You are created for a purpose and stronger than you know. Use your strength.
Overhead the harvest moon seemed to dominate the sky, the pale orb almost cloudlike with its blurred face and frayed edges. Around it, the deep blue-black night sky appeared still, the stars indistinct and barely flickering. The crisp air hung cool and unmoving, while crackling with static energy.
In the open frame of the palace window, she stood gazing out over the landscape. From her second story vantage, she could see for miles. Immediately in front of the castle, the thick turf that comprised the area extending from the entrance to the stone wall that surrounded the grounds was clear and the heavy iron gate had been closed for the night though she knew there were trusted soldiers on guard. Beyond it some great distance, stood a thick forest, an additional deterrent to intruders and enemies. Past the forest were the villages of the kingdom and its citizenry.
Dressed only in a soft linen shift, sleeveless and with a square-cut bodice, her feet bare, the slender, pink toes pressed against the cold stone floor, she hardly felt the briskness of the night air. Fingering the end of the thick, pale orange braid that hung over one shoulder and halfway to her waist, she basked in the stillness that permeated the castle, her creamy countenance, speckled as it was with freckles beneath soft green eyes keenly alert with intelligence, at rest as she peered into the night and over the horizon.
Peace hung like a comforting blanket over the realm keeping the effects of the cold at bay. Here in the palace, everyone except the few servants who kept the fires and remained alert to any need, had long ago settled in for the night but she wasn’t quite ready. Around her, the night torches that lit her room reflected on the glistening gold thread of the intricately woven tapestries that lined the walls, casting a dim but pleasant glow. Behind her, a massive mahogany four poster bed with a square canopy top, its thick, down quilt in muted jewel tones already turned down and waiting, stood against the interior wall, flanked by matching, polished mahogany tables on either side. Beyond it toward the far wall, two ornately carved divans, the plush velvet cushions soft and inviting, stood on either side of the blazing fireplace.
Next to the bed, on the near side toward her, the solid, finely carved wooden door that led into the upstairs hall stood closed. Beside it, the arch of the open entry that went into her dressing room. Outside the opening, on the near wall, a finely crafted, tri-fold mirror gilded in fine gold, sat atop a marble dressing table that held only the most basic grooming tools, a matching four-legged chair with rounded back and seat covered in fine velvet in front.
Serene and settled, she started to turn away from the window when something sent a chill through her causing her to shiver, visibly. Focusing intently, she stared into the distance. Something was coming, she could feel it. Straining to see, she frowned.
Barely visible against the dark of the night a black mist was swirling. Serpentine in its movement, it appeared alive as it crept here and there, everywhere at once, as if looking for an opening. Impossible to tell if it came from the ground or from the air, it turned back at the castle walls and both slipped into and descended on the forest toward the villages.
Immediately, all her senses alert, she knew only one thing. He would be there. He was calling and she had to go.
Swiftly, she moved away from the window and into her dressing area. Passing the lavish, delicate lace and muslin gowns in a rainbow of colors that hung on either side of the space, and the small wall of matching shoes that stood beside the plain, rough wooden door at the back, she grabbed the round metal open circle that served as the knob, opened it and stepped inside.
Laying aside the shift, she pulled a pair of clean, heavy gray breeches and matching tunic from a peg on the wall. Quickly slipping into it, she turned about in the small room. Carefully polished, in a space designed for it, her eyes moved over the armor stored there. On a shelf above, a helmet of worn but polished to a shine silver sat, hanging against the wall beneath it, the sturdy belt and a breastplate, scuffed from battle but pristinely kept, a double-edged sword, razor sharp and a full body shield were waiting. Knee-high boots, of fine leather were on the floor; a small stool beside it against the wall.
Without another thought, she took the boots, slipped her feet inside and grabbed the belt which she fastened at hip level. Fixing the breastplate over her chest, she took the sword and sheathed it in its place at her waist. Stretching up on her toes, she retrieved the helmet, wound her hair up behind her head, fastened it, and then pulled the helmet over, leaving the face plate up. Lifting the shield, she moved to the back of the small space, pulled the curtain aside and moved lithely down the stairs. Her armor appeared light and flimsy but deceptively so; it had protected her successfully through countless battles.
From the bottom of the stairs, a heavy wooden door led to the courtyard. As she knew he would be, Charger, her trusted, pale gray mount waited, pawing the dirt with his front hoof but otherwise making no sound. His steamy breath gave the only other indication that he was eager to move.
She swung up into the saddle, wheeled him about and galloped toward the front gate. As she approached, it opened just wide enough for them to sail through. No one hailed or questioned them. This wasn’t the first time she’d raced into the night.
The dark mist felt heavy, its oblique nature difficult to see through but she trusted Charger implicitly. With only a moment’s pause, she dropped the face plate and thundered toward the blackness of the forest.
A well-worn path through the trees, which might have been obscured if not for the assistance of the pale moon overhead, led toward the nearest village, several miles in the distance. Before she’d traveled far on it, she came to a small clearing, hardly wide enough for three horses abreast. From either side of the path, two figures moved into it. Neither was mounted and no steeds stood visible.
Faceplates down, their black full-body armor reflected the moon’s glow, slivers of pale light, unearthly and eerie in the stillness of the forest. Both tall, broad, and silent, their demeanor felt ominous as each drew a sword, in choreographed unison that might have been impressive if not so threatening. As they brought their swords up to cross between them and bar her way, a low growling voice declared. “You will not pass.”
“Stand aside.” She commanded. “In the name of the Prince of the Realm.”
A rumbling shook the ground in response. It sounded as if they growled as they assumed a battle stance. More authoritative and louder, as if from all around the small clearing and not from them at all, came the voice again. “You WILL not pass!”
“I am a Light-bearer.” She declared. “You cannot stop me.”
Again came the roaring growl, louder than before.
Unsheathing her sword, its blade like blazing metal, she leaned forward, stroking Charger’s neck. Quietly, she said. “Be still, my friend. This won’t take long.”
As one unit, they started toward her.
Swinging out of the saddle, she landed on the ground just in time to clash swords with the first of the pair, her shield catching a blow from the other. Confidently, she demanded. “I said stand aside!”
Circling her, they looked for opportunity to strike.
Keeping her shield high and sword ready, she moved with them, not allowing either to move behind her.
“Who do you think you are?” The voice taunted.
“I know who I am.” She replied. “I am a Light-bearer, in service to the prince of the realm. You cannot stand before me.”
Both, in unison, lunged for her.
With her sword swinging rapidly, her shield rising and moving with every attempt to strike, she swirled and parried. Unaffected by the clash of metal, she turned inward. This wasn’t the fight she’d been called to and she knew it. Otherwise, he would be here. No, it was much bigger than this.
“You cannot defeat me, weak one.” Came the voice again. “This is too big for you.”
“I don’t have to.” Suddenly, she stood still and began to laugh.
“What are you laughing at?” It was irritated now.
“You.” She answered.
“Because you’re still foolish enough to think you can stand before the prince of the realm. You’ve been vanquished. Now stand aside!” Immediately, she swung the sword in a broad arc.
Both folded to the ground and dissolved, leaving no trace of their existence.
With a triumphant smile, she sheathed her sword and moved quickly to where Charger stood calmly waiting. Climbing into the saddle, she stroked his neck reassuringly. “Ok, my friend, let’s go.”
“This isn’t over, weak one!” The voice bellowed so loud it seemed to fill the atmosphere from all sides and into the sky above.
“No,” she answered quietly as she nudged Charger toward the path at the far side of the clearing. Indeed, it was only beginning.
As she continued up the path, the dark aura seemed to grow thicker, swirling around her until it became nearly impossible to see the way. It wasn’t smoke but it wasn’t fog; still, it felt almost tangible but without humidity or smell. Unearthly in nature, it menaced. This wasn’t like other nights she’d been out here.
Charger slowed his gait and snorted, his front hoofs pounding and pawing the ground.
“Okay, boy,” she soothed. Patting his neck, she brought him to a halt before unsheathing her sword. Holding it forth, it created a soft glow, clearing the cloud just enough before them to light their way. Urging him on, she said, as much to herself as to him, “We have some way to go yet.”
They traveled on for some distance with no other interference, until they arrived at a clearing much larger than the first. She recognized the landscape, although she did not know the tenants.
A small house stood to her right, well-constructed of rough wooden boards but with no windows, only a plain door, darker in color than the rest of the wood. The shingled roof had barely a slanted peak, its stove pipe pumping a steady stream of smoke into the air. A barn, made of the same rough wood and not much larger than the house stood past it; between them and beyond, a field, ripe for harvest, appeared untouched by the black aura.
Something seemed different, but she couldn’t decide what it was. Nothing appeared out of place. The fight wasn’t here either, she knew. Just about to nudge Charger past and into the woods on the other side, she stopped short.
“Light-bearer.” Came the call. A boy, hardly adolescent by the looks, in tattered breeches, bare feet and a shirt at least one size larger than necessary for his slight frame came from the side of the house. Before she could answer, he explained. “I saw your sword.”
“What is it?” She asked.
“It’s my papa.” He said. “He’s been vexed with a fever. My mother’s with him but cannot seem to break it.”
Checking inside, she sheathed her sword and climbed down.
“There’s no time to lose.” He added as he led the way to the front door. “I cannot bring the harvest in alone and it cannot wait long.”
Nodding, she followed.
Opening the door, he stepped in and then stood aside for her to enter.
She looked about the small space but saw nothing like the dark soldiers she’d encountered on the path.
The furnishings were simple: a small table with three chairs on the left wall, several chairs and a two-seat wooden bench with a high back were in front of the fireplace that contained a modest blaze. Behind the high-backed seat, a small cot, obviously where the boy slept was neatly made up against the far wall. The front wall beside her had a place for washing dishes and a cook stove. On the right, a curtain separated what must have been the adult sleeping quarter. From behind it came a female voice, “Boy?”
“I’ve brought a Light-bearer, Mama.” He motioned with his head toward the curtain.
She walked toward it and carefully pulled it aside to enter.
A woman crouched forward in the chair next to the bed. Her care-worn face gave her the appearance of one much older than she likely was. The dress, plain colored and with no adornment, was shabby but neat. She brushed back the strands of hair that had come loose from the cloth ribbon that held most of it as she reached out and patted the brow of the man lying there with a damp cloth.
Oblivious, he remained covered with sweat and restless.
“How long has he suffered so?” She asked gently, removing the helmet and handing it to the boy.
“Just since dinner.” Replied the woman as she slowly turned, clearly unwilling to take her eyes off him for long. “I thought perhaps he’d eaten something foul but neither the boy nor I are suffering any ill.”
While she stood waiting, her eyes roamed about the cramped quarters.
The bed, large enough for two, dominated the space. A three-drawer bureau, though hardly grand enough for the word, sat against the far wall with a mirror that might show a full-face reflection hanging above it. On it were shaving implements, a brush and two combs.
Compassion rose inside her. No one should live this way, she thought, and it would get much worse if this man did not recover.
The woman had turned back. She dipped the cloth in a basin on a table next to the bed, wrung it out and mopped her patient’s head again. “Can you help him?”
“Yes.” She answered confidently. It would likely be simple, as there was no evidence of anything requiring the use of her sword and shield. Instead, she pulled a small vial from her breeches pocket as she walked the few steps to the bed.
Looking up, the desperation in her eyes gave way to a spark of hope.
“May I?” Lifting the vial, she offered.
“Of course.” Rising from the chair, she stood aside.
From behind, the Light-bearer could sense the boy in the entry way watching. Opening the vial, she tipped it so that the amber colored fluid touched the glass top. Bending forward, she daubed the liquid on his forehead and said. “In the name of the prince of the realm.”
He settled, his countenance growing serene.
His wife gasped. “Oh…”
“Mama,” the boy sounded alarmed.
“It’s all right now, boy.” She declared and turning to the Light-bearer asked. “Isn’t it?”
She nodded. “He will recover now. Let him rest.”
His mother extended her arm and the boy rushed to her side. Drawing him close, her relief showed as she stroked his hair. “You should rest too.”
The Light-bearer moved back from the bed, held out her hands to retrieve her helmet and started out of the room.
“Thank you.” The woman said.
“Yes,” the boy echoed. “Thank you.”
Turning back, she smiled. A flash of light reflected about the living area, catching her peripheral attention. As she started toward it, she caught a glimpse of glistening white armor, its gilded trim causing the light play. Catching her breath, she pulled the helmet on and raced after it.
Completely negligent of any decorum, she rushed from the house but all she saw was a streak of light as the white stallion, nearly aglow against the night, galloped into the woods. She ran quickly to where Charger stood and sped after him. He was nowhere to be seen but she could hear him calling.
Sword drawn to light the way, she traveled on some distance without seeing anyone or coming to any more inhabited areas. Not surprising, she knew the landscape well. If it hadn’t been for the soft calling, she could still hear, she would have concluded that she was no longer needed and returned home but that still, small voice kept her pressing onward.
From experience, she knew it wouldn’t be long before she approached a small village but before she rounded the bend in the woods that approached it, she could smell the smoke and hear the familiar sounds of a raging battle. Slowing Charger to a walk, she proceeded cautiously around the bend and stopped, staring in dumbstruck wonder at the scene before her.
Several buildings lit the night with the flames that leapt and danced on the skyline. People seemed frantic as they scurried aimlessly, most unaware of the dark soldiers that surrounded them whispering in their ears or prodding them with tiny knives. Some were actively fighting, aided by other light-bearers engaged in fierce combat.
She dismounted and led Charger to the right, where a small gathering of bushes would keep her hidden while she contemplated the best entry and where to engage.
“Pssst!” Came a sound from an undisclosed source.
With a frown, she searched the area, sword at the ready. She would not be taken out by a dark warrior before she even entered the fray.
“Light-bearer! Over here!”
In the dark, her eyes found the other warrior crouched among the foliage. She moved quickly to avoid detection from any of the soldiers moving inside the village. “What’s going on here?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Why are you out here?” She moved to a crouching position beside him.
“Same as you.” He replied. “I’ve only just arrived and I’m looking for the best way in.”
“Do you know what this is about?”
A growling noise, loud and menacing caught her attention.
In front of them, a dark warrior had disengaged and walked toward the perimeter in the direction of where they were hidden. Stopping at the edge of the village, he sniffed the air, exhaling loudly and scanning the brush.
As one, they crouched further from view.
“It’s a woman.” Her companion announced.
“Hunh?” She asked. “I’ve never known…”
Black armor catching the light from one of the fires, it glinted ominously as the inhabitant dismissed what he thought he’d smelled and melted back into the chaos.
“Oh.” She said, as light dawned inside. “And a child.”
“Yes. And time is of the essence.”
He suggested. “Together then?”
He crept out from the thicket, staying low and keeping close to the front edge of it as he made his way along the perimeter until he’d passed several buildings to the right of where they’d seen the sniffing soldier.
Quietly, she followed behind, confident he knew where to go and aware of the heated clash coming from inside the village.
Stopping behind what sounded like the thickest part of the fray, he crouched low, turned to her and put a finger to his lips. His voice barely a whisper, he said. “There’s no other way in that’s close enough to our target.”
“You know where it is then?”
“I know which way.” Before she could voice a question, he added. “It’s toward the edge of the village on the far end. We’ll know which place when we get there, but there isn’t another way in that far down.”
Silently, she nodded.
“Perhaps we can slip by for some way before we’re noticed.”
With a knowing smile, she replied. “And perhaps not.”
Gratefully he returned the smile and nodded, comforted that this was no novice.
They slipped into the fray, proceeding purposely toward the far end of the square, her companion in the lead.
After a short distance, she put a hand on his arm.
He stopped, turned toward her, and lifted his face plate. His deep blue eyes were solemn but clear, now holding a question.
She kept her voice subdued. “Perhaps we should be less conspicuous.”
“Weave a little, move among the people?” Keeping an eye on the periphery, she added. “If we seem too intent on a destination, it will draw undue attention.”
“Of course.” He agreed with a nod. “If we…”
Sensing it even before he reacted, she whirled around, sword and shield lifted and ready. Her blade took the brunt of the forceful blow, but the sensation reverberated all the way up her arm. She felt a press against her back and knew her companion had taken the protective battle stance.
Keeping time with her as they circled together, he thrust and parried with his sword, blocking in turn with his shield, as several dark warriors engaged. Over his shoulder, he quietly declared. “I’m going to break formation. I can finish this one and then I’ll draw the others off. You go, quickly, I’ll cover.”
“Are you certain?” She replied. “Don’t you have an assignment as well?”
“Yes, but time is critical. I’ll come behind you as soon as I’ve dispatched these.”
She felt the separation and saw the whisper of dark smoke as one of the soldiers disintegrated.
Her companion charged the soldier engaged with her, the second he’d been fighting coming in behind. Without turning to look at her or losing focus, he shouted. “Go!”
“Are you sure?” She wondered as they circled.
“Yes. Hurry. I’ll be right there. Now go!”
Without hesitating further, she rushed off toward the other end of the square, weaving through the disoriented people who seemed aimless and wandering, around several engagements and keeping her eyes and wits focused to avoid an unseen onslaught.
There could be no doubt as to which of the habitations held her assignment. In front of a building at the furthest end of the row sat the largest, most hideous creature she’d ever seen.
Nearly as wide as the building, the rolls of its layered girth expanded and contracted as though breathing. Its head, mostly bald, was crowned with only a few strands of hair that stuck out in every direction. The three bulging eyes, black as if completely pupil-less and jaundiced yellow except for intermittent blood red streaks, were deceptively sleepy, but cleared and focused when silver-armored warriors bridged the perimeter unengaged with opponents. Drool escaped from what served as lips, ragged, puckered and scaly; a pointed tongue flicked to keep it from slipping down the chin that rested on its chest, neck lost in flabby folds. No feet or legs were visible; it was impossible to tell whether it sat, squatted or if there simply weren’t any. Arms too short for the frame hung seemingly lifeless at its sides with hands curled in on itself.
She knew well how deceptive such creatures were. As much as it appeared they relied on sheer size to intimidate, often when engaged, something unexpected emerged and if unanticipated, could quickly render an opponent ineffective.
Taking a deep breath, she reached up to straighten her helmet and assure it was firmly attached, she gripped her shield more firmly and slowly slipped her sword from its sheath. Approaching cautiously, she searched inside for the best engagement strategy.
Under heavy lids, the rheumy eyes narrowed to slits and blinked several times before becoming sharply fixated on her every move. The creature emitted a low, deliberate growl.
What she had as a course didn’t seem to make sense. Charge directly at it? Could that possibly be right? She hesitated only a moment; the voice too familiar to be in doubt. “Okay,” she murmured and charged purposely toward the center of its massive bulk.
Encountering no resistance, she found herself immediately engulfed in an unstable, globular substance, blood red in color and interwoven with sinewy streaks. Grateful that she could breathe without effort, she attempted to secure her footing but found it impossible, so she pushed her shield an arm’s length in front to clear some space and began using her sword to slice a path through the sinew, her feet clumsily inching forward.
She trudged on for some time, when to her great shock and dismay, she noticed something ahead and coming toward her.
The armor was familiar, but the shield was missing, the sword almost dangling in the figure’s hand, just barely cutting a way forward. Shoulders slumped and helmet crooked, the clearly tired warrior plodded wearily.
“Light-bearer,” she greeted, sincerely hoping it wasn’t her companion from outside. “You turn back from the fight?”
“I have completed my assignment for now.” The tired voice replied.
She nodded. “What lies ahead?”
“I know not. Mine was to open a path for another to carry through.”
“You succeeded then?”
“I did.” The warrior walked past.
Without turning, she called. “Be refreshed then.” And kept moving forward.
Trudging along, the way seemed to go on and on. Like walking through quicksand or swimming wrapped in a blanket, the gel-like substance pulled at her limbs, the sinewy strings grew dense and resistant even to the sharp blade of her sword. She began to grow weary of the seemingly endless slog but kept on.
Just as she began to think she’d been trapped here and failed in her assignment, the red bog began to thin, and the way became easier. She could see the outline of shapes and shadows ahead and knew she had neared the end.
At the veiled edge, she stopped to take notice of what lay ahead.
From her vantage point, she observed what appeared to be a sleeping chamber.
To the right, a woman, great with child, lay atop a feather bed large enough for two to sleep. Clearly laboring to deliver the child, she moved restlessly with each contraction.
At the foot of the bed, a ghoulish creature stood in anticipation of the issue of the child. Its face covered in hair, the eyes vivid red and focused beneath two curved horns at the crown. Shifting from foot to foot with each pain, its slithery tongue licked the sharp fangs at each corner of its mouth.
Behind the woman’s head, two impish creatures, resembling small monkeys, jumped up and down. At intervals, one would thrust a clawed hand into the woman’s head so that her hands flew to her temples and she screamed; the other did the same to her belly, causing her to writhe with pain. They howled with glee. The man seated at her side stroked her hand and spoke words of comfort.
The light-bearer surveyed the scene, pausing to consider the best course. Unsure how she would emerge, though she suspected it would be much like how she’d entered, she felt certain the creatures would immediately be aware of her and on the attack. It didn’t seem likely that she could take all three of them at once.
She considered that while the woman’s pain was pitiable, stopping the creature from getting its pincers into the child should be top priority. With a deep breath, she adjusted her sword and shield before starting forward.
To her amazement, the creatures were so focused on the task at hand, they didn’t even seem to notice as she emerged from behind the veil. With a single swipe of her sword, she took the horned creature’s head off. It floundered a moment before evaporating in a puff of smoke.
Screeching wildly, the two imps jumped up and down.
Immediately in her peripheral view, she saw the shadows begin to shift as they came alive with more dark warriors than she could count. What was it about this child? She wondered. He must be quite special to the prince of the realm for there to be this much darkness attending his birth. So then, why wasn’t he here?
Already a bit weary from the slog through the miry bog, she had no time to think as they swarmed her. Indiscriminately, she swung her sword and thrust forward with her shield. Her head rang with blows to her helmet, but her breastplate and buckler remained intact.
They kept coming.
She kept swinging.
Suddenly, there came a disturbance.
Was it him? She wondered. Desiring to see him, she couldn’t get a line of sight not impeded by dark warriors on the attack.
Instead, a loud shout reverberated through the room. “In the name of the prince of the realm!”
A flurry of activity followed, as some of the dark warriors turned their attention to the new arrival. His sword was quick and accurate; his strength clearly not as depleted as hers. It was the light-bearer she’d come into the village with. “My apologies. It took longer than I expected.”
With a wan smile, she replied. “No matter. You’re here now.”
He took out the imps and ferociously attacked the dark company that surrounded the bed.
The woman’s back arched and she cried out, but only with natural birth pangs.
Her husband moved to the foot of the bed and assessed the situation. “It won’t be long now, my love. I can see the child’s head.”
Clutching the blanket beneath her, she nodded.
Continuing to slice through the dark guard, the two light-bearers had no time to observe the progress of the delivery though the numbers seemed to be dwindling.
When the child’s cry came forth, the man took him to a basin in the corner and proceeded to clean him up, sever and tie off the cord.
The woman simply watched, relieved.
A loud, anguished roar reverberated through the room but not from any of the dark force or from anyone present. It seemed to shake the entire building. “There will be another opportunity!”
Immediately, there came a whooshing sort of wind and the room cleared of the dark forces.
The late arrival turned to her. “Come on. Our mounts await.”
She sheathed her sword and followed him, her shield weighing heavy. Climbing astride Charger, she didn’t speak as they moved out.
It wasn’t long until they came to a wide, rushing stream.
He started to wade in.
“Wait.” She said.
“We can cross. It isn’t deep.”
“Maybe. I’m not sure I’m to go.” She gazed across the water toward the forest on the other side. “Will he be there?”
Turning to her, he lifted his face plate and looked into hers. “I can’t say but I know that I must go.”
She ached to see him but simply nodded. “You go on. I’ll refresh myself in the stream and join you if I should.”
“All right.” Pulling his face plate back into position, he urged his horse on and quickly crossed the stream. Turning once, he lifted his sword to her in a farewell and galloped into the wood.
Dismounting, she took off her helmet and knelt by the stream. Cupping her hands, she dipped into the water and lifted the cool liquid to her lips. Sweet and refreshing, she took a second drink.
When she lifted her head, she found herself back in her chamber. Dressed once more in her plain, linen shift, and kneeling beside her bed, her hands rested on the worn, leatherbound book open before her. She ran them over the soft, marked pages so dear and sighed.
Almost disappointed, she closed it and set it on the table by her bed. It was over for now. How desperately she’d wanted to see him, longing for even a glimpse.
With a deep sigh, she walked again to the window where she could see the sky turning pink on the horizon, signaling the dawn about to arrive. She sighed again.
There was no sign of the black fog. The realm was at peace once more.
“Well done, brave one.” Came the voice she knew and loved so from behind her. “You wish to see me, but the time is not yet. A little while and you will see me.”
Her heart skipped a beat and her skin tingled. Turning slowly in anticipation, she expected to find him there, but he was nowhere to be seen. Still, she could feel the lingering presence.
Not yet, he’d said, but soon.
Yes, she thought, very soon.