It took a while to arrive where the pair was supposed to be. The moment they got to Westguard, however, it felt like stepping into a dream. Familiar in a strange kind of way that wasn't quite familiar at all. It was wrong and right at the same time. Distant and unknown and yet she could still remember many of the old streets that her father had taken her down. She couldn't remember names, but if she closed her eyes and thought she could remember disgruntled faces. The top of the list being The Master. The Master had lived a distance off, and by extension, Nightshade never had the chance to spend much of her time in the town proper. The sight, however, was still associated with him and his name.
She'd expected a bitter flavor to rest on her tongue, a deep and unsettled hatred to raise up its head and growl. She didn't feel either. In fact, if anything, her heart felt wonderfully light. The town wasn't the same town that her father had tried to raise her in. It was a different town, a new town, and while she could still remember exactly where the house resting on the outskirts of the town sat, she didn't feel the same dreadful fear that she had as a child whenever she set foot in the town proper and had to face other people. People who would look at her with hatred and distaste. She didn't feel it.
Her breath still came out quickly though. Her heart pattered uncontrollably but it wasn't an uncomfortable feeling by any means. It was... excitement? "I wasn't really expecting this," she told her companion quietly as she faced down the past and didn't feel her blood freeze. Of course, she had yet to actually come across the house. She placed a hand across her chest, measuring the pounding of her heart.
She had always done her best to free herself of her past, but in doing so, she had shackled herself to it tighter. In recent seasons she'd tried with all of her might to escape it, and she'd actually started to cover ground. She'd asked Ashan for his guidance time and time again, hoping that he didn't think less of her for her struggles. He wouldn't though, would he? That was the thought of a child who was still trapped. Trapped in the memories of an abusive home and a mournful life.
The revelation she'd avoided facing for the longest time was a simple one. She knew deep in her soul that she couldn't truly be free until she faced down her past and walked away from it herself. She couldn't run away and she couldn't hide like she'd been doing for so many arcs. She needed to face it and she needed to walk. Ethelynda guide her. This was perhaps her toughest mission yet. While in these short moment she still felt excitement and she was energetic to face her past, she knew that the moment the house came into view she'd feel those all too familiar sensations of fear and dread.
She couldn't run away though, she needed to face them or else she'd never truly free herself from the memories. From the master. Puffing out her chest and taking a deep breath of the sharp, crisp air she gathered her strength. "Come on, leave the cart here. Storm will guard it and we'll come to pick it up again later. It's best that he not be there for this," she said as she untied the beast. He wouldn't stray far she knew that, and she wanted to avoid leaving him bound if she could. "It's not much farther," she assured Noth as she started to lead the way.
She wanted to fly. Wanted to spread her wings and soar for a moment before she had to face the house again. Remin herself that she was strong and she wasn't trapped anymore. She almost laughed. It wasn't until Icarus saved her that she actually learned how to fly. It wasn't until Icarus saved her that she tasted true freedom for the first time. There was a poetic irony in that. She didn't need to fly through. She knew her own strength, knew her own soul. She'd faced her own demons and now it was time to face the ones that lingered in her past.
It was obviously just her imagination, but she could swear she heard the whispers of her father and Icarus, wishing her the best of luck. There were other voices mixed in that medley. Voices from those who help helped be her stepping stones on this journey. She thanked them all, taking their memories and crafting it into a shield for her heart. She would face this beast and finally win. She deserved this victory, she would take it and when she returned to Etzos she would hold her head high in the knowledge that she'd taken one of the hardest steps yet on the path of a hero.
The house appeared over the hill and just as expected there were hints of dread that lingered in the back of her mind. They tugged on the child that was hidden deep inside her. The fearful girl who was still afraid of the past. With a definitive slash, she banished those doubt and stood in front of her younger self, a queenly knight, unyielding and proud. She wasn't going to be owned anymore. Wasn't going to be controlled anymore.
In spite of that, she could still hear the ghostly whispers of the man she called master as they drew closer and closer to the house. "Come hither, pet," the voice mocked her. She wondered if Noth could hear that terrible voice. Perhaps it was just the creature playing tricks on her.
"This is the place," she told Noth when they arrived at the house on the outskirts. It was a run down looking thing, but it still stood despite being uncared for. It looked unstable with age, but the fact it hadn't fallen yet was a testament to its craftsmanship. The door wouldn't budge for a moment when Nightshade tried to push on it, only yielding when she took a step back and slammed her shoulder into it. Once dislodged it opened with a creak. "Come in, come in, it's definitely not haunted," came the sarcastic drawl of a woman refused to crumble against past fears.
The wood was stained a dark color with age, various green things growing on and out of it. Stepping inside showed just how little the building itself had been touched after the death of its old owner. "You think my family still owns the property? It hasn't been touched in so long, maybe I could make an appeal to have it put in my name," she mused. It was half joking but also half serious. There was still a dread that formed in her heart but it wasn't overbearing. What better way to face the past than to own her old house? If she bought it, though, she'd probably have to pay someone to tear it down and rebuild it. Not that it would make a dent in her savings.
The building was still full of old furniture, untouched and growing lifeforms of all kind. There were two plates set on the table. The last time she'd been here, her father had been called on an emergency to come back. She'd been fairly old at the time, old enough to be agitated with having to go back to the Master. She'd been looking forward having a meal with her father and getting to read one of his old books, the elderly Avriel trying his best to teach her own he could of Avriellian Script and Lorien before he passed. He'd even tried to teach her the tongue of slaves, just in case.
Frowning, she knew where she needed to go. Stepping towards the back of the house she displaced a rug, coughing as dust flew into the air. A rusty iron trap door sat between them and the basement. Pulling out a key she'd been holding onto for a long time she unlocked it with a click. Opening the trap door revealed a ladder. Swallowing her hesitation, she proceeded down.
She was hit with a massive wave of emotions. Sorrow, anger, grief, all of them felt unnatural and not like they were hers. The deeper she went into the basement, the more wrong everything began to feel. The air was heavy with the scent of old paper and it was hard to see in front of her face. "Noth, light a torch," she said. She was roughly able to tell what she was doing thanks to the glowing band around her arm which provided some light. To do anything useful, they'd need more.
When she touched down on the floor, it looked and felt strange. Not in a way that would be evident to her companion, but in a way that Nightshade took notice of immediately. Peering downwards, the grief and anger seemed to pool endlessly under her feet. Desperately, the unnatural, wrong feeling sensation started to try and consume her.