The first time she remembered it was when she was four. The story quickly became one of her favorites. Her papa used to tell her it on quiet evening around the fire. He would whisper it in her ear and she would try to imagine the lost city and the ghosts trapped within.
Her papa kept a little stick of wood she wasn't supposed to know about in a drawer in his room. It was when she first discovered it that she felt it. There was something about that little stick she really liked. It smelled wonderful – Like apples, but even better. And whenever she fingered it she felt an eerie sense of Déjà Vu. Somewhere – somewhere she had caught that scent before. But where, she had no clue. All she knew was her family's little farm. All she knew was that the scent somehow was associated with her papa's story.
One day she snuck into her parents room and took the little stick. She later approached him, intending to ask about it.
"Papa," her four-year-old self said while rushing out into the garden. "Papa, tell me a story."
"A story?" he smiled. "Which one, Lissy?"
"The story of the ghost city."
So her papa sat her upon his knee and recited the well known story of the city that built its walls against the plague of madness. The story of the stubborn warden who felt he had no other choice but to protect his people the way he did. In the middle of his story, she reached into her pocked and brought out the wood.
Her papa promptly looked down, recognizing the scent instantly. She looked up into his shocked face, wondering if he could feel the connection as well. Somehow, she was sure, he did. He knew.
"Alissa?" he asked softly.
"Why did you bring my stick out here?"
"It goes with the story."
"How… how do you know?"
"I don't know. But I remember."
He took the piece into his hands, and after a thought smiled weakly. "I should take this, Lissy. Please don't go through my drawers again."
She nodded softly and apologized. Over time the memory faded as she all but forgot the stick of sweet-smelling wood.
The second time was long after her father had gone. She was sitting under a tree nearby her garden with Talon. It was night and she was staring up into the star-filled sky with wonder. She didn't want to go inside and sleep – preferring the open air to the confining walls of her room. As she sat she imagined the bare-looking tree above her in full bloom. As she did, she imagined the air filled with the sound of pipes and drums, and somehow she thought she smelled that beautiful scent from her father's wood she had long since forgotten. Piecing together he memory as a small child, she decided that this is what the city would have looked and sounded like if it were real.
She awoke the following morning under the same tree. She rushed into the house to find the scent of burnt toast while her mother made breakfast. Sneaking past her and into her mother's room, she dug through her papa's possessions to find the little stick she had once treasured.
She retreated to the tree and recounted the story to Talon. The bird looked at her as if listening carefully to its mistress's words, and the girl took this as a sign to continue on. Never before had she felt such a thrill come from the story. When it was finished, Talon quickly flew off, leaving the girl alone.
"Fine!" she cried out, suddenly angry at her bird's disappearance. "Papa's stories aren't true anyways."
She felt an inexplicable loss that she at first attributed to the loss of her papa, but somehow she knew it went deeper.
The girl knelt down and dug a little whole in the ground, and gently placed the stick inside of it. Covering it up, she cried. "Goodbye – whoever you are."
Rising from the ground, she wiped her tears and walked away. She didn't want to feel that confusion or loss ever again, so – she forgot. She forgot the smell of the wood, the look of the tree, the sounds of the music, and the ache in her heart.
It was with Strell on her way to the Hold that she felt it next. After discovering his love for music and storytelling, she examined his grandfather's pipe. Somehow, it seemed familiar, and the story of the city whispered into her mind – so she told him.
She was surprised the first time he repeated it back. She had never known anyone besides her papa to tell it. Strell, she discovered, was a good storyteller, and she leaned back to listen.
As he recounted it, she felt a pang of sorrow for her papa and the memory of his death that still lingered on her mind. The memory that useless had placed in her. Pushing past this – not wanting to remember – she let her mind rest on the story itself and before long she was drawn into it. For the first time, she took greater notice of the ghost city's warden and she tried to imagine him. No image came to her mind and she felt disappointed. Perhaps, she thought, this was because the warden went nameless.
She felt an aching loss as she wished to know who he was and why such an important character went unnamed.
"Why?" she whispered out loud to herself as she lay trying to sleep that night. Why did she feel so sad?
The second day after she reached The Hold, Strell recounted the story to Bailic. Once again, her minder lingered on the warden, but she quickly pushed the thought away. Such things did not matter.
But then, Bailic told that the story was true. The city once existed. Ese' Nawoer was real. She felt a surge of excitement as she realized the truth in her papa's tale. Her mind raced back to her papa's map and the mysterious symbol that was on it. "To be neither," is what it technically meant, and she wondered what the correlation between the city and its technical name was. If there was one.
But life went on and other things occupied her mind. She began to fall in love with Strell, and worrying about Bailic kept her on her toes.
When she finally saw the city, she was impressed more than anything. But when she was forced to stay behind, she finally let herself remember. She decided she could almost smell the apple-like scent. She imagined the dancers and the star-filled night. And for a moment, she even saw his face. She remembered, but she didn't recognize. Shrugging off as a product of an overly active imagination, Alissa didn't think too much of it. But how the little blossom she imagined came to be in her hand, she could not account for.
A/N: May or may not be added on to. What do you think?