I guess I should explain why you’re reading this. Odhran, I hope you’ve met Odhran, told me this was the best way to help. If you’re reading this then you’ve forgotten who you are. There’s only three ways this could have happened. I lost, we lost and survived, or we won but at a cost. If the worst, we can get through this, you can! We’ve been through worse, and I’m sure there’s probably a dark path ahead. Keep focused, leave the dead where they lay and move on. If we’ve won, I don’t have any idea how. It’s far too early to even begin looking for an answer. And sceptical me at this point would question as to why I started so early. It wasn’t my idea but it’s keeping me in check, although I loathe to admit it. If Odhran is still around at this point know that he got you out of city and away from you parents, be that good or bad at this point I have no clue. I could regret everything to come.
Your name is Tio, well Antiope. And yes that is your name, the name we gave ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t what we were given, it carries who you are. It’s the extension of your identity, but then…It’s a mask, it’s armor. You rely on your instincts, don’t forget that. With ‘it’ gone, you might want to change. If it keeps you protected, with who you are deep inside, then into the Iron Wind with it. You know who you are, and who you project. Just be careful who you let in.
Well this is going great, I’ve forgotten how old we are. And apparently I never told Odhran but he says I look in my late twenties. I suppose that’s good. Although the scars I have so far might need explaining. You see, when we were young we were bullied. I think I said so already, but why is something that needs explaining. You see, after the accident, things started to change. Mainly my perception of the world. I started to make up stories, silly, stupid little things. But I didn’t have anything to make them real. Wooden figures felt too, well wooden. I wanted to shape it, craft it. I couldn’t paint to save a life. I stayed up late at night, thinking through all the possibilities, taking bits and pieces from people I’d met and squishing them into something new. I would lie awake for hours staring up at the ceiling at the flickering shadows of those toys. Just before I would fall asleep, in that blur of vision before you close your eyes I saw the shadows move. I thought it was just a dream, a persistent, recurring dream.
One night I made myself stay awake as long as I could, letting the candle burn down to the stand. I had borrowed some of my father’s oddities a while ago and I remembered some piece of synth and crystal, two disks bound together. It showed the last six seconds it was exposed to when opened. One side remembered what it had seen and if you turned it over the second crystal showed you, etched into the crystal itself. Six seconds was long enough.
I’ll skip a year just so my hand doesn’t get cramp. We caught it, eventually. Although what I saw I didn’t like. I had come up with a murder mystery based on a death not far from where our dad worked. It was gruesome but there were distinct parts which if you knew what I knew, would tell you who did it. The final scene was when the guard finally came up with the answer without the Guldspar interrogator and was murdered himself leaving everyone back at the start. The shadows played that scene out.. I felt sick with nerves. I couldn’t stop looking at it but it made me sick and all because of the King.
Holiver the Mad King got his name for exactly what I just saw. He supposedly takes advice from the shadow of his right hand in the form of a puppet. He was rumoured to stay awake late into the night, glowglobes providing the clearest shadow with the voice equally as clear. His tax on the people of Thaemor to fund the Shadow Herd is all too clear now but at the time, he was mocked from the roof tiles of the elite, to the cesspool of the Foundations. He was a fool, an idiot, incapable of affecting anything. Politically with the other Steadfasts, he was our shame. The Grapnel Guard only enforced his laws when they were in eyesight of him. The same went for his people. We knew what was good for ourselves, we would always take the initiative, be the cause of action and follow Common Law. Our fields were fertile and we respected each other, well depending on who you were and how many shins lined your pocket. Holiver was and still is, the target practice of archers and spitballs, the punchline of vicious jokes and the name given to the worst drink in Auspar. At that moment I became far too aware of everyone around me and I retreated into myself. I could be sociable and happy on the outside but inside the only thing that I heard were the doubts in my head.
It didn’t get any better. I sought for approval and validation for the way I felt from my parents but my mother wasn’t interested in my stories, so why would she be about anything else and my father was too busy trying to impress all, but his family. Those doubts have never really gone away, although I know who they came from first before I started believing them. I ended up having three lines of thought most of the time, well some. There was baseline Tio, then the negative Vallah. Azelle was a rare occurrence, childlike and blindingly optimistic. Stupidly optimistic. That voice was brief and, I think, my own creation. Vallah was not.