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.

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