More artists arrived at the Guild last night. At first I was content to relax by the fireside in the Great Hall where folk gather to talk and socialise. But as more people came I shrank back into the shadows, unsure of how to join in and so very aware of being an outsider, a stranger in this place of walls and ceilings.
Since my arrival I have not slept well. I miss the scent of campfires, the gentle snorts and snuffles of the horses, the whispering of leaves and grasses, the howl of wolves and the cries of predators and prey as they move through the night. Despite leaving my window open I feel caged, the stone and timbers pressing in upon me. Having no desire to spend another night in my room, I left the Great Hall and made my way along magnificent corridors lit by torches and lined with tapestries and paintings to one of the inner courtyards.
Stepping out into the freshness of the cool autumn air revived my senses. Relief flooded through me as I breathed deeply and stared up at the new moon and the surrounding stars. The darkness of the night seemed to wrap me in her essence as I sank onto a bench and absorbed the tranquillity, grateful to the builders who had left such open spaces within the rambling constructions that made up the Guild Hall.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” The lilting voice broke my reverie and I turned to see the Guild Mistress almost float towards me. “The night, that is,” she explained as she drew closer. “Do you mind if I join you for a while?”
Unsure if a refusal would be regarded as an insult, I smiled and replied “No, please do.”
After settling on the bench next to me, the Guild Mistress spoke again. “I sense that you feel uncomfortable within walls. Very few Zigandi take kindly to being indoors for long, I find. And yet, you are not one of them. Tell me, how did you come by your name?”
I shrugged. “They – the Zigandi – named me Tara because I was found at night, in starlight. At my coming of age I added Zen because I felt drawn to contemplation. As for Shadowsoul, that is a nickname, earned because I’m often happier in the shadows. A spirit of shadow, Isolda says. Somehow it feels right, and so I’ve adopted it as my own.”
“And perhaps it hints as to who you truly are,” the Mistress said softly. “My own name, at least, the one I’m known as, is Amba. Mother. For the Guild, and the artists within, are like my children, to be nurtured and helped and cared for on their journeys.”
I nodded, unsure of how to reply. For a while we sat there in silence. But as the night cooled further, Amba finally departed for the warmth and comfort of her room, leaving me alone once more. Wrapping my shawl tight I smiled and my eyes closed. And for the first time since my arrival I slept soundly until the dawn.