Author's Note: Nothing from the Symphony of Ages belongs to me…it belongs to Elizabeth Haydon.
The litany against fear and the character Alia are from Frank Herbert's Dune series. (though I do take some liberties with the character…)
I would like to thank Elaura Isillin for reviewing, I will finish the story, but reviews will get it done much faster. That being said; please review if you like it! (If you don't, review anyway and tell me what's wrong!)
Chapter 4: Blood Memory
Achmed stood on the promontory overlooking the arrival of the spring caravan. His mismatched eyes were half lidded and his mouth was settled in its usual half sneer. He searched out her heartbeat and immediately found it; trailing the end of the caravan. Thalia looked up then, and nodded slightly. Achmed returned it with an equally small inclination of his hand. He turned to leave, no emotion betrayed on his face.
But the sneer was gone.
Thalia slipped into his study a quarter hour later and propped on one of the side tables. Grabbing the nearest book, she flipped it open. It was the usual routine, unbroken silence for the next hour. He knew why she was here. No one bothered her here and she liked the quiet. Her mouth twitched into a slight smile. She liked the book he left for her. She settled into her reading and he went back to his quiet analysis until a sharp knock on the door caused both Achmed and Thalia to look up.
"'Oi thought I heard you were back!"
The giant Firbolg General crossed the room in two steps, picking up the young woman and hugging her with a crushing embrace.
"Grunthor…my…ribs…" Thalia rasped.
"Oy, sorry princess!" Grunthor said, not sounding the least bit apologetic as he put the young woman down.
Thalia gave the Bolg warrior a pained smile as she rubbed her ribs.
"You're a helluva sight fer' me poor eyes Tali! I think ya' got purtier this year." Grunthor said looking her up and down and wiggling his eyebrow.
"Trust me Grunthor; I still taste really bad. I'm fairly certain it's because of my poor attitude and general disregard for common courtesy."
Achmed, who had been watching the exchange with slight amusement snorted at Thalia's retort. Thalia gave him a sidelong glance and arched her eyebrow. Achmed didn't look up, but answered her unspoken 'what's so funny?'
"Thalia," he said sternly, in his dry, rasping voice, "You should really learn to take a compliment."
"Even if that compliment is a prelude to being cooked as a main course?" Thalia countered.
"'Oi consider ya' an appetizer." Grunthor interjected, slightly offended.
"Besides, Father," Thalia continued, "That sounds like something Rhapsody would say," she finished calmly.
Achmed's face held no reaction; but Thalia could sense him grinding his teeth. She smirked. Achmed hated being compared to the Lirin Singer, mostly because underneath their opposite exteriors they really were very similar. Unconsciously Thalia's smirk slid into a thoughtful frown. Rhapsody had been the only reason she was conceived in the first place; her father had exchanged his seed so that the Lady Cymrian would be permanently freed of her increasingly violent nightmares; the likes of which even her wyrmkin husband couldn't chase away.
Her father's sacrifice was miniscule compared to Thalia's mother's. A powerful seer-Queen, Alia carried a small amount of Dhracian blood, and for reasons unknown to Thalia, she sought to breed a stronger line. To honor her end of the bargain, the queen ripped out and absorbed part of Rhapsody's lore, freeing the Namer of her prescient nightmares.
However, Queen Alia paid a devastating price. Taking the burden of Rhapsody's prescience along with her own prophetic sight caused the seer to go completely insane. Alia had not even carried her daughter to term before committing suicide. Thalia had been wrenched from the womb of a dead woman. It was only through the skills of Rhapsody's lore that the child had even survived.
Thalia always wondered if her mother had known what the consequences of her actions would be. The young woman also wondered if her life was worth the cost. Her mother's people were left bereft of both their ruler and guide. The leadership vacuum sparked a horrible and bloody civil war that had taken the lives of many of her people.
Thalia closed the book no longer willing to read. She carried a blood burden that would follow her for the rest of her life, and right now all she wanted to do was escape it.
Achmed watched his daughter's retreating form as she left his study. She would run now. He had seen as much in her expression.
"'Oy was it som'n 'Oi said? Maybe 'Oi did squeeze her a little too hard…" Grunthor said; a worried expression on his face. The massive Bolg stood to go after her.
"Leave her." Achmed said; his voice quiet and harsh. He returned to his analysis as Grunthor frowned and sat back down.
The wind whipped through the mountain fortress as her steps beat down on the hard earth. She pivoted against the wind, an adversary that dogged every step; that made every breath a fight to take. She was too determined, too stubborn, for it to be any other way. She would run until her lungs gave out and she collapsed in an exhausted heap, she would run until every once of energy was spent; she would run until her body screamed in the same amount of pain that her heart did when she was still.
She could still feel it. The madness like a distant memory…
Thalia grit her teeth. She would not do this to herself.
Her blood cooling as it pooled around her body…
She stopped mid-stride and fell to her knees emptying the contents of her stomach.
The screams of the dying a bitter counterpoint to the requiem for the end of the ages…
Inhale. Exhale. Thalia forced herself to focus on the litany:
I must not fear…Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Thalia pushed herself off the ground. Stumbling slightly she resumed her relentless pace.
Achmed drummed his fingers softly against the edge of his desk as he continued to track her heartbeat through the fortress of Ylorc.
'Sir, Oi dinna think it's a good idea for her to leave home so soon…she just got 'ere today."
"Rhapsody can take care of her…besides if that brat of hers comes in here again, I am going to send him back home in pieces."
"Nice to know I'm so universally adored," said an amused voice. Meridion slid into the door that had previously been locked.
Achmed reflected. Tomorrow he would get his best engineers to put a lock on his door that would only open to him.
Meridion folded his arms, regarding Achmed through the golden slits in his eyes. "Now is that anyway to talk about your favorite nephew?"
"You are about to be my dead nephew," Achmed muttered.
Meridion merely smiled. "I doubt it uncle. I look too much like my mother for you to seriously..."
The young man was cut off by a paper thin disk shooting past his head and embedded itself into the door.
"Er…ah…Never mind your majesty," Meridion quickly amended. "I think I'll just be going now," he added hastily as he backed slowly toward the door.
"What did you want, Meridion?" Achmed asked, a tic working at his jaw. Rhapsody's son tended to nag when he wanted something.
"Its about Tali," he said, "I just wondered if you let her know we're leaving tomorrow when the caravan's ready," he added quickly as he noticed Achmed frown dangerously. Meridion stood nervously at the door as he eyed Achmed's cwellan with obvious concern.
"Meridion," Achmed said.
"Yes sir?" Meridion asked anxiously.