“Well of course I know Jane; I raised her when she was just a babe!” said the elven lady. She was old, even for an elf, and had let gravity take its toll, as it does to all. “When she appeared she was wrapped up in blankets and dropped at my stoop like a present. It’s hard to forget those scraggly legs, too small even for a baby at her age.”
“Do you know who dropped her off at your place?” asked a well dressed elf noble. His clothes rhyming with the colors of the sunset and eyes of the winter sky. They both sat in imported, warm-brown wooden chairs atop a forest green rug. The coffee table in front of them, short, granite-topped and sturdy was clear of any clutter. It shone, much like everything else in the room, with impeccable cleanliness. “I must say again, I know I’ve said it before, Lady Llewin, that your home is beautiful and immaculate.”
“Llewin will do, and thank you! I’ve always wanted to keep my house nice and tidy. Now, did you want some tea?” She motioned to the kettle and smiled a proud smile. “It is Frost Oak tea. A traditional tea of our village for friends,” she paused hesitantly and cautiously continued, “if I may venture to say such a thing…”
“Of course you may. Once the tea is made we shall toast to our great friendship.” Patiently and gently he prodded again, “I apologize, I missed who dropped her off at your place, I must have..”
She interrupted, “O’ no! That was my fault. Old and all. I don’t know who dropped her off here.” The gentleman motioned to a book of parchment and an adjacent pen as if asking for permission to take notes. “Of course, sir. You may take whatever notes you want. O’ that reminds me. In the stories there would always be a note with the little bundled babe. With Jane there was nothing. She was wrapped in a fine linen shawl. The merchants said it was noble-class wool from Aman.”
The gentle scratches of writing abruptly stopped, “Aman you say. That’s a grand place.”
“Indeed! I would love to visit some day,” she pined, staring into the beautiful distance of her ceiling.
“How was growing up with Jane then? Ah, ” he paused and flipped back many number of pages, “I mean raising her. Strange colloquialisms from my culture if you would grant me the forgiveness.”
Llewin looked momentarily shocked but then calmed dramatically. “It’s no bother, sir. We all have our ways of saying things. O’ pity, sir. I can’t seem to get this top to light. I won’t be able to make you tea.” She looked down at the kettle with dismay.
“Don’t worry Llewin. I had a friend from Valen that taught me a little spit of magic.” He wiggled his finger in elaborate circles and the kettle began to whistle and bubble.
“Magic!” she exclaimed and turned to him with conflicted eyes. “You know magic is taboo here.” She looked at the kettle and smiled, “But it seems to be useful. And, ” she looked at him with hungry eyes, “very exotic.”
He wrote a short note on the margins of the paper. “Exotic? No, no. It’s just a small thing. I couldn’t do much more. Please continue, Llewin”
“Jane was a complicated child once she reached that human age when she should start speaking. Of course her legs never began to work. They stayed scraggly and thin like noodles. At times I am sure I would have throttled the child if it wasn’t for our elven patience.” He nodded assuredly. “Instead of the quaint baby sounds that they are supposed to make she would hiss. Not like a cat or snake — no. It sounded like the wind of a blizzard in deep winter. Or the waterfall at the forest edge. Just, hissing. It was so loud too!”
“Pardon, I’ve always been curious about this, why are the elves living on Tretos. It’s nothing but snow and ice, and the trees are all evergreen and bland. Aren’t elves supposed to be living in grand forests with trees that touch the sky?”
“Well, aren’t you an elf?” He apologetically shrugged. “It’s okay. I imagine that you city folk are too busy to hear legends. We probably came from such woodlands in our ancient history, but legends say we were pushed out of the land by strange snake people.” He nodded but did not take any notes of this snippet of information.
She took a deep breath, dropped some bagged leaves into the kettle, and continued, “Well. She was about ten winters old and came under great fever. For three days she didn’t hiss nor sleep. She’d blink every now and then, but stared into the space above her. Creepy, it was. Her eyes never moved from right above her. At the end of the third day she seized for hours and suddenly, just as it started, she stopped. I was sure she would be dead in the morning, but I allowed myself a little sleep. I kept the window curtain pulled so the sun would wake me at dawn.
“It wasn’t the sun that woke me, no. It was Jane! She spoke to me, ‘Thank you, Llewin, for all your help. I am sorry I was so difficult. I couldn’t tell you until now.’ She then said that she, ‘met her mother.’ Or was it, ‘her mother visited her?’ I don’t remember that part very well. I celebrated having a daughter I could talk to now, but secretly, sir, if you could forgive this one mistake I made.” She stopped and poured the tea for two.
“Thank you, ” he said as he took the tea. “Absolutely! It is in the past either way, Llewin.”
“Secretly I was jealous that this girl had met her real mother, imagined or otherwise. I was her real mother! I labored ten years with endless hissing.”
“That is understandable. You worked hard. What happened after she began to speak?”
“She said things like, ‘I can hear them. I can hear them all,’ and she would have fits and tear at her hair, and cover her ears. I was so sad and disappointed. The poor thing couldn’t seem to get any good in this world. A year of that passed and things got better, but they also got stranger. She wasn’t having tantrums anymore and stopped tearing at herself, but she could hear me.”
“Hear you? Couldn’t she already?” The man’s pen was resting on some written text on his book.
“No. She could hear my thoughts. She could even speak to me in my head. At times I could swear that things would float in the air or fly to her. Quite sure that I was going insane, but she always calmed my senses with her soothing words.”
“It sounds like things were better, and if I could say, normal?” His pen had moved to the next line below the previous one.
“You could say that. Things were okay for a while.”
“But she left at some point?”
“She did, at the gentle age of sixteen. She picked up her things and left. There were goodbyes, tears, and hugs. I do miss the girl sometimes, but that was long ago.”
“How did she leave? She couldn’t walk, right?”
“Of course she couldn’t walk.” Her fingers rubbed the lip of the mug she was drinking tea from. “She just had people carry her away.”
His pen had reached a blank space and he adjusted his posture to begin writing anew. “Before we continue, I have to say, this is honestly the best tea I have had the honor to have. Thank you, Llewin.” She sat straight as if to say something, but then he continued abruptly, “And, if you’d allow it, with such lovely company.”
She blushed uncontrollably with a smile, stood up, and walked to face the wall, back to the man in her room. “Thank you, sir. I really appreciate that”
“So, you say she was carried away? Who would carry someone so far?”
“Sir, ” she spun around quickly, leaving her tea on the counter now behind her. “Please forgive me. I have had a secret for so long, but no one to tell, no one to trust. Do you mind if I leave you with some of this burden?”
He looked up with a glimmering eye and an imperceptible smirk, “That isn’t necessary Llewin. You don’t need to tell me secrets to gain my trust.”
“But I want to tell you.” He put down the pen and book, and sat back comfortably. “This small gnome came to my house. The first I’ve ever seen. He was shorter than I expected, but gnome — right? He said he was the Great Engineer. I, of course, scoffed and told the strange creature to leave. I almost kicked him off my stoop, but Jane spoke in my mind, ‘It is true, mum. He is the Great Engineer.’
“Over a few days he spoke with Jane, and allowed me to hear. Then he finished making this weird contraption that were fitted to her legs. He made her legs, sir. She could walk! It was a glorious gift. I was happy, yet sad that she had to, and finally could, leave.”
He asked quietly, “What did they talk about?”
“Just things about how the machine would work,” she seemed to be holding back.
He sat up a little straighter, “Llewin, what did they talk about?”
“That is it, sir. She left and I’ve never heard anything else.”
With unbridled rage he hit his mug off the table and stood. He paced around the chair while running his hands irritatedly through his hair. “Llewin, please.”
She broke and spoke quickly, “They spoke of the gods. They spoke of a plan. A plan to kill someone named Bard. They spoke of her parents, Lloth and Bahamut. That’s it, sir! Please believe me.” She walked up and touched his chest gently with shaking hands. “Don’t be angry with me.”
He let his hands rest to his sides and stared at the ceiling, back arching as he did so. “Ego…” The word fell out of his mouth slowly, a whisper contrasted against the previous exchange.
“What was that, sir? I missed it.” She looked up quizzically.
“Ego. That’s his name.” He turned, almost throwing her aside. “He finally did it.”
“What did he do? Who is Ego?” She sensed that the appropriate feeling at this point should be fear. She was frightened.
The man turned. “He broke our pact. He gave me the moral high ground.” As he spoke the walls began to fade and blow away like ash. His countenance changed from rage to orgasmic joy, and his appearance melted away. Before her was a human, attractive, but dark. Llewin’s clothing turned to rags and the world, as she saw it, turned to grey, flat walls. A single door was closed behind the man. Below her was a body, her own.
She screamed at the sight of her body, burnt at the chest and through the back, and lifted her hand to cover her mouth. Her hand was translucent. Her screams reached a new pitch and she began to cry. “What have you done to me?”
He gathered his things and replied coldly, “I’ve had this interview with your ghost for a month now. Never getting it right. You should start remembering your death right about now.”
She stopped crying and her face contorted with rage. She rushed at him with inhuman speed but was stopped abruptly a few feet from her corpse. “What have you done to me? Why did you kill me?”
“Well, the why is obvious. The what: I raised your spirit to talk to. We are done now. It took awhile to figure out who to talk to. You should be as honored as I am pleased that you are the last.” He began to walk towards the door. A cloak of billowing black smoke trailing behind him.
“Put me back! Let me go! How long will I be like this?” she slumped to the floor, hands caressing her corpse’s face, fingers passing through skin.
“Forever, Llewin.” He put his hand on the door knob and said a word in an unknown language, “Sepharazo.” The door clicked.
“Who are you?!” She screamed at his back.
He opened the door and wails filled the room. Wails that fit her own. Countless voices, some recognizable. He walked into the hall lined with hundreds of similar doors.
“They will call me Omega.”