questions.
It went on like that for the next hour.
“Skrybe. I already told you. I remember nothing. Nada. Zilch. This is the fourth time you’ve asked.”
“I know. It’s supposed to help you.”
“Help me how exactly?”
“Imagine your mind as a boulder. And the repetition is a hammer. At the center of the boulder is precious metal. You’re not going to get to the metal in one swing, it will take many swings before the boulder finally cracks.”
“Yeah that’s all well and good, but minds aren’t supposed to crack. Won’t that make me go insane?”
He shrugged. “It’s possible, but would you rather be a clueless sane man or be insane but know the answers to the riddle that is your past?”
“A little mystery is healthy. I’d rather be sane. Besides, I’m not the one who really wants the answers, you are. You’re willing to risk my insanity to get your answers? That doesn’t seem like you Skrybe.”
Skrybe frowned at me and stood up from his chair.
“Listen boy. Those answers are more important than one pitiful human life.” He brought his face down close to mine. “I will do whatever it takes to get them.”
On impulse I slapped Skrybe across the face.
“Skrybe. Get a hold of yourself!”
Rage covered Skrybe’s features. He lifted me by my Shroud and tossed me across the room.
“It was not a question boy.”
His Shroud darkened to black and vine-like appendages shot out at me.