Since before she knew her own name, Elissa had known the voices. There had been a time, she had discovered while studying as a Novice, when people used to shun and fear those like her, who perceived the world not just as it was but also as it could be. For the longest time, before the Fae War and the fall of mankind, they had believed them to be at best pitiful and at most a menace to society.
She did not really care what long-dead people might have thought about her, but she knew that at every step of the way she was followed by a series of echoes, all of them humming in their particular whisper, each of them tantalizing pulling her in this or that direction, straining her being in a galaxy of hooks.
She had never known silence.
So when she felt it for the first time she did not know how to react.
Was she dead?
But being dead would imply she did not perceive anything else.
Her mindscape was gone. She floated in darkness, weightless.
And for the first time since she had opened her eyes on this planet, thoughtless.
The thousand pulleys jockeying for her attention – gone.
What did happen?
It did not make sense.
She tried to pull back onto them, call the Threads to her.
She couldn’t feel her heart picking up pace in this place, but she felt a festering unease creeping into her soul nonetheless.
She tried again, gathering her awareness from the outer world onto her proprioception.
I’m on my own, the realization dawned on her.
Her mind came back to the moment she had pulled up the counterweight. She had shifted it onto the most favorable future and that had not been enough to rip the Threads.
But holding a tiny star in the palm of her hand – and giving it recursive heat, feeding and eating on itself – that had pierced through through the entire fabric that had followed her since her birth from an egg of glass and plastic, from a star of steel and abandoned hopes.
I burned myself up, she realized. Far-off, the ache of her own body reached for her, together with a faint sensation of something trickling into her. It was completely unlike the Threads, it tasted red and iron-like.
She had felt it before when she had used the Threads to corral it back onto life.
Hunter? She called out.
Maybe he couldn’t hear her anymore.
She curled up in the endless void.
It did not really matter.
They wanted to bring her back?
She had just wanted to save Sadja, to give her another chance.
Ah, but I’d like to see her again.
She had managed to tell the truth at last, even to that engineer. She did not mind their company and had enjoyed it, but it was pointless to try and lie to herself. She had done it all for Sadja.
Was she safe? Did she manage to restore the Generator?
Did she help?
And she couldn’t find an answer.
Her heart ached to find out, but nobody and no thing would come out to provide her with one, not even a glimpse of the future.
Or the present.
It did not make sense for her to be still alive, though. Even reduced in this state. And if what she felt at the edge of the awareness was indeed the Hunter, that meant he had survived as well-
Which meant she could hope?
At least a bit?
She did not like it, it felt a bit like drowning.
Was this how almost everyone felt, without a connection to the Threads?
No wonder she had always been appalled by their chaotic behavior.
But what could she do to come back?
She did not have an answer.
I want to see Sadja.
That was pretty much all that mattered. She could wait for the Hunter to bring her back. Or…
But the Threads were gone. She did not have a shred of her former powers, only endless sheer silence.
Another memory settled uncomfortably in her mind.
Was I really a good girl?
Depends whom you ask.
She turned , but saw nothing. Not that she’d expect to, but…
I am drawn to strong wills. And strong wills are, I like to think, drawn to me. You have proven yourself beyond my wildest dreams.
You sound so proud, Elissa replied. So very kind.
How different was She from Verna, from her last few whispered words? Where would she might end up if… if she…
Is there a chance for me to see her again?
Now that she had lost the Threads, she wouldn’t be able to see anymore.
She’d be a wreck.
It all depends on what you are willing to sacrifice. I have give you another chance, and I have given you wisdom, free of charge. A pause. Elissa knew where this was going. Further help would require a deeper involvement on your part.
I think I understand where this is going. She remembered the first time she had tied herself to the Forest and she had no intention to repeat the process. I thank you for your help so far, if it truly was given without strings attached.
Child. Do not sell yourself short. If it did, you would feel them binding already.
Elissa went back to curl into a ball.
The Hunter was closer. She could feel the far-off aches of her body coming back to her. The pain seeped through in waves.
But she wouldn’t be a thrall of the Forest.
I want to see Sadja again. And I want to be free, she muttered to nobody in particular.
Not really. Not enough. But one day you will. And when that happen, just say my name.
She recoiled at the touch that brushed against her head. She had expected a bony claw, saw-like talons.
No, the fingers that stroke her hair seemed to belong to a gentle woman’s hand.
Which was worse. Much, much worse, because it stirred a longing in her depths.
I will be waiting for you when that happens.
Pic by hiveworkshop.com
Author’s Notes: Always hard to start saying goodbye to Elissa as well. I would have preferred to have a clearly-uplifting finale. But certain characters would not really allow me to. Thanks for reading, at any rate.