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Chapter 35: In Which The Inside of a Shadow is Very Shady

When breakfast was over, I went and wandered about the gardens for a short while, kicking up stones and trying to express my anger by merely strutting. After some minutes, the sun felt too hot  and doing what I was doing felt pointless, so I went back inside. My blistered hand was still in a thick bandage and I had explicitly been told not to practice that day. I had an endless amount of reading I could have done, but I decided that that would only give me a headache.

After a sleepless night, I was tired, but I felt restless.

In the end, I went to see the prince's wife. It was the first time the old man had ever asked me to visit someone with him, and I was eager to meet her. In the years we spent living in the palace, I had never had a chance to speak with her. But whenever I saw her face I was reminded of the fact that I had met her before – I just could never remember where and when.

A middle-aged lady who introduced herself as Morilla, Lady Pergam's aunt, led me through two rooms until we came to a door; she opened it a crack and peeked inside, into the darkness. "Angelique, there is someone here to see you," she said, and then turned to look at me. "She has expressed her wish to speak with you several times, but we did not know the nature of her illness, and we did not wish to pass it to others."

I nodded at her words – what else could I do at her comment? I briefly wondered if I should find it remarkable that she had wanted to speak with me at the same time I had wanted to speak with her – or perhaps her reasons were not the reasons I wanted them to be. I had heard about her past, even if I stuffed my ears with wax every time someone mentioned her, I'd still be aware somehow. I knew that she had been Cooper's last mistress.

Morilla moved aside, allowing me passage into the dark and stuffy room. I stepped past her and she closed the door behind me. I was facing the bed and for a moment it was as if I had been struck blind. My eyes were wide open but I could see absolutely nothing. What alarmed me was that I wasn't only blind with my ordinary eyes, I was blind with my Wielder eyes, and my other senses, those senses I liked to call my "rat senses".

I turned to look toward where I knew there would be a window opposite to the bed and vaguely I could see the pale outline of sunlight against the heavy curtain. It was not ordinary darkness in the room. Slowly I realised that it had a vortex-like shape, the centre of which was on the bed, and into it it sucked all the light and life and air.

I lifted my hand, palm upward, and pressed my fingers into a fist. I tried to think thoughts of light, but they were hard to hold, as if my very thoughts were getting sucked in. Finally, my fingers glowed pink and I opened my palm, revealing a small shimmering yellow witch-light. It hovered an inch over my open palm and was supposed to be shaped like a coin, or like the full moon, but tendrils of glowing fog were being sucked off it, one string at a time, smearing its shape.

"Hello?" I said, I didn't dare step closer. "May I open the curtains?"

I listened for an answer, but nothing came out from the darkness, not even the laboured breathing of a sick woman. I decided that whatever the case was, I would make very little progress without a serious source of light.

I strode over to a window and threw the curtains aside. The light streamed in hesitantly and stopped abruptly when it reached the darkness. I turned the brass knob on the white window frame and pulled it open. I took two more steps across the darkness and opened the second window in the same way.

The situation was only slightly improved, but then I realised that what I had thought was merely darkness was in fact a deep, bottomless, black shadow. I had never seen shadows like this, as stubbornly thick and heavy as tar. What was I to do with it? I surveyed it thoughtfully; the first law of Shadowork was light. If you wanted to create deep shadows, you had to have some light, but also, if you wanted to destroy shadows, you needed light.

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