Even after a year, the castle still felt like home. Having just stepped in the forward break in the wall, she took a moment to absorb the nostalgic emanations of her old home. An overabundance of kudzu and moss still covered the majority of the stonework and the same familiar crumbling walls and breaks in the ceiling greeted her eyes. She smiled. She didn’t even mind the mustiness or the heavy dew permeating the air. On the contrary, she welcomed the old smells and smiled even brighter.
She turned her eyes upward toward the single remaining battlement where her training had begun. For a moment, she became transfixed by old memories. She had been so carefree then. Even at the beginning, she had known what was coming, but at the time, it seemed so far away. Her training was the solitary thing she had desired since she met her Master, and really the only thing she had ever dared to desire in her lifetime. She had been happy for the first time in her short, miserable existence.
She snapped her eyes back in front and found her old throne, as she had called it, though that wasn’t even close to what it really was. She didn’t have time to reminisce. She had a purpose in coming back here. She somehow knew that it should begin in this place, and she also somehow knew that it was almost time.
They were coming.
She strode forth to sit on her throne, which was really nothing more than a broken stone that sort of resembled a chair with one armrest, and when she did so, she immediately felt their presence. Suddenly, she realized she was afraid. Doubts plagued her thoughts and she began to tremble. Was she ready? Was she destined to die here? These were things never-before-seen in this world; was it even possible to be ready? Her heartbeat thrummed in her ears and she found it impossible to keep her hands from shaking. She took her sword in both hands and attempted to grip it only to find that she could not. Tears welled in her eyes as the fear took over her senses and her heartbeat throbbed from her face to the back of her neck. She could barely breathe. They were close.
She forced herself to take a deep breath and Master’s words formed in the back of her mind. “Fear can be harnessed, shaped, and directed toward whatever you so choose. As can all emotion, be it anger, love, hate, envy, lust, and so on. In fact, the greater the emotion, the more energy that can be harnessed from it. You have strong emotions, as clearly evidenced by your non-stop crying just a few weeks ago (he’ll never let me live that down), and you must learn to use them. Do not allow your emotion to control you. Rather, let it spill forth in the direction you have need of it. Let your anger fuel your desire for goodness. Let your fear fuel your offense. Let your pride fuel your defense. Let your determination fuel your speed. Do not be afraid to experience emotion. Indeed you should seek to raise it ever higher.”
She took another breath and waited. She could hear them now; some climbing the walls, some peering over the breaks in the ceiling, some at the breaks in the wall. Their raspy breath and incoherent mutterings could be heard like whispers from all directions. She closed her eyes and allowed her fear to overcome until it drowned out her heartbeat and the whispers and she could no longer see despite her open eyes. Then she took hold of it, shaped it, and channeled it into the pit of her stomach. She had found her resolve.
She stood and brandished her sword as she poured her spirit into her hands and into her blade. A bright blue light burst forth from the blade illuminating the tiny inner castle. She could see them now. She would prevail.
She held her glowing blade aloft and cried, “I am Alice Thorn! And I am ready! Come.”