So…this chapter is a bit…different. O_o I apologize in advance…
Venkat Darkrider waits against the thick trunk of a tree in the still of the night. The fog is heavy, the air is biting, and unknown dangers lurk in the darkness. But he welcomes each of them all the same.
He hears footsteps approach him, dainty but laced with swagger, and recognizes them as coming from his traveling companion, the Gumpaler. Though they had both agreed on this course of action, she is still an unknown threat to him and cannot be trusted, so he keeps his grip steady on his crossbow and his mind tuned as she makes her way nearer.
She comes to a stop in front of him, somehow easily making out his location in such indiscernible obscurity. “It’s done. Even if he somehow survives that, he is in no condition to stay with us,” she explains.
Darkrider finally looks up and acknowledges her presence. “You didn’t cleanly finish the job? I thought that’s what assassins do.”
The Gumpaler seems hesitant to answer but eventually speaks, “What’s done is done. In any case, it was either me or you, and you seemed so uncertain about stabbing a man in the back. For someone who is so passionate about seeking vengeance, you have become soft-hearted.” She asserts it like an accusation, a threat on the hole in his defenses.
Perhaps her words are true, Darkrider contemplates. Or perhaps he was never so committed to murder in the first place.
Each time he thinks of death, he thinks of her. He thinks of the way she used to smile at him and the way her long hair cascaded around her shoulders and shone in the sunlight. He thinks of how effortlessly they were everything together and proud of whatever they weren’t. He thinks of how she was in life; but most of all he remembers how she was when it ceased to exist.
“He killed her in cold blood,” he starts to explain, more for himself than for his audience. “A man will change after seeing what I saw. I can still picture the way her eyes were staring, long after she was dead and lying on the floor.” His face looks murderous and strained with sorrow. A sob nearly escapes his lips but he reigns it with all his might so as not to appear weak. The effort leaves him powerless, and he can only manage a whisper: “He took all I had left.”
The Gumpaler watches and listens to the story of a man she nearly killed (and still considers killing), a man defeated but somehow still standing. Life has forged her character cynical, but it has not rendered her entirely heartless. There is no telling if or when she will kill this man or when he will kill her. But she knows that time is not now.
“Let’s get moving. We are not going to find the Golden Weed standing here sharing stories all day.” She turns away from him and walks on, her steps even and deliberate.
The use of the word ‘we’ is not lost on him. Venkat Darkrider feels a pinch someplace behind his eyes, but only for a second. Without any more words spoken, he follows behind her, matching her pace with easy strides.
Denisey’s initial attempts at reviving Lilee had proved futile. Usually, if the person is just near death and has only recently passed, their soul is nearby and easy to find in the world-between. With Lilee, this wasn’t the case at all. Then she had thought perhaps the girl wasn’t even dead but just unconscious, but she could feel no life flow coming from her either. It was definitely strange. Denisey surmised it had something to do with the sword Lilee was carrying around. In a final attempt at saving Lilee, the transient had decided to traverse the world-between.
And now here she is, lost in the mists of the plane no one but her and perhaps a few others know about. There is no color, but she finds she does not dislike it. There is also no gravity so that when she walks, she feels weightless, as if the burdens of the outer worlds are left behind.
Denisey knows she has been walking around for some time and still finds no sign of her traveling companion. In all actuality, she feels bad for the girl but also can’t help but feel a bit numb from the recent events with Broderick. Betrayal cuts like a knife. Her whole life, she had only really known happiness and privilege. Broderick was family, and family should not act on each other so, should they?
And now because of him, she is here in the world-between. She is a transient, whatever that means. Denisey fingers the amethyst stone hanging from her neck. Her grandmother surely knew the powers this stone contained? She had entrusted it to Denisey in the form of a protective charm, but she must have known the story behind it. And if her grandmother knew about such mystical abilities, then there must be others out there that know as well, Denisey is certain. If only she could find them; if only she could put her heart at ease.
Sometimes, she forgets who she is, and it scares her. It happens only intermittently, sometimes when she is in a sea of people in the city, or by herself in the woods. In those moments, she remembers nothing of herself but only knows that she is no longer of this world.
She cannot feel her heart beating. She hasn’t in a long while.
Does that mean it is no longer there?
The fog becomes thicker, usually signaling an exit from the world-between. Normally, she can navigate through the worlds without problem, coming and going from location to location as she pleases. But at times like this, when she feels unsure and lost, the fog becomes thick like the cloud over her mind and only seeks to confuse her more.
Finally, the fog clears somewhat but the air is still hazy. Denisey realizes she is back in the world of the living. She stands still for a moment, looking at her surroundings. The forest is dark, and in the sky she can see the sliver of a crescent moon. The image sparks a memory inside her, and she now recognizes where she is. The Forest of Ages. It was here, on a night like this some time ago (exactly how long ago, she can no longer remember), she came to discover her ability to travel between the worlds.
A crackling of branches beneath feet is heard to her left. She is not in fear of her life, so she turns her head lazily toward the sound. Standing before her is an imp of a man – the same man she met on a night like this.
The imp grins that same grin that no one can ever seem to wipe off his face. “Well, here I was looking for a couple other folks and come across you instead. A surprise, but a pleasant one, to be sure.”
Denisey still makes no reaction to him or his words. Feeling has all but left her at the moment. “I was looking for a girl. My traveling companion.”
“You look like you’ve been through the wringer since I last saw you,” Gregums observes. The transient seems off, like she is becoming less human and more spirit.
Denisey looks to be pondering something. “What is the cure for an ailment that cannot be described?”
Ah hah. Opportunity. Gregums is sure some god somewhere is smiling on him. “You know, I’m on a search for a special plant. The Golden Weed – the cure for all illnesses. Help me find it, and perhaps you’ll find what you’re searching for as well.”
A small flick of excitement passes through Denisey’s eyes, the first sign of emotion Gregums has seen from her tonight. “Lead the way, my friend.”