A light struck and flared. It nearly blinded Lionheart and he covered his face with his hands. When he looked again, he saw an ancient, wrinkled woman sitting cross-legged before him, smiling a hideous smile. She held a candle cupped in both hands, and the glow from it cast her face into awful shadows.
Her eyes were white. She was blind. (p. 293)
In this temple set in a world outside the mortal realm, this oracle sits solitary in darkness. Not even the hum of the monks beyond her tiny cell are audible. She is so lost in darkness that she scarcely remembers what it is like to see. All light and song are far from her.
"There is no hope in this place," she says. "There is no hope, only fulfillment."
The fulfillment of a hopeless life. Even the Netherworld offers the light of Asha Lantern to those wandering in the half-lit shadows. But here, there is nothing . .. nothing but a greedy old woman who devours even the precious pearl Lionheart offers her in exchange for a vision. No beauty, no goodness.
The Life-in-Death has consumed it all.
Using the oracle as a vessel, the Dragon's sister meets Lionheart in this place and finally drags from him the secret-most dream of his heart. And this she vows to give him. Then she vanishes, leaving Lionheart alone once more with the ugly, blind oracle who tells him how he may drive the Dragon from Southlands.
Then she blows out her candle.
The horror of being in the dark with that crone was too much. Lionheart backed out on his hands and knees, finally turning around and crawling as fast as he could. (p. 295)
I don't blame him! After all, that foul old dame, a servant of the Lady Life-in-Death, is a reflection of what Lionheart himself may all too soon become. What dreams did the Life-in-Death fulfill for that blind woman that brought her to a state of such utter wretchedness? We can only wonder. Perhaps she is not even a native Noorhitamin, though the temple is found within the Noorhitam empire? After all, she speaks a language unknown to Lionheart, although he has studied (to varied degrees of success) the various Noorhitam dialects for the last two years.
And one language she speaks translates itself in his head . . . like Faerie tongue. Could this frightful, lost soul be one of the Faerie-folk? Or is she simply so ancient that she has even learned Faerie languages?
All this will have to be left up to speculation for the time being, I'm afraid! After all, I'd hate to give away future storylines. But you can be sure, I hope to one day revisit Noorhitam, Ay-Ibunda, and even the presence of the Life-in-Death's oracle once more . . .