5 September 2008

Shades of grey

The colour was leaching out of the world. It began with red. The reds began to drain away, fading to grey, leaving no pinks. The purples turned blue, and then those dulled, too.

"Where does colour come from?" Rhiannon asked. "How do we get it back?"

Zest looked at her tiredly.

"How do you know it's the colour that's going?" he asked. "Maybe it's our eyes that can't see it anymore."

"Everyone? All at once?"

She went out into the streets, where she had only arrived the night before, and tried to remember if town skies should be that grey, and if the buildings had always been so, sulking granite, or whether they had been built of warmer coloured stone.

"How about," she said to Zest on her way to fetch her sword, "You bleed. What colour would your blood be then?" He didn't answer. "Grey?" she asked. His face was pale. "Is it still blood if it isn't red?"

"Maybe the whole world is fading away," he said. "Coming unravelled."


"One bit goes wrong, and the rest follows."

She took pulled her sword out from under her pillow, unsheathed it to see if it had lost its sheen or sharpness since last time she had cleaned it, just that morning before breakfast. It gleamed, silver bright. Re-sheathing it, she girded it on. Then she took her shield from under the bed, and for extra good measure her quiver and arrows.

"You think you can fight to get colour back in the world?" Zest asked her.

"Sure," she answered. "I'm betting it's some magician's spell. Some one much more powerful than you. That wizard up in the mountains, maybe."

"Of course," said Zest, suddenly finding the energy to sit up. "The flame flower. Find the flame flower, find the wizard." He slumped down again. "There's a lot of mountain range to search, though."

So she got started, riding a dark horse along a dismal road, watching the shadows seep more darkly between the buildings, and the people lumbering between them, pale, like Zest, sickly in the half-light of a grey sun, their minds all shades of grey in the half life, neither protesting nor approving what was happening to them.

Clear of the town, she let her mind wander, let it sense signs of life in the mountain. Inquisitive animal minds were brighter to her than the dull, churning thoughts of the humans in the town.

Hours later, when she had left the horse to graze grey grass on the lower slopes and climb the crumbling rock, the flame flower lit a torch in her mind. It called her, a perfect spot of brightness in the dullness of the land.

This was where all the red had gone. As if it had not been beautiful enough, the wizard slumped beside the flame flower had found a spell to summon more redness to it, to make it perfectly red.

"There's supposed to be a stop on spells," she told his still form crossly. She gave him a kick, but he didn't stir. "Oh, come on," she told him. "I'm too young to be this grey."

When she had set out, she had expected to inflict wounds rather than heal them. However, she had a healing potion, which she administered to him until he choked and woke up, coughing.

"That's better," she told him. "You need to put a stopper on your spell."

"What?" He looked at her sword and decided to listen.

"You've got an infinite recursion going. Now fix it up before I get really cross." She tugged at his shoulder, forcing him to his feet. "At this rate, the whole world is going to wind up in that flower."

"No, just the red."

She looked at him scornfully. He looked around.

"Oh," he said.

So he cast his stopper spell,Rhiannon's sword at his throat so that he dare not try any tricks, and at last the colours came seeping back into the world.

"That's better," Rhiannon remarked to no one in particular, and watched the red returning on a tide of dawn.

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