The trickle of water over rocks made me look up. Sebastian sat across from me studying a globe that floated between us a few centimeters above the grass.
"Hey, Sebastian, good to see you."
He glanced up. "Are you ready to try again, Frau Schwarzbach?"
I examined the floating sphere more closely. Its surface resembled the version of the Snakes and Ladders game I had played once with a metaphysical Sebastian on my first night in Germany. The board had been flat and resembled the one Gus and I had played as kids. It had been an antique, possibly a family heirloom, although my mother had never told us where it came from. That board was hand-carved wood, highly intricate in detail, and more sinister-looking than the U.S. version, Chutes and Ladders.
This version also had wooden ladders and snakes, but looked realistically earthlike. The landscape moved as if alive. And the surface was now wrapped around a sphere. I wondered if there were fault zones and magma chambers underneath. Were there mantle, core and crust? My wooden cat stood where it had last been, between a snake and a ladder.
Sebastian sat with legs folded yoga-like, his back straight and head erect. Was this a shared dream with Sebastian? Did it have something to do with the presence of the talisman? Sebastian had alluded to my first Snakes and Ladders dream on Samhain. How was that possible? Or had he wanted me to believe he knew what I was talking about?
"Sebastian. I have so many questions. Things just don't make any sense. Why is it now a globe?"
"A good question. It may have something to do with evolving relationships." He bowed his head. "One question. Many questions. Each question needs its own time and place. Do you have a specific question?"
Specific. I could do that. Heinrich. Talisman. Being bound. I started to speak, but Sebastian stopped me with a hand upheld. "Form the question in your head."
He held his hand out to the wooden ball covered with embossed symbols that hung in place above the globe, like a diminutive satellite. I couldn't imagine anyone talented enough to have carved them all by hand. They were so perfect and so tiny.
I paused, my finger poised above the ball. The last time I had done this, Hagen snubbed me. Gus disappeared. I nearly drowned. But several other things had also happened.
I saved Gus. Hagen said he needed me, adored me. Death tipped his hat to me, a gesture I interpreted as his personal endorsement of my decision to carry on living. I had new friends, good friends. Samantha and Anna and Tony and Jacqueline. I also had new enemies. Dagmar Abel and a man with eyes like mine. Exactly like mine.
That same man followed me to Hannover and back; the man I had shared an Otherworld vision with had threatened me and was in cahoots with Dagmar. My game piece was caught between a snake and a ladder. Not neutral but a little bit of both. Who was the man with my eyes?