it was the time when rest the gift of gods
sweetly sliding into the eyes of men,
doth drown in the forgetfulnesse of slepe,
the carefull trauaile of the painfull day;
Spencer: poetical works
He is floating in a infinte black chamber, surrounded by darkness. A deep, rasping voice in the distance intones an endless-chant lasting far into the void. "How much longer must we wait before making our move?" he finds himself screaming into the blackness. The dark chant cuts off abruptly, and he falls through a well of silence.
Suddenly, he was being shaken. "When I tell you something, don't take it so literally, son. You don't need to sleep all morning. It is time for you to get up and set off with me on the last leg of our journey." Opening his bleary eyes, Renju barely managed to make out the face of the wizend old man know to him only as 'flower.'
"Anyway, to answer your question, just look over there." Flower stopped and pointed towards a gargantuan vine-covered block of stone that jutted out of the brackish waters of the mire at a crazy angle. "THAT is all that remains of the town gate." Renju squinted at the colossal wreck. "How can you be sure?" he snapped. "I have seen many blocks of stone like that one while wading through this disgusting swamp."
Without a word in reply, Flower began walking again. "Hey!" Renju shouted, "Wait for me!"
At that moment three things abruptly happened.
First, a tremendous wall of sound and light knocked Renju from his feet. As he fell into the sticky mire, the last thing which he remembered seeing before the veil of darkness descended upon him (like unto the final curtain call of an actor at the end of a Shakespearean romance), was a dark cloud of miasmic water rising up out of the very ground itself.
Luckily for Renju, he lost consciousness at this point, and was spared the sight of the second and third things which then occured.
As Minra groped her way through the eternal fog, she began to regret having run away from her kind master. Her life had not been that bad. She had been provided with food, and even, on Saturdays, a particle of freedom. She had quite recently overheard her tutor, Mulari, refer to her as his prize student, a rare and unusually skilled artist. (Minra had missed his statement that she was still overconfident and stubborn). However, her pride did not allow her to turn back yet, and anyway, she wasn't sure which way 'back' was.
Suddenly, she heard voices, and her ravenous hunger overcoming any sense of caution still remaining, she dashed forwards, bellowing out at the top of her lungs. There was some yelling, and then, silence. She burst out into a more open area, and stumbled over the prone body of a boy some sixteen years of age. She, having seen no one else since she left the village, hauled him out of the viscous muck, and leaned him against a nearby growth of some unidentifieble vegetable matter which would have bewildered any botanist of the time.
Renju awoke to find someone shaking him. As he stirred, the hands left him, and when his vision cleared suffeciently for him to see, he saw a girl carefully sizing him up. She had a smoothly curved sword in a sheath on her belt, and he noticed, to his astonisment, her tunic was brown, not from mud, but by design. In fact, it was almost perfectly clean. As he staggered to his feet, she took a breath, and said, "Well, I suppose you don't have any food either. Drat." "Food?" "Yes, food. Are you deaf?" "No, no! I'm not deaf. I don't have any food myself, but I'm sure Flower has some. Here, help me find him." They searched for several minutes, but didn't find the old man. Renju said, "He was right here. Where could he be?" The girl grumbled, "He's probabally dead or something." "He CAN'T be dead! I KNOW he isn't dead! He's alive, I know it!" "Suit yourself. I'm going to find something to eat. Like those berries, they look edible." "DON'T EAT THOSE!" "Why not? They look really good, next to everything else." "There poison. I recognize that plant, Flower mentioned it." "Alright, Mr. Know-It-All, what DO we eat!?" "The leaves are edible, and so are the shoots of that plant over there. None of the others I recognize."
They ate in silence. After they finished, the girl said, "Since I am obviously stuck with you, I may as well know your name. Who are you?" Renju was a little startled, but quickly replied, "Renju. And you?" "Minra. Which way out of here?" "I haven't the foggiest", Renju said, after looking around. "Cut out the stupid puns", Minra snapped. "I didn't pull you out to make stupid jokes." "Calm down, I can get us out once I find the path, but I have to find Flower." Minra began to say, To hell with Flower, but Renju interrupted, "We're both too tired to think. I say we turn in, and make plans tomorrow."