Author: Aerdrienya
Story Index: Index

Aerdrienya awoke with a start.

In the forest, a forest. A slight mist hung around the spiky-leafed trees at a distance and everything, even the stone has a greyish-green hue. The sky is dark and the stars unfamiliar. The ambiance, some buzzing, and a hollowness that Aerdri thought would likely carry an echo far off into the unseen reaches of the foliage about her.

Moisture trickled down her face into her left eye causing her to wipe her brow. She was covered in dew. Her simple cloth robes clung to her, accentuating her form in a way that made her feel entirely uncomfortable. Pulling at the fabric, she tried to loosen it up a bit but it reached out for her again, wrinkled in some areas and flat in others, mostly across her chest.

Giving up she pushed herself to her feet and felt something slap at her back. Reaching around she felt... hair. It was hers, and it was long. Tied back into a tight tail it stretched all the way down to the small of her back. Surprised, she drew it over her shoulder to get a look, as if needing to actually see it to believe it. It was that same familiar emerald green she had always known but now it was streaked with long strands of silver. It seemed to have a slight emerald tint to it but it was impossible to tell with the aura of green that pulsed from everything around her.

A whisper.

Looking around she trained her senses in one direction, an unnerving silence blanketed the area.

"Hello?", Aerdri said aloud with a confidence she had not expected. After more silence she began to move forward. Have I gone mad? she wondered.

She made her way forward and began to take careful notes of everything around her. High above, the trees seemed to have growths that shone bright like the moon and cast mist filtered light throughout their leaves. The smaller plants gathered mostly in close knit groups around the bases of the trees. After second look she noticed they seemed somewhat transparent. The dew from the soft mossy ground squished between her naked toes with each step and made trailing sucking noises behind her. It reminded her slightly of the few swamps she had been to before but, in appearance, nothing here actually seemed very swamp-like.

She bent to retrieve a fallen leaf. Her thumb wandered over it a moment before she tucked it into the front of her gown against her skin. As she withdrew her hand a whisper came out of the area before her and quickly fell away behind. This time she was sure it was real. Perhaps I am not mad...

Just then a white rat scurried out from beneath the odd plants before her and stopped in the middle of a clear patch.

Aerdri stared at it and raised a brow, Then again...

It took a moment for her to gather her thoughts. She recognized this creature, as if something from another life time or from within a dream. She watched it carefully as it propped itself up on its hind feet. It rubbed at its ears and face just like many other creatures did when washing. It's tiny eyes shone bright light the growths in the trees but in a shade similar to her own hair.

Kneeling down again she reached out, palm up, in a Come see, I mean you no harm gesture. The rat stopped its ritual and stared back at her. Those two tiny pinpoints of green staring, staring both at her and into her, with what seemed almost recognition.

"Yes, come little one, I am a friend." she said.

A whispery voice filled her mind, "Little one?" it said followed by a deep chuckle in a male voice. "Lost again are we?"

Aerdri frowned and returned the rodents piercing gaze. "You know me... and it would seem that I know you as well, although I can not be sure how. Where am I and what am I doing here?"

Another chuckle that both mocked and comforted at the same time. "Why... you are here... and you are here because it was needed."

Her frown deepened, "Now is not the time for riddles, I have not the time... nor the patience for it."

The rat hopped twice towards her before stopping again. "And where is it you need to be... little one?"

Slightly taken aback at the creatures use of her own words, she made to stand up again. She could feel visible signs of frustration leaking into her body language. As she did the rat again made two further hops towards her and then shimmered brightly. A crack of light formed along the length of its spine followed by thin rays that shot out reaching up into the air above it. The light grew in intensity forcing her to narrow her eyes until they were nearly shut. Moments later the same voice spoke, before her this time though, rather than just a whisper in her head. "Open your eyes little spark and realize again what you already knew."

Just as she was about to, two gentle hands cupped her arms. Emotions washed over her, but neither rage nor fear were among them. Standing before her now was a tall handsome elder kaldorei whose smile she could never forget... it was her father... Vinicus... Vinicus of Autumnsrest.

"Father?" she whispered as she bowed her head both out of respect and a bit from fatigue. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.

"Yes, it is I, but you did already know, didn't you." said as a statement of fact.

She could only nod her head as she returned his embrace. When she did, what seemed like a life time of memories reverberated through her, but they were not just her memories. The memories of countless others swirled into her conscious and subconscious mind and although confusing the euphoria that accompanied them put her at ease and left her feeling weightless.

When the stream slowly subsided Aerdri drew back and looked into her fathers face. The smile had faded and had been replace with his more familiar stern and emotionless gaze that she remembered as a child. His smile was rare but she remembered it with great detail and love because it was such a rarity.

"Father... where are we exactly? Is this the Dream?"

His eyes lingered on her own shimmering pools for a moment longer before he looked up into the branches above. "Yes, and no, I suppose would be the best answer." She stared at him, trying to decipher another of his almost always cryptic responses. "This is not the Dream. It is your dream. Yes, the two ARE connected but this is not the reality of the state of the Emerald Dream. And not only that, this dream of yours is both a dream and not a dream." he said before looking away.

"Please father, cease with the puzzles, I am not a child anymore. Just tell me what is going on."

"Hmm", the closed lipped sound pressed into the air as he brought his hand up to his chin. "For lack of a better way to explain things I can only say that you are "between" worlds and at the same time remain within yourself. Our thoughts, although seemingly coming from within our minds actually reside outside of us where they mingle with other planes, other wheres and whens... yes even other times."

"I still don't understand." she said, the feeling of frustration starting to come over her again.

He shook his head, "You don't need to understand it. Only know that it is as close to the truth as I can explain, and that it is at the root of the reason that you are here at all."

"Well then," she blurted, "why am I here?"

His smile returned again. Without any further words he spun around and headed off into the trees. She remained still and watched his long silver mane flick at the air with each of his confident strides. Stopping he turned and looked back at her. "Well, come on, standing still will get you nowhere."

It was something he always used to say to her when she was a child.

Previous: XI. Signs and New Beginnings
Next: XIII. Unfold (Part 1 & 2)

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