Chapter 22: Memories
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“Hey Ghisé, what do you know about Souls?”

We were in my room alone, sitting knee to knee on my nest just like we used to. We didn’t fit quite as easily as back then, but we made it work.

“Souls?” She looked at me like I had two heads. In a sense I kind of did. “Well, Terese said it was the thing about someone that keeps going after they die.“

“Well… what about before they are born?”

“Waiting? I’ve never really thought about that.” She nibbled on her claw as she tried to work it out. “Why are you asking this?”

“Because!” How do I put this? I knew I wanted to talk to Ghisé, but I should’ve taken a day to figure out how. “I remember things from a life before this one… and the time between them.”

Her face only screwed with confusion harder, “Tal, that’s a pretty unbelievable thing to claim.“

My brow furrowed, I needed this. How does someone prove that things only in their memory are true? “The day we got lost in the forest! When I was captured. I could understand the humans. We fought, I hurt you. It was an accident I’m so sorry,“ I was starting to ramble and the apology was in there somewhere.

She just smiled gently and placed a wing on my shoulder, “If that’s what you’re worrying about that it’s totally fine! I forgive you.” She chuckled lightly, “I honestly don’t remember much other than being cold and scared so you must not have hurt me too bad. Honestly I should apologize for being too scared to help! Jiju helped, but I usually just think about how helpless and useless I was.”

I was floored. How could she not even remember that pained cry when I zapped her? It played in my dreams sometimes, like my own personal Wilhelm Scream. She remembered things from her perspective—of course.

Memory was just like that. It wasn’t like watching an old home movie. It was more like one of those pinboards in an old detective office with the red lines connecting. On top of all that, memories of events between people were not a single perspective like a camera. Everyone there formed their own version of the memory starring themselves.

Even the major points can alter with time and the details our minds concoct when recalling them. Thinking back on it, the highlights I gave when I told the story was really everything I myself remembered, and when I spoke of the fight I said very little about Ghisé's presence there.

I came back to the question I asked myself earlier. How to prove my memories of another world are true? “Please…” I grabbed her hands and stared into her eyes, I needed her to see how serious I was. “I just need you to believe. Because I’m also freaking out about it all and I need you.”

———

“So… in the life before this was, you were human.”

“Yeah.”

“But not just one from one of the human settlements, but a whole other human only world.”

I nodded.

Her nose turned up slightly.

“Is that gross?!” I asked with more panic than the situation really warranted.

“It’s just a bit… weird. Like I can’t see you as a human. Jiju said you were diving for fish this morning!” Ghisé started honest to goodness laughing, and my mouth opened and closed like my breakfast's. “If your biggest fear is that you’re not Hesht enough… I don’t know what to tell you. It’s just kind of silly! But even that silly is you.”

She smiled and pulled me in a hug before I even realized tears were flowing. Bless my sister cause I swear she was more magical than me. For years I carried this weight alone, only for my sister to come by and ask “Why? You’re being silly.” And I was.

When memories came back, they didn’t get ‘tacked’ onto the present. Even the most recent memory—the promise—felt like it was longer ago than the day we moved out of the Hatchome. No matter how many memories I recovered, being Talivi, being Hesht was always more recent, more current, more me. Vander was right: I wasn’t being diluted by the memories, they were a part of me from the day I hatched.

“How did you die?” she asked bluntly. Seeing my face, she backpedaled with a quick “never mind.”

I didn’t actually know though. I had a lot of my younger memories from my life as Olivia, but nothing near the end. At least it was nice and neat of things to stay in order like that. “I don’t remember yet,” I answered honestly.

It was a ‘yet’ since the memories returning completely was certain. I decided they would eventually and, though there was still a bit of fear, it was far more manageable knowing that it was always me who chose this.

“I wonder if I was once one of those Hesht that built cities and wrote books. Or maybe a chief!” Ghisé was bouncing a bit, like we were dishing the latest gossip.

“Probably a dwarf, you’re certainly stubborn enough,” I teased.

She huffed, “That couldn’t be possible!”

“Proving my point.”

She wrung her talons together nervously, “Then I’ll have to become a great Hesht in this life. I’ve been working hard with Jiju…” she trailed off.

“If you want to become a guardian, then I think you should. You’re tough!” I made a fist pumping motion that made her smile.

“If… when I become a Guardian, can I stay with you?” she asked quietly.

I squeezed her hand, “I’m not going anywhere Ghisé, my place is here. This place. You and Sen and all the rest is what I want.”

“For now… Just say ‘okay’.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

“I’ll tell Sen for you,” Ghisé offered, “She’s been worried and needs to know that this was the thing bothering you.”

“Besides being trapped in a human town for years,” I added.

“Yeah besides that… Just say ‘okay’.”

“Okay.”

Ghisé gave me a hug and stood, it was time for her to go. She was training with Jiju after this. I’d be joining them next week.

“And no more magic this week,” she added half out the door.

I rolled my eyes, “Okay.”

From the common room she called, “And that includes touching yourself!”

“Ghisé!” I growled back, but the only response was the sound of the clutchhome door closing. I flopped back into the nest and buried my face in my wings, hoping a meteor would drop on their training session or something.

———

Despite my petty wishes, nothing disrupted their training that day or any day the whole week. I kept my promise to refrain from using magic, but I still studied it.

Alex wasn’t much help yet, but swore he was feeling better each day. He had some defensive cuts, but the worst wound was a near skewering on his side. I was worried, but he never ran a fever, so whatever stabbed him kept the damage to blood and pain. He just wasn’t very mobile, or very awake due to the drugs we’d been giving him. In other words, he was boring and I had to do the laundry.

I had visitors in that time, mostly Reyna. I had underestimated just how deep the hooks dug when I showed her the tome last week. At first I was thankful for her assistance, but when she asked to borrow it with hungry eyes I had to say no. I wasn’t comfortable being too far from the tome for too long.

Vander was tough to find sometimes despite the rules. I even asked Courier Sen for rumors but no one has seen him outside our territory. Still, his chores were always done, and he was always around for the nightly chats between dinner and bed. Either Jiju or Alex would be completely lost at any given time though. The communication barrier was really difficult to crack, but it meant a lot to me that they were both there to make the home I came back to a bit less empty.

I spent a lot of it with the Hesht tome continuing my personal research into Spellweaving. It was my only hobby, and I didn’t see that changing much in a week. When your hobby is a book it’s easy to enjoy it in the sun, the shade of a tree, by the stream, at the kitchen table, laying on my back with my legs running up the wall. Suffice to say I had options.

I was laying on my belly next to the stream reading when I caught the shadow of someone over my shoulder. No wings, so it could only be Vander. “If you’re waiting for me to notice you, I already did.”

“I was waiting to not interrupt you,” he replied.

“Then stop looking at me. Sit there and look at the water.”

He snorted. “You got it Princess.”

I ignored the bait. When he did as I asked though, I stole a peek at his profile anyways. After a few minutes of silence, a noise appeared. It reappeared after another few seconds. Ploop.

“Are you bored?” I asked.

Vander turned the stone he held over a few times, looked surprised to find it there, and promptly dropped it. He smiled, “Not if you’ll talk to me. At least tell me what you’re working on.”

I waved him over and pointed to one of the pages, “You could help with this. I already roughly translated this page, and this braid allows the caster to move objects at a distance. I’m trying to break down the components of it now.”

He took a moment to scan the page, “Yeah barely. It says here it can only move metal and some rocks. [Magnet]? Why this one?”

“It’s because the spell is just doing what magnets do, and with near enough the same limits, plus the braid totally lightning aspected. This drop off in distance described could be the little exponent thing I forget the name of. I want to know why and how? Is the caster becoming magnetic, or is magic taking hold of natural magnetic fields. Amplifying them maybe? I want to study this spell to find out.”

His face went through quite a few expressions as he considered it all. In the end it landed in a cheeky smile. “You big nerd,” he teased.

“Alright kettle. When is your next lecture on the ancient Earthu civilizations?”

“That’s history! Wait… Earth-u?”

“It helps to be able to tell the difference sometimes,” I stated the obvious for his benefit. “And what makes history less nerdy than science?”

“Is it science, or magic?” We went back and forth like that for a bit until we both ran out of bluster. 

After a bit he asked, “Are Liv’s memories still bothering you?”

I shook my head, “Only a little...” I rolled onto my back. The sky was beautiful and clear today. It would be spring again soon. “When I first started to understand what was happening. I thought someone else was coming to steal my life. I thought maybe by the time I came back, I wouldn’t really be Hesht anymore. And, that maybe I was a fake from the day I broke out of my egg. Ghisé helped with that.”

“It’s good that you have each other.”

I nodded and turned to see him still playing with rocks. “I wish all my sisters had each other though,” I said. “How much of that conversation did you catch when they came over?”

He shrugged helplessly, “Enough.”

I sighed, “I’ll figure it out. I want my family together again.”

He wrung his hands a bit, “I think Alex and I might be making that harder. You’re home now, you don’t need us.”

“But I want you both here,” I protested. “If Alex decides he’s ready to face Redwall and his father again that’s fine, but I won’t let either of you be forced out. And you, I don't care what I said when we made our promise, I do want you here now.”

His face reddened slightly, "You remember that?"

I push my wings out and up into a full body stretch, then rock up to my feet. “If the rules are dumb, then I’m going to break the rules." I walked over and kissed him softly on the cheek. "This is my choice. I’ll get Cee to come around.”


Big thank you to readers who took part in last chapter's poll, left their comments below the chapter, or DMed me regarding the poll. I appreciate you sharing with me.

Also I'd really like to thank my alpha reader R who has kindly lent me another pair of eyes to catch more mistakes or unclear phrasing before it comes to SH. I hope the more recent chapters including this one are a better reading experience than the earlier chapters in this novel.

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