Alyxandra, now used to revelations by the fireside, waited to see how Telthar’rion would react to her response; its depth had surprised even her, and she hoped inwardly that he would take it seriously. Fortunately, having allowed her words to echo in his mind and their effects to reach his heart, Telthar’rion rose and looked into the fire also, the flames playing on his golden eyes, just as those fateful, blurred images had danced upon them in their jet-black state. Still looking into the fire’s heart, he began to speak.
“Close your eyes.” Puzzled, Alyxandra did so, as Telthar’rion continued, “In your mind’s eye, there are two paths, two doors, whichever image suits you best.” Alyxandra nodded. “Alyxandra, I want you to imagine these two situations as I describe them.” She smiled, intrigued by this game that Telthar’rion would have her play, saying,
“I see them now, Telthar’rion.” He nodded, the smile gone from his face, but that of course Alyxandra could not see. She did however hear his following words, words that would cause her to search her very being for an answer.
“Imagine firstly that the first door or path leads to a life of peace, calm and fluidity. There are no troubles in that life. You never want for food, nor clothing, nor money, and you have a great many friendships. You are not lonely, and yet, you are missing something. As you study the faces of your friends, you realise that Alceren is no longer there. You raise this issue to your companions, and they tell you of his engagement to be married. You scorn yourself for keeping silent about your emotions and this is your one trouble for the rest of your days - that you did not have courage.”
Alyxandra had at first liked the sound of this pathway, but gradually the goodness was soured by loneliness, this faceless, cold thing with which she had suffered a long time, and had now begun to fade away, freeing the little swallow who had been caught in its claws. A little apprehensively, she said,
“Go on, Telthar’rion. Tell me of the second path.” There was a marked pause before Telthar’rion continued,
“Now, imagine this; again, you never want for food, clothing, nor company. You are surrounded by your friends, and also, there is another beside you, and you clutch his hand; you already know his name. In this life, loneliness has truly deserted you.”
Alyxandra smiled, her heart beating a little more quickly at the idea of never being lonely again. “However,” Telthar’rion continued, his voice significantly lower than previously; its severity proved almost too much for Alyxandra as he continued, reminded of the terrible images that flashed before him as he had lain on the bank of the Aumere, “there are some things that have remained from this life, some shadows that never faded. If you chose that life, you would forever live in fear of Sablesword, that dark sovereign. He knows that he left a member of royalty alive - and he curses himself for that moment of misjudgment, so doubt. He would weave his shadows, like tangible ropes around your life, eventually making it impossible for you to breathe. You would die at his hands.”
At this, Alyxandra stood, her eyes open now, and her heart burning with a sudden passion that seemed to inflame her very voice.
“Hear this now, Telthar’rion. What if together, Alceren and I, and all of the others found Erebus? What if we could destroy his darkness before that time? Would something else seep into the second life?” Telthar’rion smiled,
“I see now where your heart truly lies. However, Erebus Sablesword is one of the most able fighters and tacticians in the whole empire. How naive are you to think that we could destroy him?” Alyxandra barely managed to stop herself from shouting as she cried,
“Did you not see all the good we were able to do for Raiholt, the huge battle we fought?” She inhaled deeply a moment, before she began to speak, feeling for a moment, disconnected from her own body. “I may not be certain in our abilities, but I do not despair.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I have faith!” Alyxandra immediately recognised the words as she said them, and she touched the amulet.
“Alyxandra, I can see that he certainly has had a certain effect upon you - he seems to have made his way into your speech pattern as well as your heart.” Alyxandra smiled helplessly, her voice now quietened.
“I am afraid that I cannot help it.” Telthar’rion nodded.
“That is characteristic of such affections. I really do not think that you could deny it any longer; you obviously feel something of great depth for him.” Alyxandra smiled, then, remembering the paths that had been laid out before her, asked,
“Surely then, there is a third path?”
“A third?” Telthar’rion was intrigued.
“Yes. If we could, by some miracle, rid Yalandir of Erebus, would it be possible for me to... have both?”
“Both? Surely you realise the selfishness in your question? You do not even know if Alceren has similar feelings to yours.” Alyxandra sat down slowly as she heard this. Myriad thoughts ran through her mind, as she turned over one possibility after another. Then, with an idea firmly fixed and immovable in her mind, she looked up into Telthar’rion’s face, her words as certain as steel and as strong as stone.
“Yes, I am acting selfishly. I must find out for myself how he feels.”
“So, you have made your choice, then? Between lonely peace and temporary happiness?”
“Yes, I have.” The certainty in her voice never wavered, her intentions crystal clear, but deep within her, her heart fluttered. Telthar’rion stepped forward, and held out his hand.
“Then give me the amulet.” Never questioning his words or his intentions, she bent her head forward and slipped the amulet on its chain over her head, before placing it in Telthar’rion’s palm. As he did so, he took her hand, forcing it down hard upon the amulet. She winced a little at this sudden force. “I ask you again, have you made your choice?”
“Yes, Telthar’rion - I choose Alceren.” Alyxandra replied, her voice still as firm as it had been the first time.