The Dream, Part 1
Liric woke up. It was dark, he couldn't see, and he was covered by... bags?
Oh not again...
He tried moving. He could feel something shifting above him, and the bags near him gave way easily, but then moved back as soon as he stopped pushing. The great weight of them all was stifling. The air around him felt hot and stale, and for a moment he was afraid he might suffocate beneath them if they wouldn't... just... move! Liric could feel them giving way.
With a last push Liric was sitting up in bed. A cascade of fluffy white pillows fell from all around him on the floor. Each had a cover embroidered with an ornate “H.” Sunlight was streaming through the window of his room. He blinked a few times and looked around. He was not alone. In a large wingback chair near the bed sat an extraordinarily beautiful young woman with a tremendous pout and the most desirable puckered lips Liric had ever seen in his life. He immediately wanted to apologize. He wasn't sure what he had done, or maybe not done, but something was definitely his fault. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.
The woman just took a pillow she was holding and threw it at him. It bounced off his face. Liric closed him mouth and blinked again.
“It took you long enough,” she said. “I've been here forever.”
“I'm sorry?” Liric finally managed to stammer. “Um, really sorry?” He unconsciously raised his inner eyebrows a bit, tilted his head a little to the side, and managed to accomplished a look of perfectly sincere and polite confusion. It also helped that he was.
The woman's face was young, with ribbons tied in her hair. She was wearing a school uniform with an impossibly short skirt that would never have been allowed in any real school. It should not have been possible for any adult to succeed with that look, unless, just maybe, they were very well trained and very well paid. But her eyes cast any ideas of the sort away and made you want to apologize again for even thinking about training and payment. They were large and bright and the deepest and purest green. There was an innocence in them, but experience, too, beyond anything Liric could hope to try to describe.
“Ohhh...” she began, in exactly the same tone one might use with a favorite pet that accidentally did something cute. “It's alright. It wasn't like I had that much to do anyway. But, really, most people catch on, you know?”
“I'm sorry,” Liric tried again. “But do I … I mean, maybe, am I supposed to know you?”
“Mmmm... not really; why would you ask that?” She shifted to the other side of the chair and put her chin in her hand and looked at him.
“Well, I just... sometimes... I forget things, that's all.” He tried very hard not to look at the skirt. It had delicately flipped and bounced when she changed position in a way that Liric felt he really ought to think of as charming, except it was quite a lot more than just charming. Impossibly, it somehow did its little dance and revealed absolutely nothing.
“You forget... things?” she replied. She looked directly at Liric like she was considering something carefully in her mind. Then she doubled over in the chair giggling.
A shower of fresh pillows pelted down on Liric and left him buried under them again. It took him several minutes to fight his way through the mass. When he finally managed to free one arm and his head to emerge from the mountain now on top of him, he was sweating and breathing heavily, and no bouncing skirt could take away his irritation. She was still in the chair, with her legs drawn up under her, rocking back and forth a bit and shaking with suppressed laughter. Liric was quite sure he had missed the joke entirely. He just sighed.
“At this point, I really wouldn't refuse a little help,” he said, indicating the pillows.
Instead, she just burst out laughing again, rocked too far back in the chair too quickly, and began to topple over backwards. “I know, I mean, whoops!” she cried, too late.
Liric was left looking at the bottom of the chair. From behind it there was a fresh wave of giggling, so he supposed she couldn't be hurt. He began fighting against the pillows again, and it took another minute to extricate himself. Once out, he stood up and brushed off quite a few stray feathers. Then he walked behind the chair. She had regained her composure and she was sitting on the grass next to a large picnic basket.
“Well, what do you think?” she asked.
Liric looked around. They were in a large grassy meadow with a few wildflowers swaying in a light breeze. A crystalline blue sky with a few scattered clouds formed a great dome above. Behind him at least 50 feet wide and standing at an even greater height was a tremendous pile of monogrammed pillows.
“I think it's excessive.”
The woman suppressed a laugh. “No, silly, that's behind you. I mean the day. Here. Now. Everything still in front of us.”
Liric looked again, and it was still the same perfect summer day. He thought he glimpsed a few elementals cavorting around one of the puffier clouds. He turned and held out a hand to offer to help her up. “It's very nice,” he said.
“Thank you,” she replied, and picked up the picnic basket and handed it to him.
Liric took it, then tried again, extending the other hand, and added, “I'm Liric, by the way.”
“Oh!” she said as if she had just remembered something important. She took his hand and stood up and brushed a few loose pieces of grass from her skirt. It still revealed nothing. It was a very distracting skirt.
“And... you are...?” Liric asked after a moment of silence as she admired the meadow.
“Oh, right. Well,” she began, but seemed to pause to think about it for a moment. “Many people call me Brigid. But then a lot of people lately refer to me as Mela, as well. But, in the very far southeast...”
“I'm sorry,” Liric cut in. “Maybe... What would you like for me to call you?”
“Oh,” she said, like the question of her identity had never been asked quite like that before. She stepped back and gave Liric an appraising look from head to toe. “I think, yes, you should call me Brigid. That would be best.”
“I see. Brigid. It's nice to meet you. You're... very charming. And, is there something I could help you with, or... something?” Liric was getting the feeling in the back of his mind that he really ought to know who she was.
“Help me? Oh, no. I'm fine, thank you.”
“Okay... so... I'm sorry, why did you come to see me then?”
She smiled. She almost looked like she was feeling sorry for him. “You really do take a while to catch on, don't you? Alright then. It's a beautiful day. Wilikins has made us a delicious lunch. And we have nothing better to do. So... I need to take you on a little journey.”
“A little journey?”
“Yes. Just a little one. A walk, really.”
“A walk? You need to take me for a walk?”
She slipped an arm loosely around Liric's elbow. “Or you could take me for a walk. It really doesn't matter. But we should get started.”
“So... just... this way?” Liric started.
“Or this way,” Brigid replied, steering him a bit more toward their right.
The walk encompassed most of the meadow on a path Liric thought initially was random. Then he realized there was a very faint channel of essence winding through the meadow, and they were following it. It was so faint he couldn't feel it, but could just follow it by observing its effects – the growth pattern of the plants or the way is interfered just slightly with a light breeze that crossed it coming from another direction. At its next bend he turned to follow its direction, and for the first time Brigid did not steer him in another way. She said nothing, but gave him arm a little squeeze. They stopped for a while where the essence was collecting in a small pool. Their discussion up to that time had dealt with essence patterns, and Brigid had asked Liric many questions about how he perceived and understood the essence around him, whether by experimentation and analysis, intuition, or through empirical means. They had a leisurely lunch and discussed essence layers using sandwiches as metaphor. Afterward they continued their walk and Brigid's questions turned more probing and esoteric. She seemed to be confirming Liric's knowledge involving specific occult practices, correcting or clarifying some obscure point here, pointing out a connection there, and generally taxing Liric's mind to its fullest. She stopped when the essence current they had been following came to the end of the meadow and tumbled down a steep slope into a wide valley that a slow river flowed through.
“Is that all?” Liric asked.
“Of course not. But it's enough for now.” Brigid smiled mischievously.
“I was just wondering...”
“How well you can roll with life's little punches?”
She still had her arm through Liric's and she gave him a quick little shove sideways. It wasn't much, just enough to cause Liric to take a small step, but then his foot was against the trunk of a fallen tree he hadn't noticed before in the grass, and he fell backward down the slope. The picnic basket and unfinished sandwiches went flying.
“This... isn't... <<oooff>> …what... <<ow>> …that... <<whoh>> …phrase... <<uugghh>> means!” Liric called back as he half-rolled, half-fell down the slope. Behind him he could hear a new wave a laughter, followed up by a sharp “Oh!”
Liric was about to shout back that this was not funny, but he hit the ground hard and bounced, knocking most of the air from his lungs, then was right above the edge of the riverbank and still moving quickly. He hit the water with an enormous muddy splash. For a moment he thought he was stuck in the mud and would be unable to breathe. Then the thought “Just stand up” in a calm if slightly irritated voice came into his mind. He stood up. Mostly.
Liric was about chest-high in reedy water. He was standing at a funny angle because he was actually on his knees in the shallows, and both legs were still buried in mud. He spluttered out some water, wiped some mud away from his nose, and breathed. He tried to blink and look around, but one eye was caked with river filth. With the other he just could see Brigid standing near the bank. He took a breath and ducked his head back underwater, and was able to clear the worst of the debris from his head. He stood back up and ran his fingers back through his hair to keep it from dripping in his face. His hands came away with a couple of snails on them. He looked over at Brigid.
She was standing demurely with a few fingers from one delicately-gloved hand covering her lips. Her other hand was still holding the enormous white parasol. She looked just amused enough to make Liric extremely frustrated with her, but embarrassed and sorry enough for Liric's sake that he couldn't quite get mad, only just a bit more frustrated.
“Unless you want the dress covered in mud, could you please stand back a little?” he asked.
Brigid said nothing, but took a few steps away from the riverbank and stood next to a tiny wooden pier. With quite a lot of splashing and squelching, Liric clambered back onto the shore. Both his shoes were hopelessly lost, and a cattail had somehow worked its way up one pant leg. He trudged over to the pier, and paused, waiting for Brigid to take another step back. She did, then he walked out on the pier, removed a few pieces of clothing, and dropped into the deeper, cleaner water. A few minutes later he pulled himself up onto the pier and sat there ringing out his clothes. Brigid was sitting in a small rowboat at the end of the pier looking at him expectantly. Somehow her full white summer dress was still spotless.
“I think you've learned that very well,” she said with her impish grin.
“That wasn't funny,” said Liric. His voice was quiet and calm.
“Oh, no, I didn't mean....” Her smile washed away.
“You were laughing,” cut in Liric.
“Just don't laugh at me, okay? I get tired of that, you know.”
“But...” Brigid started, then stopped.
Neither said anything for a few minutes.
“I'm not sure that people laugh at you as much as you think.” Brigid said at last.
“Please just let it go.”
“I mean,” Liric suddenly turned to her, “who are you? Really? What do you want and why are you here?”
“It's kind of difficult to explain. I just sort of keep things going.”
“You keep things going?”
“M-hmm. So they don't get lost.”
“Things.” She ventured a small little smile again.
“And so... what do you do then? What sort of work is involved in keeping things going so they don't get lost?”
“Oh, it's not my working!” exclaimed Brigid. “But, then, actually...” she trailed off, as if reconsidering.
Liric felt the conversation was about to turn incomprehensible.
“But what do you want?” he pressed.
Brigid turned back and looked at him and blinked. “I would like,” she emphasized, “for you to take me to Northport.”
Liric sighed and looked out across the water. “That's a long way upriver.”
“So tell me about it.”
“I don't remember much.”
“Tell me anyway.”
“I remember that it's a long way upriver.”
After a few moments of silence Liric turned back to look at her. She had the same pout and puckered lips as she had when he first saw her. He groaned. “I'm sorry, but there really is a lot I just don't remember.”
“So tell me what you do remember. But do it while we're going there.”
Liric sighed. “You're a bit overdressed for a place like Northport, and I'm...” He stopped and scowled. He pulled on his baggy knee-length flax cargo pants and tightened the hemp belt. They were still quite damp. The damp flax tunic would just be hot and uncomfortable on the water. He tossed it in the boat. Then he untied the rope that held the boat in place and stepped in. He took the oars from under the seats, placed them in the oarlocks, and moved the boat several yards away from shore where he would not have to work against the greater part of the downstream current but still avoid any obstructions or grass near the shore, then began rowing.
“Well, you remember how to sail,” offered Brigid after a few minutes.
“This isn't really sailing, its more... rowing....” Liric's strokes had been smooth and steady, but now that he looked around and actually thought about what he was doing, he lost his rhythm and the boat rocked back and forth a bit.
“You're making it too difficult,” said Brigid quietly. She sighed and looked at him directly in the eyes. “I really want to know about you and what you've learned about you. Any little thing. People, places, barges, cargo, whatever.” She had an earnest look that Liric couldn't refuse.
“Well, okay.” He looked around as if trying to find a place to start.
“Just row,” said Brigid, “then close your eyes and count to 20. Then just tell me about rowing.”
Liric glanced behind him, then did as she asked. By the time he had finished counting, he had regained his rhythm, and the small details involved in the act of piloting a rowboat began to organize themselves in his mind. Brigid was an earnest listener. She seemed genuinely interested in everything Liric was telling her, about how the locks worked to keep the oars in place if he should let go, how the boat would be different and how to operate it if it had a single small mast and sail, then the transport of cargo up and down river, cargo manifests for loading and unloading barges, weight and balance concerns on barges, and river hazards. Then he told her what he knew about linking overland and river travel together, and caravans, and horse riding – or yeddim riding depending on the situation, and the organization and planning and people needed to pull it all together. The muscles in Liric's back had stopped burning long ago, and the boat was making smooth progress upriver. He was operating almost fully just on memory now.
“So if I ever need something transported, or help finding some moldy ruin, I can call you?” Brigid's mischievous smile was back.
“Of course,” replied Liric, “anytime.”
“And you can arrange that in Northport?”
“Shouldn't be much trouble, unless it's something really unusual – or really moldy.”
“Then it's a good thing we're here,” laughed Brigid. “You can finally show me around.”
Liric glanced back over his shoulder. They were just coming around a small bend in the river, and a small port town began to spread a few hundred feet away. “That's the place,” he said.
Liric pulled up to a small pier and tied the boat. Most of the other boats were large barges going somewhere up or down river, and there were a few small fast sailing ships. He helped Brigid out of the boat and up some steps onto the main pier. For the first time in as long as he could remember, Liric felt like he was in his element. His heavy leather boots created a brisk rap as he walked across the wooden pier. He tipped his hat to a few people he recognized who nodded back in return. Brigid was a flurry of white silks and lace and parasol that stood in pleasing contrast next to his explorer's leathers, quiver, and self bow. Together they swept through town and saw the sights. They mostly consisted of the major warehouses and better taverns. It didn't take long. Brigid was keenly interested in everything Liric had to say, though.
When they had finished the tour of town, they were at the top of a long flight of steps down. A misty haze just obscured the bottom.
“What is this? In the middle of town?” asked Liric.
Brigid was still on his arm and peered down. “Looks first age to me.”
“In town? Here? Not possible.”
“You could be surprised,” murmured Brigid.
Together they began to descend the stairs. The mist at the bottom was cold and a heavy metal door blocked further progress. A tiny keyhole was placed in its center.
“Well, open it,” said Brigid.
Liric began checking his pockets. He found a small, ornate key in on of them. He placed it in the lock, and it turned with a gentle click. The door swung open freely on its own accord with a low groan, and a wave of icy cold air washed over Liric and Brigid. Cautiously they stepped inside. It was a cavernous area with metal walls, floor, and ceiling. Light came from dimly glowing blue crystals placed at regular intervals along the high ceiling and walls. Rows of hooks suspended by chains hung from the ceiling, and on the hooks there were things that looked like large irregular green crystals, or possibly green ice, frozen in place on the hooks. Inside the crystals were forms and shapes, most unidentifiable, though a few looked disturbingly human. Liric's breath formed a thin fog that slowly dissipated in front of him when he exhaled.
“This isn't what we're here for,” said Brigid. “We need to go further.”
“You know this? What is it?” asked Liric.
“First age, like I said. Cold storage. More a metaphor, really. But the green seals are holding some things Lytek left lying around. I guess he thinks they might be useful sometime. We don't need to find anything sealed, though.”
Liric stood slowly circling, only half hearing her. He could almost, almost, begin to make sense of what he was seeing, but lacked some small, crucial piece of information. “Wait, Brigid? This belongs to Lytek?” Her footsteps were echoing further away. He shivered, and hurried after her. “Brigid, what are we looking for?” He ran past more green crystals, then past some perfect blue cubes and red spheres hanging from the chains. Beyond them he could just see some stranger shapes spinning slowly that he could not identify. The area was vast, and he could no longer see any walls, just an endless forest of chains each holding an item, some tiny, some large, some so large it took dozens of chains to support them. “Brigid?” he called. “Where did you go?”
He found her buttoning the last buttons on her heavy black coat, then pulling her crimson-colored cloak closely around her. “There you are. I was starting to worry I'd lost you in this place.”
She smiled back. Her cheeks were rosy with the cold. “That's thoughtful, but I'm right here.”
“What exactly are we looking for again?”
“You're the explorer,” she said, “You should know it when you see it.” She looked around. “Though I suspect we are getting close.” A rime of frost coated several nearby surfaces. Shadows seemed to condense out of the air to surround the frost-coated objects.
Liric began to push through them. Objects seemed to be hanging thicker here, and the cold was biting at his skin. His clothes were beginning to become covered in the frost. Then he pushed past a few larger shadows and found himself in a circular clearing of sorts without anything hanging from above. A brilliant white cone of light was coming from the ceiling here and shining on a collection of wooden crates and straw stacked on the floor. They were the first things Liric had seen not suspended by a chain or visually obscured in some way. He went closer and began examining them. It was noticeably less cold within the circle. Behind him Brigid came into the edge of the circular area and quietly stood and watched.
Liric crouched down and studied the crates, whispering quietly to himself. He stood up to examine the ones higher up, then began circling. He carefully pushed open a few lids, then walked around the crates again muttering to himself. He finally turned toward Brigid.
“This doesn't make sense. I let Yanis have these. What are they doing here?”
Brigid looked very somber, and when she spoke her voice was soft and deliberate. “It all looks very valuable. That's quite a lot to let someone else have. This Yanis, he was someone important to you?”
“Well... business partner. Or former business partner. I don't remember much about him. I left him in a bit of a bad way, didn't mean too, though. Didn't even realize I was working with someone else at the time. I should have though, if I had been thinking clearer. I makes sense now. I guess I owed it to him.”
“So... all this wasn't really much of a sacrifice to make then for this Yanis?”
“I don't know if I'd put it like that,” said Liric. He scratched the back of his neck. Something about everything here wasn't quite fitting together. He felt like he was almost about to make sense, though, if he could just find something. He spun around and looked at the hanging shadows.
“Did you have any claim to them? Did you want them? Did you really owe all this?”
“Oh, that depends on technicalities, I guess,” said Liric. He walked toward several of the chains. He brushed some frost from one suspended shape, and breathed on it to try to clear away some shadows. There was something there. He could almost see it.
Brigid walked toward the crates, looking back and forth between them and Liric. “Technicalities?” she asked.
“Well, I signed ownership over to him, but under the circumstances I'm pretty sure he would have given them back if I had really wanted them.”
“Oh,” said Brigid, sounding slightly surprised. She stopped by one of the crates and ran her finger along its length. “So you did or didn't actually owe him anything that was worth all this?”
“Uhh, no,” Liric glanced back at her. “Not really.” He looked distracted and turned back to the chains at the edge of the circle of light. “At least, I can't imagine actually owing him anything worth all that, no. I mean, if either of us had the silver or jade to be trading around stuff or even favors to be worth all that, we would have been living...” Liric's voice trailed off. He stood back with his arms crossed, staring out across the chains. “Brigid... these are memories, aren't they?”
“What about your life?” asked Brigid.
“What?” Liric turned around to face her.
“What about your life? What would that be worth?”
“I don't think it was anything like that. Or do you know something I don't?” Liric paused and thought for a moment. “No, he never mentioned anything like that. I think he would have mentioned that. It was just a dig we were working on. We found a cache. And well... it was his... so...” Liric made a feeble shrugging gesture with his empty hands turned up.
“Liric, I don't think these would be here if they weren't yours.” Brigid sat on one of the crates and crossed her legs and folded her arms, as if challenging Liric to defy her reasoning.
“Liric, this partnership,” Brigid interrupted, “how did it work, exactly?”
“Well, I guess you could say that Yanis was the front office and logistics guy and I was field coordinator. He handled most of the people and paperwork. Not that I couldn't work with people, too. I wasn't pathetic, you know. I was...”
“You were the one out in the wilderness, you were the one risking your life, and you were the one who found all this.”
“That's... kind of melodramatic.”
“Am I wrong?”
“Maybe... not exactly... I wouldn't put it like that.”
“Then how would you put it?”
“I.... yes, I found them,” Liric sighed.
Brigid sat with her foot bouncing lightly in the air for a moment before speaking again.
"And you gave up your claim to these things; you're not thinking of sneaking back and trying to get them or tricking someone to giving them to you. They're as good as gone to you?”
“Uhh... I guess. I thought about them, sure, but I wasn't thinking about getting them back. Not really.”
Brigid sat scowling at him.
“What? What did I do?”
“I would consider that a significant sacrifice.”
“Ok, if you say so.” Liric was now thoroughly confused. Brigid had been making sense for so long. He almost felt like they had known each other for a long time. The only thing really weird was her shoving him down a large hill. He started to turn his attention back to the memories outside the circle of light, but Brigid spoke again.
“Liric, what if I were to pants you right on the pier in front of everyone?”
“What?” Liric started around.
“You heard me.”
Liric just stared at her like she might have gone slightly mad.
“Or told everyone your darkest secret?” she continued.
“I'm not sure you actually know that.” Liric said calmly.
“Told everyone what you look like caked in mud?”
“Made a huge scene all up and down Bastion and Cinnabar about the things you can't do?”
“You're being ridiculous. Please stop.”
“Told everyone about your encounters with the Emissary?”
“I think that would be your problem with it, then.”
“Fine. What if I went around saying you were an idiot compared to Dorian, or a wimp compared to Fandris?”
“You are being completely unreasonable now.”
“And you are completely deflecting the issue. You're not really dealing with it at all.”
“What issue? You seem to be the only one with issues now. Where did all this come from?”
Brigid slowly stood. She was staring at Liric and concentrating, like she was sizing him up in some way. She walked toward him and stopped a couple feet away.
“What if,” she continued, “I told everyone what an amazing mortal you were and what a disappointing exalted you have become?”
Liric just stared stony-faced at her.
After a moment, Brigid lightly slapped him across his cheek. The sound echoed back and forth throughout the vast, empty chamber many times before fading. Liric remained motionless.
“Well?” Brigid finally asked.
“That was unnecessary.”
“Liric, deal with it.”
“You don't understand.”
“You'd be surprised.”
Both stood in the middle of the cone of light facing one another. Neither said anything.
“Who are you, really?” Liric finally asked.
“I already told you.”
“But what are you doing here?”
Brigid sighed. “Alright, fine. I keep things going, but sometimes there are complications. Everything needed for continuity is in place, but for some reason continuity can't, or won't, be acted on. Usually it's an essence issue or simple refusal. Those cases resolve themselves one way or another. Very rarely something else is the cause. You went through everything necessary for continuity, and have the will to accept it, but you have not taken the next step to complete continuity. So... I'm helping. Or trying to. You are being very stubborn.”
“And what does all that have to do with me?” asked Liric
“Nothing except unlocking your potential and you becoming everything that you have the potential to become, which is actually quite a lot. But if you keep on being stubborn like this then continuity will suffer an interruption. It's temporary, nothing that can't be fixed, of course. But then the only one who ends up missing out is you. I don't actually expect you to understand any of that except the bit about being stubborn.”
“I can understand quite a lot, you know, if given the chance.”
“Of course you can. You couldn't keep avoiding the issue at this point if at some level you didn't understand what you were avoiding.”
“So you don't have to be here?”
“You really care about this?”
“Of course. And I would like for you to deal with it and stop avoiding it.”
“I don't like it.” Liric turned back and stared out into the empty darkness.
“You don't have to.”
“It makes me angry.”
"You don't understand.”
“Do you want me to leave?”
“No,” said Liric. “I just...”
“You'll never get through this until you just say it.”
Liric was silent for a while. “I just... really hate how I was so much better at being a regular mortal than I am at being... me... now.”
Brigid said nothing, but waited.
“I mean... it's so hard,” Liric continued, “knowing I'm supposed to be better than I was. I know I'm supposed to be better than I was. But I don't think I really am. It just doesn't feel that way at all. I may not remember everything I was, but there's this feeling. Like I lost too much, and maybe what was supposed to be improved just isn't there anymore.”
“Do you want to give up the exaltation?”
“Could I?” Liric turned around to look at her.
“In a purely hypothetical sense, supposing you could go back, regain what you had then, and lose what you have now, always knowing what you gave up, would you give up the exaltation?”
Liric thought for a long time. “No,” he signed at last. “No, I wouldn't. I must be crazy.”
“Mmm... an exaltation wouldn't chose someone who wouldn't use it. So I think you're normal, actually. For one of the exalted, anyway.” She ventured a smile again. “And thank you. When you are ready to move on, let me know. There is another little thing we should do.” Brigid pulled he cloak around herself tightly and walked out of the circle of light, leaving Liric alone.
For a long time Liric didn't move, then he sat down for a while, then laid down to stare up into the light. He lost all track of time while turning his thoughts over and over again. Eventually he got up and paced around the circle. At last he had come to a sort of understanding with himself and had made a decision. He stared one last time into the emptiness and took a deep breath and turned around. On the other edge of the circle was a large, wingback chair. He walked over to it.
She was sitting with her legs underneath her wrapped in a crimson cloak, looking bored.
“That took you long enough. I've been here forever, you know.”
Liric opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again. He thought for a moment. “I apologize for the inconvenience,” he said at last, and smiled a little himself.
Brigid brightened. “Does this mean you're finally ready to move on?”
“I think so, I mean, I think I'm over myself. I mean, I think I'm going to get over myself. But it may take awhile. But I'm ready to start getting over myself.”
“Does that mean you're accepting your lowly station in life as one of the Unconquered Sun's chosen rulers of creation and in turn giving up your bitterness for being exalted in the first place?”
“Um, I guess, something like that. Yeah.”
“Good enough,” she smiled. “Honestly, you have more humility issues than anyone since Peleps Minitari, and that's saying something.”
“Never mind.” She got up and took Liric's hand and turned him around. In the center of the circle of light a single dark iron chain was hanging down. On it was suspended a dark, frozen shadow. Vapors continuously fell from it and drifted across the floor before dissipating.
Liric looked at Brigid questioningly.
“Just be who you are,” she shrugged.
Liric walked over to the shadow. He reached out to touch it, but a painful, icy stab went down his arm and caused him to recoil and his whole body to shiver. Liric took a deep breath and reached out with both hands. This time he flared his anima. He could still feel the cold, but now his anima was like a warm fire surrounding him. His concentrated on pouring his essence into his anima. In front of him the chain was seemed to be sizzling. The frost and ice was dripping away, and shadows were melting. Liric looked around. At the very edges of the light from his anima, he could see things in the deepest part of the cavern – large and strange, small and inscrutable – all just at the edge of perception but not quite comprehensible. Liric closed his eyes and focused on the last of his essence. He could feel the shadows fading away leaving him holding...
Liric opened his eyes. He was standing next to Brigid in a bright meadow. A blue sky was overhead. All colors seemed a little muted, though. In his hand Liric held a tiny flame. It was white at it's heart, then ringed with gold and edged with blue, much like his own anima, and it was by far the brightest and most colorful thing present. He looked over at Brigid. She returned a questioning look of her own. Liric stared into the flame for a moment, then closed his fist around it. He could feel it spreading out inside of him.
For a long time neither he nor Brigid said anything.
“I guess, thank you?” Liric finally said.
“It's what I do,” Brigid shrugged. “Really, I was beginning to think you'd never catch on.”
“Will I ever get my memories back?”
"I didn't take them,” Brigid said.
"Will I remember this, at least?”
Brigid smiled. She looked happy, but also a little sad. “Only what's important. Look, try not to be so stubborn next time, and be mindful with what you give away and why. You've already gone through more than you needed to. Really, giving an entire first age cache to your friend? When all you needed was a little more humility?” She looked reproachfully at him.
Liric just look confused. “Brigid, are you really...?”
“Don't.” Brigid interrupted. She sighed and stepped close to him. “Just take care of yourself. I think you have a generous spirit. I can't promise to be the same.”
She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.
And Liric woke up.
Last edited by sean
on Sun Nov 15, 2015 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.