Sunlight blinded her when she awoke. She tried to stifle her groans so they wouldn’t make her pounding head hurt even more. Her muscles protested any sort of movement, so she took it slow when she was trying to sit up. However, like in life, she was impatient. If she was dead, she wanted to see what the Land Beyond looked like as soon as possible—
Her hand clasped over her mouth to stop her raw throat from hurting itself anymore with a scream when she opened her eyes. Blood clashed horribly with the earth, staining the grounds like it stained the cheap uniforms of the dismembered guards. Bones and tissue were as mixed up as the destroyed wagons’ belongings, and the old man’s headless body was hanging in a tree, stabbed through the torso by a branch.
Corali hurled up what little she had in her stomach at the sight.
This couldn’t be what the Land Beyond was like; in all the stories she’s heard of the place after death, it was supposed to be bright and make every individual feel content, and there wasn’t supposed to be blood and torn up bodies and messy limbs strewn everywhere…!
Corali figured that she needed to get the hell out of here after she had taken a few seconds to convince herself that she, somehow, was still alive. Placing her hands on either side of her to push herself up from the ground, a sharp pain suddenly pricked one of her index fingers. Barely thinking, she stuck the finger in her mouth in an attempt to make it feel better and glanced down at whatever had hurt her.
There. Gleaming in the dappled spots of sunlight was the silver dagger that had been holed up in the shiny box. There was the dagger that she had taken without thinking to use to defend herself. There was the dagger that the old man and his entourage had so passionately tried to protect from her, a little thief. And that dagger was as clean as if it had been bathed in holy water.
Corali swiftly backed away from the weapon, suddenly very suspicious of it for being the only clean thing in the entire clearing. Scrambling to her feet, she blindly ran in a random direction, hardly looking at her surroundings and not sure as to what village she was headed to despite knowing the woods like the back of her hand. The further away she was from the dagger the better.
At least, that’s what she thought until a dull pain kept knocking on her head with every step she took. It wasn’t very long until the pain grew so unbearable that she stumbled to the ground. Laying there, she closed her eyes, wanting to sleep, almost wishing that she had drowned in the damn Elementalist’s bubble if only to escape from the pain.
Corali blinked open her eyes through the pain, unsure as to whether or not she was going crazy. Had she just heard a voice? Where had it come from?
“Come back for me…”
Back toward the clearing was definitely where the voice sounded. Did that even make sense? It does now. Corali moved her head, much to its protest, to glance down the way she had come but saw no one. Who was this me that she was supposed to go and get anyway? No one else had been alive. Granted, she didn’t really look hard enough. Honestly, who would have wanted to search through a blood-soaked clearing for survivors of a group of soldiers that had tried to kill her? Rather, WHY would she have wanted to do it, not random WHOs because there was no one else there to be a “who” to care about Corali. Moving on.
“I’ll get rid of the pain… Come back for me…”
Well, if the pain would go away… Corali struggled to sit up once more and turned sluggishly back in the direction toward the clearing. The pain almost immediately began to subside as she began her slow, quiet trek back to the spot where the corpses were resting. With each step, her head seemed to be a little lighter and the only dizzyness she had was most likely due to lack of sleep. Which sounded odd, considering she must have been out cold for most of the night…
It wasn’t too long before she returned to the clearing, and her stomach performed tumbles and flips like some of the jesters that used to lead the way in parades dedicated to the monarchs on fair days. She took a quick look around the clearing and saw no moving form. Her lip began to bleed, making her realize that she had been biting it to keep from retching up any leftovers that happened to be in her stomach.
“Hello…?” Her voice echoed off of the trees, and only a slight breeze answered her. Corali waited for a few more minutes, keeping her eyes toward the sky rather than the ground, before sighing and turning away from the clearing again. As she turned, a glint of steel caught her eyes and she stared at the perfect, silver dagger laying on the cleanest spot of ground. With a mental shrug, Corali stooped down to pick up the weapon, figuring that she may as well not waste a good weapon.
She yelped and nearly dropped the dagger when she heard that voice whisper, “Thank you…”
“Wha… Was that… Was that you?” Corali felt ridiculous for talking to a blade, an inanimate object, yet… Well, there was no one else here, now was there?
“Who else…? I speak to no one but to my Bound…”
“I’m officially going insane,” Corali muttered, contemplating dropping the dagger and making a run for it.
“Drop me and I cannot keep you free of pain…”
“So you can read my mind?” she asked, taking the blade and practically jogging out of the clearing to get away from the stench of decomposing human flesh. If she had anything in her stomach, it would have been thrown up by now.
A strange chuckle reached her ears. “My dear, I am always in your mind…”
“Yeah, that doesn’t sound creepy at all,” she said, sarcasm dripping off every syllable.
“You will get used to it…” Corali decided that the voice had a masculine ring to it, despite the odd echo-effect that she felt like she was getting. “I dislike sticking around inside mere mortals’ heads too often, but I do visit my Bound’s mind to help often…”
“An’ just what do you think I need help with?” she asked. She idly wondered which way she was going, her mind still heavy from her spontaneous nap earlier. Tree branches creaked and crashed together as the wind spurred them on, the chilly nip paving the way for the coming harvest season. Corali almost slipped more than once on the damp moss covering the uneven ground. She began to stare down at the ground almost as much as her surroundings, determined not to fall and sprain an ankle. Being injured wasn’t on her to-do list at the moment. It wouldn’t be much help if she couldn’t walk when she needed to get to the next town, which was probably in the opposite direction that she was trudging in. And, despite his offer to help, she was sure the dagger couldn’t transform into some sort of crutch or bandages for her.
“You will need help in the future, now that I’m not home…” the dagger said, his voice lazy and confident at the same time. “For now, you seem fine… I will sleep until you need me…”
Corali stared at the blade in her hand with a raised eyebrow before moving to stuff the weapon into one of her belt’s loops for easy access. “Wait… So you’re a Mr. Dagger?” she asked. “Is there something I’m supposed to call you?”
“Tahl…” the dagger said after chuckling again, making Corali feel as if she had missed something. “You may call me Tahl…”
“Sure,” was all she murmured before tucking the blade away. Many questions rant through her mind as she found herself on the outskirts of the village from the night before. What kind of dagger had a name? Many famed warriors often named their weapons, but she hadn’t heard of any that spoke back to their wielders. And what about this home that Tahl spoke of? How could a dagger have a home, other than its wielder’s case for it?
“This can’t be happening,” she said aloud. “I must have bumped my head when I escaped from the old man’s bubble–”
Corali blinked. How did she survive the Elementalist’s spell? And she didn’t kill everyone back in that clearing.
“…Did I?” She bit down on her lip once more, only to wince at the cut she had given it earlier. Glancing down at the dagger sitting idly in her belt loop, Corali shook her head in an attempt to clear it.
“I need food,” she said. “That’ll get me thinking clearly again.” Skirting around the village’s border, Corali made certain to steal food from vendors who were far away from the merchant whose money she was spending.