Chapter Five, con't.

Amber was so stunned that such an apparition should be here that she just stopped moving.

A pale, wispy, barely there flutter of white, like sheer silk it was. It held the shape of a flowing garment, but no person was visible. Gracefully it floated, just above flagstones made visible by the light it shed. That light differed from Amber’s which was a dull grey.

The ghost’s light was a silver-blue. Though it made no sense, Amber found that light so pretty that all apprehension fled.

“Hello?” was the first word Amber had spoken in days.

“Hello!” The voice was as normal as the speaker was not. It was female, a little deeper than hers, and carried an accent she couldn’t place. “Yer awake, are ya?”

“Uhm…yes?” It seemed a very odd thing to ask. ‘As compared to what, though?’ Amber thought, reminding herself that ‘odd,’ was a relative thing, just now. She was, after all, talking to a ghost while wandering through a galaxy in the nude. “Do you see many sleep-walkers here?”

A laugh like a stream tumbling into a dell. “No, indeed! Most are unaware they dream, thas all.”

“You are dreaming?”

“Sorta. It’s a meditative state, I’m in. I came here ta look at th’ Web, I did.” An upward flutter of a silken sleeve.

Amber followed her gesture. “Web of what?”

“The Portal Web, o’course.”

“This is a map of the Portals? All of them?”

“Only a part o’one Aion. The full map stretches much farther, it does.”

“Do you know how I got here?” Amber didn’t really expect an answer, but she hoped this spectre could help her find one and, hopefully get back to civilisation.

“Ya likely drifted here in a dream. Most do so unaware.”

“But…I’m not asleep. I came here from Calyptra, down the stairs in the city of Sarkomand.”

“Yer here in th’ flesh?” There was alarm in her tone. The flashing folds of cloth moved toward her.

As they approached, the figure filling them became phenomenal. She was short and slender, with hair Amber took for brown at first. Her skin looked deathly pale, though that may have been the light. The last of her to become visible was her eyes, which burned a ruby red. Amber reflexively took a step back.

“Don’t be afraid, Dear Heart. I’m not a spook. I’m an elf, in fact.”

“Oh.” Feeling a little foolish, Amber held her ground. “I don’t see many elves outside of Glyph.” Amber tried to smile to show she was unafraid. It didn’t feel like she was quite pulling it off.

“Ya said ya came from what world, now?”


There was a moment’s silence. Then, “I can’t find a world by tha’ name, I can’t. What was the city?”


Another short pause. “Tha’ name I know.” The ghost’s hair, Amber now saw, was a deep red. There seemed to be golden stars in it.

“If you don’t know the world, how is it you know the city?”

“‘Cause it’s in a story I read as a girl. It’s a black, evil place, it is.”

“I’ve heard stories of that place, but people I know told me it’s not too bad. Or wasn’t, rather.” Amber sent on to describe what she had found when she got there.

“We havta get ya outa there, we do. The Nightgaunts’ll be huntin’ ya.”

“Something’s been dogging me since my ship crashed, but I didn’t think they’d follow me here.”

“It’s not regular animals chasin’ ya now. Nightgaunts’re creatures o’ th’ underworld. If they find ya, it’s ta their master ye’ll go. There’s no coming back from tha’. There’re no dark places they can’t go. Once they have yer scent, they’ll find ya, they will.”

As if to illustrate that point, a noise like bare feet slapping on stone echoed in the distance. The direction was impossible to determine.

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