The pastel sunrise disolved as quickly as the feathery fog haunting the valley. The persisting traces of cold remaining from the night before were slowly spread by the heat. Dewdrops still hung on the leaves and grass, intensifying the sensation of humidity in the air.
It was such a morning when Morgan had first started her journey... only much, much longer ago. How long ago? Enough for it not to matter. She no longer kept track of the mud still clung to her boots, its many layers originating from many dust roads. Morgan had gained something of a clearer perspective from dealing with so many different places and people. It was more of a double-fold image: one dealing with the outside illusions, one with seeing under the illusions. It amused her, to some extent. She had her fair share of illusions.
As a sudden revelation, she realised what had made necessary these illusions and where her many masks had originated from.
As a child, her expanding curiosity had pushed her to climbing in the attic of her house. She was quite small, altough she couldn't remember her exact age. Nonetheless, it was in a period during which the attic was an interesting, but frightening place.Up until then, she had only climbed with her parents, to dig out some antique item, carefully picked from the various rubbish strewn from one wall to another, leaving only a small path through the middle of it. So, if one needed to reach an item behind a heap, one needed to move everything on the small clearing, undig the item, then put everything right back where it had been. The attic hadn't been cleared once in Morgan's childhood. Whenever an item became useless or broken, it was transferred to the attic, in hopes of one day being recuperated.
It was in the middle of a frantic search for her grandmother's old wedding dress, carefully hidden in a voluminous trunk, that Morgan had first climbed in the attic. The place inspired some sort of awe, with its many relics of the past. Her curiosity had been triggered that day. But the stay was short, in Morgan's opinion, and mother, having found the dress, took Morgan and locked the attic again, going back to planning her sister's wedding.
After that, whenever somebody would mention the attic, Morgan would drop anything she was doing and eagerly go with the person in question. "Morgan, wanna come to the attic?". That had been, for quite a while, a source of happiness for the small girl.
The attic was usually very warm and dusty, but never had cobwebs (Morgan's mother had horror of spiders). That was probably why in one year, the house cat had hidden her kittens there, in a battered old basket in which somebody had placed a raggy blanket. Morgan was ecstatic, and began to oftenly ask to "go see the kittens". Then, somebody would laugh and go unlock the door to the attic (which was unreasonably kept locked) and let her see the adorable kittens.
Once, during one of such sessions, somebody had mistakenly locked the door. Morgan had been startled and started howling for her mother. Eventually, after what was a long time in her opinion (but couldn't be more than a few minutes), her father had come along and unlocked the door, letting her come down.
Those few minutes of fright had left a deep mark in young Morgan's memory. She no longer wanted to see the kittens, until they started coming down from the attic (they didn't use the door, which meant they might have found another breach). That was quite a serious reaction, even though nobody dared lock the attic door again.
Several years later, Morgan had decided to ignore the drumming fear in her chest each time she passed the attic door and climb up there, even for one last time. She was much older, going through that period where every child wishes they were adult. Perhaps this bold move was something she had forced upon herself to mature faster. Nonetheless, it was a scorching summer day and she had nothing better to do.
When she had entered the vast room, she realised it was much more welcoming than her mind had made look.
Through the walls, where the wooden planks weren't close enough, thin rays of light penetrated, emphasised by the dust Morgan had aroused. The small window at the other end didn't let so much light through, due to the layer of dust.
The warmth and fragmented light, surrounding the treasures of Morgan's family past, gave the attic something of a cozy feeling, like a shrine one visited daily, where benevolent forces held their sway. She walked the length of the attic, realising it was just as long as the house. At the exact same end, where the only obvious window was located, right under it, was a desk. It had a broken leg and only a wooden chest was keeping it straight. A matching chair had been placed behind the desk. Of course; her mother's obsession for matching furniture.
She sneezed twice rapidly. The dust was three palms thick. The soothing warmth had become stuffiness. Deciding to come back when it was slightly cooler, Morgan left.
It was months before she reminded herself of the attic. While going there, she was strangely careful not to be seen. She decided it would be her special place-- somewhere only she went when she wanted to be alone.
Even when she departed, she stood close to the door, trying to hear the slightest resemblance of a noise. When the coast was clear, she shot down the stairs and dusted herself rapidly.
Nobody knew where she would disappear for extensive periods of time. Even if the key to the attic had mysteriously disappeared in the meanwhile (Morgan had hidden it, so nobody felt tempted to lock her in-- again...), nobody connected the dots. Morgan had developed an impressively light step. She had developed this talent to such extent, that she used it reflexively, without even thinking. Often she snuck up on people without even intending to do so.
Most of the time Morgan spent in the attic, she dusted and cleaned cobwebs, climbing the beams and rummaging quietly through the junk in the attic. "Where do you keep disappearing to, Morgan?" "Nowhere special..."
But it was somewhere, and it was special, at least to her. She had found many wonders in the "comfort room", as she called it in her mind. The most valuable item had been found in her early teens, when she bothered dragging the chest from under the leg of the desk without worrying about anyone hearing her-- she was alone in the house. When she openned it, the first thing that had attracted her attention had been a perfectly round crystal sphere. It was half-concealed in some sort of blue textile, but Morgan thought right away: flawless!
She picked it up in a daze. It wasn't cold, though in this time of day, the whole attic was freezing. Morgan could swear it wasn't just warm, it was vibrating.
She sat lower on her knees and gazed deeply in the ball that fit in both her hands put together. She considered some of the old myths about crystal balls. She had a sharp intake of breath as she felt wild tendrils of energy erupt from the globe-- she couldn't see them, but she could feel them. Slowly, each sepparate strand swiped right into her, connecting with every fiber of her body. An animalic instinct told her to drop the crystal ball, an ancestral fear deeply anchored in every human's psyche.
But it didn't allow her that small motion of straightening her fingers and letting it drop.
'Just let it go, just let it go...' Morgan's mind kept repeating, but she couldn't! It wouldn't let her!
Her panic hit new levels that moment, but it suddenly fell in a second plane of concience, as her perception was suddenly aimed inside and outside in the same time. She felt her body hum with new comprehension. Her mind was erratic-- like a badly tuned piano. Strangely, she felt these impressions slowly seep into her, rather than from her.
The sensations she went through those next moments were later coated with cold stupor. She noticed she could think differently now. Not better, just differently. As if part of her mind registered everything it captured before letting the other part emmit an emotional reaction.
She gazed at the crystal ball again. Years of being isolated had made it gather up amazing amounts of magic. All this magic was released when she touched it. She assumed, had the globe never been touched, it would have exploded from too much accumulation.
Now she could let it go, she thought sourly. But she didn't want to. She felt a strange electrical connection, hard to define in words. With a slight effort, she could make out fleeting images which she strangely recognized, like in a dream she couldn't remember.
The patchy dream slowly started gaining in consistence. Now she could focus everything in perspective. It was like soaring over landscapes, but the crystal globe had gave her a vague image and an explanation slowly crept at the edges of her perception. One of the former owners of the magical artefact: a large black draconic creature, one of the dragons banished underground, wingless, to suffer for its sins. He had found the small crystal globe and conforted himself with its visions.
Having reached a near-manic phase because of his obsession with the orb, a skilled mage had managed to rip it from his black decaying claws. The mage had long been lost in Morgan's bloodlines, but a steady stream of magical talent had been passed to Morgan. The person who had placed it in the attic probably lacked the magical skill to realise the item's value.
Morgan allowed herself a stiff smile at the avalanche of the memories. It surprised the innkeeper, which had been talking to her the whole time, but he returned the smile-- people like her were easily insulted. By "people like her", he thought of dangerous wanderers, mostly criminals. He had nothing against these kind of people, of course, they were good for bussiness, especially since some payed on the sides for his silence. He only returned the smile because he knew that, if she was dangerous, the slightest insult would be enough for a few broken bones.
He looked around the inn's court uneasily. The stranger hadn't said a thing that day and the lack of human presence made him more than uneasy-- downright afraid.
Morgan read the chubby man right away. He was afraid of her, by the way he gazed around and switched from one leg to another. She reached into her bag and placed two shiny gold coins in his hand. He flinched at the contact as if she was poisonous.
As she walked away from the inn, she could hear the innkeeper's wife question outloud what a nice girl like her was doing, wandering the roads
The statement made Morgan smile. She was living. With the crystal globe in her bag, she was living everything it showed her. She wouldn't fall in the same disgrace as the petty remnant of a dragon that had first looked into the ball. She would live her life and then, when the time comes, perhaps dispose of the bothersome objects. Give it to someone else? No.
She'd put it in the attic of her house, so one day her descendants would find it and keep themselves amused.