She fingered the obsidian amulet she had bound around her throat, the one that the late Dark Lord had given her, and wondered what hidden powers it might possess. It clung to her in an odd way--like if she had wanted to remove it, she would not be able to, even though this was not so. The shining stone was a sharp contrast to the white robes she now wore.
The Druidess ran her fingers through her hair. After the ritual . . . she had felt the strange urge to cut her hair above the shoulder. Everything seemed to be odd after the ritual. The stark white robes and the short hair were a superficial exhibition of that. Something was different in her mind as well--at first she could only describe it as a "scatterbrained" feeling. Now she knew that her consciousness was a little broader, and her perspective view had changed. Was this what a link to the gods brought about?
Kaitlin pulled her red Elfstones out of her pocket and fingered them contemplatively. She concentrated on them instinctively, much aware of how their power was brought about, and felt her being fuse with their red glow. Closing her eyes, she sensed the vision rather than saw it, and felt the warmth of the Stones edging up her arm, crawling through her veins, wrapping around her body . . .
Her eyes opened. In one split-second Kaitlin was so surprised that the Elfstones had acted outside of an emergency situation that she failed to notice the dark figure standing before her, and then she regained her focus, and stood up, pocketing the Stones, and holding out both her hands.
"Well met, Walker Boh," the Druidess said, smiling warmly.
The apparition did not smile back, but gripped her slender wrists tightly, and stared into her eyes. His skin was the palest of anyone--paler than Kaitlin's--but his hair was darker than her shimmering staff. His eyes glimmered.
-Kaitlin. You are in danger.
She pursed her lips. "I . . . know. But I also know what I'm doing, Uncle."
-Kaitlin! Conspiring with beings not of this plane was never a business when anyone 'knew what they were doing.'
The Shade of Walker Boh gripped her wrists even more tightly, almost painfully, but Kaitlin did not wince. "It's for the greater good, Walker. I must save this land, or help save it, or do whatever I can. The Dark Lord is gone; the remaining heroes are a disjointed band of . . . " she shook her head. "They haven't got it together, and I'm not sure how I can help them, but I know I *can* be of help." She smiled confidently.
Walker frowned. -One of you can be of help.
He said it knowingly, meaningfully, carefully. -But the other only has evil intent, and a selfish soul. Do you understand?
Kaitlin licked her lips thoughtfully, then said through gritted teeth.
"Not entirely." Walker's words whispered, echoing, through her skull and made her shiver.
-Too much has happened to you, Kaitlin. Too much has passed. You need rest. Come back to Paranor! The Druid Sleep would do you good. Already I see a foulness in your aura.
"The Druid sleep would take me out of the battle for fifty years, maybe more. I'm not ready to go back to that yet, Uncle . . . I'm sorry." She crossed her arms, forcing him to release his hold on her wrists, causing the phantasm to waver faintly. "This is important to me. I have to take up where the Dark Lord left off . . . I have to help save them all . . . "
Walker shook his head and sighed. -You will see the error of your ways soon enough. Beware of the Moogles, Kaitlin. Your hatred of them does you no good. I tell you this because you're too young to get yourself killed, Kaitlin. The Druids must carry on; you are our delegate, our bloodline by my power . . .
-I must rest.
With that, the Dark Uncle, Walker Boh, faded into a hazy reddish mist,
and then into nothing at all.
* * * * *
Hours later, Kaitlin walked briskly toward the Dark Lord's office, where Bacca had called her and several others to come forth. At a junction of hallways she met with Jaana and Sephiroth walking arm-in-arm. Jaana saw the pained look on Kaitlin's face and inquired what the trouble was.
"Oh . . . I talked to Walker today . . . "
Jaana looked shocked. "Walker Boh? Your Mentor? . . . wow . . . "
Kaitlin shrugged. "Worlds away, I know. He really is powerful--how could he believe I am more so? Even after what happened . . . and then, what's really strange is: he came through the Elfstones." She held them up, showing them to the pair.
"Why is that strange?" asked Sephiroth, a strange look in his eyes--eyes that seemed to reflect the power of the Elfstones back at her.
Kaitlin took a deep breath. "The Elfstones only work when they are needed--emergency situations. The reason being, every time they are used, the bearer gets a little more drawn into them. My theory is they really were Elves, a long time ago. Whatever the case, they reacted more quickly than I've ever felt them react. And that scares me. Walker warned me of something, but I can't quite figure out what he meant."
Jaana looked at the stones blankly for a moment as Kaitlin returned them to her robe pocket. "Maybe you'll find out soon. In any case, we'd better get going." Jaana motioned for the others to follow.
Kaitlin stood there for a moment, pondering, then ran after them, her sandaled feet padding lightly on the floor. "But I sense danger--I sense . . . I . . . think there's something wrong with me . . . " she dashed after them, only to catch up as they entered the chamber of the late Dark Lord.