Lons awoke in a dark cavern. There was nothing but pitch dark everywhere.
Scrabbling claws echoed through what must have been a darkened chamber of massive proportions. He saw a distant light, slowly getting larger. At first nothing more than a pinprick, it swelled to a gigantic ball of fire. As it got closer, Lons realized it was a raven. Or, more precisely, a raven made entirely of fire, ash and embers. He stood up, noticing there was no pain in his leg. His cane! That was gone too. His hip was fine, he noted as he examined it for the scar of the arrow. There was nothing.
He furrowed his brow and turned to look at this fire creature. Strangely, he wasn’t terrified. More curious than anything. The beast was welcoming, even. It tilted it’s head, eyes of literal fire gazing into him, as if taking note of something he didn’t see himself. The creature cawed, the sound abnormal as it echoed through the darkness hauntingly. It was as if a raven’s caw had mixed with the roar of a bonfire. It turned and headed deeper into what appeared to be a cavern.
The walls were ancient. They seemed to be obsidian, Lons mused, almost distantly. He was moving upwards now, taking man-made steps up a path, following the fire-bird. It cawed again, beckoning him on. Torches ignited as he walked past, each blazing more intense. The heat of them was comforting, even though it seemed as if it should scorch his skin. The bird stopped near the top of the path, waiting for him to arrive.
The torches ignited walls of fire for the last several steps. Lons paused, feeling the intense heat as he stood. Hesitantly, he moved through the first wall. The fire didn’t scorch him, though he felt something in him fall away. Something he couldn’t quite place, but was all too freeing.
No, that was it. His fear of the future was falling away. His fear, in general, fell away.
He stood before the massive bird of flame and embers. It beat its’ wings furiously, kicking up a firestorm of embers, ash and flame. Again, he felt something change. He saw things more clearly, more vividly. The non-essential parts of the scene seemed to fall away, and it was simply him and the magnificent beast.
“Why have you brought me here?” Lons asked, unfazed by the heat and flame or the spectacle before him.
A voice spoke clearly. Not from the bird, but from his past.
It was Marwyyn.
“You must light the obsidian candle. That is your goal while you stand this vigil. Without it, you will spend the night in darkness.”
A small black candle appeared before him. It wasn’t just any candle. The same candle he had tried, in futility, to light as a young student of the citadel.
“There are always new paths to knowledge” He heard this voice clearly, knowing it was the great bird before him. THe voice was in his head and he momentarily wondered if he had gone insane.
“What are these paths? I’ve read many books and studied many things. Do you mean magic?” Lons inquired, tilting his head at the bird, who seemed to mirror his movements.
“You’ve touched a world deeper than you ever thought possible, young child of fire. Let the curiosity that burns within you light your path, and all will come clear.”
“What does that mean?”
“Look into the flames. They will guide your path.”
“Look into the…” Lons paused. "
The bird reared back before opening it’s maw, revealing an even brighter flame. It glowed white hot as the bird fanned it’s wings again. The ball of white, searing hot, skin melting fire hit Lons.
Suddenly, he awoke to Tyene stroking his hair.
“Lons…” she whispered. “What happened?”
“Gods Tyene…” Lons stammered. “I never thought I’d hear your voice again.”
“How long was I…” she asked after a few moments. Lons had sent several of the Unsullied to get water. For the first time, Lons witnessed a look of genuine fear on the grisled warriors faces.
“Perhaps half an hour’s glass.” Lons whispered, his eyes closed, leaning back against the bed. “I can’t be certain.” He was exhausted. This whole endeavor had demolished him.
Both Lons and Tyene drank water, together. Such a simple act neither never expected to do again. They sat in silence for a moment, simply aware that the other was breathing next to them was enough for now.
After all they’d both experienced, they were entitled to this.
“Lons… It was… terrifying. I was being attacked by these shadows. Their claws grabbing me. I-” she paused, her voice quivering for the first time in quite a while. “I never want to experience that again.”
Lons nodded. Neither did he.