Now Perian saw the night-dark tangle of a thorn bush on the mountain-side, and himself, aged fourteen, kneeling rapt before it, gazing into its darkness at the flower that shone there. He leaned against a tree, trembling.

The picture, shimmering, changed to show him an icy mountain waste, through which his younger self staggered in an agony of effort, and he saw again where the crystal spring leapt joyous in the wasteland and felt the ecstasy of that triumph. He watched his own return to the place of the flower, where the wizard waited to greet him.

Faster and faster the images rolled by him, darkness in the desert and his wife’s face laughing on their wedding day; the return of Prince Athellon with the dragon’s head. Perian cried out,

“Stop, oh please, stop, leave me alone!” Obediently the mirror clouded over, dissolving back into a tumbling mist among the trees, before vanishing completely from Perian’s sight. Mela let out a glad snort of relief; and Perian, looking up, found himself kneeling at the feet of the wizard.


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