Time had passed, momentum been gained on their quest, her quest, well, some there too.
A shadow hung over Ellariel. She was no stranger to shadows, she did not fear the dark, she embraced it; One had little fear of death when serving the Raven Queen. So she had always told herself, so she had always believed, as long as she could remember, what scant few years she had held onto. If only she could still believe it now.
Light pierced the cool embrace of the shadow, a knife of awareness, a sliver of consciousness that spoke to her fears, and her shame. She shuddered, it was not easy to face the light.
Ellariel knew death, and with that she remembered, remembered hurting and longing, joys and sorrows she had no right to. They fluttered from her grasp, shadows ever still, yet shattered, sundered, broken into fragments by the shards of light interspersed between them, fading, dissolving into mist whenever she looked at them. The light burned away, and consumed, first the veil that separaated her from everything that lay behind, and then what it had but momentarily revealed, consumed in pain, in hatred, in determination. In shame. In fear.
Fear. Fear consumed, and it should not, could not, not to her, not to any Shadar-Kai, but even then, not to her. She was sworn to serve her mistress, felt her embrace as a part of herself, guiding her hand, her thoughts. It was that which held her here, it must be. It must. Yet that sliver of light whispered to her, another reason, another, another cause, and she feared.
The raven perched upon her, a closeness, a warmth that flooded through her, the cool embrace of her mistress enveloping her will. If she dwelled upon it too long that embrace would grow distant, swallowed by the sorrow coruscating from her soul, a torrent that threatened to overwhelm her at every instant, would she let it. She couldn’t let herself waver, not now, not now her weakness was cast in front of her for all to see. Yet as she set herself upon the path in front of her, as she drew her mind away from that sliver of light, she felt more keenly an emptiness that she had but begun to realise, a hollow shape inside her that grew to fill her, yet it had been there, and always been. She was an emptiness, an echo. A shade.
Somewhere, a smile touched the lips of something far too old to know neither pain nor sadness, neither happiness nor contentment, warmth nor affection, yet if it could, it would have felt those things, and still, it smiled.