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Notes: Much as I did with Keller, a lot of the RP I enjoyed with Deamhan was in the form of stories written back and forth, punctuated by scenes on the mud. Some of this was due to the limitations of the mud rules (Family mud!), and some was limited by our own ability to tell the story we wished while limited by mortal means - ie Says. This story was written in the 1997-1998 time frame; more exact dates, I don't have. There were more scenes, both before and after this one, but as the reunion of Cordir and Deamhan featured heavily in a pair of Chosen of Fate RPs, I wanted to share it. It also mentions Guardian, the spider in my temple that collected the Geasa of all of the Chosen of Fate. A lines of asterisks generally denote an authorship change, whereas two asterisks designated mind-to-mind speech. - Cordir 14:27, 17 June 2011 (MST)

Today was a hard day. Though the sense of deep satisfaction from having completed your mortal advancement, and the rising expectation as you await Ascension, have not faded, you are tired. You weren’t expecting the sight of those two young lovers in the Guild to bring you such pain - you thought you were almost used to Deamhan being gone - it always hurt a little, but you thought you’d accepted his absence. But speaking of him to those two who didn’t even know his name has awakened your loneliness again, and it’s been a tiring day. Around sunset, almost without thinking about it, you find yourself murmuring the small spell to open the cabin door, and slipping inside.

You haven’t been here in awhile. It’s completely dark, as always, but your brief spell lets you see the dirt and decay which now are due not only to artifice but to neglect as well. “Greetings,” you say softly to the ears you know are listening, and Quick-of-Eye swoops arthritically through the air to land on your hand. He seems even slower than the last time you saw him, and you stroke him once in concern.

“I am old, Lady An-Shalach,” he chitters gently. “But I hope he returns before I..”

**You are come. Good.** Guardian is just barely visible: the patterns on her back are glowing, but so slightly that you can really only see them from the corner of your eye. **He needs you.

You raise an eyebrow at her. “I have felt that, a few times, over the years, but how can I help him now any more than I have been able to before? I cannot find him.” You know he is not dead - you would have known, no matter what, if he had died - but you have not felt his presence in your mind for a long time.

**He needs you. Call to him.** The spider’s mindvoice is commanding but almost absent, as if she is already concentrating on something and cannot spare much attention for you.

You let down your mental barriers, carefully, trying to ‘reach’ out as far as you can. You sense nothing, perhaps only the faintest echo. Guardian snaps at you, impatiently, as you have never heard her before: **Not that way! You know what you are! Stop wasting time.**

You are tempted to snap back at her, but something of your link to what you are/have been/will become steadies you. Understanding comes, and you reach your hand to Guardian to let her crawl onto it, then pause. “No... Not here,” some instinct prompts you. Darting behind the log pile briefly, you breathe a word, and the wall shimmers to nothing. You quickly gather up the spidersilk dress from your first night here together, and the black rose, dried but still fragrant. “Guardian, Quick-of-Eye, step onto my shoulders, please,” you say, a strange urgency in your voice, surprising you. You walk out the cabin door - a stomach-twisting moment, dark trees flashing by you impossibly fast, and then you are in the garden. Deamhan will be pleased that you have mastered his trick of quick movement, some corner of your mind chatters at you. Now if only you can figure out what it was you did...

The garden is just as you remembered it. Moonlight makes ethereal shadows, confusing everything until your eyes sort it out. Your voice seems to echo a little when you speak, as though it were not coming from inside your head. “There is some ceremony called for here... I will be doing what is required as it occurs to me. Aid me as you can.” Guardian and Quick-of-Eye slip off your shoulders to a branch and wait.

You close your eyes for a moment, reaching inward as you have learned so well over the years. Slowly, eyes still closed, you gesture to make a small stream at your feet, then strip off the day’s dirty tunic and toss it aside. A brief symbolic wash, then you pull the spidersilk dress on. It seems a little warm on your skin, and the Odegra patterns tingle. You raise your hands, deciding that the world should be such that your cloak from Thaygar is in your hands. It is. You settle it over your shoulders. Help me, you murmur to your self-that-will-be, half in prayer, half in command. You feel the pattern on your skin - your Pattern - move and tingle with the Odegra scars. Gradually, though you have not opened your eyes, you See the garden, not by the moonlight, but by its Pattern. You feel as though there are two of you standing in the same skin: the mortal, and the Weaver. If you open your eyes too soon, you sense your mortal senses will overpower your inner Sight. With every breath, you feel the Pattern rippling slightly in response to you.

**Reach for him now. No more ceremony,** says Guardian, and you refrain from pointing out that you were about to do that. You reach out your hands, sorting through strands, looking for a certain one you know almost better than your own. In some small part of your mind you are trying very, very hard not to think about what will happen if you mishandle the Pattern as you did that first time so many years ago... but mostly you are feeling the Web, more a part of you than it has ever been before, navigating on instinct honed by all the Weaver’s years...

You are no longer even conscious of the smells of the garden, or the air whispering over your throat. All that exists, all that is, is the Pattern, and the search, and the need to find that Pattern which completes and is completed by yours. No time passes, or perhaps eons do; it has no meaning. You can sense Guardian and Quick-of-Eye near you, but they are silent; there is nothing they can do. Where can he be? You refuse to feel anxiety. It will doom you both. But where can he be?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cordir took a slightly uneven breath, held it, and Reached again…..

Then, as if there the entire time, simply beyond her awareness in the midst of her complete concentration, another presence steadied her. Sanguine coolness flowed over each of her senses, stripping away the last of her doubt. The presence was a part of her, kin, another fragment of who she had been, who she must-yet-be. His physical touch, hands upon her shoulders, grounded her, allowing her to narrow her focus further.

The search continued, but with a sense of incompletion, so before turning their attentions utterly on finding the lost one, they Called out to the Third, the one who would complete them. Her presence within the physical world was gone, and they had to reach far into the Pattern of what-might-have-been to find her.

With a snap like a joint being put back into place, the final presence joined the meld: warm, comforting and rejuvenating. The Triumvirate complete at last, She/They stretched into the Great Pattern. As one, each spilled some of the blood that bound them to the one sought. As one, Their voices called out, entreating, commanding, and summoning. And as one, They were answered…. And when they saw what had come, a gasp tore itself from three throats, a sound of horror and concern such as had not been heard since fair Thalos was destroyed….

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He is barely recognizable; only your long and true knowledge of him lets you believe it is really Deamhan. When he appears in the glade, his body language screams ‘predator’ to every deep-rooted instinct in you. He is poised as though about to leap onto unaware prey, hands extended and curved into claws, fangs terrifyingly sharp, eyes wide and mad with bloodlust you can feel crawling along your veins. There is something unnatural about his stance; he is a spring coiled far, far too tightly. He abruptly realizes he is no longer where he was, and in his hiss there is nothing of the wry, complex, loving person you remember. He does not see you at first, somehow, though you are standing in full moonlight and, to your Sight at least, your Pattern is glowing brightly. Hissing softly, he slinks backwards into the nearest shadow, looking around warily at first, then - you feel something from him. Nothing so strong as a realization of where he is, but... recognition... faintly... something else... The hissing stops suddenly.

There is silence from the darkness under the tree where he has cloaked himself. A moment passes. Another. Very slowly, one hand reaches out into the moonlight. He spreads his fingers, turning the hand slowly in the light as though reacquainting himself with either the hand or the moonlight on it. It is difficult to tell what is going on in his mind. The surface is still that too-tightly held control, but below it you can sense a nearly chaotic swirl of emotion and half-memory. Gradually, the other hand joins the first in the silver light, turning and moving slowly, then finally becoming still, both hands wide open, palms up, but not beseechingly. All three of your Selves stand silently, not moving, fearing to startle him or interrupt whatever is happening. An eternity of quiet passes there in the garden, with nothing moving: just that darker shape in the trees’ shadow, and the hands, unmoving, untrembling, while the silver light pours over them. Finally, his mental barriers go down, just slightly. All the turmoil is still there, calmer now but overlain by a deep despair that strikes you to the heart. You almost move to go to him, but sense a decision about to be made... He steps into the light, and is changed once again: no longer the predator all the more terrible for not being mindless, but a man with the dry eyes of one beyond grief. He raises his face to the moon for a moment and then looks around, still not seeing you. He sinks to the ground, hugging his knees and burying his face in his arms. You hear him murmuring to himself, “My beloved... o beloved... I failed you... Khore... I... Beloved, beloved, beloved... ” At the pain in his voice, you can stay still no longer. You sense the other two Aspects fading - not gone, merely not choosing to reveal themselves to him at this time. You take a step forward, drop to your knees by him, and touch him very gently on the shoulder.

His head shoots up, and his eyes widen. He gasps. “You—you... ” He reaches for you desperately, then draws back. “Cordir... I... ” He swallows, then forces himself to go on, very quietly. “I must tell you where I have been and... and what I have been doing. After I have, I... ” He laughs softly, but not happily. “I have too much faith in you to say that you will not love me, but I am not sure I will be able to... to believe... to let myself be loved... ” His voice actually breaks a little - more loss of control than you have ever heard from him. You tighten your grip on his shoulder; he hesitates, then lays his hand over yours. His fingers tremble, as though he would like to squeeze your hand but cannot bring himself to do it. Still quietly, he continues.

“After... after our Kiss, that last night, do you remember, there was a youngling who needed help badly, and so you went to her and I went back to the cabin alone, much as we both wished it otherwise... When I woke up, I was... imprisoned. Shackled, with chains so strong even I could not break them. I do not know even now exactly where I was or how I was taken there. I was kept for a very long time, and fed nothing - not mundane food, not blood. At first this did not worry me. I do not really need mundane food, and my years in the Pattern-Web, caught apart from you, had been... strange... as you know, but I did not succumb to the blood-madness as I had always thought happened to vampires if we did not feed. I thought - I do not know what I thought. Perhaps that my demon blood, or what you and I had made the Kiss mean for us, let me go so long without the taste of it and still retain my senses.

“Then, he... he came. I was half-gone by then, the thirst, it was... it was like nothing I had ever imagined. I had been left alone, completely, and he was the first other being I had seen. All the while he was there, all I could think of was breaking my chains and sinking my fangs into his neck. I could taste his blood like it was already on my tongue. And he - he knew. He teased me with it. At first I thought he was Lestat. I don’t know if he put some glamour on his face or if I was simply that distracted by the smell of his blood. But it - it wasn’t Lestat.” He stops, and you are almost afraid he won’t be able to go on. But...

“It was my father. My father, Cordir. I don’t know how long he kept me there. He would visit, sometimes... I lost track of the days. He... despised me. Because I worshipped a god. Because I tried to control my impulses and live honorably. Because I loved a human. Because I loved.” His fingers, finally, tighten on your own. His grip is almost painful, but he relaxes it after a second or two. “He despised Mother too... he finds nothing admirable - not about mortals, and not about gods - Madman is the only one he respects, and that only grudgingly... Finally, one night, he told me he was going to do me a great favor, grant me a great gift. He was going to let me live as I truly was. He... I fell asleep, I think... it must have been more of his magic; I would not have slept with him in the room, flaunting his blood at me... I could swear the walls smelled of it. When I woke up, I was near a shepherd and his flock of sheep, not far from a small village. I never knew its name. I... ” His fingers work, convulsively, and he takes a shuddering breath. “I killed them all. The shepherd first. He heard me - I was so... so thirsty for him that I did not even try to walk quietly. He saw me... ”

He stops, and his shoulders shake as he stares silently at his crossed arms. You feel him forcing his hand not to break your fingers, and his other hand is curled into a fist. “He saw me, and he was terrified, and I didn’t care. I didn’t stop. I was glad, Cordir, I was so glad, his blood was sweet and warm and I tore out his throat so fast he didn’t even scream... ”

He is unable to go on, crying openly now, shaking so hard he can hardly breathe. After a few awful gulping sobs, he forces it down. “The whole town... they were all asleep. I went from house to house... By then I was able to take enough time to do it quietly so the town wouldn’t rouse and come after me... I killed them all... the blood was so rich... Some of them I killed before they woke up. They never knew. But some... there was a little girl who was awake... she looked at me, the whole time... I didn’t even slow down. Cordir, I’ve... I’ve Hunted before, you know that, taken blood when it was not truly given as you give it. I... I thought I knew what it was to lose control in the Hunt, to give myself over to the thirst and to be a predator... ”

He looks up from his arms, again, into your eyes. **I was wrong.** “Then - those times, I took only enough blood to sate me, and I Hunted lawful prey, who could choose to flee or stand and fight. Not defenseless people who could do neither. Not shepherds who never knew a sword. Not little girls in their beds.”

“After it was all over, I fell asleep again, right out in the town square, I think... I woke up in my chains again, with Fa—with him standing over me. He just looked at me, and smiled, and left. I was alone again - I don’t know for how long... long enough to crave the blood again as much as I had before, even though now I remembered what had happened... and then it started to happen again. I fell asleep... I had just woken up outside another small town when you ... when I came here... ”

He lets go of your hand, uncrosses his arms, holds his hands up to the light again. “I am a murderer,” he says. “I am an animal.” His voice is calm, almost matter-of-fact, but you can feel how much depth there is beneath that surface. “It was Vil who kept me, who incited my Thirst, but it was I who fed. And I reveled in it. The taste is with me still. It was Vil who chained me, who took me from you.

“But... ” His hands drop to his sides, and he looks into your eyes again, with no trace of a smile. “It was I who fed.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cordir is silent for a moment, and, as if following her lead, the entire garden becomes still. The silence goes on, for what seems to you to be an eternity. A whisper of sound and scent comes to you – rich succulence, pounding, pulsing… With horror you realize it is her heartbeat, and the seductive rush of the sanguine fluid in her veins, and that it has not been an eternity, but only the blink of an eye since you stopped speaking.

With a whimper, you scramble backwards, desperate to create distance between yourself and the woman before you, desperate to separate her from the prey you hunted and slew so wildly. Only the unresisting trunks of the trees halt your frantic passage. “I … will… not!” you grind out from behind clenched fangs. “Beloved, GO!” Unnoticed, a trickle of blood begins slowly creeping down your face, birthed from where one ivory canine punctured the fullness of your lip.

Her eyes darken in understanding, and the color of them fades like the light of the last sunrise you ever witnessed. In the wake of the sapphire blue you know so well is a deep ebon hue, streaked with bits of light. “Deamhan An-Shalach…. Hear me. By your true name, I speak, and by it, I command you, listen: Your Pattern has been altered. Against your will, the Pattern of your life was changed. But it is YOUR pattern, and YOUR life… and they are yours to take back once more.”

An involuntary movement of denial and you realize that something now binds you to the tree at your back – silken webs, strong as steel, swiftly spun by Guardian – as a soft weight settles upon your left shoulder.

**Truly she speaks** chitters Quick-Of-Eye in your ear, **I know this: Predator, yes. All are. All hear the call of that One. All make choices. You chose. Chose to live. Evil? Evil to choose as you did? Perhaps. But you were not yourself.**

Cordir nods, and murmurs softly, “Madness, my beloved, is something I know well. What we do when sanity has fled…” She pauses a moment, mortal memories flooding the sapphire back into her eyes like a cloud of indigo through dark water.

“Yes, there is responsibility, and yes there is sorrow for actions taken. But also, there is responsibility on that person who tortured to the point of madness, who sought to break you. Who sought to destroy that which is bright and wondrous within you, by forcing you into the darkest corners of your soul. By making you what you – what anyone – are capable of being.” She pauses for a moment, but holds up one finger to still your ready protests. You notice, oddly, in a strangely focused sort of way that the moonlight that so enthralled you earlier seems to dance upon her hand.

“Animal? No. No, that I refute. You are no animal, Deamhan. Only a being tortured and pushed beyond all limits. Murderer? Perhaps. You did kill. You did kill the innocent. And that, by your standards, is wrong. That, as I said, you will have to reconcile within yourself. But you did not feed alone. Vil fed right alongside you, savoring every drop, every kill, every moment. Trying to destroy that which is within you which he reviles – your humanity, your emotion, your purity, your strength, all that is other than what he is… And it is for you to decide whether or not he gets to win. It is for you to decide if you are stronger than his machinations and manipulations or not. For yes, you fed. But you did not feed alone.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He is silent, staring at you. You can feel through his mind how powerful the scent of your blood still is in his nostrils, but your words have cut through it enough to let him think past it, though not without difficulty. He swallows, and you feel it in your own throat, almost imagining how your blood would taste, then forcing the thought away.

His words come at last in a whisper. “That little girl... I keep seeing Mireya.” He obviously feels the sudden pain that causes you, and says fearfully, “Love? What is it? What’s happened to Mireya?”

“She’s gone,” you say. “I don’t know where. She still lives - we would both know if it were otherwise - but I don’t know where she is.”

His shock is swiftly replaced by horrible suspicion. “If that bastard has even thought about laying a hand on our daughter -“

A new voice speaks, and you feel a presence re-solidifying behind you. “He has not.” You know who it is, but Deamhan gets another shock.

“Mireya? But... you look a woman grown... My gods, how long have I been gone?”

“I am not Mireya.” Just for an instant, a shadow of blackfire dances in the woman’s eyes. “This is the form she wears, but I am not she. Be not feared... she treads her own path of discovery. As the daughter of demon and vampire, witch and Weaver, mortal and more, she has much to learn and much to decide about who she is. No such path is an easy one, but she will walk it well, and return to you -“ a flash of humor in her voice for a moment, something you hardly expected to hear from one of the Three “- Pattern willing, which I have no doubt her mother will see to.”

“But Vil has not taken her?” Deamhan seems to need definite reassurance on this one - hardly surprising; you can still faintly taste your blood on the air, and you know it’s not your own senses doing that.

“Weaver will know,” says the woman. “I have already told you more than you could have expected to find out so quickly.”

“True. I thank you for your gift, Lady. I did not mean to sound ungrateful that one of the Three had ‘only’ given me some reassurance of my daughter’s wellbeing.” You sense the small flash of humor accompanying these words and breathe a little easier. Perhaps Deamhan will be all right after all. He turns back to you, though, all humor gone. “My love... I... need to drink. I realize my Pattern has been altered, but knowing of my thirst’s unnatural origin does not make me any less thirsty. I will not be able to control myself for much longer and I do not think I can attempt anything while... ” He falters, and swallows, and you are sure he is deliberately keeping you out of his mind to shield you from the strength of his thirst. “... While the taste of you is all I can think of. Guardian, please, release your webs.”

**You cannot harm Her. But I want your word that you will not try.**

“That word I have already given to myself, Guardian. But you may have it too.” He looks at you, not at the spider. “But I want a promise from you as well, Cordir.” You raise an eyebrow. “If I should... lose control too much, and endanger your life, I want you to promise to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself, even if it means harming or killing me. The Three have waited long enough; you need to Ascend.”

You frown, not happy with this promise. “I am Cordir as well as Weaver, Deamhan, and this shapes all I do and am. I do not want killing you to be a part of that.”

“Then promise me only that you will not allow yourself to be killed. Please... I am afraid of myself. I would rather be thirsty than risk doing to you what I did to those others.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The bindings holding you dissolve into nothingness, and Guardian climbs slowly up your arm. As it does so, you feel a tingling in its wake – to your surprise, you see dark swirls upon your flesh – your Pattern, but not the clean, crimson lines you recall. Frowning, you raise your head to ask, but are stalled by Cordir’s movement. Her silvery-grey hair slides across her shoulder like a silken wave, as she bares her throat. Her eyes are dark, and in them is a tangled skein of emotion: concern, love, sorrow, and even a hint of anticipation.

“I swear it, Deamhan,” she murmurs. “I will not allow myself to die. I am Weaver as well as Cordir. And I will not have your death or my own on my hands.” Her lips tickle against your chest as she settles quietly into your arms, arching her neck, offering it to you.

With a gasp, you can hold back no longer. Hungrily, desperately, you grasp her with inhuman strength, lifting and pressing her against your lips. Fangs plunging deep, you drink... and drink... and drink... The taste is all that you remember and more; sweeter than any taken from the villagers, and you can feel both sustenance and pure power flow into you from her veins. It consumes your entire awareness, the burning sweet ecstasy of her blood filling you, arousing your bloodlust to levels beyond comprehension. She stirs in your arms, almost like a bird fluttering its wings, and a soft growl escapes your lips. She speaks, but the words make no sense, drowned out by the pounding of her heartbeat in your ears. You drink… Her eyes close, and her body goes slack, completely relaxed, and in some corner of your mind, this concerns you. There’s something you should do… something you should not do…. Something is wrong…

With a gasp, you tear yourself from her throat, thrusting her away from you. Shame fills you as completely as her blood already has, and you turn away from her in self-loathing and disgust. “Do you see?” you groan. “I cannot control it. I almost took you, like I took them…”

Her voice comes soft, and you must strain to hear it. “Beloved. You did not kill me. I did nothing to stop you. You stopped yourself.”

Hoarsely, “I thought I had. You fainted, and I thought I had…..” Unreleased sobs make you shudder.

“But you did not. I did not faint – I was reading your Pattern, watching how it moved as you drank. I …. Learned… something….” Her tone is odd.

You raise your head, and look at her from under tear-heavy lashes, the question plain in your eyes.

“Vil has modified your Thirst. Made it greater. It’s not just the increased blood you need, but the life itself. You're drinking soul-essence, not just blood. There is a spell…”

With a gasp of horror, you flinch away, grasping at the trees which barred your escape earlier. Now they seem a lifeline, and you hold them as much for comfort as support. “I am a monster.”

She is silent a moment. Then her voice comes firmly. “Deamhan. You are not. You are weary and burdened with this, and all seems lost. But it is not. As I said, there is a spell… woven into your Pattern… and that spell is the key to your Thirst. If we can break the spell, I believe your Thirst will gradually return to normal levels as your Pattern reasserts itself.”


A deep voice answers from the shadows: “Death. Willing death. The death of a loved one. Your sire cannot comprehend the possibility of love being great enough that Life would end willingly. Therefore, it was the perfect spellkey. With a love-given Death, the spell will begin to fade. For surely he has twisted you into such a creature that none could possibly make that sacrifice... ” The voice is the sarcastic, wry, almost biting tone of Khore when lecturing you on a point you should already see clearly.

Releasing the tree, you spin, searching out the source of that familiar tone.

**No. This is but a convenient envelope that you can comprehend. But Weaver speaks truly. It is a Death that must be given, and that is My domain. It is I who dictate when a Life ends, and this is not of my choosing.**

Cordir’s touch is gentle on your wrist, coaxing your fingers open and into hers. “Beloved…. ”

“NO!” If a sound could personify denial, it is the word that bursts from your lips. “NO!”

A furry form lands on your entwined hands. “Silly. Both of you. Weaver, be Weaver, not woman. I am old. I am willing.” At your silent and instant refusal, Quick-of-Eye tilts his head to one side. He gazes up at you, his brown eyes unblinking. “Am I not loved?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Deamhan raises his other hand and strokes Quick-of-Eye’s head. “You are... you have been a true friend for many years. I am merely... I do not want to kill a friend.”

Quick-of-Eye huffs impatiently, then seems to reconsider his approach and says calmly, “Deamhan, I am old. Very old. The magics of the cabin, the magics I have shared with you, have given me life long past that of any other of my kind, but even they do not last forever. My death will be soon in any case: I can feel it winging nearer. Allow me the dignity to choose my time and my way, and the honor of making my death meaningful. What could be a better death than one that saved the soul of my friend, and the happiness of him and his beloved? How many are given this opportunity? Would you rather I hunched on the ceiling in the cabin and waited alone until I dropped from my perch, cowering away from it as though death were something to fear? I have Hunted too, my friend, and this is my choice. Take my life, and live.”

Hesitantly, Deamhan raises his eyes to yours. You nod to him. “You have known for years that if anyone should come upon you in the cabin and attack you, he would give his life trying to save yours. This is no different. Honor him by accepting his gift.”

Deamhan pauses a moment more, then strokes Quick-of-Eye’s head once again. “I... thank you, friend. You will be remembered. Is there anything you would like to... to do, say, see, before... ?”

Quick-of-Eye does not answer, but glides off your joined hands and makes one sweep high in the sky, around the garden, and back to you. “My mates have all gone before me, and my children, and my children’s children. I have stretched my wings; I am ready for this journey. Do it now.”

Deamhan lets go of your hands, and raises the bat to his eye-level, bowing to him formally. Then, in silence, he drinks.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Other than a slightly muffled “Cheep!” as your fangs pierce his soft grey body, Quick-of-Eye is silent. Only the soft sounds of sucking disturb the complete stillness of the garden.

When you feel the last drop pass into your mouth, and his form goes limp, a fire alights within you. As if you had sunk your teeth into the heart of Mt. Molotov, your innards burn, the heat working its way down all of your limbs, tracing every vein, and then outward, as if to burst through your skin. Spine arching in agony, your hands flinging outward, a tortured howl claws its way out of your throat.

“Deamhan!” Cordir’s voice is frightened, but you cannot spare the attention to reassure her - it is all you can do to keep yourself from passing out from the pain that roars through you. Forcing your arms down, you gaze as the black Pattern upon your limbs is seemingly scorched away, leaving sinuous lines in glowing crimson. Just seeing evidence of your Pattern’s restoration gives you the strength to bear the agony, until finally it is over.

When you come completely to your senses once more, you find yourself in a huddled pile on the ground, fists full of dirt, shaken and dripping with bloody sweat. Cordir kneels beside you, the body of Quick-of-Eye in her hands. Reverently, she lays his still form aside, and gathers you into her arms.

You both cling to one another for solace and comfort, both exhausted from the rigors and trials of the past few hours. Time passes - you know not how long. But each moment seems to heal one more little part of the myriad hurts within you both; the terror, the loneliness, the heartbreak, the betrayal, the hate.

After a time, you rise, and gently pick up your friend’s still form. In silent assent, you both nod, and lay him in the center of the garden. As one, you both call fire, giving him a proper warrior’s farewell. The mingled crimson and indigo fires burn intently, and their combined heat pounds at your sensitive, still-tender skin. When all that is left is ash, the fires die down, only to be replaced by a strong wind which catches up all of the cinders and scatters them over the garden.

“Come.” Her voice is gentle, as she summons a shimmering Portal and leads you through.

Trusting implicitly - for how could you not? - you follow your beloved through the Gate, and after the familiar gut-wrenching distress of portal-travel fades, you find yourself in a small cabin. It seems... oddly familiar. But you know for certain that you have never been here. The chamber is small, sparsely furnished, with but a low couch before a stone fireplace. To one side, an enormous brass basin rests, dully gleaming in the firelight; on the opposite side of the room, a small table and twin chairs.

Cordir smiles, and murmurs, 'I had it built on the tenth anniversary of your disappearance. It's modeled after the cabin in the woods. It helped me feel somehow closer to you, though I didn't know where you were. I made it so that we might have a home together if you ever were returned to me.' She steps lightly to the bookcase, and pulls out a slim volume. When she does so, the entire structure slides into a hidden recess, revealing a bedchamber beyond, much like the hidden space you slept in for so long.

Leaving the hidden doorway, she comes to you, skimming her hands up your arms, barely touching so as not to cause further pain. A soft sound of concern escapes her throat, and her eyes speak volumes of her love and concern. "Don't move."

In a trice, she has arranged the brass basin, summoned a small spring, and heated it to steaming, strewn with pungent and healing herbs. Your clothes fall away before her ministrations, and scarcely before you know it, you've been settled into the hot water, and your hair is being soaped. Her fingers massage your scalp, scrubbing the blood, sweat, and worse from your tresses. With a tiny sigh, you force yourself to relax, wondering if this is all somehow a dream, all somehow an illusion crafted by Vil to torment you further upon its dismissal.

**No, beloved. I am here. It is real. As real as my devotion to you. Deamhan An-Shalach, now and always, past the stars fading... I am thine. I love thee.**

At her mental touch, you gasp, almost a sound of heartbreaking need, for the gentle caress of her mind on yours is like a balm. It's almost too intimate, and, if sensing your distress, she smiles, nods, and withdraws, and does not mention the tears that creep down your cheeks.

The bath proceeds in silence, with your lady ministering to each muscle, every inch of skin, so that you are fully and gently washed. If only you could silence the voice in your heart that says that while your skin is clean, perhaps your soul never will be...

The silence continues as she helps you from the bath, and leads you to the generously sized bed in the next room. Heaps of soft woolen blankets are wrapped around you, just prior to her arms encircling you. Hour after hour, her hands continue gently stroking the line the length of your arm, up over your shoulder, through your hair, and back down, sweeping slowly, lightly, soothingly.

As you feel the dawn creep closer, and weariness settles over you, the thought creeps into your mind that perhaps, just perhaps, things might turn out all right...

The story continues in Seeking Night.