The Rogue Knight Page 72

“I’ve been waiting,” the man answered simply.

“You’re Trillian,” Cole realized.

The man gave a slight bow. “I have that honor. And you are Cole Randolph.”

Cole felt some relief that Trillian didn’t look like a giant spider. He was also glad that he seemed polite. “This doesn’t feel like a dream,” Cole said. “I feel awake. This room almost seems more real than the room I was in.”

“Perhaps it is more real,” Trillian said.

“But it’s a dream,” Cole replied.

“Must a dream be less real than the waking world?” Trillian asked.

“Dreams go away when you wake up,” Cole said, confident in his answer.

“Must something be permanent to be real?” Trillian asked. “You dwell in a temporary reality. Everything you know will end one day—your body, your possessions, the entire world where you were born will one day cease to exist as it presently does. Does that mean your life has not been real?”

“I guess it will all end someday,” Cole conceded. “But it lasts longer than a dream.”

“Does it?” Trillian asked. “Dreams sustain many through their entire lives. For some, dreams are their most personal and permanent possessions. The world I come from is much more like a dream than what you consider reality. My world existed long before your world, Cole, and it will endure long after your world crumbles. Mine is an eternal world, and I am an eternal being.”

“You’ve lived forever?” Cole asked incredulously.

“Time is irrelevant where I come from,” Trillian said. “I have always existed, which means I truly exist.”

“Are you saying I don’t exist?” Cole asked, ready to argue.

“On the contrary,” Trillian said. “Your current state will end, but part of you is eternal and will move on to other states of being after your body dies. That part of you exists as much as I do.”

“You mean I’ll go to heaven?” Cole asked.

“Those specifics are beyond my view,” Trillian answered. “But there is more to reality than you presently understand. There are circumstances when a conversation in a dream can leave a deeper impression than a conversation in the waking world. This is one such circumstance.”

Trillian waved a hand, and the walls and ceiling fell away. The room re-formed into a small ship. They sailed on calm, turquoise waters, a mountainous jungle coast in view on one side, distant islands barely visible on the other.

“See,” Cole said. “Dreams change too easily.”

“Do you not hear the water lapping against the bow?” Trillian asked. “Do you not feel the breeze on your face? Smell the salt in the air? Is your mind foggy? Is the experience dulled in any way?”

“It seems very real, and I feel awake,” Cole admitted. “The illusions enchanters make seem real too.”

“Who is to say they are not real?” Trillian asked.

“Me,” Cole replied, “when I walk through them.”

“I see,” Trillian said. “Things must be tangible to be real. Light is not real. Neither is knowledge. Neither is love.”

Cole gave an exasperated sigh. “You’re saying dreams and illusions are real?”

“Nothing matters more than what happens in our minds,” Trillian said. “Your experiences in what you consider your real life in the real world only exist in your mind and in the minds of others. The mind is everything. And dreams are the playground of the mind.”

“Your world is a dream?” Cole asked doubtfully.

“It’s the best comparison I can give you,” Trillian said. “When you want to change something in what you consider to be the real world, you must first think the matter through and make a decision, then you physically take action. When I want to make a change in my home world, I simply exert my will. The shaping here is like a dim shadow of what I could accomplish where I come from.”

“I heard you were a shaper,” Cole said.

Trillian waved his arm. The boat was gone. They stood in a warm, humid greenhouse with a roof and walls of glass. The air smelled of fresh leaves and blossoms. Beyond the windows stretched a snowy expanse of tundra.

“I am the shaper,” Trillian said. “Where I come from, shaping is a way of life, as intuitive and natural as breathing is to you.”

“Where is Jace?” Cole wondered.

“He’ll be along later,” Trillian said. “For now I would prefer to keep this between the two of us.”

“I’m a little surprised you speak English,” Cole said.

Trillian laughed. “You should not be surprised. Have you ever met somebody in the Outskirts who did not speak your language?”

“No,” Cole said. Some people had accents, but everyone he had met spoke English.

“In the Outskirts, we all hear our native languages,” Trillian said. “It takes great effort not to be understood here. I know why you came to me.”

“You do?” Cole asked.

“You hope to take Honor away from here,” Trillian said.

“Did Jace tell you?”

“You’re scrambling for the best arguments to use,” Trillian said. “Don’t bother, child. Assume I know everything that you know. I know about Morgassa and the threat that she poses. I know what Stafford did to his daughters. I know about the shapecrafters and Jenna and your family back home in Mesa.”

“How do you know all that?” Cole asked, feeling off-balance.

Trillian smiled. “This is a meeting of minds. Yours is open to me. It opened as soon as you entered my domain.”

“You can read my mind?” Cole asked.

“Effortlessly,” Trillian said. “Where I come from, there is no verbalization. Not like here. All communication is mind to mind. There are no secrets. No lies. Cole, I know details about you that you have long forgotten—places, events, people. Also things you have not recognized or refuse to admit. Please feel free to speak openly. You can hide nothing from me.”

Cole hated the thought of anyone poking around inside his mind. What embarrassing things had Trillian seen? All the selfish, cowardly thoughts. All his fears. Every daydream about Jenna. All on display.

“The brave thoughts, too,” Trillian said. “The fond memories. The good intentions. Not to mention the hidden power.”

“What can you see about my power?” Cole asked, genuinely curious. He had begun to doubt whether it was really there.

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