Though it was not Sol's first time in the Citadel, he had seen very little of it the first time due to Goone's blindfold. He adjusted his memories as Ephera led him along a seemingly endless corridor to his quarters. The four Consuls had left them at the gate, but they were not alone; hundreds of Elders walked in every direction, as did a minority of other beings—namely Centaurs, Dwarves and Warlocks, though there were others Sol did not recognise. Those in conversation became silent as Ephera and Sol passed them by.
"I'm sorry that you have been dragged into this mess, Solomon," said Ephera as they walked. "If it had been up to me, you would not have been returned to your world as soon as you were. Pan Magal's death is still under investigation. It is a difficult time."
"Don't worry about it," Sol said.
"You made the right decision. This is the safest place you could be."
"If you say so."
"You don't believe me?"
"Tall walls and a lot of people don't make a place safe."
"The Citadel has protected the Kirina for thousands of years. It has never been infiltrated."
Sol nodded but said nothing more. Ephera had tried constantly to draw him into conversation, but Sol refused to bite. Though the Emperor's daughters were gone, Sol had decided to keep his mouth shut about the details of the Wendigo and the rest of his adventure with Goone until the trial. Better to play it safe and let Goone explain things himself, he thought.
They soon came to an open doorway, through which they entered a small circular room, completely empty. It was so tiny that Sol thought he could probably jump from one side to the other in a single leap. For an awful moment, Sol thought that Ephera had tricked him and that this was to be his quarters—but then the floor jolted and began to rise slowly. The room rumbled like a boulder being pushed up a gravel path and Sol realised it was a lift.
It came to a stop outside a huge round door made of smooth wood, as black as coal. Ephera produced her wand and touched its tip to the entrance and the door rolled into the wall, revealing a warmly lit room with a very tall ceiling. It was not much better furnished than the lift, however. The only furnishing at all, in fact, was the giant mirror on the far wall.
"This is my room?" Sol said, one eyebrow raised.
"It is usually kept for the King of R'athe," said Ephera. "It should meet your needs. If you find it is too big, inform Junba and I will arrange for something smaller."
"Smaller? I don't want anything smaller!"
"Good. Then I shall see you at the trial tomorrow. Rest well."
Sol stepped past Ephera into the bare room, feeling like he was walking into a prison cell.
"Where am I supposed to sleep?" he asked as he turned back, but he was met by the sight of the round black door rolling back into its frame.
* * *
Sol pushed half-heartedly on the great door in the hope that it might roll open again, but he quickly gave up suspecting he'd have had better luck pushing on the stone wall.
He heard a creak behind him and turned around, but all he could see was the giant mirror. He was immediately drawn to his reflection, something he usually tried to avoid back home for he hated seeing himself as others did, but in his new clothes, he barely recognised himself. When he heard the creak again, he realised it had come from the mirror and walked towards it. As he got closer, he felt a draft and saw the mirror had swung slightly away from the wall. He pulled on it and the mirror swung open like a great door.
On the other side was not just another room, but an entire apartment.
The living area alone was a cavern of comfort, with no less than three enormous sofas framing a coffee table the size of a double bed. In fact, as Sol looked around, he saw that everything was oversized, from the monstrous brick fireplace to the fur rug to the potted plants which towered high above him. He looked up at the high ceiling and saw a nebula of floating lights twinkling among the lattice of thick wooden beams. The room was clearly meant for someone much bigger than Sol who felt rather like a child.
"Now I know how Gulliver felt," Sol said, thinking of a book in which an adventurer mistakenly sailed to a land of giants. He was trying to remember the name of the place when something brushed past his leg.
He swore as he jumped back, seeing what he at first took to be a cat. It was about the right size with four legs and a tail, but its fur was dark blue fur and it had enormous ears with pointy tips. It sniffed Sol's feet like a dog at a tree.
"You better not be about to pee on me," Sol said.
The animal looked up at him. Its face looked rather like a monkey's, with pensive brown eyes above a black button nose, though it also had a small white beard—which is perhaps why Sol thought it was male. The creature suddenly stood up on its hind legs and gazed at Sol with a look of utter fascination.
"I guess you must be Junba," Sol said.
The cat-monkey stroked his little beard as though he was giving the question great consideration, then nodded.
"I'm Sol. How you doing?"
Junba didn't answer. Instead, he dropped back to all fours and strolled over to one of the wooden beams which he climbed up rapidly, soon losing himself among the miniature jungle of plant life.
"Bye," Sol said.
He spotted an archway on the other side of the room covered by a curtain and went towards it. Pulling it back, he found an alcove filled with plump cushions and silk sheets. As he stepped in, he found the floor itself was soft and spongy like a mattress. He dropped to his hands and knees and crawled over it before rolling onto his back. He fanned his arms and legs out and felt his body sink into it several inches. It was so comfortable that it seemed to quickly sap whatever strength still remained in him, and his thoughts quickly became disjointed with the onset of sleep.
Sol's first instinct was to fight it, but he was so comfortable that he quickly resigned himself to let it take him. His last thought was to hope that his old dreams had forgotten him and that he might pass them by unnoticed.
* * *
Thanks for reading! Hope you're enjoying it so far. Got some big things coming up, should be picking up on the action a bit. As always, let me know what you like/don't like - it all helps me write better stories for you. It's all for you!
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* Next chapter this weekend * Manhattan, 1929. The City is on its knees following a devastating crash in the stock market. Thanks to the Prohibition, criminals are making a killing off illegal bars while thousands of honest labourers can't find a si...