chris_warrior: (mystical)
[personal profile] chris_warrior
EDIT: with Ikenna approval, the wrap-up.


The young woman never physically faltered as she followed her friend, but her skull-like face betrayed a questionable emotional state. The green eyes would flash just before she cracked him across the back with her staff. There was little remorse in those eyes as she proceeded to heal him... and then hit him again. With every exclamation of pain from him her spirits clearly lifted, only to fall as his tiredness became apparent. The damage and healing seemed to be reaching through a curtain of jam, or pudding. Hitting him was like hitting a piece of stone; dross healing him was like trying to shove water into sieve.

Even with the evidence clear in front of her that he was fading, the woman never stopped thinking there had to be a way to hold on to her friend. While her anger meant some sort of grieving had begun, half of her yet remained in denial.

One of the deathkin met them on the road, shrouded in a cowl. She recognized him, paused. So did her friend, who asked whether or not the skull the man carried could be utilized. Upon receiving an affirmative reply, memory poured forth from the young woman's friend. This truth cut like knives of glass, but the woman carefully stored and stowed it even as the skull did. She shed more tears, but her own death-like and bruised countenance never altered. The piece of her that was denying reality slipped far enough for her to begin to question.

They went inside the Longhouse. To the reunion and the rejoicing. To the end of the day, and the parting.

As the gathering commenced, the warrior Cromac approached the woman. He asked a boon. It seemed a simple thing, even if it meant giving up one of Zif's gifts. She began to realize that all the things in her pockets really didn't matter much anymore. She rationalized that Cromac needed some sort of outward focus to curb his impulsive nature more than she did at this point. The small item left her pocket and traveled off into the world, as the most important things eventually do.

There was food and drink and music and at some point the friends slipped away. The truth having been spoken, there was no barrier left, and little time. When it was over, the woman clipped some fur from her sleeping friend and tucked it in her pocket. To remember, she told herself. As her friend dreamed, growing ever so slightly less corporeal with each passing moment, she idly remembered the tiny Nimrue, cooing and laughing and crying in her arms. And the sister, Omara, stoic and proud of her skills, traveling alone through the warring lands for one last chance to see her brother. As if she'd known. They would both be sad. And the woman thought “I could go home. I could tell them. I could comfort them. I could have a Nimrue of my own, now.”

But she also thought “Who will comfort me?”

Her sister was there in her head, then. Almost as if, somewhere, the older Varia was calling out. Searching for her. And the young woman knew, in her head, that the right words would come from Aldwyn, as they always had. But without a heart to hear them, she wondered, where would they lodge?

And even as she realized this, her friend woke. His gray face cocked upwards, and he looked through the ceiling of the tent as if the sky itself spoke to him. She followed when he stood, clothed only in fur, and paced out into the forest. The sun had just set; the clouds stained pink and purple and green as the young Varia's face.

“Time for Ikenna to go,” her friend intoned softly. There was no arguing with him, for even as she watched he was fading further.

“I love you,” she protested. It was only the second time she'd admitted it; the first time had trickled out as a mere whisper while she'd lain curled up next to him the night before, and was quickly followed by “Don't die.” This time she offered her truth loudly, like a lasso, to hold him despite all evidence to the contrary. “You told me this wouldn't happen!”

“Ikenna said he would try, Little Varia. Not promise.” The deep voice sounded more tired than ever, and it echoed strangely, as if coming from farther away than the body in her arms. “Remember nap. Remember love. Skull has memories.” And he was gone.

The woman quickly searched her pockets. The wiry black fur remained. The small rusty swipe on the cloth where she'd wiped her fingers after collecting his blood also was there. She placed a hand on her abdomen and realized she had every piece. She had the skill.

It was so obvious.

It took almost two days: twenty-two hours of isolation, meditation, and concentration of a caliber Nem had never before attempted. In the end, however, the Path opened as they always did. And she followed it, as she always had.

The Path led to a strange shimmering place in the Verge that the woman had never seen before, though it brought to mind all the other times she'd trod silently and unobserved. It reminded her, too, of the hushed places in which they'd changed the River's energy flow. There was a stillness to the shimmer and a movement to the stillness. She clutched her focus-object, a tiny pouch of bloody cloth stuffed with black hair, and stared into the middle distance. She waited.

Eventually the shimmer resolved itself into a Voice. Nem smiled at the lone figure. Her smile increased when it spoke, for it sounded like Flicker.

“Nem, what are you doing? Why are you here?”

Nem's nose wrinkled as she considered the question. “You know why I'm here. I'm following a Path to Ikenna. He's the only thing I ever had that I actually truly want.”

The Voice bowed slightly, rocking. It seemed to be thinking. As it straightened, it seemed to sigh.“You know where that Path leads.”

Nem blinked. Her mouth set into a line and her chin lifted. “Yes. It leads to Ikenna.”

The Voice shifted again, gray cloth rustling. The soft whisper, when it came, was faintly sympathetic. “There is no bringing Ikenna back with you, by this Path, or any other.”

The young woman's chin never lowered, her mouth did not soften. “I've only ever turned back from a Path when I began to worry about walking with the others. Now, I am alone. The one I want to walk with is ahead of me. I always – always! - find what I am looking for. You will show me where Ikenna is.”

The Voice bowed again, and gestured to the woman's right, where an archway suddenly appeared in the shimmer. “Ikenna is through there. But if you follow this Path, there will be no returning along it.”

Nem squared her shoulders. “Then, once I find Ikenna, I suppose I'll have to find a new way back.”

And she stepped through the arch.
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