Nineteen - A meeting in the BetweenMature

(Chapter Five starts hereabout)

Noman waited in the Between. Had patience been one of his virtues he would probably have contemplated the memory he'd chosen. It was a beautiful night; the sky was filled with stars and a rising fog brought with it the smell of moist earth and green growing things. He stood at the edge of a forest, the lights of the village visible in the distance. It was here, on this night, at the edge of this forest, that the Iron Order had fought demons to save the distant village. Airea had led him here, and he in turn had brought the Order. In return he'd gone with the Goddess and left behind everything he'd ever known. 

He paced along the forest's edge, patience being a virtue he didn't feel like exercising just now.  There were questions that needed answers, and Jesra would be the one to provide them. If she showed up, of course. He was just about to give up when a figure moved among the trees of the forest. Jesra emerged and stood at the treeline, right where the demons had gathered before charging out at the Order. It was a coincidence that didn't go unnoticed by Noman, and he wondered if she realized.

"Took you long enough," he quipped, his tone accusing.

"I didn't realize we had a formal meeting time," she fired back. She added by way of explanation, "There were other matters that needed my attention."

"Well you're here now," he told her. "So let's pick up where we left off. Who are you, and what do you want?"

"I want to help you."

"Help me?" he all but scoffed. "The last time we talked you didn't have any idea what I was doing. Now you want to help?"

"I know more now than I did then," she told him. "Once you told me of Aeduun, I went looking in places I had long avoided, or long forgotten. I found signs of him, and of what he has become. I glimpsed his deformation, and I knew why Airea had returned you. She and her sister need Aelar's help to fight a war they'd long thought won." She began walking, following along the forest's edge, and Noman was pulled along with her. "But it won't be so easy as simply finding him. Aeduun has his own agents in this world, and they will seek to stop you. I offer my help in overcoming them."

"Hmm," he mused. "Last time we spoke, when you said you were like me. What did you mean?"

"I serve the Gods, as you do," she replied.

"But are you a Champion?"

She hesitated for a moment, then shook her head slowly. "Not like you or Esme. But I serve in my own way, with what knowledge and power I've managed to collect. Now you should wake up," she told him. "Morning is coming, and you've much to do."

"Morning?" He asked, looking around. In the dream it was still the dead of night, and it didn't feel like all that much time had passed.

"Time is a funny thing here in the Between," she explained. "Your body's natural rhythms keep you anchored to the mortal world, for the most part, telling you when to wake. But if you spend too much time here, shaping it to your will, making it your own... take care that you don't lose that connection." The warning was delivered in a way that made Noman think she was speaking from experience. He was about to ask, but she roused herself from whatever nostalgia she'd entered and said, "We'll speak again soon."

And then she was gone, leaving Noman alone at the forest's edge.

The End

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