Cadvan and Darsor walked ahead of Maerad and Imi. They had kept up a punishing pace sense they had crossed paths with the two Bards. Oh how Maerad regretted killing Ilar of Desor. That brief flash of victory she felt when Ilar crumpled to the ground, eyes empty of all life. That small, perfectly dark circle on the center of her forehead where Maerads power had struck her. Ilar's companion, Namaridh, he had looked at Maerad with hate. Disgust

Fear.

By the Light, that hurt more than anything. She wanted no one to fear her. Yet she had accomplished it with no more than a thought. Summoning up a bolt of White Fire and striking a Bard down. Using a tool of the Light to do it was repulsive. Cadvan had been furious-and still was if his silence and stony disposition was saying anything. They had left Namaridh knowing nothing of what had happened. Forgetting that he ever crossed paths with Cadvan of Lirigon and Maerad of Pellinor, leaving him to carry his friends body back to those who loved her.

Maerad of Pellinor. The Chosen One. I deserve not such a grand name. I was better off just Maerad. A slave. Worth no more then filth.

In killing Ilar, Maerad feared that she had also killed herself. She had lost the love of Cadvan, her dearest friend. Silvia would probably hate her for it if she ever found out. And…Hem. What would he think? That his big sister was just as bad as one of the 'Black Bards,' the name he had given to the Hulls who had held him in their cruel keep.

If I could only turn back time….

She knew she would have to live with her actions, but what if she didn't wish to live at all? Ever since she had killed Ilar she had felt….dirty. Like evil was curling around her soul. Dark smoke coating all that made her Maerad. Stealing the Light out of her. Leaving evil in its wake. She constantly wanted to lash out at Cadvan's straight back and watch him fall to the ground the same way that that annoying Bard fell. Such thoughts terrified her.

Maerad ached to discuss these urges with Cadvan, but alas, he was not speaking to her. When they set up camp he merely looked at her, eyes sternly telling her what to do. He couldn't even say a word. Not a command. No expressions. No laughter. His face never changed from its cold mold, his scar livid across his angry face.

He hated her.

In much the same way she hated herself at the moment.

O-x-O-x-O-x-O

Thoughts pelted Maerads mind, sad thoughts, as she tried restlessly to fall asleep.

What if the only reason Cadvan had ever even given the semblance of caring for me was because I am the One? What about Silvia? Did she only take care of me because she felt sorry for me? Or because I reminded her of her dead daughter? And Hem? I was his sister but was that the only reason we bonded ? Because we were all each other had?

Did anyone love me for me? Love me because I am Maerad?

Dernhil. He might have cared, but was it only lust that had moved him so? In my experiences that was the only thing that drove a man to say he loved you.

But there was no such thing as love. Nothing. It was all a lie.

Everything a lie.

Maybe the Dark was the lesser of two evils. They didn't even try to say that love was real. Only that hate is real, and that was something I could easily believe.

Hmmm. The Dark is so much more appealing than the Light. They wouldn't even give me the false pretense of caring. That meant no heartache for me when they shoved me aside.

They wouldn't treat me like dirt for killing that pestering Bard either. They would congratulate me on getting rid of such a nuisance.

Maybe I had already crossed the boundary to the Dark side. I felt it inside, did I not? That dark, chilling mist. The vacant void of shadows.

Yes, I shall walk a darker path from now on, if no one cares for me, then why should I care for them?

Finally, Maerad fell into a deep slumber while Cadvan looked on.

He cared for her more then he could say, but when she had killed Ilar, it terrified him. Her face had been cold as she watched the other Bard fall. Cadvan had reproved her angrily, apologizing to Namaridh for Maerads foolhardy action, and the wanton killing of Ilar of Desor. He had not really talked to Maerad since then. Alas he didn't know what to say, when she killed Ilar, it was like something had changed inside Maerad and it worried him sick.

It was like a cloak of darkness had been thrown over her, smothering the Light and calling out to the Dark. And just now as she slept, he could see the evil growing, spreading and it made him all the more worried.

What was happening to his student? His dearest friend? The person he felt knew him better than anyone.

The person he loved with all his heart, but could never tell her so in fear of losing her all together. And now this death had driven a wedge between them. A wedge, he thought, that he had only driven deeper by his silence. He didn't know what to say to her.

His love overrode all common sense. All he wanted to do was take her in his arms and hold onto her frail frame tightly, to try with all his might to protect her from the cruel ways of life. To tell her that she would be all right. But to tell her such would be a lie. He knew that she would suffer no matter how much he tried to prevent such from happening. And if he did not reprimand her for her actions, then what if she got careless and repeated the action?

He sighed deeply, looking up at the midnight blue sky, searching its shimmering jewels for Ilion, the candescent star that Maerad had told him that she had looked for every morning while she was still a slave. His heart burned when he thought of all the pain that she had endured there. She had only told him of her habit when he caught her gazing up at the sky while the sun began to rise for yet another day. Seemingly embarrassed by her admission that Ilion was what carried her through from day to day. It represented freedom and strength to her. No one owned it and no matter the sorrows it had witnessed it still had the courage to rise and set with vigor, not letting anyone or anything repress it's glow.

I can only hope to be that strong, she had whispered, voice cracking with fear. He had told her that she was already that strong. She had faced impossible odds, and conquered them all when a lesser being would have ran away. She had given him a small smile, one that had told him that she didn't believe a word he had said.

Maerad tossed in her sleep, murmuring something unintelligible. A dark lock of her raven's wing black hair spilled across her smooth, pale face. She was so beautiful it hurt. How he longed to reach over and gently brush the thick strands away from her sleeping face. But what if he scared her? Startled her out of her slumber? He knew that she still harvested fears of men. And who could blame her really? Those thugs of Gilman's had without a doubt tried to assault her numerous times. But she had used their fear that she was a witch to keep them at bay.

He hated them for making her fear love. The most precious gift that a human can give. The gift he wished to bestow upon Maerad, but he was terrified that she would turn her head away in disgust, her face showing mistrust. He wouldn't be able to take her reaction. And wouldn't be able to abide it if she left him.

But how long could he go without out telling her his feelings?

And when he did, what if it was too late?

What if he died before the words left his lips?

Or the unthinkable…

What if Maerad, his precious Maerad, was killed?