In the Shade of the Crossroads
When Shadows Fall
Location: En route to Dinas Ulchedir, Harkania March, Cymeria
Timeline: Early October 3550
She had already spent a few days in the saddle, sometimes taking shelter at some little inn along the road, other times, making a shelter for herself when the weather was kinder. It was warmer the lower along the mountain she travelled, allowing her sweet Kai to walk at a pace that suited her. While she carried with her the sorrow of her mother’s loss, the Mar’kathi had always treated death practically. To wail and moan over the loss of a loved one was to dishonour their wishes, their memories. They would have not wanted their kith and kin to linger on their memories in such a wasteful fashion. They were to be remembered with laughter, with brightness, so she had lit a candle within her being, and shielded the little flame of memory there.
She had the gentle sway of a comfortable rider. While she hardly had the prowess of those properly trained with horses, she moved naturally with the gait of the mare’s gentle plod. She was, as always, clad in her layered leathers and wools, her cloak draped about her, falling only a little ways either side of the curve of the horse’s back. With the weather being fine, her hood had been flung back from her head. Her dark hair had been bound into a loose, braided bun at the nape of her neck. On one side of the saddle, arranged in such a fashion so as not to interfere with her riding, there was her bow and quiver both; on the other, her cittern.
Ahead of her, somewhere in the future, there were answers. There was her Cymry-father. There were the memories that had plagued her since the Gathering -- the High Lord summoning the very heavens to his aid, to the removal of the shadow taint from Brán -- and the reminder that perhaps, it was what she was to become. In her mind’s eye, the images remained frozen in her head. She saw the High Lord in silent tableau, the Lady Ynella and the endless depths of her wise gaze, the young man with the wound in his shoulder, her mother in her final moments. Nor would she forget, even if she had the choice.
She had little choice, but to leave. She could remain and listen to one untruth after another, stifling her objections, which was to stifle everything that she was -- or, she could leave peacefully. She could not have imagined her life to be so complicated, but she should have known it would never be the moment she was able to truly feel the wind stir around her.
For now, there was just the simplicity of the road.
She would have thought she might have felt the ache of leaving home more starkly. She had grown up in the company of the Mar’kathi, although she had always felt a little out-of-place. As her latent arcane ability had begun to stir, she had spent a great deal of time distancing herself from the others, and keeping her own company. It was what had dulled the pain so, perhaps -- that, and being unable to deny what she had seen with her own eyes. She knew every single one of her people, had sat around the great fire and shared meals, had hunted and fished as much as the next clansman, and yet...she had never belonged, in a way. There was always the question of whom her father was, never spoken, but always there, held in the thoughtful glint of their gazes.
Truth be told, she felt some measure of freedom.
The tension of the past months, of coming to the knowledge of her heritage in just a matter of days, of her mother’s past, she felt she had left it with Haradar, with her mother’s passing. There was to be no more hiding. There was simply the journey, and all the other complications would be dealt with in the future, but not now, where she could simply enjoy the road. Here, there was the open winter air drawn into her lungs, D’Hassa in its beauteous glory.
If something reminded him of his far-away homeland, of the quiet years in the Mountains near Coldshade Heights and of the lonely peaks near Northstar fortress, it was the autumn winds falling from the mountains.. Those years they always would carry the picture of his brother with him and Brán would not want to miss that memory. The fresh separation made him wonder where the Light would lead them both. He knew that his brother’s life was not his own, it was dedicated to serving the Light and even now, while his brother must be speeding towards their homeland again, dangers and duties marked his path. It might be weeks or months ere a letter or missive might tell Brán what his brother had encountered. For fourteen years they had lived like that and yet, those letters, carried by dwarves, handed over in the death of night, had upheld a link as strong and deep as the shackle once had been.
Otherwise Brán had little time to think of things far away from him. Which was the reason why he was on his way across the plains alone, with his horse and a map, along with a lengthy letter, describing a certain house that lay relatively hidden somewhere off the path between the crossroads north of Fort Dunmar and a village named Gwyllach Arden. The letter was almost five centuries old and Brán had diligently copied it, having obtained it during the Gathering from a reluctant old man, who had held on to it for all his life. For Brán the lengthy and flowery description served to guide his steps towards his target.
He had dismounted at a small hollow to compare again a passage of the letter to his immediate surroundings, when he heard the sound of hooves and without much thinking made room on the road, expecting a patrol coming along the path.
It was not altogether uncommon for Renestrae to encounter another traveller along the way, especially this far down from the mountain. She might have passed by the traveller, perhaps consulting some map, had she not looked idly over to him. What strange act of the gods was this, that she should pass by him so soon, when she had thought never to look upon him or the others again? Certainly, there was far greater health in the golden tint of his skin, the luster of his dark hair. Having felt increasingly isolated among her own people, she felt a strange surge of amicability. She drew back gently against the reins, prompting Kai to stop, the horse turning her head to questioningly regard her mistress with bafflement. It was almost as if she wished to ask why they had stopped, for there was neither the promise of oats nor drink, although she would not object to the sweet, crisp grass at the path’s fringes.
“Syr Brán?” Renestrae called out with a generous smile, still seated in the saddle. She twisted, as if to dismount; she did not want to intrude, and so, stayed where she was.
Turning around to see the rider who had spoken to him, Brán was surprised to see a slender, dark-haired woman who looked at him. He did not really recognize her voice, but her face was not one he would easily forget. The olive skinned face with the wide blue eyes, framed by the dark tresses… he had seen her during the Gathering, in a moment no man was likely to forget, when she had helped save his life from the taint a Black Templar had inflicted on him. “Colli…” he hesitated, having heard her name spoken only once. “Renestrae? Please forgive me, if I remember your name incorrectly, I only heard it spoken once, and I certainly never had the chance to thank you after that day.”
She swung her legs about so that she could lower herself from the saddle, taking the reins in her left hand so that she could approach him.
“It is well enough that you remember at all,” she replied, wearing a ghost of a smile. “Just Ren will do, Syr. It gladdens me to see you well.” She drew Kai away from the path, allowing the reins to loosen so that the mare could graze. “I did not think we would cross ways again,” she continued, meeting his stone-flecked eyes.
“Then you must call me Brán,” he replied with a small smile. Her eyes were studying him intently, she had intense blue eyes, cool like a lake on an autumn day, when the bright azure of summer and the fickle blues of spring were but a memory of the past. “and I will admit I am as amazed as you are to meet you here. May I ask what brings you to these parts?” Brán tried not to sound nosy, but her travelling might well mean something was wrong in her life, some kind of need or trouble, and if so he might try to help. The old scholar’s hideout had been lost for a few centuries it could well wait a few days more.
Internally, she hesitated. Strange, that she felt she wanted to tell him her tale, cautious though she was. She did not know what was to happen if word got back to her father before she could even present herself. It was not that she didn’t trust Brán, for she felt, oddly, that she could, as she could the Lady Ynella. Indeed, he seemed earnest; his question seemed not of idle talk, but of genuine interest. What an odd thing, that they had crossed ways that day! She canted her chin up toward the tall and slender man, as though searching his face for his thoughts, unable to help but notice the tiny details to him, as she so often did.
She did not enjoy being so cryptic, but she would not be dishonest either. A way to speak of it, truthfully, came to her, and a light seemed to enter her eyes. She looked away for a moment and smiled impishly.
“I seek the other half of a song,” she replied, before meeting his eyes again. Her voice had a sing-song cadence to it, as though she were telling a tale. “It was lost to me perhaps twenty-six years ago.” She moved slowly so that she was on the other side of Kai’s bent head, drawing her long fingers through the thickness of the mare’s mane. It occasionally caught where the mane would naturally tangle, and she worked her fingers to free the hairs. Her voice grew softer, faraway. As she would find a tangle, her eyes would be drawn toward it, dipping back upward to meet his own once more. “I did not even know the other half of the song was lost until before the Gathering, and now, I must find it. To know all of it is to know myself, so to Dinas Ulchedir I must go.”
The search for knowledge was something Brán could easily relate to, though the way she spoke made him wonder what kind of personal aspect that song might have for her. But there was that impish smile that implied she might mean more than she said and say more than she meant all in one. “Then we both are seekers today,” Brán replied returning the smile with one of his own. “Only that what I seek will not be half as beautiful as your song once it is complete. An old scholar’s book is what I am searching for. But as we both have probably have ridden for most of the day, maybe you will allow me to invite you to camp, a fire and some bread and apples before you continue your journey to Dinas Ulchedir?”
The notion surprised her -- if only because she had not thought to ask, and she inwardly felt ashamed for having forgotten her sense of courtesy. It appeared to her that his invitation was as much out of kindness as it was for sharing company with a familiar face, though. Her unspoken question conveyed by the slight sidewards tilt of her head, before she smiled genuinely at the offer.
“I shall gladly allow it,” she replied, a twinkle entering her eyes, “if only you will allow me to share a little hare, caught along the way. I must also say this, O bold Brán, he-who-defied-death --” And she said it a little playfully, as much as she did admirably, for with time, she had come to realise the strength of his actions-- “I do not think that your scholar’s book is any less lovely than the song I seek. There is a beauty to the written word, song or otherwise, all the more when they are spoken and shared.”
Brán bowed before her, a spark of humor shining in his eyes as well. “It would be ill indeed if I were to leave the Lady who aided my rescue by the roadside.” he replied, before leading his horse a bit away from the road and up the hill where they could make camp much easier. When they reached the hill-top he turned to look at her. “I did not have any chance to thank you for what you did that day.”
She did not answer him at first, although her mouth pulled at the corners -- a smile -- as she brought her horse around, tipping her head back to take in the trees that clustered at the hill’s crest. She found an ideal branch to tether Kai to, so that she could roam a little distance and graze. She deftly secured the reins, allowing them to run long.
WIth her reply, she occasionally glanced at Brán, meeting his gaze: “There is little need for that.” They were not said chastisingly; it was more out of embarrassment. She was unused to praise such as that, for she simply had done what needed to be done. “What happened that day set me down along this path. For that, I am thankful -- not for the pain you endured, but for what I was taught by it.”
What she could not tell him was that were it not for it, she would not have witnessed the actions of those who helped to heal him, and the healer herself. The Gathering had been a difficult undertaking, not only for the terrible things that happened, but equally for the emotional weight that settled about her in its wake. She would have been more skeptical of her mother’s memory, were it not for all that happened; and, had she been skeptical, she would not have left Haradar.
Of course, she could not say such a thing. The thoughts formed like little clouds in her head, swept away by a hurrying breeze.
All the while, she had unloaded her cittern from where she’d bound it to Kai’s saddle, as well as the unskinned hare. The cittern she propped up against a tree, while hanging the hare across a branch while she cleared an area for the fire. She found a suitable green branch to strip for a spit, and two others with a y-shaped split to serve as supports. As she did, her gaze would flicker toward him, the barest of looks, but she could take in much by such. Her eye had been drawn to his onyx hair, which had been given a sheen by the day’s brightness. She wondered at where was from; many of the Cymerians she had seen throughout her life had been ruddy or fair, while his skin was much like her own. She looked away, lest he thought her to be uncordial.
“I still do appreciate the risks you took - the threefold law is not one to underestimate, and the backlash could have been devastating had the cleansing gone wrong.” he replied before he busied himself with finding enough wood for a fire, as well as bringing water and some other things back to their camp. Setting camp was always a time for work first, but eventually they both sat by the fire, Brán had unpacked the provisions from his saddle bags, bread, cheese, apples mostly, while the hare was slowly roasting. He had noticed her glances at him now and then, but while they worked was little time to talk. He too had studied her without being too obvious, for she was not the typical Cymeri, and while he had tried to learn as much as he could of his new homeland he could not quite place her. And while her complexion was closer to his own, she did not have the typical Aquitanian accent nor the bearing. Now that they sat they could converse again. “You said something about learning before,” he said, while he took a knife to carve a few of the apples into appetizing chunks. “and we all do not learn without questions, or being curious,” there was a small smile accompanying the words. “and as I would like to get to know you better, I can also promise I will not be offended by questions.” It was an invitation to talk, if she wished so.
Renestrae had caught some tidbit about the Threefold Law, when the Lady Ynella was tending to him, before she had taken her offer to help. She felt a little chill at the memory of what she had witnessed that day, manifested in the barest of shudders, so subtle that it was barely visible. She, too, recalled what had been said of what had happened, and it felt as though it had been years ago, now: The men that attacked the High Lord and the Gathering were all Shadow Touched, they serve y Un Cysgodi, and once you agree of your own free will to serve him, you are lost. In Brán’s case, his wounding made him vulnerable and the Knight of the Black Order tried to infect him with his own Taint before he died. If Brán had not been so strong of will and had let his guard down, he might have been lost to the Shadowed One.
He was no ordinary man. The shadow must truly have been banished from him; there was so much vibrancy to him, so much life, and yet, a sadness also. She was slow to trust as much as she was honest, and she saw in his words an opportunity for them to trust one another. He had only known her so briefly, but he was willing to learn from her of her. Her people had been self-contained for so long, reluctant to allow strangers in their midst, to share themselves with the world beyond the mountains. There was something else that had been said --
“Everyone lacks knowledge of one thing or another, Renestrae, and one person’s truth is not always the same as another’s. As long as both people follow the Path of the Light and not the Shadow, then those differences should be embraced and not reviled or rejected out of hand.”
Had the Lady Ynella asked her to trust her, also? And Riordan? Or the others? It was easy to entertain the notion that a Cymry as powerful as she could read someone’s heart. She said that Brán had received training, which was why he was able to resist as he had. Did it mean that he knew of Renestrae’s own heritage? Could he sense it?
So, Renestrae tyr-Vashti was going to do what she thought she would not: she was going to trust Brán, after a fashion. If he turned his nose in disgust, and left her at the fire, then a lesson would be learned.
Anxious to fill her hands with something, she reached out for her cittern before she settled down. She loosened the bindings of its case, taking great care to free the instrument from its waterproof shell. She sat with her back against a tree, settling the bowl of the cittern in her lap.
“Well, if we are to learn from one another,” she said softly, there being the background sounds of the instrument being tuned, “And, if we are to be unafraid of asking questions…” She lofted her gaze to meet his own, and continued, “Then what I may confess here might not be to your liking, and you have thus been warned. Is learning not thus? Knowing truths that discomfort us?” Her smile was a self-conscious one, her eyes reflecting sorrow.
”The Light of the Truth may hurt our unshielded eyes, its words hurt our wounded hearts but only the Light of Truth may break the shackles that hold us. For thus is the nature of darkness: it works in secrets, in hidden guilt and in veiled shame from which only the truth can free us.” It was a quote from the Codex Lumiaris, it held a reminder of Virdáin for Brán, because it reminded him of how often his brother’s answers had been closely tied to the old book.
Looking up he studied the young woman across the fire, there was pain, a sadness underneath the cheerful demeanour. Whatever had caused her journey, whatever fate had met her on the road since she left the Gathering, it weighed on her. And then there was her aura, maybe it was the reason why he had recognized her so surely again, because her aura was quite distinctive. Yet, Brán had long learned that it was rude to discuss such talent with a Cymry who had chosen to not follow it. “Anything we say or choose to reveal may accidentally hurt another person, my confessions as much as yours - and only in that we can get to know another person. To not be hurt we would have to remain strangers, which might be safer but a lonely path.
you are wrong if you are not the same...
As the old song puts it. The nature of learning often also means that we need to admit what we do not know,” he went on. “so let me begin. I know you came to the Gathering, not as a guest or stranger, but as a Cymeri, so you are of Cymeria, but I cannot place either your accent nor your appearance within any march of this good land.” His eyes pointed to her cittern, the way she touched the instrument with great care, with a gentle love that said more than words. “So all we may say, might sound like the hum of your strings as they are tuned, but with patience our words may too sound well to our ears.”
Gently did her gaze rest upon him all while he spoke, his eloquent way of speaking befitting a man who surely had been educated. Her education was likely crude in comparison, as it was the passing on of skills and stories, of hard lessons in the art of survival and community. Why should she tell anything to this man, who she barely knew? And yet, she had seen him at his most vulnerable, and she felt as though that whatever experience they had shared, brief though it was, she no longer felt compelled to keep silent. Perhaps it was that there was no other she could possibly have thought to share it with. She felt careless, reckless. Absentmindedly, her right hand drifted away from the strings, following the curve of the cittern’s smooth bowl, as though it were as alive as her horse. It was a tender motion, for it certainly was as much a companion as Kai.
“Then I shall tell you a tale,” she said, intently studying the tiny little marks and blemishes that made the instrument perfect to her. “There is a village in the mountains where the people are not quite from Cymeria, but came there some time before. They are people who speak to the land, although not in the same way as the Chimera do; it is a harmonious arrangement, where a little is given, and a little is taken. Alas, they only speak of the Chimera in curses, and they believe that there is only folly to be found in magic. So, knowing that such a place existed, a bard was sent to know the hearts of the people. Because the gods may be as cruel as they are kind, the bard fell in love with a woman of such luminosity that she outshone the moons themselves, and she, in turn, with him. Together, they penned two halves of a song, and it was only when they both sang it that they were complete.”
As was her habit, her fingers wandered back to the strings and plucked out a simple tune, one that spoke of melancholy and bright souls alike.
“The bard was no ordinary man, for he was that which the people hated most. Out of love for her, he confessed his true purpose, but also his affection. Anger is such a terrible thing, for it blinds us as much as it spurs us, and she refused his pleas for forgiveness. The time had come for him to depart, and he asked that she go with him. In her wounded fury, she refused him.” Then, softly, she went on, “Not altogether long after she left, she knew herself to be with child.” Her voice was quieter still, as though she were speaking more to herself than her present company. “The child would grow. She would also show that while none would know it to look upon her, she was much like her father.”
She looked up, staring into his face, a stranger’s face, and yet, so familiar to her at the same time.
“In time, her mother would waste away to a terrible affliction. She would tell her daughter of her heritage, and bid her to go to a great gathering of people, so she could see what she truly was without her people’s prejudice. All she witnessed shook the very foundations of her being. She would return to her village, only for her mother’s spirit to pass with the ghost of winter’s coming.”
She fell silent, there being the slightest of trembles about her mouth. It grew firm again as she steeled herself with a slow breath in, her shoulders lifting and falling with the sigh.
“I do not-- I do not confess willingly, syr Brán. Perhaps because it is a tale I have not yet shared with any other. Or, I have no-one else to share it with.” A smile pulled at her lips, not wholly mirthless, more perplexed at the surreal nature of their meeting, and her openness. "And what of you? You are also not of Cymeria, I certainly see that. You are educated, gifted in the way of speech, but also of strength of will. That is not any ordinary gift."
Brán had listened quietly but intently as she told him of her journey, of her her mother and her father and what had happened to them. People who distrusted magic as she described them in her village, he would not have believed to be found in Cymeria outside y Carthu. “The Light illuminate the soul of your mother and keep her safe on the path that we all must follow.” The words were not just a form, a prayer for the dead, but something that came from Brán’s heart, he understood the sadness death brought all too well, and Renestrae had been left with a complicated legacy by her mother. Strange that they both hailed from places that distrusted magic, and that they both had lost someone close to them only recently.
Studying the bard he again noticed her extraordinary eyes, they held so many expressions. “I was born in Aquitaine, in the Mountains of the Kingslayer’s Dagger,” he began speaking. “my father was a miner and a faithful man the best that he knew how. Two of his children had received the Calling in a young age, entering the Novitiate of the Seekers or the Templars respectively, and he let them go without anger or jealousy in his heart. The Light had asked for their service and he would not deny it, he believed his family blessed until he learned that his youngest son too was gifted, only not in a way that the Faithful approve of - he discovered my arcane talent when I was rather young. Aquitaine’s laws being strict on hiding and harbouring arcane people, he still did not like that all arcane children found were handed over to the Dwarrow. He did not trust strangers with that, and thus he turned to one of his sons who had become a Templar.”
Brán smile a little, thinking of the more recent encounter with his brother. They might be separated by oaths, talents and thousands of leagues of land, but they still shared the bond of those days. “My brother tried what he could do for me - in spite of the punishments set forth by the law he tried to protect me, to teach me the discipline necessary to not use my talent…” Brán still felt strange that he could speak of that, the secret was ended now. “but in the end we both had to face that we could not control the arcane powers I have. Thus my brother brought me away from Aquitaine and to the borders of Cymeria. For he believed that evil was not in the talent itself, but in what we do with it.”
He looked up to the skies that were so wide and empty, with only the room for the sun and the clouds to travel. “You met my brother shortly, when you came to my aid at the Gathering. And… without wanting to sound distrustful, I will have to ask you to never repeat what you learned there. For a High Lord Commander to have a brother who is a mage, or for him to having shielded such a brother - it carries stiff punishments in Aquitaine, and for a Templar they are double stern. His life depends on silence.”
The bard had listened in turn, her fingers catching on the strings as she ceased to play, the notes dying away soulfully as Brán was immersed in his narrative. What odd forces were at play, that seemed to be so similar, so alike? She knew little of Aquitaine, truly, for the Mar’kathi people had viewed it with as much ill feeling as they did Chimera. As his life unfurled before her, she felt his sorrow tenfold. He, too, knew a loss as deep and cutting, and his heartfelt prayer for her mother seemed all the more sacred, now -- not that it was less sacred before. She felt her heart quicken with empathy. He had shared with her a secret as great as her own, and she would hold it closely. Everything around them seemed to grow still, as though they had both found some quiet haven in all that was difficult in their lives.
She felt a little ashamed, for her difficulty was surely lesser than his own.
“May the waters and winds keep your brother safely; may he know peace, and may you always know kindness,” was her sincere reply, staring as though she were not simply studying his face, but as if she were looking into his very being. A little self-conscientiously, her gaze dropped, and she set her cittern aside so that she could gently rotate the hare, crackling away above the fire. “What a funny thing it is, that we found one another this day. I am a selfish thing, only thinking of my own path, when it would seem I am not wholly alone.” Her hand fell away from the spit, and she settled back against the tree. She raised her eyes so that she could meet Brán’s own. The colour seemed to change; they reminded her of a stone she had found once, a deep grey speckled with blue, or they were perhaps a little like a cloudy day with little dots of sky glimmering through. “That we should both speak of things that we once guarded fiercely...I did not think there was a kindred soul to whom I could so willingly make my confessions.”
“It is not selfish, Renestrae,” Brán replied, the way she looked he could guess his words had made her feel her hurts were less significant, which was untrue. He also realized that by sharing his own hurts, he created a comparison of pains, which was not right. “for we all carry our burdens and have our pains, and there is no lesser suffering, there is no comparing of loss, one loss is just as great and terrible as another’s.” He had not wanted her to feel her own pains less important, or less severe with his story. “But it is a gift of the Light to all of us, that we are not alone, that there always are others to help us by sharing.”
He thought of Song and other mages who had helped him to adjust to life here, especially Song, even when she had little reason to befriend a man who refused to give up upon the faith that cost her home and family.
“If my listening was comfort to you, I am glad for it, and I thank your for your comfort and consideration in listening to me. Breaking the secret I kept for so long feel liberating.”
She smiled enough that her teeth showed; it was less of a grin and more of a broad smile. The muscles twinged, as though they had been forgotten for some time. There was then a quiet measure of sadness; she felt as though she had found a similar soul to her own, and yet, they might never cross ways again. But then, they had found one another along the road long after the Gathering, so perhaps that would not be. She remembered, then, that the apple was there available for them to share, so she reached forward to take a piece from where Brán had set it.
“Your words do me a great kindness, Brán,” she said, tucking her legs closer to herself, her head rolling slightly to one side with the tree behind her, without taking her eyes from him. “It is liberating, as you say, for me as well. I could not speak so freely among my own people. I did not know I could speak so freely to my own mother, not until just before the Gathering. And now she is gone…” She sighed, but smiled again, adding, “Now there is you, I should think -- but are you to disappear?” She leaned forward as she popped a little piece of apple into her mouth, stray strands of hair catching themselves against the roughness of the bark. Briefly distracted, she tipped her head downward as she brushed her hand against the onyx locks, freeing them from their attachment. She looked to him again, and the worry was there in her eyes -- the possibility that she might find nothing on the end of her journey but loneliness, if her father were to reject her.
“I do not know what is to happen when I seek my father,” she then said aloud once she had swallowed, reflecting her worried thoughts. “If I am to only have one friend in all the world, then that will be comfort enough.”
“I have no wish to disappear,” Brán watched as she struggled with her unruly hair, stifling a smile. He could not promise against fate or life that nothing would happen to him, but he certainly did not plan to abandon a friendship found. Up till now all his friends had been inside the Theurgy, and maybe he had totally retreated into that life as a means of hiding. No more. “While I have little that could help you in the search for your father - for you truly are the first Cymerian bard that I get to know - it does not mean I cannot be there, no matter what comes of your journey. My home is with the Theurgy at the Sanctuary,” It had truly become his home over the years and by that had Cymeria become his homeland. “find me there, whatever the outcome of your journey is or if the trail runs cold. If I can help you, or just be a friend… I will.”
To have a single friend in all the world…
She committed it to memory: that he would be with the Theurgy in Sanctuary. She promised herself, she would find him -- and in doing so, ensured she would see her story through.
Renestrae appeared contemplative. Coming to some sort of decision, she again moved away from the tree. While doing so, she tugged at the leather cord that bound her hair, a strap that was perhaps a finger-width thick, with tiny designs etched along its length. The braid, now freed, tumbled away, as though it were anticipating freedom from the tyranny of the cord. She tied it about Brán’s wrist.
“My people have a belief,” she explained, crouched before him, “that there is a thread that connects folk together, those of whom wish to be connected, so even if they travel far, they remain joined. Every year, we create ties for one another to represent this bond.” As she carefully threaded the cord through the knot-hole, she looked up at him and smiled. “I do not hold much stock in fancy, but...it is a reminder that you have a friend in me.” She lowered her hands to her thighs. “Whatever happens, I shall find you after, and tell you what came of it. I am loathe to leave a tale unfinished.”
Brán had sat still when she had tied the beautiful leather cord around his wrist, though it was her explanation that held him most spellbound. It was a fascinating and beautiful concept, and he could well relate to the idea that all lives, all souls were connected, that they all were part of the same tapestry. Gently he touched Renestrae’s arm, asking her to stay where she was. Taking his knife he cut a few streaks of hair from his own mane and then very gingerly did the same with hers, Taking the thin streaks he began swiftly to weave them together to form a complex braided band.
“Where I grew up we too believed that lives were connected, that we all were joined in the path the Light had set for us,” he explained. “and while we were taught that we owned nothing, we often would do this,” his eyes pointed to the braided band as it took shape, “to remind us of those who touched our path deeply.” A part of him had always been a bit shy of the concept, maybe because he had grown up with Virdaín’s stricter Templar view, which said that they owned nothing, not even their pain or their destiny, it was set by the Light and to only to the Light it belonged. When Brán was finished a small braided band about the length of his own full hand was finished, as they both had black hair, it was hard to make out the pattern, of the patterns he knew Brán had chosen one of friendship and blessing. Carefully he placed the band around Renestrae’s wrist, weaving the ends together so they formed a circle, before securing them with the last streak. “I cannot foresee what awaits you on your path, Renestrae, but if you do not return in a year’s time, I will come and find you.”
It was almost as though time had stilled when he tied the band about her wrist. All the minute details of his face were frozen in her memory, held there tightly, lest she forget even the smallest thing. That he would overcome those teachings to be able to even offer the words he did, that he was able to gift her with something that was his own -- and hers -- was nigh overwhelming, such was the beauty of it. In the murky path that lay ahead, there was a glimmer of light, even if it was faint. She looked over the band, cradling her wrist with the other hand, reverently drawing a thumb over the little bumps of the braid.
“I shall treasure it,” she replied softly, “and I shall remember your words well.”