January – 1027 YD
Ànlisia woke in the dark of night to the familiar scrape of her front door grinding against stone. She drew a flame to light her candle and made toward the front of the house, certain Tàvae had returned.
__Candlelight could be seen through cracks in the kitchen door. Ànlisia whispered, ‘Tàvae? Are you alright?’ as she opened it.
Her breath evaporated and fear flooded her mind. A hand smothered her mouth, its nails long and brown. Its ghastly eyes—amethyst, short-lidded, and stern—speared into the heart of her deepest terror.
__‘The scribe Tàvae has entrusted a parcel to you. Retrieve it.’
__So struck with doom she could barely stand, Ànlisia nodded, attempting to steer her breathing from hyperventilation.
__The Seathedai released its grip.
__Ànlisia sank to the floor and crawled to the table, pushing the chairs and carpets aside to reveal a small trap door.
__She struggled to find the finger-hold. Fumbling, she at last hooked a forefinger and lifted; a stone-lined pit lay beneath the wood, nursing Tàvae’s parcel. She drew it up onto her lap, gasping, for the Seathedai knelt over her. It extended a hand and she handed the package over.
__It stood, untying the string, leafing open the wrapping and dropping it to the floor with quiet precision. It stepped toward the darkened hearth and placed a palm on the bricks surrounding it—the grate flickered—the logs whistled—and the lot opened into flames. It began examining the pages. Ànlisia recognised Tàvae’s hand; but as the Seathedai lifted the sheets she spied a slightly different script—one she immediately guessed to be Toran’s. The Seathedai continued to assess the pages, and she prayed it was blind to this detail.
__The fire highlighted the creature’s sage-coloured and flecked skin. Its silken hair had the dark green of moss, and draped long over its narrow frame, the height of which was no greater than her own.
__It looked sharply at Ànlisia.
__‘Tàvae stole these words.’ He crouched and placed the transcriptions in the fire. ‘Your kind considers the world its own.’
__The papers caught and brightened the room. The Seathedai plucked falling shreds and fed them back to the fire. ‘You cannot read our language. You do not know what she sought. Yet you knew danger pursued her,’ he oscillated and slid forward on his haunches to grasp her chin with his claw-like nails, ‘and were right to fear.’
__Quivering words came faintly: ‘What have you done with her?’
__‘I trust you know the fate of non-believers.’
__Blood receded; eyes lost focus; muscles slumped. The Seathedai broke her fall by catching the collar of her gown. He flipped the curled carpets to their right place with a burst of wind ushered from beneath the front door, and lowered her to the floor.
__He returned to the fire as Ànlisia swam in the haze of shock. Again he pinched fallen shreds skirting the grate and returned them to the flames, adding a log. Soon the text was devoured in full; soon Ànlisia overcame her collapse.
__The Seathedai collected the string and coverings from the floor, and gave these also to the hearth.
__It walked then to the door. ‘You will not speak of this night. We are listening.’
__It let itself out. Ànlisia waited… she scrambled to the door, bolting it and all the shutters. She then crawled into the food store, locked herself in, and there she remained until morning.
__When the sun had firmly risen, she flew from the house in search of a strong house-hound.