I've had years to think. To agonize over what I should or should not have done before I became trapped on this accursed throne. Did I anger Kyprosa in some way? Did she fear I was beyond saving? Is that why she hasn't returned?
Whatever it was, I swear I would have fixed it if I'd known. I feel like I finally understand Ollo and his obsession with returning to the past.
I first met Ollo at the Shadowhawk House, where he was deep in discussion with Aranzeb and Kyprosa about the day's lessons in Ayanad. He was the first Dwarf to gain entry to Alexander's school of magic and, as such, was a bit of an outcast. He fit in perfectly with our strange little family.
The flame of obsession burned brightly in Ollo's mind, clear as day for someone with my gifts. Much like Kyprosa, who had risked everything to travel to Delphinad and learn magic, Ollo's entire being was focused on finding a way to return to his past and undo some great tragedy.
Many of the people I met those days were shaped by their obsessions, secret or otherwise. Gene lusted for glory, Melisara sought revenge--even the merchants on the street were filled with it: their souls burned brightly with their desire for coin and profit.
I spoke of it to Tahyang the next time I saw him. Unlike the others in Shadowhawk House, his mind was free of any signs of obsession.
"Tahyang, do you have any obsessions?" I asked, walking with him on his nightly patrol.
The Firran chuckled. "No, wildling. My people are the wind. We do not attempt to force our fate, as you Humans do. We move with the world, not against it."
I looked down at the Snowlion that padded alongside us. "And Black Night? Is he the wind, too?"
"Of course," he replied matter-of-factly. "We are brothers. And we will continue to be so until the wind carries us apart."
"I wish I was the wind," I sighed. But Tahyang only laughed.
"I do not know what you are, girl," he said, reaching down to tousle my hair with a clawed hand. "But you are not the wind. You are something else. Something special."
I smiled in spite of myself. Tahyang always knew what to say.
When we returned from our patrol, Ollo and the others were still arguing over the possibility of time travel. Their constant bickering was giving me a headache, so I left them to it and went upstairs to bed.
That night, I dreamt of Ollo. He looked worn--haggard--and he worked feverishly in a strange laboratory. All around him, shadowy figures moved, urging him to continue. I instantly recognized them as the creatures from the Abyss. They whispered to the Dwarf in their secret tongue...but somehow, I knew he couldn't hear them.
I woke from my dream with a start, ripping away the covers. Was this the answer I was looking for? If Ollo succeeded and the creatures could prevent themselves from being imprisoned in the past, perhaps they wouldn't need a queen!
I wouldn't need to lose Kyprosa after all!
I knew there was only one way to be certain. But I dreaded what it would mean. Steeling myself, I summoned up my power and reached out for the myriad other worlds that brushed against ours. Then, finding the one I was looking for, I stepped forward into the Abyss.
The darkness was absolute. It embraced me, soothed me, surrounding me like a warm blanket. Floating in that endless void, I knew I was completely safe.
Then, I heard the hissing of the creatures I'd known all my life.
"The queen comes!" they said.
"She embraces her destiny! What do you wish of us, little one? Have you already grown strong enough to free your people?"
In this place, the word "queen" echoed with power. I felt a flutter in my heart--a yearning to become that which I was born to be. I started to shake my head, then realized it was pointless in the dark.
"No," I said firmly. "But I needed to speak with you. The Dwarf, Ollo. What do you want with him?"
"Ah, our queen is clever," praised the voices. Their sibilant whispers made me shiver with delight. "If the Dwarf succeeds, we may yet escape this prison."
I tried to concentrate, but I felt lightheaded. The power that flowed through the Abyss was already beginning to affect me.
"And...and me?" I asked. "If you escape using Ollo's magic, will you still need a queen?"
The voices laughed. "There must always be a queen," they said.
I nodded to myself in the dark. Of course. I belonged here, with them. It was my fate. The power I'd been granted was my birthright, and I would use it to--
"No!" I yelled, struggling against the call of the Abyss. "I won't leave her!"
The voices laughed again, a rasping sound that sent chills up my spine. "You will," they promised.
I gasped, tumbling backwards out of the Abyss and landing on my bedroom floor with a thud. Within moments, Kyprosa was at my door.
"Orchidna?" she called quietly. "Are you alright?"
I opened my door without a word, flinging myself into her arms like a frightened child. She held me tight, petting my hair soothingly.
"Shhh," she whispered. "You're okay. It's going to be okay."
Kyprosa slept in my bed that night. Even that brief time in the Abyss had awakened a thirst in me, and I knew that I would return to it if she left me alone. I clung to her like a sacred talisman, warding off the dark within myself.
I lay awake long after she fell asleep, considering what I had learned. The voices were trapped in the Abyss, and it was my destiny to become their queen. I knew this with every fiber of my soul. But in so doing, I would lose what little humanity I possessed--and with it, I would lose Kyprosa.
Unless there was another way.
I would watch Ollo's mind carefully, I decided. I would help him if I could. Then I would use his research--rather than my magic--to free the creatures from their prison.
And in return, they would free me from my fate.