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Chapter 30: In Which the Goddess of Dreams Makes Everyone Dizzy

The ribbon of the warding spell stopped abruptly just before it touched my furry back, losing purpose and gently drifting away.

My spell was complete right on time.

With my little heart still thundering, I snatched up the black lace circle and put it back into the book. The moment I closed the heavy cover it shrank again. I lifted it up in my mouth and trotted away, meeting Burgen at the exit. He meowed expectantly at me.

"Mission accomplished," I sent into his mind. He fell into stride beside me and together we started on our way back to the palace.

***

After three quarters of the way, Burgen suddenly became a man again. I stopped running and stared at him with my head turned slightly in question.

"I can't," he panted, placing his palms over his knees and leaning forward. "I need a short rest."

I understood, of course, transformation was considered one of the most difficult arts, demanding much of a magician's resources and concentration. It was easier to transform things into other things, and animals into other animals, it was easier to transform a non-Wielder into many things. The magic that pulsed through a Wielder's blood made transformation contradictory to our very nature. There were some exceptions, but those required either luck – like in my case – or mastery.

Burgen sat on a low wall on the side of the street; I turned myself into a boy and sat beside him. I didn't mind sitting like this, I was in no rush and the night was pleasant, the air warm, the streets washed in moonlight. We were also in one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city, Niva Celerya, where most of the large and important temples were. The buildings here had been built for beauty rather than function. There was an unofficial competition among the temples, which one was cleanest, which one most impressive, which one largest – the followers of each god or goddess putting their utmost effort into making their temple the best.

The result was so much beauty in architecture as well as in artwork and gardening, that no one could determine objectively which temple won this competition. We sat before the whitest of these temples, the temple of the Goddess of Dreams, made of pure white marble, so clean and polished that it made snow look grey. The building was compiled of several domes and was surrounded by a garden that went in a ring around it.

The Goddess of Dreams was known to love circles; therefore everything about the temple was round or circular. The garden had no corners, and the inside of the temple was rumoured to have no corners as well. I didn't know whether or not this was true because only girls and women were permitted to enter the temple. The Goddess of Dreams served the men through her gardens alone.

Bells from every temple chimed midnight in a rainbow of sound. The round door of the Dream Goddess' temple rolled open and out walked a line of white-clad novice girls. Each carried an orb of light hanging from a silver chain. Outside the temple, the line of young girls snaked into a circle and, maintaining the circle formation, in perfect synchronisation, they began moving around the building.

"The midnight circle," Burgen whispered in awe. I had seen it a number of times before, but for Burgen, nearly everything in Auran City was new. However, when the novices were behind the building and out of our sight, he leaned over and shared some information that was new to me. "Did you know," he said, "that there is some controversy with the Goddess of Dreams worship. I've heard that the Dream Mothers keep the priestesses and novices in a constant sleep-like state. The Mothers are Wielders, of course. It's a nasty trick to use to keep the girls from leaving."

A surge of anger filled me and I rose to my feet, I couldn't face the temple any longer, it sickened me to think that there were innocent girls and women held captive here in plain sight. But just then, the novices came from the other side of the building having finally completed the circuit. I couldn't help but stare at their faces for the first time. They had blank, expressionless features, their empty eyes wide open and seeing only darkness. I couldn't help but notice the blue ribbon of magic that held each girl by her throat.

They were young, innocent and living, but forever trapped in a dream. I glanced over each and every one of their faces.

Until the very last girl. She was smaller than the rest, her long hair wildly curly. I gasped, a fist gripping me by the throat, and my feet began running underneath me, bringing me closer. They filed into the temple, one after the other, disappearing into the darkness that was within. But she was last, and I made it in time to stop her from entering. I caught her arm by her thin wrist and she turned her dark eyes toward me but couldn't see me. Her face could have been carved out of the same white marble of the temple, lacking life and expression.

It startled me so much that I let her go.

Like a ghost, she quickly glided into the building and the white marble door rolled into place. I came to my senses too late, tears already coursing down my cheeks. "Fizz!" I screamed breaking the muffled silence of the summer night. I rushed up to the temple door and pounded my fists against the hard marble, forgetting for a moment that I could use magic to do what my body could not. "FIZZ!" I yelled.

Someone caught me from behind, bringing me back to that night, that terrible night, that made me believe two years ago that she was dead. I struggled like the wild street boy I had been back then.

"Rat! What the hell are you doing? They'll tear you apart if you do this!" Burgen shouted in my ear. He was a very thin man, but at that moment, he was much stronger than I was. I continued to struggle, seeing nothing but the whiteness of the marble in front of me through the blur of my tears.

"But she's my sister!" I pleaded. But I knew that I would be in terrible trouble breaking in to the Dream Goddess's temple, and nothing, not the Grand Master, not the threat of war, could protect me from the wrath of the people.

I stopped struggling, collapsing into sobs. Burgen's arms gripping me turned into an embrace. I didn't know whether I wept in joy or in grief.

All that I knew, all that mattered, was that Fizz was alive.

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