I lost a lot of confidence by listening to that voice.She was hard to ignore. Our parents always joked we were cursed as a family. The food carts would get one of our orders wrong or the shopkeeper would give us the wrong item. I took that pessimism to heart and perhaps became a little cynical. They would be negative, but would scold me for voicing it. Vallah was always behind that. I had began to think it was just me being me. I was picky with who I socialised with, always trying to fit in while wary of being judged. I kept my cards close to my chest. I never mentioned Vallah or Azelle or the shadows and introduced myself as Antiope.
But, doubts set in quick about each one of them. I’d think about how they might know what I hid from them. How I could bend the shadows and shape them. They weren’t perfect but it was something that was mine. Everyone else had something special they could do, a talent for this or that, something my parents would have been proud to see me do. They couldn’t know what I could do. It was far worse than what the King had managed, at least in my eyes.. He had to cast a shadow, I could conjure one up like a market entertainer. But it got out somehow, I was seen, perhap caught talking to myself under my breath, or playing with the shadows. I was tarred with the same brush as the King. But I was accessible, a totem to vent their frustrations and that’s where the scars come from. Some you can see, and some that will never be healed. Or perhaps with this fresh start, that may change.
Vallah and rarely Azelle would show themselves in the shadows. A formless shadow, but certainly the projection of the voice. I thought I was going mad. I tried to convince myself every day that none of it was true. Every time I moulded a shadow, I felt guilt and self loathing. I could feel myself slipping away and at one point I nearly convinced myself to submit to the Aeon Priests. They would have seen me as some sort of miracle. So similar to the King that in trying to curing me, they could find a cure for him. Expending a worthless life for saving the Steadfast from his madness. Was it a noble thing to do? On my part or on there’s? I just wanted it to end… I couldn’t do it. I wanted to but I wasn’t willing the throw away my life. Just the thought of what they would do to me sent a shiver of self preservation though me. I knew the only thing was to try to accept the situation and not fight it and things certainly changed.
I was more confident on the outside as Tio, brash perhaps, but effective. On the inside, Vallah was taking a more neutral stance. I felt like I could breathe again. That was short lived. One night, her shadow crawled its way down from the ceiling and onto my wall mirror. The glass went dark for a moment before, and I don’t know if I remember this right, the glass rippled like a stone had been dropped into a deep dark pool. It settled and as the glass lightened, there was a girl, around the same age as me. I couldn’t pick out details, perhaps her long hair was part of her clothing her outline was almost flid. I couldn’t make out her face but I knew it when she opened her mouth, Vallah’s voice was in my head but in her shadow I could see her lips move. It sounds crazy writing that down. She had no substance behind the glass, a ink stain or an oil spill. She had no face, but I just knew her lips were moving.
Her tone had changed in many ways. She was still pessimistic about myself,but she claimed to be separate. A girl, trapped behind the glass. I knew there were other people’s. Two legs, perhaps more. Traders, colonists, fighters and murderers. Some you could easily pass on a boardwalk, others you’d happily risk your life grapnelling to another tower and the many story drop to the Foundations to avoid. Who knows how old their peoples go back, beyond local memory for sure. She claimed to be older than that, much older. I had doubts, very true doubts about her even being like me at all. She had been alone when she was attacked. It was too quick for her to even be fully aware of, a large looming shadow, an explosion, a wave of energy and then… She had awoken to find nothing damaged, no sign that anything had happened. She was unharmed and grateful to be alive. She returned home to find nothing had changed apart from her. They couldn’t see her, or feel her. What she meant by the latter was that her people were known to have abilities to communicate with another mind just like talking with your voice. She knew there was something wrong and after thousands of years she found out that she was just out of step with everyone else.
Wherever she was was not in our reality. The explosion had knocked her out of it. She felt no hunger, nor need to sleep. It was as if she was trapped in a single second, while being able to roam free through normal time. She had seen people all over the Steadfast work towards helping her. It took time for their knowledge to advance to add to her own ,but she worked it all out in the end. Her telepathy grew with time, and with knowledge of cracks between where she was and with us, she tried to break through and that’s how she met me. I was a walking weak spot. Whatever the Narkkonis researchers had given me, it healed me, but it somehow created a walking talking crack. By that point I knew I had either gone completely insane, or one of my characters I had created was getting very vocal and had had serious development. I drank, and I drank out of the small supply my parents had and blacked out.
I was still drunk when I woke up. Thick head, churning stomach and full of chunks of regret. And who was there for comfort me? Vallah. I wanted to cry at that point. I was the only one she had ever come across she could talk to. Her negativity was just a way to try to encourage me to be better, but she even admitted she failed on that. I had taken it too much to heart, which she never wanted. No matter how crazy it sounds, it was a comfort. I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t going mad. I wasn’t going mad.