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Running. That's the first thing I remember. Running as though my life
depended on it. Over stumps, under overhanging branches, through ferns
and streams and thickets, I ran till my feet were raw and bleeding. (God
only knows why I wasn't wearing any shoes . . .)
I never stopped to look for what was behind me. It never occurred to me
to ask. I just knew that I had to run, that I could never hide. My
breath, hot in my throat, harsh in my ears, drowned out any sound I
might have heard. Any noise that might've told me who I was, who I was
running from. All I knew was running.
And then, sudden as the sunrise, I was hanging midair, suspended in a
void of crystal spray and rainbows. I could see everything in that
instant. The lake, the waterfall, the tiny figures in the water . . . It
was like some bright mosaic, fragmented, yet making sense taken as a
whole. Then the blackness, and cold, and utter silence.
My memory deserted me again there, until I woke once more from the
darkness. Wrapped in soft warmth, I opened my eyes, traveling from
oblivion to life in the span of a single breath. The light of a fire
glittered against a night sky, and the furs I was wrapped up in
cushioned me against the hard ground. I stirred, I guess, or gave some
clue, because suddenly *she* was there. Bending over me like a vision of
the goddess, sky blue eyes clouded with genuine concern.
"Lie still until I can prop up your head. We don't know how much damage
that fall might have done to your spine." So saying, she
gently lifted my head, putting another pile of furs under it. "Does that
I shook my head. The only pain I felt was a lingering soreness that
encompassed my whole body, and the throb of my lacerated feet.
"All right then. Here," she held a cup to my lips. "Drink this. It'll
help you sleep."
And so I drank, the bitter herb broth harsh on my tongue but warm in my
stomach; and sleep came quickly: stealing upon me like a dark predator.
This time, though, I traveled not to oblivion, but to strange dreams of
running and falling, and seeing a goddess by moonlight, near water . . .
Morning came quickly, overtaking the night with it's brilliance. Into
the clear light I woke, and the only darkness left was the wall over my
past, my life. There she was again, sitting over a campfire, stirring
the coals. Her hair was braided back, intertwining in complicated
textures, catching the light in it's dark folds and corners. I was so
absorbed in her movements, I almost didn't notice the other one. But she
noticed me, and interposed herself between the warrior and I, obscuring
"Hey, you're awake! Are you feeling all right?" I nodded, wincing at
the stiffness in my muscles.
"Here, let me get you some breakfast. You must be starving." I was,
though I had not known it. My stomach growled, letting its opinion on
the matter be heard.
The food was simple, but filling. I could not remember having tasted
better. Tangy sharp cheese, redolent with images of green hillsides and
frolicking goats. Rough bread, heavy with nuts and grain, full of all
the life of the spreading plain and waving grass. Fruit, dribbling juice
down my chin, the sweetness pouring out like slow honey.
It was not until I had eaten my fill that they finally asked me a
question that I had to answer. The one who had fed me; the smaller of
the two, bright and inquisitive. I could see that she burned to ask me.
Filled with the thirst for knowledge, it radiated from her, white heat.
"So why did you jump off the cliff? Was someone chasing you? Did you
know there was water there? Who *ARE* you?"
I did not know. Who I was, where I was, or why. . . My mouth, so full
of words and confusion: I opened it, intending to let them spill out
over dark earth and willing ears. But no sound emerged. As though my
voice echoed in a vacuum, I spoke but did not hear. Shocked I looked at
my benefactors, and they read the surprise in my eyes. Though I tried
and tried to speak, my efforts led to nothing. Finally the warrior laid
a gentle hand on my mouth. Her touch was electric.
"Enough. You've lost your voice. Maybe it's the shock, or chill of the
water. Let it rest. I'm sure it will come back." She didn't look sure.
But what else to do?
And when the silence grew too heavy, pressing us under it's weight, the
fair one fidgeted, and then lit with an idea.
"Can you write? I have a pen and paper here . . ." She fumbled through
her things, and returned to me with a pointed feather and a sheaf of
parchment. I took the parchment in my hand, and caressed the quill. So
soft, like clouds, like mist . . . I dipped it in the ink, and set it to
the surface of the paper. But the swirls of ink, translucent and
iridescent, faded to flat black sooner than I had hoped. Even *I* could
not read what I had written. The nonsense lines trailed off in quiet
desperation, and I set the pen down gently.
I tried to stand suddenly, forgetting the bandages on my feet for a
moment. The lancing pain dropped me to my knees, and I sobbed in the
dirt, silently. Gentle hands feathered my hair, and strong arms lifted
me back to the pallet. Encompassed by warmth and sympathy, I clung to
the rock they offered, buffeted by the storm of my soul.
They stayed by the lake with me, seemingly unconcerned for the passing
time, with no pressing duties. The days fell softly into a routine,
them fishing and bathing, caring for their horse; while I sat on the
shore and watched them play. I laughed silently at the antics of the lighter
one, marveled at the skill with which she whirled her staff around. Like
a dervish she spun, the very air singing for her.
And the warrior with time on her hands, she mended clothing, small,
delicate stitches closing wounds in the fabric like they had never been.
She had amazing hands. She polished armor, sharpened blades, and at
last: put them into play. If the air had sung before, now it wept. And
so did I, though I was careful not to let them see. Such beauty breathed
pain for me, though I could not understand why.
And at night the fire burned, and stories of their adventures cast a
light all their own. When we slept, they lay close, but not too close .
. . and I wondered.
I do not know how long we stayed by the lake, idyllic, safe, free . . .
But one day after the bandages on my feet had been changed, they
suggested that I try to walk. I wondered what would happen if I could.
How things would change. This, the only existence I knew, seemed so
fragile. I feared to break it. But I stood, and I walked, because I
couldn't tell them why I didn't want to. And the pain was less. Soon I
was walking normally, but they did not leave me.
However, they did start leaving me alone at camp. The warrior would go
off to hunt, her companion to gather firewood. They told me to hide if
anyone came, they were gone for an eon, and I wondered.
I don't know when I began to consider it. It just seemed so natural,
that they should be lovers. I wondered if they were. It sat in my mind,
with all the other questions, gathering dust in corners and on flat
And then, one day, everything changed. They got up, and started packing
the camp. I had been walking normally for some time, helping with camp
chores, swimming in the lake. No closer to knowledge, I had at least
known peace. Now it shattered, and my mind was loosed, running.
But they let me follow along when they went, not telling me to be
elsewhere. And where else could I be? They talked of healing temples, or
villages, but couldn't seem to decide where I belonged. They had grown
used to my silence, I think, and forgotten that I could hear. At any
rate, they spoke freely of my fate, as though I had no say. But then,
what say could I have, with no way to communicate? Only by actions could
I speak, and that was limited indeed, for the complexity of my thoughts.
Is love possible for one with no past, and no concept of what form the
future will wear? Can thanks be expressed without word, without
conceptual gymnastics? Perhaps. I did not know, but I resolved to try.
And that evening, as they went of to hunt, and gather wood, my mind
would linger on nothing but what they might *actually* be doing. With no
word, no sound, my voice trailed along the song of scented pine boughs
and soft sighs. The fragile butterfly caress and alabaster plane of a
muscled arm flexing.
They finally returned, with wood and catch, and a musky scent which
could have been exertion alone, but most definitely was not. And my
thoughts were crystal wind chimes, clamoring for attention. This then,
this revelation, was my first answer. I felt, somehow, that it deserved
celebration as such.
Standing, I helped the bard settle the wood in a pile. My hand brushed
hers in passing, and she started, surprised at the thin fire that
trailed from my skin to hers. In streamers it hung, clinging, burning
long after the contact was broken. Short of breath, I backed away,
turning to my tasks before dinner.
All through the evening my heart fluttered like a caged bird, straining
against this new awareness, this smokey tang that rang like a bell. I
could not meet their eyes, now. Hope burned in my throat, and I could
not bear the thought that it should fade and die. So I could not see if
they knew, if the demon of doubt might peer at me from over their
shoulder, behind their eyes.
Finally, as I lay out my bedding, a feather light touch stopped me,
frozen. The touch came again, gentle breeze through my hair, breath on
my neck. I trembled, a leaf about to fall. Closing my eyes, still too
full of fear to see, I turned - seeking.
Warm lips, molten skin melting away from caged lightning, I gasped as
my eyes flew open. She stood, tall in the moonlight, a goddess once more
. . . and I whispered a prayer of worship. Both of them, standing there,
struck a ringing chord: as though I had seen them, knew them from some
other mirrored fragment of shattered thought. But when, where . . . it
swirled out of reach . . . lost on the flood.
They looked into my eyes, searching for my reaction. I gave them the
pile of questions that sat in the hollow of my throat, wrapped in dark
silence. And slowly, carefully, they set about to answer each one.
Wrapped in a warm circle of arms, I thought the caged bird of my heart
would break free, tearing from it's moorings to race across the sky. But
it did not.
Instead it flew in the arcing caverns of night, pulling me along. Time
quickly lost all meaning for me, swept away in the flow of hands and
mouths, fire and fog, and the shroud of breathless sensation.
In that final moment before their attentions pushed me over the brink
of the waiting cliff, they paused, teasing, holding me there . . . and
in that moment, I whispered one word:
Please . . .
It wasn't until they gasped aloud that I realized I had spoken aloud,
that they had heard. Then, the world broke apart into shinning daggers
of light, piercing me, leaving empty spaces behind in their wake. As I
convulsed with sensation, the whirling reality tore me away, and I was
Over stumps and under overhanging branches, though ferns and streams
and thickets, I ran as though my life depended on it. Born anew, already
my memory was fading to gossamer threads and spider silk. But I knew
that I must run, that I could never stop. There was somewhere I was
running to, and I could not rest until I got there . . . .
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