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Anastasia looked out across the ruins, as she neared the point where the woman had disappeared. There were gray stone pillars and bricks scattered about a gravelly landscape, leading up to a rocky shore. The skies were filled with dark clouds, as though a storm was approaching. There was no way there were people here, but then again, a woman had just disappeared before her eyes.
She took held Paul’s hand in hers and led him out onto the uneven terrain. She took a few more steps further, with the earth crunching beneath her feet. She was almost where the woman stood when she vanished. She took a deep breath, before her and Paul simultaneously crossed the threshold.
Suddenly, she found herself in a completely different, yet still similar place. The skies were bright and sunny, and all of the buildings stood tall. There was green everywhere, and people went about wearing colorful clothing, doing their business. In front of them stood the woman who had vanished only moments ago.
“Welcome to the Hodegon monastery. I am Adara.” She spoke in perfect English. “No, I did not deceive you, I do only speak Arabic. Here, everyone hears people speak in their native tongue.”
“Wow… This is beautiful!” Anastasia stammered.
“Truly magnificent.” Paul added.
“How is this place hidden?” Anastasia asked. After a moment had passed to process what Paul had said, she gave him a light elbow in the ribs.
“The short answer is ‘magic’” She arced her hand slowly as she spoke, and a faint trail of sparkles appeared. “Now, come along. We have a meal ready for you. Then we can discuss why you’ve come to us.”
Anastasia nodded in amazement, and followed Adara through the monastery, with Paul in tow. She attempted to relay some of the things she saw to him as they walked. They walked along a stone path until they reached the largest building in the monastery. It looked almost Greek, with grand columns, but it had a domed roof. Inside was a large dining hall, with a long table. Five places were set at one end. Adara took her place at the head of the table, Paul and Anastasia sat on one side, and two monks who had not spoken yet sat on the other. Once they had all sat down, a few more monks came out with a tray of food, which they placed in the middle of the five. On it was a selection of fish, all with herbs and spices and miscellaneous vegetables.
They all ate in relative silence, until they’d had their fill.
Adara spoke up. “Now, I wish to ask why you have sought out our monastery.”
“When the green light hit, I lost my vision, and gained powers that gave me visions of the future. I came across legends of an ancient monastery which the blind would seek out to be healed, and I subsequently had visions of you. I knew I had to come.” Paul bowed his head. “Now, I humbly request your help.”
Adara nodded thoughtfully, then turned to Anastasia. “And you?”
Anastasia was startled for a moment, after being addressed. “Oh, I don’t need anything. I came to help Paul find you.”
“You don’t need anything, do you?” Adara asked. “There is nothing that you desire to improve in yourself?”
“I-I don’t know…” She stammered.
“Perhaps we could help you find what it is you want.”
Anastasia looked down in silence for a few seconds. “I suppose trying couldn’t hurt… Since Paul has to be here anyways.”
“Excellent.” Adara stood to her feet. “We will begin at dawn. You will each receive individual attention, and will do so separately. I believe we can help you find what you’re looking for.”
“Thank you so much.” Paul smiled.
“Yes, thank you.” Anastasia stood to her feet and helped Paul get up.
“Now, I have things I must attend to.” She turned to the monks that had sat down with them. “Coombre, show them to their quarters. Siobhan, fetch their things from the hotel.”
Siobhan, a tall pale woman with red hair, stood to her feet. She chanted a few words in a language Anastasia didn’t recognize, and vanished.
Adara rolled her eyes. “Coombre, when she gets back, remind her that she doesn’t need to blink everywhere she goes.”
Coombre, a short dark skinned man, nodded, and turned to Paul and Anastasia. “Please, follow me. Siobhan will have your things here shortly.”
Anastasia nodded, and took Paul’s hand. Coombre led them out of the dining hall, and along a cobbled path to a large stone building. The building had many irregular rooms jutting off of it, but in the center had two large wooden doors. He pulled the doors open, and gestured inside. Anastasia took a few steps in, and saw what must have been fifty rooms. Some were even on top of other rooms, with wooden stairs constructed, leading up to them. Corridors went off in every direction, and people milled about.
Anastasia looked around in awe. “This is… Not like anything I’ve ever seen!”
Coombre laughed. “That is what everyone says their first time in.” He led them into a corridor, and gestured to two doors, side by side. “This is where you will stay. You each get a room.”
Anastasia’s heart sank a little, noticing that she and Paul would be in different rooms, unlike in the hotel.
Coombre glanced, knowingly, in her direction, and laughed again. He patted her back, as he began to walk away. “Make yourself at home! Siobhan will be back soon!”
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