Somewhere above him, the moon was shining. He could see the light through the trees, even if he couldn't see the silvery orb itself, and he took a deep breath to steady himself against the chills it sent through him. He could feel the anti-heat radiating off it, and remembered the night he had first realized how cold moonlight really was.
He had been out walking; he had nothing better to do, and how else was he really supposed to get away from the Druid, when the man was staying in his house? But apparently, he wasn't the only one walking on that cool autumn night. He had barely been out for ten minutes when he found the girl, heading back in the direction he had just come from.
Had she been like him, maybe Truls Rohk would not have noticed her. But she was nothing like him. Quite the contrary, as he darted into the shadows to avoid her, quick and silent, she stumbled over a tree root and cursed loudly as she hit the ground.
"Well," she said impatiently, "aren't you going to help me up? Because you really should. It's not very polite to watch someone fall and just leave them there."
Truls sighed, moved behind her and roughly lifted her to her feet. "There. Now, leave this place. There is nothing to be found here."
The girl laughed. "You must be Truls Rohk. My father speaks of you often."
"Yes… My father. The Druid Walker Boh. I believe he is visiting you?"
The half-breed let out a low growl. "And what right does that give you to talk to me like that, huh? You're lucky I don't leave you to the other creatures living around here… They aren't nearly as friendly as I am…"
The girl looked into his hooded face with her doe's eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you… It's been a while since I've talked to anyone… My social skills are a little out-of-practice."
"How did you know I saw you fall?"
The suddenness of the question seemed to catch the girl off-guard for a moment. "I was… Very well-trained in magic," she said after a moment. "I can sense the life-energy of beings near me." She paused. "Yours is strange, though… You don't feel entirely human…" She reached for his cloak, and he darted backwards away from her.
"Don't touch me, girl," Truls snapped. "Try anything like that again, and you'll regret it!" He disappeared into the trees before she could respond.
He didn't realize until he reached his parents' graves where he had been running to. "Damn you," he spat at the ground. "Damn you both! Why did you bring me into this world like this? Why did you create a child who had to live alone, could have no friends, could never be loved… Could never probably even feel any compassion for another person because he was too busy looking out for himself! I hate you both!" He felt a tear slide down the portion of his cheek that was currently made of flesh, and started at the sensation before reaching up to wipe the offending liquid away, ashamed of his tears even though no one could see them.
"You shouldn't yell at your parents because you're upset with me, you know," a voice from behind him said softly.
The girl. Twice now, she had found him in one night, at moments when he wished not to be found! How did she do that?
"I'm sorry I upset you," she continued. Truls noticed that she didn't attempt to come any closer to him. "It was wrong of me to behave like that, and it was probably wrong of me to follow you here. I came into the mountains because my father told me that you and I would understand each other, and that you would enjoy my companionship. Now I see that he was completely wrong. I can leave in the morning, if you would like. Perhaps that would be best for both of us." With that, she turned to leave.
"Don't go," the half-man pleaded. "Please." The girl stopped and turned back to face him. "You… Wanted to see my face? Come here. I'll show you."
The girl walked over to him silently, and Truls grabbed her wrist, lifting her hand to his hood. "Before I let you pull my hood back, you have to promise me you won't scream. I won't ask you not to be frightened… Just please, don't scream."
She nodded solemnly. "Alright. I promise."
"Are you ready?" She nodded again, and Truls let go of her wrist as she pushed the heavy, black material of his cloak away from his face.
"Now do you see why I didn't want you to touch me?" Truls still hadn't looked at the girl; his words were edged with anger as he continued. "If you pulled back my hood, this is what you would have seen! Isn't it horrible?"
The girl didn't answer him at first, then Truls felt her hand trace the partial contour of what was currently his cheekbone. Then, without a word, the girl placed her lips gently to his cheek, turned, and left the clearing.
When Truls returned home just before dawn, the Druid was awake and waiting for him.
"Where is she," the shape-shifter asked bluntly.
"Your daughter. I met her last night. I want to talk to her. Where is she?"
The Druid shook his head. "That's impossible. You couldn't have talked to Tyrtza…"
"Druid, I'm telling you, I talked to her, sure as I'm talking to you right now! Now, I'll ask you one more time. Where is she?"
The word took several moments to take full effect on Truls. "D-Dead? B-But how… How long? How long has she been…"
Walker shook his head. "A long time, Truls. She died before I entered the Druid order… She came into these mountains looking for the shape-shifters, seeking their aid in the fight against Rimmer Dall… But when she arrived, the Shadowen were waiting for her. They consumed her, turned her into one of them, and she hunted me down. I had to kill her. She wasn't herself anymore; she had become one of those monsters."
"Maybe she hadn't."
The Druid stared at him, intrigued.
"Maybe she wasn't a monster… Maybe she just looked like one. Maybe she didn't want to hurt you. Maybe… Maybe she just didn't want to be alone. Maybe she just wanted you to understand."
The next night, Truls had gone out looking for her, with no success. So he tried the next night, and the next, and the next, until he lost count of how many nights he searched for her. Every night, he returned to the clearing where he had buried his parents and stood in the spot where she had kissed his cheek, as though he expected the girl to appear before him as though nothing had happened. But every night, he was greeted only by the cold stare of the moon.
He still came to the clearing from time to time and talked softly to the night air. This clearing, he suspected, was where Tyrtza had made her final stand against the Shadowen; sometimes, on balmy summer nights, if he said the right things, he could almost hear her voice on the wind—that didn't happen anywhere else. He didn't quite understand why he kept coming back here, looking for a girl he knew to be long dead, but he suspected it had something to do with her expression when he revealed his face to her.
When he had finally found it in himself to look up at the girl, there were sympathetic tears in her eyes.
Perhaps he had been right. Perhaps understanding really was all the girl had wanted. Perhaps, even in the afterlife, she had only wanted to know that she wasn't alone.