Al stood there between the guards, dressed in her black habit with her wild silver hair framing her weathered face. "You gonna invite me in?"
I stepped out of the doorway and nodded. "Of course," I gestured for her to enter. The guards didn't move. It was like they didn't notice she was there. Maybe they were just that good at ignoring me. "How did you know?" She must have learned that the Martis weren't treating me like an ally, and that they had other plans for me. That had to be why she came. Al was supposed to stay in New York.
She shrugged. "Saw it. Had a vision right after you two left." She looked around the room and whistled. "Pretty nice cell, isn't it?" Her ancient eyes cut back to mine. "So you stayed. Smart girl."
"I need the information in the library. There is no other way to get it. I had to stay." Al sat on the sofa and I sat down on the floor in front of her. "They said they want me to testify before the Tribunal. By the way they are acting; testimony doesn't sound like the right word. Interrogation seems to be a better fit. Al, what's going on? What'd you see?"
She shook her head. "It was garbled. Too many possibilities. Too many choices yet to be made. The only thing that was certain was that you weren't being treated like the girl who sealed the portal to Hell. They still see you as a threat.
"My guess is that the Tribunal won't retract their position on the prophecy. That means, this trial isn't about testimony - it's about life or death. If they don't overturn the old prophecy, they won't let you leave here alive."
I stiffened. I knew I was in trouble, I just didn't realize how much. "I can't believe this. I fought next to them...on the same side! They saw me kill Valefar! How could they possibly question my loyalty?" I sighed and leaned back into the cushions. Why was I so shocked? Martis protected humanity and their own kind.
I was neither.
"It doesn't matter how they could think that. The problem is that they do. The Tribunal is the embodiment of Martis law. They are the strongest branch of the Martis. They meet rarely, but when they do," her voice softened, "well, let's just say they deliver justice swiftly. That's why I came. They didn't ask for my testimony, but I'm giving it. And I think it would be worth pushing your visions a little to see if you can control them. You need to know when the hammer will drop."
This was bad. Very bad. "You don't think I'm going to walk out of here, do you?" She shook her head. "Why are you helping me?" All the other Martis were question marks. They would protect themselves, but Al seemed to be carving a different path. She was sticking her neck out for me.
Her wrinkled lips pulled back into a smile. "I ain't stupid enough to throw out a pie just because it didn't look like the others. Sometimes those are the best ones." She winked at me and laughed. "You're not like nothing I expected."
"Right back at ya babe," I laughed. And we jumped straight into more Seyer lessons, trying to refine my skills while we still could.
"No, you have to do it like you're sleeping. Otherwise it don't work. Something with rest is tied to your visions, so you gotta try to make it happen. Relax, stop thinking, and it'll come." Al was ready to beat me with a newspaper. I could tell. I just didn't understand how I could possibly summon a vision - or if I wanted to. They were turning into nightmares, showing me things that were terrifying. I groaned and suddenly felt her magazine smack into my arm.
"Al, this is pointless," I said. "Asking me to relax is like trying to talk to a kid jacked up on Pixie Stix - there's no point. I just can't. I'm surrounded by people who want to kill me. It's not exactly a relaxing environment." We'd eaten dinner in the room, and I'd yet to see Shannon. I don't know what I'd expected, but I thought that Shannon would come and tell me what was going on right away. Either she couldn't get away yet, or they weren't letting her. Either way, I was glad Al was with me.
Al sat down on the couch in front of me. I was on the floor with my legs folded in a meditating pose. Her ancient eyes sparkled when she spoke. "I know it's hard, but if you can control your visions here, you can control them in other less than ideal situations too. Seeing visions is a power - a rare power. If you can learn to do this, you'll be able to glean more information from the things you see and I suspect that you can do more than merely see visions. Your powers aren't manifesting like a typical Martis. It's possible that you'll be able to speak to me through your visions, even if I'm not there."
"What are you saying?" I asked. "That I can just dial you up and leave a message, and you'll get it the next time you see a vision?"
She nodded, "Something like that. Visions are complex. While some are of the future, others are warnings, while others are noise. I think you could possibly leave some of that noise I have to sift through to get to the heart of the visions." She shrugged.
"So you think I can leave you a message in the noise that surrounds your visions? I don't have noise around mine. There's only mist. Thick black mist. It seals out the things around me so that I can only focus on whatever it is that the vision is trying to show me."
"Black mist, huh?" Al replied looking perplexed. "You may see things differently altogether then. We might have the same Martis powers, but they sure don't work the same way."
This seemed like grasping at straws, but I wanted to know what I was capable of, and communicating with Al when she wasn't around seemed like a good idea at the time. "Ya know, I'm never sitting up when I have a vision. It's not really sleep. It just kind of knocks me out."
She nodded, saying, "Try lying down. Can't hurt. Nothing can hurt at this point, Ivy."
She tossed me a throw pillow. Before I flopped onto my back, I tucked the pillow under my head. Now I had to wait. I closed my eyes and listened to the noises of the room. I couldn't hear any of the sounds on the street. After a while the only sound I heard was my own breathing, and the tension washed away from my shoulders. I remembered this feeling. It's the place between slumber and wake; the place where dreams feel vivid and nightmares seem real. Lingering in that relaxed mental state, I wondered what I was supposed to do. I knew that sleep wouldn't come. Sleep wasn't required anymore, but this was different.
Warmth slid down my arms and caressed my back. I felt like I was floating downward, light as a feather. Then it was black, and the sounds of the room changed. A thin shroud of black mist dissipated revealing the vision had started. Dripping water was around me, but I couldn't see where it was coming from. Moisture tickled my nose and coldness chilled me to the bone.
But, where was I? Too afraid to speak, I tried to focus on something. Seeing anything would be great. Although the mist cleared, the space was covered in a darkness that my eyes could not penetrate. I knew I was somewhere else. This wasn't the Villa. That place was warm and bright, and quite the opposite of where I was now.
I felt my way through the darkness. This wasn't the same as my other visions. Nothing came into focus, and the black mist that usually blocked my view surrounding the vision wasn't there. It burned off almost as soon as it appeared. There was only utter darkness with the constant drip, drip, drip of water.
I moved slowly through the space expecting to find something or someone, but nothing was there. Slowly, I followed the sound of the dripping water uncertain of what else I was supposed to do. It felt like I wasn't anywhere, lodged in utter darkness and surrounded by frosty air. It was the most whacked vision I'd ever had.
Where was I?
Following the sound of the water, I moved across the blackened space touching nothing, until I saw something glimmer in the darkness. Moving towards it, I reached out and slid my hand across a pane of glass - black glass. Its surface glowed a dim mixture of blues and blacks. Its reflection contained me and the nothingness behind me. When I reached out and touched the pane again, the glass moved under my fingers. The surface felt like gelatin - thick and cold - with just as much give. Moving cautiously, I slid my finger down the glass watching it ripple beneath my touch.
Suddenly an image began to form within the black pane, and I could see the place where the water dripped. I gasped, not expecting to see him there. Collin was sitting in the corner of a cell that was carved from stone. Water dripped down the walls, staining the rocks with colored streaks. When I gasped, he looked up. His eyebrow arched, as he rose to his feet, walking towards me with a perplexed expression on his face.
My heart raced in my chest as I put my hand on the glass and pushed. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not go through. The dark mirror had hardened. "Collin..." I spoke into the glass as my fists hit the unyielding surface.
"Ivy?" he said softly. He stood in front of me, and finally shook his head. I watched him for a moment trying to understand what I was seeing. It was the place where Collin was trapped. He'd walked right in front of me, but he didn't seem to see me. But, how did he know I was there? He shook his head and mumbled, "I'm losing my mind," before he sat back down in the corner.
I beat my fists into the black glass screaming his name, but it didn't give. It didn't let me pass. It wouldn't let him hear me. It was the cruelest thing I could have imagined. I was so close, and I couldn't do anything. What was happening? Was this the past or the present? It seemed like he knew I was there, but he thought he imagined it. And this black glass, what was it? Did the mist leave it behind?
I sat at the foot of the enormous dark glass and watched Collin for a while. All the things I wanted to tell him swam into my mind. But he couldn't hear me. My teeth bit my bottom lip as I sat there helpless to free him. Collin didn't seem hurt the way he was in the vision with the dragon. That was yet to happen. The scars on his body were few, and his skin didn't have the sickly pallor of the dead. Collin hung his head and ran his fingers through his hair. He looked up one last time when I decided I should go back and ask Al what the black glass was, and how to use it. There had to be a way to use it. When I first touched it, the glass didn't resist me - my hand almost melted into it like it was nothing more than a slice of warm butter. But it wasn't. Something I did made it hard. The pane didn't shatter under the blows of my fists. It wasn't glass no matter what it looked like. But what was it?
As I stood to leave, Collin's eyes connected with mine. For a moment, I thought he saw me. I wished he saw me. I wished he could hear me. I wished I could save him.
Touching the glass, I said softly, "You were right. I was so blind. Why couldn't I see it when you were standing in front of me?"
I shook my head. Why is it that I don't notice things until it's too late?
It's not too late. Not this time. I wouldn't grieve for him. He wasn't dead. He was trapped, and trapped people can be freed.
When I awoke from my vision, or whatever it was, I described the black glass to Al, telling her everything I had seen. But, in all her visions, Al had never encountered the black mirror. That made me uneasy. She should have seen everything by now. She was ancient.
That was when Al spoke the words that plagued me. "It could be your powers are not as static as we thought."
"Static?" My voice was flat. "That's a nice way for saying my powers are morphing, because I've been tainted with demon blood, right?" I pushed my hair out of my face and slouched back into the couch.