Golden Bridge Chronicle

Chapter 5: Awoken to the cold

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Music accompaniment

To play during reading Winter Allegro non molto – The Four Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi

I dressed back into my previous day’s clothes. I would need to change back at home. I unmade the makeshift bed on the couch then went in the kitchen to make myself some tea or something for the morning. The kitchen’s setup was highly functional and not much life into it. The kitchen, the usual heart of the house, had no soul, it felt not lived in, staged, stilted. I found some tea on the counter and brewed some of it for me and Francis. About half a cup later, Francis woke up, only in his underwear. Or more precisely, my forest green underwear I gave him a few days ago, that so much complimented his eyes. Had he cleaned them? Used any other? He was scrubbing the sleep still in his eyes and clearly he forgot about me, considering the “deer in the headlight” look he gave me when he saw me.

“Good morning, a cup of tea.” I offered, laughing it off, even if I enjoyed the visual and hoped for it to extend a bit longer.

“I think I will go dress first.” His cheeks clearly blushing from embarrassment.

“You don’t need to do it on my account, your house, your rules. And you know my house rules so you know my attitude toward a dress code.” I answered casually, offering him his cup of tea.

He took a sip from the tea and his demeanor relaxed but he was still blushing hard. His near white skin tone and ginger hair, probably from Irish ancestry, wasn’t helping his case, the blushing now having spread everywhere on his face and down his neck.

We silently savored our cup. Francis’ glance was lost in thoughts, not focusing on anything in particular. Mine was subtly looking at his features. I already liked the complex swirl in his emerald eyes. His trimmed ginger beard, in a circle beard, aged him more than his actual age in my opinion, I would prefer it shaved, or perhaps in a different trim. He had a long face, which gave him just a bit of otherworldliness to him. He had a long neck which maybe made him look taller than he actually was. He was 5′-9″ or 5′-10″ tall. He was lean and slender, even a bit on the gaunt side, he could take a few pounds and it would be good for him. He clearly didn’t take has much care of his body as he should, probably from his IT lifestyle, but he seemed still surprisingly in good health. He had little body hair to speak of, but it wasn’t because he was shaving, because I could see the sheen of his small blond or ginger body hair on his arms and chest. The only clear body hair was a small happy trail starting at his navel and hiding at the underwear hem. We had the same waist shape and size, considering how he could easily wear and fill the underwear. The color of the boxer brief hid the definition of his package, but he advantageously filled it up. He had long and slender fingers, pianist fingers. They seemed agile and he had a little fidget with them while he held his cup. His crossed legs showed definition, but more from a lot of walking than from active workout. His feet were quite long for his size, without being freakish, and they were narrow. I quite liked them. Well, I liked all of what I could see, mostly his front. He finished his cup and came out of his thoughts.

“I will go dress, you can search here and in the fridge to find something for us to eat for breakfast.” Pointing at a cupboard and leaving for his room.

His cupboard was quite empty in general and there was only some English muffins with peanut butter for a breakfast option. I found his toaster and started to grill them. During that wait, he came back into the kitchen, wearing a plaid shirt and loose pants, probably quite comfortable, but hiding most of his features. His hair was clearly wet from a shower and he smelled of a floral shampoo. He smiled at me and then we ate our functional but a bit sad muffin and peanut butter. He apologized for the option, but he hadn’t recently found the energy to do a more elaborate grocery shop and we were on his last reserves. We then washed the dishes and dressed for going back to my apartment. We took his car to do the distance. The air outside was crisp from a frost during the night.

Arriving at home, I first invited him to wait for me in the kitchen, while I took a shower and changed clothes. It was fast, but refreshing and I dressed similarly to him, but a bit more tight on my shape. He was tending to my blueberry shrub, cutting some dying leaves, picking the fruits and generally making sure it was in good health. He clearly had a green thumb from the way he acted with clear purpose, even if I didn’t see any plants in his current home.

When I joined him, he put the blueberries on the counter then he was ready for the main subject: the meeting with Master Fox. Master Fox woke at our specific attention and trod to the edge of the painting frame. I took some of the fruits and gave them to him without him saying a word. He took his usual place and was now available to hear us.

“Good morning Master Fox. First of all, my meeting yesterday went really well and I was able to secure my responsibility over you until you are transferred to Francis. It came quite easily when the opportunity presented itself. I also think Francis here has something to tell you.” I gave Francis the opportunity to state his choice.

“I want to know what I need to do for you, I am ready to accept the mantle of my family. I know I am not a mage yet, but I may become one or be of help.” Francis stated clearly, with assurance in his voice.

“Then the work must start now. Francis, what your family has been building for the past generations is a Golden Bridge over the Abyss. When the magical realms, the Supernal Realms, were separated from the Mundane World, a gap was created, a void. That void is the Abyss. It is what created the Lie, the break in the relation between the Mundane and the Supernal, resulting in the Sleep, the putting to sleep of the non Magical, Quiescence, the destruction of magic when witnessed by Sleepers, and Paradoxes, the Abyss seeping through the Mundane world in the presence of the Supernal, warping everything. We are building back a stronger bridge over it so that a link can exist again.” Master Fox started to explain. What he was talking about was marvelous and dangerous at the same time. The Abyss is extremely dangerous to be near for it corrupts everything in its attempt to replace the Supernal Realms. Every mage would love to use that to ascend to the Supernal Realms, so keeping it secret is of the utmost importance. Master Fox continued.

“We build the bridge, slowly, by feeding it with as much Mana that we can collect. Every Solstice, through a conduit and a ritual, we extend the bridge. At Solstice, the barrier is at its weakest so it is easier to send the Mana to it. Then, every Equinox, the barrier is weaker and we send more Mana, to solidify what we built during the last Solstice. If not, we lose the last gains that we made. It is a slow process. We don’t know exactly the length of the gap to be covered, but we have estimated that we are, after 16 generations, about two thirds of the way. You are not the first of your line to work on this project and you won’t be the last. You will have to start thinking to have an heir, a spare in case of your demise, insuring the continuation of your family’s Legacy.” I felt confusion in Francis’ emotions at that moment, but it wasn’t clear why. He didn’t clearly show with his body language, more an aetherial feeling I physically felt.

“The next solstice is in a few weeks. Due to the untimely death of your Father, we lost most of the progress we had accumulated. But at least it was not for a upcoming Equinoxe, that would have been quite damaging for the ongoing process. He did talk to me about the next spot he planned to extract from. He regularly went there for its regular mana creation, due to it’s historical and emotional background, but since it’s in a public space, it is not the best place to go regularly. It is the Plains of Abraham. I will let you plan for your next step, but do start research for the next place to tap from, you don’t want to tap dry your sources. We are here for the long game.” Then he curled on his self to sleep under the tree in the painting.

Francis gazed at the painting, lost in his thought. He did that a lot today, I wondered if he did that often. I let him ponder and started to gather some pen and paper to my kitchen island, so that we could start the planning. Since he wasn’t a mage yet, his abilities would be limited for the actual ritual to do, but he would certainly not be useless. I tidied my loft a bit and around lunch time, he came back out of it. He turned and sat at the island, his visage resolute.

“Sorry for that, I got lost and had to process through it. But I have a plan for the next steps. First, I must claim back my father’s home. I am sure there is hidden places in it, and maybe that mana thing can be found somewhere in it. Then you should scout the Plains for the mana, not extract it, but at least find exactly where it is. Then I don’t know. I would try to search the internet for something but I doubt that there is a mage Google search.” He grinned.

“Well, no. Maybe. Not that I have access to, but we could try my Order’s library. Should we go there first since the manager of your estate is also there.” At the moment I realized what I just said, I wanted to take it back. Francis didn’t knew that we were also managing his estate. He made two plus two and anger appeared on his face.

“What does your Order have to do with managing my Father’s estate? Has my life been that under scrutiny. First from a destiny since my birth, then your Mage Order since when? Did anything I did ever was my choice?” He opened his mouth to continue but closed it, not telling his thought. Suddenly, he turned on the spot, went to his jacket on the rack by the front door, took it, slipped on his boots and left without closing behind. Not looking back. It was so sudden I was unable to react in time. I hurriedly put my coat and boots on to follow him. He clearly was in distress.

It was by now midday, a cloudy-sky and pouring down. Francis didn’t take his car and was walking, a block ahead to the left of me, toward a park along a river. I stopped a short moment to hastily cast a protection spell and a mage sight, just to be sure. Then I followed him. He was already quite deep in the park by the time I arrived there, but I could still feel his trace and followed it. Arriving to where he had stopped, on a bench overlooking the river, he was deeply sobbing. Approaching him, I saw his aura flare up, Awakening. It was powerful, pure and true. Blinding and alive. It revealed the Twilight Realm, home of the unseen spirits, to all who were near him. Spirits of the life around him came to him, consoling him. A fox spirit, brighter than all other, walked from behind me going toward Francis. Tree spirits, rain spirits, the bench spirit, the river spirit, all other spirits bowed to the fox on his path. The Fox sat in front of Francis, looking at him and instantly I recognized Master Fox in the attitude. Infinitely patient, he waited for his sobs to calm down, and for Francis to look at him to act. Master Fox bowed deep to him, showing his fealty to him. All the other spirits did the same, except one. Instantly, without hesitation, Master Fox jumped on that spirit and killed it, showing the consequence of missing respect. Then Francis eyes fell on me. They were of the deepest emerald I ever saw, with swirls of a sea teal around it. But they were unfocused, pupils dilated, with a golden sheen to them. He stood and walked to me. He took my hand in his and felt an old scar on the top of it with his thumb. Massaging it lovingly, doing complicated movement, swirls, circles and lines, he made it disappear. Then he stepped back, taking my other hand in his free hand and bowed to me, that I returned. He let go of my hands, the moment suspended in time, everything else around us stopped. For an instant but for the longest of time, we stayed in place, me waiting, not wanting to break the spell, him gazing at me.

At some point he turned to the river. His back to me, he took off his clothes and walked into the river. He dove in and I waited, and waited for him to come back out. I was about to act, then I saw him walk back out of the water, glistening with the water, even if there was no sun shining. He now had a whetstone in hand, sharpened on one side. He took it and wrote his name on the bench: Francis William Morris. And the spell was broken. Time returned to normal, spirits disappeared back to their hidden realm, Master Fox included. The glow on Francis reduced, but there still was a trace on him. But clearly he was now a Mage, a truth seeker. His body language was that of being reinvigorated, even if he just swam in near freezing river water. It’s only at that point his physical state hit him, deeply shivering, his knees buckling under his own weight. I stepped to him, hugging him with my whole body, rubbing his back to try to heat him back up a bit. He was shivering and was unable to speak. I helped him back in his clothes, even if he was still wet. And I helped him walk back to my apartment. He was heavily leaning on me, I was practically dragging him along, him totally out of it.

Back up the steps of my home, I removed our shoes and then I dragged him to the bed area. I excused myself for what I was about to do, but it was needed. He didn’t react, still away in his frozen self. I completely undressed him out of his damp clothes, from the rain and the swim. He was nearly unconscious from the ordeal, strongly shivering. He needed heat and soon. I put him in the bed, fetching an extra duvet. He was still struggling to heat himself up. I changed out of my own wet clothes, keeping underwear for a bit of decency, turned the heater the way up, then started to cast wildly. I knew the heater would take time to heat the room up, so I cast a spell to concentrate the heat to the bed area. It has been a long time since I cast that kind of spell, manipulating energy. I wasn’t quite proficient with them. I felt the spell slip between my fingers in the rush, creating a Paradox. I committed more to it, making it work, but I felt the Abyss, slip through it. I contained it inside myself, but it wounded me inside. Its corruption slashing my flesh to prevent it going out in the world. I screamed through my teeth in pain, hoping not to wake Francis. It was now quite hot around him, but he was still shivering madly.

I sensed he was still cold and there was nothing I could do to help him. I was quite tired of the ordeal, even if it was still the middle of the afternoon. I climbed in the bed, turning my back to his back, wanting to maintain a semblance of barrier between us. I still felt the strain of the Paradox’s wound but sleep would heal me.

The first thing I dreamed of was of the Renaissance again, back in the studio, back in exactly the same spot has the two previous time. This time it was night, the two lovers, cuddling together on a bed, calmly resting, naked under the light covers. I approach them. They were spooning together, the model being the big spoon. He had his eyes open, looking out to the outside, to the sea below, to the sleeping city sprawled below him. His mind was clearly thinking of something else, his feature showing his distress. He softly spoke in the ear of the painter, full of sorrow, without me being able to understand the meaning. He stood and started to dress. The painter was sleeping. When he was fully dressed, he took a look back at the painter, took a painting stored in a wooden box, and left. Just before closing the door, he took a last look of the space, lingering on the painter, then looked directly at me and the dream changed, has he closed the door behind him.

Then, I dreamed of two parts, dancing around each other. One was hot, one was cold; One was above, one was below; One was moving, one was still; One was bathed in light, one was shrouded in darkness; One was happy, one was depressed. Neither was only one of those things but they exchange positions. Their dance brought them closer and closer. Eventually, their exchange was so fast that it became a blur, both were of the two states at the same time. A feeling of ease and calm. Something I haven’t felt for a long time. The energy of the dynamic union of the two parts, dancing for eternity. I drifted through this, bathed in the glow of the moment.

The dream then changed for a more common abstract feeling not remembered. I slowly woke to a warm enveloping feeling. A weak sun rising was glowing over me. Slowly I regained my other senses, feeling a pressure over my body. Then I spotted an arm casually hugging me by the torso. Then I felt it, a warm shaft softly nesting behind me. It completely woke me. I shook a bit and Francis tightened his hug on me. He clearly was still sleeping, no more shivering. He must have turned during the night. My only saving grace was that I had thought to wear underwear. Even if I was too stressed to do an improper thing, it felt extremely good to be hugged, to have the slightest human contact. I enjoyed it for a few moments, then, knowing it shouldn’t last, I moved out of his embrace. He mumbled some words trying to stop me but they were essentially nonsense. After getting out of his embrace, I witnessed the state of the bed and how much we moved during the night. And he clearly had recuperated from the previous night ordeal, having eschew of all the duvet and warm linen. I slowly moved myself out of the bed space, taking some clothes out of my drawers and lowering back the heater to manageable temperature. I was still a bit stiff from the injury, but I was essentially healed. Considering Francis’ Awakening, I now had some new thing to say to the Order. But there was no rush to wake him. I went to my kitchen and started to brew some tea. Once done, I let it steep for a time, and slowly enjoyed the cup. After it, I started a teapot for us when he woke up. Seeing he was still asleep, I undressed and started my Tai-chi, just a short session to lessen the remaining stiffness. The exercise helped to calm the mind of all the new things happening. I became a bit lost in my movement, forgetting about my surroundings, tuning everything out. Eventually I ended my session, hearing Francis moving in the bed. I turned to look at him. The light was just right, him askew in the bed, the sheets having just the right folds. I tried to burn the image in my mind so I could paint it later. Then Francis woke further, moving and ending the moment. He opened his eyes, clouded in confusion and sleep. Then his eyes met mine.

“What happened last night?” Then realizing his state of undress. “What am I doing naked in your bed?”

“Please wake up first, take a shower and I will share some clothes with you while I dry your yesterday’s clothes. I will also make us a breakfast and I will explain then. Here, have a cup of tea.” And I gave him a cup. He was still dazed and took the cup without asking any questions. Sitting on the bed, feet slightly crossed on the floor, a part of the bed sheets over his midsection, hiding the essential, but strongly erotic. He slowly drank the brew, the sleep flowing out of his body. Once his cup was finished, he hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do next. Then in a sudden movement, his body language changed again to a posture I already had seen him do in the last few days, that of determination, he made a choice and was ready to live with it. He stood, proudly, without any hiding his now completely naked body, and walked to the bathroom. I tidied the room, put the cups in the sink, and then heard something.

A thud.

From the bathroom.

Author’s Note

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Thank you to Mark Christensen for his editing, review and comments.

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