I take the plate from Mara’s hands and inspect it. But no. Nothing. I turn it over again and send a glow through the etchings, a little show for Mara. The least I can do is give Mara a little faith, even if I have none.
I hand her back the plate and leave. I can’t be here right now. The boy and the demon are gone. All my attempts to be good have failed. There’s no point to all this. And I can’t shake the words echoing in my head.
You are marked by the Master.
Only a sliver of a moon lights my path as I sweep through the streets. The bartender looks up at me from wiping the tables as I enter the tavern, still in my nightdress and cloak. I find my room, down the hall from #69, slam the door behind me. I toss my staff to the floor, pull my hair by its roots, try to drown out the memories, the images, the dream.
I scream silently, the sound almost there, but really just my mouth hanging open, tense, before the muscles in my face relax and gasp out a pitiful sob. I find myself suddenly slumped against the wall, falling into a pile and before I know it I am speaking… whispering… praying…
“Are you even there? Is any of this even real? Or have I given it all up for nothing? The mages told me to adventure, to travel, to trust in the Being Beyond that knows my fate and my story and is trying to lead me to defeat a great evil. But nothing has happened. I’m serving in an army for an empire I hate, my family is trying to kill me, my lover died, my friend died, and Corti is so far way. I’ve done all this for you, I’ve searched for you and prayed and you have never once showed yourself to me.
“Where are you then, eh? Why can’t I find you? Is it because I stopped caring about the world and other people since I lost Jameison… I’m sorry, then. Is that what you want to hear? I’ll be good again like Ovak said. I’ll resurrect that old part of me if that’s what you want. I’ll change, I’ll do anything… but will you please fucking show up for me. I need to know you’re really there, that the stories they told me are true and I’m not just a mad woman. I’ll serve you, whoever you are. I’ll be your biggest believer, your champion, only yours… and I’ll keep looking for you. But please, find me… please.”
Head bowed, I wait a few moments and feel nothing but the wet floor. There are tears, and a few small drops of blood. I am clutching the pendant on my neck, the pendant of the Mages. I was squeezing it so hard my nails broke the skin on my palm. I let go, tired and dazed.
I am achingly alone. I swear I can hear shuffling down the hall, probably the rest of the party in room 69. I know I could go to them but there is too much to explain.
I find some paper and a quill and ink in my satchel instead.
You’ll be happy to know, I prayed tonight. I think maybe you’re right. Maybe I have lost sight of my true purpose in the world. I’m trying to find it again.
There have been some murders and a few missing children in the town we’re stuck in. As much as I don’t want to, I am trying to care about these Romans. But it seems like the more I care about what’s going on the more horrible things get. There’s a great darkness here and it feels like it’s entangling me. I’m having haunting dreams and visions…
And I still haven’t found him… or her. I supposed it could be a her. I’ve been praying at different temples, trying to find the god or goddess that I belong to, the one that watched over me when I came to this world, or whatever it is the mages said. But I can’t find her. I’ve gone to several temples now. I know that’s not much in the grand scheme of the pantheons but… I’m getting discouraged.
I’ve been catching myself day dreaming about just running away… heading home and telling my family that I’m going to disappear and they can tell everyone that I’m dead. And then you and I pack everything up and go back to the hill country and stay with Panna and Syd and live a quiet life together. Is that crazy? Is it foolish?
I can’t tell anymore. And I’m too tired to care.
Pray for me, Corti. I hope to come to you soon.
Livinia Rindera Model
High Lady of Zinderan
PS – Two assassins came after me last week. One got away, and the other, well… the party wouldn’t let me cut off his head, so I settled for the arms. You’ll find them enclosed. The assassin said it was Father that sent them. I don’t know if I believe them… it’s very odd. Do you think you could look into it for me?
I seal the letter and set it in my satchel. I’ll give it to a messenger with the arms in the morning. As I taper the lamp and crawl into bed, I consider breaking the seal on the letter., rewriting it without the paragraph about running away together. I’ve never said anything like that to her before. What if it’s all in my head, the things between her and I?
Instead, I roll over and pull the blankets closer to me. I squeeze my eyes and will myself to sleep, ignoring the sliver of moonlight slicing through the window, casting dancing shadows through the curtains. I sleep, but I do not rest, for even in my dreams I hear him whisper again,
You are marked by the Master.