Forgotten Embers

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The Invisible Man

She opened her eyes to the simulated light of the morning, the torches burning their peculiar light, and she felt a strange peace. The unfamiliar room with its simple walls and homespun atmosphere left her with a sense of calm. Even in the midst of all its mystery, there was a comfort which she garnered from this newfound reality.

She thought back on the events of the prior evening and her face twisted to a nervous smile. 'I probably shouldn't be staying here.' She blinked her eyes, lessening the drowsiness as she considered the painted ceiling. 'It is a nice break from reality, though. All of this history from far gone times...'

She sat up, feeling the shift in the weight of the cotton sheets as they slipped away, falling from the loose brown button shirt she wore and collecting around her waist.

'Everything is so outdated. Still, I can't help but want to stay.'

She turned her head, catching a glance of the garment folded on the chair. The suit was shimmering white with bright gold edging.

"Is that mine?" she asked, startled.

She threw the blankets off, jumping to her feet, and approached the chair, curiously examining the sparkling material. She picked up the skysuit, comparing its make and dimensions to that of her own.

"Well, it's like mine, but I've never seen anything like this," she marveled. "It seems to be maurium, but..." she stared at its bright, shimmering colors hanging before her face, "scientifically, this shouldn't be possible."

Maurium was used by the Pyreans for practically anything and everything it could be. If a street in Pyre was to be paved, it would be paved in maurium. If a house was to be built, it would be built of maurium. If a bicycle was to be fashioned, it would be fashioned from maurium. The lamps, the posts, the walkways, the doorways, the suits, the sheets, the plates, the floor tiles - all of them maurium.

There were some exceptions, rare citizens of the capital who had chosen to build their lives, their shops, their homesteads of some material, but they would find it more costly and far less reliable. They were thought to be a peculiar people who built their houses of glass and brick and stone, and their neighbors would scoff, because in Pyre, everything was maurium... even the flowers.

The flowers grown in Pyre were common gifts and tokens of interest. The maurium-rich soil of the city may have dulled the smells and colors of the flowers it produced, but it did increase the longevity and resilience of the otherwise delicate crop.

It was commonly known, and that much more to the citizens of Pyre, that maurium could be produced in only two colors - grey and purple, each with their own unique set of qualities. The grey was light in color, almost reminiscent of silver without the same metallic quality or texture, while the purple was a pale shade which bordered on mauve.

The grey could be used better for clothing as well as being an effective building material. It was hardy, resilient, and easily molded.

The purple was more desirable for its luminescence. The brittle, stony nature which accompanied the luminescent quality of the purple element made the compound much more ridged than its grey counterpart. It was a challenge to work with, being difficult to mold without breaking, and was, therefore, used almost exclusively for such things as tech, lighting, and decoration. Accents of glowing purple were common in maurium designs, providing a necessary flair of creative diversity to an otherwise dull and monotone resource.

However, the same inherent qualities of the maurium which made it so desirable also made it impossible to dye, and any attempts to do so had quickly proven futile, if not disastrous. Yet here, the grey was now a sparkling white and the purple had turned to brilliant gold.

She stripped off the borrowed clothes which Benjamin had lent her, and dawned the shimmering skysuit with some caution and greater interest. She slipped her feet into the shoe-like footholds of white trimmed with gold and stretched her arms out through the sleeves before pulling the zipper from heel to neck, bringing the material snug against her skin.

'It's a little different, but it feels... cleaner, actually. More... comfortable, maybe?'

She smiled as she thought how her father had always sought to teach her to take care in her adventures. She had always been one to be taken in her curiosities, but there was one particular incident when she was young which would always resurface, finding its way to the front of her contemplative mind.

She was with her father late in the evening, sitting at the dining room table when a small mouse hole had captured her attention.

"What is it you're doing?" he asked with a laugh and a fatherly smile.

"Don't worry, dad," she replied, chuckling back at him with an impish grin, "I'm merely looking."

"Be careful in looking," he said, looking on at her with love. "There are some things you can't turn back from."

She sighed. 'I wish I could go back to that.'

Tears welled in her eyes at the thought of him, but she shut them away, because she couldn't go back. She couldn't go home. Not now, anyway.

'But I can't. I can't go home, because...' the thought came again and stung her, but again she pushed it away, quickly turning her mind on other things, and rushing to make herself ready for the anticipated day ahead of her.

***

The halls were vacant as they had been the prior afternoon, and she went right to door which Benjamin had presented as his own.

The events of the past evening remained fresh in her mind, and she thought of the men in the white robes.

'Perhaps...' she brought her hand up in front of her and examined her arm, 'very much like this. It may be the same material that they have, but... is it maurium? Or is it... something else? It's beautiful, but... I've never seen anything like it.'

Approaching the door to Benjamin's room, she raised her fist and knocked. There was silence, and at once she realized that there hadn't been before the abrupt sound of her knuckles wrapping against the hard wood.

The door opened to the newly familiar face of Benjamin. "Hello, Avera," he said with a friendly smile.

"Ben!" she said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. "I'm not interrupting am I?"

"No, of course not!" he quickly assured her.

"It... sounded like you might have been talking with someone," she anxiously admitted, remembering the unfamiliar sound of words which had passed quietly through the door.

"Well, I was," he told her, "but it's... no matter now." He smiled at her nervously, careful to maintain his friendly demeanor and openness.

"There's someone in there, then?" she asked, curiously craning her neck to see past him.

"Well, y-yes, but see," he said, leaning his arm against the door frame in front of her, filling the doorway and blocking her view of the room behind him, "he doesn't often solidify the way which you might expect."

She blinked, turning her eyes back to his face as she watched him blankly. "Solidify?"

"Yes, you see, he's... not entirely visible to most people, most of the time," he awkwardly confessed, having stopped quickly midway to clear his throat. He seemed to become more uncomfortable with each passing second.

"He's a ghost, then?" she clarified, watching him with the intensity of human skepticism.

"Yes," he willingly admitted, "a spirit, if you will, and a dignitary from a foreign land." He adjusted his glasses, shifting his weight with the topic. "All of that aside, though, I hope you'll be joining us for breakfast."

'A dignitary?' Her eyes watched him, questioning, but she let the matter go. "Yes, of course," she agreed pleasantly with a smile. "Oh, but Ben!" she said, remembering her prior considerations. "What is this?"

She moved her arm between them, and he cocked his head at her, smiling. "Your skysuit?" he asked, amused.

'Is it then?'

"I thought you might like something a little more... refined," he said simply, a friendly smile covering his face and a spark of mystery in his eyes. "To breakfast, then?"

She nodded, a small smile covering her contemplative expression as she searched his fiery eyes with hers. "Yes," she said softly, her mind still working to uncover the hidden layers of his words, "to breakfast."

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