I'd hoped that she was going to be different. That thought drifted often through Cadvan's mind, like a chant for a Bard who had died, a lament for her innocence or his hope for her. It had only been days since their encounter with the Bards and Cadvan had no words. He looked over to where Maerad lay sleeping. Earlier that evening he'd tried to speak with her about the growing darkness he could see forming within her and it had ended, as so many of their conversations did lately, in conflict.

In retrospect, Cadvan supposed that it was partially his fault. He had often traveled alone in his life and was not used to considering the feelings others, or how they might be affected by his silence. Maerad had felt as though he'd been punishing her, and that he'd been scorning her for going too far in their defense. Her resentment had shown him something of her fears but there was still so much that her pride hid from him.

The situation was troubling. There was a growing darkness within her and that was dangerous not only for her, but for Edil-Amarandh as a whole. If Maerad was lost to the Dark, everything that made her good, everything that gave her hope of being the one to save them from the Nameless One and the forces amassing at Den Raven would be lost as well. He thought about the girl who had seen the innocence in a stormdog. He had no idea how he might begin to make sense of the girl who could see the lack of malice in a beast as it nearly sent them drowned and broken to the bottom of the sea, but who would also kill another Bard over a stunning blow.

His charge was Bard and Elidhu; possessing the powers and the morals of both. Who am I to teach her to be one thing or the other? He wondered. He remembered her as they'd sailed away from the Isle of Thorold, in the moonlight she'd looked like the Queen Ardina, the moon's daughter. The wildness in her had been as visible as the glow that marked her as a Bard. What have I been doing? Am I right to teach her as others with the blood of Elementals have been taught, to be a Bard and use ones power sparingly, to think always of the Balance and the thousands of rules we use to protect it? Should her Elemental powers be governed by those same rules? So many who employed those were beyond the rules and Knowing of the Bards and Schools. In the long past days of Afinil, the Bards and Elidhu had lived peacefully amongst each other. It was that fact alone that gave Cadvan hope that his young charge might find a way to reconcile the parts of herself in time. Dark and Light, Bard and Elidhu, woman and child, slave and free, so many opposites within her, more than most, and it made it hard for Cadvan to know just how to approach her.

It hurt him to think that she felt used and alone, or that she was so afraid of herself. She'd accused him of much in their argument earlier. She'd thought that he was attempting to call her "evil" or to put her on the same level as a hull. She'd accused him of calling her things that he himself had been called in his earlier forays onto the dark.

Maerad was different. She didn't want power but she had it in spades. She commanded so much Light, but had seen so little of it in her time. Where Cadvan had been drawn into the Dark, Maerad seemed to be sinking, weighed down by the burden that fate had placed on her, so afraid of the love that could lighten her burdens and remind her of the goodness that she was working to protect. She was slipping into the Dark and Cadvan was at a loss as to how he might help her to find solid ground in the Light. Talking to her hadn't worked, her insecurities had seen to that. Perhaps he'd simply have to try to help her through them first. Perhaps it was time that he remembered that, for all her differences, Maerad was still a young girl. She was far from any place she might call home, she missed her brother, and the only constant companion she could claim was just as often scared and awed by her as any other she might meet.

Whatever he did he'd have to do it soon, in addition to seeing that they avoid detection from both Light and Dark, and deciphering the mysterious treesong.

The night was cold and the dark seemed ever present and unending as Cadvan watched Maerad sleep. The memory of her actions came back to him. She'd taken a life, in spite of all his hopes that she might be different. Dernhil can you love her now, as you sit and watch from beyond the Gates? Milana, what can you think of your daughter? What must you think of me, for not being a better teacher? Ceredin, another innocent life is gone because of my ineptitude and my student's poorest judgment. Even years later I shame your memory…

Maerad turned in her sleep. Now Cadvan could see her face and it was hard to rationalize the horror of her actions with the innocence that he feared might never again touch her waking face. She was beautiful. If she was lost to the Dark it would not be only the Light that lost her, it would be Cadvan as well. He could not sit idly by and watch another innocent person, another bright mind and loyal heart, be lost.

Maerad was going to be different. There was no more "hoping" that she would be different, no more trusting in the miracles that sprang up to meet her like tall grasses after a strong wind. There was only the absolute certainty of a Bard, of a man, who would make the sun rise in the west and the tides turn by the sun if it would help in his efforts. Maerad was going to be different, in spite of her resentment and what she'd done. He swore it.

Hey guys, I am still alive! I took a rather long break to work on a twilight fanfic (which is still in progress) but I'm on vacation with my family and rereading The Riddle and felt like it was time to get back to my favorite fandom. I'll try to divide my time a bit more evenly in the future.

Speaking of the future, I'm planning on doing a fic about Ardina next, thought I can't say when I'll get to it…. thank you for reading and I apologize for disappearing for a while.

Reviews are very much appreciated and please remember that I'm sort of out of practice writing for Pellinor so…wound me if you must but save the salt for next time ;)