Part 1 - Kari's Story - A Very Long Goodbye
“Come along Kari, we've a long journey to make.” Said Kari's mother, Ren. Kari stood in the door way of her little shabby cottage starring at the wagon that would carry a grim parcel. Swaddled in cotton was the lifeless corpse of what once had been Kari's eldest ( )other, Conner. He'd met his end trying to ( )eak up a fight outside the local tavern. Ever since hearing the news Kari had felt silence of grief swallow her family. Her father told her that this would pass after they laid Conner to rest. It was tradition to boing the entire family to the burial grounds, however Kari's father Malcolm having lost his legs in a logging accident could not make the trip. He'd stay home in bed under the care and kindness of the neighbours.
Ren had climbed onto the front of the wagon and took the horse's reins in her hands, looking down at the still hesitant Kari she said “Are you going to make your ( )other wait for his eternal rest?” Feeling the instant pangs of guilt Kari summoned her courage and climbed into the back of the wagon. Confronted by the bundle of bandages in the shape of her ( )other, Kari almost fled, but her mother had already snapped the reins and the horses were in motion.
“Kari?” Her mother called after the day had tuned to night.
“Yes mum?” Kari replied quietly.
“How are you fairing my love?” The tender question confused Kari, both her mother and her father had been so distant since Conner's death.
“Why did he do it? Why did he have to get himself killed?”
“Oh child, Conner didn't mean to leave us. Yet we know his measure by how he left.”
“What does that mean?” Kari shouted, feeling hot tears run down her night chilled face.
“Conner died defending someone else, trying to keep them safe. I wish he was still with us too, but I will never stop being proud of him.” The tears wouldn't stop and after half an hour Kari felt that demanding call from a sleep void of dreams.
The rest of the journey continued for the most part uneventful, not till the fifth day when they stopped at small village for a few extra supplies. The village had been off to Kari, the people nervous and skittish. There also weren't many people, even for a small village. While her mother haggled over the price of cheese and ( )ead, Kari spotted some older kids about her age sticking close to what looked to be their parents market stall. She approached them and waved so not to startle them. The oldest look boy waved in greet and turned to face her.
“Hello, what are you doing?.”
“Hey, nothing we're waiting for our father to pack up. Where are you from?”
“A village by the river Shim, what's going on around here?”
“You mean, why do all the adults look like they're scared sheep? Well they don't like us talking about it, but lately people on their way to the Grave Lands have been getting attacked or never make the trip back. Worse still some of the villagers have gone missing and others have left in fear.” The boy said everything matter of factly and didn't seem as concerned.
“What about you?” Kari asked curiously.
“We're leave soon too, you best stock up now because we might not be here when you come back.” If we come back,Kari finished the thought in her head. “Be careful.” He said seemingly to know. Kari nodded and backed away to her mother who looked concerned.
“Mother?” Kari asked quietly.
“Can you believe this? No one here will sell to me till first light tomorrow.”
“Do we have to spend the night?”
“I'm afraid so, wish I could let your father know. We'll sleep in the wagon.” As Kari's mother spoke a man approached them.
“That's a very bad idea, excuse me I am sorry to intrude, but it is not safe.” The man appeared as one of the few people in view that didn't have a fearful look on their face.
“We can't afford an Inn.”
“That is not a problem, most of the houses are empty. Pick anyone you like, keep whatever you find, no one will mind.” He pointed at the cottages and houses that were absent light.
“Thank you, we'll do that.” Yet as Kari and her mother began to walk up to a house the man called out again.
“You are travelling with departed one to bury in the Grave Lands?”
“My son.” The words were full of tender grief.
“I am sorry for your loss, may his rest come swiftly...yet it is also not a good idea to leave him outside, I will help you carry him into the house.”
“I see, thank you again. Kari go inside we'll be back with your ( )other.” Kari nodded in response.
“There should be candles inside.” The man said before Kari slipped inside the house.
The house was not much more than two rooms made from a mismatch of wood and stone, with a thatched roof. It smelled like her grand mother's old room and dust. Despite the darkness Kari could see a couple of abandoned candles and a tinder box on a table by the window. With a sharp strike a spark burnt Kari's vision for a second till the candle wick accepted the flame washing the room with light. It looked like it had once been a nice simple home till it was left behind by it's previous owners. They clearly had to leave much behind and Kari assumed there had been more before other's had picked it over. Ren and the man from before came in carrying carefully the dead yet precious cargo. They made space on the table and laid Conner's body down with as much respect and care as it had been wrapped.
“I'll leave you ladies to your evening, should you need anything I will be by in the morning.”
“Thank you, good night to you as well.” Kari noticed that her mother's tone and body language had become stern and rigid.
“Good night.” Kari said quietly as the man closed the door behind him. “Are you alright?”
“No, I don't like what he said.” Kari's confused expression told her mother that she did not understand. “He tried to get me to turn back, that here is no rest anymore in the Grave Lands...I told him we couldn't turn back now that we are only a day away.” Ren stared at Conner's swaddled body. “This is all wrong, this use to be a good and thriving place. I came here when your grand mother passed, you were too little for the trip then. How can there be no rest in Grave Land? It's so beautiful and peaceful, it's why our people make the trip to bury their dead.”
That night Kari did not sleep well, worse then had she slept in the wagon. In the morning the man came back, this time he'd ( )ought with him more nameless young men. One of them being the boy Kari had spoken to ,who offered a subtle gesture of recognition.
“The market is open, we will carry your son back to your wagon for you while you buy your supplies.” Said the man and without speaking Ren nodded. As the men gathered round the boy to carry it with greater dignity back to the wagon the boy stepped aside block Kari from following her mother into the market.
“ Are you really going to the Grave Lands?” The boy had undergone a transformation over night from exuding a respectable confidence to almost shaky with fear.
“Why are you so scared?”
“Because it's not just people going missing, there's also these...sounds...like giant thunder claps, but not clouds, no rain. Please go home, don't go there.”
Kari thought about what the boy had said, she thought about it as the wagon took her away from the village and towards the Grave Lands.
On their continued journey toward the Grave Lands the concern instilled by the villagers had festered in Kari and her mother. The feeling made more real when Kari's mother commented on the state of the road. Dried up and dead trees cast shade over thorny ( )ambles along the road side.
“There use to be fields of wild flowers here.” Kari had stopped sitting in the back with her ( )other's corpse and stayed closed to her mother at the front of the wagon.
“I want to go home.” Kari said, her fear showing.
“Not yet, when he is at his rest.” Kari frowned at her mother. “How about I tell you a story? Would that help?”
“The one about the dragons?”
“Alright...In ancient times when humans were newly born to the land the dragon queens watched over us from the skies, in the forests, seas and shadows. Even in the flames and ash of wood fires, they were there watching as humanity grew bolder.”
“Because they weren't sure what we would become, we were the only other creature capable of speech and we built tools. Something the dragons found very interesting. Some dragons took the forms of humans and lived along side them, when they felt they could trust us, they revealed themselves. They offered protection and knowledge and we gave them our loyalty.
“But don't we worship the dragons?”
“Some people do and some of those people become priests and priestesses. They are the dragons favourite humans and they are given gifts directly from the queens themselves.”
“What kind of gifts?”
“They gave them some of their magic, allowing them to do amazing and impossible things.”
“Well that's a closely guarded secret that only the dragons and their priestesses know that. Some people thin-” But Kari's mother stopped mid word when a noise like a pained creature in the distance. In front of them on the road an unlikely sight of a dark cloud like fog. As they stared confused at what exactly they were look at it rushed towards them. Kari and her mother found themselves suddenly enveloped by darkness, that instantly impeded their vision. Kari panicked and blind used her hands to feel her way to her mother's arm. Her mother's warmth providing that little bit of comfort in the middle of the terror.
“What's going on?” Kari said, but Ren scanning the surroundings.
“Shh...This isn't right.” As the two stared into the impossible darkness that was obsessive and thick. Wrapping it's self around the wagon, the darkness had a weight to it that like deep sea pressure. Ren held her daughter close to her chest and whipped the rein of the horses causing them to speed up to a gallop, something the wagon did not feel built for. Yet the miasma would not abate and appeared to cling to the hems of their dresses skin and hair as if it were cobwebs. It didn't take long for the horses to tire and when Kari opened her eyes she saw they were no longer engulfed by the fearsome fog. When Kari looked up at her mother she saw that she was in turn looking into the back of the wagon.
“What was that mum? Why did it do that? What are you looki-”
“He's gone.” Ren whispered. “Conner's body is gone.”
“What do you mean? Did he fall out when we ran away?”
“I..I..don....it looks like. Kari I need you to stay with the wagon, I'm going to find your ( )other.”
“What? No you can't go, that thing.”
“I know...I know. I'm sure it was a confused spirit, who didn't make it to their rest and we don't want that to happen to Conner do we?”
“No Kari, stay here I won't be long.” And like that Ren left her tearful daughter in the back of a wagon, but it would the dark fog that would find each of them first. Drowning them in it's hazy presense and choking their senses till the point of unconsciousness and dragging them all back to it's mistress.
When Kari awoke from the ugliness of that sleep she was no longer in the wagon, but in a light-less room with no windows or door that Kari could see. The floor under her was damp with mossy stone and an unpleasant slimness, but what was worse than those textures were the lack of sounds. No voices or the call of animals, no creaking of hinges or dripping of water. The silence was so terrifying that Kari was unable to ( )eak it. Afraid to make the first move in such a motionless environment. Yet in the silence it was impossible for Kari to ignore the stunning fact that her mother was no with her. The thought produced her heart to hasten it's beat which to her stimulus starved ears sounded like hammers on drums.
Please, Kari thought to herself, Please ( )eak this silence.
And with an unhappy coincidence the sounds of heeled feet seemed to originate somewhere outside the room. Kari suddenly recalled the swirling darkness that had forcibly drowned her and her mother in it's self shivered in anxiety of what she might have to face again. Sounds of keys into keyholes and latches being shifted prepared Kari only slightly for the door to open. What she had not anticipated on suddenly having to adjust her eyes to the light. The momentary blindness was enough for whoever had opened the door to get close to her, close enough to lay their cold hands on her. Before she could overcome the paralysis that fear had gripped her in the stranger wrapped what felt like heavy leather round Kari's neck. When the strange figure was done they yanked a chain that Kari found all to swiftly was attached to her newly gifted collar. When the figure began to pull and yank harder Kari found herself following them out of the room.
In the torch light of the stony corridor Kari could see now that the person who'd bound her was a tall woman. She was dressed in dark layers of gossamer silks and her face was covered by a heavy veil. The woman did not meet Kari's pleading eyes, not even once while she dragged the girl along the corridor. So Kari stopped trying and paid attention to where they were going. Everything was made out of stone, it was cold, but there was no draft. Kari remembered going with her father into an old mine shaft and how it had also been cold but with no draft. Her father told her it was due to the safety doors the miners used. With that in mind Kari thought that whenever she'd been taken must be somewhere under ground, but she didn't know what to do with that information.
Kari followed the silent woman up a flight of cobbled stairs, which stretched up into darkness. After a minute Kari felt the drag of climbing these stairs, after five minutes Kari wanted to collapse and was grateful when they arrived at the stair's landing. Out of ( )eath she fell behind slightly, but the woman tugged at the chain retching Kari forwards. Although it was not long till they reached what appeared the silent woman's destination. A large ornate stone doorway with dragon's skull carved into it's centre. Two tall and strange looking pale guards stood on either side of the door. They too were draped in dark cloths and robes, with particular head dresses that covered there eyes. There was something less visual about the sinister aura of the two guards, their smell was off. To Kari their sent was of clean soap, but soap on it's own. No underlining scent of natural body odours to be there. It was possible the woman also shared with strangeness, but her robes had clearly been soaking in the perfumed smoke of incense sticks. Like the robes of the priests and priestesses that tended to the dragons' temples. When the guards pulled the heavy looking doors open, Kari was shocked by the dark visage of the dragoness Queen Ciardha.
Slouched on a oddly angled stone lounger the was the Ciardha the queen of the shadow kin dragons. She was in her human form and was recognisable to Kari from the depictions she'd seen at the dragon temples. Although those artists and priests had probably never seen the queen as she was in front of Kari. Ciardha looked sick with paleness and her hair was not the dark strands of shadow like as Kari had expected. Instead strands like white wisps of wire flowed chaotic behind her back and over her shoulders. Of course the most shocking aspect of the queen's human appearance was she did appear to have any legs, instead from under her black skirts multiple, dark and glistening tendrils of varying length curled and twisted. The sight was quiet maddening on the eyes of an already scared young girl, but Kari couldn't take it in. Something so clearly wrong and unlike anything she could have prepared for.
The silent woman pulled the chain and tugged Kari inside what had to be the queen's chamber. Even stepping over the threshold Kari could feel the same presence of the darkness that had snared her and her mother. The cold drowning sensation, only weaker now. This aura emanated from the shadow cast by the queen's silhouette, which moved regardless of the queen. Like some twin made of shade.
“My Queen I have been requested by General Wren to convey a message.” The woman who'd said nothing till that moment bowed so swiftly and spoke so clearly as to viably startle Kari.
“Go ahead.” Queen Ciardha's voice like her surreal form other worldly.
“Yes my queen, Wren reports that she has done as you asked and rounded up remaining human population from here to Crick village. Lady Asha is preparing the bodies Wren retrieved from the Grave Lands.”
“Is that all?”
“No my queen, Wren has requested that Asha be allowed to keep this human adolescent to keep her company....she also said that and I quote “Perhaps a pet will keep her from neglecting her duties.” To punctuate her sentence the woman whipped the chain attached to Kari's neck hard forwards. Which caused Kari to stumble into the Ciardha direct line of sight.
Under the heavy gravity of that gaze, Kari felt a numb, tingling sensation. She'd been paralised by dragon magic or fear, she couldn't tell the differance.
“Very well, but if it gets trouble some she'll simply have to get along with the handmaids I gave her.” Ciardha smiled, but her lips were covered in glossy black spittle and Kari knew that this creature was mad. Yet how could a God be mad? Were the dragon Queen's not perfect creations that guarded poor fragile creatures such as her and her mother? These thoughts and offers took hold of Kari as she was pulled away by the woman, incapable of understanding her fate. Although she knew she would not see her mother or father again and that her ( )other would never get his deserved rest.
Part 2 Chihiro's Story - Find What You Seek
Chihiro reached the doors into the temple and took a deep ( )eath. He was clam and he wanted to stay that way. He knocked the door and a small bald androgynous child wearing a white toga answered the door.
“Iak?” Asked the child in the language of the Nyth.
“Um...hello, do you know Hana?” Chihiro politely.
“A little, but Setsuko more so.” Said the child before ducking back into the temple and beckoning Chihiro to follow. When Chihiro entered he was met by the sights and smells of a bountiful garden in full bloom. Insects and small birds busied themselves amongst the blossoms of the trees and flowers. There was no roof, seemingly to allow rainfall for the planet life that encroached on any and all human made benches and statues. In the land of Nyth, nature was scarred.
The child lead Chihiro towards a shade covered corner where a seemingly elderly lady sat covered in veils that hid her face.
“Setsuko, a man from the golden lands like you.” The child said as she gave the old woman a little nudge.
“I am awake Nike, for Neoma's sake stop nudging me.” Said the woman in Chihiro's native tongue. After the woman pushed the child away from her, she appeared to look Chihiro up and down before sitting back in her chair. “Nike go tend to the trees, they'll need trimming.” Just like that the child ran back into the main area of the temple. “Why am I so sure you are not here to tend flowers?” The woman said as she tapped a chair next to here. Chihiro sat down and looked at her.
“My name is Chihiro and I believe you are one of the few people who managed to flee the city of Goldrock. I want to know what happened.”
“I'm not sure you do want to know, you couldn't have been much older than Nike when all that happened.”
“Please, I need to know. Why did Tatsu and the fire dragons turn on Goldrock?” Chihiro insisted.
“Because of who her mother was.”
“Another dragon queen.” Muttered Chihiro.
“No, human and a princess to the city of Goldrock at that.”
“What? I don't understand.”
“You see after the last war the fire dragon lost their queen in battle and her son, Arkin, became the dragon lord. Many years later during a festival where the city cele( )ated their new protectors the fire dragons, the lord graced the palace with his human form. That's where he met princess Kimiko and the two fell in love. Against her mothers wishes Kimiko and Arkin perused a relationship for several months before Kimiko was with child. When she could no longer hide the life growing inside her she confessed to her mother. Yet her mother could not see beyond her anger for Kimiko's disobedience and locked her away in the palace till the child was born. Kimiko's mother also declared that the dragon lord Arkin was no longer allowed inside the city. Yet when it was made known that the fate of the child would be death, Kimiko trusted in a loyal hand maid who tried to help the princess and the baby escape. Yet as they got closer to the wagon that would take them out of the city, the princess disguised was shot through her heart with an arrow. Yet the wagon driver managed to grab the baby before managing to make it out of the city to the child's father.”
There was a long pause after the woman had finished speaking and then Chihiro asked.
“How do you know so much?”
“Because I was the handmaid and Kimiko's best friend. I kept her secretes and covered for her when she was away with Arkin. Yet when she had the baby she was so scared, I knew what I had to do. Even though I knew her mother would have me executed if she'd ever found out.”
“So the child was Tatsu? I see, and how can I be sure you're telling the truth?”
“The only proof I have is that I am alive, when Tatsu and her army took the city it was Arkin who allowed me to escape. He remembered me and what I had tried to do for them.”
“You almost sound like you have sympathy for those monsters.”
“No, they killed everyone I knew and no matter what happened to Kimiko she wouldn't have wanted that. However I can't forget the frail child in my hands or a love sick dragon that they both had once been.”
“I shall be going now.” Chihiro stood up, he was about to loose his clam if he heard anymore from the woman and then she asked,
“You're blind, aren't you? Did Tatsu take your sight?”
“Yes.” Chihiro confessed.
“You should go take a walk in the forests of this land, perhaps you can find someone more helpful.” And with that Chihiro left.
When he was outside the temple Chihiro couldn't tell if anything he'd heard over the last ten minutes was useful or merely upsetting. He didn't want to know the tragedies that befell beasts like Tatsu and Arkin. Lost in his thoughts he was completely surprised by Kari putting her hand on his shoulder.
“Chrihiro, how did it go? Anything useful?” Kari asked, but Chihiro didn't feel like reliving the last couple of moments so he decided to skip over the details.
“Maybe, maybe not. They said to go check out the forest.”
“You mean the giant uncharted forests of Nyth? You can't possibly be serious...what are we even looking for?”
“I don't know, but she seemed to think I could find it by myself.”
“Are you threatening to ditch me again?” Chrihiro thought for a moment, possibly a moment to long because Kari's voiced raised a few notches when she said “Yeah right, you can't even find your belt in the morning, you need me.”
“Fine, lets go explore the giant forest that even the locals avoid.” He said as the two of them made their way out of the city.
“This reminds me of a story actually.” Chihiro said with some earned chipperness . Kari had felt like turning round and slapping him, but she knew it'd only delay them further.
“Shut up.” She moaned as she pressed on over bulky roots and tangles of spiked vines.
“It's actually pretty old story, stop me if you know it.”
“Stop.” Kari said quietly.
“There was once a group of travellers who got lost in the woods.”
“Stop.” A little less quietly this time.
“And they came to a big fork in the path, so the travellers decided they should split into two groups and each group would take a path. In one group you had all the healthy, young and well to do folk. While in the other you had the sickly, the old and the blind.”
“Stop.” Louder this time.
“Now the first group took their path which lead them up a mountain, down a cliff edge and down and over a swamp. When they passed all that, they found the second group was just up ahead of them.”
“Are you done?” Kari had stopped walking to turn and look at Chihiro.
“Pretty much, so have you heard it before?”
“No, what does it matter?”
“Oh nothing, but if you've already heard it surely you already know how the second group got ahead of them.” Kari knew her confused and frustrated expression was lost of Chihiro's blind eyes, but hopefully he could pick up she was too tired for this.
“If you are trying tell me I got us lost, I get it, okay.” She sighed. Chihiro put his arm out and touched Kari on the shoulder.
“No, that's not what I'm trying to say. I'm trying to say is maybe we should stop for the day, set up a camp and come at this with a clear head.” As he finished speaking Chihro stepped off the path they'd been following.
“Why didn't you say that instead of telling me some pointless story?” Kari followed by Chihiro.
“Sometimes it's better to tell a story that goes no where, when you yourself are going no where.”
Within the space of ten minutes of finding a large enough clearing the two together managed to set up a suitable camp. They had a fire that was cooking their supper for that night, mushroom and carrot stew. Stopping had of course been the correct decision as Kari felt lighter, a sensation that had become a rare vacation. She'd been angry for so long and she would not give up the anger, it was the one thing that kept her crawling on her hands and knees out of the nightmares. Well perhaps two things. When Kari woke in the night armed with her dagger and fighting the ghosts that she should have never witnessed, Chihiro would be there. He'd disarm her and before a take down on her, keep a hold of her till it was over. An action most men with sight would not be able to perform in the dead of night. Kari hoped there'd be no dreams tonight, just inspiration for finding whoever it was they were meant to be meeting in the first place.
Chihiro listened to the forest, it might be mistaken for silent to someone like Kari who appeared lost in her thoughts, yet not to Chihiro. For there were the sounds of insects in flight, on a roaring ( )eeze and there sounds he could only imagine what could be the course. As it sounded to him that the trees and the ground was shifting in such an unnaturally quiet and subtle manner that it caused him to feel vaguely sick. He decided he would not disturb Kari's chain of thought with this information, it would only make her want to abandon camp. When what would be the point? He suspected this sensation of unnoticed changes in the environment had been going on since they first stepped foot in the forest. Which would explain the feeling of making no progress, although they'd clearly been walking all day. He wondered about the sort of magic prowess or fraternity with nature one would have to have, to create such a place as an unseen-shifting of an entire forest. He did of course have a theory as to who or what, but it was too unlikely. Perphaps dreams could inspire the answer.
Part 4. Kari's Story - A Time Of Dream
Kari opened her eyes, but she was clearly still asleep. She knew this because she'd been greeted by a patchwork horizon and a misfit landscape. There was the farm she grew up on, but the house was sitting snugly in the mouth of the Cave she'd crawled herself out of those many years ago. This collage of thought was bordered by wildly tossing trees in an eternal gust of wind, that Kari could not feel. Being confronted by so many memories blended together like stage dressing, she did not become overwhelmed. Instead Kari had paradoxically recognised that the strangeness she was facing had to be the logic of a dream. Yet what a strange dream to allow such clarity of reasoning, she pondered internally.
“You are correct this is not a dream.” Said a voice, that Kari did not recognise and that came from the trees whose toeing and throwing had ceased. Kari with the learnt instinct to draw her dagger found herself lacking a weapon.
“Show yourself!” Kari yelled into the air.
“Forgive me ill manners.” Appearing behind her was a tall dark man, dressed in similar garb to those around the temple in Nyth. However none of those people had the spirals of horns curling up like that of antlers from either side of his temples.
“Who are you? What do you mean constructed? What do you want?”
“There is no need to rush, I can answer all your questions, within reason of course. We have all night after all and here a night could last a few minutes or even a few months.” The man, who Kari realised was almost certainly dragon kin or maybe only half-dragon, smiled. Which made Kari even more irritated.
“Never the less I'd like you to hurry up and explain yourself.” She managed through gritted teeth.
“Of course, my name is Arawan. You might say I'm the high priest of forest you are currently sleeping soundly in.”
“I wouldn't call this sound.” Kari tried to size up this Arawan, yet it was entirely hopeless. He projected an annoying aura of clam and collectedness that told Kari that he was the one with the upper hand.
“So I'm going to take a guess here and say you're the one who manufactured all this...And what about Chihiro? Are you in his head too?”” Having raised her voice and gesturing with her regrettable unarmed hand to the surreal horizon.
“Correct on both counts, but please do not worry about your friend Chihiro. I will only make the same offer to him that I do to you.” Arawan smiled cheerfully.
“You trespassed into our forest and I believe with ill intentions.” Arawan had clearly begun to size Kari up now as he walked in slow circles round her.
“Trespass? When Chihiro and I first arrived at the forest's mouth there was a caravan making it's way through. Did you drop by their subconsciousness too?”
“Their intentions are pure, they dreamt of safe passage and to witness the beauty of the forest.”
“And then how do you know our intentions aren't pure?” Kari heard the doubt in her voice, but didn't flinch at it like she might in the waking world. The flow of logic didn't simply run backwards in this place, but side to side and up and down.
“Now we come to the heart of my intervention. I'm able to read the nature of those that sleep in amongst these trees. However human nature is not so unchanging as written text, no your nature is like that of a canvas painting in progress. This land is reflection of that piece of canvas that you call a soul. Even though you sleep in a emerald haven you dream of dark caves and old farm houses.”
“So? Am I suppose to be responsible for the all the stupid things I dream about?”
“No, but what this particular picture shows me, is that your heart is stuck between to painful moments. More painful than all the other moments of anguish you've felt in your short existence combined. If you can show me, here and now that you can move passed these moments, I will allow open the paths of the forest to you and let you find what you seek. However if you refuse or cannot move passed these events than I will only open the path leading out of the forest.” Arawan stopped his hovering around Karo to stand in front of her and look her in the eyes.
“You said before that you'd give Chihiro the same offer as the one your giving me. Guess that means his nature was unclear to you too huh? Is he going to take your offer?” Kari understood in that way that dreams allow untold information to be understood regardless of lack of origin. She knew that Arawan was somehow standing in front of her in her own dream, while at the same time capable of standing in front of Chihiro. Maintaining to assuredly two conversations at once.
“He is accepting my terms, now I only require your consent.” In his words Kari knew to agree would to be to agree to face her greatest nightmares, fully alter and aware of their awfulness. Yet what choice did she have, whatever they were looking for in the forest was their only lead on stopping the crazed dragon queens.
“I accept.” She managed to push through her mildly quivering lips.
“Then we shall begin and you will show me what sort of canvas you are.”