(I thought I posted some of this chapter last night, but I guess not! I threw in some extra stuff at the end to compensate!^^)

Part 43: New Places, Old Faces

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"He went onwards, and then came death striding up to him with withered legs." (Godfather Death, Grimm Brothers)

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-Zenobia-

Night has fallen once again. This time, thankfully, I am surrounded by friends and have a fire most gorgeous to sit by.

The trip to Esperance began quite some time ago, but the Prince ordered that we take a break and set up camp for the night. Everyone has made up little fires throughout the forest and are engaging jn fun games and storytelling. I sit by the fire, using its light to work on a few sketches of my recent companions.

The merriment of the masses almost goes unnoticed by me. No matter who addresses me and tries to engage in conversation, my attention is always drawn back to the dancing fire in front of me. The words die on my lips and I find myself staring into the fire again, leaving my conversation partner watching me, confused.

The flames remind me of the candles of the Underworld, the ones that I was tasked with blowing out when the time came. Sometimes, the candles would simply flicker out on their own, signaling a dire accident. Or, if a person was sick, the wax would ooze away until the flame had nothing left to do but extinguish itself.

It was a dismal task, blowing those many-colored candles out, but the memories aren't all bad. There were times when Dain and Dante and sometimes even Death himself would come into the dim room to keep me company. They would tell me tales of the Living world to help the time pass quickly. I would listen closely, sometimes even burning myself because of distraction, but I was intent on learning everything I could of the place that was meant to be my home.

Death would always bandage my small, burnt fingers afterwards, scolding me for being so dazed. He was never cruel though. Even if he never was able to conjure up a warm smile in his dark home, I still felt that he cared somewhat about me.

I smile and draw my knees up to my chin, my eyes still on the fire. No, not all of the memories are bad. I look back down at my sketchbook and continue working.

Something honks in my ear, snapping me out of my daze and back to the present. I look up to find a large, feathered bird staring at me.

The golden creature honks again, causing me to jerk my head back in surprise and drop my sketchbook.

A moment later, the thin boy named Jackroy appears beside the bird, a distraught look on his gaunt face.

"Miss Zenobia, you believe me, don't you?" he wants to know. His lips are drawn up in a pitiful pout, his dark eyes pleading.

I touch my forehead, which is still throbbing from the loud noise that the big bird made in my ear.

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," I admit with a small shrug and an apologetic smile. I scoop up my sketchbook and put it back in its satchel. "Your bird is most wondrous, however."

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