((continued from Awakenings))
The shade sighed heavily, or rather, approximated a sigh as it had neither lungs nor breath to accomplish the actual task. It had plenty of frustration, however, enough to birth several such approximated sighs as it drifted aimlessly through the streets of the city. It ignored nearly everyone it passed, just as they ignored it. True, they couldn't see the wraith, and so their behaviour was largely excusable, but the wraith had tired of trying to be seen. It was an exhausting endeavor, and a frustrating one as well, the sleeper thought as it approximated another sigh.
So far, only one had shown any knowledge of its existence--the elven woman at the shop--and she had bid the spirit leave. Not that it really wanted to stay, still having a distaste for elves that went back several centuries and lacked any current founding, but at least the elf had been able to sense it, and had even spoken to it. A small thing, perhaps, but one that the shade valued highly in its current state. Perhaps it would return to the shop later. Perhaps the elf would then tell it something of the sword that it now carried, clinging invisibly and immaterially to it as if part of the wraith itself. Perhaps . . . . .
The wraith "sighed" again. Perhaps, maybe, possibly . . . . There was only conjecture and uncertainty now in a mind that had once held something more. Trying to latch on to that vague memory of a something, the shade began to rethink what it knew for certain. It knew what it was--a ghost, a spirit, a haunt--though it knew not how it had come to be so. It knew also that it had slept for several centuries beneath the cold, dark earth of this tempest city, but couldn't recall why it was here. Finally, it knew that the sword belonged to it, or it to the sword, but in its current state, it couldn't be sure which. It pondered these three certainties as it drifted along with a downcast gaze and a heavy mood.
It wasn't surprised to find itself back at the church, for it had largely taken up residence in the cemetery abutting the cathedral, but this time it found itself on the steps of the building rather than in the mist-filled plot to its side. Strange. Without thinking, the wraith reached out towards the tall wooden doors, its vaporous wisps brushing against the entrance like chilled fingers. It thought briefly of entering, as it always did, but again decided against it. It somehow seemed wrong in a way the sleeper couldn't explain, in a way that most everything currently felt wrong. Another sigh sent the spirit on its way again, drifting down the stone steps and back onto the street below.
The wind had picked up as the sun had fallen below the horizon. The spectre didn't feel the chill, but it saw the leaves as they skittered across the dry and dusty streets, and later it heard the creak of metal hinges holding a sign aloft beside a shop door. It was back in the merchants' district, a place it hadn't meant to come.
It saw the queer shop of earlier setting off some distance to the left, and though it was tempted to visit, it drifted off instead to the right, trying to ignore the thought that the answers it sought might lie behind the door of the increasingly curious establishment. It was just barely succeeding, and paying correspondingly little attention to its course, when it was struck by another wave of familiarity originating, the wraith thought, from another shop just across the way.
Quickening its pace, the wraith crossed the empty the street and hovered noiselessly before the door of this new building. A sign hung tidily in the window, and the light of the street lantern reflected dimly off the words "Lochinvar Clinic." Lochinvar Clinic? The name wasn't familiar, but it could hardly be expected to be. The business wouldn't have existed when the sleeper last trod the streets of the port city. The building too wouldn't have stood as it did now. But still the site was familiar, and the shade felt only slightly guilty as it drifted forward again and passed silently through the locked wooden door.
The book dropped, forgotten, in Cymbyliene's lap as she dozed off. Her lips moved soundlessly in her sleep as she conversed with any number of fictitious images; the ramblings of a tired, but busy mind at the end of a long day. Restless hands grasped at jars and bandages that existed only in her mind's tired reconstruction of the week's events. The shop's aged wooden walls and floors creaked comfortably, soothingly in the darkness.....the symphony that put her to sleep every night at about this time.
Then there was one creak amiss, then two, and a strange stirring in the breeze. Cym woke groggily, her surroundings feeling odd and unusual. She stood on unsteady feet to look around. It had been light when she dozed off..the sort of pink, golden light that made her pale skin glow as if she had been in the sun. Now, the room was full of darkness and a breeze. She went to the window to lower it a bit, leaving it open just a few inches. Satisfied, she padded downstairs in bare feet, the smooth wooden floor of the clinic shining in the one flickering lamp above her counter.
She smiled up at the blue glass jars neatly lined in rows on the shelves behind the counter. She had acquired a few more roots, and several floral extracts from one of the merchant ships newly arrived in port. She ran her fingers softly over the polished black marble of her countertop, so cool and smooth. Not a speck of dust.....Margaret was very thorough in her cleaning. She turned down the lamp in the little holder by the coat tree in the corner, plunging the room into shadows. The soft throw rug scrunched under her feet as she went to reach over the small sofa in the waiting area, pulling the blind shut. Content and humming softly, she started up the stairs, back to her forgotten book and cup of tea.
Something like the sound of an exhaled breath stopped her, and she turned. The jars on their tidy shelves rattled against one another slightly, offering up a sound not unlike the windchime on her porch. Her own pulse thrummed in her ears with the startlement, and she heard nothing else, save the rhythmic settling of the old building around her. Her narrowed eyes searched the darkness, discovering nothing at all. Perhaps a wagon had passed in the street......
"Did I lock the door?" she spoke softly, aloud, to herself as she descended two steps to set out again across the polished floor. Checking the front door lock three times, she took a moment to peer out into the night, then back into the darkness of her own home. With a curious look and a shake of the head, she mounted the steps again, bound for the solace of her feather pillows.
Shivering beneath the floorboards of the clinic, and beneath the earth which upon which the building rested, the wraith spent an endless moment wrapped within the echoing silence of its scream. The assaulting flood of images had stopped and the darkness had returned--the cool, empty darkness that offered sanctuary to the vague collection of thoughts and memories that formed the wraith. It might have stayed there, trembling in the darkness and the wake of the assault, for hours, or days, or even longer if it hadn't heard the soft padding of feet falling hesitantly upon the floor above. The light carrier had returned.
The wraith didn't know why this was so, unaware that the piercing scream, the remnants of which still echoed in the drifting tatters of its mind, had either belonged to it or could be heard by the living. But whatever the reason, the footfalls had returned and they stirred the shade from its stillness, prompting it to rise.
It rose effortlessly through earth, stone, and wood until it found itself once more inside the structure it had identified as a clinic. Nothing had changed in its absence, and the wraith pondered this with some curiosity, having thought the storm of sounds and images had assailed it for days. But the clinic was as it was before, and the light carrier had returned, still clad in the same nightrobe, her auburn hair slightly mussed from what the shade imagined was a fitful sleep. Sleep. The word had a mocking quality to it, an elusive whisper that promised a blissful respite and led the listener forward in rapt intoxication, only to fade as web-like dreams of gossamer in the stark light of day. No, there would be no respite for either of these two--only empty promises that whispered ever on.
Strangely, the musings brought the wraith back to its senses, or at least what senses were left to it, and it realized that the woman, the light carrier, and no doubt the owner of the clinic, was trembling. The realization brought both regret and hope, for though the shade had no wish to frighten, it did wish to communicate. The trembling was both token that it had done the former, and might therefore be able to accomplish the latter. It tried, therefore, to speak--tried to remember the sounds it had once formed and called words, but no sound issued from the trailing wisps of invisible vapour that formed its core. No sound. It was still silent, mute--and the dawn was coming.
The wraith knew both from instinct and experience that it must act before sun crested the horizon and filled the clinic with its amber rays. It had no fear of the day, but it found that it waned with the light and waxed with the darkness if only for the reason that the latter was more familiar--a longtime, if unbidden, companion.
And so as the dawn drew nearer, the wraith grew bolder, or perhaps only more desperate. It flew frenzied through the clinic, thinking to stir a breeze if nothing else, and was pleased to find that this much it could accomplish. Curtains rustled gently in its wake, as did the auburn hair of the light bringer, and the wraith felt more confident now that she could sense its presence. With this new and brimming hope, the shade continued its flight, spinning faster about the room with blinding speed until it stopped in a sudden halt of confusion.
The air was filled with white--an unexpected shimmering white that filled the air and hung for a breathless moment before fluttering softly down to the floor below. The wraith marveled in the whiteness, having though it had accomplished some extraordinary feat and that it might now be visible. Its disappointment fell faster than the glimmering white, however, when it discovered its folly. A broken jar lay atop the marble counter, having fallen during the wraith's flight and its contents taking wing therewith. It was a finely crushed powder and nothing more, and it covered the floor now in a soft blanket of non-melting snow.
It spurred memories in the wraith. More pleasant memories that those which had come beneath the clinic. It reminded the shade of winter's frost, of the downy quiet of the first snowfall, and of the simple games of childhood when the endless hills of white became a new world to explore and rename in the sparkling imagination of youth. The shade remembered other, later times too. It remembered tracking in the snow and the ease of following the ruffled path of ivory to one's goal. For once disturbed, the pale blanket was a sure map and clear diviner.
The memories coalesced, then faded, but not before sparking an idea within the wraith. Without stopping to wonder if it could, the wraith drifted downward and hovered invisibly above the floor, reaching out with vaporous hands and brushing against the surface below. Still bereft of the words it needed, it scrawled the only thing it could think of to say.
The air stirred around the faintly dozing form on Cymbyliene on the waiting room sofa. A tendril of hair lifted from her temple and caught on a small gust, teasing her cheek and waking her at the same moment that a jar came crashing from her shelf onto the marble countertop below. The powdered willow shoots caught on gusts of breeze and twirled in the air, like a faint dusting of the first winter snow. Her nightgown swirled around her calves as she stood and walked, no thought for the presence of glass on the floor, and stood on the outside fringe of the wondrous, ethereal display before her.
Her fear now eclipsed by her amazement and curiosity, she opened her arms to the tumult of medicinals and whirlwhind. What wonder is here?, she whispered softly as the powder and the tempest breezes calmed and settled, benignly on her polished floor. Her eyes searched, in vain, to find a presence in the grey light that preceded dawn. She brushed from her cheek the light layer of powder that had fallen in the new stillness of the room. Excited and singly terrified by the thought of another presence in the room, she became desperate to communicate.
Clutching at the sides of her robe with restless hands, and feeling nearly insane with the realization that she was speaking to an empty room, by all appearances, she proceeded to speak, regardless. "Tell me how I can help you.....why have you come to me?" She held out her hands in a supplicating gesture, not sure if she was begging for an answer or for the light of sanity to dawn upon her.
She ran her hands over her face a moment in the stillness of the room. The faintest glow of dawn peeked over the horizon, casting an eerie, rosy glimmer in the room. She opened her eyes and drew a quick breath as her vision caught the impression of symbols.....writing.....some sort of inscription in the fine, powdery layer that had drifted onto the floor. She started, with amazement.....
"Tell me how I can help you.....why have you come to me?" The healer spread both hands before her in an open gesture of supplication.
The wraith wanted to tell her, to explain further, but it couldn't form the words and couldn't convey its thoughts. It therefore left her alone with the only message it could as the first rays of morning crept around the curtains and onto the floor of the clinic. The shade was thankful for the woman's kindness, and hopeful that she would either know the meaning of its words or find someone else who would. It was a small hope, but it was sufficient to carry the wraith from the clinic and out into the growing hues of the dawn.
The colors brightened as the hours past, then faded into a soft azure that held for the duration of the sun's journey. As the sun neared the west, the sky changed again, adopting and discarding a range of colors from orange, to red, to pink, and then to mauve before a finally settling on a deep shade of indigo that fell quietly over the city. The kaleidoscopic display was largely lost on the wraith, however, which spent the day musing instead over the events of the prior evening. Lost in its distraction, it scarcely glanced up to the sky or around to its surroundings, paying little attention to its direction as it mused and drifted in whatever way its mood took it. It wasn't until the last traces of color had faded that the wraith's wanderings began to take a more definite course; for as the night took sway of the sky the shade found itself on the far east side of the city and it began to hear distant refrains of lively song, drawing it onwards towards the edge of town and to the camps of the gypsies.
The wraith didn't like gypsies. At least, it didn't think it did. Something told it that it shouldn't, or that it hadn't, but something else tugged in the opposite direction--something that suggested that the dislike, or more precisely, the distrust, didn't belong to the wraith itself, but rather to those it had known. It was left, therefore, with a gnawing sensation of curiosity about the wandering folk that only hastened its journey to the camps. The buildings of the city became sparse as the wraith continued on, following the spirited refrains that floated and curled in long ribbons of song through the warm night air. Soon the buildings were gone, left behind, and in the darkness the gentle wafts of song rang on, growing louder as the shade followed. It didn't take long before the absent light of the street lanterns was replaced by the flickering glow of the campfires, and as the wraith grew closer, the shadows ringing those fires became visible.
Within moments the wraith was mingling amidst those shadows, strangely stirred by their movement and song and for a moment forgetting itself and its state in the vibrant display of life that bustled about the camp. It was just for a moment though--a blissful, frenzied moment before the wraith remembered itself, and the deep feeling of isolation began anew. Disheartened, but not yet disinterested, the shade left the ranks that rang the fires and drifted towards the outer reaches of the camp, slipping silently among the wagons and those few folk who had left the main festivities for the evening.
It was quieter away from the center of the camp, but the music still drifted through the wagons and tents, ever behind and ever before the wraith. Lanterns hung on the outer posts of the wagons, and though many were lit, some were already extinguished, creating patches of shadows and light through which the shade passed, oblivious to both. It stumbled upon a group of children as it wandered, and followed them for a time as they each hid and sought in turn, scampering through the wagons and tents and remaining always a step ahead of the stray stern-faced adult who clearly thought that the time for such activities had long since passed. Both the game and the expressions stirred a memory in the shade, but it was too fleeting to catch and as the wraith sought to chase it down it found itself alone and empty-handed on the far side of the camp. Well, not entirely alone, for some distance from the last of the wagons a single, unassuming tent had been pitched.
The tent was of a dusty linen color and pavilion style, appearing but only five feet in height. Truthfully, there was nothing extraordinary about it aside from its relative isolation, and it may have been this that most attracted the wraith's attention, causing it to float curiously towards it, knowing all the while that it shouldn't. In the end, curiosity won out over propriety, and the shade passed through the linen canvas with less disturbance than the fading echo of the children's laughter.
Within the tent, the light was dim, far too dim for human eyes to make out much more than vague shapes lying upon the floor and against the walls. But the wraith's "vision" was no longer bound by the limits of the flesh, and it saw clearly its surroundings. The tent appeared larger within than without, causing the wraith to grimace with an all-too-recent memory before taking focus on the rest of the trappings. The ground was littered with cushion and a host of rugs woven with what the wraith judged to be an eastern influence based upon their color and design. The influence was apparent on the walls of the tent as well, decorated, as they were, with a smattering of similarly themed tapestries atop heavy black draperies. A wardrobe, housing various attire, stood open against the far wall, and beside it a long cushion rested atop what appeared to be a collapsible platform of simple design. Neither held the wraith's attention very long, for its focus was instead quickly fixed on the sleeping form which lay atop the cushion and platform.
The form was quiet and still--far too still, and far too quiet. It didn't stir once in the long minutes that the wraith glared at it. It didn't move, it didn't sound, and it didn't breathe. Wrapped in the darkness of the tent, the wraith knew what it was, and a single word rang through its memory and form. Kindred. Faster than thought, the wraith reached for the blade it had retrieved from the elven woman, never pausing to consider whether a nonexistent hand could wield an immaterial sword. So swift was its action that it didn't notice that the blade had grown both substantial and visible in its tightening grasp, and so focused was its anger that its eyes never left the death-still form beneath it as it drew back the blade and prepared to strike.
Cym's original plan of sleeping when dawn came was derailed by the curiosity and the reasonable amount of concern caused by the markings traced upon her floor. She put aside the rational part of herself that gave her a million excuses as to why the markings had a perfectly good explanation. It simply was not so. There had been some sort of presence in her clinic, and not one she expected.
She went to her countertop and fetched a pencil and paper upon which to reconstruct the symbols she saw on the floor. Could the letters be initials? The number, a year? And what was the "X"? She wandered around thoughtfully, muttering "X marks the spot......" and then heard herself and shook her head. The ringing of the doorbell roused her from her reverie. A peek out the door revealed the man she had contracted to bring her the cotton and linen bandages she had ordered from the most recent ship in port. She opened the door and let him in. With one look at him, she saw instantly in his eyes what he saw when he looked at her. He was a living mirror, displaying a pale looking woman with dark circles under her eyes, in a nightdress and wrapper, her hair tossed wildly about her shoulders. Her wan face instantly colored as she realized, in her self absorption, that she was totally inappropriate to receive visitors.
He looked remotely puzzled. "Yer linens and cotton, Miss. I've come to the right place, I'm hoping."
She nodded avidly, and without a reasonable excuse to offer regarding her state of appearance, offered no excuse at all. "Yes, thank you Mr....uh.....Mr Brody. Yes. I have been needing these for some time now." She hurried behind her curtain and returned with his payment in envelope. His eyes were fixed curiously on the writing in the powder upon her floor, circled noticeably with the prints of bare feet. His eyes darted to her feet and then to the envelope she held out for his notice.
He took it and tucked it in his coat. "Will ye be needin' anythin else, mistress?"
She shook her head firmly and stood between him and the image on the floor. "No, thank you, Mr. Brody. I'll catch up with you in a few weeks about those jars I need." She walked over and opened the door for him, feeling absurdly businesslike in her nightdress. He shook his head slightly as he walked out and she closed the door behind him with a hasty goodbye and a clatter of chimes.
She turned again to the letters and numbers on the floor before dashing up the stairs to find a dress. She resolved to find out if these symbols meant anything in particular relation to her building, or to the town itself. It was hard to tell.....perhaps a trip to the library, if the town had one. She had never ventured that far. She sat and thought a moment. Perhaps the Cathedral! It surely would have some sort of archive that she may dig around in to see what was known about the history of her building and the town as a whole. If anyone kept good investigations and information on things spiritual or mystical, it was the ancient church. She would go......she dressed quickly and pinned her hair into the most respectable knot she could contrive. A look in the mirror revealed the dark circles of sleeplessness, but there was nothing she could do about that now. She hurried down the stairs and out into the street. The cathedral rose above the other buildings like a watchtower and she moved toward it like a moth toward a flame, taking a quick glance at the Kuriosity Shoppe on her way. If not the church, then the Lady Eowyn....someone would be able to help.
Cymbyliene arrived quickly at the doors of the Cathedral and took the steps to the door. Looking around appreciatively at the beauty of the ancient structure, she stepped in the door quietly, almost reverently. It had been a very long time since she was in such an ornate building with so many years of history and belief.
She looked around and did not see anyone that might direct her to where she needed to go. Perhaps an archive, or even a clergy member might help her. She looked around again in the beautiful colored light shining through the stained glass in the high, vaulted windows.
With a tremulous voice, she called in echoing tones, "Hello........I need assistance, if you please." Not knowing who might answer, she waited, quietly absorbing the quiet beauty of nave.
Sylvin wasn't really sleeping. It was nighttime after all, and she couldn't sleep even if she wanted to. She just wanted to retreat to quiet place for a while. The camp had been in turmoil lately. With Rianna's sudden disappearance, along with a few others, it seemed the whole camp came to Sylvin for advice. They all told her they respected her opinion as that of an unbiased outsider. She sighed inwardly, needing an escape, if only for a few hours. After some meditation, she lay in bed relaxing when she felt her tent grow suddenly colder. Opening her eyes a fraction, she didn't see anything out of the ordinary. She was about to decide she was just imagining things when the candlelight reflected off something hovering in the air over her head. Using her unnaturally quick reflexes, Sylvin rolled out of bed in time to see a sword with no apparent wielder slice her pillow in half.
'Awake', the wraith thought. It should have realized that the creature would have been awake. It was night, after all, and therefore time to rise from its unnatural sleep and stalk the living in search of the lifeblood it had long ago abandoned. No matter, it wouldn't be awake much longer. The sword pulled back and prepared to strike again.
Sylvin saw the sword move towards her again in preparation for another strike. The realization hit her that she was dealing with some kind of spirit, and one who was out for her life. She frantically searched her mind for everything her old kumpania's medium had taught her about communication with the spirit realm. "Wait!" she called out with both mind and voice, hoping to make some kind of contact before it was too late. "Why do you attack me, spirit?"
'Wait?' The shade would have laughed if it could. Its senses and even its reflexes might be dulled in some respect, if they even truly existed now, but it knew the undead when it saw them, and knew they were an abomination. Nothing else mattered. Again and without pause the blade cut sharply through the air, both it and its wielder moving as one.
Sylvin saw the blade coming at her again, intent on cutting her in two. She dove out of the way of the blade once more and tried her contact again, along with another tactic. "Spirit, if you continue to attack me, you will not get the answers I'm sure you seek. Let me try to help you."
'Help?' It was a trick, the shade knew. The undead would do anything to cling to their soulless existence--anything. It was fact already proven by their state and verified by their willingness to feed off of those who were as they had once been. A creature that drank blood from the gurgling jugular of a terror-filled man and then from a slowing cooling corpse was not to be trusted. It was to be destroyed like the pestilence it was.
Sylvin was much nearer the opening to her tent now. She could hear children playing just outside. She kept her eyes on the hovering sword, however, in order to dodge another blow that was certain to come soon.
"Sylvin?" A small female voice called outside her door. "Sylvin, I need you." Sylvin risked a glance backward as Talina, a small girl who lived in a nearby tent, stepped through the door.
"Not now, Talina. You need to get out of here. I'm having a bit of a problem of my own right now." Talina's eyes widened as she saw the sword with no wielder. Sylvin saw the look on her face. "Don't scream, and don't go for help. Let me handle this. Just go back outside and play with your brother."
The shade turned when it heard the small voice and the rustling of the tent behind it. It never would have done so in life, for such a distraction was too costly, but it was still clouded in so many ways and felt a growing sense of invulnerability in its incorporeal form, and so it turned to examine the newcomer. She was child, of no more than ten, the wraith imagined, and she was living--a living child walking into the tent and grasp of a predator. The wraith wouldn't allow it, and it started moving toward the girl, intent on keeping her from the harm she was too young to understand.
Sylvin saw the spirit moving toward the child, and had no intention of letting Talina be injured or killed in her place. She moved in front of Talina. "Go," she said intently, "now." Talina left quickly. "So," she said to the spirit, "you'd rather go after a helpless child than me?" Sylvin struggled to control the frenzy she could feel building. "Pick on someone who can defend themselves, if you even have that much courage."
The shade froze--caught for a moment between indecision and confusion. This wasn't right. Nothing was right. Centuries has passed, an insignificant fishing village had transformed into a thriving port city, elves ran shops in the merchant district, and now the undead stood as the protector of the living. Mired in the wraith's confusion, the blade fell slowly towards its wielder's side and flickered quietly for a moment before fading away.
Sylvin noticed the sword's change in position, stopping for a moment as if the spirit were indecisive, then lowered from an attack position, before its disappearance. "Well," she said, altering her stance to one of more or less welcome instead of defense, "that's more like it. Now, spirit what can I do to help you?"
'Help.' The word rang again through the wraith's shadowy form, but this time without the same tinge of deception the shade had heard, or perhaps imagined, before. It might still be a trick. The wraith wasn't sure. But the creature had sought to protect the child, hadn't it? The shade slumped onto a chair, or rather around a chair and stewed in thought as it stared at the creature.
Sylvin could feel the presence of the spirit settle. She walked back over to her bed and examined her shredded pillow. "Just let me know when you're ready to let me help you." She took out a small sewing kit and sat down to repair her pillow. There was more rustling outside her tent. Talina came back in, this time with her brother, Jarret, and her parents, Caleb and Moira. "Sylvin, are you all right?" asked Caleb. Sylvin smiled at all of them. "I'm fine. I told Talina not to worry about anything. Please, go back to the fire and enjoy what's left of the evening. I shall be along shortly." She held up her pillow. "I just have a little bit of sewing to do." Sylvin kept the smile plastered on her face until they were gone, then got back to sewing and wondering when this spirit would decide to communicate.
The wraith scowled as it fell into deeper consternation, thinking that it might be hallucinating again. Humans did not live beside undead, and predators did not merit the concern of their prey. These things, the wraith knew. But here the living did dwell alongside this creature, called it by name, and inquired as to its well being. Were they mad? Perhaps that was it. But they appeared sound, and even now as the night wore on and the camp settled into sleep, the creature didn't rise to leave the tent in search of . . . the wraith shuddered, not wanting to complete the thought. But it did reach a decision. It didn't trust the creature--not entirely--but it showed no signs of harming those without and the wraith had little concern that it could improve on the shade's current state in any appreciable way. And so it decided to see what "help" the creature could offer. It didn't have to follow the kindred's advice, but it would allow for a chance to judge the creature's sincerity. If it proved true, all the better, and if it proved false then the wraith was more than willing to wait until daylight and slay the creature as it slept. The decision made, the wraith was again left with the problem of how to communicate.
It truthfully didn't know how it had left the message at the healer's and had little hope of being able to repeat that process--borne as it was out of desperation. It might, however, be able to reach the creature as it had the elven woman, and though it liked the thought less now than it had then, it resolved that little choice was left, and so, reluctantly, it rose from around the chair and drifted over towards the bed and its occupant. It hovered for a moment in a small reservoir of doubt and suspicion, but finally pushed these hesitations towards the back of the rambling and jagged thoughts that presently served as a mind, and slowly descended upon the creature.
Sylvin felt her whole body grow colder with the descent of the wraith. Not that she was ever warm anyway, but the difference was notable as the spirit settled around her. Right away, Sylvin sensed nearly overwhelming confusion. A jumble of thoughts and feelings hit her all at once, most notably pain and anger. Sylvin's whole body spasmed with the sheer force of it all. She certainly wasn't prepared for this type of communication. The pillow fell away from her hands, forgotten on the floor. Sylvin focused all of her energy on wading through the magnitude of feelings and images assaulting her mind. Slowly, the jumble began to fade into the background like clearing fog, never leaving entirely, but a constant presence in the back of her mind. Tentatively, she tried to communicate with the spirit. Sylvin saw a staircase through the haze of emotions, a staircase that spiraled upward to what seemed like infinity. Unsure of what to do, Sylvin took a mental step toward the staircase. As soon as she moved, the shouting began. None of the words were discernible, but the panic and fear came through clearly. Sylvin's mental image of herself froze. Another sound underneath the voices and shouting could be heard, but Sylvin was at a lost to identify the strangely familiar sound. The scene before her suddenly changed to one Sylvin identified as much more recent to the spirit. The image was much clearer and easier for the wraith to recall. Sylvin could see the face of someone she didn't recognize. It was a woman with long red hair and a kind face. The feelings emanating from the spirit regarding this woman were ones of hope for help with finding answers to some of the many questions swirling around inside the spirit's jumbled mind. The street outside the room became visible, and Sylvin recognized it from the many storefronts as merchants' row. The next image was one of another woman Sylvin didn't recognize. This one had long dark hair, decidedly pointed ears, and inscrutable features. The cawing of a raven or crow sounded in the back of Sylvin's mind. Sylvin saw the sign outside the door of this establishment read "The Kuriousity Shoppe."
Sylvin's vision went black, and she could feel the spirit's presence lift off of her. She was now completely exhausted. Glad for the coming day, she crawled into her pillowless bed and fell into the deep sleep of the undead. She could puzzle through this encounter with the spirit tomorrow night.
Sylvin awoke with sunset the next day. The previous night's fray was still fresh in her mind. Why would a spirit be out for my head? She shrugged and sat up in bed. Swinging her legs on to the floor, her feet fell onto something unusually soft. Sylvin glanced down and saw the shredded pillow still laying where it had fallen the night before. Sighing audibly, she picked up the pieces of fabric and the raw wool stuffing. Maybe Talina would like this to practice on. Sylvin set the mess aside among a small pile of remnant fabric she kept for miscellaneous repairs. She set about relighting her various candles and lanterns. Some had burned completely away and needed replacing, and those Sylvin would worry about later, but most of them were under a spell to extinguish themselves at daybreak. Every time Sylvin was overtaken by the sleep of the undead without first extinguishing her lot of candles and lanterns, she silently thanked Sadora, her second kumpania's medium, for working the spell for her.
Sylvin returned to her bed and sat in a traditional meditation pose to go over the previous night's events again. The question again came as to why the spirit was out to kill her. It could have been her in particular, or kindred in general, that this spirit harbored hatred toward. Sylvin puzzled over who she had done such a wrong to that would cause them to come back and seek her out. After thinking through the past century and a half as best she could remember, Sylvin decided that it must be kindred in general this spirit was after. Sylvin also thought again on the spirit's change in demeanor when she tried to protect Talina. She knew a spirit's mind was often merely a jumble of half-memories, and that was true for this spirit judging from the contact they had. Perhaps in the heat of its hatred, this spirit hadn't tried to realize that Sylvin wasn't truly evil. She chuckled slightly. Being kindred wasn't even her choice.
Sylvin then focused on the contact with the spirit and what she saw during the contact. A staircase could have many meanings, but the most likely one in this case was surmounting an obstacle or overcoming a challenge. A smirk crossed Sylvin's otherwise placid features. Being dead certainly presented it's share of challenges. The screams held a palatable amount of fear, but no discernable words could be made from them. Sylvin decided they must be a distant part of the spirit's past . . . a frightening part, to be sure. The sound underneath the screaming . . . was it a song, or some familiar story being recited? It was just as unrecognizable now as it was last night.
Again, Sylvin saw the face of the red-haired woman and the woman Sylvin thought must be an elf, or fey of some sort. The sign for the Kuriousity Shoppe floated before her vision. Sylvin decided that would be her starting point to discover more about this spirit. Fey often had more of a feel for spirit contact than kindred, even with the tricks Sylvin had picked up along the way. Even though it was evening and therefore less likely that any locals were out and about, Sylvin thought modern other-realm clothing would be somehow inappropriate for her first meeting with this strange woman. She rose from her bed and stood before her wardrobe with a thoughtful expression.
Comfortable, yet functional. Sylvin selected what she jokingly called her "pirate look". A white blouse with no adornment other than lacing in the front and at the cuffs, black heavy cotton pants, a wide black leather belt with a silver buckle, and plain knee-high black leather boots. The boots weren't her favorite pair, but they were her only soft sole pair. No taking chances tonight, Syl. She pulled her hair into a bun and secured it with two silver hair sticks she had picked up in Japan almost a century ago. Looking around to see if she would need anything else, Sylvin decided she was ready. This time, she remembered to extinguish her flames before leaving. Stepping outside, Sylvin could feel the cool air on her skin, though she no longer had breath to make steam clouds. With everyone else at the bonfire that evening, Sylvin would be able to slip away unnoticed. She didn't want any uninvited guests tagging along for this excursion into the city.
Her grey and white dappled mare, Tempest, greeted her with a whinney. "Not tonight my dear. I must go alone." Sylvin paused briefly to scratch Tempest behind the ears and check that she was securely tied to her post before returning to her task at hand. Turning west to see the very last rays of the setting sun over a burnished orange horizon, Sylvin set off in the direction of Stormpoint and what she hoped was a place of answers.
Cymbyliene left the church just before sundown, having found no more answers than what she started with. Her only thought was to head in the direction of Eowyn's shoppe......Eowyn looked like the sort that always had answers to obscure questions. Whether or not she would share them......it was hard to tell. Cym, however, was fond of Eowyn, regardless, and looked forward to saying hello. Her brow wrinkled as she hoped she would not be calling at an inconvenient hour.
She looked around at the sky. Night was drawing near, and the city was getting quiet. She could hear her own footsteps and the rustling of her skirts over the dry dust of the street. She remembered the various warnings she had received to stay indoors after dark, and hurried onward. No doubt, the warning was due to the criminal sorts she had run into once or twice already since her relocation to Stormpoint. Looking around, she was satisfied that no guild-types were visible, and she moved along quickly, the shadows growing deeper with every block until she reached Merchant's Row, and stopped at Eowyn's door.
Sylvin left the camp on foot deliberately. Tempest was a fine horse, but she wasn't known for her quiet entrances. Besides, horses weren't that good at traversing rooftops. Sylvin climbed the chimney of the first building she came to, which from the pulsating bass beat vibrating the entire building and the strobe lighting of various colors coming out of the scant basement windows, she could only surmise that it must be a night club. Hmmm . . . Sylvin smiled to herself. This place looks interesting. Perhaps I'll stop by when I'm not on an errand. Talina had told her that Merchant's Row was near the docks. From the roof of the nightclub, Sylvin could see just about the whole of the city. She could see the moonlight reflecting off the ocean and decided to head in that direction. To the northwest, Sylvin could see the rising spire of the cathedral, as well as a few people here and there who were leaving evening services. Almost due east, and a little closer, there was a larger building bearing a strong resemblance in architecture to the cathedral. However, the few stained glass windows bore no religious context. That building would be Sylvin's next target.
She backtracked to the nightclub's chimney, then headed around the building and walked west in the shadows. Sylvin noted the establishment was called "The Raven". In a place like this, no wonder its near the outskirts of the city. Most people were indoors by now, so Sylvin had little to fear of being seen. Besides, she had more than a few tricks up her sleeve in case of emergencies. Covering ground at an unnatural pace, Sylvin arrived at the large stone building in a matter of minutes. She peeked inside one of the ground floor windows to discover that this was a library. This place looks nearly as ancient as the city itself. Sylvin decided that this place might also be worth a look in the near future. Using what few handholds there were in the barely crumbling exterior, Sylvin climbed her way to the roof of the library.
Looking around this time, to the north she could see the town square with a rather large fountain, and north of that was the cathedral. Closer this time, Sylvin studied it a bit more. It was very similar to the cathedrals she was familiar with on earth. As she was about to climb down and head west again, Sylvin caught herself and stared at the cathedral again. If she could breathe, her breath would have caught in her throat as she stared at the entrance to the cathedral. Standing there, plain as the moon, was the woman with red hair Sylvin had seen in the spirit's vision. Sylvin watched as she too headed in the direction of Merchant's Row. Narrowing her eyes slightly, Sylvin prepared to follow.
Jumping down from the roof of the library and landing softly was a simple matter. Following this woman would also be simple. Sylvin noticed in the way she carried herself that she was afraid. Sticking to the shadows and following at a discreet distance, Sylvin couldn't help chuckling at the fact that this woman probably didn't know the half of it. If she did, she wouldn't ever leave her house again. Sylvin also noticed the others lurking nearby, hoping to make a victim out of such an easy target. Some were pickpockets, some had darker thoughts, and a few were like her . . . looking for a meal. She wasn't after a meal tonight, though. The others in the shadows didn't exactly treat her with deference upon her approach, but they did respect what they thought was her mark and let her have it. There would always be others, after all.
Sylvin followed the woman into the heart of Merchant's Row. This woman was also going to the same place as she, for she stopped and rang the bell outside the Kuriousity Shoppe. After watching the woman walk inside, Sylvin walked over to the small alley beside the Shoppe and crouched below one of the windows. She didn't want to walk in totally blind, so Sylvin stood there listening and gathering whatever useful information she could about the woman with red hair and the fey owner of the Shoppe. This should be interesting, to say the least.
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