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Related: OverlapTwilight, Autumn Red, Grasp

((Been writing this string of stories at a snail’s pace, mostly due to a block on my part. But special thanks to @zenru45 in the #trgn-writers in Discord (.iam writer) for reviewing this journal. Helped me get it out of my head and finally out the door.))

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Her hands clung to sharp stone, the air hung dark and heavy about her. Though she knelt on a level surface, she held tight to the ground, the instinctual fear of the shadow and unknown spurning her every breath. Claret’s voice echoed in her ears: “You were so intent on escaping, I gave you a place to go.”

Where?  Where did she put me?  She raised her head and looked about, but the darkness yielded nothing. Using her hands as a guide, she crawled, looking for a wall, a door, anything — some indication of where she was. The sharp rocks bit at her palms and stabbed every tender crevice around her knees. Several minutes of wandering and despair lapped away at any sense of determination or hope. She was trapped, the red witch again had beaten her.

“No, think. Think it through. She likes games. She doesn’t waste energy,” she hugged herself tight, using what physical comfort she could to ground her nerves. The sound of her own voice served as a second source of comfort. “It’s an illusion, all an illusion. That’s her specialty. But if it’s an illusion, that means it’s like a dream. And with dreams, you can…” 

An idea struck her. Choosing a direction at random, she concentrated. Setting her mind to a single thought, she repeated it again and again, drilling her will into the darkness. At first, she felt, saw nothing. Another wave of despair threatened to overtake her. Pushing it aside, she focused her will once again: A door, a door. I need a door.

An outline etched into the air ahead of her. The very hint of a door made her sigh in relief, she scrambled to it with no mind to how the rocky ground tore at her hands at feed. Flinging herself through it, she chose the unknown of her own creation to the frightening darkness of Claret’s sole making.

“Well done,” Claret’s voice sounded in her mind, her tone dripping with the dulcet warmth of honey. “I’d expect nothing less from a protege of mine. But all that effort just for one door… tsk. You could never keep up that kind of pace. Let me help you along.”

“No, I — ” before Idella could finish her sentence, two more doors appeared before her. The door she conjured after so much effort faded to nothing. Trapped — again, this time with a forked path.

“Choose,” Claret said simply. “Do not worry, neither door will be wrong. I have no intent on killing you. But I will say… one door will be more interesting than the other.”

“I…” Idella began. Claret chuckled. Her laughter always felt like an embrace given for a price.

“But dear, this is what you wished for. A place to go, questions to be answered, what is there to lose?”

Idella’s breath hitched in her throat. Everything is a game, she repeated to herself. Any choice that took a favor from Claret demanded payment. Did taking one of these doors require the same toll? Her eyes searched about the featureless cavern, expanse, wherever she was. The darkness encompassed all, only the doorways were visible. Could Idella manage to conjure her own doors till she escaped? What was it she was escaping from, exactly?

“My soul,” she whispered. “You’re keeping me here so I can’t get it back.”

“My dear,” Claret admonished her. “It was mine the day we met.”

What little Idella could see in the dark then went black.

Author Ari
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