Silence hung over the Castle of Saelethiel. The guardians sat quietly. Yet, like on an unheard command, the brethren stood and then changed seats. The threads of the web changed their position, subtly yet fast. The brethren sat down again. They sat in deep meditation. Silence hung over the Castle of Saelethiel. Yet the energy field and the outside reality had changed.
Magath was the first to notice it when he rose in the morning. Dawn was just breaking and the sun had not yet risen. Magath stood and wiped his eyes tiredly. And then his heart jumped.
"Master Neldor," he called out in confusion.
The wizard, still half-asleep, opened his eyes. He rose to his feet slowly. Qildor had also awoken. He jumped to his feet at Magath’s cry.
"Master Neldor," Magath called out again. His voice showed utter fear.
Neldor and Qildor joined the man and looked in the direction Magath was pointing.
"What?" Neldor asked.
Qildor looked in the direction warily.
"Don’t you see it?" Magath called out.
"What?" Neldor asked again in confusion.
"That boulder over there. It wasn’t there yesterday. Where does it come from? Who put it there?" Magath asked.
The wizard gazed at the huge boulder that lay across the path. Qildor gazed at it in disbelief and then hurried to the stone. Neldor and Magath followed him slowly.
"Goodness," Qildor said while walking around the boulder. "It must have rolled down from the mountain at night."
"I beg you, Qildor," Magath exclaimed. "We would have heard a stone rolling down from the mountains."
Neldor stood and looked at the boulder. He looked up at the mountain and back at the stone. The wizard rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"It must have rolled down from," Qildor insisted. "Where else could it have come from?"
"Stop," Neldor said in an urgent voice.
Qildor and Magath turned to him. Neldor gave them a meaningful look.
"Do you have an idea, Master Neldor?" Qildor asked.
"I do hope I am mistaken. But I fear I am not. I fear the surroundings have changed at night. This boulder is proof," the wizard said.
"What do you mean?" Magath asked anxiously.
"I suspect the energy field changed at night. The energy radiating from the castle materializes this world. The energy changed and with it the surroundings," Neldor said.
Magath and Qildor looked at Neldor for a moment in utter confusion.
"Why did it change?" Qildor asked finally. His voice sounded worried. He rejected the idea. But the truth already dawned on him.
"In order to confuse us and lead us astray," Neldor said mysteriously.
"You mean the brethren put the boulder there?" Magath asked.
"Not deliberately," Neldor replied. "I suspect they randomly changed the energy threads. The boulder appeared here as a random result."
Qildor gazed at the huge boulder once more. Magath looked around nervously.
"The boulder would have killed us, if it had appeared out of nowhere in our camp at night," Qildor said in a shaken voice. "Will they do it again?"
"I fear they will," Neldor said soberly.
"This is their form of attack then," Qildor said in a dismal voice. "The brethren aren’t harmless at all."
"I told you they were powerful magicians. They all have sworn to guard the castle and the secrets it holds. And they will guard it, no matter what happens," Neldor said.
"They would kill us if necessary," Qildor concluded.
"They would not. It is against their codex. However, we could die, if we were led astray. But this would be our own fault only," Neldor said mysteriously.
He turned away and joined Magath who had walked up the path. Qildor looked after Neldor, pondering on the wizard’s words. Finally, he followed him and joined the two men.
"I found another discrepancy," Magath said.
He pointed at a bush. Neldor and Qildor looked at it.
"Rowan berries," Magath said. "You usually don’t find them in spring."
"I cannot say, though, if the bush appeared at night or if maybe it was already there yesterday," he said.
Neldor walked to the bush and picked a berry. He smelled at it.
"Rowan berries," he confirmed.
"Very good, Magath," he said, turning to the man. "You have an eye for this. That’s why I asked you to look out for unfamiliar things."
Magath’s cheeks blushed slightly. He gave a nod.
"You suspected that those things would happen?" Qildor asked the wizard.
"I thought it possible, yes," Neldor admitted. "However, I hoped these things would not occur so soon. I thought that if maybe we find the man and drive him out of the mountains, we could avoid facing this kind of magic. But I was mistaken."
"That’s why you can’t materialize things," Magath mused. "They don’t allow you to fix the flaws."
Neldor gave a laugh.
"Exactly, Magath," he said. "Good reasoning."
The wizard felt pleased.
"How can you be so cheerful at the chaos we are bound to face?" Magath asked. "Just imagine the brethren change the energy threads each night. We soon won’t be able to find our way around."
"Yes," Neldor said. "They are building up kind of a labyrinth. A very interesting magical technique. I feel almost magically drawn to it. I would like to learn more about it."
Neldor’s eyes sparkled. This kind of magic truly fascinated him. It was complex, not a simple magical technique like starting a fire with a snap. The wizard’s investigating mind was drawn to complex mysteries and riddles.
Magath’s eyes narrowed at Neldor’s words. He measured the wizard and studied him closely.
"Master Neldor," he said.
Neldor looked at him. "What?" the wizard asked in confusion.
"Master Neldor, I fear you’re losing your way," Magath said almost coldly.
Neldor was taken aback at Magath’s words. His first impulse was to scold the man. But then the wizard’s face turned pale.
"Thank you for reminding me," he said. "Indeed, we must face the facts. We must not get lost in dreams. We must concentrate and focus."
The three of them looked at the boulder gloomily. What was going on here? What had the brethren in mind?
Ogol stood and looked down the path, wondering where the wizard was and what he had in mind. Finally, Ogol turned around and went back to the place where he had spent the night. He stopped short and gazed at the place in confusion. Green grass covered the place in front of the rock. Ogol was sure that the previous day the ground had been covered only with dust. He moved closer, crouched and touched the grass. He picked a stalk and smelled at it. Ogol rose to his feet and turned around slowly. He looked at the surroundings closely. The truth dawned on him. The crescent of the moon came to his mind. Ogol now knew what had disturbed him. The moon had not changed for a couple of days.
"Goodness," Ogol said in shock. "They materialized the surroundings. And they constantly change it. This world is not real. The brethren have formed it."
Ogol’s heart beat faster. He realized that he had run into a trap. He kicked a stone aside and then frowned at the mountains.
"What a cheap trick! What a miserable attempt to confuse me and lead me astray," he hissed.
He breathed heavily, yet then calmed again. He was thinking hard while he gazed at the mountains.
"Neldor is having the same problems, after all," he said to himself finally. "I witnessed his attempt to materialize things. He can’t do it. He has no advantage over me."
Ogol kicked another stone aside. He frowned and looked around grimly.
"I must not wait any longer. I’d only waste time," he said. "I must find a way to act to my advantage as long as this artificial world is still stable and as long as the old man has not found me."
Like Neldor, Ogol had come to the correct conclusions. The brethren had materialized the surroundings and they were able to change it. They had changed it at night and probably would change it again very soon. They would continue changing it until Ogol had entirely lost his orientation.
"I can’t get out of here. I can only lose my way. So what is it you want? Do you want me go insane?" Ogol hissed at the mountains.
A cold shiver ran down his spine. He looked grimly and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"This will not happen," he said in a clear and distinct voice, stressing every single word of the sentence.
Ogol narrowed his eyes and frowned at the mountains. Hatred and thirst for revenge filled his heart.