Eighth Circle (Chapter 8, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 8

The dome over the banqueting hall imitated the night sky. For a moment, Tom thought the girls had taken him outside. Apart from the balmy climate everything felt real. The familiar constellations were there and a full moon was shining brightly over the entire scene.

He had seen the moon earlier. It was higher now and that was to be expected with the passage of time. The scene above his head appeared to be an accurate representation of the heavens, as they now were, without the cloud and mist that was present outside.

The show of technology was impressive. The girls had told him to expect something stunning and he wasn't disappointed. They said every night was party night at the palace and tonight's party was very special. That was because of the full moon. People looked forward to full moon parties and great care was taken to get everything right.

They filled a goblet with a sweet-tasting liquid from the mouth of a marble dragon. Tom savoured the aromatic flavours and looked around. It was like being in space. The ground seemed to stretch away to the edge of the universe. Flute music played and strange objects floated around.

A silver disk appeared and grew bigger. The girls said it was the high table where the guardians ate. Tom watched it move in and saw that it was more like a spoked wheel than the round table he had imagined.

Walkways radiated out from a central hub and the table ran around the rim. It was a round table with a hole in the middle. He was reminded of King Arthur and his knights and wondered how he would fit into the night's proceedings. He was dressed as a Kougal Knight. Perhaps he was destined to dine with the guardians. It would be a fitting honour for a distinguished person, like himself, who had made the difficult passage between realms.

He adjusted the clasp on his yellow cloak and watched as the table hovered silently above his head. Other tables were laid out around him at floor level. They were round and designed for small groups. The scene was entrancing.

It was the sort of thing he had imagined in his dreams. Tropical plants poked up amongst smooth boulders. Pearly white pebbles formed pathways that vanished into space. Flowering vines hung down with no visible means of support.

He He saw a troop of moneys scampering amongst the vines. They wore peaked caps and were chasing moths. He moved closer and saw that the moths were more like fairies than insects. It was, no doubt, a clever illusion produced by combining light beams from different directions. He was peering around, looking for the necessary apparatus, when one of the fairies collided with a flower and knocked the petals off. Another sat on a twig and bent it.

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