Stupid, Lilith berated herself. She knew she would have been safer had she stayed in the city with Meurig; she did not know how to defend herself. She could only hope that the cloaked figure had his or her own business to attend to and would pay no mind to her. Just in case the cloaked figure did have intentions on her, Lilith decided that her best course of action would be to continue homeward at a pace that would be ruthless for both herself and the cloaked one. Without looking behind her, she set her pace and prayed to Vione, goddess of health, that she would not get cramps or aches as a result. To distract herself, Lilith took a bellfruit from a pocket she had sewn into her dress and bit into it. Usually she would take the time to stop in a clearing where she would look beyond the trees and what the white sun sink below the horizon in its dark red beauty, after which she would continue along the road by the waning light of the yellow sun as it set until the cobblestones gave way to a dirt path—her indication that she was near home and should rest for the night. Today, she was disappointed that she could indulge in neither luxury on this journey.
Sticky juice ran down Lilith's chin as she tried to eat every last bit of the flesh of the bellfruit, and she wiped it hastily with her sleeve lest it dry there and remain as an embarrassing pink stain for her homecoming. Upon thought of her return to Grenwyn, Lilith shuddered; home was definitely not her favorite place. Everything was the color of dust and everyone lived their lives as if they were supposed to revolve around the dust. Rather than allow the dust to suffocate her, Lilith had learned to shake it off when she found refuge in her mother's stories of the city.
Yomaira had grown up in the city, but her parents had thought her too wild. Rather than endure the gossip that their daughter brought on them, they had married her off to a quiet man from a quiet village nearby. At first, Yomaira was of a mind that the change of scenery was not such a horrible thing, and she had loved to talk about the place she had known and loved when she had been young. Then the dust began to claim her. Having grown up watching as Grenwyn slowly piled dust atop the grave of her mother's soul, Lilith saw the village for what it was: too quiet, too solitary, too simple. She refused to be buried alive.
Lilith shuddered again to clear herself of the feeling of impending doom that Grenwyn brought on her, but the feeling would not be shaken. The back of her neck tingled as it did whenever she thought she was being watched, and the feeling of doom intensified. She dared not look back or quicken her pace lest her shadow realize that she knew she was being followed. Or maybe I'm only paranoid, Lilith reminded herself of the possibility. All she could think to do was be consistent with her pace. She took a deep breath to steady herself; it would not do to appear suspicious to someone prowling in the deepening shadows waiting to pounce, though she wanted so desperately to stop and take a break, maybe rest for the night….
Lilith realized that while the temptation was in part hers, it was also placed there by someone else. Deeply disturbed that her shadow may have access to her mind, but clueless as to what to do, she could only clear her mind and keep going home. The urge to look up would not be suppressed, and Lilith gave an anxious glance at Erom, the brightest of the three moons in the sky. It was almost morning and she was almost home, if it could be called a home.
Suddenly, Lilith saw a man on the path ahead of her, and she quickly proceeded to calm herself. Upon closer scrutiny, her eyes revealed him as her childhood friend, Terrence. She wondered what could possibly have him out waiting for her so early in the morning. The white sun hasn't even begun to turn the sky green with its rising, she thought to herself in her speculations for explanations. Within a couple of seconds, the feeling of doom and the sensation that she was being watched lifted from her, and a quick backward glance proved that her shadow had disappeared. He had wanted her to know he was there, her thoughts began, but no one else. Lilith mused that he had meant to intimidate her, and determined that she would no longer allow it.
The next thing she knew, Terrence had wrapped her in a tight hug, and that in her preoccupation she had allowed the hug to reach an awkward point. She promptly let go of Terrence—there was no need to give a man unwelcome ideas. Hell and damnation, she thought when he reached out to tuck a wayward lock of dark brown curls behind her ear. She should have known that a young man with whom she had been friends and who had never seen anything outside of his hometown might have developed…feelings. "I'm so sorry, Lilith," he said in a voice that sounded scratchy and somewhat choked. Confused and not knowing what to expect, Lilith stiffened, waiting warily for him to elaborate. "Your mother," he continued, "she…she just…" He took a deep breath and finished in a rush. "She passed on in the middle of the night."
Lilith momentarily squeezed her eyes shut, trying to lessen the pain, but the attempt was a poor one. She ran past Terrence, every previous care forgotten; she needed to see her mother for herself. "Lilith, wait!" Terrence called after her, but she did not slow until she was off the dirt path and standing in her doorway. Lilith blinked until she could see well enough through the tears in her eyes to realize that her mother was not slumped over the table like she had assumed she would be. "Lilith!" Terrence called out again. She did not know how long she stood there feeling violated because her mother had been moved, but she prepared herself to face the whole village. When she turned around, she was ready—ready to deal with the comments that the villagers would make to her, ready to deal with Terrence, ready to let go of the feelings attached to old memories she had of her mother from the days of her childhood—and she advanced to the western edge of the village square.
The sight of the white sun rising, the sky green and the clouds blue and purple and low on the horizon, would have been a breathtaking backdrop to any scene but this one. In the fifth column of the third row of the grid of headstones and grave markers was a rectangular hold in the ground as deep as she stood tall and the same length. Lilith knew that her mother had been laid in this hold and that the people of the village had been waiting for her to give them permission to close her mother off from her forever. She stood at the edge of the grave and looked down. A single tear feel from her chin and splashed on the hastily-thrown-together wooden deathbox, then Lilith turned away from her mother for the last time, nodded to the village folk, and struck out for her home.
Lilith walked into the mainspace of the house that she had just inherited and was overwhelmed by thoughts of what to do next and where to go. The only answer she had for herself was Meurig. She had to slow down and think about things. Exhausted, she finally felt a blackness seeping into her mind and welcomed it.