Rider could not believe his senses; fathom the anomalies all around him. The rain, a ceaseless entity of falling ocean, had very well ceased. The gray sky, like a broken mirror, was cracking into clouds, allowing fleeting shafts of clean, warm sunlight to beam through the reaching fingers of a gentle caress.
The sun tossed radiant stars over all the water, glittering like a summer's morning dewdrops. It was then he realized there was not one fish but many - they were everywhere, thriving in the murky rivers; frogs croaking to their tadpoles from the muddy banks. The world was breathing again.
He looked to the sword in awe; the blade danced brilliantly in the fresh light. He did not understand it, could not understand the circumstance - the why or the how - but whatever it had done, he was happy.
Standing, he joined his horse, which was stamping away flies with lively annoyance, tail aswish with irritation. Rider patted his matted mane, and sighed.
"What to do now, old Friend?"
The horse flicked an ear and turned an eye; an expression of a similar question, an appropriate, "Shouldn't you know?"
Rider frowned, and gazed at the sword in his hand once more.
Why am I here?
Why am I still here?
They climbed to the nearest rise - a mound closest to the sun. The rain water had washed down its rounded side; the warm, faint light was doing its best to dry the damp space. There they rested - feeling the inclination to do so and knowing nothing else to do - and basked in the single solace of a moment without rain.
Rider felt the earlier happiness had left him. Yes, he was very glad there was a sun and a true day. But, whatever his duty being here, be it pulling the sword from its hiding place, however obvious, or fighting those troll-goblins, was this not now complete, the obligation met? What more could he be asked of, after walking this empty, timeless world eternally?
After being caught looking at the magic blade again, quiet and unresponsive, he finally set it aside, half-frustrated with it. With such questions still on his mind, he drifted off into a realm of confusing nightmares.
The woman in white ... blood was a flower at her chest, spreading infectious black petals...
...Aya smiled at him from behind her wedding veil, her face so alive only to melt into the fragile skeleton breathless in his arms...
...There was an armored Knight standing in the black rain, staring at him knowingly from above, sword in hand ... Was it death? ... He pleaded with the elusive, gruesome figure to allow him the sympathetic end of death, to kill him, release him finally ... He hung himself from the tree behind their house so long ago, beside Aya's grave, all hope abandoned him ... but he woke again on the ground, atop her earthen chamber ... the first time not to be the last...
He sat up suddenly, sweating profusely under his cloak, only to come face-to-face with a ghostly white figure standing across the hillside, staring freakishly at him. The woman in white.
Was he trapped still in the horrid dungeon of dreadful dreams? Was this all one continuous nightmare he could not wake from? If only he could open his eyes! Perhaps he would find himself in his home, in Aya's embrace!
However, it was very real and far too frightening. She stepped forward, closer to him. Rider hastily stood, searching for the sword but it was gone - disappeared.
She smiled thoughtfully at him. Somehow her expression, very kindly, calmed him considerably.
He did not move, unspeaking. She solemnly stepped from her hiding place and slowly came to his side, putting a soft, bone white hand at his shoulder. He turned, and seeing she still remained, he cautiously took the fragile veil and lifted it. Before him the face of an angel was revealed, the same face that had been haunting him, skin almost silver, hair, once blonde, pure and white in the faint moonlight...
From his side, she then lifted her hand from his shoulder and very gently took his hand. Hers was soft and delicate, small and smooth, cold and unreal. "I am sorry for your pain, Silas," she murmured. Her voice was beautiful, not to be rivaled by the vain trill of birds.
"Sorry...?" He could only manage, his mind slowed.
She closed her eyes, hiding her mystical pupils from him. "But your task is not complete, your duty here yet to be finished." She gazed up into his face again, holding him with the brilliance of her silver irises. "There is much left unfinished. Much for you to do."
"Me?" He stuttered. As much as he wanted to feel angry, he could not. He could only feel the sorrow, pain, fear - a young boy, helpless. "Wh-why me?"
She smiled sadly, "I cannot say, Silas." She softly, firmly, put her hand to his cheek. "There are many dangers you will face, and very soon. You mustn't give up - you cannot give in. There will be temptations, and pain, and you will find yourself weak. But none will give you what you wish."
"What must I do?"
"Hold to your sword. Hold to Aya. Remember my words and find your way to me."
"Find my way to you...? But...?"
She put a silencing finger to his lips. "With good fortune, we shall meet again, dear Rider."
And with that, she melted away. Her words still hung ominous omens in the air, in his head - the sword sparkling in his hand once more.