Naradra, pt. 12

In a clatter of wood and steel she bursts from the tree line. The wind has died, but the blade still glows red in her hand. Her eyes search the area looking for movement. The night is still, silent as the grave. A cold hand pulls at her shoulder. She twists and drops, spinning away, slashing out behind her. The night fills with a low growl, the severed arm flounders like a stranded fish. Death stands before her. Death and decay. Swinging the sword around, striking at the neck, she watches the head fall. It joins the arm, useless, but still moving. With a push, the body topples, crumpling under its own weight.  

Before she can even lower her blade, she hears them, shambling and shuffling, from all directions. One after another they come for her, only to be felled like so many trees. She pushes forward, threatened at being overwhelmed by the wall of undead approaching. Her arms swing in mechanical rhythm until time itself seems meaningless. Only the burn in her muscles tell her she still moves. She reaches the beach and the onslaught stops as suddenly as it began. The moans of the damned replaced by the gentle lapping of waves. Looking back towards the trees she sees no pursuit.

Standing there, she waits. A cold chuckling pierces the night. Turning, she sees him… it… stepping from the water.

“You think I am so easy to defeat as that?” The red armor looks nearly as black as the night. “I’ve existed an eternity. Even your kind lives only a blink of my eye. You cannot stop me, at look at the suffering you cause as you try.” It motions to the space behind her, and she turns slowly. The bodies lay haphazard and twisted where they fell. Where they met her blade. But they are not the damned and undead that she fought. Out behind her, as far as she can see, lie the pale, still forms of hundreds of children. Heads no longer claiming the bodies near them.

“No… it wasn’t… That was not what I was fighting.”

Taking a step forward her eyes show shock and disbelief. The dead stare back, showing nothing.

“You killed them.” Its words now distant in her ears, “You killed them all.” The voice changes, from a sneering hatred to that of a frightened child. “Just as you intend to kill me…”

Naradra, pt. 11

We have our answers… but I will not rest easy for some time. Terri left us on our own, and Sailun turned on the wizard and I still do not know why. Each in our group seems affected by madness of late. Do I possess the only clear thoughts?… or can I just not see it in myself? It’s making me question my actions. I allowed the witches to take the little one… I told myself it was her own choice, but I can’t help but think it could have been different. Is it my burden to carry? The weight of the group is heavy on my heart.

Nero’s words still echo in the quiet moments. “Why do you fight?” I begin to doubt if I ever knew…

Talia, p. 86

So, I told her.  Told her the truth.  I thought if she knew she could help me find the other.  She was surprised, I expected, shocked to be sure, but also forgiving, of which I was only hopeful.  She knew who had killed the woman, or was behind the attack.  It was not who I expected.  It means ‘their’ connection to her comes from another place.  But Mashai’s words were just as troublesome.  If there were those in his group that may be working against him in secret, against his plans… then it is possible she was killed by mistake.  If some now think I am she, then could the killers have thought she was me?  Does he know what they did?  Would they try again if they learned I lived?  Trystan has asked I not meet with him again… yet why am I drawn to seek him out?

Naradra, pt. 10

I need guidance. A clear voice in the chaos that surrounds me. I wandered on the roads, looking to clear my head and found myself at a familiar stream. I kept to the banks, until I reached the shroud of the forest. The ‘Tree People’ had helped me once before. They had possibly been on this island long before Red Eye first plagued it. Could they know how to best defeat it? I’d trust them more than these supposed witches we are to meet.

I was allowed to enter, but was not met by their delegation. The darkness did not surround me as it had before. Instead, I felt only the peaceful calm of the wood. Before leaving, something caught my eye. There was a ring, not dropped or discarded, but laying out in a small basket of interwoven leaves. It was being presented to me. I only hope that their gift does indeed assist in our struggle. I left without answers, but I also found my questions had diminished.

Naradra, pt. 9

I can no longer deny my feelings… but neither can I bring myself to trust him. Trust… such a simple word, and yet… so complex. Do I really trust any of them? Should they any longer trust me? Perhaps the old man is the closest, he doesn’t seem to have the ulterior motives of the others. Or perhaps he’s just become better at hiding it in his long years. We all have our secrets. We all choose with whom to share them. But we weave such a tangled web of lies and omissions to cover our tracks. My fate is tied to all of them, for now, that much is certain. We must work together… and pick up the pieces of what remains after all is done… if anything remains at all.

The path before me is unclear. I thought I knew my fate, once, but now it is like an impenetrable fog is covering everything, only the vaguest light and shadows flickering across the mind.

Talia, p. 85

There has still been no word from the stranger, but now I am reluctant to write again.  Another came up to me near the inn today, expressing sympathy and relief that I was seemingly okay.  Her words were too close to that of the letter.  Who do they think I am, and how did I, or how did the other woman die?  And a brother, dead as well?  I invited her to sit by the fire, she seemed very open to talk and understanding of my ‘confused’ state.  Her name is Mashai… but I learned little about ‘myself.’  There was an attack in the woods, but was it another place she actually fell?  Yosho’s sending brought back dark memories, how I thought I had finally escaped that name.  Mashai felt me tense, but I think she misunderstood because she offered me protection.  It was later, when talking of names that I learned she knew me as ‘Trip’… an odd name to be sure.  And some of her friends… my friends… I know, if only in passing.  Will they be helpful in this puzzle, or expose this confusion and facade?

Mashai seems nice, as does the other we know, but that letter still hidden speaks of dangers I’d rather not face… would they stay if they knew?  Are they as much a threat?  Wolves hidden beneath lambskin?

I’m not sure who to trust with this.

Naradra, pt. 8

The icy wind howls, waves cresting white in the turbulent sea. Dark water rises and falls beneath a shadow blanketed sky. The moon is gone, hiding its eye from the storm. The maelstrom surges forward, expelling a lone form onto the beach. For a time there is no movement. The wind and waves the only sound. But through the darkness a choking cough can be heard and the form rolls on its side. She lies there a long while, as waves continue to lick at her feet. With apparent effort she moves, to her knees first, then stumbling as she tries to stand. Step after labored step, she moves to the tree line, wind gusts threatening to topple her. The path is difficult to see in the dark, but she can feel it ahead, branches hanging low, brush overgrown. She presses forward, forcing her way through. The branches pull and claw, snagging her armor with every step until she falls through, into the clearing. Kneeling there, unable to rise, blood and tears flow down her cheeks. She shudders with sobs until the words finally form.

. . . .“This cannot be! How can my heart be torn so? You gave me no warning. And to one of those?”

Her face lifts, eyes searching the darkened clearing, listening for a response and hearing only the wind.

. . . .“It is not right! What he has done… what I have done…. We are not the same!”

She rises, first from one knee, then the other, until she is standing, turning slowly as she scans the clearing.

. . . .“He is not one of us! I will not be bound to him. You have no right to ask this of me!”

The wind rises to a howl, buffeting against the trees. She turns again in the dark.

. . . .“What else can I do? What other burden could I carry instead? Answer me!”

Turning around, she draws steel. A harsh red glow casts the clearing in the light of hell, twisted branches leaning down.

. . . .“Answer me, damn you! I will not accept this!”

A branch brushes her shoulder. She spins, swinging, battering it away. Another moves and her blade is there. The red flash moves with a deadly speed. She spins and turns, the dance a clatter of wood on steel. Beyond, the storm rages on. Waves threaten to swallow the beach. At the tree line, three figures stand, calmly holding one another’s hands. The shaking of their heads is ever so slight.