On a misty summer evening, after the moon had settled behind the haze in the sky, and the silent street was lit only by the flickering of televisions inside the houses, a lone woman walked by herself. She wore a long blue dress and a shawl to cover her shoulders, with her long black hair pinned neatly on her head. She didn’t turn to look at any of the houses as she passed them, but rather stopped very abruptly in front of one and stood as still as a statue for many minutes. A young couple walked right past her – in fact, it seemed they walked right through her – but did not seem to see her. Still she didn’t move from her spot.
After close to an hour of waiting, during which no other strangers had walked the street, at last another person appeared. He seemed to materialize out of the shadows, which he blended into very well with his long black cloak and silvery grey hair. The lining of his cloak was a startling red, which flashed as he walked forward, breaking the woman out of her trance.
“Lysing,” she greeted, her voice hushed. The older man nodded in greeting.
“What news do you bring?”
“The war is ending, thank heavens. The troops in the north have been driven back. All the others have disappeared -” he snapped his fingers, the sound echoing in the silence. “Like that.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“In theory. We see no more prominent threat. But the issue still remains – we have a very small number of the enemy in custody at this time. The rest are still at large. Including -”
“Don’t say it, sir! It’s too dangerous at this time.”
The old man nodded in agreement. “That is wise. We never know who may be listening. They are still out there, have no doubts about that. We will see them again.”
“Not for many years, I hope.”
“I hope that, too, but we mustn’t let our guard down.”
“Agreed. And what news have you of the child?”
“Born. Just this morning.”
Lilith gasped and the wind seemed to pick up ever so slightly, swirling mist around her. For a moment, the moon was visible and it cast a bright light over the pair. “So… so it’s true, then? The rumors… the prophecy.”
The man hesitated. “It must be. But what that means for the child, I fear we don’t wish to know.”
“Where is the boy now? With his parents, I hope?”
Lysing hung his head, and the woman across from him felt the sadness radiating from his old bones. “The father… dead. A terrible loss. An accident, too. An unfortunate accident.”
The woman gasped again. “But how? Surely there must have been a miscommunication… we kept them so safe!”
Lysing raised his head to look at his companion straight on. “I fear there is more. When poor Victoria heard the news she changed her mind about the war – about the plan. She left the child in the care of one of the nurses at the aid station near Brackworst. There has been no word from her since.”
“What will we do with the boy, Lysing?”
“I think it is best if we find a nursemaid, and… and you raise him, Lilith. He’ll be safe with you.”
“Are you sure that’s best?”
“It’s a wonderful idea. No one will be able to touch him in your care.”
“Then it’s settled. We’ll begin the preparations at once.”
Lysing smiled, satisfied. “Off you go, now. You have much to do, I believe.”
Lilith gave him a warm smile. “Indeed,” she agreed. “Will I see you soon?”
The old man shook his head. “Not for a while. I have many other things to attend to, what with the war finally ending. Many matters must be sorted before life can return to normal, as it was.”
“Well, I won’t keep you any longer. Safe travels, Lysing.”
“You as well.”
The woman gave him one last, tight lipped smile – a smile he knew held much joy for many things, like the end of the war and return of peace – and he tipped an imaginary hat towards her. She took a step backwards into the mist and faded from sight. He watched for a minute to make sure she was really gone before calling out to a hidden figure in the background. “It’s safe to come out now, Victoria.”
A young woman in her early twenties with short, straight brown hair and green eyes stepped out of the shadows. She was wearing a simple green dress that fell just below her knees, and bundled in her arms was a baby.
“Lysing Calumnus,” she greeted, giving him a formal curtsy. He chuckled softly.
“None of that,” he said. “You aren’t a student of mine any longer. In fact, it would seem you are all grown up.”
Victoria smiled and watched him a moment before hesitantly taking a step forward. After a minute she decided she didn’t care what he thought of her and went in for a hug. To her surprise, her old teacher obliged happily.
“It’s been a while,” he said.
Victoria smiled through the tears that had welled up suddenly in her eyes. “I thought I’d never see you again, what with the war. You have made far too many enemies over the years.”
Lysing smiled. “Perhaps. But I have made a great deal more friends than enemies.”
The mood turned sober as Victoria looked down at her sleeping baby. “What will we do now? I don’t know if I can handle it.”
“Dear girl, you are much stronger than you give yourself credit for. And this is your plan, after all. Do you have everything in order?”
“Yes, of course. We’ve been planning this for so long… and Nick is going to meet us there.”
“Then you have everything you need.”
Victoria bit her bottom lip. “When will it be safe to return?”
“You’ll know. For now, though, it’s best you and the child stay hidden. What have you named her, Victoria?”
The young woman looked down at her little girl and smiled. “Emilia,” she whispered to the old man. The baby opened her eyes – brown, like her father’s – and cooed at her mother. Victoria looked back up to the old man and he gave her a last smile.
“Do not be sad, Victoria. This is what is best for you and the baby. The time will come when you can return, be sure of that.”
“Thank you,” Victoria said to Lysing. “For everything.”
The man nodded. “I would do anything for the child – for the fate of our world.”
And then he, like Lilith before him, stepped backwards into the mist and faded from view. Victoria watched him before turning and walking away as well. She walked through a cloud of smoke, her footsteps echoing on the silent street. When she emerged from the mist, the sound could still be heard, but Victoria was nowhere in sight.