Three as Three - Part Four
Lisya was furious and rightly so. As she stormed down the cobbled corridor formed between two buildings, she swore that this was the last time she'd allow herself to be placed in such a difficult position. Two long years had passed since the last time she saw her friends, her family. And this time, there was a high possibility that she wouldn't make it out of here alive.
She stepped out into the open street and passed through a crowd of people babbling on about something or another that really didn't catch her attention. Though she did notice the hand that grabbed at her travel bag and she would have taken such a hand off with a quick swish of the knife hidden in her sleeve if she had time to deal with the aftermath of such actions. Instead she snapped the first couple of fingers she found. The satisfying crunch and accompanying scream was justice enough in her book.
Out of the crowd and practically sailing down the row of buildings to her left, Lisya calmed herself. Going into the situation with flared tempers would have made things worse for her and given her adversary an advantage he would have greatly welcome and used. This she was hoping for with anticipation.
She started to spin around the corner when she ran into a wall of city soldiers, blocking everyone from the main square. Of course things were not going to be as easy as she'd once hoped they might, when she was much younger and clueless. She paused and took note that the entire square had been blocked off and a parade of soldiers marched down the opposite street right toward the square. Annoyed, she spun on her heels and headed back a bit of the way then took another back alley.
After several more twists and turns, she came to a halt and looked at the barely standing building she was about to enter. It was a wonder, really, why anyone would dare to go in, much less work out of the place. Lisya supposed doing such illegal work had its disadvantages despite what came across as a very profitable enterprise.
She couldn't bring herself to enter the building just yet though. Something she saw back at the square was bothering her. In her rush to get away from there, she hadn't taken the time to figure out just what was going on but now as she thought back, she realized something was very much out of place there.
She shook it off with the decision to return after her business was concluded here. A few more steps and she found the door but again she paused and frowned. A beggar was crouched in the corner of the stairwell, holding out a cup toward her. She peered inside to find it empty, then sighed and knelt down as she studied the man. She spoke softly to him: "Tell me your story."
Puzzled, the man simply shook his cup at her. His pathetic eyes tried to get anything they could out of her. So she reached into her travel bag and pulled out a handful of gold coins. "Tell me your story old man, and I'll give you ten gold pieces."
Amazing what a little gold will do. He spewed out his story almost immediately on sight of the gold. Once a rich and successful merchant, he could have bought half the city. Then, he fell in with a crooked man and his greed over swept him. He lost everything plus a lot he didn't have. His family left him. His business was taken from him. He was nearly killed at the hands of the very man inside this same building Lisya was going to enter. Now he just did what he could to survive, if anyone could call how he lived living.
As he told his story, Lisya absorbed it but her main attention was focused on something else all together. The darkness of despair had overwhelmed him long ago and Lisya could see it as if it were a cloud that surrounded him and never faded away. A cloud is the only way she'd ever been able to think to tell people of what she saw but that was long ago and she didn't even bother anymore. She could see into the very essence of a person. Call it their soul, call it their aura, or call it whatever you will. She called it the true-self. It was one thing that nobody could hide from her. Always it was present, surrounding every single living thing. Vivid colors twined, running in and out of the people it surrounded, showing their truest of hearts.
When she was a child, she thought everyone saw like she did. The world a bland vision of black and white. Then, as she got older she started to see these colors for the very first time. They just started to show up one day and the older she got the more and more the colors appeared until she was an adult and everyone was surrounded by them. It took her a long time to figure out how to read a person's true-self but it only took her a few months to realize she shouldn't be seeing what she is seeing and she learned fast how to keep her mouth shut.
Through experience, and good old-fashioned trial and error, she was able to learn not only to read a true-self, but also how to alter someone's core being to the point that their true-self became something else. That's what she was doing now.
She found a small window of hope still longing to find its way to the surface of this man's life and she had willingly become the vessel for that hope. The man's greed and lust for the life he once had overwhelmed him the second he saw the gold as she knew it would. But as he told his story, maybe not consciously but somewhere deep inside of him, he was forming a wall around that old life and the gold was starting to draw out his hope. By the time he finished telling his story to her, she could see this poor man's life preparing to take a turn for the better. She dropped the coins into his cup. "I only ask for one thing in return. Find your family after you've gotten back on your feet."
He thanked her endlessly, until she finally had to walk away. She didn't know if she'd ever see that man again. She didn't know if his life would turn around. Anything was possible still. All she knew was that he had that second chance and she felt he would make the best of it.
Now, however, she stared at the faded wooden door of the building and sighed inwardly. Then she went inside.
Possession was what it felt like to Brand for lack of a better word. Ever since he'd woken up from that psycho dream about endless mist he'd felt like he was being led somewhere to do something. It wasn't as if he had no control of himself. He was making all the decisions as far as his body went and his mind was thinking of it's own free will. But something just felt off and he couldn't explain it.
For some reason, he went to One-eye's tent and woke him up. Now, this was strange for several reasons. First and foremost in his mind the simple fact that he was absolutely no idea which tent belonged to One-eye. So you can imagine his surprise when he walked straight to the tent, stepped right on in and discovered it was actually One-eye's tent.
Sleepy One-eye was not overjoyed to see Brand standing over him when he awoke, but he wasn't upset either. He simply wondered what was up. The problem here was the other strange reason. Brand had absolutely no earthly idea why he wanted to wake up One-eye. So, he simply told One-eye about his dream and hoped One-eye could make some sense out of everything. And, what do you know? One-eye was the man he needed to see.
"Oh my. Oh my," One-eye said as he dressed quickly and winked at Brand. "This is exciting news. I knew the bridge would be finished today, but I had no idea when we were going to the ruins. It seems now that we know. Well, we know that you will be going to the ruins at least."
Brand shrugged. "If you say so. Far as I know, it's all yours after I do... whatever it is I'm supposed to do."
One-eye hooted and rubbed his hands together. They left and met up with Megan and Adara at the actual bridge. The finishing touches had been made and the bridge was complete. Brand just stood there, staring blankly at Adara.
"Go to the ruins," Adara said.
It was then that Brand noticed Adara wasn't wearing her hood. This was the first time he'd ever seen her without it and he finally realized why she'd been covering her face. This was the woman that assaulted him in the bookstore. She had their book all along! Furious, Brand grabbed Megan by the arm and pulled her away from the others. As Megan staggered back confused, she tried to ask what was going on but Brand waved her silent. What, exactly, was he supposed to do or say?
Thankfully, Adara decided to go first. "What's the matter?" She asked.
Naturally, she just said what was on everyone's mind. Brand looked between Megan and Adara, uncertain as a sumo-wrestler at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Finally he just screamed out: "You're the bitch that attacked me in the bookstore and stole the book!" Being a man of action, he decided to try and tackle her to the ground. It failed of course. Adara merely stepped aside and Brand ended up with a face full of dirt.
"I assure you," Adara said, "I have never harmed you. It is against my very nature to harm another living being in any matter. As is stealing."
Brand rolled over, humiliated and glared at Adara. She was good, he realized. Too good. She wouldn't lie her way out of this. He jumped back to his feet and clenched his fists. "Just give us the book and tell us how to get home! I don't know what kind of games you're playing but..." That was when he remembered the attack in the tent. It was like the memory had been covered with a blanket and a breeze just blew away the concealment. He remembered being attacked while he was alone in the tent. He remembered being attacked by Adara no less and he remembered her word: Remember.
And remember he did. Visions of things flowed through his mind in that moment. Things so violent and terrible that he couldn't even begin to comprehend the level of evil that had to be behind such acts. Rivers of blood flooded everything. The fallen bodies of men, women, children, even animals piled miles high. And among it all, he saw her. Adara, in a black silk robe with her raven hair whipping in the wind, dripped with blood as she clung to a sword in one hand and Megan's bodiless head in the other.To be continued...