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Weight of the World

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The world she had awoken in was strange and foreign, hard and bright and filled with... sensation. She didn't understand why she had awoken there, in a cage suspended at the top of the castle's tower, or where or what she might have been before she had awoken. She knew she was not like the other one, the smaller one. He belonged to this world; his skin was darker, but the light from the sky made it brighter, the same way some of the stone walls shone and some were shadowed. His mouth formed sounds she didn't know, just like the small things with the white wings that fluttered about the courtyard, and the dark metal links of the chains that swayed in a sudden gust of breeze. He took her hand, and his fingers felt as rough and solid as the ground beneath her feet. He felt like earth, warmed by the light. She didn't understand how someone like herself could feel such a thing, but she did.

She didn't understand what the shadowy creatures wanted of her, or where they were trying to take her. She didn't understand why she was so frightened. The darkness that spawned them was the same darkness that had spawned her; it should have been home to her, as it was home to them. That was her world, and that of her mother. This world, with the light and the stone and the warmth and the other - that was not where she belonged.

She didn't understand why this world was less frightening to her than the darkness. Except, perhaps, she thought it had something to do with the one who had found her.

He was not of the darkness, that much was certain, and he saw its creatures as enemies. When they tried to take her back, he fought them desperately, as if he were trying to save her. Maybe that was why she was so afraid of the darkness - because he thought the darkness, and everything that came from it, was a bad thing. Because he was saving her from them, they must be something she needed to be saved from.

But she had come from the darkness as well. Didn't that make her a bad thing too? It might have been that he and the creatures both wanted the same thing of her, to make her more like themselves, more a part of the world they inhabited. Why should she fear those she was already like, and not fear the one who was unlike her?

This was not her world, there was so much she didn't know - including why she found herself so enchanted by it. The lights and shadows (shadows that were still light, not the darkness she knew), the sounds and smells, the repeated circular motion of the great winged structure by the cliffs, the way the light from the sky flashed bright upon the water, the way the stones touched her feet when she moved across them. The terrifying lurch deep within her body when she leapt to follow her companion and found herself falling, and then the painful, reassuring jolt of him catching her arm, pulling her to the apparent safety of bricks or rocks or wood. Anything but the nothingness of the air.

Though she could not understand his language, she understood the look in his eyes when that happened, or when one of the creatures managed to pull her down, leaving her suspended half in terrifying familiar darkness, half in comforting alien reality. His hard hand found hers, somehow caught tight to a substance she shouldn't have, but his eyes were something more like the world she knew. They held her fast, though they did not touch her. They told her that he would never let go.

Time and time again, he didn't. She didn't understand how it was possible, but somehow, each time, he was able to pull her back to his world, as if she were made of the same substance as he.

But that was not the truth of it. He was of more substance than she, and his steps began to slow as they made their way through the castle. She understood when he sat down upon the bench, his arms falling back against the bright surface as if his shoulders could hardly support their weight any longer. It must have taken a great deal of strength, moving around with a body like stone and earth and water. It was no wonder he was exhausted.

Not so exhausted, though, that he did not raise one hand again, beckoning to her. Though she was not tired, she obliged, sitting down beside him, shifting as she tried to learn how to sit comfortably on an object like the bench.

When she looked back at him, his head had fallen back, and his eyes were closed.

For a moment, she was afraid. He was the only thing that kept her in this world, that kept her from being pulled back to her own. And although she didn't understand why, she knew that she wanted to stay. If those eyes let go of her...

But then she felt a warm, heavy feeling against her wrist. A feeling that was now familiar, as he had taken her hand so many times, to rescue or to escape or simply to guide.

He slid sideways a bit, his head drifting towards her shoulder. After a moment, she tried letting hers do likewise. She dared to close her eyes against the wonders of the world she could see, and the terrors of the world she could not. Even if his eyes had released her, his hand remained. She tried, though it went against her very nature, to hold it as tightly as he held hers.

And just like him, she realized some time later, as she opened her eyes to see him yawning and stretching in the slanting light that now seemed painful in its brightness - just like him, she had fallen asleep. Her neck had a pain in it that she'd never experienced, dull and distracting, yet somehow tilting her head made it feel wonderful. Her vision was blurry, even after she rubbed at her eyes, but everything seemed vivid and overwhelming and beautiful. She looked over and found him rubbing his eyes and blinking, just the same.

There was still so much she didn't understand about this world, but although she didn't know how to tell him so, with each touch, he was making her more certain that she never wanted to go back to the world from which she'd been born.