Depending on how she looked at it the mural changed what it depicted. Using the concept of perceptual organization to focus on them she found four heraldic representations in the painting. An unfocused view showed a mesmerizing collage of colour that drew one’s gaze even if they had no appreciation of art. Only then was the first device apparent.
Rose was suspended in nothing midway between the floor and ceiling so she had a closer look at the ceiling spanning mural than normal. It had taken her looking away and back to note the third image. With that she had seen the idea behind the concept which had made it easier to find the remaining two.
The mural was in eight colours, four of which outlined the different heraldic devices leaving the remaining four to detail them with splashes of the outlining colour. Thus making two colours the foreground enabled one to view a different device.
It was an intricate piece of work. The work of a master and like nothing she had ever seen before. An unusual perceptive ability would be necessary to paint something like this. An ability she would have called impossible were she not looking at the result. As she could see the brush strokes she knew it was a painting and not a computer generated image.
Unlike most of the heraldic devices she had seen, all the animals were affronté. The first she had noted was the segreant dragon outlined in silver with blue detailing. Its piercing blue eyes searing into the observer, uncannily following them. Lethal beauty detailed in simplistic lines that produced grandeur.
Then a rising Phoenix in red and metallic white detailing cawing its fury as its shinning white eyes shot its defiance. Though its wings were again etched in simple, elegant strokes the painter had captured the essence of their fiery aspect such that in focusing on it she could feel phantom heat.
Outlined in silver grey a rampant winged lion roared its majesty while its golden eyes clashed with hers. Regal pride delineated its stance leaving no doubt in her mind it was a royal device.
Like living midnight the passant guardant unicorn of the last herald stormed across its field of green, half open wings in black and green out flung as if it were just about to take flight. Green eyes held the fury of the storm, violent untamed power barely held back and its equally green horn threatened all who saw it.
Whatever she perceived as the background morphed into a startling vista that changed with each foreground. Rose wished to meet the exceptional artist. Such beauty was a marvel to be celebrated. She could make millions for such an individual.
The room itself was a work of art, the cornices edging the ceiling and walls were pure gold molded into intricate blended scenes of heroic acts and persons. Tiny jewels and precious metal accented the cornices sparing them from being too bland and gaudy. The result was a great display of wealth that was tasteful and even somewhat understated despite its showy aspect.
Below her was a white polished marble floor with a purple crystal circle at its center framed by crystalline steps in eight colours. The same eight colours as in the mural, she noted. Beyond the steps were glass walls with great wooden arcs embedded in their centers each with two of the eight colours. These people had an obsession to their eight colours. Even the cornices were in the eight colours, so was the skirting.
The large room was unfurnished, beautifully proportioned and precise in its measurements but she couldn’t figure out what it was meant for. She still floated in nothing, her body cushioned in fluidity. It was neither cold nor warm, as if catered to her temperature needs. Heavy beneath her like the sea would be as it buoyed her up.
The pressure from above told her there was more of the substance above her. She could swim through it, she had tried to see if she could swim out of the field but the Olympian sized room was full of whatever it was. She could breath, but she couldn’t leave giving her a better understanding of the life of a fish in an aquarium. It wouldn’t surprise her if the mirrors surrounding the room were one way and she had an audience to her humiliating captivity.
“Hello!” she shouted. “Anyone out there?” There was no answer, no sign that anyone was watching but that was what a one way mirror was for.
The closest mirrors were where her feet faced with a golden arc engraved with grey in their middle. She had to swim through the heavy air to face in that direction, a feat that proved to be more of a hassle that it should be. She felt very awkward, the feel of the air so different from normal air and nowhere near the feel of water.
Either she over-estimating or under-estimating her strokes so that she flared about like a fish out of water. She was so glad no one was about to see her enact this humiliating endeavor, she hoped no one was watching her from behind the mirrors.
The glass was a single plane despite having a wooden arc embedded into it. There was no latch to be seen though what else was the arc there for if not to outline a door? Taking off her shoe she hammered at the glass with all she had, hampered by the friction with the airy water or watery air, but still quite impressive yet it didn’t make a dent. It rang with a hollowness that told her there was empty space behind it. Almost like sheet metal and yet not.
There was no way she would be able to break it, not with her shoe. She hated the idea of waiting for whoever had put her here to come and get her out but it seemed it was her best option. Most likely the glass was designed to withstand any of the weapons she carried. If she fired any of them and they didn’t shatter the glass the energy would rebound on all these mirrors and most likely end up harming her.
Where in the world was she? Rose was a technology nut, she kept up with all the innovations even those that were top secret, she had a high clearance status, but she had never heard of this matterless liquid before. And it couldn’t be some anti-grav technology as she could feel some sort of resistance as if she was immersed in something.
Her mind threaded through various theories but none of them seemed right. Steam would never have the density she was feeling and she wouldn’t have been able to breathe in it. The heat alone needed to keep it in that state would have had her struggling for each breath. The pressure needed to make air dense enough to float in would kill her in a heartbeat not to mention it would likely be too dry to breathe.
Her ears popped a sign that the air pressure had been reduced. By some instinct she looked behind her at the silver wood arc behind her. The space framed by the arc was open and she could see three people standing in front of it looking up at her.
Yup this was beyond awkward. She was floating prone at a difficult angle with strangers looking at her thrashing about like a fish under attack. Rose had always put her best foot forward at first meetings knowing that first impressions were hard to erase. This was so not ideal.
“I don’t suppose you can help me down?” she asked when she was somewhat upright, her thrashing had helped.
“However did you get up there?” the one in the middle asked, a woman. Stately tall she had waist length blonde hair that unlike hers did not float about in the room. She held herself with poise, her fair colouring giving her a frailness that her toned body belied, if one was observant enough.
“Didn’t you put me here?”
While her companions stayed at the door she glided into the room. Rose felt a wave of something she could not name. Energy that blazed through the room and into her and suddenly the air didn’t feel so heavy. She had time for a surprised scream before she fell through the air. The room had a high ceiling and the height was considerable, she was going to hit hard. Landing on her side she rolled with the motion until she crouched on her feet.
Surprise bloomed in her as she realized the hard fall had not been painful at all. Where her side should be sore it felt as hale as it ever had been. What had the woman done? The floor was as hard as could be expected yet her fall against it had not impacted her.
Wary, she straightened, with deliberate motion, into a loose limbed fighting stance that would fool most people into thinking she was relaxed. The two men were not fooled.
They were of a height and built, as if they had been assembled to a mold. Bulging muscles strained their dress clothes to assert the power inherent in them. Were it not for their decidedly aristocratic air Rose would have termed them bodyguards, they both held a protective stance towards the lady.
There was no other way to describe her. Her hair fell like a golden river, catching the light dim as it was to dazzle beyond its silky colour. She wore a slim fitting dress that reminded Rose of an old movie she had seen.
Long sleeves, tight against her long slender arms, ended at her wrist in the in seem and tapered to a point just shy of her middle finger at the back. A low rounded neckline gave the barest hint of cleavage while displaying her flawless lily white skin.
The dress molded her to her hips where the low waist flowed into a swath of cloth that settled about her in enticing folds. As she moved the dress swayed as if to the tune of a hidden breeze giving her the illusion of gliding.
Her face was flawless. The kind that came from generations of good aristocratic breeding. Her poise poetic, each of her movements choreographed even as they were quite natural. Thinking the two men might be her brothers she turned back to them only to dismiss the idea.
Though her first, casual glance had deemed them brothers the two men were alike in the most casual of ways. The one to her right had skin that appeared to be grey. Vivid green eyes stood out in his equally flawless face. Though the stamp of them was decidedly different from the woman’s. He had the calm seriousness of one in command and unused to not having his orders questioned. She would have thought his skin colour meant he was sick but it suited him so well he appeared the picture of health.
The other stood with his tall frame leaning against the door his arms crossed to show his thick arms to advantage. A slight mocking smile graced his full lips as his golden eyes showed his amusement at her expense. She stared at his eyes with wonder, they were molten like gold in a kiln amidst the hottest of fire. Stranger still, his skin held a translucent blue tone to it as if water flowed through it. Like the one to her right his strange colouring suited him.
“Welcome to the middle kingdom of the five realms of Seleucia.” The lady’s voice drew her away from her observations. Rose turned her focus back to her and it took her a few moments to register what she had said.
“What?” She queried unsure if she had heard her right.
The woman made an all encompassing gesture that included the room they were in and beyond. “You are now on the world of Seleucia. Our need was such that I had no choice but to summon you and your friends onto our plane.”
Feeling like she was missing the important parts of the conversation Rose blinked at that. She had been summoned from earth to another planet? How did that work? Had the woman turned around in a circle then clicked her heels shouting her summons? This had to be a joke and Rose was not appreciating the humor.
“Are you off your meds?” She asked fighting the need to take a step back. She would not show weakness, never again.
“I do not understand what you mean.” The woman frowned at her.
Rose waved that off . “No.” She said speaking to herself. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to get her here. Had she been kidnapped? The field she had been suspended in was too high tech to be used as someone’s idea of a gag. “Who are you?” She asked glancing at the two men who had not changed their positions even though she had taken an obvious fighting stance.
“Forgive me,” the woman inclined her head slightly in apology. ″I am Aridgwen D’Aner Lewlliwai, Gwen, lady of the middle kingdom of the five realms. ” She indicated the grey skinned man “This is Lord Arrapha Daire Anraí Fiodhan of the northern kingdom. And Lord Arrapha Merric Rigr Saichairí of the western kingdom.”
“Arrapha?” She asked. Though everything was in perfect English she could not understand it, but that word was new for her.
“It is a term that means he who is to be king.”
It must be a dream, she thought, after all the last thing she remembered was lounging at home. Princes, new worlds and mysterious summons, they didn’t exist and she would wake up soon and tell her friends about what a doozie she had had. Wait her friends.
“You said you also summoned my friends?”
Her mind stalled at the thought. “Where are they then?”
Gwen hesitated and Rose’s heart stopped. “Please, we should go upstairs. It would be best for us to discuss the situation together with the others.”
“What situation? What others? Are my friends here?”
Even though she had no idea where she was going she raced past the two men and up the stairs. If her friends were here she needed to find them. Together they would find a way out of this madness.