I am used, by now, to the comings and goings of people from this land. It is harder when they are old friends who then disappear again, and I often worry. However, I was lately relieved to discover that Sophia was alive and well. I received a letter from her, apparently given to one of the guards in the vaults, by a blonde woman who had told him to give it to me and no other, and then disappeared before he could ask her any more.

Mr. Ballard,

While the quiet and my mind are my own, I take what moments that are mine to pen these few words to you. There was no time for farewell. The choice was not mine then. Now it no longer matters. The die has been cast. My fate, sealed.

I dwell with the Sisterhood of the Void. As with the sisters of St. Branden’s By The Sea, the air here is filled with songs. So many songs it pains me to think on them. It pains me to sing those few I have learned these past months. It pains me to hear the countless others and yet, in that pain, is a beauty unlike any other. You said my mother was known to get lost in her music. I think now I understand her madness for it is slowly becoming my own.

They have some purpose in mind for me, but the Mother has not yet revealed what that may be. Any purpose is better than none and that is all that I’ve known since arriving in the Ashmourne that is no more.

I hear the rustle of their robes and the constant drone of their songs as they return from places I am not permitted to go. I must make haste to leave this note with the guard beyond the portal with instruction to deliver it into your hands alone.

In time, perhaps, with the Mother’s permission, we may meet again. I wonder if we will even know each other by then.


A day or so later, we did manage to meet again.

There had been a bit of gathering in front of the castle. Vedis had produced some apple juice, which she had persuaded Wren to go around serving to whoever wanted it. Maric and I were talking about my idea for forming some of the villagers into an auxiliary defence force. He also told me privately, that he had encountered the one known as Kitori, who had disguised herself as Galyanna and had him fooled for quite a while before he realised that there was something amiss. We talked about possible ways of shielding the village from demonic incursion, or at least, setting up wards. It was rather strange carrying on two conversations at once, one spoke, the other entirely by mind contact.

Meanwhile, in spoken word, we talked about getting Wren into training with the guard. Aoibheann also wanted to get into training. She had been told that the crossbow was the weapon for her, but she thought that the regular bow was more elegant for a lady. I opined that while elegance was fine for sport, when it came to actual fighting, I would much prefer an effective ugly weapon to a more elegant, yet less efficient one. Maric was inclined to agree with me. We decided that Kustav would take care of teaching sword techniques and Vuk should concentrate on the bow and crossbow. Dorina and Helene were there too, and they seemed to be agreeing with the idea of the defence force.

I was interrupted by Vasily, bringing news from the vaults. He told me that a woman called Sophia had come visiting from the Sisters of the Void and was requesting a meeting with me. Sophia? Could this be the same one? I excused myself from the meeting, hurrying round to the Vaults doorway to welcome the visitor.

It was indeed, the same Sophia. She told me she had been allowed out of the temple for an hour and had come to see me. I greeted her in my normal manner, with a kiss to the hand and told her how relieved I had been to receive her letter, to know that she was alive and well. I sent a servant to bring wine and glasses and led her to one of the tables in the orchard to sit and talk. She called me Mr Ballard at first, but seemed to remember something and thenceforth called me Nathaniel, which pleased me no end, suggesting perhaps that she was a little more relaxed in my company. She sang something briefly, possibly something she learned in the temple, for it sounded like no music I knew, but stopped herself as soon as she realised what she was doing.

We enquired about each other’s health, as one does, and I gave her a brief summary of how things had changed since I saw her last. It told her about the demon attacks and our temporary residence in the Shadow Roads. I explained that we had been offered sanctuary with the Sisters, but few were very keen on that idea. She said that the Sisters treated her well enough.

I then told her about the rebuilding of the village and how Gwyn and I were expecting children. She didn’t seem to know quite how to react to this news. She said that she was happy for me, but it sounded almost like a question, as though she wasn’t sure if I should be happy about this. I told her that I was happy, but also nervous, since the circumstances of pregnancy were unusual, and I did not know how the child of a fae and a non-fae would work out. I also told her about how I had lost my wife in childbirth, so was nervous about that too. I decided to not tell her about the babies being incubated by the tree, as that would have been too difficult to explain, especially as I do not really understand it myself.

She congratulated me, but seemed distracted, possibly by something she could hear that I couldn’t, or possibly by the chickens, which she was watching as they wandered about nearby. She told me that they didn’t have birds in the Temple, but there were many other things to listen to and to sing to. She asked the time, and I told her that she had another 15 minutes of her hour left. She said that she mustn’t be late, as the Mother was very strict about such things, and that she should not fall behind in her lessons. She jumped back to my earlier comment about the villagers not being keen on going to the Temple, saying that she did not think they would enjoy themselves much there.

I said that I had not yet had the pleasure of visiting the Temple, though I thought I should do so, since I was official Emissary of Mysthaven, and they were neighbours and allies. I joked that maybe we should also send some of the villagers for short stays, to learn a bit of discipline, but Sophia didn’t think that was a good idea. She had seen what they did to people they wished to harm. I had to wonder about that, but forbore to comment. She finished her wine and stood up, saying she should return. I stood also and accompanied her to the entrance to the vaults. I said that I would offer her a bottle of wine to take with her, but suspected that the Mother would not approve. She agreed with that. I told her that instead, I would keep a bottle ready for next time she wanted to visit. With that, we parted. I opened the vault for her and allowed Vasily to escort her back to the mirror portal, where she could thence make her way to the Temple.

I am glad to know that she is alive and well, though I have some misgivings about her life with the Sisterhood. On the other hand, since she had spent some time with another sisterhood, maybe it was a lifestyle she was now used to. She is alive and well, that is the main thing.





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