Elsewhere, in a place beyond place, the Assesor was, watching. And the Witness asked a question.
“Is it not so difficult, so impossible, to only watch what unfolds, and yet be so powerless to teach, to give understanding.”
And the Assesor snorted, a laugh, a smile perhaps a frown, and answered.
“Oh, very much so, very difficult indeed. But it is why I am here, and here I am. Everything will turn out alright. We must witness, it is for this that we see and we see that we might witness.And such is our duty.” And the Witness turned back and looked.
When Reva woke up, she was covered in a thick animal skin blanket. She heard the sounds of the room before she could open her eyes.There was the crackle of a fire, someone shuffling, perhaps eating, at a nearby table. Her body was sore, and tired, but was not cold. Cold. She sat up with a start and reached for her weapons, but the were not in there place. She looked around the room, and it seemed safe. Exhausted, she slumped back into the cushy folds of the bed. It was warm, and the room somehow smelled...safe.
She shut her eyes again, as if she could go back to that time when there was no thought and everything was alright;, but every time her eyes closed, the images of the valley came searing back across her mind, Harold ushering people away to safety, Landis making his desperate last stand. Where were they? Reva wondered, and she knew there was no more sleep.
She slid off the bed,her weapons were arranged by a table. There was some cold food in
simple wooden bowls. She went over to the wash basin and washed her face and hands, praying to the all thing. Then she sat down and tasted the food, and it was nothing like what they had made back in the Valley. Not bad, just...different. And she at it all up. After she put down the bowl, there was a shuffle behind the door. She grabbed at her weapon, but realised these must be her hosts, and relaxed her guard.A soft knock came on the wood door, ringing dull and hollow through the cabin.
“Yes.” Reva called out. An elderly woman stepped through the door. She was wearing a bearskin. The head of the animal was a hood, that was on her head, and covered in snow.
“Glad to see your up dear.” She said, pulling down the hood. Her hair was dark black.
“Where am I?” Reva asked, standing on unstable feet. Her head hurt and she was very thirsty. The lady handed her a cup full of hot tea. It was very tasty.
“So you don’t know where you are, dear? Well, this is just simple taven. You must of fallen out of an airship. They found you deep in a snowdrift, out in the wastes.”
“Oh, no. Airship? No, see, I was-”
“Yes yes dear I am sure it was an interesting story, but your here now. Just put on this cloak and come downstairs. Its yours. There are people waiting to meet you.” And then she left the room, leaving the door ajar.
“Oh dear.” Reva said, draping over her shoulders a bear skin like the old womans, and then leaving. It had been the first time Reva had seen someone who was not her age.
When she stepped out into the corridor, she could see through frosted windows that a snowstorm still raged outside. The flurries swirled furiously outside, just like her thoughts, just a big jumble. So many things had happened in the past few days, and Reva could barely think through it all. She worried about her friends, and she truly hated that guy, what had he called himself? Mephisto? She knew she would hunt down whoever he was, and all his minions, wherever they were. She just had to get out of this place.
Reva walked down the long wooden hallway. There was a door at the end. She pushed it open, and walked onto a square balcony, that overlooked a big hall. The corridor wrapped around the edges, so she she walked around, looking down at the scene before her.It was a half dining room, tables were arranged inthe middle, with patrons laughing and joking, the smell of food and some strong drink came up from the floor. Reva did not know what to do, they were all older and tougher looking characters than she had ever seen; but then she did not have a choice because they noticed her, standing on the railing and looking at the crowd.
“Well don’t stand there gawking!” Someone called out, raising a glass, “Come on down!” And then the murmur started up again. Reva walked down the stairs and sat at a table. Next to here was a lively group, discussing something in hushed but earnest tones. There was a girl who seemed close to Reva’s age, but when Reva looked at her, she just snorted and went back to the discussion.
“We have to leave tonight if we are going to get to the train.” One of the group said,a boy with red hair.
“But we have to fight throw a whole band of ice goblins, and make it through the Straits.” The girl hissed. And then she looked up at Reva with an icy stare.
“What you looking at?”: She snapped. Everyone turned and looked at Reva.
“I just...uh…” She stumbled out. Reva had been staring
“Look at her.” The other girl said, leaning back in her chair, “She can’t even talk straight.”
“Whats your name.” The red headed boy said.
“Reva.” She said confidently. She was not going to let these people think she was weak.
“Well, Reva, do our plans interest you? I heard they pulled you out of a snow drift That doesn’t seem like somebody I want to have with me on a quest.” Reva pulled her self up, and adjusted her weapons.
“It won’t happen again. I heard you say something about goblins. I am pretty decent with
.this sword.” Reva said. But the group laughed.
“I bet.” The other girl said sarcastically. Reva’s faced flushed. This was getting too much.
“Your nails look good. Hope you don’t break one.”Reva retorted saucily. The other girl got angry. She was obviously very proud of her dark,long nails.
“You asked for it.” She hissed, shoving back in her chair and standing up.
“Oh yea?” Reva said, drawing her sword. The crowd gasped, but in a sort of approving way. Somehow it just seemed the right thing to do; The other girl drew her sword, and they faced each other. The room was silent.
“Whats your name, runt?” The other girl called.
“Reva. Whats yours.”
“Zeeva.” She said, jumping foward swinging downward. Reva blocked and sidestepped,
countering with a side swipe. Zeeva ducked it and and backed out into the open. Reva jumped at her, pressing the attack, but her opponent was very skilled, and parried every blow. The battle went on and on, the girl matching Reva at every turn. Zeeva had her backed up against a wall, stabbing at Reva’s face. It was almost not a game anymore. Yet somehow Reva knew that they were both holding back, she knew it was a test. But she was not going to lose. Suddenly, Reva dropped to the floor, and kicked Zeeva’s knees. The girl let out a shout and fell, a weak strike was easily parried. Then Reva jumped up like lightning, and held the point of her sword at the girls throat. There was a moment of pure silence, and then the crowd started a polite clap. Reva looked at the approving faces, and as suddenly as it started everyone went back to their earlier conversations, and Zeeva was on her feet, sheathing her sword.
“Well done, newbie. You may come with us to Brittania, if you wish.” Zeeva said,all effort of combat gone from her face. Reva was taken aback for a moment; hadn’t they just been trying to hack each other with swords a moment before? But then it too seemed normal. Perhaps this was how things were done in the wider world.
“I accept.” Reva said, a smile appearing on her face. She had friends. The group started to walk out of the tavern. As Reva was leaving the tavern, smiling and confident, a hand shot out and grabbed it her arm. She looked up. It belonged to a wizened old man; a hood covering his face in shadow. A half eaten plate of food was in front of him. His breath smelled like beer.
“If you want to find what destroyed your village, I can show you.” He said, his voice raspy and hushed. Only Reva could hear him.
“What?” She said, surprised. For a moment, she had forgotten about her friends and the Valley.
“If you want revenge, I can show you the way.” He said, urgently. His voice was deep and gravelly. It made Reva afraid, his breath seemed to be changing, it was getting worse…
“Come one!” Zeeva called from the anteroom, the chamber before the blizzard outside.
“Wait one moment.” She called back. There was a large part of Reva that wanted revenge. She looked back to the hooded figure, but where a face in the hood had been, there was only a skeleton, grinning. Reva jumped back, into the antechamber. It was a terrifying image. The creature pulled out a double sided axe and stood up. Reva was terrified it was coming for her. It took a menacing step-
But a dagger appeared in the chest of the creature. Reva looked behind, and saw it had been thrown by a large viking- like warrior. He was old, his white beard was twisted in braids.
“Ye want me? Then come and get it!” The viking shouted, beating his sword furiously against his shield.
“With pleasure, Jarl Gordkin.” The creature hissed, stepping towards the Jarl. Reva could sense in the air a qualitative difference in this encounter. It was a heavier air, she knew this fight would be to the death. Perhaps this creature was Death.
It slowly walked, and did not look at Reva, “If you want to find my master, follow the blood star to the end of Horizon, young one. He is there, always; waiting.” It hissed in a low voice. Reva looked back, the warrior was facing down the monstrosity, his face pulled back in a fierce growl. The creature pulled in a deep breath of air, Reva could feel the air, shift, and suddenly inside the tavern a gale blew out all the lights, in time with battle shouts. The gust knocked Reva out of the door, and for the second time, into a pile of snow. The boy with the red hair held out his hand, and Reva quickly jumped up, ignoring him.
“Shouldn’t we help?” Reva said. There were shouts, terrified screams, from within. It looked as if a fire was starting inside. Reva looked at the band, another boy with delicate features and long ears, and another girl; her face had the appearance of a cat. Everyone had an expression of shock and fear.
“You don’t know what that is?” The Cat-girl said. Reva nodded no.
“That,” Zeeva said, “Was a Ghoul. Chiefest of the Adversaries Generals, hideous creatures that can take the form of a Human, but have the strength of ten men. And other powers. That is not our fight, we should leave.”
“I agree.” The boy with red hair said. Reva saw immediately the wisdom, and with one
gaze back she braced her coat against the cold and started walking. There was only way forward. And ffter a few steps she looked up and at the sky, crisp air still and calm in the night air. There was a faint scent of pines, the stars arranged in there brilliant patterns. Everything in the world was sharp and in focus. The stars seemed brighter here. Here. She was here, in this moment, now, breathing, existing. Alive. And Reeva for the first time realized that this was the world post-calamity. This was here dream She had arrived. She was here. And it was as beautiful and as dangerous as she had always imagined. There was so much she did not know, but how could she learn, then, if she had all the answers?Off to her left, a bright red star glowed dully in the heavenly sphere, but Reeva did not see it.
“Come on!” She shouted backwards, running across the snow, looking towards where the curving snow met the starry canopy.She was going on a quest.