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Bredhen ORilley 2003 Of Dragons Fate: Emergence 65

Part 2

Bredhen ORilley 2003 Of Dragons Fate: Emergence 66

Part 2 Chapter 1

Deep within the earth, the princess who was traded away because of her deformity and size lay resting in her new mothers arms. Alsadera had always preferred girls to boys. She sat holding her new child in unending awe of what she held in her arms. The child of the prophecies had come at last. Occasionally the tiny bundle in her arms would open her eyes and show their unique and eerie beauty to a woman whose glee was only heightened at the sight of her mark of predestined birth. Alsadera wondered if she was worthy enough to lay a name upon a child of such importance, and as her mother, it was solely Alsaderas responsibility. As she rocked the girl in her arms, she hummed and tried to think of the perfect name for this new light in the world. Perhaps I should name her for my grandmother, Vinelswin. She was the chieftain of the Mystics and Seer's Council before me in her own time. Is she noble enough to lend her name to the miracle before me? The name must be meant as an honor to the child. The name must be strong and bright. Perhaps I should call her Caelcanne, for the seer who had first seen the prophecy of her birth, but surely, the child of honor is greater than the woman who had merely foreseen her coming. Alsadera allowed her mind to wander back into her childhood where the tales of history and legends of the distant past had fascinated her. She finally decided that she would call the child after the epic queen who had inherited the throne during the war with the dragons. She had been the ruler responsible for saving all the Danementian people so long ago. She had led her people to live beneath the surface of the earth and had made the treaty with the scribes of the holy library for the very land they lived on today. The child would be called Atnimera.

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Atnimera was weak and small. Alsadera knew that she would be able to nurse the child to health. It was obvious that this child would never reach the size of a normal Brentanian or Danementian, but with the knowledge of underground herbs that she had learned, she was confident. The Danementians had been experimenting with roots and sunless plants since they had moved underground centuries before. Some of them contained powerful medicine, others could be deadly, and the right mixture could cure almost anything. Atnimera was presented to the Danementian people the morning after her descent into the earth. She was paid homage by all that came to meet the new daughter of the chieftains. Mother and daughter were presented gifts from all that came to call. The people were amazed that a child so small had survived. Many left their conventional gifts and returned with herbs and medicines to leave as gifts as well. They all seemed to want this tiny child to grow and prosper. Atnimera had opened her eyes for a few of them and the whole community was talking about her. Who would have thought that the prophetic child would be born among them? Alsadera nursed the tiny child as best she could, but Atnimeras condition didnt seem to improve on the milk. She was often sick and she wasnt gaining any weight. Alsadera was faced with a dilemma. Mere mothers milk wasnt sustaining her. How would she save Atnimeras life? There seemed to be no bringing her back from the curse that had been placed on her head while she was still in the womb. The child spoke of in the prophecy was born strong and vibrant, but sometimes the prophecies change after they have been spoken, and the prophecy couldnt save her from all circumstances. Nevertheless, Atnimera was the child spoken of in the prophecy and she must be kept alive. She must somehow grow strong despite the curse of her birth. The council met to

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discuss the problem. She had been fed the best medicines they possessed. There were few options left. They decided unanimously that she would be fed from the magic springs kept secret and guarded carefully for centuries. These waters had peculiar properties. It sustained whoever drank from them for a long time without any food. The water cleansed the soul to improve the clarity of vision and enhanced any natural powers that a person may naturally have. The sacred waters was only fed to the seers, but to save her life, they broke with tradition and nourished her with magic. It sustained her better than any mothers milk could. They fed her on the sacred waters for many months until she was big enough and strong enough to eat other things. Even after she could eat, she was given regular doses of the water to strengthen her and help her fulfill the prophecy of her birth. Atnimera grew stronger and healthier in the care of Alsadera and Dranlory. Alsadera cared for her tenderly and lovingly. The only apparent effect of the water on her was seemingly incredible intelligence. She learned to talk when she was six months old ands could read by the time that she was two years old. Atnimeras parents spent as much time with her as they could, but Alsadera and Dranlory had three other children together and two more from Alsaderas previous marriage. Alsadera tended to give most of her parental attention to her sons from her late husband, and Dranlory tended to spoil his twin daughters and his lone son. However, each of them made extra time to spend with Atnimera. The eldest children were twin brothers whose father had died when they were young. Their names were Nonnahs and Ocsebhad. They were eleven years old when Atnimera was born and already had a sense of nobility and prestige surrounded them, especially Nonnahs. Their father had been Ocsobykor. He was a great man and had been

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one of the best chieftains the Danementians had ever known. Under his council, the Danementians had reclaimed many passageways and caverns that the trolls had taken control over the years. Ocsobykors greatest victory over the trolls was the recovery of a large cavern where thousands of roots poked through the ceiling and thousands more herbs grew. The roots and herbs were invaluable sources of food, medicine, magic and wood for building. They had learned not to waste or extinguish already scarce plants. Ocsobykor was killed when the boys were still infants by a band of trolls that raided the Danementian village. Ocsobykor had left his sons his legacy and his powerful presence that seemed to bend all to his will was alive within them. They boys hair was dark and their olive skin seemed to shine in the soft light of the caverns. Their eyes were hazel green in color reminiscent of their father. Nonnahs was prone to mischief and often played practical jokes on his siblings, some of which could be cruel. His favorite games to play all involved an attempt to conquer someone or something. He knew that he was destined to replace Dranlory on the Mystics and Seer's Council when he died. He used this fact to his advantage any chance he got. He enjoyed intimidating the other children with threats that he would make them pay for disobeying anything he said. He told them that he would deal with them one by one, quietly, when he became the chief of the Mystics and Seer's Council. Ocsebhads character seemed far removed from his forceful brother. He was kind and gentle. His voice was soft, yet powerful. He was more like his father than Nonnahs. He turned his attentions to relieving peoples suffering. If Nonnahs were ever to die or commit a sin worthy of disqualification, Ocsebhad would take his place on the council. He often daydreamed about all the changes he would make if he were given a chance. He wanted to improve the quality of life for all his people. He planned to give the seers, seer

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scribes, and scroll scribes a more respected society. He wanted to make their lives easier. Since the Danementians had found the seers and scribes, the treated their race poorly. Ocsebhad thought that there was something wrong with that treatment, though few shared his opinion. Scribes and seers rarely interacted with the general Danementian population, so they felt apathy in the face of their living conditions. Ocsebhad loved children and hoped to have many of his own, but he didnt like the idea of having a wife. He would rather be at peace and alone than stressed and surrounded by an extended family. He wanted the children, but not the extended family that went with it. The third child, Yortten was ten years old when Atnimera was born. He had been born a mere eleven months after Dranlory and Alsadera had been married. He was strong, stalky, and jocund. He loved life and loved to celebrate any good fortune that came his way. He collected rocks and worms like any carefree boy would do. He knew that the chances of him sitting on the council were slim, and he cared little for it in the first place. He had decided that he was going to use his heredity to live life to the fullest. He rarely attended his classes and was always looking for some way to have and adventure to go on. Dranlory was disappointed in his boy, but he understood his actions. He had no bright future to grow into. He was just the playboy son of the chief. Dranlorys heart was saddened that none of his blood would inherit his position in the world, but he was a second husband, and Ocsobykor had been both the first husband and a figure that has become legendary to the people. Ocsobykor was elevated nearly to the status of a blessed saint of the light. Children four and five were twin girls named Eittoda and Nyooln who were three and a half years old when Atnimera was born. They were both beautiful and strong willed. Their hair was a soft light brown color. Their skin was a silky bisque color.

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Their twin eyes were a pale green-yellow color. Their features were classic and no one could deny that they had been kissed by the light. Eittoda was very intelligent. She had learned to speak and read before her twin sister and already dreamed of becoming her mothers successor as chief of the council. She was interested in everything her mother did. Eittoda wanted to follow her mother every where she went, even to council meetings themselves, where she was not yet welcome. Traditions strictly forbid anyone not directly invited to the council to see their council proceedings. It was very difficult to get an invitation to the council. There must be a critical need among the council members to have that knowledge that one possessed in order to attend. Though the only way either girl could sit ion the council was to marry Nonnahs, an impossibility, Nyooln too had aspirations of becoming mistress of the council, though she went about it in a different way than her sister. She was a girl preoccupied with beauty. Though she was merely three and a half years old, she was already sizing up the boys to decide which she wanted for a husband. Her dreams were of marrying well and gaining power from her marriage. Her favorite thing to play was a game the children called wedding day. In the game, couples are picked randomly out of a hat, and then the couples draw straws to see who had to play the bride and groom. Then they would play dress-up and act out a mock wedding. Nyooln obsessed in her play about weddings, married life, and money. She was very charismatic and every one who met her loved her instantly.

His new little sister enchanted Ocsebhad. He thought that she was unique and beautiful. Rather than disdaining her birthmarked eyes, he valued them for their rarity.

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Ocsebhads mind and heart were strangely drawn to her. Often he found himself helping his mother look after Atnimera. He would start going top play with the other children, but he always ended up in the nursery just so he could look into her eyes once more. He felt some responsibility to protect his younger siblings, but what he felt for Atnimera was much greater than that. She was extra special. Therefore, he thought, she needed extra big brother help. He decided that he would protect her for all time and never let anyone harm her. He loved to rock her, sing to her, and read books to her. He made primitive toys to bring her as gifts. He felt it was his responsibility to make her feel special and wanted. He wanted her to know that although she was the youngest, she was still a part of the family and loved as everyone else was. When he was younger, he saw that Yortten often felt left out. He never wanted Atnimera to have to feel that way. He hoped that he could save her from ever feeling that way. When she learned to crawl, Ocsebhad would get down on the rug to play with her and encourage her. She seemed to be fond of her brother, and her excitement to see him got her to take her first step. Nonnahs felt quite differently about the baby. She was odd and impish to him. He despised her. She was strange and foreign to all that he knew. He didnt understand why his mother hadnt just let the little slug die when she was born. His mother and Dranlory had made such a fuss over her. He just couldnt see what all the fuss was for. So what if she had purple eyes? Who cares? Surely I am greater and more important than an imp with a birth defect. He thought. His hate for Atnimera planted itself in his heart the first time he saw her eerie eyes. He hated her for her eyes and the prophecy that foretold her birth. She frightened him with her eyes. Along with fright, he felt intimidated by the attention that both his

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mother and Dranlory showed the girl. When she was a newborn, he overheard his parents talking about the prophecy. What would happen if she took his place of importance among the people? He was angry and jealous that something so small could vex him so much. Nonnahs had been closer to his mother before she had borne the slug. Since Atnimeras birth, he had grown far apart from his mother, though he still met with her for lessons about the Mystics and Seer's Council that he would one-day head. Yortten liked the baby all right and often came to play with her. He enjoyed throwing her up in the air and catching her. He also enjoyed bouncing her on his knees to make her laugh. He was greatly amused by tickling her to make her giggle and spinning her until she was spitting up. Then he would hand her back to his mother. He thought that this was particularly hilarious. However, like his brother Nonnahs, Yortten did not see what was so special about her. He didnt feel threatened by her like Nonnahs because he had no status that she could steal from him. He felt uneasy about her birthmark, but he grew used to them in time and he never bore her any ill will. Eittoda and Nyooln were not happy with the new addition to the family at first. They were used to being the babies and neither one of them wanted to give up that status. They were used to having one another as playmates, but they found Atnimera to be a shoddy playmate at best. She was tiny and they felt she couldnt do anything right as they played out their fantasies in the nursery. This angered them further though Alsadera scolded them; they began picking on Atnimera. They often tried to roughhouse with her every chance they got. Once she was crawling, and later walking, they refused to play with her unless Alsadera demanded it of them. When they did play with her, Atnimera always seemed to have accidents making her unable to play anymore. Their violence seemed to accelerate as Atnimera got older and started grasping some of what was going

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on around her. Alsadera felt that this cruelty might adversely affect Atnimera. She decided that something needed to be done to protect her. Alsadera spoke with Dranlory about the troublesome twins and their treatment of Atnimera. Neither parent wanted to see the twins fostered somewhere else. Atnimera couldnt be fostered out any more than they could foster the twins out. They decided that it would be easier to move Atnimera than to find a place for the two girls. They agreed that she shouldnt be sent too far away. Finally Atnimeras sanctuary was chosen.

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Part 2 Chapter 2

Alsadera and Dranlory decided to send Atnimera to be with her grandparents, Ahtramara and Silton. At first, during the daytime they sent Atnimera to be with them while Alsadera tended to the other children and matters of the council. Ahtramara and Silton lived far enough away from Alsadera and Dranlory that they could allow her to play outside without fear that her siblings would attack her. However they lived close enough to be convenient enough to drop her off there daily and bring her home nightly. Ahtramara was an extraordinarily old woman. She had shrunk to only six feet tall, nearly a foot and a half shorter than she had been in her youth. She had long grayblack hair that she wore in thinning braids. Her eyes were as gray as her hair. They were steely and cold. Despite her stern appearance, Ahtramara showed her love for the child by making fine cloth and fashioning all the tiny girls clothing herself. Silton was an equally ancient man. He had long since gone bald on the top of his head. The rest of his hair was long, hanging past his shoulders and snowy white. He also wore a long silky beard and mustache. His eyes were a beautiful Prussian blue color that had entranced Atnimera from the first time she saw them. She always seemed to get lost in them. Silton often told her the story of their first meeting. He said that when Alsadera walked by with Atnimera looking over her shoulder. Silton said that Atnimera looked deep into his eyes and smiled and she had been his girl ever since. Silton enjoyed busing himself making tiny toys for the girl from harvested tree roots. He often let Atnimera into his shop while he was working with the wood and gave her scraps of wood to nail together while he worked. The grandparents seemed enchanted with the child.

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When Atnimera first came to stay with them in the daytime, she was timid and unsure of everything although she was only two years old. As she spent more and more time there, she began to feel warm and safe whenever she was with them. She often came to them for affection and they answered by holding her in a close embrace. Atnimeras parents became busier and busier with the council and Atnimera began to spend more and more time with her grandparents. Her parents began leaving her there overnight because they were too busy to pick her up and drop her off. The more time she spent with her grandparents, the more she thrived. The warmth of their love nourished her and in light of their attention she grew strong. Soon the maternal bond was almost broken between Atnimera and Alsadera though she occasionally appeared and showered attention on the girl. Alsadera seemed to expect the same sense of closeness that she had always shared with Atnimera, but unfortunately that bond was dying. Atnimeras bond was now with her grandparents. She felt closer to them than she did her largely absent parents. This change was not evident to an outside party, but the change had occurred for better or worse. Atnimera began crying and throwing horrible temper tantrums whenever her mother or father entered the room. She seemed to be afraid to be taken from her grandparents. She absolutely refused to let her parents take her home with them. She made it very clear where she wanted to stay, and since she was flourishing, it was decided that the child would stay with her grandparents where she was happy. Ahtramara and Silton were happy to take responsibility for the diminutive child. They gave her all the best that they could provide and gave Atnimera a place to grow unabated by the burdens of siblings and the instability of her parents.

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Atnimera was an odd looking child with her eerie eyes shining beneath a bang of dark hair. Her size was startling at best. She was only two feet tall at age four, but she was in no way deformed. Her parts were perfectly proportioned, and though her looks were unconventional, she had a strange beauty. Her beauty was like the release of and artists fantasy. She had beautiful milky white skin with a face soft and chubby like a cherub. When at home she was a happy and bubbly child. Some of the other girls in the village lived nearby. They liked to play house with Atnimera. Her size made her into a great pretend baby. They always made her dress up like a baby, and all the clothing that Ahtramara made was frilly and dollish, almost encouraging this play. The girls wrapped her in blankets and carried her around pretending to be her mother. Atnimera was a child who learned things quickly and she was already wise beyond her years. As time passed, she became less excited by the interest that her friends showed her. She continued to play with the girls occasionally, but she no longer wanted to be the baby. So they no longer wanted to play with her. Atnimera turned her attention to playing make-believe by herself and reading to begin her studies early.

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Part 2 Chapter 3

Years passed, and Atnimera was reading and studying constantly despite her tender age. She began her formal schooling much sooner than her peers. The other children in her classes tormented her because she was younger and smaller than anyone else in the class was. She began refusing to play at being the neighbor girls baby. She became an outcast. The children went out of their way to torment and trouble the tiny girl. She became the object of misguided hate. Her peers, male and female, banished her from their circle of friends for all time. She was an outcast, a freak, and each day they made her painfully aware that this is what they thought of her. They called her ImpyAanti, Impnimera, and anything else cruel they could come up with to say. They taunted her about her eyes, they teased her about her size, and they harassed her for her love of knowledge. They laughed because even her own siblings largely disliked her. Whenever Ocsebhad saw anyone picking on her he helped her out, but that was the only help she ever got. She became shy as she aged, enduring endless insults she became an increasingly somber and quiet child. She didnt laugh, she didnt play with the other children, and she spent all of her time alone with books. The taunting torture of her friends caused Atnimera to focus her energies inward. She became more aware of her surroundings and intensely aware that she was different from anyone else. She felt as though her soul was trapped in a lone tower of unending isolation, crying out for someone to save her, but no one ever heard her screams. She understood and wished to obey all that was taught to her by her parents and

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grandparents. With all her heart she wanted to be good, but no matter what she did, she was not a part of anything. It seemed that all her impulses were set contrary to the teachings she tried so hard to follow. She was very young, but she wrestled with herself every day, struggling to act like everyone else, knowing she could never measure up. She felt like a disgrace to her parents and felt connected to none of her people save her grandparents. She could not even feel the light of her mothers love and concern through Alsaderas unavailability. She felt like a disgrace to her brothers and sisters who avoided anyone seeing them with her at all costs and never took time to visit her. It wasnt just her family she was a disgrace to, it was everyone. It wasnt just her size or the color of her eyes. The children casting her out didnt make her different. It was something more. She could feel that there was something more for her than this. She grew introspective and even distanced herself from her grandmother. Her grandpa Silton stayed close to his girl. He sought her out to talk to her about her troubles. He wanted to teach her how to deal with the other people. Whenever she was sad or just had too much ridicule to beat, he would tell her that she would always be his girl and he would always be with her. Atnimera knew that her being so different from everyone else wasnt because her mother and father headed the council. Because of that, adults treated her with cold reverence just as they did to each of her siblings, but unlike them the people seemed to be afraid of her. Yet there was something even greater than that. There was something she couldnt understand but knew with all of her being. Atnimera began writing poetry to express her loneliness and sadness. Her poetry was primitive and soulful. One day, after having been ridiculed badly about her eyes,

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Atnimera was very hurt. Everyone seemed to think her eyes were repulsive, but grandpa Silton had always said that they were beautiful. She sat alone in her room looking into a mirror and examining her eyes, trying to decide who was right about them. Her heart began to speak to her in verse and she began to write the words her heart whispered to her.

The Eye The window to the soul The truth No matter how hard you try to hide it This is the eye Each forged in beauty, sadness or happiness I am the eye I show the feelings inside Love, sadness, sorrow, happiness, gladness, glee All are shown in me I am the eye Source of disparage They do not see what I see Deep. Beautiful? Feelings deeper than anything None is dull Telling no lies This beautiful lilac ring

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My eye full of sadness.

Atnimera kept on writing any time her heart began to speak to her. She showed her poetry to no one. She knew that her poetry would just be another issue over which she could be belittled. Atnimera loved her studies. Her teacher began teaching music to the entire class. She put together a choir out of the best voices in the group. Atnimera had a beautiful voice and her teacher chose her for the choir, much to Atnimeras dismay. She feared anything that set her apart from the other children. She had enough individuality with out the teacher giving her more. However, Atnimera loved to sing. She often sang the songs she was taught in school repeatedly alone in her room. The teacher formed an extracurricular singing group whose membership was granted by audition only. She longed for a part but was too timid. Her peers had beaten her courage into the ground. She couldnt bring herself to audition, but she attended every meeting of the group secretly and knew every note of every part to every song. Atnimera lamented her loss and her heart began to speak to her again, only this time there was more anger and less sorrow.

Songs Unsung Excluded An outcast, the lone one in the shadows Opinions unwanted Songs left unsung In the shy after while she sings along

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Never noticed in the dim candlelight The voice so capable silenced Waiting for a moment in the light For a moment of acclaim

Excluded but always there, Waiting to be invited To be heard among the chaos Her voice would soar If someone would ask her Someone would pull her from the shadows And set her sweet voice free But no She remains silent in the shadows Riding the waves of the music And singing songs unsung

Atnimeras heart ached for the music, but she knew that she didnt belong in their harmonies. Her beautiful voice was meant to be heard of its own accord. It was strong and heavy with vibrato even in her young throat. After a time, she quit attending the special choral meetings and took up exploring instead.

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Part 2 Chapter 4

Exploration became Atnimeras favorite non-scholarly activity. She loved to scrutinize the caverns and passageways that made up her world. She loved to walk through them, learning every twist and turn for herself. One day, she was playing alone and exploring the chambers of stone. She wandered through many twisting and turning corridors that led slightly up. She found herself at the gate leading to the passage where the chamber of the sacred council was. She crept up to the door to listen, but could hear nothing. She heard a sound up the tunnel a ways and decided to explore it. She had not gone far when she saw a strange brown furry animal with small inky eyes and a snout with whiskers and an upturned nose. His paws and snout were nearly hairless. He had a ring in one of his ears and tattoos on his snout and paws. Atnimera guessed that he was a mole walking blindly up the corridor. Atnimera had never seen a mole before and she decided to follow it. The tunnel she was in lead up and veered to the right. She was following him more closely now, but as she came around the corner, the mole was gone. She looked up t he corridor and back down again, but she could not find him. As she searched she began to hear voices coming from the wall. She followed her ears and found a tiny crevice, just big enough for her to crawl through. Atnimera lay down on her belly and squeezed through the crack. The passage went on for a ways and then opened to a tiny chamber with a hole in the floor. She found the mole looking over the edge to see what was below. She examined the mole more closely and noticed that not only were his ears pierced, and his nose and snout were tattooed, he was tattooed all over his body. The tattoos on his tail were particularly

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unusual. She didnt recognize any of the tattoos, but she got closer to the animal and studied them carefully. The tattoo on his tail seemed to be a dragon wrapping itself around and around his tail. On his paws was a skeleton jaw with sharp teeth and a clawed hand, and another tattoo of a single claw. The tattoo on his snout appeared to be an eye with a slitted pupil. Atnimera didnt know what these symbols could mean. The beautiful crafted markings entranced her so much that she almost forgot about the hole in the floor and the voices coming from it. She enjoyed just looking at the peculiar animal and his tattoos. The earrings in his ears were hoops fashioned out of gold. Hanging from the hoops was what appeared to be carved claws of bone hanging on it. There were also sharp triangular teeth carved out of bone. All these markings and signs puzzled Atnimera. Surely this mole belonged to someone who had taken the time to pierce him and give him the markings. She wanted to tale the mole back to her quarters with her but she decided against it. She thought to herself, If he is here when I come again, I will adopt him and call him Snooter. Instead of fleeing to her quarters she crawled up to the opening in the floor and gasped as she looked down and realized where she was. She could see and hear all that was going on in the council. There were four seers bound to four stone pillars that stretched from floor to ceiling. The first pillar was transparent crystal. The second pillar was snow white and opaque. The third pillar was a blood red ruby of immense size. The final pillar was opaque and jet black. Her father and mother were both dressed in ceremonial robes. They were sitting at a huge round table with two other mystics with them. The scribes were working busily on the outskirts of the light. Eight scribes sat in the shadows and recorded every word spoken by their assigned council member. The two other mystics in the council were a woman named OTasha, and an ancient man named Pranium.

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OTasha was a youthful looking woman, but in truth she was the eldest of all the mystics and seers. Her hair was still blonde and her face showed nary a wrinkle. Atnimera had thought her beautiful from the first time she had seen her years ago when OTasha was visiting her Alsadera. That was when Atnimera still lived with her parents. It had been many years since then. Pranium appeared gnarled and he moved slowly. Pranium was a contorted and bent yellow man. His hair was yellow, his skin was yellow, and even the whites of his eyes were yellow outlining a pale ring of blue. At first Atnimera thought him quite mad, but she liked him as well. He seemed to be a man who was always at opposition with the other members of the council. Atnimera came to realize in time that he was the person in charge of seeing things in a different light. The four seers were Alethea Truth, who was bound to the clear pillar, Jarius He-willenlighten, who was bound to the white pillar, Fidelia Faithful, who was bound to the red pillar, and Bertram Bright Raven who was bound to the black stone. Spying on the council quickly became one of the solitary childs favorite pastimes, and Snooter was there every time, so she adopted him and he followed her everywhere. She attended every time they met. Council meetings were held every twenty-eight days, but the seers and their scribes were always there and nearly always speaking, though not always in a language she could understand. She loved her cavern above the council and spent a great amount of time there. Whenever the council was in session and she could get to her beloved spot, she sat for hours and listened to the council debate the state of the world. The council discussed everything in it and what steps needed to be taken to insure good fortune in the future. At first, she understood little, but in time she learned more and more by listening to them deliberate.

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At first, Atnimera didnt really understand the need for the seers, but as she listened more, she found that the seers could see into the past and into the possible future. They often spoke in strange tongues. The scribed took down every word they said. There was a whole team of scribes assigned to this tedious task. They would write down everything that was said in their shift, take it back to the sacred library, translate the parts in other tongues, and compare it against the ancient scrolls and prophecies logged there. The Seers remained bound to their stones at all times, and it was also the responsibility of the scribes to see that they were fed the cool clear water from the sacred springs, cleaned and as comfortable as possible. Often Atnimera came to her cavern just to watch the seers and scribes. The seers always seemed to be speaking. With so much observation she realized that each seer seemed to speak with his or her own rhythms and moods. Each scribe had a technique for keeping their seer happy, healthy, and full of visions. Her mole friend was often there to accompany her and she named him Snooter for his sensitive nose and habit of sniffing about curiously. Snooter took to following her around and became the child's only companion. One day, Atnimera came to her cavern just to watch the seers and scribes, but she was surprised to find the council in session. The members spoke in hushed voices and in tongues Atnimera had no understanding of. Alsadera and OTasha were noticeably absent. Dranlory presided over all. She sensed that something important was going on. She couldnt figure out what it was. They spoke of someone having to go to the surface and live there. They were discussing the possibility of the chosen party to go to the surface earlier than had previously been planned. Atnimera had never heard of such a preposterous idea. None of her people ever went to the surface, let alone wanting to go

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and live there earlier than they had to. It was an alien world for which the Danementians had no use. Who ever was supposed to go was going to leave on their journey soon. The idea of the surface terrified her. She watched the entire meeting and hid well after it was over trying to make sense of what she had heard. She tried to figure out who was to go and why, but no answers came to her. She secretly hoped that Nonnahs was the one of whom they spoke. She wished that he would have a fate as unfortunate as living on the surface would be. She lingered long after the mystics had left the room. When her mind grew tired with trying to figure out the meaning of this meeting, she began to walk back to her own chambers. Snooter went with her and he came across a strange stone in her path and paused to investigate. She noticed the moles interest and she knelt down to pick it up the deep brown stone and was stunned as she recognized the symbol on it at once. It was the symbol of the dark lord that commands the darkness and wars against the light. A strange feeling came over her as she held it in her hand. She could not understand what she felt. The stone sought to pull her consciousness inward. She felt numb and yet she felt everything with intensity she had never known. It felt good, but it hurt too. She was not sure she liked the spell that the evil stone had sprung on her. She felt lost in the emotion of it. Soon she was fully under the power of the stone. When she had no power left to resist the stones spell, she heard its voice. It whispered to her, ramble on, far beneath the descending avenues of the lands you know, there is where the answers are found. Ramble on, far removed from where you live. Go to the world above, onwards to the altitudinous firmament where your fate awaits you. Atnimera hung in the no where land the stone had taken her mind. The words repeated in her head and in her heart. She remained paralyzed by the power of the stone.

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Snooter nudged against her hand, and the spell was broken. She turned the stone over and her heart sank as she recognized the personal seal of her father on the back of the stone. Her heart was aghast with horror that he had a stone of such evil. She loved her father dearly though he had little time for her since she had gone to live with her grandparents. Atnimera silently pocketed the stone and spoke of it to no one. When she returned to her grandparents house, she placed the stone in a cloth pouch where she kept her treasures. Already in the pouch were such things as a child would collect. She had a chunk of morion that she had found while playing in the waters by the shore of the river. She had kept it because it was clear and looked like there was a cloud of smoke inside it. Atnimera thought it beautiful. There were ribbons tied around a braid of her mothers hair. Many other objects were there that would seem useless to the rest of the world, but were treasures to her. She spent many hours lying in bed at night trying to make sense of the words her fathers stone had spoken to her. When she saw her father she treated him with all the love and respect as she normally would have. She let no one see the change in her. She would hold his secret in her heart for him.

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Part 2 Chapter 5

Atnimera was happy living with her grandparents though she missed Ocsebhads stories and Yorttens tickling fingers. The rest of her siblings never came to see her. She often asked Silton when Ocsebhad and Yortten were going to come see her. He always answered that her siblings would come when their hearts lead them to come to her. Still she had Snooter to keep her company. I want mother, father, and my brothers and sisters to come for my birthday party next week. Im going to be ten and I will earn a private tutor. I want everyone to celebrate with us. Maybe we can invite some of the children from class to celebrate along with the family. Announced Atnimera one morning over breakfast. Well, you know we will invite them. Surely your mother and father will come, but Im afraid your brothers and sisters are much older and I just dont know if they will come. Well, we will at least invite the neighbor children. With them and your parents we will surely have a nice little party even without your siblings. Answered Ahtramara gently. I believe they will come this year. I just know they will. Answered Atnimera. Ahtramara sent personal notes to the five children urging them to come and visit their sister, explaining that it would bring her joy to see all her grandchildren together. She had little faith that the letters would do any good, but she had promised Atnimera shed try, and a promise is a promise. She also sent invitations to each child in the settlement and sent a reminder note to Alsadera and Dranlory. When Nonnahs and Yortten received their invitations, they got angry at the request to see their sister on her birthday, so they decided to cure her of ever wanting to see them again. Nonnahs came

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up with an idea. They would lead her down to the realm of the trolls and leave her there to find her own way back. They were going to leave her there helpless in the trolls domain. The eve of Atnimeras birthday came quickly. She would be ten years old on the morrow and she couldnt be happier about it. She slept lightly through the night and woke up early the next morning. She rushed through breakfast and went to the crossroad tunnel to wait for her guests, leaving Snooter behind still in bed. She waited all morning, but no one came. Her grandmother brought her lunch knowing that the strong willed girl would refuse to come home to eat. The day stretched into afternoon and afternoon stretched into evening, but no one came to wish her a happy birthday. Atnimera stayed at the crossroads, refusing to give up hope that someone had remembered her special day. It was getting late. Silton made the walk up the passage and to the crossroads. There he found little Atnimera asleep. He gently picked her up trying not to wake her. Suddenly her eyes popped open and an exhilarated cry came up from her chest. Nonnahs! Yortten! I knew you would come! she cried. Silton looked down the lighted passage and sure enough, there were the forms of the brothers. A miracle had happened for his girl. He was as happy about it as she was, and tears welled up in his heart with happiness that his girl had gotten her birthday wish. He had expected Ocsebhad to come over any of the other children. He was somewhat worried about anything that had to do with Nonnahs and Yortten together. They were a mischievous pair. He realized that it would break Atnimeras heart if he didnt allow her to visit them, so he held his piece.

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When the brothers drew closer, Nonnahs bellowed in a playful tone, OH we find you napping little Atnimera. We thought a girl like you would want to go on an adventure with your big strong brothers. Atnimera jumped out of her grandfathers arms and began dancing around the men shouting, Of course I want to go on an adventure with my brothers! What are we going to find? We are going to find your birthday present, but you must help us. It is deep in the earth and we need you to fetch it for us since you are smaller and will be able to reach it. Yortten said as he winked at Silton signaling that it was all right. Alright! Lets go! she shrieked gleefully. The brothers led Atnimera deeper and deeper into the earth. They led her through mazes of tunnels and across shallow streams where dark things lie. They passed through a stone archway with ugly and ghoulish carvings on it. Atnimera began to be frightened. They had passed out of their own territory. She had heard that trolls lived down this deep. She had never seen a troll, but she was sure she didnt want to become the lunch of some disgusting and vile creature. Still, she kept her reservations to herself. She didnt want her brothers to think her too weak to come along with them. They trudged on into the darkness with only a single torch to light the way. They moved farther and farther out of Danementian lands and farther into the realm where there were said to be trolls. Atnimeras fears were growing. He fear became overwhelming and finally she spoke. Im afraid. Ive heard that trolls live down here. Whispered Atnimera to Yortten. There is nothing to be afraid of. Nonnahs said sternly as they came to an apparent dead end in the corridor.

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Were here. Announced Yortten. Atnimera had a puzzled look on her face as she asked, Were here? Where is here? I dont see anything but a hole in the wall. Now Atnimera, all you have to do is climb through the opening in the wall and your prize will be waiting for you. Coached Nonnahs. She wiggled and struggled, pulled and tugged and finally realized that she was stuck half in the hole and half out of the hole. The air around her face was hot and humid. Unless another chamber connected t o this one, there wouldnt be enough oxygen for long. To make matters worse, she felt her brothers touch her leg under her skirt, and she thought they were trying to pull her out and save her. She laid still at first; trying not to wiggle so they could help her best. The only thing was that they didnt see, to be pulling her legs out at all. Instead their hands traveled further and further up her skirt. She realized that her skirt was up around her waist and she was bare to them. They had taken her undergarments off and she was naked before them. What happened next she didnt really understand. They began to feel her virgin sex. They kept touching her and playing with it. She was very uncomfortable as they pawed at her. She began to struggle against their probing hands. She knew that what was happening was wrong, yet her body seemed to be responding with a hurt that felt confusingly good in a way she was ashamed of. She felt a tremendous pressure against her and a sharp pain as something entered her followed by a gush of blood. She began kicking and fighting so hard that one of the boys had to hold her fast while the other had his way with her. They took turns holding her steady. They took their pleasures until they were bored with her and then the touching just stopped. All was dark. She couldnt turn around. She couldnt go forward. The cave

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trapped her. She could feel and hear their laughter in the air and the vibrations in the stone of her brothers footsteps running away from her. Her body hurt and she could feel blood trickling down her bare legs that they had left exposed. She lay with her torso in the hole for sometime unable or unwilling to come out. She wiggled forward as far as she could go and she soon found herself in a tiny chamber just large enough to hold her. It felt better, somehow safer; to be all curled up in this tiny cavity in the earth. She felt as though the heart of the earth was holding her and keeping her safe. She rested there crying softly until she thought she could begin to find her way home. Part of her wanted to stay in that crevice forever and hide from what had been done to her. She knew that whatever had just happened, she must go home and pretend it didnt happen. She gathered her courage and it took her a few moments struggling in the dark, but she freed herself from the hole. There was no light that she could see to guide her. Her brothers had left the torch, but it had gone out when she was in t he chambers. The darkness was complete and she didnt have a tinderbox to relight the torch. Terrified she crawled in the ground to the passage wall. She felt her way along the wall inching her way in a direction she thought might bring her home. She continued to feel her way in the dark for what seemed like and endless and pointless quest to return to the light. The darkness permeated all and began to affect Atnimeras mind. She began to feel as if nothing had come before the darkness and there would be nothing after. The darkness seemed to press in on her like a funeral shroud. Finally she could go no further. She sat down with her back to the wall and fell asleep.

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Silton watched the road carefully from a secret spot. He didnt trust the intentions of the boys. It was strange for Nonnahs who had never been able to hide his disdain for the girl to proclaim his love and friendship to Atnimera. Silton also knew that the Yortten was obsessed with his adventures. Nonnahs could have easily convinced Yortten to help in whatever scheme he had thought of to play on his vulnerable Atnimera. He saw the boys return with out her and now he knew he needed to go and find her. He said nothing to Ahtramara. He just grabbed a torch and headed for the troll gate. When he arrived at the troll gate barrier, a party of trolls was there waiting for him. The lookouts had seen three travelers enter their domain. They had been tracked into the trolls domain and two of them had almost been in their grasp when they had lost them. The trolls meant to find the third traveler. Silton cam upon them suddenly. At first they thought that he was the third traveler that they were looking for, but his feet didnt match the tracks they had been following. Silton was moving at top speed to find his girl and bring her home safely. The trolls attacked him. He fought them off bravely, but he was unable to defeat them all. He wished to survive and had thoughts if running and saving himself, but he knew that he would be killed even if he ran. His heart was about to give in to selfish and cowardly forces when the beauty of Atnimeras eyes permeated his mind, heart and soul. He must save her even if he had to forfeit his life to do so. Silton was an old man. He had learned many things in his old age and knew magic long out of use in the world of Danementians today. He would send his heat and soul to the child and be with her always. He focused all his energy. The trolls continued to brutalize his body, but instead of bruising and breaking, each blow caused his skin to grow brighter. Silton increased his concentration and focused inward. Each blow served to compress his mind and body. The light of his skin grew to a bright zenith of color. At

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the very next impact, a force of light exploded from his body killing many of the trolls and his heart and spirit disappeared down the passageway in a flash leaving his tired body spent on the floor. He was slain. The remaining trolls cut his head off and put it on a pole outside the troll gate. This was to serve as a message to all Danementians to stay out of their territory. When their gruesome work was finished they picked the pockets of their fallen comrades and turned to finding the third member of the party.

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Part Chapter 6

Atnimera stirred in her deep dreamless sleep and finally awoke. She found that her arms and legs were sore and she was still lost in the dark. She summoned all of her will and courage and began moving again. Atnimera didnt know if she had been asleep for minutes or days. She was stumbling along diligently when a mysterious glowing light began to shine in the darkness. It grew brighter as she walked towards it. At first she thought she must have been dreaming. She walked towards the light eager to investigate, but the light seemed to be moving away from her. As she got closer, she saw that the source of the light was a translucent stone with a symbol that looked somewhat like Siltons symbol on it floating free in the air. As she bathed in the light of the stone she realized that it not only radiated magical light, it generated heat as well. Her body was cold to the bones from her sleep against the stone wall. As familiar as the symbol on the stone looked, she realized that she had never really seen it before. But the energy of the stone felt familiar, warm, and peaceful. With the rays of light fluttering about her, Atnimera was no longer afraid and she followed where the stone led. Before morning, she had made her way out of the deep and into familiar territory. She passed through the troll gate and found Siltons head there. She stooped and cried bitterly as she looked up at the pole where his head now hung with his mouth standing agape and his Prussian blue eyes still open but dull now in death. She stayed with him for a while until the stone began to float away and she was compelled to follow it. When Atnimera knew where she was, the stone stopped floating in the air and fell to the ground. The light that had guided her had gone out. She pocketed the precious stone that had shown her the way home, vowing she would put it in her treasures when she got home.

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Atnimera crept into her bedroom and set about cleaning the dried blood from her legs. She cried again as she thought of what her brothers had done to her and what Silton had done for her. She couldnt remove the blood from her dress, so she tore the dress into rags and burned all the rags with traces of blood on them. She would have to think of something to explain to Ahtramara why the dress ended up as rags. It was far into the night, nearly morning. She sat up trying to construct a lie she would tell Ahtramara, and what would be the best way to say how Silton had died. She finally decided that the partial truth would be best. She finally decided that the partial truth would be best. She would tell her grandmother that the dress had been badly torn when her brothers had taken her on a nature walk, but she never got the chance to tell it. The bloody dress concealed, she tucked herself into bed and planned to give her explanation to Ahtramara when she woke Atnimera. Silton was missing and Atnimera couldnt bring herself to tell anyone what she had discovered on the way home, but the truth would be discovered. Search parties were sent out to find him throughout the Danementian territory. People explored every hollow, cavern, and passageway that was in their territory. The search went on for days and still she could not tell anyone. The words would not come to her lips. They even dredged the lakes and riverways, though he was pulled under water his body would be carried far away by now. Atnimera wanted to tell them where to look. In her heart she knew that he had come to save her and had met his end. Finally, when all other avenues had been explored, searchers went out to comb the dangerous land nearest their troll neighbors. When the search parties were sent to seek him there, his head was found just as Atnimera had seen it days before. The trolls had taken his body and surely had eaten him. Atnimera was heartbroken. She became very somber and depressed at her loss.

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Her brothers never received punishment because no one but Atnimera knew he had been looking for her. She held her piece however; because she didnt want to reveal the shining stone that she was sure Siltons spirit lived. Shortly after Siltons murder, things began to change in Atnimeras life. Her brothers Ocsebhad and Nonnahs moved into her grandmothers house. Atnimera was happy to see Ocsebhad. He had always been the father to her that Dranlory didnt have time to be. Nonnahs made Atnimera nervous. Having him in her presence was often more than she could bear. She held him responsible for Siltons death just as surely as if he had killed Silton with his own hands. She hated waking up every morning and seeing him there. Yortten never came to his grandmothers house after Silton died. He was too ashamed that he had been a part of his death to face Atnimera or Ahtramara. The adjustment was difficult for Atnimera. Ocsebhad was a different person from the brother she knew and loved. He had become obsessed with acquiring wealth. Where he used to spend time with his favorite sister, now he barely spoke to her. Atnimera still looked up to him. She studied his behaviors and tried to incorporate them into her everyday life. She viewed him as a mentor. She wanted to be just like him when she grew up. Her heart was saddened with his lack of interest in her. However she understood that sometimes people change, as they grow older. Having Nonnahs living there was even harder for Atnimera. He had caused the death of her closest friend. Ahtramara seemed to change after Silton died. In her eyes, neither Nonnahs nor Ocsebhad could do any wrong. Atnimera became a scapegoat for anything that went wrong in the household. She lost her beloved status in Ahtramaras eyes. Now she had the next chief of the council in her influence, so what was a little purple eyed nothing compared to that?

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Atnimeras sisters began coming to visit Ahtramara on a regular basis. They had grown into a beautiful pair of young women. Eittoda was a scholar and Nyooln was searching for the perfect husband. Eittoda came to speak with Ahtramara about obscure teachings and hidden knowledge. Nyooln came to meet Nonnahs who she wanted for a husband. Eittoda, who had long ridiculed Atnimera, became friendly with her for a time. Soon she realized through conversations with her that Atnimera was at least as good of scholar ass she was. From that time on, Eittoda was in constant competition with Atnimera as a matter of pride. They were rivals in the same level of studies though Atnimera was years her junior. Every sentence spoken between them was a slash of dueling and fencing intellects. Nyooln followed Nonnahs about like a lost soul. She would wait for him for hours just to say hello to him. She did anything and everything in her power to be noticed by him. Nyooln became jealous of Atnimera because of her remarkable featured. Nyooln felt that her freakish sister somehow upstaged her beauty because she was so unique. Nyooln took great care never to be seen with her little sister in public for fear that she would be considered less beautiful than her purple eyed sibling. Despite Nyoolns best efforts, Nonnahs had no eye for her. Nyooln blamed her failure to catch Nonnahss eye on Atnimera. Soon the same seeds of hate were planted in her heart as had been planted in Nonnahs heart years before. Atnimera buried herself further in her studies to avoid dealing with the changes in her life and quell the pain. She worked so hard that she had far surpassed her peers. She had been sharing a tutor with Eittoda, but she had fallen behind and it was decided that Atnimera would have her own private tutor. This was a rare honor, a rare privilege of

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being taut privately by a member of the council. When she started her lessons she did not disappoint. She worked to remember all that was taught to her. She did more work than was assigned. She would learn in class, then go ask questions of the teachers and still more questions for her tutor. In this way, She advanced herself in knowledge far beyond her years. Having a private tutor appointed to her meant more to Atnimera than anything else in her life. After the first lesson with the ancient mystic, OTasha, Atnimera felt a new and rare emotional connection in her life. OTasha seemed to understand her need to learn. Months went by and Atnimera seemed to be undergoing a change in personality. She still did not play, she still was quiet, but she was less somber in a way in a way, but mostly it was her confidence. The more knowledge she gained, the more confident she became. Nothing existed in her world except for OTasha, her teachings, and the poetry that she wrote secretly. All that knowledge was having other effects on her as well. Her sense of curiosity was no longer so easily quelled. She needed to know more. She never felt that she knew enough. A curiosity that wouldnt back down eventually became Atnimeras sense of mischief. There were other changes on the horizon that she did not see, but her parents did. The time would soon come for Atnimera to return to the surface. A few months after she began her private studies with OTasha, Atnimera began impulsively stealing scrolls one at a time, reading them and returning them to the sacred library before anyone noticed them missing. She had no explanation for this behavior to herself. She only knew that she needed them. She was searching for something, thou she did not know what. She hoped to find the answer to her hunger in the wisdom of the sacred scrolls. She studied them intensely. Already she could read texts written in the ancient

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script better than many of the scribes who spend the whole of their lives copying the texts. Many scribes were born able to speak and read the old tongue. A scribe is born once every four hundred years. When they are old enough to write, scribes move into the sacred library that keeps the scrolls. Each scribe has a schedule to follow. Each scroll has an appointed time for reproduction. Scribes are always born at just the right time to fulfill these schedules. These scribes begin their work with the oldest scrolls in the library working chronologically through the ages. A scribe would only die when he had refreshed and copied every scroll in the whole library. In this way, the scrolls and the knowledge in them remains protected throughout the ages. The life of a scribe was an enlightened if repetitious existence. However, there was a problem Atnimera was not a scribe, however she was reading texts that she was never meant to see. Atnimera was busy reading a scroll late into the night. The further she read the scroll, the sleepier she became. She fought against the fog that was forming in her head and preventing her from understanding what she read. Finally, she fell asleep with the ancient writings in her hand. Her mind propelled her into a deeper and deeper sleep. Her grip relaxed and the scroll fell to the floor and rolled itself out to its full length. As Atnimera slept, the writing on the scroll began to emit a quiet glow in the darkness. The glow began to grow and a pale teal smoke rose from the scroll and filled the room. The smoke grew deep green as it neared the sleeping child and hung about her. She began to dream. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes to the dream. Green smoke was all that she could see. It had a strong fiery smell, as the incense burned before the Mystics and Seer's Council. The smoke burned her eyes, so she shut them tight. An uneasy sense of calm fell upon her like a veil. It numbed her senses and

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prevented her from speaking into the darkness. She felt paralyzed she wanted to be frightened but found that she could not. Slowly the fog began to recede. She could feel the fog moving away from her. Slowly, timidly, she opened her eyes. Dazzling bright light enveloped her. She had never seen such brightness before. Her eyes focused to see a huge field of turquoise with a bright light hanging in it. She was outside. She had heard tell of the land above the earth. She was standing on the edge of a great precipice overlooking a land below that stretched out to what looked like a commanding field of cerulean. She gasped at the expanse of it all. She had never seen a place so open. She had never felt the wind on her cheek. Slowly she turned away from the valley and saw a magnificent waterfall that fed directly back into the earth. A bright spectrum of colors floated in the air above it. It was beautiful. She took a step towards it and the blinding smoke fell back in upon her. She was falling! The substance she had been standing on disappeared. It had been pulled from under her feet, and now there was nothing there. She flailed her arms but there was nothing to hold on to. The green mist could no longer hold back her fears. She was terrified. She tried to scream, but she felt as if the air was sucked out of her very lungs. Visions floated around her. They passed so quickly and there were so many that she could make no sense of what she was seeing. She was confused. Suddenly she found the strength to cry out, Stop! She stopped falling as soon as the words passed her lips. The vision slowed then stopped. She awoke. It was winter and the room was icy cold, yet Atnimera was soaked in sweat as she sat up in bed and lit her candle that had gone out as she slept. It did not take her long to realize that the scroll was not on the bed. She found it where it had fallen on the floor. She knelt down to roll up the scroll and noticed that a passage on the paper was glowing.

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She read the passage and then read it again. She didnt understand the text at all but it drew it to her like a hunger deep within her ached to know and understand the words. She got chills as she read it. It made her feel so strange. She smoothed and rolled the scroll up reverently. She was unsure what to do now. She was frightened. The still voice in her head told her to return it before anything else happened, but a stronger voice was growing in her heart. There was a need there that she could not deny. She decided to tuck the scroll away for now and decide later what was she to do with it. She tried to rest, but sleep would not come to her. Her mind was troubled with the nights events. She moved the scroll under her pillow. She needed to have it near her. She felt a need to gaze at the glowing blue words in a language so ancient that not even she fully understood what it said. When morning came, she was still reluctant to return the scroll. Her logic this time prevailed. She carefully copied the passage down. She used the same script as the person before her had written it in. She tucked the paper close to her heart, returned the scroll, and tried to continue her life normally. She tried not to think about the words that lay so close to her heart, but she found her mind wandering back to them. Her distracted mind obsessed about it. It was nearly impossible for her to learn anything let alone keep up in her advanced studies. OTasha noticed the change in the child but could not understand what had happened. Atnimera was quickly becoming a different child.

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Part 2 Chapter 7

Months went by and stretched into years. Atnimeras nightmares of the surface continued, but she continued stealing scrolls from the library and studying them then returning them. She was still searching for her answers, but she found none. She didnt know how to deal with the feeling of terror that her surface dreams inspired in her. She had continued her writing. She sat in bed at night often unable to sleep and wrote the words her heart spoke to her.

Nightsong

In the stillness of the night There is nothing theres no light I struggle through my wicked dreams And no one hears my silent screams

The water falls, keeping tears at bay And grandpa whispers the horror I dare not say

Down into the pit I fall And there is nothing to hang onto at all.

Waking up on the wrong side of the river The cruelties of the world invite a shiver

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The river of souls, sweat, blood, and tears Fueled to fast by my silent tears

My soul is lost in the chaos of Sorrows Sea Yet my body remains paying the eternal fee.

Atnimera had lost weight. Over time it became increasingly aware that she was not right. Her grandmother even noticed a change in her. She seemed to be bewitched. The pale child seemed somehow paler. Her eyes sunk in with some secret longing. Ahtramara was somewhat worried about her but said nothing directly. Ahtramara offered her sweetmeats to her granddaughter trying to get her to eat. After many months of coaxing the child to eat enough to survive, it finally became too much for Ahtramara. Atnimera refused to leave her room except for her studies. It was clear that the child craved something she was desperately seeking. Atnimera distanced herself from everyone. She was close to no one now. Not even OTasha guessed what was tormenting the girl. The concerned grandmother spoke to OTasha. They decided they should speak to the girls parents and plead with them to bring her fate before the Mystics and Seer's Council for a third time in her short life. What the ancient women did not know was that Atnimera had been spying on the council for years. Before the meeting began, Atnimera climbed up into her secret chamber above the council. She hadnt come to listen to the council since the fateful night when the scroll glowed. She had listened to many council meetings before, but there was an air of urgency about this meeting called on short notice and spoken with hurried voices.

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Atnimera is ill. Alsadera announced to the council, we have come together to decide the childs fate once more. She must start her journey to the surface soon. My husband and I humbly ask the seers to look upon our child and tell us where to cure her illness lies. Atnimera could not believe what she was hearing. They sought to send her to the very surface that was causing her nightmares. It was a plan she had no desire to comply with. OTasha spoke, The child is wise beyond her years. It is likely that she is not sick in the body, but perhaps she is ill in her mind or in her heart. Too often, I think the people who surround Atnimera underestimate all that she understands and all that she knows. I think she knows too much in her head and terrible worries trouble her soul. Very well, Alsadera answered, we will rescind our request for the seers help for now. You are wise and compassionate to the child, OTasha, so you will become not only her tutor but her spiritual guide and protector. Atnimera will cease her intellectual studies and focus on matters of character, soul, and introspection. You may teach her in any way you see fit, we will not interfere with your work. You may take her anywhere and test her in any way. We trust you to mold our daughter and prepare her for the perils ahead. Atnimera had heard all. She did not want to journey into the realm of her soul. Dark things lurked there that she didnt want to face. Atnimera didnt know how to stop this new frontier from crashing down upon her. She decided she simply could not stay here and let this happen to her. Atnimera knew if they forced her to feel anything but her own sorrow and desire that it would destroy her.

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Anytime Atnimera felt sad; she would learn something to keep her mind off of it. Atnimera had lost joy, she had lost love, and she had lost all connections with other people. Atnimera did not feel sorry for herself, far from it. She accepted that she was different and that she would never be one with her people. She saw emotions as a weakness and tried very hard to teach her heart how to keep them in check at all times. She never burst into laughter or tears. All was somber on an even keel. Why did they want to change her? Didnt they understand that she didnt want to be around other people? Didnt they know that knowledge was all that mattered to her? Atnimera decided that she would leave her family behind. Her grandmother loved her but did not nourish her soul. Her father was a strong but largely absent figure. Her mother was kind but didnt understand her and her stifled growth. Her brothers and sisters hated her, and the rest of the people were uncomfortable around her. Yet there was OTasha. Atnimera would miss OTasha ardently.

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