The hour was late, far too late for anyone to have been awake any reasonable hour. And yet... Aralethe couldn't sleep.
Not since the Surge; it felt as of late, that she was unable to close her eyes without hearing the screams. Without feeling the pain of loss, of all the lives ripped asunder. She felt it keenly before, so many lives, emotions... but she felt it even more so now, and yet still they haunted her wakening hours and her deepest nights.
They had come as guests of the Emperor, to talk trade and secure business of aid to her people, but it was simply her father and herself. Her sisters and their husbands were safe, their children as well. But the moon was full, and she felt the restless stirring of needing to do something to ease the sleeplessness of the long night ahead.
She had stepped into the garden alone; she was dressed simply, in a long white dress, her hair unbound. Somehow, being amongst the plants, hearing the running water, soothed her soul. She wanted to feel bare feet in the earth, and so, glancing to ensure she was genuinely alone, she found a nearby bench, and began to remove her shoes.
The moon hung full and heavy overhead, the air scented with the season's last flowers. Autumn would come soon... but for now, Summer's breath still hung sweet here in one of the Palace's gardens.
It wasn't unusual for Alistair to be up this late, he had always been a night owl, whether it was researching, studying or reading, it was easier for him to do at night. Though for the past year and a half he had other reasons for his late-night tendencies.
He had been having the same recurring dream or vision, he wasn't sure which one it was, only that he would wake in a cold sweat and unable to sleep the rest of night, he would get dress and patrol the halls reading to keep his mind off it and he was doing same tonight that was until he spotted something from the corner of his eye threw a window.
He had spotted a woman in the garden, one he had never seen before and new all the servants in the palace, this drew his attention away from his book, taking a closer look he released who it was the daughter of lord Granius, he had briefly seen her when they arrived at the palace. he had a good idea of why she and her father were here but he didn't know if she did.
going out it to the gardens he found at a bench, "you really shouldn't be out here on your own at this hour" he spoke behind her in gentle voice hoping not to scare her. the garden grass glistened in the moonlight from the dew. "It's easy to get lost in here at night."
She hadn't expected any voices at night; in fact, at this hour it was entirely expected to be alone. So when a voice came up from nowhere, she flinched and, with one liberated foot from her shoe, prepared to throw the other at him when she saw who it was.
The face, she was unfamiliar with. But the cut of the clothing, the descriptions... But by the time she realized who it was, it was too late. It flew straight at him, and she let out a gasp, hoping he at least had faster reflexes than she. "Your Highness," she managed out, then colored, lowering the other shoe. "Forgive me, I..." She flushed again, a deeper color. "I... didn't recognize you," she managed out, shoulders tensed as though wanting to vanish into the floor.
A soft laugh huffed past her lips, as she gazed back up at him, head tilted slightly. "I'd bow, but I may be slightly dirty."
She noted the book, his appearance, and blinked quizzically. She wished she had covered her face, or at least had on her hood, but it was too late now, and instead she bowed her head once, watching him. "I can leave, if you like. I didn't mean to disturb you--"
Alistair flashed blue as the shoe stoped in the air and slowly drift to his free hand as a soft chuckle escaped him. "No need to apologise, you only did what was natural when a voice from darkness announces itself and no one was hurt" an understanding smile was across his face. he didn't mean to scare her with his announcement but what was done is done.
"And please sit and call me Alistair, I'm not one for too many formalities " she was timid or at least overwhelmed at meeting him at this time of night. "please stay Lady Granius, you weren't disturbing me, I actually came out here to talk to you"
He handed back her shoe and sat next to her, his head slightly tilted towards his hands clasped around his book which was resting on his thighs. "I was curious as to why you were out here, it is not often I see someone else out this late, it's usually just me and the guards."
So he was a Myst user too; perhaps some of the rumors weren't wrong after all. She gazed up at him again, head tilted slightly when he mentioned simply calling him Alistair. How odd; perhaps this was common practice for him, but for her it was... something different. Instead she nodded once, pale gaze assessing as he crossed to sit beside her, placing her shoe down with the other.
"Very well... Alastair." Her smile was warm, and gentle, and she shifted over so he would have more room between them. They were strangers... and it was odd he even knew who she was. Very few had seen her, but now... she wasn't certain. Part of her wanted to go, to seek solitude, and yet... he seemed kind. She nibbled on her bottom lip, but grey eyes stayed, taking him in. "If that's the case... Aralethe. Or Ari, should you want," came the reply, her own hands folded in her lap.
She blinked when he asked why she was out here; head tilted slightly, brushing her hair away so as to look him more fully. "...I couldn't sleep," she finally confessed quietly, eyes lowering. "There are some nights where I can see things so clearly... and yet I can hear the cries of the Surge over again." Her palms pressed together, brow knit in an absent look. "Do you ever have those dreams...? those long nights where the whole world seems at once too small and too large?" She exhaled, then gave him an apologetic smile, shrugging once.
"Gardens help," she said quietly. "Being surrounded by living things... I feel a little freer." She glanced up, meeting his gaze then.
He smiled "Nice to meet you Aralethe" she seemed sweet although a bit awkward but if the stories he heard were true she hadn't had much contact with people outside her household, so he was understanding, at one point he was just like her.
when she answered his question he couldn't help but nod slightly " I've had those dreams and i can see why you would come to the garden" he leant back and looked up at the stars above them, "It puts the world into perspective."
He brought his vision down back to her on hearing her request, she had his curiosity, "You may."
She opened her mouth to speak, then exhaled, eyes lowering. "...it must have been so nice, to be free." She leaned forward, hair falling over her face as she thought over her question. "The world is a place I've wanted to see... but so many say it's dangerous." Her voice was quiet, contemplative. "It must have been such a thrill... I can't pretend I'm not a little envious."
She glanced back at him, and slowly sat back up, grey eyes calm. "Why did you come back to the capital? It was said in the courts you had vanished... if you did, why would you come back to a cage?" Perhaps it wasn't a good question, but she often wondered...
Perhaps he knew why she was here, but she truly didn't. She wondered why he looked so tired himself... she then glanced back at the book on his lap, lips in a faint smile. "...We all need perspective sometimes," came her low voice, and she lowered her hand to touch one of the closest flowers, some of the petals falling into her hands. "I feel like I don't have enough, this is the first time I've ever left home."
He couldn't help but feel a bit pity for her situation, he felt much of the same before he vanished, so he felt he had to give her his truth, his perspective.
"There were positives, i could go where want, I met some wonderful people and saw beautiful sites," there was a smile on his face as he went through his memories but soon it faded as he now had to tell her the bad. "But it wasn't exactly comfortable life, I was often living hand to mouth, sometimes i had to sleep in the dirt under a tree, sometimes people threaten my life for simply bumping into them. the world can be a dangerous place but there is just as much good in it."
"As for why I came back?" It was a question that he presumed half the nobility of empire wondered about. "Two reasons, my love for this empire's people and a dream or a vision, I'm not quit sure which it is."
She didn't want to be pitied. She didn't want to be inadequate or limited in any way. She was painfully aware her perspective was limited and small as well; she swallowed, staring down at her hands while he spoke, merely content to listen until he was done. When he was... she glanced up at the moon, face withdrawn and pale.
"What visions do you see?" she asked, her voice quiet, her face once more hidden by a veil of pale hair.
She might be able to help... but then again, perhaps he wouldn't want her help.
his eyes looked at the ground as he completed her question, considering whether or not to tell her, only one other person knew what this vision was about, his sister, a person trusted wholly, so the real question was could he trust Aralethe?
His hands fidgeted with the book if he was right about why she and her father were here, he would eventually have to trust her, so might as well start now, he sighed.
"I have the same dream every night going on before I returned back to the palace, I dream of me standing in the ruins of this palace, ash falling like snow and Rhisoka burning before me. I hear a noise behind me I turn but before I can, I wake in a cold sweat unable to sleep rest of night" his voice was low and monotone, his hands slight quivering.
She exhaled, the sound almost a sigh in the space between them when she listened. She saw his hands shaking out of the corner of her eye... and rested her own hand atop his lightly, a gentle pressure. She didn't look to see his face, but kept her head bowed, her voice quiet.
"...I've had that dream," she replied quietly. She released his hand, then, and glanced up at the sky. "But tonight, it was just... the feelings." She exhaled again, then glanced at him, head tilted slightly. "I think this.. has changed the Myst far more than we think it has. But.. perhaps some of my gift may help ease your sleepless nights?" she asked, lips twitching slightly in a faint smile. "You could say I have some gift with sight."
A soft smile briefly appeared across his face as he felt her hand on top, it was reassuring to hear that he wasn't the only one that had seen it.
He appreciated her offer on helping his sleeplessness thought he didn't if she could help. "Thank you, though I don't how you could help me, everything I've read puts this beyond anyone's hands. I presume only the Twelve know and perhaps it is one of them that tournaments me with this dream." He signed in frustration not knowing why he has this dream nor why it never changes.
From a harness on her belt, she withdrew something. A small chalice, silver, the inside as pure as a mirror. Though it had the handle of a regular chalice, the cup itself was shallow and wide; more like a bowl. She showed it to him, and then looked around.
Not too far away, a fountain trickled. With a gentle flick of her fingers, the Myst answered. Luring a thin ribbon of water, it snaked in the air, trembling with surface tension until it pooled within the scrying cup.
She held it before him, eyes on him.
"Look within the cup, and focus on nothing else but the question in your mind. Tell me what you see."
He watched her as she pulled out chalice, unsure of what her plan was exactly. when she asked him to look into the chalice and ask a question, he flicked his eyes from her to the chalice and back again before closing his eyes and exhaling.
He opened his eyes several moments thinking about what she just offered him, wrapped his hands around the chalice and gently forced it down.
"I appreciate what you're trying to do, Aralethe, but I don't think any good will come from scrying the future, at least for me. Knowing the future can be its own curse and whatever happens, I will meet it, if I have to, with the same weapons of reason which I have today againest it" his word soft and gentle looking at her
He was tempted by her offer but if there was a reason why he was getting this vision, he was willing to wait for the answer. Until then he would bear this vision worthily.
She swallowed when he refused, disappointment flickering in her eyes. She wasn't unfamiliar with rejection... but she was unfamiliar with feeling offput. She turned away, then, and tossed the water to a nearby plant bush, cheeks burning. "...I understand," she spoke quietly, eyes lowered. She then replaced the chalice where it was, and folded her hands back into her lap, gaze unfocused.
She already knew, in some way, that the answer was not a simple yes or no, or even a direct answer. Like water, the future could diverge at a moment's notice, a decision made, or a thought. She knew her path had diverged; before, it was an endless parade of little nothings. She would be little more than a puppet to her father's politics, but now...
"Does it ever bother you?" she asked quietly, finally meeting his eyes once more.
"That you're never truly free to make your own choices... to be loved as commoners can?" She dipped her gaze slightly, her voice slow, quiet. "I sometimes wish I could know my own path... but as of late, it's obscured. I cannot move, or see the path ahead."