Almost immediately after the odd sound reached his ears the priest knew something had changed. "Eris?" he called out. When there was no response he began to worry. She should have still been sitting at the other end of the table, stuck with the same tome she had been for the past hour. "Eris?" he called out again.
The library was still with silence.
He rose up from his chair. Resting his hand atop the table, he followed it, allowing the smooth edge of the wood grain to guide him over to the other side.
"Mmm....Lord Rezo..." Her hand reached up to unconsciously wrap around his, eliciting a startled jolt from the priest.
He had to fight the urge to pull his hand away. It felt comforting to feel the touch of another, but at the same time he could hear another voice already telling him not to waste precious time with such distractions. Finding a release from this prison of darkness was his priority.
But perhaps, just for a night, he could push aside that priority.
He planted a soft kiss on her cheek and picked her up. The gentle sound of her breathing filled his ears as he carried Eris to her room. Asleep in his arms she seemed so calm and peaceful, almost like a newborn child. Several strands of dark hair fell over her face when her head lulled to the side, readjusting itself on the pillow that was his bicep.
They had been in the library together, working long into the night. She had heard of an ancient relic said to be capable of amplifying magic abilities. With it in his possession he could heal the wounded, cure any disease, or even give a man back his sight no matter how bleak such an attempt would have normally been. Working on that hunch, she had been studying on the local area the artifact was rumored to be in. It had been her wish to surprise him with a new possibility of curing his blindness on his birthday, which was now less than a week away.
A thoughtful gift it was, though he almost pitied having walked in on her in the middle of her research. At first she was startled by his sudden appearance, then embarrassed, afraid as if he would scold her for keeping such a secret from him, but when he showed his pleasure from her efforts it seemed to brighten her mood dramatically.
With renewed vigor they both continued the research until the long hours began to take their toll on Eris. One moment she was reading a book on geography. The next, her face was buried in it, literally. He decided it was time to call it a night by then, and not wanting to disturb her, he picked Eris up to return her to her quarters.
The door to her room was unlocked so he let himself in. He quickly crossed the room over to her bed. Tucking her in, he listened again to the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she fell into a deeper slumber.
He smiled, brushing his fingers alongside her cheek. For perhaps the first time in a long while he felt happy, and it wasn't because a new possibility for a cure had surfaced. This time he genuinely felt content, as if his desperate search for a cure no longer mattered.
That thought suddenly scared him more than anything he had ever known.
He jumped back out in the hallway as quickly as he could. His heart was racing the entire time. How could his cure not matter to him!? That would mean everything he had strived for his entire life would have been for nothing. His cure was everything to him...wasn't it?
After a few more minutes he finally began to calm down. It was then he noticed the padded approach of feet against the stone floor.
"Hello, Rune," he gave a yawn.
"Shouldn't you be asleep, Rezo?" the blue haired mage replied with his own yawn. "And stop that. By the way, how did you know it was me? There are over two hundred mages in the guild, not to mention another seventy-five who are a part of the regular staff."
"You are the only one who walks around in fuzzy teddy bear slippers this late at night," the priest smiled.
"The material they are made of makes a distinct sound when it brushes against the floorwork."
An eyebrow arched toward Rezo. "There are times when I honestly believe that as a blind man, you really should act more like a damned blind man!"
The priest had a good laugh at that.
"So what are you doing out?" the Blue Mage continued. "It's so late it's early."
"I was merely -- " he tried to put it so not to arouse any unnecessary gossip (who knew what unseen ears could have been listening) -- "escorting Eris to her room."
"I see. You two share a late night out on the town?"
Rezo shook his head at the accusation. "No, nothing like that. We were simply researching into another possible cure for my blindness."
The mage nodded. "Hm...that again. Well, how does your search fare?"
"Eris came upon a hunch. With a little more research perhaps we will be ready to leave in another week."
"Safe journeys then, my friend. I wish the best for you two, and goodnight. I do believe it's time for me to turn in."
"Rune," the priest called out as his friend brushed passed him, "may I ask you a question?"
"I see no reason why not," he yawned. "What is it?"
"How long have we been friends for?"
The mage's hand came up, brushing aside several long strands of blue hair as he pondered the question. "Well, let's see...if my memory serves me correct -- never has before and no reason it should start to now -- I would say roughly about a twenty years, give or take a decade. Why do you ask?"
"And for how much of that time have I been searching for a cure to my blindness?"
"Long since before we ever met. Is there a point to all these questions?"
"I was merely wondering about my life."
"Ah, questioning one's existence, I see. Don't worry. It happens to everyone at some point or another -- several times in certain cases." Rune shrugged. "You would probably do best to ignore me. I'm babbling on as if you didn't already know this. So what brought this on?"
"It was but a few moments ago...I thought..." He didn't know how to explain what he felt since he wasn't quite sure himself. "Do you think my quest for a cure is mad?"
"Please, speak truthfully."
Rune took a few moments to consider his answer. "Well, I would think it is only natural for a blind man to wish to be able to see, but with you it seems to have become more of an obsession. That's not necessarily a bad thing but..."
The mage scratched his head to stall for time to think. "I really hate to be the one to tell you this, Rezo, but you are getting to the point where you are allowing your lack of sight to blind you in other ways. Have you ever noticed the way Eris looks...acts around you? She seems to be quite taken with you."
"Are you suggesting I should forget about my cure?" Rezo growled.
"Don't put words in my mouth. Anything you do should be your decision, and yours alone. I'm just warning you to not allow your obsession to make your life miserable."
"I understand," he slumped back against the wall, suddenly feeling very tired. "Sometimes I begin to wonder why I search so hard. It is as if I am not in control of myself."
"Maybe you should take a vacation. Perhaps even spend some time with Eris. She is a beautiful woman."
The priest chuckled softly to himself. "Do you realize I truly do not understand what that word means? From the descriptions I have heard other people speak of I know it means something special, yet I cannot fathom what it is like to actually look upon something that is beautiful.
"For me, to look upon a maiden who is beautiful is the same as if I were to look up at the sky. I know the sky is blue, but I don't really know what the color blue is. Those descriptions are nothing more than meaningless words to me."
"I understand your dilemma." The mage had to think hard to make the blind man understand. Rezo didn't understand things the way other people did. He didn't see things. He felt them with his other sense. "Hm...maybe this will help. Do you know the feeling you get when you are standing out in the country? How the sun feels warm on your face and a cool breeze blows by? The smell of the grass and the flowers mixing together in the wind? That's what beautiful feels like...I think that's a good description."
A thin smile spread across the priest's lips. "Really? Is that so?"
"Is that how you feel around Eris?"
He nodded. "Very close to it."
"Good," Rune smiled. "I just taught a blind man to see. Now goodnight. I'm off to bed."
Rezo bid the mage a pleasant night as well and then made for his room. So Eris loved him. Did that mean he loved her as well? He couldn't be sure...he wouldn't be until he gained his sight back. Eris didn't deserve to be with a man who was blind. He had to get his sight! Yes, that's just what he would do! He would get his sight for Eris! To see that lovely face of hers...
While those thoughts jumbled around inside his head another voice deep within laughed. It would find freedom from this prison of darkness yet. This one would be the one to do it. He would find a way to break the seal, and when he did, the world would once again be enshrouded in darkness. All that was needed was a little time and an artifact called the Philosopher's Stone.