Chapter Three

Thin rays of sunlight streamed in through the thickly woven canopy of branches above me as I walked through the forests of Loscelaye; away from the main village to where I could be alone, to where I wouldn't be disturbed or seen. I had left home under the pretence of journeying to privacy in order to meditate, and this story was accepted without protest, as I truly did need practice in the art, and necromancy was important to us Loscelayenians.

"Remember to clear your mind, Aitrieth," My mother had reminded me when I informed her of my forthcoming absence. "There is no need to think."

Think, I did, and apparently far too much to be considered normal. I was too quiet, too much of a thinker, and not disciplined enough. Though my people concentrated hard on necromancy, I concentrated too hard. Never could I achieve the perfect middle ground that would make me normal, I always went too far overboard.

But I suppose that was just me, Aitrieth Riewai Vaech, sixteen year old female necromancer. I was average-looking for my age, I suppose, with straight, dark russet hair that fell to my shoulder blades, a pale but greyish complexion, and the customary solemn face that I shared with my people, even my serious face was apparently too serious as well. The only moderately extraordinary features I possessed were my eyes, which were a dark violet as opposed to the typical grey, light blue, or black eyes of my people, and my height and build, because I was slimmer and shorter than most at five feet four inches tall. Too thin, too short, and with eyes too different.

The forest grew darker as I walked further; I realized that I would soon reach my typical thinking spot. I turned swiftly to check that I wasn't being followed, maybe a little too swiftly; the midnight blue hood of my cloak slid backwards so that my face was exposed. I stared warily behind me, half-expecting someone to dark out of the shadows and demand to know why I'd journeyed so far if I was only going to meditate. Nobody did. Perhaps I was too paranoid on top of everything else I was too much of.

Shaking my head, I pulled on my hood again and continued the final trek to my usual spot; a place on the edge of Kraukc River, secluded by weeping willows where I could finally be alone. It was only moments later when I pushed aside the strands of green dripping from one of the willows and walked beneath its branches. I nearly stumbled over the hem of my long, fitted black dress; I grimly snatched the skirt up in my hands and held it up as I walked, wishing that I didn't have to wear something so long.

At last, I reached my final destination. It was deserted, as usual, with only the rushing black waters of the Kraukc river to be heard. Other than the water, there was utter silence. The silence usually mystified me; it was so thick and heavy, but so light and strangely enchanting all at the same time. Usually.

And yet, I found as I sat down near the water's edge, something just didn't feel right. But what was it? I glanced around suspiciously, wondering if I was being followed and watched, but I heard and saw nobody. There was only quiet. But it was far too quiet to be normal.

Shuddering, I drew my cloak more tightly around my shoulders, feeling a twinge of fear. In a desperate attempt to comfort myself, I began to sing to myself the first verse and chorus of a song I knew in my country's ancient tongue, tremblingly at first, but steadily growing stronger as my fear lessened.

"Moonlight on the river,
Silver light all around,
Shadows looming in quiet
Not a soul to be found

You're all alone
So solitary
All by yourself,
So unordinary
They have all gone
It is you only
They will not return
It is you lonely…"

It was a song of loneliness, and I suppose I shouldn't have found it comforting…but I did. It was one of the few songs I knew, and one that I connected with very deeply, for I was, as they said a recluse. Too reclusive to be normal.

Never, ever did I sing in the company of anyone else but myself and the forest. Sought after dexterity in anything other than necromancy was unheard of, and pride in any such potential was considered among the blackest of all wrongs.

As a child (though to my annoyance, I was still considered to be a child by my elders), I would sing to myself quite frequently: As I meditated, before I fell asleep, or any other time that I was alone. Never did I let anyone else hear me. I was very reticent when it came to my abilities, and certainly my seven brothers would jeer at me endlessly if they ever knew. My mother and father would rage at me in disappointment; condemning me and forbidding me to do it ever again and instead concentrate on my necromancy, though according to my instructors, my magic was superlative for my age group, with the exception of my meditation skills.

Yet, somehow I could not bring myself to stop singing. At a very young age, I had begun taking these voyages into the forest to be alone, specifically so that I could sing. Right or wrong, I had to do it; it was in me. The one taste of rebellion I had against a severe lifestyle, and I had to admit, if not to others but to myself, that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Though my fear had diminished significantly, it had not completely vanished, nor had the silence. It seemed to grow more deafening with every passing second. I got to my feet instinctively, sensing somehow that something was coming. Then I had an idea.

I sat back down on the grass, cross-legged, again and closed my eyes, breathing deeply and praying that a meditative state of mind would come quickly. In my sense of urgency, I managed to quickly clear my mind, and I began muttering a chant under my breath.

I suddenly felt as though I was caught up in a thick haze, and I felt myself retreat to within my mind. A thin voice spoke to me, getting stronger every second.

"What evil lurks here?" I asked in the tongue of the deceased.

"The blackest, the quickest, the slyest, the most deadly. They send lookouts."

"For what?"

"For their mission…"

"What mission?"

"Harmony…they are after Harmony."

"Harmony?"

I felt the connection growing weaker, and I struggled to maintain a clear mind to let the voice seep into my mind, but it continued to die.

"Warn them…"

"Of what?"

"Harmony…"

The connection broke with a loud crack that was heard only in my mind. The mist that seemed to be around me faded instantly, and I realized that it had only been in my mind. My skin was pale and damp.

I had never had such a strong contact with the spirits of the dead before. My meditation skills were horrible, and with meditation came contacting the dead. I wasn't even quite at the level to be speaking with them; at my age it was quite a feat. But I had to warn my people of whatever it was that was sending lookouts; there was no time to mull over my sudden ability.

I jumped up to a standing position and bolted back towards Loscelaye at a run, holding my skirt so that I didn't trip and lose even more time. However, I tripped anyways, but it wasn't at the hands of my skirt.

Something darted out in front of me like a streak of light, only it wasn't light, it was some kind of black shadow of…something. I stumbled and fell forward, getting quickly to my feet once more. I looked around wildly but saw not a trace of the black something. Terror chilled my insides but I got up determinedly and ran at a breakneck speed, reaching the town in less than fifteen minutes when it had taken me at least half an hour to discreetly walk away.

The village of Loscelaye came into view. It was a rather plain town, to say the least; there were no flowers but many trees, and the people who crowded the streets wore similarly styled cloaks of dark greens, blues, browns, reds, purples and blacks. No other colours stood out in the crowds. Still, I sped on, slipping between people and taking care not to step on them so that I wouldn't have to stop and apologise. I didn't have the time.

My home was in a secluded area on the edge of a cliff. I still had a ways to go yet. Exhausted, I sat down on the edge of the cliff. I wasn't very agile, so it was a miracle that I'd even made it this far without stopping.

The waves crashing against the great wall of rock I sat upon were comforting. My breathing became regular once more and my heartbeat slowed. I rose to my feet to continue running the rest of the way home, and slipped on a rock. I let out a small gasp as I fell into the crashing waters below, closing my eyes as I expected to fall to my death. I hoped that it would be quick…and at least I wouldn't have to be tormented about how I was too much of everything anymore.

Oddly I didn't die. I landed in the water with a splash, and was immediately dragged out to sea by a strong not to mention icy current of water. Nearly frozen with cold and relief that I hadn't died, I struggled little against the water, allowing it to take me wherever it would. Maybe it would take me to some other creatures so that I could see what was so untrustworthy about them. Ever since I was a child, my parents had warned me about other beings and how not to trust them, and I'd always wondered why. Perhaps now I could find out.

After awhile I finally saw land that wasn't the land I'd come from. It was an island. The force stopped tugging me along, so I swam towards it. I reached it quickly, making me wonder if there wasn't a tiny ocean current helping me along, and as I reached a depth of water where I was able to touch the ground, I remembered that I had never been swimming in my life. Giving a small shudder of wonder, I waded through the water up to the beach, my cloak and dress clinging to my skin.

"Maybe that's one of them!" a voice called when the water was up to my knees.

I glanced up sharply, strings of my wet hair slapping my neck as I did so. There was some sort of creature sitting on the beach, staring at me with a mixture of surprise and bewilderment on his face.

"Hello there," he called to me cautiously. His voice was timid, as though he was unsure of himself.

I eyed him. "Hello," I replied, frowning slightly. I had reached the sand, but I stopped at the water's edge. If this creature was untrustworthy and wished to harm me, I had to be on my guard.

"What - I mean, who are you?" he asked, blushing.

"My name is Aitrieth, and I'm a necromancer," I responded quietly. I didn't understand it; he seemed friendly enough. But I suppose friendliness is no indication of trust. "And yourself?"

"I'm Briar," he said. "And I'm an elf."

"Oh." Biting my lip slightly in puzzlement, I realized how cold I was. I gave a quick wave of my hand and murmured a spell under my breath, and found myself completely dry.

"Well, go on, have a seat," another voice ordered me. I jumped slightly and looked around. It wasn't the elf's voice, I knew that for certain

"Who -"

"The trees," Briar said softly.

"Trees? That's absurd." But it wasn't, really. In fact, it didn't seem all that unnatural to me that they spoke.

"Actually, trees are exceptional -"

Before Briar could finish, there was a great splash from somewhere in the water. Briar and I glanced towards the water, our eyes round with surprise.