(This was an early version of Arielle upon the Ledge. There was far too much information in it, and it served more as an info dump (which is a bad, bad thing) than an actual scene. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting insight into her thoughts, especially in the wee hours of the morning.)
The caverns that honeycombed the canyon floor stretched to where she stood, and by the end of her eastern circuit, she would pass the staircase carved into the floor. The warmth from the fire inside drifted out with tempting promises of comfort, but she pushed those thoughts aside. She was in enough trouble without being caught idling in the warm draft from a doorway. Even though she would relish a chance to smack the smile from Kolsch’s face, she was too new here, and she would not damage her plans any more than they already were.
She was on watch, continuing the eternal vigil that had not ended in the seven thousand years since the Lethen’al sealed themselves behind the Gates of Golorath. As the frigid wind slid across, nipping her as it passed, she realized that her dreams were somewhat foolish now. As Kolsch had been so kind to point out, she had made several names for herself today. The long night of punishment was ending, and she was eager to hear some of them repeated within earshot.
She pivoted, heading west for what seemed the thousandth time that night. On the other side of the vortex lay creation, and its proximity was stirring. The traveler would first encounter the forest of Aklediem, the Blood Fields, where the spirits of the human dead were still said to walk, and the si’ru of the Lethen’al danced beneath the trees. Beyond that lay the lands of man where the humans lived in their infinite numbers; their passions burning hot and bright across the brief span of their lives. For a moment, Arielle tried to imagine what it was like to be human, to live for a mere sixty or seventy years. Her own death would be approaching, and she was still only a child. The histories said that humans accomplished much in their limited time, building great cities and civilizations out of the wilderness. Some were said to be intelligent, a few even able to speak the language of the Lethen’al. It was even said that some were able to touch the lifeblood of creation itself.
Arielle glanced down at her hand, flexing and clenching her fingers no longer in anger but for warmth. She could see wisps of her aura, her Sin’del, shining between her fingers, spreading out and blending with the rock that supported her, tiny beads drifting up into the skies. Her Sin’del connected her to everything, her life force, her soul connecting
her to every living thing. It was said that aside from the Extipana, humans could not see or touch their Sin’del, that they were ignorant of this very basic fact of life. What must it be like to live in complete disconnect from the rest of the world? Her shudder had less to do with the frigid wind than it did with the idea of living her life blind. The cold really was but a small nuisance due to her ability to control her Sin’del; she could manipulate it and make herself as warm as she would like. All of the Lethen’al could. It was a part of who they were. She chose not to do so, however, as it would negate the purpose of her punishment. She did not want to be up here, but she did deserve it. Her commanding officer had been speaking, and she had not listened.
Worse than that, she had made a complete fool of herself in front of her entire squad. Had her Sin’del truly responded like that, flaring up at the mere sight of the prisoner? She felt her face beginning to flush, and it had nothing to do with the cold. She was completing her western circuit on the far side of the doorway, and her turn was coming. From this vantage, a sentry had a clear field of fire across the entire canyon floor. Arielle would have to lean out a little further from the wall than anyone else, but she could still fulfill her duty if the need presented itself. She risked a glance over the wall when the arrow slit appeared. He was still there, still standing on the platform, his wrists shackled and chained before him. Arielle did not pause, but kept moving and turned her head, glancing now at the darkness that clung to the pass. She had the distinct impression that he was looking up at her, even though there could be no possible way he could see her at this height.
Trenton had said the prisoner’s name was Kal’Parev. Kolsch had said the same. Surely it was not the same person. He matched the face from her memory, and his age would place him near her own cohort in the Areth’kon. He could easily be the same person. But he had left long ago, taken to Reven Marthel, the capital city, to study with the Magi. She could imagine her father’s reaction, both to her behavior and to the prisoner’s House, especially if he was indeed the same person from so long ago. Kal’Parev was a minor House in the Areth’kon, allied to House Le’Manon. As such, she was sure that her father had never paid them any mind. Why would he? His entire life revolved around and included House Fel’Mekrin. She did not think he had ever exchanged so much as two words with a member of House Kal’Parev outside his formal duties. He would be furious when he found out.
And then there was Logan, of course. He belonged by blood to the family of Fel’Mekrin proper.
She drove away the thought of him at once. That situation was far too tangled for her to contemplate now. Maybe when her tour ended, she would allow her thoughts to turn toward him. Not now. She had left him a letter telling him as much when her cohort set out
from the vaults. He should have read it by now, and he would know her mind. With a firm nod, she continued walking her route.
And at the bottom came House Kal’Parev, the smallest of all the Houses. It was so small, some said, that it should not be granted the title., and that was why they were allowed to keep their title. Simply put,
Arielle pivoted again at the heated doorway.
Dawn was not far off, maybe an hour or two and then her shift would end. Weariness dragged at her eyelids and her limbs. She longed for her bed. It was more than three months until the Feast of Night, the longest night of the year, but the hours of darkness had already become insufferably long. Her thoughts wandered as the night progressed, and she fought to regain her train of thought. The prisoner’s face formed in her mind unbidden, and she pushed it away. She was supposed to be on watch, she reminded herself as she glanced into the darkness, not losing herself in fancies.
So much for the fabled Kal’Parev honor, she thought as she pictured his manacled hands. Honor was not something prisoners were known for.
The night wore on, and Arielle continued her circuit. She continued to keep her eyes open. She continued to avoid the warmth of the doorway. She continued stealing glances over the parapet. She continued forcing her thoughts away from the image of his face.
Trenton had said his name was Kal’Parev, she remembered. Her thoughts were sluggish now. Looking around, she found that she had stopped walking. With a shake of her head, she resumed her circuit. She counted her breaths. She counted her steps. She spun at the western end of the circuit and glanced over the parapet. With his white hair, he had the look of a Kal’Parev by blood. So he was nobly born, and not a pledge. That was better, but still, he was a Kal’Parev. That was also in line with her memory. Still, Father would not approve. The errant thought made her pause again. She should NOT be thinking along those lines. Her father, Kal’Parev, Logan; they all formed a confused tangle in her thoughts, causing her stomach to contract and her Sin’del to compress. Clenching her hands, she resumed walking, willing her hands not to tremble.
Dawn was lightening the sky, she reminded herself. She would be done here soon.