It was hard for Ellia to remember sometimes, though there was nothing for her to do but remember during the centuries she spent as a corpse hanging on the wall, that once, long ago, she had been King Suryavarman II's favorite dancing girl. That once she had been beautiful and graceful, nothing at all like the withered husk she'd become. He had brought her out to dance before soldiers and lords, and they had all agreed that she was a glory to see.

It was hard to remember that she had known kindness back then, at the hand of Suryavarman himself. He had taught her how to read, how to fight, how to be so much more than a simple slave. He taught her to dream, though he did not know it, one day of grand adventure like she'd read about in the books he gave her, the next of being made his most beloved concubine. Then, as he lay dying, he had set her free so she could seek at least one of her dreams.

But it was not true kindness, Mantorok's heart whispered to her as its steady pulse forced her body to remain in its state of undeath, it was destiny's light hand guiding the king to show uncommon generosity to the child in his possession. It had been the world itself working through him to ensure that one day Ellia would come to Mantorok's temple and be bound to the task of guarding its essence for an eternity.

She had never known affection, only fate.

Though Ellia listened to the heart about many things--the nature of the world, the fight against the darkness, the delicate balance between the other three ancients that Pious sought to shatter--but this alone she would not allow herself to believe. Though her memories had crumbled down to nothing more than dust and echoes in the centuries she'd been dead the one thing she could never forget was the sight of her king, stronger and nobler than any man she'd ever known. Suryavarman had not been a man who would bow before anything, not even destiny.

Ellia was no longer foolish enough to believe that he'd taught her the things he did out of love for her--it was fine for a young girl to adore her king from not-so-afar but unacceptable to believe he felt the same way in return--but she refused to believe that he didn't have some small affection for her, that he wouldn't have done the same thing even if her life hadn't lead her to being bound of Mantorok just because of who they each were. She would even accept it if it had just been a strange type of possessiveness that had lead her king to teaching her to be self-sufficient, that he hadn't wanted Dharanindravarman to take his favorite dancer after his death so he'd made sure that she'd be able to live a life on her own.

It wasn't just fate, she told the heart. It wasn't just Mantorok's needs. It wasn't.

Ellia still has dreams at times, though loss and pain and the crushing weight of time had robbed them of theire. She dreams of the future, when someone of flesh and blood finds her where she's hidden and takes the heart, when at long last her body will crumble to dust and her soul will be set free. She'll find her king then, in the next world, and never again will she desire anything more than to dance before him.

Perhaps you may, the heart whispers all the while. Perhaps.