Written for the fanfiction SMACKDOWN at fiefgoldenlake . proboards . com

Disclaimer: All characters and concepts belonging to the Tortallan universe are the sole property of Tamora Pierce. No copyright infringement is intended, nor will this project be used for profit of any kind. Title of the fic comes from the Killers song of the same name.


Title: Losing Touch
Rating: G
Length: 489
Competitor: Rikash
Round/Fight: 1/B
Summary: In Tortall, the dead are walking.

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It happens again the third year after she has her shield. Perhaps the time in between – the ten long years of labour and sweat and tears – was only in preparation. Preparation for what, she doesn't know, but she understands the need to be ready.

"They are coming," says the voice in her head, and Kel doesn't need to ask what or whom because already she has seen the dead walking in the palace grounds. There are men in the stable who pass through walls that weren't built when they were alive, and women in the gardens sitting in thin air where benches had once been so many years ago. A hundred palace servants do the same jobs as others, continuing the work they did before death, and a hundred pages and squires resume meals in the mess, taking up so little space on their invisible benches near the wall that the live ones training barely notice the others again.

But Kel notices, and she watches.

Late one evening after Midwinter, she is making her way back to her rooms from Neal and Yuki's, silent and pondering because her old friend Seaver of Tasride, dead in the Scanran War, was playing chess in the corner with Esmond, drowned when the coastal Fief Nicoline flooded its lower levels. Neal, Kel, and Yukimi who'd joined them had gone on with their evening, not acknowledging those in the corner, but on her way back to bed, Kel wonders why she can see them but they can't see her. From her shadowy doorway comes a response she is somehow expecting –

"Their spirits are drawn to pleasantries they recall," says the Stormwing, wings clicking as he shifts his weight from one bare foot to the other. "They cannot see you, but they can see many nights from their life playing games for a few extra coppers."

For what seems like the tenth time that week, she asks, "I know you, Rikash Moonsword. How is it that you can see me while the others can't? Is your former immortality the reason?"

He does not answer her question, but instead replies, "You will not see them gone until the barrier is rebuilt."

The barrier, of course, is the wall that separates the Peaceful Realms from the rest of the universe. Kel doesn't know why it is weakening, but when she dreams at night the voice in her head says "They are coming" and she knows it is her mission.

What puzzles her most is that every night they meet, Rikash Moonsword tells her that 'they' will not leave until the barrier is restored. She may not know what is meant for her to do, but she knows that he is the only one with answers, as long as Rikash can see her, he cannot be dead. This is her personal mantra, her only hope in the days that the dead walk the realm.

He is not dead.