The grey cloaked man stood in front of the door to a small cottage. He glanced up at the full moon overhead before softly knocking on the door. The man waited patiently. He knew that his knock would be answered, and that the man he was coming to see would not be asleep, even at this late of an hour.
Shad looked up from the paperwork he was reviewing. His irritation at being interrupted was evident by the scowl on his face. Everyone in the village knew it was important that he finish studying the journals he had discovered by morning. He sighed as he rose from his desk, resigned to taking a break from his work.
From inside the house he heard footsteps, and the door opened. The man in the cloak looked at the man in front of him, taking in his appearance.
The mans’ long black hair was tied back away from his face, revealing the cross shaped scar that covered the left side from brow to jaw. His dark skin hid the scar well, but in the light it was still easy to see. The top of his head was even with the door frame, and in fact, the door had been designed to be taller than usual to accommodate his height.
“Saval, why have you come this late in the night,” the man asked.
Saval took a deep breath, and exhaled, before giving his response.
“I have news, Shad, and I think you are going to want to hear it,” Saval answered, his expression grave.
Shad motioned for Saval to enter his home. After securing the door, the two men sat in front of the hearth in chairs facing each other.
“ I will get to the point, Shad, since I know that what you have been working on tonight is important to the war effort, “ Saval began, “ I came to talk to you about a girl.”
“A girl,”Shad repeated, looking skeptical.
“Yes, a girl. Do you remember a girl, from many years ago, who lived in the Pixies’ land,” Saval asked.
Shad stared at him, first in disbelief, then in anger.
“Why would you come into my home, and speak to me of her when you know what happened all those years ago,” Shad growled.
Saval leaned back in his chair to show Shad that he was not there for a confrontation, much the same as when addressing an angry dog. He looked into Shads’ eyes, and spoke softly, knowing what he was about to say was going to cause his friend a great deal of pain.
“Because, Shad, I have arranged to have her return to us,” Saval said.
Shad sat, unmoving, for several moments. Then, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the back of his chair. With his eyes still closed he smiled. Of course this is how it would happen, he thought, after I've finally started to heal, she comes back to us. No doubt ready to open the old wounds and ask him questions he didn't want to answer.
“I’m sure Kleo will be less than pleased,” Shad whispered.
“I’m sure Kleo doesn’t have an option in this matter. We need her. We need ten of her, but we are not going to get more than one,” Saval said, wondering what Shad was really thinking.
Shadow opened his eyes, but looked at the ceiling instead of at his friend.
“Why did you come here to tell me this, Saval,” Shadow asked,” I know she and I had a history once, but it’s been a long time. Even if she remembers, she will hate me.”
“She won’t hate you, Shad, she will understand,” Saval calmly responded.
Shadow laughed, and finally looked at Saval. He took the leather strap out of his hair and ran his fingers through the length, letting it fall across his shoulders.
“She will hate me. I have no doubt of that. I went there to seek her out and kill her. She was just another target on the long list of people that we eliminated,” Shad said, “And yes, I failed at my mission. I fell in love with the girl I was sent to kill. I was going to marry her, Saval. Instead, I left her there. I left her alone and Kleo killed her.”
Saval sat quietly until Shadow was finished with his self-hating speech. When he was sure Shad had finished talking, he gave his own opinion of the way events had played out.
“Yes, my friend, you’re right. You left the girl you loved and returned home to beg Kleo to allow her to live. You offered up everything in exchange for the life of someone you chose not to kill. I know that she was the first life you spared. Tell me, Shadow, have you ever spared another?”
“And why do you think that is,” Saval asked.
“Because I realized life is much easier when you follow orders,” Shadow answered.
“This time it will be different. She has to live. The two of you can have a life together,” Saval said.
Shadow glared at Saval. Of the many thoughts going through his mind, only one seemed important enough to say out loud, even if he didn't want to know the answer.
“How long will I get to keep her this time,” Shad asked. Before Saval could answer, Shadow started talking again.
“Don’t give me the line you always do. I know that you know exactly how long she will be with us. You are a necromancer, Saval, you see the life of everyone you meet, and thus you see their deaths. So tell me, how long will she live this time,” Shadow asked.
“Would you really like to know the answer,” Saval inquired.
Shad looked away. He looked sad as he thought about what he was truly asking.
“No. No I really wouldn’t like the answer to that. It really doesn’t matter one way or the other,” Shad whispered.
They sat in silence, watching the fire burn. Neither of the men moved, both lost in thought. Shadow finally broke the silence.
“When will she be here,” he asked.
“Tomorrow,”Saval answered,”I sent Tiffany to get her from The Forest.”
There was no warning when Shadow stood up from his chair, knocking it over behind him. He spoke in a calm voice, which Saval knew to mean Shad was trying to control his anger.
“You sent my girlfriend to find the woman I once loved from The Forest, knowing Tiffany would know exactly who she was going to search for. How long have you known this would happen,” Shad asked, his voice near a whisper.
“Long enough,” Saval answered with a smile, “ And don’t worry, Kleo knew long before you, as well. We all plotted against you.”
Saval stood up to leave. He walked himself to the door, and before opening it, Saval gave once last piece of wisdom.
“Oh, by the way, you may want to sort out where your heart truly lies before they get back. You would hate to hesitate while Mek falls in love with someone else.”
Saval stepped out into the night, while Shadow sat in the chair and lowered his head into his hands.
Sarah had a lot of time to think about what happens after death. After all, there isn’t much else to do while you’re being held in a jail cell waiting for your execution.
She didn't believe in Heaven like the church going people of her town. She never put much stake in their holy book or their teachings, but she thought the morals in them were nice. Hunting down witches and killing them, though, that wasn't the best part of their book.
“I hear they’ve been burning us lately. I wonder if it’s better or worse than hanging,” Sarah wondered aloud.
Living in poverty was hard enough, but to be accused as a witch for the simple reason of not being married and owning a cat, well, Sarah thought that was far beyond ridiculous. She had sat in the cell for the last five days, and had come to terms with her fate by the end of the second one. Her captors fed her twice a day, but they stayed as far away from her cell as they could get otherwise. Her reputation was far too well known for people to trust her, now.
“I wonder if I will go to Heaven or Hell. Or maybe there is somewhere else they don’t tell us about. Somewhere better,” Sarah mused.
Sarah had never felt like she belonged in this world. When the abilities began to develop while she was a child her parents hid her from the rest of the town. They were afraid their child would be put to death for being a witch or a demon. After her parents died in a fire last year, Sarah had become an orphan. Thankfully, she had been of age, so she was allowed to seek work and provide for herself.
If the town hadn’t caught her raising the corpse of her father from the cemetery to ask where he had buried the last of his money, Sarah may have been able to sneak out of town in the middle of the night. After being caught talking to a dead person there wasn’t much doubt in the mind of the townspeople. Sarah was a witch and must be executed.
“And I still never found that money,” Sarah laughed, “ It’s my last night alive, and I’m choosing to go over all this again. I must be stupid.”
Sarah laid down on the cold, dirt floor and fell asleep quickly. After a long, restful night, she was burned at the stake in the center of town.
Her last thought before the flames engulfed her body was fitting, considering she never denied the charges placed against her.
“This may be the first time they actually found a witch to burn.”
Sarah was confused when she opened her eyes again after dying. She stood in the middle of a fog bank. The fog was so thick she could not see more than a few feet around her.
“This looks nothing like Heaven or Hell,” Sarah said to herself,” And it looks better than neither.”
A voice from behind her spoke, causing Sarah to spin around quickly.
“That’s because this place is in between all others. We call it the Fade,” the voice said.
Out of the fog bank walked a woman. She was tall with dark hair and blue eyes. She wore a simple white dress and held her head high. The woman looked at Sarah with kind eyes when she spoke again.
“Welcome, my daughter, I am pleased you have found your way back here. I have watched you grow into a woman, and I would like to offer you that which not many receive,” the woman said.
Sarah knew she should be afraid of this stranger, but she felt a sense of calm instead of terror. Already, the memory of being betrayed by the people she grew up knowing had began to fade. She knew that she could trust this woman even if she could not yet explain why.
“Who are you,” Sarah asked. The woman smiled.
“I am your mother, child. You won’t remember me, I’m afraid,”her mother said, “You never knew me, but I watched over you from this place throughout your past lives.”
Sarah felt many emotions all at once. Her mind began to race and fill with questions she was afraid there would never be time to answer. While she was slowly panicking, the woman took another step forward.
“You may call me Lulu, child. It’s a shorter version of my true name, but you couldn’t say it in your language. We don’t have much time, but I would like to give you a choice,” Lulu said.
“A choice,” Sarah asked.
“Yes. A choice that you only have once chance to make. You will never receive this option again. I hope you understand that,”Lulu answered.
When Sarah nodded, Lulu continued.
“You come from a long line of people who have been killed in an effort to exterminate them. The time has come when our great family has realized they need us, and this gives you a unique opportunity. I can place you somewhere that you will be found by one of our family members, and they will take you to the rest of the village. From the time I send you to their world to the time you are discovered, you will remember your past life. You can finally be with those who will see you for exactly who you are, and embrace you for it,”Lulu quickly explained.
Sarah stood in front of her mother with a blank look on her face. Inside she was crying out, wanting to scream yes. She refused to allow such intense emotion to show, and was still skeptical as to whether or not her vision was real.
“I would like to be where I belong,” Sarah finally whispered.
Lulu smiled, and rushed forward to embrace her daughter. They stood in an embrace for a long time before either of them pulled away. When they finally parted, both were wiping tears from their faces.
“We must move quickly then,”Lulu said,”We are running out of time.”
Sarah followed her mother to an altar set on a large pedestal. Lulu lit four white candles that were inside a white circle. She reached out, and grasped both of Sarah’s hands in her own.
“This is the last time we will meet, my child. I wish it were not so, but it is what it is. Before you go, is there anything you would like to know,” Lulu asked.
Without thinking about the question she would ask, Sarah spoke. There was really only one thing Sarah would need to know before resuming the life she should have had.
“What is my name, mother,” she asked.
Her last vision of her mother in the Fade was of Lulus’ smiling face and laughing eyes. In her mind she heard only one word, whispered quietly.