Arvid had tried to read more of "The Vileness of Sorcery", but he simply could not get past the serpent stuff. Everything else just dissolved to meaningless babble, until at last he just stared at a crowd of letters jostling for space. Again and again he returned to the horrible words. Horribly familiar words.

And so he very carefully avoided touching the Clearstone ... the quartz crystal! before he went to bed. He needed time to think this over. He needed to sleep on the matter, without getting his head mixed up with the strange, vibrant dreams of Gwalawala.

It turned out it wasn't quite that simple.

Arvid is sitting on the bus, and Linda is sitting beside him, like she did the other day, on the way to school, when she hadn't quite finished her homework. Only this time she is not occupied with homework at all. Instead, she is trying to get on his lap. He has nothing against that, really. She is warm and surprisingly heavy. Very heavy. Like lead. He starts to sink down in the seat, through the seat, through the whole bus, down into darkness, haze, blur ... No! Not now!

"Greetings once again, Genius!" Marisfar is here, brandishing his staff. Its glow is more clearly seen here, in the shadow. Where is here? Not the circle of stones, anymore. There is stone, but it is unbroken except for small windows covered with some membrane shining of vax. The study in the large stone house, the one named after Ms Ugly, whatever she was called again.

Avdyra wipes her forehead with a blue sleeve. She seems slightly strained, as if she has had to work harder to bring him through. Yet her eyes is fixed on him. "You seem distraught, Arovid. Did the passage inconvenience your?" "It was only ... unexpected. I was not ... ready for it." He tries to hold her eyes, as he does not want her to look elsewhere for a few moments yet. These clothes are fairly wide, but he dares not look to see how far that jacket reaches. Say something. Something clever. "You seem, um, distraught yourself."

The young sorceress, or whatever they would call it here, nods. "It is indeed harder to sing this magic outside the Circle of Power. I had not expected such a difference, as were there some manner of resistance in the ether between the worlds." "It may be even harder in the future" warns Arvid, because he does not plan to touch the stone again until he has thought this all through. But Avdyra shrugs. "Be that as it may, we shall do what we must. You needs must study the Lore presently, ere we are beset by attacking Serpents. Or worse, the madness comes to us as well."

Arvid just stares. The room seems to slowly fade around him. Then he remembers to breathe, and his heart steadies. "You never told!" "Never told what?" "That this madness could attack humans!" "We do not yet know for certain. There are rumors from the lands to the east, that some are starting to have nightmares like those of the Serpents. Dreams of shadow and fear and evil. But for some reason, the children of man seem more hardened against this than the scaly people. Even so, you must needs prepare at once, for time passes."

Arvid hangs on the sound of her words, trying to steady himself, trying ot calm down. For some reason, the threat of madness had horrified him. As if whatever madness happened to this place would somehow carry over to him. But madness is not the only danger in dreams...

"Something happened in my world" he says, out of the blue. "Something very disturbing." "What would that be, to disturb you, Arovid Genius?" "I got a present today. A book. It was about the evil of magic. And it told that humans learned magic from serpents. Just like you told me." "This is what all the sages have told, those who brought down through time the memories of old." "But this was in my world. And there is more. The man who gave me the book is not one I trust. And he told that a voice in a dream had ordered him to give me that book. I guess that can only mean one thing: That this world is real, in a way, and that he has some connection to it."

Avdyra nods. "Why should he not? There are certainly more Clearstones in Gwalawala. Nor am I the only one who have ever studied the Stonelore. If at all possible, each village would have someone skilled in one of the Great Lores, and towns would have more. It may be that one of them has summoned this man, the way I summoned you." "No way! You see, the guy believes in a religion that says that magic is evil. All magic, black or white. Uhm, all magic at all. That's what the book says too. So if you summoned this guy, he would not like it. At all."

"Be that as it may. You needs must learn about our Lore if you will help us. For this we have brought you here today. This place is our library, in which we keep the Scrolls of Knowledge." Avdyra points to the walls, where bound scrolls are lying in holes that seem to be part of the wall, as if the stone along those walls had transformed into a parody of beeswax, thin layers of stone separating one hole from the next on all sides. Many of the holes are just that, holes. But others hold scrolls.

"The Scrolls of Knowledge are mostly commentaries on fragments from Duskriti-jnana, the book of all things." Avdyra bends to pull one scroll from the lower left corner of the wall. Arvid can't help but notice how nicely her dress shapes itself around her body. He remembers the dream they so carelessly interrupted. They - she - owes him something for that. Not that he is going to try to explain that particular problem to her.

Opening som kind of clasp on the scroll, Avdyra rolls it partly out on the table. She then puts two heavy rulers or some such on it, flat rectangles of gray stone. Probably not magic in any way, they seem as dull ... as dull as stone. The twin weights keep that part of the document flat and also frames the area between them for easy reading. Stepping closer, Arvid looks at it. It is text, but not in any alphabet that he knows. Of course, he does not know many. It is not runes, but neither is it letters he can recognize. And there seems to be too many of them for any single alphabet.

Avdyra moves closer to him. She smells faintly of some kind of herbs or seasoning, or so it irrationally seems to him. As if she was somehow edible. He pushes the thought aside. "Can you read this, Arovid?" "Not a word. The translation magic does not cover writing, I'm afraid. Can you people fix that?" "I feared for this. The translation is part of our ancient Lore for speaking with the Serpents, or rather with the young Serpents." "Why only the young?" "The Great Serpents would not need it. They were incredibly wise and knowledgeable in most all things." "OK. But since you people never shared writing with the snakes - they probably had no hands anyway - nobody thought about making translation that worked for writing." "That seems to be so, Arovid."

Arvid sighs. "Then I guess there is no way around it. Either we give this all up, or you have to teach me to read. Think of me as a small child." "That would hardly be fitting, Arovid. Yet, I shall do what I can to teach you the art of our writing."


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