Talia, p. 25

(*written simply, with care*)

I saw Liman yesterday. He didn’t seem well, so I coaxed him out of the rain and up to sit by the fire. We spoke for a while, him mostly listening. We talked of dreams, of friends and trust. He was adamant that I need to believe… in myself, in my friends. To replace the trust I once had that now seems lost. I don’t know if it is the trust that was lost, or only the trusted. So many have disppeared recently. He gave me confidence, enough to search for the answers I had been avoiding.

I called out for Elsbeth, my friend, my dream, and I waited. Time passed as I sat by the fire. I thought another question was to pass unanswered and suddenly Elsbeth was there. “You think me to be a dream?” she whispered. At that moment, I was positive of it. She spoke of shadows. Not the threatening shadows I have been plagued with, but shadows that protect. We spoke also of my dreams, the nightmares and the jackal. I know now, she is real, and was real. Too much of what I doubted was real. There is something about her, something just beyond my grasp. I could learn much from her, given time.

Later that evening, I was in the market, delivering a cloak, when I bumped into Cordova. Talking in the Traveller later, I asked of Sindy, but learned nothing new. When I spoke of the dreams, of the strange place, Cordova finished much of the description for me. My jaw dropped. She not only knew of this place, but had actually been there. That was a comfort of sorts, that I’m not just going mad. We also spoke of the jackal. Cordova thought it may be someone called Shegra, from the stonelands. She’s knows little of him and suggested I talk with Lionar Myers of the Purple Dragons for more information. Something about it doesn’t ring of truth, I will not seek him immediately.

A new dream, (Talia, p. 24)

She comes down to the training room. The targets are set and ready. She takes a deep breath, but before she can begin, the door opens behind her. The dark figure is standing there, face covered by a mask, cloak and armor blending with the shadows.

“What have you learned since we last met?” The figure steps away from the door, the mechanism clearly visible, she knows there is no escape. “Show me.” She hesitates. “Show me!” She turns towards the targets and speaks instead.

“I know these are not my real opponents, only representations I have chosen. They have taught me I can be fragile…”

The figure motions angrily at the targets. “Strike!”

She turns, facing the mask. “They have also taught me…” with a motion of her hands and a spoken word, the room is plunged into darkness, nothing visible. Her voice echoes oddly, but sounds firmer. “They have also taught me there are other ways to stop an opponent.” A target bursts into a pillar of flame. She stands by the fire, her robe seeming to glow. The light barely pierces the darkness to reach the black cloaked figure. “That is what they taught me.”

The darkness fades in a moment, and the fire goes out. She stands next to the charred target.

“Your lessons have been learned, you think?”
She looks down at her hands, whispering, “there is no blood… none of my own.”

“You are wrong. Your enemies will not so easily be driven away.” The figure steps forward, slowly drawing both swords, barred steel before her. She draws her own sword, standing firm near the charred target. “Is that all you have learned?” She strikes out, the target crumbling from the blow.

“Your enemies will not fall so easily.” The figure lashes out. She barely has time to raise her hands before the blow lands. There is a flash of light and the figure staggers. She darts around, unhindered, to the blocked and deadly door. She stops, turns and races past the figure again. With a cry of anger steel flashes out. She feels it bite into her side, slicing through her simple robe. She blocks the next and lunges. Trading blows, she is quickly worn down. She staggers backwards. The blade falls and she crashes to the ground. “You cannot run from your fears!”

The figure stands over her, sword raised. With a deft motion it sheaths the sword and kneels, lifting her head until their eyes meet.

“You have failed.” The figure reaches up to the mask and removes it. Her eyes widen as she finds she is staring at her own face. The visage hard, the eyes cruel. The figure, herself, sneers back at her. “You are weak… pathetic.” The figure shakes its head in distate. “Go back to your needle and thread. Go back to your loom.” Her head is set on the ground and the figure rises. She can only see the feet receding, as they walk towards the door. It opens and the room begins to fade. “I will not visit you again.” The figure steps out and darkness overcomes her.

She wakes, on her back, the stone room seems familiar. As she tries to move, pain racks her body, and she coughs up blood. There is much of it, staining her once white robe. She rolls on her side, coughing again, and waits on the cold stone floor for death… or whatever else will come.

Talia, p. 23

I overheard a group of halflings talking in the Dragon. It seems Sindy is alive, though worse for wear. The rumors of her death… or murder… seem to hold some truth. I hope she returns soon, but not before she is ready. Then mind does mend as quickly as the body. I still have yet to speak with Cordova. My sending yesterday was unanswered, her silence is just as troubling.

New troubles have arrisen. In the market with a client, I heard a sending claiming that Cleo had been arrested. The sender obviously did not agree with whatever the charges were. I was a bit concerned myself, so upon finishing my business, I made my way to the jail. I’m not sure what I was hoping to accomplish. I think I just wanted to know for myself what she was involved in. The guards were less than pleased with having a visitor. I saw Cleo in a cell, but as she spotted me and called me over, the guard demanded I leave. I tried to ask if visitors would be allowed, but before I could speak, another guard arrived and threatened to have me forcibly removed. I had no wish to speak with Cleo from her side of the bars, so I left.

Before I was out the door, I heard another inmate shouting something at the guards that disturbs me still. “I fear it is too late to fix what Cordova broke..that murderer should be in here not me.” The cell doors then closed, and I could hear nothing else of it. What is it that Cordova broke? Is she the murderer that this man speaks of, or was he refering to a third person.

It seems recently, my life has not been as simple as it used to be. There is more going on around besides just my business. So much more. There are shadows everywhere now, and I’m just beginning to see that they are all connected.

I was sitting at the edge of the market, trying to sort it all out, when I had another visit. Elsbeth came up to me where I was sitting. I only half recognized her at first, but it was obvious she remembered me. She spoke of my wounds and seemed concerned, yet I don’t think it was the cuts on my hands that troubled her. When I mentioned dreams, she became very alert, very interested. And then, Anien arrived, greeting me in the same fashion Elsbeth had. Elsbeth made to excuse herself, I said goodbye, and Anien looked at me confused. Elsbeth was gone, and I wonder if she had really been there. Another waking dream perhaps? Only this time it was in the market, with others around. Still, dream or no, she said she was knowledgeable of jackals. If I seek guidence from my dreams, does that make me crazy?

Talia, p. 22

I could not find Cordova, I searched in vain. I have not seen Ingavar, the market remains barren. Even the training room in the basement seems shrouded in a haze of unreality. It was here that another found me. The men of sackcloth stuffed with rags, they are my opponents now. I strike at them as if they were alive. They are men… they are wolves… they are dreams. I defeat them every time I come down here, though it often leaves me bruised and bleeding. I am tired from the exertion, from having not slept in days, but I will not stop until they have all fallen.

I hear the door behind me, and footsteps. I turn as the door closes, but there is no one there. Walking to the door I open it and call out, “Hello?”

“Hi.” The answer comes not from outside, but from behind me. I start and turn, the door swinging closed. Behind me stands a dark figure, helm obscuring his face. He is polite, at first, yet an uneasiness hangs between us. As I try to leave, he lunges ahead ensnaring the door in some mechanism. He tells me it would be death to try and leave, and I believe him. At his request, we speak for some time. Much of that is now a blur in my memories. He was threatening… and yet was not the threat. He asked questions, for which I had no answers. I was not sure if I was living or dead, if he was real or not. There was still the sense that something was not right. He was not all he claimed, but I also think he may be more. He left me, as confused as he had found me, but with a sense of need. A need to be. A need to exist, beyond the realm of death and dreams. I returned to the inn and slept untroubled for the first time in many nights. I know the dreams will come again, they always do. But I am no longer at their mercy.

When we next meet, and I know we shall, I will be ready. I will speak again, and this time there will be answers… answers and an understanding.

Talia, p. 21

Hunger drove me from my room today. This dream has lasted what seem days. I am weak, I keep to the shadows. Outside, the night seems normal. It is snowing. I feel the coldness of the flakes as they land on my face. There are others outside, none seem to see me, or care of my passing. I begin to have my doubts. No dream has been as this before. Perhaps it is not a dream. That frightens me. Not only that this is real… that there may be truth in words of Sindy’s death… what frightens me most is that I may have lost my senses… that I see no difference in the waking and dreaming worlds.

I need to find Cordova. Sindy was to speak with her. If she has, perhaps Cordova will have some answers. If Sindy hasn’t… then perhaps there is truth to the letter crumbled in my bag. And what if this is truly a dream? If so, then I may indeed be lost with no way back.

Talia, p. 20

* written shakily, occasional drops of tears and wine smudging the page*

The dreams continue, the nightmares change, they become more real. I only hope I wake from this one soon. I had left the market, sales being slow, and decided to check the League mail at the Pride. There were letters for orders of armor and leathers, I filed these for Ingavar. There was also a folded letter bearing my name. I opened it. The letter began both eloquent and impersonal “Dearest Merchants”. This Phoenix wrote of dark events, of things I can scarcly believe. In plain speech he advises that our beloved Sindy has been murdered. Without pause he outlines the fate of the killer. The room begins to blur and the darkness begins to close. I know I am dreaming. I must escape. I lunge for the door as bodies rise up from no where. Hands reach out, buffetting me from side to side. I press on, away from their grasp, into the night air. I hear muffled calls from behind, which lend wings to my heels. Twisted faces turn in surprise as I run past. I do not care.

I find myself now, in a room, several candles burned out on the desk. I sit alone, the bed untouched, as I write. I cannot wake up, I am trapped here. And yet, I dare not sleep… for what dreams may come to one already dreaming, what nightmares and terrors would await one twice removed from the living lands. I start another candle before the last sputters out. I have another sip of wine and lean back in my chair. Out the window, I watch as the sun rises and falls.

I sit… I watch… and I wait to awaken…

The fourth dream, (Talia, p. 20)

She is falling. The snarling forms around her snap, but get no closer or further away. Above, the burning eyes fade in the distance… below… nothing.  Her bow is gone, and in her hand is a rather wicked looking dagger. It is wrong, somehow, and yet she senses a connection. Without thinking, she drives the dagger into the sheer cliff wall. Her falling stops suddenly and as she hangs from the blade, the snarling fades below. Her arm aches and the darkness closes around her.

Her body crashes to the floor. She shuffles quickly to the corner of the room despite the blanket tangled around her shaking body. Her back is against the wall, the dagger extended infront of her, poised and ready to strike. Slowly, her vision clears and in the dim light of a single candle, she sees the room of the inn, empty, save for herself. The bed is bare. A chair knocked over. She lets her arm drop and the dagger clatters on the floor. She sits in the darkness, knees to her chest, gently rocking. A look of resolve forms in the darkness.