Mal could feel the floor under his feet as he stumbled forward in the darkness. Even his keen elven eyes revealed nothing of his surroundings. He knew not where he was, nor even when he was, but he was used to such things. He continued on through the blackness, raising his arms out before him to feel his way. It was then that he realized that it was not dark – there was simply nothing to see.
He stood in a void of blackness. There was ground beneath his feet, or something solid anyway; he could feel it. Yet the landscape about him was nothingness. He continued forward searching for something, anything, in the void. Slowly in the distance came a shape – a speck, really – almost like a flickering star. He hastened his way toward it. As he neared it took shape; it was circular, or more egg-shaped, really. As it came more clearly into view, Mal paused. It was like a window floating in the blackness.
As he stepped closer he could see through it; on the other side was a small room with a wardrobe and a bed. Seated in front of the window was a young woman gently brushing her hair. She hummed to herself and made no reaction as Mal stepped up and greeted her. It was not a window, Mal thought to himself, but a mirror. The girl sat before a mirror with him behind it. Or was he within it? Mal raised his hand and touched the back side of the mirror. It was solid and cool, just as a glass should feel. He knocked, but the girl seemed not to hear or react.
Mal took a step back and looked around him at the emptiness. In the distance he saw another spot. He headed toward it at a casual pace. It was another mirror, this one hung in a great hall. He could tell from the tapestries that it was a human dwelling, but could not make out the region. He moved on for what seemed like hours and found countless other mirrors showing many scenes of various regions and worlds.
Mal was frustrated and exhausted. This place seemed unending. He finally plopped down on the ground next to the nearest mirror and sighed.
“What troubles you, dear?” a familiar voice whispered to him.
Mal’s eyes shot up toward the voice and the mirror from which it drifted. There he saw her standing on the other side. Her ivory hair gently flowing in the breeze and the sunlight gleaming off her perfect skin, the Lady of Mirrors looked back at him. Mal wanted to speak but did not know what to say; he had countless questions, but lacked the will to ask any of them. She stepped forward and the mirror shimmered as she passed through. Her white gown billowed about her as she glided into the blackness. She spoke softly, though she did not turn her gaze upon him – she simply looked off into the darkness, as if studying something Mal could not see.
“This is the Place Between Mirrors,” she began. “It seems a bit drab at first, but it really is wonderful. You seem to enjoy it when you come here.”
Mal could never remember being in this alien place before, though lack of memory was nothing new to him. Often he would find himself here or there, or wherever, with no clue as to how or when he had arrived. Generally he just went with his gut, and things slowly started to make a bit of sense.
“Well, as much as I love our conversation, I do not have much time now.” She began again. “I must be going soon. It is almost time.”
“Time for what?” Mal muttered, not even realizing he was speaking out loud.
“Nothing for you to concern yourself with. I only wish your assistance with a small task,” she said as she extended her hand, a beautiful white ribbon of the finest cloth hanging from it. It swayed slowly as if in a gentle breeze, though there was none in this strange place. Mal reach out and took the ribbon from her. She turned slowly; reaching back over her shoulders, she began to gather her hair, combing it slightly with her finger as she pulled it together. She paused and held it. Mal watched her, fixated by her every movement, how each delicate finger moved through her perfect hair.
“Mal, dear,” she said, rousing him from his daze.
Mal reached forward and tied the ribbon around her hair, just above her hands. He had never done this before, and he tried his best to produce a pretty bow. He was not successful. One loop was twice the size of the other, and the knot was nowhere near tight enough. It even slid down a bit as he pulled his hands away. Still, for all its awkwardness, the ribbon could not flaw her perfect image. Mal stepped back, frowning slightly, fearing her disapproval. She turned. Her dark eyes looked into his and she smiled. She had never done that before, at least, not that he could remember.
“Thank you,” she said softly. She looked at him for a moment, then leaned forward and whispered into his ear. She slowly tilted her head and placed a kiss upon his cheek. Mal stood rigid, his mind raced, confusion clashing with perfect clarity. She withdrew and looked him in the eye once more. A single tear traced its way down her cheek, and she smiled again.
- – - – -
Mal’s eyes shot open; his cloak, which he had been using as a blanket, fell away from him. He could hear that Talan, Sheen and the others were already up and breaking camp. He had actually been sleeping, thought the oddness of such an event eluded him in that moment – the images of the dream were still vivid in his mind, pushing other concerns aside. Most vivid was the image of her. Her last words echoed just at the edge of his mind. He struggled to hold on to them, to hear them again, to recall what she had whispered. He raised his hand to his head and saw it held a pure white ribbon, beautiful and soft. The Lady of Mirror’s last words echoed clearly in his mind as he felt the soft fabric.
“Wake up, my child.”