Through The Ashes Of Past FlamesMature

In a fit of panic the man lurched out of a shallow sleep. Scurrying back, he put himself against the well wall and padded down his body to ensure he was still whole. He listened but had difficulty hearing much over his deep gasping breaths and the beating of his heart. Memory of when he had fallen asleep was not at hand and he struggled to piece together how long he had been in the well. After a few minutes of contemplation he decided it had only been a few hours. Anger rose in his chest at having fallen asleep, he thought himself of stronger will than that. Hunger was on the edge of his mind, creeping steadily forward. It would be his next challenge, one that would be endless in this place.

“I wouldn’t eat you.” The voice came.

“I can’t trust that.”

“I don’t care if you do, I’m just telling you that I wouldn’t.”

The voice had become softer, but the farmer remained skeptical. “And why wouldn’t you?”

“I never have. They threw them down here thinking I’d eat them you know. The criminals I mean.”

“You didn’t?”

“I’m not a monster.”

“What are you then?”

“Just a man.”

“Men don’t live centuries without eating.”

“Just because we’re different it doesn’t mean we aren’t human.”

There was silence, a sliver of light cut through the wooden cap of the old well, it seemed to barely reach them.

“This was once my home.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

The voice became a thundering roar. “If you’d rather not listen then so be it!”

“I… I didn’t intend to offend you, it was a sincere question.”

“I have been alone a long time. I can’t kill you, you’re not going to try and kill me, and you’re not going to die of hunger. We’re going to be here a long time together.”

“Not if I have anything to do with it.”

“You’re delusional, I have tried a thousand times to escape. Yet here I am.”

“Have you ever left the well?”

“Once.”

“How far did you make it?”

“It was early, so long ago now. I still knew some of the older people in the ward. One tried to shelter me, a woman.”

The farmer could tell from the voice that this was not just any woman. He could nearly feel the old mans heart beating faster at the mentioning of her.

“She was cast in here with me.”

He shook his head, thinking of his wife. “At least you had her to yourself for the last moments.”

“I had to watch her waste away.”

“They assaulted my wife before me.”

“Ah… that’s what fueled your spell.”

“It was not a spell.”

“Oh yes it was. I felt it ripple through the weave from here. Powerful, pure emotion. A rare phenomenon, even for Maleficarum.”

“It just happened.”

“You’re a sorcerer boy, that’s how it always happens.”

“What are you?”

“I am … no. I was, a long time ago, Magi. The Magus of this fortress.”

“A scholar.” The farmer laughed. “Practically nobility, how’d you end up in this pit?”

“Jealousy is a powerful thing.”

For the first time since he had been in the well, he heard the man move. The old man was close, sitting nearly right next to him, yet his voice seemed miles away and nearby all at the same time. Perhaps it was simply the echo of the well.

“Will you tell me your name?”

He thought, “I’ll be honest, I’m afraid of you.”

“Everyone is.”

“You’re not exactly sane.”

“Who would be after centuries of solitude, with nothing but corpses as company.”

“Good question.”

“Please, your name.”

He hesitated. “My mother called me Poe.”

The voice laughed. “That’s not your real name.”

“That’s all you’re getting.”

“Since we’re not being fully honest, you can call me by my past profession.”

“It’s hard for me to believe you are really Magi. I figure a Magus would have the skill to escape a dark hole in the ground.”

“Our skill is often inflated to cause fear. Many of us together can do impossible things; miracles. One however, is just a man with a book and a few sparkly tricks.”

“Now you’re selling yourself short.”

He laughed. “Perhaps.”

They sat, contemplating the conversation without words.

The End

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