And Then There Was One was originally posted between 27 Mar 2013 and 15 Nov 2014 by the player of Marissa and is posted here for archival purposes
Time, flowing like a river
Time, beckoning me
Who knows when we shall meet again
Keeps flowing like a river
To the sea
("Time" - Alan Parsons Project)
There were only two of them left, two counterparts of the same soul. There had been a time when there had been more, splintered, fractured one from the other, pieces of the whole.
She had spent years collecting those pieces, putting them all back together again. It had been a painstaking task, traveling through time and space to find them all. Some had come willingly, some had to be convinced, forced even, all of them slowly dying, withering away. Too fragmented, the pieces could no longer exist on their own. All of them had been gathered up, welcomed back into the collective whole.
They were almost like a family, all of them the same and yet different. All of them had lived different lives, different experiences, and yet, in a way, they were all the same. All of those memories and experiences were now hers to cherish, to remember, and to put to rest.
There were two left, but soon, there would only be one.
The portal was as it always was, but it did so much more than anyone might have guessed. It wasn't just a door to other worlds, but a door into Time. If one knew how to control it, the possibilities were endless. One could travel anywhere in time, space, reality. It was how her counterpart had managed to gather up all the loose ends, all of them but her, and it was how all of them had come to be scattered.
"I didn't think you'd come," a voice said, stirring her out of her thoughts. It was a voice she knew well because it was her own. She turned slowly, unsurprised to find another aspect of herself regarding her with infinite patience, understanding, and compassion.
"How could I not? We're dying, both of us, and there won't be any chance of resurrection this time."
The other winced, remembering a particularly horrible death and an even more painful rebirth. She'd often thought that nine lives was more curse than gift, and yet here she was, trying to cheat Death once again, gambling for a little more time.
She was young, after all, if time were to be measured in years and not experience, born only a decade ago in linear time, though she looked closer to twenty. The two of them looked so alike, they could have been twins, but for the fact that one had long, brown hair that flowed down her back and the other's had been cut short, nearly to her chin. Both of them were orphans, but not really orphans. A living contradiction. An enigma to those who didn't or couldn't understand.
"Will it hurt?" the other asked. The older one, the one with the short hair, the one who had dared to love, only to find herself alone. Always alone. Apart. Different.
"Yes," replied the younger, the one with the long hair. She could not lie, not to herself. It was not in her nature to lie, even when it served her purpose. She sighed softly, sadly. She knew of the other's pain, the heartache, the loneliness, because she had felt it herself. She had felt the pain of all the others, but they were a part of her now, and they were no longer alone. They need never be alone again. They had each other. "We were the first, and now we are the last," she said quietly.
"Which of us will prevail? Which of us will be left in the end? You or I?" asked the elder.
"Does it matter?" replied the younger. "There can only be one. I promise you this... You will never be alone again. We will always be with you." She offered an outstretched hand to her counterpart, warm and inviting. She knew the other had no choice. It was either choose this or they both would die. "It's time."
The other hesitated, fear clutching her heart. There were worse things than death, far worse. Pain, grief, loneliness, but this wasn't just about them. It was about setting things right. About fixing the past and with it, the future. It was how this entire adventure had started in the first place. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Her intentions had been good. All of their intentions had been good, but one could not change the past without affecting the future.
"Marissa, what have you done?" The words echoed in her head, a painful memory, an accusation. How had things gotten so complicated, so out of hand? "We can't fix everything. People will still die. It's the nature of things."
"This isn't about dying. It's about living. Do you still want to live?"
The question was rhetorical. There was no need for a reply. She reached for that outstretched hand, so like her own, fingers linked like two lost sisters. The portal shimmered with color and light, like a living, breathing thing, all too familiar. Warm, like a lover's embrace.
"Ready?" asked Marissa, looking over at her counterpart with a reassuring smile on her face. They would be together again, they would be one, they would live. All of them.
"As ready as I'll ever be," replied the other Marissa. She drew a deep breath to gather her courage and together the two of them stepped through the portal, hand in hand, separate but together, never to be alone again.
Marissa awoke from the dream trembling and in a cold sweat. It had been the same every night for a week. She had begun to think perhaps it was more than a dream. Perhaps it was a message, a portent, a cry for help. The dream was always the same, and it always left her shaken.
There was a man in her dream - not just any man, but one she had come to know and love, one she thought of as a brother. She had not seen him in years, but not from lack of desire. His world had become inaccessible to her. The portals had closed and with it, her means of traveling back and forth, and yet she still felt a connection, as if their souls were inextricably linked somehow.
Perhaps it was the pendant they both wore about their necks that bore the crest of a rearing unicorn. Perhaps it was something more, some deeper connection she had yet to understand. There was magic in her she hardly understood - old magic, tribal magic, the gift of her bloodline, or perhaps a curse. Whatever it was, it brought her dreams on occasion, portents of things that only she could understand.
She rose from the warmth of the bed where she slept alone. Always alone. A solitary creature, like those of her kin. Yet as solitary as she was, there were those that she cared for, those that she loved. As she walked the dark halls of the home where her foster mother had once lived, the ghosts of the past seemed to taunt her. She remembered the laughter and love that had surrounded her early life, and the tragedies that had finally sent her away. Always alone, but never truly alone.
The dream had been dark, full of blood and death. Too much blood. Pain and suffering. An unexpected death at the hands of an assassin. It was always the same, night after night.
A dagger flashed silver in the afternoon sunlight before burying itself deeply in the man's abdomen, slicing through flesh and muscle and vital organs. The assassin twisted the blade to do the most damage and yanked it away before the warm spill of blood could stain his own hand. A dark stain spread quickly across the man's tunic, and he collapsed in a heap, eyes wide with shock and pain and horror.
She watched the scene play out night after night, watching as he died, unable to stop it, unable to save him, awaking in a cold sweat, heart pounding, and on the verge of tears.
She didn't know if what she saw was only a dream or a vision of things to come or things that had already taken place, but she knew she could not ignore it. He deserved so much better than this, so much better than what Fate had given him. Though she had not wanted to interfere in his life again, if she could, she would save him. She owed him that much; she loved him that much.
There was only one problem. In order to save him, she'd have to find him, and it wasn't so much a question of place as it was of time. The portals were closed in this time, but there had been a time not so long ago when they had been open, when she had traveled freely back and forth, when she had even brought him here to Rhy'Din for a while.
She would have to go back to a time before the portals had closed. It would not be easy, but it could be done. In truth, it had to be done. It was the only way she could save him, and she was the only one who could do it.
The Brownstone, Rhy'Din...
The ground floor of the corner lot brownstone was still outfitted as a shop with the two upper floors as living quarters. Colleen made her way around to the side of the building and rang the bell near the door to the stairwell that lead up. There was still a garden behind the privacy fence in back and Collie could smell the fragrance of newly bloomed roses in the air.
Marissa wasn't expecting any visitors, but that didn't mean much. Now that she was back in Rhy'Din, word was bound to spread through the family and it was only a matter of time before they all wanted to catch up. She might have guessed who it was that was waiting at the door. She knew it was only a matter of time before Collie came by to pay a visit, and in all truth, Marissa was glad of it. There was a matter pressing at her heart that she wanted to speak to her about. She wouldn't be surprised if Collie already knew that, too. Footsteps were heard coming down the stairs before the door was pulled open, and Marissa greeted her with a warm smile and a hug.
She returned the smile and hug as she kissed Marissa's cheek. "I was just stoppin' by ta see how yer settlin' in." Collie rarely came empty handed when visiting and had a basket of goodies over her arm that included fresh bread, sliced meats, and her infamous brownies.
Knowing Marissa, it was hard to tell just how long she was planning on staying. Settling in was something she wasn't very accustomed to doing for long. "It's a little strange, to be honest. Mum..." She broke off a moment, as if she was unsure if it was acceptable to refer to her foster mother in such a way anymore. "Kirin loved it here." She pulled the door back to invite Collie inside. "Would you like me to make some tea?"
She nodded as she replied, "I could go fer a cup." Collie didn't missed that hesitation. "Marissa, ya know, it's fine ta still call her Mum unless ya don't want ta do it anymore. She raised ya just like either o' us would 'ave raised a daughter we birthed. Blood isn't the only thing what makes people family." Her words were spoken in a gentle tone.
"I know. It's just... I miss her sometimes." But then, there was Colleen, who was as close to a duplicate of Kirin as she was ever going to get. It confused even Marissa sometimes. "I'm glad you're here. There's something I need to speak with you about." Speaking of family who wasn't truly blood. She led the way back up the stairs to the living quarters, knowing the layout of the place by heart.
She followed Marissa up the stairs. "Many o' us do. It's awkward ta have a piece o' yerself walkin' about. I have the feelin' ya know what I mean by that." Collie set the basket down. " I brought a snack, just in case." Some mothering habits were never let go of. She paused a moment as she considered Marissa's words. "What can I do ta help?"
She headed toward the kitchen to set the kettle on the stove and prepare two cups of tea. Tea was a tradition that had been handed down from mother to daughter, blood or otherwise. Few serious discussions ever took place that weren't accompanied by a cup of tea. She didn't want to jump right into what was bothering her. There were some things Collie needed to know first. "There's only one of me now," she started to explain as she moved about the kitchen, gathering the items for a proper tea.
Collie settled into a chair as Marissa prepared the tea. "I would think that is savin' on one's sanity. " She smiled a touch.
"Yes and no." She set out the cream and sugar, along with two cups and spoons, as they waited for the kettle to boil. "They're all part of me now. It's a little confusing at times."
"Like tryin' ta tie things up in a single package?"
"Sort of. I have all these memories inside me, and sometimes they get all confused." She frowned a little as she considered it. She didn't want to end up going mad, but sometimes it was hard to tell which memories belonged to which of her separate parts. "They're all different and alike at the same time."
The kettle whistled, drawing her out of her thoughts and she filled the cups with hot water to allow the tea to steep.
"Too many voices in the head, that I can understand all too well," she murmured as she took one of the boxes of brownies from the basket and set it on the table.
"What do I do about it?" she asked, letting her guard down and allowing Colleen to see just how worried she was about it. She knew she'd done the right thing in bringing all the pieces of herself back together, but sorting through the collective thoughts and memories was a real challenge. If there was anyone who would understand, she hoped it would be Colleen.
"Be patient wit' yerself. Try not ta get angry 'r frustrated when ya can't sort them out. I've had ta relearn a century 'r two o' things that I lost. Not quite what yer dealin' wit', Marissa, but just as confusin' 'n', at times, frightenin' because it feels like ya might be goin' mad."
She'd heard a little about what had happened to Colleen while she'd been away, but not first hand. She set a cup of tea in front of her and then took a seat nearby, wrapping a hand around her own cup as she contemplated her words. As quiet as she was, Marissa was full of caring for those she loved, and she loved Colleen, almost as much as the foster mother who'd raised her. "Are you all right now?"
"Thank ya." She stirred some sugar into her tea. "I have moments when things are buzzin' wit' confusion." She shrugged a bit then smiled. "About then is when one o' the children needs somethin' 'n' reminds me that life moves along, ready 'r not." She had her left hand wrapped around her mug and tilted her right hand, palm upward. "I think I'm as all right as I'm goin' ta be fer now."
Marissa took that all in with a thoughtful frown, waiting until Colleen was finished with the sugar before stirring a bit into her tea, along with some cream. "Now that Kirin is gone..." She wasn't quite sure if she should continue. As much as she was part of the family, she always felt a little bit like an outsider. "You're the closest thing I have to a mother."
"She is a goodly part o' me, ya know, but somewhere the path separated and we became two people." She set the spoon down on a napkin. "Her children are mine, by birth 'r by heart." She reached over to brush her fingers over Marissa free hand. "What troubles ya, Marissa?"
She found that simple, caring touch reassuring, her heart heavy with worry for a life that wasn't her own, but one she held dear. Her own problems were one thing, but there was something else troubling her. "Nightmares. I keep dreaming about... about Duncan." She thought she didn't need to explain just who that was; he was not only a close friend, but he had once been considered family. She had tried to help him time and again, but it all had seemed for naught. "I dreamed he died, but..." She shook her head, tears blurring her vision. The dream had clearly been a strong one.
She held out a clean napkin in case Marissa needed it. Collie knew that sometimes letting the tears flow was best and didn't force the issue. "When did ya see 'im last?"
She took the napkin in her hand, but didn't need it just yet, so long as she didn't think too hard on what she'd seen in her dream. It had seemed more vision than dream really, like she'd been right there watching it all unfold before her eyes, but she could do nothing about it. "Not since the portals closed."
"A couple years then." Collie pursed her lips. "So, there's no way to go see 'im wit'out ... special circumstances?"
"Right." And they both knew what those special circumstances were without saying it outright. "I know everyone dies sometime, but..." If she thought on it too hard, she was going to start crying again. She had often blamed herself for what had happened to him. She'd gone over the if onlys too many times in her head. "It was Triad. An assassin. Collie, he doesn't deserve to die that way. He deserves to be happy. I can give him that, I think." Oh, she knew what she was proposing. She'd thought on it long and hard. She knew she was playing with fire, but wasn't this one life worth the risk?
"Ya already know the risks o' changin' things. I don't have ta be tellin' ya that." She took a long sip from her tea. "How would ya get there wit' the portals closed? More important, how would ya get back?" She didn't know for certain if Marissa planned on coming back, but such things needed to be considered.
She dabbed at her eyes with the napkin before going on. She'd laid awake nights thinking about it and had only been able to come up with one solution. It had seemed so obvious once it came to her. "I'd have to go back to a time before the portals closed." The tricky part wasn't so much the how as the when.
"Ya already made up yer mind ta go, didn't ya?" the question was just that, not a hint of judgment or chastisement in it.
"I think I owe him that much," she replied, honestly. "The last time I saw him, he was miserable. He's family, Collie." It was Marissa's turn to reach for the older woman's hand, her expression not so much one of needing her approval, but her understanding. Colleen knew her well enough to know she had already made up her mind.
"There anyone what oughta be travelin' wit' 'im? Children, maybe?" She took Marissa's hand and held it gently.
"Rob," she replied. "His son." She wasn't quite sure about anyone else yet. She'd have to wait until she got there, but an idea was brewing in her mind. It was going to be tricky, and there would be repercussions, but hopefully, those repercussions would not be damaging to any innocents.
She nodded once as she lightly squeezed Marissa's hand. "It might not be easy convincin' either one that they should pull up stakes 'n' move. Especially if yer askin' 'em ta move worlds away."
"I know. I need something that will make him believe me. Some proof." She'd given it a bit of thought, but hadn't decided on anything specific yet. She bit her lip as she thought on it.
She knew enough of his history and background, but that wasn't really proof.
Collie smiled slightly, "This Duncan, is 'e from that same place yer Mum ended up?"
She nodded her head, wondering what Collie had up her sleeve. She wasn't smiling for nothing. "Yes, why?"
"Go to 'er afore ya see 'im. If memory serves, she took somethin' wit' e'r. It might be able a serve as the fastest way back, whether ya convince 'im ta leave 'r not. But ... ya would have ta use it afore the portal closes." Colleen remembered a mirror that Kirin had in her cottage when she helped with the delivery of the Lexington children. It served as a portal, but to only two places. She tipped her head. "How well does 'e know 'er?"
Marissa arched a brow, not quite sure what Collie was getting at, but obviously interested. "They were close friends at one time, before..." She frowned, not wanting to point the finger or place the blame on anyone for what had happened. "Before he got married." Before Cate disappeared. Before everything went to hell.
"Ah, I see. Not a fan o' his mate, was she?" Colleen studied Marissa's face. That was one of the few reasons Collie could think of for Kirin distancing herself; giving deference to a spouse.
"I don't know. Cate disappeared, and I tried to help him find her, but..." She shrugged. It was a long story without a happy ending. If there'd been a happy ending, she wouldn't be considering doing something as drastic as traveling to the past to straighten things out.
She pursed her lips as she considered a few things. "So, ya need ta choose a time after his wife took off."
"To see Kirin?"
"Ta travel back, aye." Colleen nodded. "If 'e was close ta Kirin, she might 'ave ways o' aidin' yer cause. Dreams can still be walked in, even in those lands."
She nodded her head. She could do that. The timing would be tricky, but if she was careful it could be done. Then she could explain to Kirin what she had planned. It wouldn't hurt to see her foster mother again either. It would do them both good.
"We are all yer family, sweetheart, don't ya ever ferget that."
She smiled at last, feeling better than she had when Colleen had first arrived. She reached for her hand and gave it a soft squeeze. "I know, and that means more to me than you'll ever know."
"Just... be safe, Marissa. Prepare fer everythin' 'n' hope ya don't have to face it."
She nodded again, unsure what she might have to face in the past. She'd faced death once already, but she knew there were even worse things than death. If death were the only thing to fear, she wouldn't be trying to save him, in the first place. "I know. I'll go see Kirin first, and then I'll go from there." There was no real hurry. The past wasn't going anywhere, and what was done was already done.
"Good." She set her tea down and reached to hug her.
Marissa was all too eager to return that hug. She'd been alone far too long and had missed the love and support that came with family. "I promise I'll be careful."
"Good, because I'll be expectin' ya ta be about fer Rhi 'n' Eregor's weddin' this summer.
She smiled at this bit of good news. She'd already heard and ran into Rhi herself, but was happy to hear of it again. It was always nice to receive happy news, rather than the alternative. "I'll be here. Don't worry."
"Good.. good.. " She grinned. "The colors are goin' ta be shades of purple like lavender 'n' lilac."
The conversation continued, turning to happier matters, family matters, matters that were worthy of celebration. That was what this was all about, after all - family. If there was one thing Marissa had learned, it was that family was not defined by blood alone. Colleen was family. Kirin was family. Rhi and Eregor were family. And Duncan was family. You didn't abandon family in their time of need. You saved them. One way or another, that was what Marissa intended to do.
((My thanks to Colleen's player for this scene and for all her help and support in bringing Marissa back to Rhy'Din.))
Dreven, Spring 1275...
(Approximately six years ago)
Kirin was attending to the garden and humming a tune to herself. It was early evening and the cottage windows glowed from the lantern on the kitchen table.
The trip through the portal had been uneventful, though the timing had been tricky. Marissa had to carefully time things in order to set things right in the past, so that they could be resolved in the future. It was a tricky business, and if anyone understood, it would be Kirin. It probably wouldn't come as a great surprise for her to see her foster daughter there. Kirin always seemed to have a second sense about things, often knowing what Marissa was thinking before she even knew herself.
Kirin's dog barked twice as he heard someone approaching. It was both a greeting and reminder that he was standing watch. She set her gardening tools down and tugged off her gloves. "What is it, Cuckoo?" Her eyes widened as she caught sight of the young woman arriving. "Marissa? It is really you?"
Marissa smiled at the all-too familiar greeting. She had a habit of popping back and forth through time, disappearing for long periods and resurfacing when it was least expected. "Yes, it's me." She more than likely looked a little older than Kirin remembered, but like her mother before her, she seemed ageless and timeless. "I've missed you," she said, which hinted that this Marissa might be from some future as yet unknown to Kirin.
"Let's have a look at you!" She grinned and made a show of looking her daughter over. "Taller, I think. A bit more red in your hair." She flashed a wink at Marissa. "I've missed you, too." She kissed her cheek. "Come into the house and I'll brew us up some of my special tea. What will it be? Mints or cinnamon spice?"
Marissa smiled and kissed her back, her heart warmed by the easy-going affection she shared with the other, whether they were related by blood or not. "Cinnamon, I think, if it's not too much trouble."
"Pish, if it was trouble, I wouldn't have asked." She held the front door open for Marissa. "Not the grand houses of the past, I'm afraid, but it's comfortable and plenty big enough for now."
Marissa smiled, knowing a thing or two about where her mother would end up and with whom, but it was sort of cheating to tell her about all that. Still, there were some things that were yet to happen that she did need to know, but those things mostly concerned someone else's life, not Kirin's. "Sometimes simple is best. Aren't you the one who taught me that?" She pushed into the cottage, which she'd always found quaint and charming and had once herself occupied for a short time. Strangely, though that was part of Marissa's past, it had not come to pass yet in this time.
"True, I did." Kirin washed up and put the tea on. "I met this handsome fellow the other night, a shameless flirt!" Her smile just about lit the room as she set out a tray with honey and spoons on it. "Always did appreciate a man with sharp wits."
Marissa's smile faded and she turned serious, knowing it could be only one of two men. But which one was it? Where exactly was she in the past? Where most people needed to orient themselves to a place, Marissa had to orient herself to a time. "What's his name?" she asked casually, as she drew her cloak from her shoulders and hung it over a chair.
"His name's Will." She fussed with napkins and such, even in the rustic cottage she kept to certain habits like setting the table. "Got a teenage son. He seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. The son, I mean."
Marissa relaxed, seemingly relieved. "Oh, that one," she remarked with a smile, not wanting to reveal too much. It was almost too tempting not to tell Kirin what her future held, but there were certain rules to abide by, even though she was intending to break them for the sake of another. "It will work out fine, Mother. You should know something though..." she continued, with a frown.
A red brow raised, "It will, hm?" Kirin put the blended herbs into teaballs and set them in the mugs. "Go on ... "
Marissa knew whatever she told Kirin would be kept in the strictest confidence. She knew Kirin would not let slip what she knew of the future, unless she found it absolutely necessary. Marissa took a seat at the table, a troubled frown on her face. "The portals are going to close in a few years." If nothing else, that bit of information should give Kirin a clue that this Marissa was from some unknown future.
"Somehow, I am not surprised given the oddities of the mana here."
"The portals will stabilize and eventually work here, but there won't be any more travel to or from other worlds," Marissa explained further.
Kirin studied Marissa in silence for a bit as she poured the boiling water into the mugs. "In short, you're telling me to settle my affairs where I came from or go back." Her eyes locked on Marissa's. "The question is, what aren't you saying that you should?"
She shrugged, not really wanting to tell Kirin what to do at all, knowing it would all work out in the end. "It's just a warning, Mother. You're going to find happiness here, but..." There was that frown again. "I won't be able to visit you anymore. No one will. Not unless I travel back to a point before the portals closed, and we both know that's dangerous. You must already know that I'm from the future."
"I gathered that, yes." She settled at the table. "The question, my girl, is what is it you need ... or want to do?"
Kirin had never been one to beat around the bush, and today was no exception. Marissa came straight to the point. "I'm here for two reasons. The first is to see you. I miss you. But I also came to ask for some help. Colleen suggested I see you." She wasn't quite sure just how involved Kirin would want to get in this whole matter, but there was only one way to find out. She sighed, folding her hands on the table. "It's about Duncan."
"Duncan Mallory? There's a charmer." Her brows furrowed as what Marissa was saying sunk in. "What about Duncan?"
"Yes, Duncan Mallory." She was frowning again, knowing Kirin did not know half of what she did, and it was more than a little complicated. "I don't know how to explain, but he's family, Mother. He becomes... family. You know what we do for family."
"Everything we possibly can." She tipped her head. "Does he die from something other than old age?" Kirin had a way of cutting to the heart of matter.
That was where it got a bit sticky. Marissa had only nightmares of a possible ending for Duncan, but no way of knowing for sure if it would or had really happened. Since the portals had closed, she had no way of going there and checking, but there might be another way. "I'm not sure. I keep having nightmares. I think our lives are linked somehow. Colleen suggested the mirror."
"Did she explain fully what that mirror does?" The mirror in question was a full length standing mirror and in Kirin's bedroom at present.
"No," she replied, though she had something of an idea how it worked. "It's a long story, but the last time I saw him he was... He's broken, Mother, and I'm not sure he'll ever be the same. In my dreams, it's an assassin. It's always an assassin. Triad, I think. It's always the same. He dies all alone." There was such sadness in Marissa's voice, it was obvious that she had come to care for the man in question and was haunted by his perceived fate.
"The mirror, Marissa, is an escape route. It connects to the portal system here and while routing into the main one it bypasses the need to go into the tavern itself. It means, no one sees you enter or leave."
"What am I supposed to do?" she asked. "I need to know. I can't live with myself knowing I could have prevented it."
"However, it only has two destinations. Colleen's home in Rhy'Din and the homestead in Ireland. Either of those places would aid your quest, I think. The only thing you can do is try, but you must be prepared for the changes you will be making if you do." She studied Marissa. "There's more to this, isn't there?"
"Yes, but I'm not sure how much I should tell you. More lives will be saved than just one, but... another life may be forfeit."
Kirin withdrew the tea balls from the mugs and stirred honey into her own tea. "Is this a life that already exists?"
"No, he's going to meet someone. Someone who..." Marissa sighed again, as it was so very complicated. "There will be a child. If I change things, then that child will not be born. At least, not in this reality and not to this Duncan."
"An ethical question for certain." Her hands curled around her mug. "However, if the child has not yet been conceived nor the mother met, this is not a life being ended." Kirin drew in a long breath. "Had I not returned from when I was, three children would not have been born. And who knows into whose care your mother might have placed you."
Marissa nodded as she considered all this. She and Kirin had had these sorts of discussions before, and there was no one she trusted or whose advice she valued more. "I should see him in this time, I think, before I decide what to do for certain."
"Will he know you already?" Kirin paused a moment to consider her words, before saying, "If you need my help, you will let me know, won't you?"
"No, he won't know me. Not yet. But he knows you. Maybe it's enough."
"Perhaps." She nodded. "Get a good night's sleep and see him tomorrow."
Marissa agreed, and with that decision out of the way, the pair of women went about discussing other matters over tea, just like old times, at least for Marissa. Tomorrow was another day. She would worry about Duncan tomorrow. Tonight was for visiting with the woman who had raised her and who she loved like a mother.
((Many thanks to Kirin's player for the above scene and for all her help with this SL!))
((Cross-posted for the sake of continuity.))
This is the first time I have ever put pen to paper, the first time I have ever tried putting into words an explanation of the life I have led. Few will ever be able to grasp its meaning or understand. It is, in a word, complicated. I'm not sure why I'm writing this, perhaps as some record of my thoughts for those who love me, in case I don't come back.
I am, in essence, a child out of time. However cliched it may sound, I am from the future, a future that may no longer exist. I am from another time, another place. There are many of me, as many as there are other realities. Countless really. Innumerable. Each one existing independently and without knowledge of the others.
My birth parents are dead, killed in an explosion. My siblings are being raised by my birth mother's family. I have not seen them since I was a small child. After my parents' deaths, I was separated from my siblings and raised by my mother's nearest and dearest friend. She is the only mother I remember; hence, the only mother I have ever known. Her name is Kirin, and her story is as convoluted as my own. Perhaps that is why she was chosen to raise me. Perhaps my birth mother, in her wisdom, knew she was the only one who would truly understand.
So many questions, so few answers. I have sought out the answers all these many years. It is partly why I am here, but there is more to it than simply that.
I have traveled through time in order to solve the mystery of my own life, but also, to know those who I could not otherwise have known had I remained in my own time and place. Life is like a web, each strand weaving itself through another until they all become interconnected. So many lives, so many possibilities. Countless really.
In one life, I am a child living with my birth parents and siblings in a cottage in the woods just outside of Rhy'Din. In another life, I am with my mother's family, being raised with my siblings far from the city. In yet another, I am the adoptive daughter of Kirin and Fox Mulder, raised with the children of that union as one of their own. That is the life I know and remember best.
In one future, I am dead. In another, I am lost. In still another, I am married and have children of my own and am living on a world far from Rhy'Din. And so it goes, but this is not about those lives. It is about this one. This Marissa. The only life I have ever known.
There were others who came from the future, but they are all part of me now. We live together in one body. We share one heart, one mind, one soul. I know them as well as I know myself. They are part of me, and yet, they are separate. All their voices speak in my head. Together we are as one. Together we have decided what we must do, and together we will do it.
There is one last life that needs saving, one last journey to the past. He is my adoptive mother's heart-brother, and as such, he is as much family as myself. His name is Duncan Mallory. He is from another world very different from Rhy'Din. One of us - one of the Marissas inside me - was in love with him once. Another died for him. His life is almost as complicated as my own. I have seen his life and his spirit destroyed as he fell into despair and lost himself in misery. I have helplessly watched him die horribly in my dreams, night after night.
He came to Rhy'Din once to find someone he loved. One of me brought him here, but it didn't work out, and when he returned to his own world, he was lost.
All of this is not just about one life, but three. A man, a woman, and a child. I have decided to go back, before his life became full of grief and tragedy. I do not know how I will prove myself to him or how I will make him understand, but if I do not do this, if I do not try, I will not be able to live with myself. He is family, after all, and I would do anything for family.
Perhaps then, I can find peace. That is all I want, all I can ever hope for.
May 2014, Rhy'Din
What is it they say? Be careful what you wish for? I should probably take some of that advice for myself.
Duncan and Mara and Rob are safe in Rhy'Din and staying at my birth mother's old cottage in the woods - the one that belonged to her father before her. I've been staying at the Brownstone when I'm in Rhy'Din, but there are almost too many memories there. Too many memories at the cottage, too, but that's another story. Sometimes it's hard to sort it all out - all the memories of the various mes. Sometimes I wonder if it won't drive me to madness one day.
I know I'm welcome in Rhy'Din, but I've been thinking lately about going back to Dreven, or perhaps I should search for my birth mother again. I have been so busy these past years trying to save Duncan and his family and make them safe that I've neglected the home and family I have here in Rhy'Din, as well as those in Dreven. That door might be closed to me now, except through the past, and that is always a dangerous business. I warned Mother - Kirin, I mean. I told her the portals will close in her future, but I know she will be happy and content there, especially now that Da is gone. She raised me as her own, and I will always love her for it, but her path has taken a different twist than mine. Perhaps it's time I had a long heart to heart with Colleen. She's the closest thing I have to a mother now that Kirin is gone and my own mother lost.
Now that Duncan is safe, I'm not sure what to do next. I've never really felt like any place was home, but then home isn't so much about the place, as it is about the people. I have family here in Rhy'Din, at least. I know I'm loved and cared for, but I need to find my own way. I need to make a life of my own. I'm just not sure how.
Kirin was a dressmaker. Colleen is, well, complicated. They're both complicated. Life is a complicated business, I suppose, even more so for those who defy fate, as we have. I'm not sure where my future lies. I have little need of money and have infinite choices, and yet, I've no idea what to do with my life now that this latest quest is finished.
It's fall here in Rhy'Din. Only a few months have passed since I left to travel six years into the past. It's a lovely time of year, but winter is coming. The threat of snow in the air. The woods will become quiet with the dead of winter, but that is still another month or so away yet.
It's often tempting to lose myself to the tiger. There is no thought, no worry, no heartache when I am in that form. It is only about survival. I am still needed at the cottage, I think, at least, until Duncan and Mara feel comfortable here and are settled in. There is much to learn that they do not know. I will try to teach them slowly, so nothing comes as a shock to them. They're safe at the cottage for now, but they cannot stay there forever. Duncan's wish has always been to raise horses. Perhaps Colleen can help with that somehow, or I can help him find employment on one of the farms outside the city.
I do not know what the future holds for me. No one does, not even me. I can only hope that someday I will find a place that seems like home, and that I will find the kind of love and happiness that Duncan and Mara are now free to share. Until then, I will be the solitary creature I have always been, at least in this lifetime. Perhaps it's better that way. Opening one's heart to someone else only invites heartache, and I am lonely enough already. I often wonder what became of my other selves - the ones I have never met, the ones that live in all those alternate realities Rhy'Din is so famous for. Did they find happiness or are they, too, still searching?
At least, I am happy knowing those I love and care for have a chance at the peace and contentment I may never know. And that is really all one can hope for.
November 2014, Rhy'Din
((Cross-posted from Motley for continuity.))