From the Author: This is a rough cut of chapter II (I like Roman numerals; deal with it)... I still want to do a bit more tweaking on it; add a few bits here and there, maybe take a few bits out... And definitely work on the ending. It just seems very abrupt, but I'm trying to find a way to not make the ending all cheesy... Regardless, I'm hoping to get another version of this chapter up at some point in the (hopefully) near future, so any suggestions you guys have would be super-awesome... Also, I'm debating whether or not I should add more chapters that take place in between this chapter and the first one... Long story short, I'm probably not going to write them unless you guys ask for them... So... Get asking. :P
He could hear the raggedness of his own breathing and see the land around him as he collapsed to the ground, but what struck Truls Rohk as incredibly odd was that he couldn't feel anything. Not the grass against his face, not the usual jarring sensation of impact that came with a fall… Not even the girl tumbling from his arms.
"I'm done," he rasped to the boy. "Finished." He gave instructions, rasping out orders for the boy to build a fire and take his sister with him to wait for the shape shifters to come. He wasn't entirely sure that they would, of course, but that was a risk he didn't have much choice in taking. As the boy obeyed, the halfling looked beseechingly toward the sky for a moment, then realized he wasn't even sure what he was looking for. He didn't believe in the gods of the other races—he had no reason to. Why would any god want to bring a creature like him into the world, after all?
He didn't know how long he lay there—hours, most likely, although he thought he may have lost consciousness at some point—before he heard a sudden shifting of the foliage near him, much like the sound of someone falling, and he managed to force himself to turn his head toward the rustle, just in time to see a familiar figure step into view, looking a bit flustered.
"Those tree roots cause me more trouble…"
Truls snorted at the girl's remark. "Nice to see you too," he managed.
"So this is why you were summoning me," Tyrtza responded softly, her pale face an unreadable mask. She moved to kneel next to him.
"You were summoning me," she explained. "You may not have realized it, I know… But when people think about me—which is a rare occurrence these days—I can feel a little tug. That tug is usually enough to help me back into this plane."
"I'm dying," he rasped bitterly, "stop using such complicated words."
Tyrtza's hand came to rest on his face, and he realized how cool her body felt against his own. "You're burning up, poor thing," she soothed, and asked, "Can you feel me?"
He nodded. "You're cold."
Her frown deepened. "This is going to be slow and painful," she told him, genuine sorrow in her voice. "I'm afraid there's not anything I can do to help, besides offer to stay here with you…"
"That's more than enough."
Tyrtza nodded, pulling his head into her lap. "If the boy comes over here again, he won't be able to see me," she said softly, and gently stroked his face through his hood.
The girl stiffened, obviously surprised that Truls had somehow learned his name. "What's wrong?"
"I'm scared," he said softly, sounding so vulnerable that it nearly broke her heart.
"It's alright," she soothed him. "I'm not going anywhere. When all this is over, I'll take you back with me. You'll be safe." She paused before continuing, "It's not really that bad, you know… Being dead, I mean. All the pain you're in when you die just stops. You drift for a little bit, unless someone's there to find you, but once you find someone else and they take you where you need to be, it's almost pleasant, really." She paused again. "Allanon came and got me… Welcomed me with open arms, actually." She shook her head. "I came with him to get my father… I know you couldn't see me, but I was there. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do, I think—see him like that, I mean. I think his death was more painful than mine, in the end," she said with a grimace at the irony.
Slowly, the halfling raised one shaking hand to his face, grunting with the effort, and Tyrtza gently took it in her own.
"It's alright," she soothed again, "I'm right here."
She wasn't sure how long she sat with him like that before the shape-shifters came.
You are not of this world, they told her matter-of-factly, and Tyrtza nodded.
"I was, once," she responded, stroking Truls's face protectively. "He's dying."
There is still a place for him in this world. The boy has made one for him. They moved forward, closing in on the dead girl and her now-unconscious companion. He can join us, and it will save his life.
Tyrtza's only response was to glance down at Truls Rohk's supine form and gently ease his head off her lap, getting to her feet and beginning to walk away. "Don't let him forget me," she pleaded softly, and disappeared into the night.
The shape-shifters, of course, being slightly less-than-human, were unfamiliar with this sort of behavior, and let the girl leave, barely giving her so much as a second thought. As she made her retreat back into limbo, they swooped in to do what was required to save Truls Rohk's life.
Tyrtza and her father were speaking when she felt another tug—strong enough to stop her in mid-sentence.
The girl frowned. "It's a summons," she said softly. "I don't know who it could possibly be from, though…"
"Go and see," Walker said, giving her a smile that suggested that, as usual, he knew something that she didn't.
She found herself in the same clearing where she had left Truls Rohk before, as a cluster of dark forms came into view around her.
Human child, they began, we know your story and the connection you share with us now. You were able to feel compassion for one of us when no one else could, to sympathize when he most needed someone to listen… For that, we are indebted to you.
One of them reached out and touched her hand briefly, and Tyrtza understood that it was meant to be a gesture of appreciation.
He has not forgotten. You are welcome here with us any time you wish to see him—we will not let you be forgotten either.
"Thank you," she answered softly, and the one that had reached out to touch her earlier did so once again.
Thank you for staying with me… He paused slightly. I told the boy about you one night… He'll likely be pondering the story more when things settle down a bit, if you would like to make a personal appearance.
Tyrtza nodded. "I'll be needed at Paranor, as well, once they get home… I'll try to stop by as often as I can, though."
I can help with that… You can't ignore a summons, can you?
She chuckled. "Sort of… I mean, I can, but after a while, everyone else can feel them and starts badgering me to answer… I ignored my father all the time, at first."
Good. That means you'll have to come visit. He paused. We have to go now… Something came into the mountains that shouldn't be here. Goodbye, Tyrtza.
The shape-shifters disappeared into the night once more, and after taking just a moment to reflect on what had just happened, Tyrtza Boh disappeared as well.