The chill in the air told me that it was getting late, and we were all waiting. None of us had anything to say, and the silence seemed to be moving in on us, threatening to make us implode into ourselves.
Fight it, I thought. This state of mind can be dangerous. There was danger in everything.
I took a deep breath, steadying myself on the horse's back, and began to open myself to the world that surrounded me. Nothing. Blank space, and not even that.
"Don't," Jared said.
I felt oddly drained, and I had to grab the saddle to keep from falling.
"What is this place?"
"One of our greatest allies lives here," he said.
"Well, I'm glad to know the guy's on our side, then."
"Who said anything about a guy?"
Then something occurred to me.
"Forgive me, Lady Fox," I said, "I didn't realise you were the mistress of this house."
I heard her laugh, though I was still surrounded by darkness. "I didn't tell you, did I?" she said.
"I'm sure there's a great deal you haven't told me."
"You'll find out. In due time." With that she was gone.
The next moment, voices and movement were everywhere. Hands helped me down, voices bade me welcome, and I could hear my companions around me dismount as well.
"It's alright," he said. "Don't resist, don't question, and keep your mind as quiet as you can."
As invisible hands were guiding me forward, I heard the horses being led away. I wanted to ask where we were going, but I remembered Jared's words and said nothing.
We were taken through a gate into some great hall - even without trying I could feel the vast expanse of space and the cool, ancient walls that surrounded me.
Words are not enough to describe what happened next.
She was beautiful. I stood there, facing her, the darkness finally lifted from my eyes though I didn't even know it then - I just knew that my questions were answered and my heart was at peace.
She walked towards me and stretched out her hand, and I closed my eyes as her fingers brushed my brow. "Yes," she said.
"Please, let me not dwell in darkness again."
Her fingers lingered on my cheek. "The dark takes many forms, and the greatest is the dark that dwells within us. We must vanquish that, or perish."
"Don't leave me."
I thought I could hear a hint of surprise in her voice when she said, "I won't, I can promise you that."
"Jorden," Jared whispered, his hand on my shoulder.
I found myself kneeling, the uneven pavement impressing itself onto my knees, my eyes closed and my hands covering my face. Suddenly I was shaking. What will you do, Lady, I thought. Now that I've seen your face, will you take my eyesight away from me again?
"I must be more tired than I thought," I said. "Give me a moment to recover, will you?"
"Sure." He gave my shoulder a little squeeze and removed his hand.
"Forgive me, Lady, but this is what I am now. A hollow shell of a man, bitter and tired and heart-broken and corrupt to the core. I'm nearing the end of my journey, and I have nothing to give anymore."
I didn't wait for an answer but removed my hands from my face and opened my eyes and started to get up, only to collapse again when the light hit my eyes and a stabbing pain pierced my head.
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