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.

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