Echos of a Lost One

Xi'Taliah dreams of the loss of her father. Fervently she runs after the echo of her lost one

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Xi'Taliah
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Echos of a Lost One

21st Trial of Cylus, 717th Arc
Children’s mirth, bubbling and snorting lilted over the roar of gushing water. “`Taliah! Hurry up!” The Makubwa Lori glistened magically in the multi-coloured, mellow glow of the thousands of buzzing Iyọ. Despite the chilling snow of Cylus blanketing the forest floor in a thin layer of white, `Taliah danced around the trees comfortably. Her breath formed in a cloud of berry-pink in front of her face before swiftly dissipating as she raced after the other kids; the powdered snow squishing and crunching between her bare toes. “I’m coming!”

They raced and bounded along the river’s edge; the water gurgling downstream over rocks and around crooks as the freshet wound towards Desnind; flowing eventually into the Gwälọs. With Zillis shrouding the world in darkness, they should have been scared to delve deep into the Makubwa Lori – but they weren’t; they had the guiding lights of the Iyọ to chase the shadows of Cylus’s Twilight away.

Her childhood friends leapt and chased the fluttering butterflies of the Iyọ ahead of her; puppy-faced and young sprouts merely 8 arcs old. Yet, Xi’Taliah in her teen visage and childhood mind set, ran after them adorned in nothing but her purple, wool chemise – fell further and further behind.

“Wait!” Xi’Taliah heralded desperately, her heart fluttering as the fear of falling behind crept in. Her chest heaved and her lungs burned as she pumped her limbs faster and faster, prancing from root to rock as she navigated the cluttered forest floor. Though, to no avail as her friends slipped from view; their merry giggles fading upon the breeze and along with them the safe gold, sapphire and emerald glow of the Iyọ.

Twilight rapidly snapped at Xi’Taliah’s heels! Coal clouds roiled above the canopies of rustling leaves as the stormy winds of Cylus picked up. Exhausted, a sharp stitch into her side caused Xi’Taliah to falter to a stop. Crumpling over at the waist as she caught her breath, her skin prickled in Goosebumps as she suddenly felt the icy clutches of the Season seep into her bones. She peered at the hairs standing on her forearm nonplussed. Where did her friends go? Where did the storm come from?

The young Sev’ryn shot her deep coffee gaze to the grey skies as if they might hold the answer. They responded with a booming crack and blinding flash as lightening tore raggedly across the clouds. Xi’Taliah jumped in fright, glancing around her suddenly unsure, “I-I don’t like this. I’m- I’m going to go back,” She spoke softly but somehow expected her friends, who had disappeared, to hear.

She stumbled a step backwards, the shadows of the forest all around her suddenly looked menacing. BOOM! Another flash of thunder and lightning tore a frightened gasp from the young Sev’ryn, who threw her arms around herself tightly, her heart racing. “Dad?” She called out into the bleakness hopefully, though sadness cut off her voice as she remembered he wouldn’t come. He would have known what to do, where to go – but he was gone.

Suddenly as if in answer to her cry, Xi’Taliah caught movement in her peripherals! A shadow of a person shifted and melted further into the maze of trees. A spark of hope ignited within her breast and scurried her feet after it! All fear of the dark and the storm melted away by the fire of hope as she crashed through the brush after the ghost, “Dad?! Dad is that you? Come back!”

word count: 622
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Arlo Creede
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Echos of a Lost One

One of the benefits of having Jesine's favor, was that if Arlo didn't like what his sleeping mind dreamed up for him, he could change it more to his liking. Since arriving in Desnind, he'd spent a great deal of time in the Makubwa Lori. Tracking, hunting, exploring. But in the constant twilight of Cylus, the vast forest was a dark and shadowy, frozen and unwelcoming place. He'd gotten his fill and there'd be more of it before the thaw. But some things didn't change no matter the weather. By now the young man had traveled any number of forest paths. Taking the less traveled ones, exploring the places where the roads didn't go and the maps trailed off into unexplored territory.

Since receiving his mark, his nightly exploration of the veil, that place where dreams happened, was no different. Only the weather was better. He was dressed mostly in leather. His hat on his head. Boots heavy and gloves covering his hands but leaving his fingers bare. All the better to handle the bow that was slung across his back. And it was a beautiful trial for exploring. He'd designed it that way once he'd drifted into a dismal landscape. The sun was shining high above the Makubwa Lori, and the light that filtered through the new budding leaves on the trees fell in gold patchwork patterns on the ground.

He was tracking. But not a deer or a rabbit or a fox. Instead he was following the tracks made by a man. Footprints much larger than his own, as if he'd been a very young boy and the man, much bigger than life. During his spent dreaming, Arlo followed these footprints a lot. Even in his lucid state, in spite of an ability to shape his own dreams how he liked them, he didn't know who they belonged to. Or maybe he liked it better that way. But no matter how often or how long he followed them, the one who'd left them remained out of sight. Never revealing himself and always going places that Arlo couldn't follow. Some trial, maybe, he might.

There'd been nothing but the quiet of the forest. But when the echo of children's laughter drifted past on a breeze too cold for springtime, Arlo stopped, looked around him and frowned. This wasn't right. And it wasn't his doing. Just as he began walking again, there was a far off clap of thunder, as if heard through a soupy layer of fog. Like an echo or aftershock, another voice, Dad?! filtered through to Arlo's ears. And dragging a flurry of white and cold behind them, a motley crew of children dashed past him and were gone again like so many pint-sized, giggling, half seen spirits. A thin layer of ice and packed snow crunched under his boot, the thin branches sagged under a layer of frost, and somehow two dreams converged without him planning or meaning it.

It was storming there too. Miserable weather. And there, just beyond the line of trees was a girl. One that Arlo figured must be close to his own age. Maybe younger. He was dressed for it better than her, but he shivered nonetheless as the girl shouted "Come back!", and the footsteps he'd been following emerged from the trees and moved right past her, leaving deep impressions in the snow before disappearing again.

He frowned and turned round on his heel, looking for someone else nearby, wondering if it was someone else she'd spotted. Or somehow, had it been him, walking too close to a thin veil that had separated his dream and hers.

Lyova had come with him. The little fairy, invisible to any but him when awake but visible to who she chose in Emea, had been resting on the brim of his hat, enjoying the warm weather. But now she darted off into the cold air, unmindful of the storm and towards the redheaded girl. Small, transparent and shaped like a bright, glowing blue teardrop, her eyes were enormous as she studied her new find. Then finally she blinked. "Look what I found Arlo! It's a girl, and she's got her unmentionables on!"

Irrepressible and completely lacking of any propriety. That's what Lyova was. And in spite of the strangeness and being unsure just how he'd wandered into another's dream again, or how theirs had collided, Arlo stepped out of the trees to reveal himself, just as the storm let go and sent rivulets of freezing rain and sleet off the brim of his hat. "Sorry about Lyova," he said. "Sometimes she does first and forgets to ask till later." Most times, actually. "We didn't mean to startle you. Were you looking for someone?" the young man asked curiously.

But no matter that what he'd stepped out of was much more ideal than what he'd drifted or stumbled into, he hadn't been as alone as he'd thought. There'd been shadows lurking unseen in the sunny forest, that instead of remaining behind, had crossed with him. And now were lurking quietly nearby, watching from the trees. Waiting, maybe even transforming themselves already for good or ill, to suit the imagination and musings of a brand new dreamer.
word count: 914
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Xi'Taliah
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Echos of a Lost One

' Crunch, crunch, crunch.'
Footsteps within the powdered snow stomped past her; Xi’Taliah’s dreaming brain vaguely comprehending their impressions deep in the snow as within a sleepy blink, they disappeared without a trace. The young Sev’ryn swirled around, her chocolate gaze peering after the tracks as they trudged off into the converging, swirling shadows between the ghastly trees.

"Look what I found Arlo! It's a girl, and she's got her unmentionables on!"

Xi’Talaih twirled on her heel with a startled gasp, nearly headbutting the little sprite before reflexes darted her body to one side, stumbling a step to the left. Eyes flung wide, her russet gaze traced the flying azure glow in the air before her; completely flummoxed, yet enchanted by its’ soft radiance all the same. A single brow skewed, her head cocked to one side as she reached out slowly, fingertips tingling with trepidation and anticipation of what they would feel upon contact.

"Sorry about Lyova,” The young Sev’ryn snatched her hand defensively to her chest as she was wrenched from her enchantment of the pretty cobalt glow. Shifting her gaze warily to the approaching stranger, she giggled as the churning, inky skies suddenly tore open and showered them in torrential sleet of jade and beige. The fantasised rain surprisingly glided over her skin as if she were wearing an invisible shield. She could feel the rain pitter-patter against her prickled skin; she could feel it tantalising her flesh as the icy stings sent shivers down her spine – yet she didn’t feel soaked to the bone; her hair barely wet.

"Sometimes she does first and forgets to ask till later. We didn't mean to startle you. Were you looking for someone?”

“Who are you?” Xi’Taliah drawled as her eyes narrowed, flicking suspiciously from one to the other as she studied the stranger and his floating friend. Cautiously side stepping around the cobalt sprite, she struggled to remember. "What is that thing?" She racked her brain through the thick soup of her dreams; she was looking for someone, where had they gone?

Her russet gaze shot to the now invisible trail where the footprints had been as memory rushed through her, almost as if she had been struck by the lightning tearing through the clouds above the forest canopy. She wheeled violently around to the stranger with the hat, a finger pointing to the undisturbed, powdered snow, “The footprints! Where’d he go? We have to go after him!”

The urgency to chase the ghost of her Father filled her breast, overriding the gnawing teeth of fear settling in the pit of her stomach. In her disarrayed, dreaming state the young Sev’ryn had misinterpreted the trail of footprints for the echo of the one she had lost; unaware that they instead were tied to the heart of the newcomer!

The menacing, swirling abyss of black shadows, lurking between the trees all around, suddenly began morphing the skies as Xi’Taliah lurched forward – snatching Arlo’s hand in hers tightly, “C’mon!”

Without waiting for consent from the man, the young Sev’ryn jerked his hand with her as she bounded after the faded impressions; the thrill of adventure spiriting her bare feet with haste across the cluttered forest floor. The skulking shadows fluctuated as the heavens above brightened blindingly – the suns suddenly reappearing into a cloudless cerulean sky. Shedding their glum, ebony suits the shadows suddenly took form in the shape of crackling, dancing embers of fire!

Erupting all around the still snow covered forest floor, the roaring flames gave off no heat and yielded not to the torrential jade and beige rains! As if alive, they shifted and morphed a path of their own design; herding the racing Sev’ryn and her new companion where they will.

word count: 647
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Arlo Creede
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Echos of a Lost One

The rain and sleet was cold, but not wet. Interesting, Arlo thought when he removed his hat to pour the stuff off the brim and he realized it. But as she liked it. This was her dream and no longer his after all. And all the better. It was coming down in sheets and he'd have been drenched by now.

Lyova meanwhile was studying the girl, inches from her face as if she was a fascinating specimen or at least a wondrous find. The unusual fairy's charge stumbled or drifted into lots of other's dreams. But rarely into those who were younger, closer to his own age. She knew more than Arlo did though. Had he seen her before, the young man wondered? He couldn't begin to guess.

He saw a girl who might be a slumbering, sickly old woman nearing the end of her trials, dreaming of her more vibrant youth. Or a young child dreaming about her future. She could be dreaming from halfway across Idalos, or just yards away from where he slept in his tent outside the walls of Desnind. Emea was a strange chaotic place where time and space held very little sway.

Lyova was completely unafraid. If she could have she'd have smiled when the girl reached out to touch her. She blinked too large eyes and shimmered any number of shades of blue in anticipation. The faint sound she made must have been laughter though it sounded like far off tinkling of glass bells. And then Arlo spoke and the girl snatched her hand back. "Arlo," he said when she asked, and he pushed himself off the tree he'd been leaning against, and came closer. "Arlo Creede. And that's Lyova."

But what was she? "You can call her a fairy if you want. But she's not an ordinary one. She's my friend, my companion." His defender too, but there were rules to this business of dreamwalking, that he had to abide by. Even if sometimes he forgot. "She means no harm. Neither of us do."

The shadows that had followed him from one dream to another were definitely dark ones, but as the began to transform into something that suited her better, Arlo smiled as he glanced round at the changing forest and brighter skies. It was her quickly shifting emotions causing it, not him. Her subconscious and her imagination, the latter of which appeared to be in very good repair. "Wait!" he shouted, startled when she grabbed his hand and gave it a yank, and Arlo stumbled on the go in order to keep up.

The footprints? He'd forgotten all about them once they'd traveled past her and disappeared into the forest. But then he realized, they were no longer his but hers to follow. Who was it then, he wondered? But she had as much chance of finding her elusive quarry as he had his. Probably more, if she knew who hers was. In dreams, anything was possible.

The former shadows erupted into flames as they ran, Arlo's hand clutched in hers, and the dancing, fiery tendrils chased them or pushed them along. Fiery symbols of irrepressible determination. "Who are we looking for?" he asked, and in a blink, the path became easier to travel, the underbrush, leaves and snarls cleared away. It was Lyova who led the charge, like a bright blue minnow effortlessly surfing the downstream currents of a fast moving stream.

But then the path they were following ended in a small clearing, and split off into a half dozen narrower ones like the spokes on an over-sized cart's wheel. The footprints were there again, but impossible heading off into all six directions at once.

One path led deeper into the forest. Down another, there was a great valley surrounded by snow peaked mountains. Yet another to the sea and a third, into fields of golden, ripened wheat. A vast desert was just yards away along a fifth path. And the sixth? It was cloaked in shadows and fog as thick as pea soup. "Where to next?" Arlo asked.
word count: 705
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