Not entirely satisfied with this passage, but here is the finale of chapter one:
The rabbit took two steps foreward and performed a very convincing genuflect. Convincing for a rabbit that is, "Cornelious Underwood, at your service."
I guess Bormo could sense this left me ill at ease, and so he explained, "Cornelious is an emmissary of the parlament of thought. It seems we are in the forest of dreams, on the edge of the plateau of drifting thoughts."
"Oh yes, yes," Cornelious sputtered excitedly, "Lady Emirentha felt you adrift in the ether, lost between worlds, and brought you here. She tried to bring you to the crystal gallery, but something was interfering with her efforts...trying to rest you away somewhere...else." With those last words Cornelious looked worried and upset, looking around with rapid twists of his head.
"Erimentha" I gasped. I had not heard that name in a very long time. Not since the October war...since the loss... and we had not parted on the best of terms. Her name piqued the interest of Bormo, who could not contain a startled look, and Onerai, too, who shot a stern glance in our direction. I must admit, I entertained the question of how much of what was unfolding was she behind? Certainly, if she were in the whisper galleries of the sleeping city she could muster enough reverie to interfere with the dance. The shade of a night cat was not Erimentha's style though. No, there were far worse terrors she could unleash if she so desired, we had all seen them On that fateful night so long ago...
"Lady Erimentha sent me to guide you safely to her crystal gallery," Cornelious' voice drew me back from my reminisce. "The paths in these woods can no longer be trusted, nor should they be wandered casually. Dark things have taken root. Not even the trees should be trusted any longer."
Cornelious last statement struck like a stone. I could not help but picture that black tree that has haunted my thoughts for so long, and cast its long shadow over my home. A thought that was not my own, a distant whisper, echoed across my conciosness, "Its seeds have already spread." A chill set deep into my spine.
"I've never trusted trees," Oneroi offered grumpily, "They're far too stubborn and obstinate, often with a harsh bark." Though not his intent, this did lighten the mood somewhat. Though all eyes were upon him now, he still leaned heavily on a tree, piercing the dark with his intense stare.
With our collective attention distracted we almost didn't notice Moira rise from her place beside the fire until she spoke, "We must go with Cornelious now. It is not safe to linger here further. If the warden of thought wishes to host us, then let us abide her." With that Moira moved to follow Cornelious, and the two started down a winding path into the woods. Bormo's expression grew unusually dark, and his eyes were like daggers as they followed her movements, his face clearly set against her despite my urgings of her innocence in all of this.
My heart grew heavy as I moved to follow Moira and Cornelious. A heavy hand sharply grasped my forearm and turned me, though it was not Bormo as I had expected, but Oneroi. His face, too, had a heavy cast about it, almost as fierce as Bormo's. His voice came low, "You say Moira is not behind this, and so I will trust you. Mark me though, something is not right - she is not right. She has not been the same since the festival of soul's at autumn's end." Oneroi paused here. turning his gaze from me before continuing even softer, "Neither have you. You have grown ever more distracted and withdrawn into pain."
"Oneroi, I..." I placed my hand on his shoulder, then quickly removed it. The spectre of things unsaid closed in about us both, and choked off the night. I could feel it's grip tighten about my heart...I could feel the deep, familiar wounds of our fellowship cracking. I could remember what had already been lost and would be lost again. Once again I placed my hand on Oneroi's shoulder, "Please Oneroi, trust me as you have. You know what she sacrificed for us, and what I sacrificed for her. We all knew there would be a price."
Oneroi let out a deep snort, of sarcasm, of disdain, of amusement, who knows. "I will always trust you, but what will it cost in the end? There is too much coincidence here. The dance failing? The Shadow Cat? Nott leaving us? and now Emirentha once again crosses into our lives after so long? There are patterns here that it seems we have walked before, do you not see them?"
With that Oneroi shook my hand from his shoulder and walked off after Moira and Cornelious. This exchange left a cold stone in the pit of my soul, I was so unused to such dispair from Oneroi. Long had he been close council, and offered insight and inspiration when my own failed. Now he offered only cryptic warnings and fears. I glanced toward Bormo as he stamped out the campfire, and I tried to compose myself. The night suddenly felt so cold and alone. It seemed as if the past and future were ever entangled puzzles and mosaics that I could no longer make sense of. As I stood in the night and contemplated, Bormo walked past to join the others with barely a glance. As my gaze followed them into the woods, tracing that winding path into the darkening bramble and brush, I was overcome with foreboding. I could feel the jaws of night closing around me, clenching me in it's teeth. I refused to let this dispair take me and screwed up my determination and wit. With haste I set out after the others, lest we be set upon and seperated. It looked to be a long night ahead, and the length of the journey was unclear. Sleep was not a luxury we could afford.
The night's passage went in relative silence among us. Only the snapping of branches and rustling of the brush broke the stillness as we pushed our way through the dreaming forest. A few times Bormo glanced at me and made as if clearing his throat - I had thought he was going to speak, but then he would lower his eyes and look away. Oneroi remained ever stoic and kept his eyes on the path ahead. The darkening mood even seemed to have set Cornelious on edge. His head pivotted rapidly from side to side as he lead us, stopping often too glance around nervously. Maybe he didn't think anyone noticed as he did thid that he would steal glances at one or another of us as he did so - glances heavy with concern. It was an uncomfortable passage through the night.It must have been just before dawn when the edges of the forest finally surrendered to the Plateau of Drifting Thoughts. I could see the crystal spires of the Whisper Galleries of the Sleeping city on the horizon, backlit by a thin ribbon of orange just along the edge of the world. It was a picturesque scene that stirred uncomfortable memories. Soon, perhaps, we would have some answers.
The trek across the plateau was both uneventful, and made in silence - leaving me plenty of time with just my memories and ghosts of the past...
End Chapter One