Behind the shutters, sitting in the murk and gloom of the run-down shop, was a woman. Her name was Tanith, and she was listening.
She heard the creak and clatter of shutters being raised, to the left and right, and knew, without hearing, that it was happening elsewhere in the square too, but this did not disconcert, or even concern her. It certainly did not give her any inclination to do the same.
Tanith was listening for his voice. Daniel. The Chosen. She sensed that he was here. She had known that he would come. He was close now. If she were to open the door and look across the square, she would probably see him, be close enough even to call to him. But that was not the way, and this was not the time. His bird would lead him to her, eventually, and she was waiting for the time. It had been promised, many years ago, before Daniel was even conceived. She must wait for him to come to her. And he would. It was promised.
Tanith knew that Daniel was her kind, her kin. They were of the same spark, the same spirit, the same energy. Daniel was timeless. Tanith was timeless. They were Other.
She had not met Daniel, but she knew him. She had known the moment of his birth. She had been waiting for him since that moment, and the wait had been long, in human measure, but in the story of the universe it was just a blink.
She knew that the time was approaching when she would have to shake his world, the world he knew. He would come to her in innocence and purity of heart, and with ignorance. She must fill the empty vessel of his pure, innocent heart with the knowledge of their world. He would have to unlearn, and she was his instructor. It was the role she was born for.
Oh, he would fight it. She had fought it too, when it had been her time. She had denied her specialness, her Otherness, for weeks, for months. Acceptance of her fate, her reason for being, had not come easily, and she had struggled with it until she could no longer turn her back on the truth. Her own instructor had been a man, now long disappeared. Randolph. She breathed his name. The corners of her pale lips lifted slightly at the good feeling it gave her to think of him. She smiled at the memory of how she, then young and innocent like Daniel was now, had made his task as difficult as she possibly could in those first few weeks. She had berated him and abused him, called him crazy and wicked, but she had come to him, just as Daniel would come to her. And each time she had left him, saying that it was the last time, she had returned for more. Randolph had done his job well. She hoped she would do as well with Daniel.
The bird would bring him. Scout. The name had been planted in Daniel's mind when he was still small. It had been the name of her own envoy, and Randolph's too. Hers had not been a bird. Her Scout was a dog she had adopted in her twelfth year - a scruffy, affectionate stray, with a tendency to wander. Of course, she knew later that he had adopted her. And Randolph's Scout had been a cat. Three scouts, three Scouts – and many other scouts before them. Their function had always been the same. To lead the current Chosen to the Instructor; their predecessor.
Daniel was near. Daniel was here. She hoped that Scout would bring him soon. He was needed, because a bad time was coming, was perhaps already here. She had much to tell him, to teach him, and she must do it quickly, and with thoroughness. And then she must leave, just as Randolph had left her. But she was ready. Ready to begin, and ready to disappear, her task complete, leaving no trace. She had always been ready.
Tanith smiled. She listened. She waited.