Naradra, pt. 4

I met with Jake today. We were able to stop by the farm. Young Raynor came out to visit briefly before returning to the cottage. He really is a sweet child. The little ones tend the farm, but the boy needs more than that.

We returned to Lazareth before investigating the graveyard. The dead were restless, the hand of the Lich was evident everywhere. A darkness would often surround us, one even my necklace could not pierce. On the edges I found easier prey, but I often fought what I could not see, until terror overwhelmed me. I do not know why the glowing eyes of the mummy affect me so when the others do not, but I ran. Ran and cowered to my shame, until I returned to my senses. And then we found him… or rather, he found us. The Lich spoke as if this was part of Red Eye’s plan. The rest happened so fast. I was unsure who stuck first, but the Lich was destroyed… and all three of the others had fallen. With no healer I was at a loss. Would they cling enough to life for the potion to take effect?

Kneeling down, cradling Terri’s head in my hand I waited. He looked so different this way… he looked almost… vulnerable. If he didn’t wake… but no, his eyes flittered open, and he rolled to his side, coughing. The others around me began moving as well.

As we returned to the farm, I walked in silence. The thought that I would lose Jake or Nero still weighing heavy on me… but Terri, why did that sting me so? He has been troublesome of late. Again in Lazareth I placed myself between Sailun and him, for fear he would assault her in the street. He is arrogant. He sees force as the first alternative. If that is all he understands he will continue to test my patience.

Red Eye attacked us on the road to Ell’s Castle, but this time did not escape. He fell, as did a little one. And Terri almost beat Nero senseless trying to get him to relinquish the helm. He refused to hand it over to any but myself, and while that seemed sensible at the time… I wish I had never touched the cursed thing. There is blood on my hands now, I felt each strike as I made it. I was a danger to all of them. It was foolish of me.

And was it all for naught? Terrabolt attempted to destroy the helm, and now it is on the loose again. Each time we face it, it seems stronger, more prepared. If we cannot find what we need on the Isle, all may be lost.

And what of Terri… *the ink pools and trails off, the thought unfinished*

Talia, p. 84

He was in the market and we spoke again.  Of dreams… of destiny… I told him of the throne, and what awaited me.  He said he wanted me to meet someone, to meet a king.  Did he not understand?  I know what waits for me down that path.  If I have any control of my destiny, I will not walk that… I would rather join the long dark than become one of those… but that is not my choice either.  I am tied to another.  I could no more hurt her heart with such action than I could take a sword to her flesh.  It is best I avoid him now.  The others were right.  That path holds only sorrow.

Talia, p. 83

A stranger bumped into me in the market today.  He asked if I could appraise a fine article.  He also asked if it was a work I recognized.  The helm was exquisite and held my attention more than the man.  I wish now I had paid more attention to who he was.  As he was leaving, I noticed the inner pocket on my cloak was open.  Inside I found an unfamiliar sealed letter.  I looked up to find him, but he was already gone.  I waited until I returned to the inn to open the letter.

The words were unfamiliar.  It was obviously intended for another, but one name burned on the page before my eyes.  She was looking, or they were, but for another.  I moved the letter to the bottom of my pack and returned to the shop.  Waiting on the steps I found an unexpected present from my Shadow.  If she was about and the other was also… to try and warn her could just as well be springing a trap.

What do I do?  If they think I am another, they cannot know my connection to her.  Perhaps a meeting with the stranger and I can learn.

Naradra, pt. 3

We’ve done it. Orius is back. The Mummy Lord kept its word and brought back Orius and Desin in exchange for lifting its curse. We returned Orius to Ell’s Castle without further incident. He wished to speak with us before returning to the palace. This Red Eye is worse than I had feared. It is not a man, but the helm itself. Were it ever to sit on my head… I shudder to think what that would be like. But it still needs a man to act, and men can be killed. It has toyed with us more than once, but I cannot expect it will misjudge us again. If they can help us… if they will help us. I’ve doubts of Orius’s tale. I fear they may have unleashed it by intent. If so, they are as great an enemy as Red Eye. I am finding it harder to trust anyone with each passing day.

And Terri, what of him? His son Raynor is young and carefree. His life on the farm will not be a bad one and yet, I can already see in him a potential for more. He may be a great warrior one day, if given the chance. If worlds were different, I could be his mentor. His captain. He will grow strong. But his mother? I had thought of children someday, but not for a century or more. And with one that will grow so quickly?

Terri asked first only for his son, but now he speaks of more. He speaks of love. How can he say such to someone he barely knows. He talks of months as if it were a long time, and yet, it is not so short as I once thought. Those thoughts have clouded his judgment and now they threaten to cloud mine as well.

If I told him I was promised? If I claimed another held my love, would he cease this assault on my heart? Would he believe me? He asks of me something I cannot yet give, something he cannot truly take. Which do I fear more? His love? Or his anger?

Humans burn so brightly with their passions, but that flame can quickly turn and devour as well.

Is it fear that makes me armor myself against him so?

Talia, p. 82

It seems bandits are everywhere.  When I returned to Mardo’s shop, they were waiting behind, but did not see me.  Heading west on the road to Arabel, two more groups were waiting.  I almost did not see the first in time, but warned of them, I avoided the others.  I was surprised at first to see one standing with a wolf, but it is clearer now that they are working together.

Near the old windmill, I came across a different scene.  Two retainers in green armor, standing over two beaten men.  I should have kept walking, but curiosity got the best of me and I crept, hidden in shadows, behind the boulder at the bend in the stream.  Could their claims be true?  Was one of them actually a werewolf?  That would explain so much, with the bandits stalking me now where the wolves once did.  The implications are fearsome to be sure.  Why have they taken an interest in me?  I was not to find out.  Another group attacked from behind, I was knocked to the ground before I knew what happened.  When I woke, the retainers helped me up.  The one claiming to be a werewolf lay dead.  It seems the bandits will kill their own, rather than have their secrets exposed.

I was too dazed to speak much, but I will need to talk with the retainer again about this.

Into the cave, (Talia, p. 81)

The light had faded as she moved deeper into the cave.  She moved slowly, hand along the wall, guided more by the presence ahead of her than anything else.  Time passed, and the passage seemed to twist and turn, as if it was guiding her.  The presence was closer, but its direction was always clear.  The air around her began to change, warmer at first, and then a noticeable light.  She could see her hands again.  The rough cave walls changed as well, stone bricks lining the sides and an uneven cobbling marking a clear path ahead.

She quickened her pace and the light grew brighter still.  The narrow passage expanded before her into a great chamber.  Torches lined the walls, casting their light inward towards the center. A dais rose and on it, a great throne.  The figure sat there, in elegant robes of deep red, its face obscured by shadows and the distance.  She stepped forward slowly, both eager and frightened, unsure whether to approach or kneel in deference.  She stopped a few feet from the dais, her eyes dropping, taking in the seven steps that lead to the throne.  The silence grew lengthy, as she searched for words, as she searched for the courage to speak them.

“I have been searching for some time.  I have hid from you, but the longing did not diminish.  I sought others and their help, but they only added to my confusion, to my doubt.”

On the edge of her vision, she could see movement, other figures rising and circling the chamber, but her focus remained ahead.

“You sent guides to me.  You offered passage that was clear, and blocked those that may hinder me.  I have followed, and though I stumbled, I am here.”

A chill wind swept the chamber, the torches sputtered and a few were extinguished.  She shivered involuntarily, but waited for the reply.  A moment passed, a dry rustling, and a rasp, and then a voice spoke.  Not the melodious voice she expected, or even the deep rich tone of another.  What she heard was the sound of dust.  Ancient dust.

“You have returned to us, child.  We have waited an eternity for you.  But now…”

Her eyes widened and she took a step back.  The figure on the throne moved to rise.  The once rich robes tore away as he stood, their own weight too much for the rotted cloth to bear.  Beneath the red tatters, the form was bound with dry, brown, linen strips.  Leaning forward into the light she saw a face she would barely describe as human.  Where it once had eyes, the flesh was now sunken, replaced by a fierce red light.

“Now… you may take your place at my side… as my queen.”

The mummy towered above her, reaching out one hand and took the first step down the dais.  She stepped back again, unable to scream, and stumbled, falling to the cobbled floor.

“No… this isn’t right… somebody help me!”

The figures around the chamber began stepping forward.  She looked to her would-be saviors and then the scream ripped from her lips.  The walking dead surrounded her, in various states of decay.  Corpse, skeletons and shadows each moving with one shambling purpose towards her.  Frozen in fear, she was unable to move, watching as if from another body as the horrors closed in.  Ahead of her, making one slow step after another, he descended, hand outstretched, offering…

Talia, p. 80

Last night Trystan asked to speak with me and we headed to the upstairs of the Dragon.  I was distracted by a young elf, sitting with a group on the couches.  I could only hear fragments, but she was speaking of a dream, or singing.  It sounded similar to tales I heard from Ella and others a year ago.  Could this young one also share a connection to the lady in red?  I nearly got out of my seat and walked over to ask, but no, not in front of the others.  I will seek her out at a later time.

As for Trystan… Trystan was concerned, for my safety, for… I’m not sure if he even knows.  He warned me away again, from Vorel, from Charir… I know I should not trust them, but if they know, if they can help… I did not share with Trystan about Charir’s ‘vision’, I’m sure Abirik told him what he could remember, or what he thought was important.  Instead, we spoke of my dreams, and the Elvin girl on the couch.  I was surprised when he described the halls to me.  He had been there himself at one time.  He said the shadows fought him, but they have always left me alone.  Is it possible he was not supposed to be there?  They allowed me to pass unhindered, they may be her guards, her gatekeepers.  Surely she is expecting me, she wants me to find her.

I found the Elvin girl in the market today.  Nell introduced us.  She seemed excited for a chance to sit and talk, or perhaps it was the prospect of ale.  As she began her tale, she stated this was a dream she had always had, that it was always the same, and that she had had no other.  Doubt threatened to make me speak, but I held my tongue.  If she has always had this dream, it surely couldn’t be the same woman I am looking for.  I was not to find out.  Before she could say more, she received a summons, and bounded from her chair with a youthful exuberance.  She agreed to talk another time, but I am less hopeful.  But then, I still need to meet with Sigrin.