This is my chance! I thought excitedly. Opening my eyes, I didn't even bother to look around and see if Hem had woken up. Hem and I had been training with Hared for a week and a half now, training for our chance to strike at the Black Army. Well, maybe not in so many words.
Hem and I were to go undercover as members of the Black Army, two more children soldiers. The thought made me shiver. Thankfully, in the bustle of the battles in Turbansk, we had not seen the children soldiers. I dreaded the idea of seeing the faces of my brothers on one of the children. Then what? Surely I could not kill my own brother. Hatred had not gripped me that tightly that I would kill my own kin.
Saliman was wary, wanting us to be incredibly wary, but not even he could hold me back from this opportunity. We were only supposed to observe, watch and pretend, but I had the strangest feeling in the pit of my stomach that I wouldn't be able to do that. If I had a chance – even one chance – to take down a member of the Black Army, the damnable monsters that had destroyed my home, then I was afraid that that chance could not be passed up.
I shook those thoughts from my head as I slipped on boots and ran right for the door. A little down the passageway, an eerie cold swept through my body, seeming to seep into my very bones. I stopped dead in my tracks and instinctively looked behind me, expecting that this was one of Hared's training tricks. Deep inside, however, I knew it was not.
I was about to resume my walk when I heard a slight rustling movement down the passage. Or was it behind me? I asked myself. It was impossible to tell in which direction the noise had come from. I stood at an awkward angle in the narrow hallway, closing my eyes to listen for the noise again. There it is! I turned to the direction that I had originally come from and squinted through the darkness. The noise had definitely been closer.
"Hem?" I called quietly, realizing that maybe he had just woken up and was trying to follow me in the darkness. Why has no one lit the torches in this passage this morning? I thought suddenly. That was not a common occurrence. The torches were always lit.
No one answered me, but the rustling noise continued to get closer. "Hem!" I said louder, taking a tentative step forward.
No, daughter of Baladh, I am not the young Cai.
I jumped and squeaked at the sudden voice in my mind. I could hear the voice, but it was not an actual sound. It was in my head only, and somehow I knew that. I shut my eyes tightly. What language was the voice speaking? It could not be the Speech, I had no knowledge of the language, the language of the Bards. Could it be some dialect of the Suderain? It had to be, for I understood the voice perfectly.
Be not afraid, dear Zelika. Open your eyes, for I have much to tell you in very little time.
Slowly and carefully, I opened my eyes, but my sight was met with only darkness. Then the eyes appeared in my mind. Was it in my mind? Even now, I cannot be sure. I could see them, and yet I knew that my eyes could only see darkness. I could feel them gazing upon me, and yet in any direction I turned, I could see nothing. But in my mind, I saw everything. The startling eyes, with their catlike slits and their somehow wise gaze. They bore into me, saw everything that I desired to achieve, everything that I was working for. I shivered. This is the work of Bards, I thought immediately, it has to be.
"W-who are you?" I called into the dark, grasping out for the wall to steady myself. Even then, I was expecting an actual answer, and when the voice sounded again in my mind, I felt my heart thump with shock.
I am many names, but for now, for this moment, but never again, you shall know me as Nyanar.
"Nyanar.." I repeated slowly. Strangely enough, I had to struggle to remember it. For a moment, I would forget it, and then I would hear the rustling sound again, and the name would spring back to life in my mind.
You will know the hatred of this world for such a small time, my little one. You will soon be freed. But for the short time you have left, you will help Cai. Even after your time is done, you will help him. Without you, he will not achieve his end of the Treesong. This must be done, my sunchild. You are his inspiration.
The entire time the voice spoke, the eyes gazed upon me, never moving their sight, never blinking. They merely gazed, and I didn't have the nerve to try to escape. I was mesmerized, both by the eyes and by the calm, soothing voice which spoke. When it was done speaking, the eyes blinked for the first time. I could feel them smile at me, a sad smile, such a horribly sad smile. Then the eyes were gone. I could feel their presence disappear from my mind, and when I listened for the voice again, for the rustling, I found only the echoing silence of the empty passageway.
What did he mean? I thought. He speaks as if I'm dying. I will help Hem because I will be there to defeat the Black Army. I will not die. Hem's inspiration? I do not know about that. I think this.. man must be mistaken. If anything, Hem is my inspiration.
I sat down roughly on the cold floor of the still-dark passage. How can he be so calm when so much is going on? How is he not furious all the time?
Suddenly the passage began to change. It twisted and contorted, the floor moving up while the ceiling came down. I stayed in the same place, but the world was changing.
I sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes slowly. After yawning loudly, I dragged myself to the edge of the bed and swung my legs over. I paused, thinking about the wonderful dream I had had. There had been a sunny grove of trees, with lush grass and tall, strong trees. My family had been there. We ran and played and laughed, and nothing was wrong. They welcomed me, and I smiled with them.
I expected to feel resentment, knowing that they were no longer there to laugh or play with me, but I only felt joy, much to my surprise. I had not felt this happy in such a long time. I looked over to where Hem still snored lightly, and I felt my eyes soften. I will not be so harsh to him today, I thought. He has been working very hard under Hared, he's earned a day of kindness.
As I rose from the bed and prepared to pull on my boots, I stopped and looked at Hem again, and said something that shocks me to this day, although I knew he could not hear me.
"Thank you, Hem."
I did not feel as angry.