“Here we are, sir. Item 37: one glass rose.” The merchant was very polite; he didn’t even ask why I had chosen to look at this particular item. All the better for him. Nosy merchants tended to lose their lives when they were selling to mages. I nodded a brief thanks and turned to the rose. It was exactly as I had last seen it – crystal petals tinged red, stem and leaves green, resting on a lightly faded and rather dusty silver pillow. Dust had settled onto the rose as well, making its vibrant colors muted. And look, beside it was a wooden trinket box with a glass panel on the top. I had never actually set eyes on it before, but I knew that I would find a crack in the glass if I cared to look.
Why not? I did, and there it was, running from the upper left corner to the middle of the panel before splintering away like the tiny rootlets of a plant. I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I would have been much more surprised – and worried – if it had not been broken.
What good were visions if they were wrong?
I pulled my hand from my pocket and looked at the black satin glove that covered it. My one protection. I lifted my gaze and scanned the cluttered room for the auctioneer, but I was alone.
Good man. No doubt he knew something important would be going on, if he dealt in trinkets often. There were always mages who would pay good money for these things… and then murder the seller to cover their tracks.
I tugged at the glove’s fingers without any kind of enthusiasm and tried not to think of what I was about to do. After a minute or so, my hand was free. I marveled at its whiteness, and wondered if my right one was the same. Probably, why wouldn’t it be? After all, it had been years since I had not covered them with the black fabric.
I took a deep breath, trying to steel myself. I’m no coward, but I don’t relish the thought of doing something so painful it feels like my head is being ripped apart, only I know it isn’t because then the pain would stop.
A finger. That’s all it would take. One brush against that rose, the cold glass flower, and I’d have my answer.
Of course, I could always die, too. The pain built up with each touch, and I didn’t know how much more I could take before my body gave up.
Optimism, Vulcarus. Let’s go.
I wrapped my hand around the dusty rose.