Powered by a renewed determination to find Wisdom, Maral made up for lost time. As she traveled, she practiced the eternal language, no longer self-conscious about this unusual gift. She became comfortable with the unknowable.

After many peaceful days, she came across an abandoned traveler’s pack. She wanted to ignore it but the sight of the disregarded pack troubled her. She resolved to look for the one who left it. After a short search, she found a Gnomish man being led away by a terrible looking Witch.

Without a thought or a plan, Maral ran yelling for them to stop. To her surprise the Witch shrank in fear of her, while the Gnome, Efren, stepped forward in a protective stance. He did this without releasing the hand of the Witch.  

Efren commanded Maral to stop. His mind was trying to process the oddity of this young Gnome being a threat but obviously his Love was afraid of this girl. He turned to reassure her. She has many names but the most common is Itch.

“You want to go with her? Don’t you know where this Witch is taking you!” Maral asked stepping back in disgust and shock.

“Witch! Are you mad? Leave us alone!” He turned to Itch, her face, beautiful to him, wore an expression of confusion and hurt. “She is clearly not well. Please ignore her, darling.”

Maral watched them walk away. The memories of those she wasn’t able to help propelled her onward. “Wait!” She yelled.  

Itch pulled Efren’s hand and would have run away, but he stood his ground and faced Maral. Itch released her hold on his hand to get some space between herself and Maral. She could see what Efren couldn’t, the power that was within Maral. She wanted to avoid all proximity to it. If she lost this victim she could easily find another. After all, she was temptation and she was excellent at it.

Maral spoke a poem in the eternal language. The strange fire swirled and flowed on the words toward dumbfounded Gnome. It twisted and spun around his head. He vainly tried to bat it away. It was not painful, only uncomfortable and disturbing. He looked through the fire searching for her, his Love. He felt strange and exposed without her hand in his.

He saw Itch some distance away. Her beauty and elegance began to melt until she was completely transformed. Once Itch’s disguise was gone the fire faded and disappeared. He dropped to his knees, gone was his Love- now the true and terrible form was exposed. He felt sick, but he was also aware that something deep inside him still wanted her- or at least the satisfaction that had come from her.

Maral approached and placed a hand upon his shoulder. “It’s ok, you escaped in time.”

He stood and roughly pushed her away. “What have you done?! Where is she?”

Hope rose in Itch’s heart as she witnessed her victim mistreat his would-be rescuer. She winked causing a small hole to appear behind Maral. In she stepped while trying to recover from Efren’s push and twisted her ankle.

With pain shooting from her ankle, Maral said, “She has always been what she now is.”

“Efren,” Itch called his name. Though everything else had changed, her voice was the same.

Her voice can be enough he thought. But when he looked at her his soul trembled. Itch approached him and held out her hand.

His choice was before him; the battle raged. His mind screamed for him to escape but his willpower was weak. He might be strong enough to leave. Yes, this was the moment of for him to extricate himself from this thing that was not right. But, he paused and, again she called his name.

It was too much. He believed he needed his temptation; he could not let her. The feel of her hand was that of someone dead. Sadly, he walked hand and hand toward death.