The mind cloud ascended the stairs, approaching another door near the top. Light peeked out a little through the cracks, far too dim to be direct sunlight. As Maelys had practiced, he unconsciously formed a structure of what might be on the other side. This technique had to be based in reality, and it wouldn’t work otherwise, even if a few details were wrong.
The cloud passed through the door again, and this time was met with a wider chamber lit by metal lanterns mounted on the wall. Throughout the room were about a dozen wooden tables, placed atop well-worn cobblestone. There were multiple doors on each side of the room, and the only defining feature of any of them was that the floor beneath the one he had entered from was slightly lowered from the rest of the ground; one had to step down to the door for the dungeons. Most of the walls were decorated with banners and weapons, portraits and crests. Near a few of the doors were also racks of standard issue blades. It seemed that this room was a gathering hall of some kind, too, because far off on the opposite side was a raised, concrete platform.
The room wasn’t empty, either. There were several soldiers, most wearing the uniform of the Upper Terrace guard, but a few wore civilian clothes. He also recognized the group of guards that had come to pay him and Varra a visit a few hours ago. They were chatting back and forth, but of course, Maelys’ mind projection was completely silent. What’s more, Rozire had explained that seeing people was an unreliable source of information. Apparently, they were nearly impossible to predict, so any words being said were useless. You couldn’t accurately predict a conversation you weren’t a part of, after all. The best intel the mind projection could give you was the general number of people within the vicinity, but beyond that there was no way to really know. Instead, he focused on more identifiable details as he floated. In, then out. In, then out.
He milled about the room, trying to discern which door might lead outside. The cobblestone was worn everywhere, impossible to tell which parts had the most foot traffic. The weapon racks were definitely positioned closer to specific doors than others, but was that because it was outside the living quarters or because it was the door to outside?
The mind projection technique was useful, but its imaginary world was based on logic. It built itself based on the guesses and knowledge of the user, so when that failed, its usefulness wavered. Beyond that, the mind cloud had a range limit. The further one strayed from the origin, the more difficult it was to make concrete predictions, though Rozire had never explained why that might be.
Maelys was just about to guess and pass through one of the clouds when something caught his attention. He sent his cloud out to it, and identified it as a litter. It seemed to have… char marks on the wood?
And then he remembered the Meadows. Drinking the Red Teeth and falling unconscious. Being found by the Maker himself. Aenias, carrying him on his back… only, it couldn’t have been Aenias, right? Maelys wasn’t dead. He remembered being surrounded by stone, and words being shouted, and he was holding Rozire’s staff.
And it had been aflame. Men were drawing weapons.
He had been lying on that litter when it had happened. Had he really used magic? That sounded insane.
He opened his eyes as his concentration was broken. He found himself in the position he had remembered being in in that whimsical memory, sitting upright with arms outstretched as he held the staff forward defensively. He carried no staff now, of course, and the memory faded like he had woken up from a terrible nightmare, breathing hard. In, then out. In, then out.