Talia, p. 66

She appeared in the market today as I was taking an order. The bench had been empty, but the next time I glanced over she was there. After all this time I should be used to it, but everyone else seems so distant now, as if unreal. Our connection pulses with such life that the outer world seems dull and grey. But Elsbeth was there in front of me, waiting, and the comforting thoughts were just behind. The noise of the market suddenly unbearable, I appealed to withdraw to the Dragon. I thought the fire would bring comfort; we had met there so many times before.

She was waiting in silence upstairs. The distance I thought I felt between us, now a great chasm laid bare. Was it the same for her? She spoke of death as if it was inevitable, of betrayal by those closest, and I said… I said nothing. The words would not come. I was not alone, but neither could I reach out to her. He, it seems, is lost to her as well. He has left her, and may be taken from this world altogether. I fear the outcome just as much, for her, for myself. If He was dangerous before, success would make him deadly. Is it wrong to hope for my freedom, knowing what it means for others?

I don’t expect I’ll see her again. It may be too hard if I do. But I’ll always have the memories… of what was… of what could have been… of what never shall be.

*folded between the pages, an unsealed letter*
*written in a clear and simple hand, folded, with a single rose petal pressed between the pages*

Dearest Elsbeth,

It seems life will not allow us time together. Events rush past outside of
our control. That you met, in those circumstances, I can only imagine
was a shock and surprise. But you came for me, when others did not.
I would have wished for a gentler meeting, perhaps over wine by the fire.
For any pain I may have caused, I am sorry. You have always been
honest with me, and I had wished you to know of her, to know how
deeply we care for one another. And perhaps, somewhere, to know that
you accept her, that you accept us. But that hope too, is taken from me.
We are what we are. I could not be what you needed of me, nor would I
ask you to change on my behalf. Know that I love you, and whether our
paths ever cross again or not, I will always hold a place for you within my
heart, within my memories, and within my dreams.

Love,
~Talia

*also folded and inset in the other letter, a smaller note in a more elegant hand*
My sweet Talia,

All I ever wanted was your safety and your happiness. We both know
that you could never truly be safe with me. And, I will admit, that so
long as I am who and what I am, you could never truly be happy with
me either.

Your friend cares deeply for you, that much is evident. And that, my
dearest Talia, is all ask for.

Should you ever need me, you know I’ll be there, somewhere in the
Shadows.

Elsbeth

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