With clasped hands, Morian Reinazur muttered a prayer to the Lord of Light. He then took a deep breath, pushed open the heavy oak doors, and walked in.
The room was cloaked in shadow and steeped in silence, like nightfall at an empty hearth. Morian could smell the mossy floor and feel its chill, but he could not see the old man sitting cross-legged on it in the middle of the room. He did not need to.
A flicker of light.
Morian swivelled in alarm, sword drawn in a split second. It took him less than a moment to discern the little dove, glowing in the air and harmlessly soaring past him towards the prisoner sitting on the floor. Morian sheathed his sword again, and watched it settle on the old man’s shoulder. The dove glowed brighter for a moment, like stars in a clear sky, and illuminated a familiar face. A soft voice echoed around the darkness.
‘Mir-hasen attacking doves with greatswords. What has the world come to, my old friend?’ the old man asked.
‘Some of your doves have turned into dragons, master. War leads to weary men and wary disciples - you can hardly blame the world for mistrusting magicians.’
The old man chuckled. His gaunt face, half hidden in shadow, quivered in the faint glow of the fading light. ‘And weaker, worthless words, too. Prisoners are no masters.’
Morian reached for the mir on his master’s shoulder. The dove melted into a streak of silver which dashed across the room and bolted a little stone window wide open. The last rays of an evening sun came pouring in, and the old man winced at the light. He was clothed plainly, in grey robes, and his fair, bearded face showed signs of hunger and pain. Sunken cheeks and a thin frame were the only vestiges of the man Morian remembered.
‘I am sorry they treated you this way, master.’
The old man seemed to glow and transform in the light, as if it were feeding him. He muttered a chant under his breath, his beard and matted hair growing miraculously shorter and back into his cheeks and scalp. His back straightened, and a few wrinkles gave way to a tired smile. Suddenly, he looked years younger, like a withered tree come back to life.
‘Three months they starve me in this dungeon, and now you give a lightshaper the sun. What would they say, Morian?’
‘They’d say an old disciple was treating his master with respect.’
‘Or they’ll say the master had failed because his disciple was foolish. A graver crime than the one for which I’m imprisoned.’ the old man replied with a wry smile. He closed his eyes and let the sunlight pulse through him. It seemed to make him stronger every moment.
‘It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you, Morian. They tell me you’ve changed a lot since you joined the enemy.’
‘And they tell me I fight this war because the Mages refused to change with me. I had hoped we would not meet like this, master.’ Morian replied. He stared at the window, where the sky was painted with the blue hue of dusk. ‘Will you come take a walk with me?’
The old man looked up, a strange sadness in his eyes. Then the smile twisted into a leer.
‘A walk, Morian? So you can parade me in front of your ryth servants like a deflowered virgin? Perhaps you hope for me to dance at the tug of your leash, and use the mir like ribbons in the hands of a clown, and pray like a buffoon to your imaginary gods?’
Morian grimaced. Ryth. The disgraceful taunt held painful memories of a childhood long gone. He chose not to retort to it.
‘The servants have been sent away. I ask for your time so you could meet your son, one last time. He wonders why his father does not pace his study in the White Tower anymore.’
The old man looked up at his disciple, listening to words that seemed to be receding into the distance. He could feel the ocean of mir outside, still pouring in through the window. The light tugged at his heart, tempting him to touch, to pull. The desire enveloped and surrounded him in deafening silence, and he wanted to let it wash over him till he drowned. He wanted to succumb, to let himself rise in rage and fury and crumble away the stone walls, to burn down the castle itself in a fit of fury. The power of the mir-hasen.
A power that was now taken away, and a power that the man in front of him possessed in far greater abundance. The old man’s stared at the ground in pain, the temptation gone as quickly as it had come. He knew that Morian felt it, he knew that was why Morian had let him touch the mir.
‘How is he, Morian?’ the old man asked, quietly. ‘How is my son? Does he know?’
‘Bryen does not know of the war, master,' Morian said as he helped him to his feet. 'He is too young to understand, and I do not wish for him to see the High Mage of Cuesthor as a prisoner, kept here in such ruin. Will you come with me to the White Tower once more?’
The old man looked up at his disciple as the mir danced around him. Morian was a lot of things; a liar was not of them.
‘Let us take a walk then, old friend. Let us see the White Tower one last time, before you tear it down.’