Naradra, pt. 13

We are nearly ready. The helm has been contained, for now. Young Raynor’s body lives, but his eyes stare mindlessly ahead. He has no light, no spirit… no soul. The witches spoke true, on that at least. Their words still echo in my mind. Is a soul for a soul a trade I can make? If we destroy the helm, how many souls will be freed? And is the cost of that too high?

I regret I was not able to return to the Tree People. If things had been different, perhaps that would have been reason to stay on this isle.

Raynor will be saved… and Terri… will either return to his son, or fall at my side. I see nothing for myself beyond that.

There is little point in writing more. I doubt I will see this journal again. We must move quickly, and I can have nothing, not even this, slowing me down or being a distraction.

( * Carefully, the leather bound book is wrapped in an oiled cloth. With the edge of her sword, a narrow floorboard is pried loose and the bundle slid into the space between. Tapping the board back in place, she returns the desk above. Surveying the room, she gathers her bag and steps out into the cold morning. * )

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…

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.

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.

Naradra, pt. 7

The waves are lapping gently on the shore. The cloudless night illuminated by the full moon. Out beyond the edge, the water is peaceful, disrupted only by an unnatural glint of moonlight on metal. A lone figure is wading quietly towards the shore, face covered, but determination evident in every step.

. . . . . “She comes…” a whisper is carried on the gentle night breeze.

Stepping onto the beach, the figure stops. Placing a hand on each side, she lifts the helm, and shakes the water from short cropped raven tresses. The moonlight falls gently on her face, lending a cool softness in opposition to the hardness of the shell protecting her. Taking a deep breath, she begins her first of many steps, moving towards the distant tree line.

. . . . . . . . . .“She comes…” a second whisper replies.

At the edge of the trees, she stops. A path winds before her, as she knew it would. She closes her eyes, lips moving in a silent mantra, and when they open she hesitates only a moment before pressing on. The branches bow slightly in her passing, as if acknowledging her presence. She pays them no heed, focused only on what lie before her.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “She comes…” a third voice says, stronger than the others. “Born of the sea, and clothed in steel. She comes seeking.”

. . . . . “Seeking what? That which may free her, or the land of those people?

. . . . . . . . . . “Seeking answers, I dare say. Answers to questions better left unasked.”

. . . . .. . . . . . . . . . “She comes…”

The moon’s light filters down through the tree branches, causing the shadows to writhe and dance. Ahead on the path, a glow moves in time to her steps leading her forward to the clearing. At the center, it rises waiting until she is standing below then disappears.

. . . . . “She does not have it with her.”

. . . . . . . . . . “Yet I can sense it. It has touched her.”

The whispers once leading her on, now surround her. They seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, all at once. She tilts her head slightly, as if listening for direction.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “And in touching, tainted.”

. . . . . . . . . . “Tainted.” They hissed.

. . . . . “And what of her companions?”

. . . . . . . . . . “Also tainted.”

“Enough!” Her first words a sharp crack through the night. “You know why I am here.”

Stepping from the shadows, a few paces ahead of her, a woman in her middle years frowns down at her. “Always the impertinent one. Always expecting in immediacy. Has your time amongst these people taught you nothing of yourself?”

“It has made her worse, if you ask me.” The stooped woman with the wizened features stands back, leaning against a supportive tree. “She should not have been allowed to come here. It is too soon.”

“She is seeking guidance.” Speaks the other, not turning her frown away. “Is that not what we are called for?”

“She does not want our answers. She only comes to us in fear. In desperation.”

“So do many. That is the way of it.” The woman’s frown eases as she silently regards the visitor for a moment. “Your companions are not to be trusted. But then, neither are you. Each seeks their own ends, the means are only of convenience. Only one’s heart is pure, but that too may be tainted in time. You may still be his downfall, and the doom of those remaining.”

“Lies!” Her hand moves to grip her sword, pulling it mere inches from its sheath when another hand, soft and smooth, stops it firmly in place. Turning her head sharply she finds she is looking into a face younger than her own, the eye’s ancient light betraying the nature of her soft smile.

“Gently now.” The warmth of her touch loosening the fingers. “That is rarely the best solution. You knew that once as well. But you’ve forgotten”

“Yes, forgotten.” Says the eldest.

“You come to us to know what is right.” The voice now purring in her ear. “But you need to seek what is in your heart, to know what that is.”

The middle woman steps forward, placing a hand on her armored shoulder. “Once you have learned that, return to us if you still have need. Until then, we can be of no help to you.”

She closes her eyes, and feels the hands release her. When she opens them she is standing again on the beach, the moon lower in the sky.