She arrives in a gray, blank world. Mists, swirling around her, eddying and glistening in some unseen light. It is as if the air were made of glitter, dew drops, stardust slips through the strands of her long white fur without a hint of touch. The world is so quiet, so empty. She swore there was shouting, her shouting. Images of black space and pin points of light and some mighty, unknown hand, pulling her, inexorably, onward, away, from the fire. There was fire. But she did not fear for her life. Perhaps she is lost in the ashes, now. Awakened to the aftermath of the blaze.
She looks at her hands. Her paws, massive, tipped with cruel, hooked claws. She feels her broad shoulders, stout horns, long snout and jagged, overhanging teeth. A monster. The fire must have changed her. She was not always like this. Was she? What was there before the fire?
What is her name?
She begins to walk. She feels hollow, without a name to go by, in this strange, hideous body. She walks for miles, for hours, days; there is no time, actually. She is not sure what time is. She questions the word. It sounds like nonsense. And though her footsteps never seem to gain traction, the sparkling mists eventually clear, and she sees that she is on a vast, empty plain. An eerie blue pallor hangs over the land, from horizon to horizon. Long, burnished copper grasses sway in a wind she cannot feel, for the air, if air there even is, is perfectly still. A lone little twig sticks up from the grass some distance away. She proceeds, huge, hulking form seeming to slip and slither over the earth, gentle as an iridescent snake.
A figure stands beside the twig, its back to her. She reaches out, and places one paw on its shoulder, claws sinking into inky, smoky flesh.
“Who am I?”
The figure stares at the horizon, unmoving, nondescript. She carefully plods around in front of it—and it is gone. One moment, she was looking at the shadow, so familiar, so still. And now there is nothing but empty air.
A shiver runs up her spine, making her fur stand on end. She needs to speak with the figure. The shadow. But it is gone. She is alone, in this ceaseless, washed out world.
There is no time, but something must pass, for although the twig in the grasses never grows out of sight, it does become smaller, the grasses on the horizon coming and going. She sees them undulating like amber ocean waves, whenever she closes her eyes. When she closes her eyes, she swears she smells the scent of smoke. Something is burning. Something reeks.
Her eyes pop open, and she brushes a paw over her spotless white fur. Unmarred, but it shouldn't be. It shouldn't. But why? What was it that smelled? This place is scentless. Here, there is no such thing as smell. And the more she thinks about it, the less she believes smell was ever real.
She finds another figure—this time, it moves, and it sits hunched in the grasses, crying softly into its knees. A strong, but battered man. A human. She approaches soundlessly. When she finds herself standing at his feet, she looks down, and holds out a helping hand for him to take.
Her voice is like a thunderous, furious roar in the thick silence of the plains, and her heart aches to hear it.
The man instantly recoils, scrambling backward frantically, scarred face twisted in horror and rage. He struggles to his feet in his full plate armor, pierced in multiple areas by familiar little holes, though she can't quite place them.
“Get back, foul beast! Must you haunt me even here? Is it not enough to take a man's life, but his spirit, too?”
She inclines her head, a sort of resigned nod. She did not expect this, yet, she is not surprised. The man's face is familiar. Her shoulders slump forward, and she lowers her eyes, meek and ashamed.
“Forgive me. I only wanted to help.”
“Help! Idiot creature! The help of a charr is as wasted on me as--”
“Charr?” She blinks her narrow eyes at him. “What is a charr?”
The man quiets for a moment, rubbing his hand over his jaw, putting it all together. “You, you don't know where you are, do you?”
“No. I do not. I woke up here. What is this? And where have we met?”
“In your dreams, charr,” the man hisses, spitting at her feet. She feels the warm liquid seep into her fur. “You will wander as I have, lost and damned, until you have worn your cursed feet to stubs!”
“I am not lost. See,” she says plainly, turning to point at the little twig, far in the distance. The man looks, and shakes his head, turning away, starting for his own horizon.
“You're already going mad, Rajya Goldeneyes. Weak as the rest of your kind.”
She turns away from the twig, and he is gone. Vanished, without a trace.
Rajya Goldeneyes wanders the hollow, blue earth, and as she goes, no matter which way she faces, the twig is always there, newborn leaves fluttering in the breeze. Eventually, the sky changes—no longer a thick blue slate, but starry, pulsating with a thousand twinkling diamonds, like the water of a lake, rippling outward at the gentle of plop of a pebble. She lies on her back, and watches. She has a name now. Why Rajya Goldeneyes? Are her eyes golden? Is she really a charr? She knows that she does not look like the human man, with his furless skin and small frame, but this charr he speaks of—a terrible word. It sounds like metals grinding together. She looks like a monster, yes, but she is not a monster. She's just like him.
She repeats it, over and over, in her head. Just like him.
Skies come and go, and the twig grows into a tree. Rajya watches it from far off, idly curious. After all, nothing ever changes. What else is she going to do? Tiny little sticks split off into great branches that scratch at the shimmering sky. The tree is so small, compared to the eternity of the rolling plains. Yet it seems to defy the ground it stands on, sprouting little orange leaves, here and there at first, then by the dozens, the hundreds, an excess of leaves spilling down like fresh spring blossoms in the afternoon sun. She remembers that sun, warm on her back, the sound of weapons clinking, birds chittering, and flashes of people—of charr—out of the corner of her eye. Her friends. Patting her on the back, chiding her.
Keep up, Rajya. Pretend to be interested. Or the Primus will yell at all of us, because of you.
She shakes her massive head, fur fluffing and settling. A young cub's voice. But who? A he, but who? And where?
A cub. She is a charr. Charr start out as cubs.
She looks to the horizon, where she thinks the man disappeared, so long ago. Grasses dance and shimmy, tantalizing, like a mirage of days gone by. She is a charr, she is a monster, and the man fears her because of it.
The realization hits her like a flash of white light, and when she sullenly swings her head back to the tree, yet another change has transpired—a desk sits beneath it. A fine, old wooden desk, with a starkly functional chair. In no time at all, she finds herself sitting in that chair, watching as leaves drift down upon a blank sheet of paper, laid out on the desk. She picks up a quill—where did she get that?—and presses it to the parchment.
“All this for a beast like you, eh?”
She looks up. The man is there again, on the other side of the desk, gazing at the tree in wonder, the hard creases and the scowl on his face softened, if only for a moment. He has shed his armor, instead wearing a threadbare tunic and thick tights, little more than undergarments.
“And I got nothing—I sacrificed everything for my people, and I'm probably lying in a ditch somewhere, with a hundred of my comrades. Why? Why you?”
Rajya shrugs, the chair creaking under her great weight.
“I do not know. I know nothing, except that I am a charr, a monster, and my name is Rajya Goldeneyes. You taught me that.”
“I didn't have to teach you—you already knew it. I could see it in your eyes, when you found me. You suffered.”
“What did I suffer?”
“I don't know. Penitence? Perhaps you atoned for your evils against humanity,” the man says bitterly, though not unkindly. “Either way, I think I—I'm ready to go.”
“Go where?” Rajya asks, deep voice rumbling through the rustling of the leaves.
“Onward. To whatever comes next. But I need my name. And you know it. Please, you ugly old fur ball, tell me my name!”
The man slams his hands on the desk, eyes suddenly swollen with emotion. Rajya gazes down at him. Those eyes are gray, pale gray. She has seen eyes like that before. Not the same, no, but like them, the color, the intensity. Like soft morning rains. That swiftly boil and crackle into evening storms, raging tempests that pull at her heartstrings, filling her chest with aching, longing, love. She left someone behind, before she came here. She left someone, and she must find them, she must go back, she must find a way, because someone needs her, the one with the pale gray eyes, the child's eyes, forever a child at heart, perfectly broken in the face of this vast, empty world.
She must go back. She must remember.
“Rin Reichard,” she says, after what seems a pause of many years long. Her voice sounds lethargic, distant, as if coming from behind a thick, silken veil. “I am sorry it took me so long. I have been sorry since the moment I saw you. I will always regret what I have done.”
The man stretches out his hand, placing it upon her paw, on the simple wooden desk. He smiles, and the scars on his face are gone, a man ten years younger standing before her. A halo of white light glows magnesium bright around his head. The sun, welcoming him home. She remembers the sun.
“Wait!” she suddenly cries out, leaping from her chair, reaching out to grab him by the shoulders, “Take me with you! Do not leave me here! Please, I beg you, take me--”
“--I, too, will always regret what we have done. I forgive you, Rajya Goldeneyes.”
And, like the figure that once stood beside the twig, so long ago, the man is gone.
She sits back in her chair. She puts the quill to the paper.
Skies come and go, leaves grow and grow, they flutter down on her, collecting on her head and her shoulders, in her lap and on her blank white paper. Golden eyes remain focused on that paper, waiting, desperately hoping, that the man will come back for her, will take her back to the place she came from, where the sun shines, and a little girl holds her hand. She waits, and she hopes, that she will remember. In a place where there is no time, every moment is an eternity. The man was right. She is lost, beneath this thriving tree. Lost in plain sight.
She sits at her desk. And she waits.