False Memories

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A short piece of fiction on Rashel coping with the aftermath of an experience in Damrya.

That was not my daughter.

Rashel lay back on the hard ground, the canvas of the tent less than a foot from her face, the thin bedroll small comfort from the bumps and raises of the floor. Her breath fogged the air above her briefly before dissipating. She ran her thumb back and forth over the fresh scar tissue on her forearm, feeling the rise of the cross. A sign of devotion, of a renewal of her vows. When the time had come, had it helped her? Had the memory of the pain as she cut into her own skin offered her the clarity to refuse the demon’s insidious offers?

I have been fooled before. That was not my daughter.

Memory was a double edged sword at best, if it had. Now her mind was clouded, her thoughts overcome by the false utopia that the demon had implanted. The life of Rashel, Realmsguard had been far from perfect - caught in a loveless, if respectful, marriage to a man twice her age, still forced to carry blade and shield to protect her home, never even knowing the closeness and connection it was possible to have when in love… But all that had been worth it for Rose.

She could still see her now, still conjure the image as fresh as if the memory were her own: ten years old, her hair the mahogany brown ringlets of her father, the half-smile that made her look older and the grins that made her look younger. The earnest expression on her face when she talked about becoming a Paladin of Aethon, of joining the Church and working for the will of the Gods. Heavens knew, Rashel had been proud of her. Fiercely proud, so much so that it was like a belt tied around her chest that tightened at every thought. Being away from her in Sahradia had been a constant pain, one that still made her heart ache to think about.

No. It’s not real. Rose had only been two when she died - barely old enough to speak, let alone make plans for her future, her dark hair still wispy and fine. The other girl was just a figment of her imagination; an amalgamation of her long-buried hopes and fantasies, of the daydreams she had been too strict to allow herself after the girl’s death. She was fiction, nothing more, nothing less, and Rashel was not going to allow a demon’s fiction to override her own memories.

Yet the face of her ten-year-old daughter was not so easily banished.