I awoke, shivering, in the sithen, and the whispers of words I could barely understand drove me from the comforts of that near-home. I sought the heights, but the heights had changed; again, the incursions of the humans, again, the rape of the land.
I fell, and panicked, and my panic propelled me upward, searing my back from the friction as I was pulled up the mountainside. I became wedged, whimpering in distress, between a new stone abode and an outcropping of pale stone. I had to summon all the concentration I had left, burning precious and diminishing energy reserves, to will myself elsewhere in Valruna.
The pain hit when the first wave of fog hit me, dropping me to my knees, hand clutched to my side. Pain of loss, pain of leaving Lumindor, the pain of addiction...nothing was like this. Nothing had hurt this much.
I heard my voice, broken, shaking rasp, whispering on the drifting air.
"...Where, where is he, where is my Raven, where is my gentle lad, where, oh where..."
I turn, the pain not easing, the pressure building, making me nearly scream. What was happening, and why was I alone, yet again?
The whispers crowd in again, and I cry out, striking against them, whispers and half-glimpsed figures, and no, no, stay back, STAY BACK--!
I collapse, panting, last of my energy gone, and where was my Raven, where was my lad, where, oh where...
"Can't trust demons," I whisper, shuddering, "can't trust, why did I, why did I again, can't trust, never trust, never works out..."
Never works out. Never...never...and the cliffside is so cold...
Heart in my throat, I turn, I stumble, reluctant feet scraping over grass and stone, taking me step by step closer to doom. Standing on the crumbling cliff's edge, hearing each grain of sand shift beneath my slippers as if it struck sparks off bone. I hesitate, standing there, leaning forward.
**There is another way.**
This voice is clear, this voice is coherent. Unlike so many, voices of the living and the gone, voices of the present and the missing. This voice, I listen to.
I pause, breathing, listening.
Another way...another way?
**Drink the vial.**
My hand raises, clenching around the enspelled crystal, watching the crimson liquid swirl. I shudder, bone-deep, wracked by spasms of doubt and fear.
But he said... I think. He said it would be dangerous. He said it would increase the hunger.
**It's all you have,** the voice says. And goes silent.
I writhe on the ground, pain mounting again, screaming to the city that cares not for magic, for nature, for aught but seeking its own oblivion. I cannot bear it, I cannot, I am not strong enough for this--
My hand creeps to the vial, caressing the seal. One thin wire between me and what lies inside.
No! I cannot!
**You have no choice.**
I begin unwinding the wire around the seal...
((to be continued))