"Mama, do elves ever sleep?"
"Sort of. It's more of a long nap just below waking."
"Do they dream?"
"Not usually, no."
"But some do."
"Yes, my child, some can."
"What about the strange ones? The Gihalfar and Skahalfar?"
"It's rude to call them strange."
"How do you know so much about elves? I never see them."
"Oh, don't pout. You've plenty of time yet to discover all sorts of things about elves. Enough questions. It's your turn to sleep, little one."
- Hvalling mother and her child.
Feeling was exhausting. Ahvora had reflected more on the past in the group's short time in the Altearan Mountains than she had in a couple of hundred years. Being back in the cave that had served as a sanctuary for Dath'ari ever since that first Hearthfire with Demi stirred up all sorts of memories.
Sadiir had gone along to Soryn with Sha'vrie, Fazhiir, and Ivyn, leaving Ahvora and Skari to themselves. Ahvora leaned her head against the cave's wall and thought about Sadiir's words. Was it actually possible? Could they break the cycle? A heavy sigh fell out of her as though she'd dropped it.
Her eyes closed, and her breathing evened into soft, slow breaths. She didn't mean to go into a trance but found herself incapable of breaking it. For a short time, Ahvora could rest and not have to remember. She fell into a deep state of stillness with something akin to tranquility. At the same time, a bizarre sensation filled her mind.
She took an involuntary step forward and felt, not the hard, cold ground of the cave, but thick grass that cushioned her feet and tickled just above her ankles. Ahvora waited for the sense of alarm within her, but it never came. There was a mild curiosity but no fear. Still unperturbed, she continued walking through the grass.
"Mama!" A skinny dark-haired boy scurried past Ahvora to a woman sitting under a tree with a book. There was something oddly familiar about her that Ahvora couldn't quite place in her drowsy state.
The boy came to a stop and leaned over to catch his breath. Ahvora couldn't hear what they were saying from where she was, but the mother gestured for the boy to get closer. The boy said something. His mother laughed, and it carried across the field to Ahvora, who thought it to be musical and lovely. She continued to watch as the mother leaned over to inspect something on the boy's leg. The woman's long hair fell over her shoulder like a silvery waterfall ending in a pool dark as night.
An ache settled in Ahvora's heart as she realized what was before her. The Grove had been her sanctuary from the soul-crushing weight of being a Dath'ari, the place where she waited to be recalled to the living world after some perilous task killed her. The beautiful thing about death was that no one expected anything.
In a daze, she drew closer to the tree.
The woman laughed again, carefree in a way that Ahvora envied. "You are so much like your uncle when he was your age." A slight trace of sadness hid in the woman's smile.
"Can you tell me again about Iorell?" the boy asked, settling on the ground, facing his mother. He leaned forward, elbows on knees and head in hands. A shy grin crossed his features. "And Helius?"
Ahvora stumbled back from the two, though they paid her no heed. The memories of her time in the Grove came crashing back like a tidal wave, threatening to drown her with the weight. This was one of them. She was looking at herself and her very own child that she'd never have outside of the Grove.
The taste of bile reached Ahvora's tongue as she curled in on herself with renewed grief. She'd been ripped away when Tempest revived her to once again serve in the name of Valdyra. She fought to bring her emotions under control and found she couldn't stop the sobs wracking her body.
YOU ARE READING
Ahvora has lived and died and lived again, all to serve Valdyra, the goddess of Death. When Ahvora revisits the site where she met Valdyra's daughter, Demi, it dredges up long buried memories. Demi attempts to heal Ahvora's fractured heart by showin...