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Chapter Four: Frail Dreams and Forgotten Messages

Drift across the endless space...

Long for a familiar face...

Void into the unknown space...

Life can leave you with distaste

Fall through blackest night too far...

Hope comes in the form of stars...

Escape from dark, these points of light...

Reminders that you're slave to night

Tal was drifting. He drifted through thoughts, through his perception, through time as he knew it. Through darkness

Numb into the blackest night

Falling down and telling truth

All was cold and dark, though he could not exactly see or feel. But he knew, he knew what was unfolding before him. He was falling, falling forever off the Red Tower under the darkness of the Veil. But there was no shadowguard to save him, no light from his sunstone.

Nor was there a ground.

Fight until the face is white

Bloodless and now without use

Around him were swirling images, though again they could not be exactly seen as that. Sounds, but sounds that were not heard by his ears.

Lying never came so hard

A point to prove that slaves you are

The Far-Raiders ship. Himself, climbing the mast to tune the sunstone. All going black.

Distrust streams from cuts in wrist

Blood was never meant to mix

Suddenly he was by Milla, though somehow he was also still falling. The Crone was cutting their wrists, mixing their blood. Their blood took to the wind.

By this fate our scars are made

Blood to wind two drops of rain

They were in Aenir. Tal and Milla stood together, looking into one another's eyes.

Their cuts had been re-made, their bond re-forged.

They defied the Storm Shepherds together.

Distrust streams from trust renewed

An oath, a vow, a shadow used

Milla was running from him. They were no longer in Aenir. They were somewhere on the ice, and to Tal she now appeared as she last had to him. She was running, and it was light, though they must have been under the veil. Tal could see her, barely, and she had no shadow.

War that leads you to betray

At the sight your hand is stayed

He kept chasing her, but he could not catch her. She kept getting further and further away, but never too far to be out of sight. Always a hope...

Confession falls upon deaf ears

Justifying all my fears

They were in the castle. Tal had just confessed his love to her, but she was shocked. He was embarrassed. She had denied him outright.

Live for nothing all these years

Hope's been cast out to the ice

On which my love has stayed too long

I give myself up to the night

All was dark.

...

Tal awoke from his uneasy sleep, not knowing what he had dreamed. Not knowing exactly, but remembering how it felt. Cold. Despair.

Her. Losing her.

He was sweating. The boy got out of bed and walked across the dark room to his wash room. As he entered he called forth a bit more light from the dim sunstones set in the ceiling. He stared at his bloodshot eyes in the mirror, then washed his face. The chill of the water served to break through a bit of the fear caused by the nightmare.

It was just a dream, Tal told himself.

He checked his sunstone – it was three in the morning. Five hours.

"Five hours." Tal said aloud, to no one but himself. He stared into his own eyes in the mirror again, but this time he was not merely examining his health. He was challenging, challenging himself.

Tal looked and saw all that he had been through. All the pain and labor he had endured. From facing his fears when he was trying to get a sunstone. Falling off the Red Tower. Surviving the Icecarls and returning to the Castle. Going to Aenir time and again, the last time defeating Sharrakor. Ruling half the people in the world.

"Five hours," he said again, quietly. "I will be ready."

"You have a strong head, Tal," his father had once told him as they sat around a Beastmaker table. "And a strong heart, too. You're a bit quick tempered and thick-skinned..." his father was smiling, "but you are quick to justice and strong in your will."

Tal had nodded. He was not used to people penetrating his mind so easily, even his father.

"Your specialty, son. Your specialty is love." His father was absolutely serious, almost grave at the importance of what he was trying to teach his son. "Use it."

Why his father's words came to him now he did not know. At the time it had simply made him uncomfortable, until his dad quickly got him to laughing again around the Beastmaker board with his ridiculous creature. But it was clear now to Tal what he had meant.

"My specialty is love." Tal repeated aloud. "Love. For Milla."

"Use it."