às dèidh bàs - Session 7
Aeowynn opened her eyes. Had she been sleeping? She couldn’t remember. Everything was white around her. It didn’t hurt her eyes but she couldn’t make out anything distinct. There was no form or definition. It wasn’t cold here, wherever here was, but she shivered nonetheless.
She looked around. There was no body attached to the voice and she couldn’t pinpoint a direction to it either.
“Do not fear, Aeowynn. Everything that has been created has a beginning. Likewise, everything also has an end.”
“Who are you? I don’t understand? I can’t see where you are.”
“No, you cannot see, child. Not yet. Although you are getting closer. Closer to seeing, closer to understanding.”
“Where am I? What is this place?”
“It’s a place between places.” The voice chuckled kindly. “Which won’t be a very satisfactory answer to you, I know.”
“I’m dead.” Aeowynn knew it was true.
“Ahh, much quicker this time. It depends on your definition of death, of course, and it’s infinitely more complex than that.”
“Yes, we’ve done this before. Many times in fact. You need rest in between.”
“In between what?”
“In between your story.”
“I’m thoroughly confused, sir.”
“Yes, it’s not an easy process. But it is necessary. You were telling me about about Tog and the girls. Maebh, Elesandra, Firia and Sharn. It was when you met them. Well, not the first time, but when you got to know them.”
Aeowynn clearly remembered that day as if it happened yesterday. Time had passed since then, but she wasn’t sure how much. The images came back to her in a flood.
“Go on child. Your story is important. You are important.”
“Tog was there. We were in the King’s throne room, in Windhall. I was so tired. So very tired. Tog and I had travelled through the beginning of winter. Over the mountains. I was still a slave, I guess. He never spoke about it, anyways. It’s not like I had anywhere else to go though. He always made sure I had enough to eat. He taught me how to use a sword. Hah! He was surprised at how easily I picked it up. I guess all that time getting knocked into the dust by Beca wore off on me. He protected me from the others.”
She shivered at the memories. Some were more painful than others.
“Once, when Tog had gone off somewhere, the captain, Xugug, came strolling through town. I was by the basin, washing clothes and didn’t notice until it was too late. I thought he had gone off, across the ocean, but I guess he had returned. I think he hated me. He grabbed at me but my training took over. I remember hitting him in the gut and kneeing him in the groin. I won’t lie, it felt really good. He had his knife out after that. I knew I was going to die.”
“But Tog rode up at exactly that moment. He locked eyes with the captain, dismounted and calmly walked over to him. He plucked the knife out of Xugug’s hand and tucked it into his belt. I could feel the intense hatred coming from Xugug. His nose flared and his fist was clenched. I thought they were going to fight, but Xugug took a breath, turned and walked away slowly.”
“Tog didn’t talk about it, he just asked me how the washing was going and told me to prepare supper when I was done. I don’t think I could ever read what he was thinking. I vowed then to never cross Tog. I did not want to be on the end of that stare. Maybe he wasn’t a friend, but I knew I would never survive being his enemy.”
The voice spoke from the white nothing spoke again. “Yes, that is most fascinating. An Orc prince and his human slave girl. Not the story you would expect, but I’m glad you met him. Go on, child.”
“Tog was well read. He talked to many others about his findings. To me as well. His father had conquered many lands and Tog was with him, reading texts and questioning priests. He had this fascination with ancient prophecies and stories. He was convinced that they were all connected, in some way.”
She paused her story and cleared her throat. A cup made of pure crystal appeared in her hand. It sparkled like diamonds. She took a long draught, feeling the coolness of it’s contents wash through her.
“Uhh, thank you. Where do I put this?”
She looked at her hand. The cup was gone. “Uhh, never mind.”
“Tog spoke of a great evil, and a great good, that existed since the dawn of time. Apparently they were forces that were locked in an eternal battle. One day the evil found a way to overcome the good, but before it could destroy everything the goodness sacrificed its presence in the world, trapping the evil away. Tog said that every land had a different take on it but the general story was the same. Most of them spoke of a day when the evil would be released. Or awoken.”
“I’m not sure I really believed him. My religion spoke of Tamos, the pure god, the one creator. It also spoke of Arzeth, the destroyer. I suppose they could fit into the good and evil that Tog spoke of. I don’t know.”
Aeowynn all of a sudden realized where she was and who she was talking to.
“Oh no… are you… are you Tamos?”
“Child, now is not the time for that. Like I said before, you have no need of fear here. All is well.” Again her questions were not answered, yet she still felt reassured.
“Tog was convinced that the evil would awaken soon. When he landed in Pelonia he immediately sought out the local priests and learned about a folk story that spoke of an evil deep in the northern mountains. I asked Siùsan about that once. She looked at me, made a sign to Valor, and ran away.”
“Tog risked a lot seeking out King Gerould. He went without his father knowing his plans. Not knowing if the king would kill him on sight. But he believed in destiny. That things were chosen to happen the way they did. It freed him to be bold. He managed to convince the king somehow. Maybe it was the appearance of the others. That sure took Tog by surprise. When Sharn walked into that chamber I could hear him take a gasp. It takes a lot to catch him off guard.”
She frowned, remembering the mixed feelings she had felt.
“I was conflicted. Seeing Sharn and the others. Maybe I shouldn’t have blamed them, but I did. That night on the beach nearly took my sanity. I hadn’t felt hope for a long time before that. I saw it unfolding before me. The prisoners unlocking their chains, running away from the slavers. When that vile captain descended upon me I had called out to them. Screamed for their help. They were right there, near the forest. I saw Sharn look back at me. I know she saw me. She could have prevented what happened next. I hated her for that. I forgave her eventually, but it took too long.”
“I didn’t recognize Elesandra at first. She had that crazy cloth tied over her eyes, pretending to be blind and her hair! I never would have imagined such color coming from her when I saw her on the ship. Truth be told, her eyes still freaked me out. I didn’t know if she was looking at me, past me, or into my soul. Maybe it was all three.”
“Maebh made me smile. She had a way with words, that’s for sure. She thought her singing was the most powerful tool she had. And powerful it was, but when she spoke, people listened. She inspired us. Maybe she was making up for her height, but I never thought of her as small. Her presence could fill a room. Then I met her pet. At least I think it was her pet. Scáthfile and her had a connection that I never understood. He always seemed to understand exactly what she meant. I’ll admit, he frightened me at first. I’ve seen him rip a hand clean off a person!”
“I didn’t see Firia until later. I’m not sure why she wasn’t there at the audience with the king. She was never as outspoken as the others and maybe didn’t want the attention. I was always jealous of her grace though.”
“When Tog asked the king if I could go with them I was surprised. I don’t think it hit me until later, but he was letting me go. Not necessarily from being a slave, at least I’m not sure, but he was giving me a freedom I never thought I would ever have again. Maebh had very pointedly asked me if it was my wish to go with them. I couldn’t help but look back at Tog. It didn’t even cross my mind to go against his wishes. I guess I was looking for a nod or something. He just stared back at me. Not like he was commanding me, but merely waiting to hear my response.”
“And then that was that. Tog left to go back to convince his father to stop killing humans. The rest was up to us. We had to bring back some proof that Tog’s story was real. That his fears were founded. I’m not sure if the others really caught onto the gravity of the situation. Maybe they didn’t believe Tog at that time. I don’t know.”
“I knew that things would be hard and probably even dangerous in the coming months. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. We didn’t even make it to the house the girls were staying at. Suddenly Maebh was missing, Scáthfile was going nuts, and Sharn and Elesandra were freaking out. We managed to track Maebh even though she was brought through the middle of that stinking city on a cart. I know now how Elesandra did it, but I thought we were on a fool's errand at the time. Sharn wasn’t the most eloquent with her words. It took some clever dealing from Elesandra to smooth things over with the city folk.”
“We ended up at some potter’s abandoned workshop. That place still gives me the creeps. There was a passage behind the kiln, down in the rat infested crypts. Tog had told me about magic and the things that certain people could do, but I hadn’t believed him at all. Lighting and fire coming from people’s fingertips? Curses taking form and sucking the life from us? And these guys were the creepiest of the creepy. Hooded and wearing grotesque masks. They called forth painful lightning, but it wasn’t bright like during a storm. It caused the lights to dim. When it hit us it hurt. Bad. Elesandra responded with fire in shapes I had only seen drawn in children’s stories. Sharn’s pure might didn’t really surprise me. It took her forever to finally smash down the door. We had heard Maebh shrieking on the other side during the whole fiasco. I definitely don’t blame her. She had been tied to an altar. Those creeps obviously had wanted to cut out her little heart. We prevailed in the end. We even caught one of them. But the battle took its toll on us. We were exhausted by the end. I managed to help patch Maebh up, she was near passing out. We made it home after that, but it was a long, painful walk through the city.”
She paused her story for a moment, reflecting on the events that brought her to that point.
“Child, your story is not finished yet, but it is time to rest again.”
The voice was soothing and she was feeling drowsy again.
“Sleep, little Aeowynn. There is more to come. Much more.”