On the third day, Sylvia met the other woman.
She was standing outside of Sylvia’s door when Sylvia woke up.
“Attack me,” she said.
“What? No!” Sylvia exclaimed.
“Then I will attack you.”
The woman didn’t lay a hand on her, but Sylvia doubled over in pain. It was like a thousand sharp needles were pricking at her body, sending waves of agony through her mind.
When the pain subsided, the woman looked at her approvingly. “You rode the pain out. I am impressed. You didn’t even try to fight back.”
Sylvia felt stunned. This woman had appeared out of nowhere and attacked her! Who was she?
“Now,” said the woman, “I will teach you how to fight. I am going to conjure an illusion. You will dispel the illusion. I will not give you instructions. Go.”
Suddenly, Sylvia’s vision blurred. When her eyes cleared, Aylin was standing there and the woman was gone.
“Aylin!” Sylvia exclaimed. “Where were you? Did you chase that woman off? She attacked me? Why did she attack me?”
“She’s devious,” Aylin responded. “Trust nothing, especially not yourself.”
Sylvia shook her head and rubbed her face. A sort of feeling was squirming behind her eyes– a bizarre sensation, like something was wrong with her head… She tried to block out the feeling, to no avail. Focusing, she tried to find the source of the sensation, only to discover that it wasn’t coming from inside at all, but from Aylin herself.
“Aylin? Is something wrong?”
“It’s possible. Stay on your guard.”
Sylvia closed her eyes and concentrated. Go away! she thought. Get out of my head! The feeling of wrongness only intensified. Angrily, she reached for the wellspring of power deep inside, thrusting her inner pool of darkness forward.
“Very well done!” said the woman. “Sloppy, but effective.”
Sylvia opened her eyes to find the woman standing there again and Aylin gone.
“You tricked me!”
“That was the point of the exercise– to see if you could find that out on your own. You did. You have the power to fend off most ordinary assailants as it is, but your technique was unrefined. Focus.”
Sylvia focused. She dug down into the core of her body and reached again for that power, rising into the air.
“Now pull it in. Use only the bare minimum of power to keep yourself there. A single thread, nothing more.”
Sylvia looked at the flow of power through her body, and saw it coursing through her like a river. Pull back, she told it. Slowly, she did, resisting the urge to let it burst free, until there was only a trickle of darkness in her veins.
“Better,” said the woman. “Much better.”
As she began to walk away, Sylvia called out to her.
“Who are you?”
“Ingram,” said the woman.
Then she was gone.