In Chapter 34, Dora performed psychometry on Thema‘s wedding band:
She saw a tall, slender woman standing in a pure white gown before a soft, red & white tapestry emblazoned with the yellow sword & sun symbol of Iomedae, the Lady of Valor. She had warm metallic skin, cold metallic hair, and blazing violet eyes. This was Dora’s body, many years ago. But Dora was not in it.
A man was slipping the wedding ring onto her finger. It was Gulliver Vatticus. Clean-cut, clean-shaven, noticeably younger. He looked surprisingly normal in his black tailcoat and spectacles.
This part of the vision swam by quickly. In fact, a LOT of this vision swam by thinly. Dora guessed that maybe the fact of Thema and Gulliver’s wedding, the moment of it, the small details… these were not actually the source of significance here. It of that was just context.
Context. Kind of like the small black and orange fox, sleek and smart, leaning against Thema’s left leg. Reynard was certainly important to Thema, very important. Every familiar is important to their Wizard. But here, in this vision, he was also just context. More background noise.
There were ten other couples here, in the hall. All eleven were being married by a pudgy, cheerful-looking, kindly priest of Iomedae. Count Lowls was watching from across the room, decked-up in his purple coat with the high furry collar, his purple glasses, and his flat, square hat.
The count was grinning. Everyone looked so happy.
The couples vowed to be honest, live purely, to honor their wedding vows for all the days of their lives. Then, when the vows were spoken, when the sacred ritual was almost finalized, one of the eleven grinning bridegrooms stepped up behind the priest and slit his throat. Down came the tapestries, and the room as it truly was, was revealed, the columns… the mosaics…. the yellow mist… and the smell of chrysanthemums.
The blood flowed. The clothes came off. Everyone had a grand time.
Especially Lowls. He likes to watch.
But, again, all of this was just context for the woman in Dora’s body. Thema felt nothing. She’d hoped she might—this had all been her idea, even—but she simply didn’t. And looking across the way at Gulliver, it was clear to her that he wasn’t sure of how to process all of this either. He was doing his thing, handing out drugs to the other happy couples, but he seemed distant. Kinda defeated.
Thema knew it was time to go, so she slipped around the side of the room behind the columns, avoided catching the count’s gaze as he stood there in the corner staring, grinning, and panting—the bodies and the blood reflected in the eerie purple glass covering his eyes—and she headed up the hall.
She was just turning the corner to the right when she ran into someone coming down the spiral stairs. And it was here, amidst the yellow shadows, that the significance of this evening began to crystalize.
Thema saw a man. Tall and thin. Strong chin, tall forehead, rakish swoop of perfect blonde hair, small fashionable spectacles. Big smile, filled with bright, white teeth. And burn scars covering his right cheek. He’s probably not everybody’s type… but he definitely was Thema’s.
He spoke. “You must be Thema. Well, well. As Hazzy requested, I’ve brought some books for you.”
These were magic words for Thema.
He took her hand and continued. “Call me Mun, love. It’s my surname, of course, but it’s what everyone calls me. Because my given name is a joke, after all. Honestly. I mean, it serves no purpose except to prove that my parents hated me from the moment I slithered out from between my mother’s legs and spoiled her expensive bedsheets.” He looked down at her hand. “Does this mean anything to you?”
He was asking about the ring… but not really.
And Thema told him the truth. That the ring—and thus, by extension, Gulliver Vatticus, the father of her child and her brand-new husband… he meant nothing to her. He was a background player in her life. Nothing but context.
And she took the man called Mun by the hand and lead him to the guest house… where he showed her… something written in a book…
And her life changed forever.
And she would always associate it, that change, that transformation, with—not with the wedding, not with Gulliver, certainly, not the count, or even Mun—but with this ring… because the sensation of it binding her finger was a new one that night, one she was persistently aware of. And sometimes the things that imbed themselves in our minds, and the way they imbed themselves… sometimes these are things we cannot control.
And as Thema experienced this new knowledge, Dora—the Now Dora—find herself writhing in frustration… because she can’t see what Thema’s reading.
What’s this Book? What is it?
It’s not the Chain of Nights, she’d been able to see that before in a vision.
So what is it? What does it say? What does it look like? What does it mean? Why can’t I see it?
Dora wants to touch it. It’s like an itch she can’t scratch. In fact, Dora even starts tearing at the back of her neck, at her sickly purple-gray-stained flesh, clawing at her skin. Gouging, tearing. But she still can’t see it… she can’t see it…
Dora is hurled backward, writhing in pain… as the head-splitting tolling of a giant bell rebounds through the inside of her skull. The pain is excruciating.
And there’s someone there… inside her head…
An old Keleshite woman with leathery brown skin…
What’s she saying? “It wakes? It wakes?”
And then the vision faded.
First Reference: Chapter 34
Other Notable References: —