Ciara wept. She wept for her foolishness. She wept for a love that would never be. Most of all she wept for the loss of the girl she had been. She wasn’t sure how long it had been since they had returned from the Shadowfell. She had lost track of time while wallowing in her misery and sleeping, but she was done now. What was done was done and she must deal with the here and now. She felt dreadful from the hours of sobbing. She rose from the elegant four poster bed and crossed the room to the bath. She heard the estate had been a ruin when the caravan first arrived, but the explosion in the Shadowfell had somehow restored it to its former glory. She let the simple robe slide off her body and stepped down into the tub. The water was cold, many hours had passed since it had been drawn for her. The chill shocked her back to coherence for a moment. The memories came rushing back to her as she floated weightless in the tub.
There was a momentary sense of floating in nothingness as she passed through the mirror. She took in her new surroundings and had the first pangs of doubt about her decision. The dragon has promised her power, the power to make Calsar love her. She could endure anything for that. The world around her was dim, cloaked in the never ending twilight of an eternally setting sun. There were buildings all around her or at least what remained of the buildings. Many had collapsed those that remained where decayed and worn. At first she thought they had just arrived in bad section of the city, but as they travelled through this dark land she realized it was all like this. The buildings never ended, nor did the decay.
She met a woman, but she could no longer picture the woman in her mind. The last thing she remembered clearly was the woman whispering something into her ear and everything after that was a blur. The memories hardly seem to be hers; it was like she was watching them happen to someone else. That is the same feeling she had at the time, she was just an observer with no will of her own. She was given a plain room. They brought her three meals a day. The food was strange, but she obediently ate what she was given. The tattoos hurt or should have, but she hardly felt it in her disassociated state. The only part she really felt was the darkness. The people around her were chanting and there was a chill and darkness that she could feel seep into her very bones. It wasn’t the normal chill of a cold day, this chill never faded, never warmed, she could feel it even now. She sat in her room day after day in a kind of stupor. Then one day there was a change. She was being escorted down a hall and people came running up. They spoke to her guide in hushed hurried voices. Her guide sat her in a chair and told her to stay. She sat for a long time. People ran by in a hurry to get somewhere, but she barely noticed. There was something she was supposed to do, but she couldn’t remember what. She stood up, the only action she had willed upon herself in a long time. She had to go somewhere. Somehow she made it out of the house and wandered through the twilight ruins of the never ending city. She had to go somewhere or maybe something was calling to here, she wasn’t sure which. There were so many buildings she could not see where she was going or supposed to go, so she climbed what seemed to be some type of church. She climbed higher and higher until there were no more stairs, then she climbed up the steeple. She stood looking out over the endless city of ruin and decay, but did not see what she was looking for so she waited. Someone yelled up to her, she noticed they were not human but did not respond. She was not looking for them. Then she was standing on the roof of the chapel and a man was sliding down off the steeple where she had been. He took her down the stairs and to her brother. Calsar ran to her and hugged her fiercely. For the first time in months she felt like she was in control of herself and not just an observer of her life. There was so much she wanted to say, but there was no time. They had to get out of this place. She followed her brother, she had no fear or doubt Calsar would get her out of this horrible place.
She rose from the tub taking a nearby towel to dry. She stepped over to the vanity which had a full length mirror. She dropped her towel and examined her new body. She could scarcely recognize the girl in the mirror. Her skin was almost translucent and beneath it dark veins were visible carrying the darkness in her heart throughout her body. Ritual tattoos and scars covered most of her body now. The most disturbing part though was her eyes. They were entirely black with no color or pupil. Her mother and brother would not look into those eyes. They were afraid for her, or maybe of her. They tried to comfort her, but they would not meet her gaze. Only Calsar would look directly into her eyes. There was no revulsion, no fear, just a concern for her and maybe a bit of curiosity. Her mother and brother said they would find someone to heal her, but Calsar only asked her what she wanted. He accepted her no matter what she was, he always had. Even if they could heal her, remove the darkness in her body, they could not remove the darkness in her soul. Her mother had wanted her to get married and settle down, her brother Byron wanted to protect her. Calsar only wanted her to be herself. That is why she had loved him. She realized that she had given up on that foolishness. Calsar loved her, but as a sister. That is all she would ever be to him, but it was enough for her now. She had never wanted the life her mother wanted for her and there was no chance of that now. No man would have her, at least no good man. That suited her just fine. She looked back in mirror. The only part of the girl she had been that remained was her long raven hair. It was untouched by the darkness within her, perhaps because it was already black. She found a pair of scissors in the vanity and began to cut. The girl she had been was gone now.
Someone had brought her a change of clothes while she slept. She picked up the green peasant dress that had been her favorite. It was no longer hers, it belonged to another girl. She needed to go shopping. She took the small sack of money Calsar had left. Did he know what she was going to do when he left it? Maybe he thought she was going to run away or something worse. It was hard to tell with him. He knew she was going to do something and left her the means to do what she needed to do. She wondered if her brother was back from the Shadowfell yet. They had gone back to stop a sacrifice. It would have been her sacrifice if her brother and his companions hadn’t rescued her. She didn’t know what life had in store for her, but it wasn’t sitting around here waiting for someone to protect her. She didn’t need protection now and she wasn’t going to sit around while everyone else had all the fun.
Ciara stood in front of a mirror examining herself once again. The store she visited wasn’t in the nicest part of town, but they specialized in the type of merchandise she was interested in. The leather armor was tight and dyed a deep black. It had been treated with some type of oil that kept it from creaking the way normal leather would. Noise was very bad for this shop’s clientele. She had to admit the armor looked good on her. She wasn’t used to wearing something so tight, but she would get used to it. It showed off her figure nicely. Along with her pale skin and the tattoos she also looked dangerous, which of course she was, but she wanted to make sure she looked the part as well.
She left the shop in her new gear. She had purchased a long wicked looking dagger and a couple throwing daggers. Of course with her new power, she didn’t really need them. The only thing she kept from her old life was her bow, but it was now blackened so it would not stand out in the shadows. She drew stares as she left the shop. Men in particular noticed her, at least until their roving eyes met hers. Then, they would quickly drop their gaze and give her wide berth. She smiled to herself on both accounts. It was night, but she barely noticed. The full moon was like the sun for her, the shadows were brightly lit in the light of the moon. Of course it really was dark, but her new eyes could see clearly into the darkest of shadows. She suspected her night vision was even better than Calsar’s now.
Even in this part of town her dress was unusual. It wasn’t long before she drew the notice of some unsavory looking ruffians. This of course was exactly what she was waiting for. She spotted a dark alley across the street and nonchalantly entered it. The men followed. She walked into the shadows at the end of the alley ignoring the men.
“That’s mighty nice looking armor you have. I’m sure someone like you has a little extra coin you don’t need.” The three men drew their knives and advanced down the alley only to realize she was gone. “Looking for me?” They heard Ciara’s voice from behind them. Ciara reached deep inside herself releasing the darkness within. Tendrils of shadow oozed forth from her body taking on a life of their own and entwining one of the men. He cried out in pain and lost consciousness. The other two men turned with a look of shock on their faces. Before they could react the tendrils lashed out grabbing a second man and rendering him unconscious. The last man charged Ciara slashing at her with his knife, but she stepped back avoiding the slash and faded into the shadows. From her vantage point on top of the building she watched at the tendrils of darkness grabbed the last man. She turned and walked away ignoring the man’s screams. She wasn’t sure if the men were dead or alive and she didn’t care.