Talia, p. 32

What have I done? How could I have been so blind to my own actions? Two men, tangled in this mess… my darker memories coming back to haunt me, but this time I am the one at the center. Is there anyway I can hope to end this painlessly? I must speak with both soon, but not together. It would not do to have them turn on one another, when neither are to blame. Perhaps one friendship will remain in this when it is done.

Talia, p. 31

*Written in a shaky hand, a few minor smears from ale have been written around.*

What have I been connected with now? The shadows of my dreams have been spreading, their fingers weaving in and out of my thoughts and my being. I thought it was just a dream, I thought it had no other meaning. But there are shadows in life now as well. Some are darker than others, some seem benign, but they all connect in ways I’ve yet to understand.

A piece of my past comes back, haunting me in unexpected ways. I was in the market; a War Wizard paused next to me, looking over some papers. I smiled, then felt my jaw grow slack as I heard “Capital Crimes”.  The market was gone; I was staring at the barred gate of a small cell. There must have been a mistake. But as they proceeded with questions, I felt the shadows on the edges. They were moving, growing restless. There was a hunger there, a thirst. Had I strayed so far from my path? Had this all been for naught? One careless misstep that brought everything crashing down again? But no, then it was over. As quick as it had begun, I was told I was free to go.

Free to go… but not free. They could return at any time, and there is nothing I could do for it. If the answers are not enough, what else do I have to give? I await my Shadow, and her comfort. She offered earlier that we would speak of this, but she has yet to arrive. Searching will yield nothing, I know, she will find me when she is ready. So I wait.

Dream of the circle (Talia, p. 30)

She is running again, sword drawn. There are no sounds of pursuit, but she knows they are behind. She breaks into a large clearing, squinting as the full moon shines down through the now open canopy of trees. It is just a quick dash across, back to the saftey of the shadows. She is less than halfway when a dark form steps from the edge of the trees ahead of her, growling. She doesn’t slow, turning sharply to the left, only to be met by another pair of red eyes. She stumbles, trying to change direction, but more shaggy forms emerge ringing the edge of the clearing. She stands at the center, sword flashing in the moonlight, at least a dozen sets of eyes watch. The wolves stand, snarling, but not moving closer. A man in blue and black steps from the shadowy trees.

“Why do you insist on running? There is nothing to fear in death.”  The man pats a nearby wolf, not looking down.  “My own mother was killed by a pack such as this. It was His will. It was a good death.”

She looks to the man, to the menacing forms and back. For a moment she sees a familiar glowing in his eyes. In that instant she turns, bolting away from the man, towards two of the waiting wolves. They spring forward and steel flashes to meet tooth and claw.

She screams, falling to the floor. The winter air gusts through the now open window. The candle has barely burned down, but she cannot bring herself to try and sleep again. Gathering her things, she sets out in search of answers.

Dream on the hill (Talia, p. 29)

She is sitting in the grass, on a hill, watching the setting sun. A raven-haired figure sits next to her, their hands together, fingers entwined. The sky is a lively palette of oranges, yellows and reds. She leans her head on the figure’s shoulder, letting out a soft sigh.

“Are you happy?” She starts at the sound of a voice from behind. Turning, she looks up into the face of a blonde woman, her eyes unreadable.

“I…” she pauses, looking from the woman to the figure and back.

“You didn’t have to leave.” There is a hint of reproach in the woman’s voice.

Her eyes drop, looking only at the ground.  “There was nothing left, you had already gone.”

“Had I? Do you know for sure?” The woman crosses her arms. “You didn’t wait to find out, did you?”

“All of the others had gone, what was left for me?” She releases the hand of the figure, pulling her legs in close.

“What indeed.” A sneer creeps onto the woman’s face. “So you ran… like you always do. And what did you find? Nothing? Is that why you came back?”

“This… this is my home.” She pulls her legs in tighter.

“Is it? Is it really?” Contempt laces the woman’s words.  “Home is a place for friends and family. And you have neither.”

She looks up, shock on her face. “That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it? Then tell me, when was the last time you saw one of them? A day ago? Perhaps two? Or has it been weeks? Even months?”  She shrinks in on herself as the woman’s voice rises. “They’ve left you, as you left me.”  She flinches at the words and the woman’s voice drops.  “You have nothing, and you have no one.”

“That’s not true…”  She reaches back for the figure’s hand, grasping at air. She turns to see the figure smiling sadly, and as the sun disappears, the raven-haired figure fades away. She looks up; even the blonde woman has grown faint.

“Isn’t it true? Isn’t it?”  With that the woman is gone. The sky darkens and a chill wind sends her into shivers. She sits, huddled on the hill, as the darkness creeps in from all sides. Night falls, and she knows that she is alone.

The candles have gone out, the night air seeps through the cracked window. She huddles on the far side of the bed, covers kicked to the floor. A chattering can be heard from her teeth, but she does not wake.

Talia, p. 28

* written hastily, ink smudged slightly *

was it only this morning that I wrote of the creature? This evening, just before dusk, the market was attacked. Swarms of these creatures boiled up from the sewers. Several merchants fell, as did a few of those defending them. The twisted forms kept coming. Again, my bow was out before I could think, my heart pounding in my ears. I loosed arrow after arrow, some fell by my hands, some by others. There was no coordination in the attack, they seemed little better than animals. And then another stepped from behind the market stalls. I didn’t recognise the familiar tingle at first, then I saw power issuing forth from it’s hands. This creature had knowledge of the arcane. They are more dangerous than I thought at first. It seems there is much more to this than just a bad feeling.

Talia, p. 27

I was walking through Central today, when I heard the sounds of fighting between the Baths and the Pride. There was a man, and two or three guards, fighting off some strange creature. I’ve only seen such a creature once before. A matted grey fur covering it’s hunched form. It moved with a deadly speed. Without thinking, I found the bow in my hands, arrow already loosed. It struck home, as did the second, and the creature fell. The man ran off, the guards checked the area. It all happened so quickly.

I was still in a bit of shock at it all, and tried to follow the man, but by the time I reached the other side of the Pride, he was nowhere to be seen. I heard others calling of were-rats to the south. I can only guess that is was the creature was. It has been so long, it seems like another life time when I saw the first one, out by Mardo’s. *ink pools slightly* only then, it was attacking the wolves. I’m not sure what this means, happening in the city, but I know it was not a dream.

A dream by the fire, (Talia, p. 26)

“Do you still think me a dream?”

She jumps, startled. A feminine figure is sitting next to her in the chair. She had been alone, only seconds ago, there had been no sound. The figure smiles, reassuringly.

“I… I’ve had reason to doubt, recently.”

“You should not doubt what your eyes see. That is your connection to the truth.”

“It is not what I see… but what others do not, that I doubt.”  She reaches out tentatively with one hand, towards the figure’s leg. A quick flash and a hand grips her wrist, the figure pulls her down, gently but firmly. “Do you still doubt me?”

She sits, not meeting the figure’s gaze. A hand lifts her chin; she sees kindness in the eyes and face looking back at her. “Now, tell me about this ‘other’. I would hear more of him.”

She speaks for a moment, of shadows, questions and tests. She grows quiet when relaying the tale of the attack, flinches slightly remembering her broken form on the stone floor.

“He is cruel…  He is evil.”

“Evil?” She raises an eyebrow. “Good and evil are mere inventions of mortals. You label, so you can understand. Often that which you cannot understand you label as evil, or sometimes divine. We are not inherently one or the other. We both have our methods, one may be more destructive or nurturing, another more manipulative or guiding.”  The figure’s smile becomes unreadable. “I assure you, we only seek our own ends. What we use to achieve these ends often depends on a want, or a need, or even the whim of the moment. Do not expect to find your answers in what you think of as Good or Evil. Doing that will blind you, and you need to keep your eyes open. Your survival depends on it.”

The figure lifts her hand and gently kisses the back of it before rising to go.  “Watch what goes on around you. Learn from it.” The figure steps away. “I will see you again.”  The shadows coalesce for a moment and the figure is gone. She is left sitting by the fire.

Under warm covers in a bed of the inn, she stirs but does not wake. The rest of the night passes peacefully.