The world is vast. Around every point of light, beings swirl in numbers too dense to be counted, and the sky is as flush with stars and planets as freckles on the face of a child left to bake in a summer camp's sun till August. If the eye were to linger at one such point, not too different from any other, one would see a a human dressed in tidy (if shabby) robes sitting at a writing desk, writing meticulously in a current-red ink on paper still bearing the scars of the last attempt. He consults a book filled with annotations crowded tight between the lines and carefully adjusts his pen, rotating it so not a drop of ink falls out of place. It wouldn't do to have an imperfect contract, after all.
She frowns. "How about the lack of a mark? I think you might have options there."
"I'm not sure what that means, and honestly you're being very ominous right now."
"Don't worry so much. I'm here to help!" It hasn't blinked once this whole time.
"I think I'd rather go" slips out, despite his better judgement.
It nods thoughtfully as if that's a reasoned and complex but ultimately convincing argument. "See you soon."
The world dissolves in a shower of sticky darkness that seems to flow down the lines of the diagrams, moving faster and faster until they reach the final circle and seem to grind to a halt.
He wakes in a pile of tangled blankets, sheathed in sweat, disoriented and bleary and reaches for a glass on the sideboard and - how did he get here? The last thing he remembers is inking lines in a notebook. He's pretty sure he didn't make it to bed.
He didn't. But Saul's not just going to leave him shivering in a curled up heap on the floor.
"Feeling any better?" There's a cup of coffee on the table next to Scoria, still steaming. Saul's peering at the diagrams on his desk. "This looks promising. What progress have you made?"
He grabs for the coffee, splashing it across his shirt as he knocks the cup over with a shaking hand and an oath. "Sorry - I had the strangest dream and I'm still fuzzy around the edges." The shadows seemed so real they still cling to the edge of his mind, whispering. "The ritual isn't quite done yet - closer, but I'm afraid I passed out before I could finish transcribing the necessary seals." He stands, attempting to shrug off the blankets, and nearly tips over. "Did you just finish inking the initial array? It feels...connected."
"I didn't touch your work." He frowns, peering at Scoria instead of the diagrams now. The shadows under his eyes look deeper than usual. "Are you feeling alright? You were out cold when I found you."