Category: The Chains We Own


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To Llana the endless dark seemed to have lasted for days though as they walked with little to no rest time had lost all meaning.  Llana had not been told but she was sure they walked the Crossroads themselves.  To her this place had been the stuff of legends, but some how with Odella as her guide it only made sense.  As her feet become accustom to walking on the path that Odella cut without the slightest thought Llana began to remember the stories her mother use to tell.  Though she had not heard them in years they came back to her and in the stony silence that surrounded her and kept her company.

“To all children, I believe, mist is a magical thing which can hold any number of surprises or adventures, but this quality of mist is often lost on adults who are too busy trying to look past the mist to look beneath it.  Because beneath the mist lies the tangled weavers web that is the Crossroads.  Whether or not we are honest with ourselves we are, each of us, upon those crooked roads making decisions which lead us ever closer to what comes next and forever closing the way to what might have been.  Yes Llana, even our smallest choices define us and determine who it is that we are to become.”

Her dream-like state wavered in and out as the surroundings changed in subtle shifts.  However, Llana refused to give up on the story rippling through her mind at the moment, as it seemed to be of particular importance, but the sharp clang of metal shattered her revere.  It was at this moment that the subtle changes fully hit her.  The ground was different, the dark was different, and even the air seemed altered.  “Where are we?”

“Right where we are supposed to be.”  Odella turned sharply to face Llana causing her to stumble at the abrupt stop.  She gestured grandly suggesting that Llana should fully take in her new environment which included a Y in the path they had been following through the dark.  The two arms of the path were  illuminated by nothing more than the few errant rays of light falling from the air shafts.  Neither bend in the path looked particularly menacing nor inviting if she was being perfectly honest.  “Which way would you go,” Odella asked a faint smile upon her lips.

Llana started to answer then bit her tongue trying to restrain the tartness she was sure Odella would hear in her response.  “What kind of trick it this?  You’re supposed to answer questions not ask them?”

“No, I tell truths, but if you insist.  You asked me about my chains what do you wish to know?”

“Why do you wear them?” Llana immediately locked her eyes on the ground mentally berating herself.

“Because they are mine,” Odella responded calmly, “but tell me, why do you wear yours?”

“I’ve told you I have none.  You are the only person I have ever seen wear chains.”  The disgust Llana felt at the idea of being chained leaked out into her words causing Odella to study the girl intently with anger in her eyes. 

“Truly?  What of Namari?  Does she no longer bear chains?”

“How absurd would that be?  My mother would never lower herself to wear chains like some…some…slave.  She has more grace and dignity in her titles alone than you could ever hope to have,” Llana practically spit at the other woman.

“Tell me what dignity was there in birthing you?”

Llana’s mouth fell open in a silent O of confusion, but Odella continued without taking notice.  “Yes, you are one of Namari’s chains, and the titles you spoke of does she not have to strap herself into those chains of gold and silk to prove her worthiness, and what of her man?  Does she still not suffer the ring he gave her?”  Here Odella paused holding Llana captive in her piercing gaze.  “Oh yes, Namari does have grace and dignity, but her chains are only hidden from the unobservant.  She is as much as slave as I.”

The questions whirled around in the girl’s head chasing each other to dead ends.  Yes her mother still wore her coronet and her father’s ring…”but she does not wear chains,” Llana whispered to herself.

“No.  Namari does not wear chains like mine, but never think she does not carry them.”

That statement echoed through Llana’s very core as she blindly started towards the path to the left needing nothing so much as to escape the place where such bloody truths had been spilled.

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“Goodness its dark in here.”

“Not to me, not anymore.”

She knew there was no point in explaining that her eyes were big enough, that they saw more, so she let the silence drag.  The walk was very short, but as her companion was far behind she went slowly.  She listened as the girl inhaled as if to begin quite the conservation only to stop as if she was no longer sure how to make the words come out right.  Finally, the girl found her voice.

“I did not mean to offend you,”  the girl began wondering what could seem human and still be able to see clearly down here no matter how long they had lived in this way, “it’s well I just…let’s start over?  I’m Llana of Tralia, and…”  When there was no immediate response Llana feared that she had lost the other girl who had been almost completely silent on their descent.

“Odella.”

It was then that the two reached their destination.  A hole through the high rock ceiling allowed an orange-red orb to shine through the hall.  Llana blinked fiercely in the sudden glow as the room started to appear out of the shadows.  It was comfortable without being overly lavish even with the many fine things the room held.  Perhaps the most outstanding piece was the mirror, which encompassed more than half of the stone wall that held it.  In the mirror Llana caught her reflection.  A girl of normal height and build with hair that fell to her shoulders in thick strands of sun gilded brown.  However it was not her mussed appearance or her wide amber eyes that caught her attention, it was the girl standing behind her.  The girl, if you could call her a girl, was not just named Odella. She was Odella.

Llana inhaled sharply and spun on her heel as if Odella might disappear.  “This is not where you are from.”  Llana hoped that she had not given too much away, but she had to know for sure.

“No, but sometimes I come here, and you ought to be glad I do or you would still be very lost.  Now enough.”  Odella smiled as the girl was caught confused and unsure, but she had seen the recognition in the girl’s eyes.  It had been a long while since anyone on this side had cared to notice, and Odella stood at the edge of truth.  “You must now continue on your way, and I mine,” the woman said tersely gesturing towards the dimly lit path to her her right, “you have my best wishes.”  And with those words Odella turned to leave.

Llana however stood rooted to the ground, she had never before received such a dismissal.  Had been so sure it was a sign.  Then without giving it the thought it deserved she replied, “ I am so sorry to impede you on your way, and thank you very much, but I am not leaving.  Not without answers.”  These last words dripped with a disdain that was not lost on Odella.

“I would get real comfortable then because answers don’t often make it this far,” Odella offered over her shoulder taking the downward slanting path to the left.

Out of the quite sounds came a small and rather uncertain voice from the top of the path, “Where are your chains?”

If Odella hadn’t been dragging her feet she would have been too far away to hear the girl, but as it was the words hit her square between her shoulders connecting her Llana.  It was too late to walk away now Odella finally admitted to herself as she walked back to the room with the mirror.  The girl stood facing the path to the right shoulders slumped.

“I am wearing them,” she held out her right arm in such away that the sleeve fell back exposing her wrist and a flash of pale metal in the light, “and where child are yours,” she answered.

“I am no child…and I have no chains,” Llana looked confused as she turned to once again face Odella and sounded offended as she barely suppressed a scoff.

“I thought you sought truth girl?” As her words hung in the space between the two Odella sat down. Llana, however, showed no interest in sitting calmly and discussing what she considered utter nonsense.  Though she stared unabashed at the wrist and neck bands that she could see spark in the low light.

“They make no noise…are they light then,” Llana asked hopefully suddenly meeting Odella’s piercing gaze.

While she knew that the girl could not help but be curious this was a conversation she wanted no part in, and as her anger got the better of Odella struck back with a question of her own. “Why would the chains have to be heavy to be heard or better yet light to go unnoticed?”

Llana sat suddenly open-mouthed so much sting had been in the words she felt as if she had been struck.  Dumbfounded she lowered her eyes to her lap. “I…”

Odella cut her off before she could even begin. “Rest. We start tonight and believe me you are not ready.”

I can hear my mother’s voice, in the quite moments if I listen hard enough, but the stories she used to tell me always ring in my ears.   The story which I never could shake was Her’s…Odella’s. 

“There are no small stories about her as a fussy baby or an argumentative child,” my mother explained, “she just is.  Her story is one that starts in the middle nearly fully formed.  Odella, the hauntingly striking young woman with black eyes and chains upon her brow, neck, arms, and legs all reaching back towards the midline of her body.  “Come, and know your truth,” she dares those who call to her, “I charge nothing for the answering.”  Still she warns, “A price must be paid for while they are freely given true answers are not easily found.”  Her quiet presence seems to unnerve even the bravest of men should they not live in truth.  For that more than anything defines her.  Odella the truth teller, the storm crow, the pot stirrer.”

“Truly that is all that is known, of Odella” I remember asking full of disbelief, “surely there must be more?  Many must have questions which require answers.”

“Only those who have journeyed with her know more, Llana,” my mother replied plainly, “and I think you’ll find very few people are ever very truthful with themselves about their desire for answers.  For the truth can be a weighty thing, daughter.”

For better or worse these words have stuck to me, driving me in my pursuit of honesty, daring me to ask questions…

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“We are looking for your answers, are we not?  You have chosen at every fork in the road, have you not?  So we would only be here if we needed to be, right?” Odella had asked questions but expected no answers as such she had never once paused.  “Now do as I said and watch with open eyes and mouth closed we will talk later.”

Llana looked out of their booth with unfocused eyes.  She told herself it was like dipping her toe in a tub to avoid plunging into either scalding or icy waters, but really she was stalling.  Everything made so much more sense now.  Of course there were people about their business in the dead of night at a place like Candlelight, by the light of day someone might recognize them or call them on their various appetites.  The thought of all the people who refused to meet her eyes earlier became as frightening as those who had stared.  Without meaning to Llana shivered with a chill which ran from the sensitive skin at the nape of her neck down her spine.  Her eyes immediately refocused.

The room they were in at the surface was like any other tavern with darkness lending privacy to the booths and candles on the small round tables throwing the patrons faces into eery relief.  However, that was where her frame of reference stopped.  The men and women who moved between the tables where dressed, a term she was using rather loosely in this instance, in various non-clothing items.  A deep blush stole across her cheeks as a woman clad only in shear scarves and tiny bells walked past blowing Llana a kiss and winking her kohl lined eye in the girl’s direction.  Stranger still was the scene unfolding upon the stage which was built to resemble an elevated three ring circus.  Contortionists undulated in rhythm to the pulsating music sliding from one suggestive pose to the next, but it was dead center that held most everyone’s attention.  There a blindfolded woman was tethered to a hoop suspended from the ceiling. 

She waited with her head hanging down her body absolutely still.

Llana turned and looked at Odella, “Are we…” but she was cut off by the sound of a gong ringing through the grimy dimness effectively ending all other sound.  Odella gestured impatiently toward the stage.  Again Llana looked at the center ring which now contained a man dressed all in crimson and the woman who now held her head tilted up, awaiting something, her body straining toward the man.  He ran his finger down her jaw line cupping her chin in the palm of his left hand.  She quivered at his touch drawn up taunt against her restraints.  As the man in red lifted his right arm Llana noticed with a gasp that he held, what appeared to be, a short riding crop. 

Wishing she was a stronger person Llana found herself watching with unblinking eyes just like the rest of the room.  The man made quite a show of tracing the braided leather over every inch of exposed skin till the poor blindfolded girl vibrated with anticipation.  Then in such a swift measured motion, that Llana nearly missed, the red man struck the woman across her curvaceous backside. 

Llana’s hands moved of their own accord to her mouth in an attempt to contain her fear for the tethered woman, but to her surprise the girl with the blindfold did not scream in anguish.  She moaned with pleasure.  A sound which flooded Llana with heat. 

Odella touched Llana’s arm nodding over to the same man covered in leather straps with sly eyes she had spoken to earlier, “It’s time to continue on, I hope you learned something.”

Llana’s only response was open mouthed silence, but she followed Odella all the same.  The three of them passed within inches of the stage, so close that she could see the fiery passion in the red man’s eyes.  Worried questions ran through Llana’s mind so quickly she could not even attempt any answers, but there was one circling her like a vulture which she could not shake.  What deeply secret part of her required answers from Candlelight?

For additional parts of this story click here.

Welcome to Candlelight

At the gaping mouth of the cave Odella paused throwing her hood up so as to hide her face in the dark shadows of the folds, but Llana doubted it was necessary as they seemed to be arriving somewhat near twilight. 

“Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open child there is much to learn in Candlelight.”

Llana tried to search her memory for any reference to such a place, but came up empty handed.  Quickly they came upon the town itself which burned a flickering red against the night due to the immense number of candles burning in store fronts, on corners, and even in the trees.  Llana had to admit that the picturesque scene had an ambience she had never encountered before. As her eyes adjusted to the ruddy light, which seemed to shadow as often as it illuminated, it became obvious to Llana that Odella’s hood was necessary.  Everywhere she looked there were people going about their business as if it was high noon not midnight, however how they were able to do so remained a mystery to Llana as no sign hung from any of the doors they passed. Though the streets were crowded with people, many of whom went hooded, there was almost no sound.

The quiet was such that she could hear the bee’s wax scorching on the fresh wicks as they passed, unless a door was opened. Along with the tinkle of bells, which alerted the propitors of an indivuals entrance, such a mix of sounds would pour into the night that Llana had no time to process what might be occurring behind the firmly shut doors and shadowy windows. Odder still were the people. Few on the street would meet her gaze, but the shop keeps and venders more than made up for it with eye contact strong enough to make her squirm. Fear of the strangely assessing looks meant that Llana kept her eyes constantly roving sliding from one thing to another without actually focusing on what she was seeing.

However, as they rounded a corner one store front in particular drew Llana’s attention.  As she got closer she realized it was because the glass alternated between being filled with opaque smoke and being clear enough to look through.  With her fingers resting upon the glass she waited and as the pane emptied she caught a glimpse of the patrons.  Llana jumped back as if electrified and turned angrily towards Odella who was a good ten steps ahead of her now, “The Red Light District,” she shrieked distress emanating from her in waves.

A quick right to left head jerk confirmed Odella’s suspicion, if they didn’t move quick they would be alone on the street, not an ideal situation as they were still a ways from Appetence. Without a second to consider how the girl would react Odella grabbed her by her accusatory finger and pulled her into the very building whose window had been such an affront to her delicate sensibilities. Llana blanched as the door slammed shut and the pounding music reverberated up her legs from the floor boards.

“You sit and keep quite no matter what, this time,” Odella said in tones that brooked no argument while pointing to a dark corner booth away from the stage and door.

Hating herself for every step deeper into the debauchery she went Llana sat quickly and focused her attention on the polished black lacquered table top. In what seemed like a very long time Odella returned with a man dressed only in leather straps whose sly eyes and half smile made Llana flush and look away. Odella, however, did not flush nor lower her hood rather she leaned into the man and whispered into his ear and sent him off with a wave of her hand.

“What…”

“I told you to keep you mouth shut.”

The statement wasn’t shouted, but the scold in the words hit her like an open fist.

“We are looking for your answers, are we not? You have chosen at every fork in the road, have you not? So we would only be here if we needed to be, right?” Odella had asked questions but expected no answers as such she had never once paused. “Now do as I said and watch with open eyes and mouth closed we will talk later.”
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For other exerts from the story The Chains We Own click the links below

The first link in the chain

Chains that make no noise

Answers at the Y in the path

Finding the blood stone

Prolouge

This is a story about a young girl who has gone off in search of answers before making one of life’s greatest choices. Unexpectedly, she has found that truths and answers are not for the faint of heart, nor easy in the discovering. On her journey she will come into contact with individuals who will be able to teach her not only about the ways of the world she has mostly been sheltered from, but also how to find the strength to own up to your burdens and baggage whatever form they may take.

Finding the Blood Stone

As the two walked through the tunnel, Llana had blindly ran to, Odellia smiled softly as she thought to herself that perhaps the girl truly might be ready for the first step.  Odellia’s mood improved with each step so much so that softly under her breath she sang the anvil’s song.

Llana did not notice the changes in Odellia as she was watching with fascination as the walls in front of her became dotted with silvered light.  The further into the tunnel they walked the brighter the wall became and soon the dark was gone completely and a false twilight prevailed.  This was the only sight until they reached a bend in the tunnel where a tall man stood with a kind of stout strength exuding from him.  As the sounds of their approach reached the man’s ears he turned pickaxe in hand looking them up and down.  Without pretense he dropped the axe from his shoulder and walked up to Odellia grinning ear to ear.  The closer he got the more of Llana’s field of vision he seemed to take up.  The large man stopped less than a foot in front of the two and said, “Be welcome ‘Dellia,” in a booming voice at odds with his wide smile.  However, as he took notice of Llana standing behind and to the side of Odellia his smile dropped and out of the corner of his eye he took the girl’s measure, “Who’s this?”

Llana, however, did not have a chance to answer because Odellia quickly wheeled the man away from her and held him in quiet conversation.  While Llana impatiently waited on the conversation’s end she warily eyed the walls wondering how it was that they seemed to create their own light.  To her they shone like beat tin except in one spot which sucked in any light that ventured in its direction.  She reached out for the dark spot wondering if it was empty; when she felt a liquid warmth rush up her arm.  Startled she stepped back and much to her amazement she held a stone that glowed blood-red at the center of what appeared to be a piece of amber.  She must have gasped in her surprise because the talk in the corner cut out abruptly as they both turned towards her.

“Bless the mist Beorn!  Why didn’t you tell me there was a blood stone in here, I would have come a different way,” Odellia nearly shouted hurrying back to Llana.

“I didn’t know ‘Dellia honest.”

“How can you not know?”  She did not even look back over her shoulder as she responded.

“Haven’t been this way since last time you were here, we only took a yard all around.  No one mentioned anything.”  Beorn sounded hurt like a scolded child.

Suddenly the warmth in Llana’s hand started to prick red-hot into her hand, burning her very soul it seemed.  Only Odellia’s harsh words broke through the pain.  “Drop it Llana… now… let it go!”  With the last word a short almost unfelt blast of power separated the stone from young flesh.  When the girl looked up Odellia’s top skirt was quickly being wrapped around the stone as the tunnel started to dim back to silver.  The last image girl understood before she sunk to the floor was the oddly shaped mark in her palm.

Beorn was quick enough to grab the child in her swoon and held her lightly as a rag doll turning this way and that.  “Dellia we must be going this is not a good way for you to be discovered, not with what you got under your cape.”  All she had time for was a nod of her head and they were off.

The darkly light tunnels flew by as they wound their way through scarcely used twists and turns that entered at last into a clearing in the middle of the forest.  “Wait,” Odellia motioned to herself a twinkling spectacle with her uncovered chains, “it would be almost as bad to run into the village like this.”

To Llana the endless dark seemed to have lasted days as they walked with little to no rest.  Though she had not been told Llana was sure they walked the Crossroads themselves.  To her this place had been the stuff of legends, but some how with Odellia as her guide it only made sense.  As her feet become accustom to walking on the path that Odellia cut without the slightest thought Llana began to remember.  The stories she had not heard in years came back to her and in the stony silence that surrounded her kept Llana company.

Her dream-like state wavered in and out as the surroundings changed in subtle shifts.  However, Llana refused to give up on the story rippling through her mind at the moment, as it seemed to be of particular importance, but the sharp clang of metal shattered her revere.  It was at this moment that the subtle changes fully hit her; the ground was different, the dark was different, and even the air seemed altered.  “Where are we.”  The words were out before she had fully thought them through.

“Right where we are supposed to be.”  Odellia turned sharply to face Llana causing her to stumble at the abrupt stop.  She gestured grandly suggesting that Llana should fully take in her new environment which included a dimly light Y in the path they had been following through the dark.  “Which way would you go,” Odellia asked a faint smile upon her lips.

Llana started to answer then bit her tongue.  “What kind of trick it this your supposed to answer questions not ask them.”

“No, I teach, but if you insist.  You asked me about my chains what do you wish to know?”

“Why do you wear them?” Llana immediately locked her eyes on the ground mentally berating herself.

“Because they are mine,” Odellia responded calmly, “but tell me why do you wear yours?”

“I’ve told you I have none.  You are the only person I have ever seen wear chains.” 

The disgust she felt at the idea of being chained leaked out into her words causing Odellia to look up sharply with anger in her eyes.  “Truly?  What of Namari?  Does she no longer bear chains?”

“How absurd would that be, my mother would never lower herself to wear chains like some slave.  She has more grace and dignity in her titles alone than you could ever hope to have,” Llana practically spit at the other woman.

“Tell me what dignity was there in birthing you?”

Llana’s mouth fell open in a silent O of confusion, but Odellia continued without taking notice.  “Yes, you are one of Namari’s chains, and the titles you spoke of does she not have to strap herself into those chains of gold and silk to prove her worthiness, and what of her man?  Does she still not suffer the ring he gave her?”  Here Odellia paused holding Llana captive in her piercing gaze.  “Oh yes, Namari does have grace and dignity, but her chains are only hidden from the unobservant.  She is as much as slave as I.”

The questions whirled around in the girl’s head chasing each other to dead ends.  Yes her mother still wears a coronet and her father’s ring…”but she does not wear chains,” Llana whispered to herself.

“No. Namari does not wear chains such as I, but never think she does not carry them.

That statement echoed through Llana’s very core as she blindly started towards the path to the left needing nothing so much as to escape the place where such bloody truths had been spilled.

Chains that make no noise

Out of the quite sounds came a small and rather uncertain voice, “where are your chains?”

If Odellia hadn’t been sitting across the table from the girl child she doubted she would have even heard her but as it was Odellia had very little choice but to answer her.  “I am wearing them,” she held out her right arm in such away that the sleeve fell back exposing her wrist and the flash of pale metal in the light, “and where child are yours,” she answered.

“I am no child and I have no chains,” Llana looked confused and sounded offended as she barely suppressed a scoff, “why am I here?”

“I thought you sought answers girl.”  As her words hung in the space between the two Odellia took to eating.  Llana, however, showed no enthusiasm for the meal before her as she stared unabashed at the wrist and neck bands that she could see spark in the low fire light.

“They make no noise… are they light then,” Llana asked hopefully suddenly meeting Odellia’s piercing gaze.

While she knew that the girl could not help but be curious this was a conversation she wanted no part in, and as her anger got the better of Odellia struck back with a question of her own.  “Why would the chains have to be heavy to be heard or better yet light to go unnoticed?”

Llana sat open-mouthed as if struck so much sting had been in the words; dumbfounded she lowered her eyes to her plate.  “I…”

Odellia cut her off before she could even begin. “Eat.  We start tonight and believe me you are not ready.”

The first link in the chain

“Goodness its dark in here.”

“Not to me, not anymore.”

She knew there was no point in explaining that her eyes were big enough, that they saw more, so she let the silence drag.  The walk was very short, but as her companion was far behind she went slowly.  She listened as the girl inhaled as if to begin quite the conservation only to stop as if she was no longer sure how to make the words come out right.  Finally, she found her voice.

“I did not mean to offend you,”  the girl began wondering what could seem human and still be able to see clearly down here no matter how long they had lived in this way, “it’s well I just…lets start over.  I’m Llana of Tralia, and…”  When there was no immediate response Llana feared that she had lost the other girl who had been almost completely silent on their descent..

“Odella.”

It was then that the two reached their destination.  A hole through the high rock ceiling allowed an orange-red orb to shine through the hall.  Llana blinked fiercely in the sudden glow as the room started to appear out of the shadows.  It was comfortable without being overly lavish even with the many fine things the room held.  Perhaps the most outstanding piece was the mirror which encompassed more than half of the stone wall that held it.  In the mirror Llana caught her reflection.  A girl of normal height and build with hair that fell to her shoulders in thick strands of sun gilded brown.  However it was not her mussed appearance or her wide amber eyes that caught her attention, it was the girl standing behind her.  The girl if you could call her a girl was not just named Odella, she was Odella.

She inhaled sharply and spun on her heel as if Odella might disappear if she did not hurry.  “This is not where you are from, is it?”  Llana hoped that she had not given too much away, but she had to know.

“No, but sometimes I come here, and you ought to be glad I do or you would still be very lost.  Now enough.”  Odella smiled as the girl was caught confused and unsure, but she had seen the recognition on her face.  It had been a long while since anyone on this side had cared to notice, and Odella stood at the edge of truth.  “you must now continue on your way, and I mine,” she said tersely, “you have my best wishes.”  And with those words turned to leave.

Llana stood rooted to the ground, she had never before received such a dismissal; she had been so sure it was a sign.  Then without a thought she replied, “ I am so sorry to impede you on your way, and thank you very much, but I am not leaving.  Not without answers.”  These last words dripped with a disdain that was not lost on Odella.

Answers…

I took a deep breath letting all the pieces rattle around in my mind, this was going to be harder than I could have ever understood.  How precisely to roll all the stories and myths into a cohesive whole, how to make it make sense, how to press upon her what this meant…would always mean?  Looking out into the valley I allowed my mind to wonder, memories formed a slight smile upon my lips, as the dawning sun sent the dew covered ground to sparkling, and the low lying clouds to glowing opaque and incandescent.  Timid foot fall behind me tore at the moment shattering it as each water droplet fractured the light, then a very telling thought entered my mind “Not unlike what happens to the truth as it passes through the filters of answers”.  Now was the time, I must start or lose my nerve completely.

“To all children, I believe, mist is a magical thing which could hold any number of surprises or adventures, but this quality of mist is often lost to adults who are too busy trying to look past the mist to look beneath it.  There lies the tangled weavers web that is the crossroads.  Whether or not we are honest with ourselves we are each upon those crocked roads making decisions which lead us ever closer to what comes next and forever closing the way to what might have been.”  Llanna’s sudden inhaled breath stopped me in my tracks, another deep breath followed by more rattling and less cohesion; perhaps a softer tone.  “While unsettling it is true even our smallest choice defines us and determines who it is that we are to become; this is perhaps one of the greatest reasons that Odella is who she is, so the story goes.”

“There are no small stories about her as a fussy baby or an argumentative child.  She just is.  Her story is one that starts in the middle nearly fully formed.  None know of the spark or the reasoning that brought her to this point or how it is that she has come to be a strong and unchanging presence across multiple generations, but she has Llanna.”  I stopped unable to control my need to look at her and gage her reactions, however, little more than curiosity was written upon her features as she watched me with rapt attention from her chair.

“As, as I was saying no one could ever quite remember why she left or where she went, but no one has forgotten the day she arrived unannounced in a small milling town.  Rhodes, which falls at a halfway point between the Courts and the Maze Mountains, was and is home to a number of hard working busy bodies, who’s only truly distinguishing characteristic seems to be their constant vigilance of the comings and goings on that well traveled path, and all day long the observant eyes of the locals had been noticing a woman covered from head to foot walking towards the courts who would not speak to anyone nor meet anyones glance.  The unknown woman found her way to the courts where, as it would happen, the Lord’s council was hearing complaints.”

I turned from the railing and took the chaise that faced Llana, but as I still preferred the view of the rising sun to that of her winkled brow I continued to address the sunrise, and while I did not mean it as a rebuke I could sense that my non attention was causing her to chafe uncomfortably.

“Here we can start to see the distortion of time, while we know she sat unmoving except for her rapt and burning eyes which followed each person in and out of the marbled room we do not know how long it is that she waited.  It was however quite long enough that people had begun to talk and to migrate to court to catch a glimpse of the frozen woman, and while the council did their best to ignore and out wait the stranger the buzz of the throng began to interfere with the proceedings.  It came to be that while the room was packed to the balcony none stepped forward to lodge a complaint rather they waited eyes not on the Lord’s council but on the well cloaked woman.  All sat or stood locked in an unexplainable stalemate till the midday hour was announced when those present could refresh themselves before the afternoon’s round began it was at this time that the council called forth the guards.  When the break was over the people returned to find the stranger centered in the room and a guard at every entrance.

A longish man who had been very vocal this court term reclined in his settee and spoke with stifled yawn, “From whence have you come?”  Silence was his only answer.  “Who are you,” he asked with slightly more disdain.

She stood silently staring at the ground never facing the lord who questioned her holding her cloak tight to herself as if she hoped that by not seeing those around her she in turn would not be seen.  He waited for her to explain herself, but found himself becoming more and more irritated as she ignored him and remained as if she had been cast from stone.

“You will tell me who you are and why you are here, I will allow you to set turmoil upon these lands with your secrecy.”

In a quick but refined movement she lifted her head and held him firmly in place with her glance.”

The sun had reached a point where it dazzled my eyes drawing tears, and I faced her at last.  Llana’s mouth was slightly ajar in a silent o of surprise.  “I’m sure you have heard why her glance could stop a person in their tracks,” I asked as she nodded.

“It would be the black eyes,” Llana whispered a trimer in her voice.

“Yes, at this point I’m quite sure the self confident lord was having second guesses about his rash insistence that she answer him.

She smirked and inclined her head, “I am Odella and I have not yet begun.”  With these words she swung her cloak wide allowing it to fall to the floor in a quite rustle that was quickly covered by the sound of sharp in drawn breaths.  Quite unaware of the eyes upon her she lifted her arms wide and held her head high, “I await your questions…if you can bare the answers.”

Not one person moved or spoke they just silently absorbed the image she cut in each mind’s eye for the stranger stood quite a sight to be seen.  She was dressed in a leather jerkin, worked all over in fine stitching, over a linen ridding skirt that hung just past her knees, and upon her brow, neck, arms, and legs hung fine silver chains all reaching back towards the midline of her body.  As she walked in a small circle her eyes searching out any who had a question a musical jangle followed suggesting many more unseen restraints.  Finally she stopped centered once again her eyes only for the lord who was badly concealing his disgust, “Come, and know your truth.  I charge nothing for the answering, but as in all things a price must be paid for while they are freely given, they are rarely easily found.”

As her eyes again fell downward the longish lord found his voice, “You are from here on banished never to return, we have no need of false seers or storm crows, begone, guards?”  She swept her cloak up and over her shoulders turning her back on the council, and addressed the crowd, “I shall return when the call beacons,” and left in a wake of frenzied mutterings.”

“Truly that is all that is known, of Odella” Llana did not succeed in containing her disbelief, “surely there must be more?  Many must have questions which require answers.”

“Only those who have journeyed with her know more, Llana, and I think you’ll find very few people are ever very truthful with themselves about their desire for answers.”  I stood and walked over to the girl thinking that my choice had been made and all would work itself out now for the better or the worse as I softly wrapped her into an embrace.  “For the truth can be a weighty thing, daughter.”

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