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Chapter 4

A few days had passed since the mage's mask had fallen away. The mage had seen Derrl prove himself somewhat trustworthy as he had helped keep the warehouse tidy. The mage had gone out hours before dawn, stating that he had some affairs to arrange that day. Derrl had woken up before the mage left, trying to puzzle out the nature of the pattern. Having failed to do so, he had set himself the task of memorizing the patterns in his hands, that he might be able to memorize the one that seemed branded to the inside of his eyelids. Derrl held his hand a few spans away from his face, continually turning it over slowly, first looking at the palm, and then the back of his hand, and then back to the palm again. As he sat there contemplating his hand, tracing the network of veins that he could see, as they lay there, just below the skin. The veins that he could not see themselves, and yet knew that they were there by the effect that they had on their surroundings. His veins were covered over by layers of skin and flesh, hidden, but made their presence known by the bulges on the surface above them. He had been sitting there the better part of the morning, making an attempt to memorize the pattern of the veins in his hand. He was so utterly engrossed by the effort that he had forgotten to eat. Derrl figured that if he could memorize the pattern of veins, he would perhaps be able to remember the pattern that he saw on the stark black background of his mind. Kevesk had told him that he was going to go arrange a few things that were necessary, although he did not say what they were necessary for. Derrl had long since forgotten that Kevesk had said anything, or that he had gone anywhere. He was to intent on capturing the pattern to even bother to remember who the mage was just then. Outside the building in the portside market the various traders and factors were calling out to prospective customers, trying to fetch themselves a better price for their wares. On any other day, Derrl could have easily spent the day listening to the by-play of the market as interesting people sold, or tried to sell, interesting things. Today, all that went unnoticed, as did the midday bell, as well as all the other various sounds that mark life in the city. Outside, the sun was setting, cascading wondrous shades of crimson red, bright oranges, vivid yellows, as well as pinks and shades of purple as the evening sky rolled in to cover the city. Outside, the last of the traders in the market were packing up their unsold merchandise in various bits of scrap cloth of all shades of pink, green, blue, violet, red, yellow, as well as a few striped patches that must have come from someone's trading tent damaged beyond salvage in a storm or simply worn through in too many places. The sound of wheels, both iron and wooden, as they rattled past along the cobblestone street fell upon unhearing ears inside the building. He was still trying to slowly gain insight into the nature of the hidden pattern. His face looked almost gaunt, and there were dark, deep circles under his eyes that had appeared there earlier. Sweat stood out on his forehead in beads, such was the effort he was pouring into concentrating on his hand. He had been straining himself as hard as he could since before daybreak. The accumulated sweat had drenched his clothes, making them sodden in some places, and in others, where it had dried, making them stiff and unyielding. His eyes had not blinked in the past hour, he had almost had them open continuously since before dawn. His eyes were bloodshot, and lined with the patterns of red blood vessels on the whites of his eyes. Though it was now well past the midnight bell, and the mage had not yet returned from his errands, Derrl was unconcerned. In his world right now there was no mage, there was only the hand and his awareness. His awareness enfolded his hand, seeping into it somehow, divining the nature and pattern of all the veins in his hand, including the most minute capillaries. Footsteps rang out across the cobblestones in the otherwise silent street, accompanied by the familiar tapping of and iron-shod staff. The door opened quietly and the mage stepped in. Derrl looked up to see what it was that had caused the only sound that he had heard that day. He saw the mage, who was taking in the destruction that he had brought upon himself, a destruction born of neglect. His eyes widened. A strange, crooked grin of self-contentment crept across Derrl's face. His eyes glazed over as his head hit the floor beside the pallet. He had found what he had sought. All was not dark as he slammed into unconsciousness. He saw before him the now familiar lines of the pattern that had been born in his mind. In his sleep his smile became one of bliss and self-enlightenment. As he slept, his reshaped mind was lovingly caressing the wonderful details of the pattern which he came to realize was his and his alone; it was in fact him. His mind roved over the pattern one last time before sinking into restful oblivion until morning. Having accomplished what it had set out to do, his mind would now let itself rest.

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