“It’s…amazing,” Alessandra breathed.
“Isn’t it though?” Shalor said with a contented sigh. “I’ve lived here most of my life, plus I have the memories of several dozen lifetimes spent here, and I still have to catch my breath when I come out of my quarters. Surely there is no more beautiful building in all the world than the Avaroth.” He stood with Alessandra for a few minutes, just gazing at the majestic beauty in front of them, and then he turned to her and said, “Unfortunately, we have work that must be done, and we cannot spend all of our time admiring the aesthetics of our surroundings. Come, I will show you to your quarters.”
The two of them walked together along the walkway, until they came to an area with several tubes that extended from the floor of the building all the way to the top. As Alessandra watched, people entered the tubes, and as soon as they did so, they were whisked away toward a different floor of the building.
“These are called ivinal,” Shalor said, noticing Alessandra’s wide-eyed gaze. “They are used for easily transporting people from one floor of the Avaroth to another.”
“How do they work?” Alessandra asked in wonder.
“Magic,” Shalor said with a twinkle in his eyes. He gestured to an open inival, and Alessandra stared into it. There was no floor inside the tube. If she didn’t know better, she would assume that if she stepped into it, she would plummet straight the ground, which was a long way to fall, considering they were about halfway up the building. Even though she did know better, she still hesitated to enter.
“I assure you, it’s perfectly safe,” Shalor said with a smile. “Watch.” As he said this, he stepped into the tube, and hung there, suspended in mid-air. “Your turn.” Alessandra’s eyes widened even more, and she slowly, carefully, extended one foot into the tube and put her weight on it. It felt firm, like she was standing on solid ground. Even more carefully and slowly, she transferred all of her weight to that leg and removed her other foot from the floor. Contrary to everything her mind was telling her would happen, she did not fall. Very slowly, she let out a breath that she hadn’t known she was holding.
“See? I told you so,” Shalor said brightly. “Level 37.” And just like that, it was as if the floor gave way and the two of them began plummeting to the ground below.
Before Alessandra had time to scream about her impending death, their descent slowed, and then stopped, and Shalor stepped out of the tube. Alessandra blinked, and then, much more quickly than she’d gone in, stepped out of the tube as well.
“You might have given me a little warning,” she said with a scowl.
“Sorry,” Shalor laughed. “I forget how unsettling inival are to those who’ve never used them.” He laughed even harder at the look on Alessandra’s face, and then gestured for her to follow him. “Your quarters are this way. Come on.”
They walked along the circular inner ring of the Avaroth, as Alessandra openly gaped at the wonders surrounding her. Most of the people were dressed in the black-and-gold uniform of the Order of Sunaru, just as Shalor was, but there were a few people wearing flowing, voluminous purple and black robes, and one woman wearing robes that just as flowy, but were white trimmed with turquoise. This woman was also wearing an elaborate headdress that was gold and silver.
The people weren’t the only things traversing the walkway. Alessandra saw several mechanical creatures as she walked along as well. Several of them looked like dogs or other four-legged animals, but there was one that walked along on two legs like a human. Most of them were flying, however, and were small enough that she could have held them in one hand, if she could have caught one. They, of course, weren’t restricted to the walkway, but flew back and forth over the large open space in the center of the building as well.
“Those are vialis,” Shalor said. “We use them for delivering messages and other errands.”
“Incredible,” Alessandra breathed.
“It’s so fascinating, seeing all this through your eyes,” Shalor said, smiling at Alessandra. “I remember when these things were new to me, of course, but that was a long time ago. It’s refreshing to see this place as if it were brand new again. Reminds me how marvelous it really is.”
“I don’t know how you could ever get used to this,” Alessandra said in awe.
“Anything can become dull through familiarity,” Shalor replied. “Give it a few hundred years or so, and you’ll start to understand what I mean. Or rather,” he chuckled, “one of your successors will.” They walked a little bit further, and then Shalor stopped and said, “Ah, here we are.”
The silvery door that they had stopped in front of slid open automatically, and inside were Alessandra’s quarters. At least, that’s what Shalor called them. They looked more like a palace to Alessandra. Even the Master’s quarters in the Mekoval clanhouse, which Alessandra had not gotten used to yet, were not even a thousandth as luxurious as the rooms which Shalor was showing Alessandra. For one, her quarters as Clan Master comprised two rooms, a bedroom and an office, while her quarters here in the Avaroth consisted of four rooms, one of which was her own private bathroom! Never in her life had Alessandra had her own bathroom, nor had she ever met someone who had their own bathroom.
She also had her own sitting room, which was equipped with her very own moskore, which Shalor informed her was equipped with all sorts of entertainment options. Having broken into numerous middle- and upper-class homes, she was of course familiar with moskore, but she had never actually used one before. Somewhat sheepishly, she informed Shalor of that fact.
To be continued…