Talia, p. 61

I have done it. He took the last gown from me in central. Vorel had come as well, but I don’t think she knew it to be hers. Liman had followed, but disappeared when I could have used his support. He’s a frustrating man at times, but still a friend. We started the journey east, and before we lost sight of the city gates were attacked by shadows. They were similar to those in my dreams of the chamber, but they moved with a deadly speed, casting the land into darkness as they appeared. Then just as quickly as they attacked, they were gone. Liman and I were in shock. Shara explained it as a rip, or a tear, similar to a sheet of silk holding a jar full of beads. Cut a small hole, and a few pour through… but who is cutting? On our return from Mardo’s we were attacked by kobolds, or they were attacked. I failed to locate them.. allowing the others to fend off the blows. Some hunter I will be… yet I have the posters up, and the wolves remain just as bold. We shall see.

A final delivery (Talia, p. 60)

She walks through the stone archway; torches are burning on the walls of the inner chamber. The red robed figure sits at the head of the table, smiling, beckoning her in. She steps forward, only halfway up the long table and sets down a wrapped and folded bundle.

“That is the last one.” She nods slowly, “I’ll be going now.”

“Really?” He raises an eyebrow. “You think this is all I want from you?” His expression becomes serious. “You think that just because she has left that my interest in you has diminished?”  He rises and walks slowly down the opposite side, keeping the table between them.  “I know why you refuse to visit… I know you lack her protection.”  He raises a hand to stop her from speaking.  “No… don’t deny what we both know.”  His smile returns. :I will come to you, for now. But when it is time you will come, and I will claim you.:

She begins shaking her head.

“Still defiant?”  He smirks.

“I am finished… you have no need of me.”

Anger flares in his eyes and the torches respond, their flames nearly reaching the ceiling.  “You will learn your place! And stand where I tell you to stand.”

At his outburst, she finds her blade is in her hands and she is backing towards the door.

He sneers as the distance widens. “Go for now.”  He waves a hand dismissively, the torches returning to normal.  “But you are still marked… are still mine. Freedom is an illusion.”

She backs from the room into the darkened hall. A moment passes and she finds herself standing in her room, sword drawn, candles flickering slightly. She looks about, sheaths her sword and sets out from the inn, hurriedly and filled with dread.

Talia, p. 59

Shara found me in the market, soaked, both body and spirit. Terminus was gone, and Hektor arrested for drunkenness. Nothing was clear. why do I do that to myself? A moment of strength, but at the first sign of failure, I run, back to the shadows, back to the bottle. To try to forget, but it all comes after, just as vivid as before. Well, not all as vivid. I remember the market, but not returning to the inn.

This morning, when I woke, she was still there beside me. How I wish I could have stayed like that forever. I felt safe… more than safe. But she felt me stir and smiled down at me. I don’t know why I pulled away. I think I was afraid it was still a dream. Did she notice, or believe it was the market that called to me? I would not hurt her, I want nothing to hurt her, but if it is only friendship she offers, asking for more could destroy it. And so I ran again, if not in body then in spirit. I ran… from want I feared, from what I desired. Oh gods, I don’t want to lose her, but she is not mine to have…

A field of grain (Talia, p. 58)

She is walking through a field, barefoot amongst the harvest ripe grain. A gentle breeze flows warmly over her skin, guiding her forward. She follows the gentle slope, nearing the sound of water running shallow over rocks as the land rolls out ahead of her. There, at the water’s edge, a slender figure is kneeling, her red hair coming alive as the sun plays along highlights and reflects back up from the ever-changing stream. At her approach, the figure turns slightly, and wearing only a smile, reaches out her hand, beckoning to be joined. A few steps, and their fingers touch. She sits on the bank, reaching an arm around the figure’s narrow waist. Time lingers and the sun barely moves. They sit, watching the water flow by, leaning peacefully against one another, content in the breathing of the other.

Talia, p. 57

* there are light drops and smudges on the page, but it is otherwise written in a clear hand *

She summoned me, just as I had begun to doubt her. Events all around are beginning to swirl. She says it is time to act, and for once I feel I understand. To think that life can ever remain simple… peaceful… is horribly naive, and yet that is exactly what I let myself believe for so long. She has some confidence in Him, yet I cannot bring myself to extend trust that far. My own dreams have warned me of that. And the other? I’ve not doubted as much, but she says that one is a greater danger. And so she leaves me, not alone, but sworn to secrecy. The one she has allowed as safe… that I should speak to in need… that one has barely acknowledged that I exist. They too have power, more that I can imagine. Would it be better to seek them out, or to avoid them entirely?

Talia, p. 55

He answered my call for the robes. Vorel was with him, as was another. That Elsbeth did not make her presence known was most troubling. I would like to think the sendings were obvious, and that had she been able to she would have been there. It is possible she was, yet remained cloaked. However, why would she not reveal herself after? Vorel indicated she has been away for some time, I am not the only one to feel her absence.

Is she traveling, or has something befallen her? I should put pen to paper for her, she has always responded, but the words escape me. The feelings I had, they are still there, but now… do I fear her acceptance, or the lack of that… or perhaps I fear both and what they each imply.

As for Him, I’ve only one to complete, once I decide on colors, and then I can distance myself from them. Stories of other happenings trickle by. Things I would rather not become involved in.

Speaking of shadows (Talia, p. 54)

She is standing on the hill again, the cold wind whipping around her. A raven-haired woman stands near, just out of reach. “You’ve been gone for some time.”

“You no longer need me.”

“I still want… where are you now?”

A blonde woman steps from behind her, circling her as she speaks. “They’ve left you… they always leave you, just as you left me.”

“No… I am not alone.”  A woman in red leathers steps out from nothing, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

The blonde figure raises an eyebrow, continuing to circle. “So, you’ve surrounded yourself with shadows? How long until you become one yourself?”  A man in black steps out from nothing and stands to one side of the raven-haired woman.  “How long until you become lost to yourself… until they control you?”

She shakes her head, “They do not control me… they protect me.”

“Do they? From what threats? From each other?” The blonde’s lip curls into a sneer as she speaks. She stops circling, standing several steps in front. On either side of her, a man and woman step from the shadows, both wearing robes of red. The very air around the male figure pulses with a red malevolence, fire seeming to dance in his eyes. The woman has a kinder smile. She absently weaves a stray lock of hair back into her braid. Small gems in her hair pulse in time to the stone suspended from her necklace. The green light, familiar, is seemingly at odds with the fire of the other.

The raven-haired woman steps back, blending with the shadows until she is nearly indistinct. Even the dark man has faded from view. “Do they still protect you… or have they just delivered you, kept you ready until the time was right?”

Her voice fills with confusion. “No… they wouldn’t… she wouldn’t.”  Tears form in her eyes, the raven-haired woman is gone. She speaks faintly, “she wouldn’t.”

“Where is your protection now?”  The blonde woman crosses her arms, she too beginning to fade.

She reaches up to wipe a tear and the hand forgotten on her shoulder squeezes gently. “I am here with you. You’ve nothing to fear.”  She turns slightly, looking down into those eyes. The red robes, the fire and the light, fade away. She sees nothing but those kind eyes. And for the moment, knows peace.