[Cecily] Thirty-Seven: "Clarity"

       There was a time, when it was all about death, that everything made sense.

       Death is clean, all straight lines and tangible results. For the most part, you control the outcome. You win or lose by your ability to outfight, outsmart, or out-cheat the other guy. If you're better, you win and you live. If he's better, you lose and you die. If you step wrong, make a mistake, either you're lucky and you live, or you die. Simple, efficient. Death I can process. Death is something I understand. I stood on the threshold with my father and I knew what was happening. It was a consequence of my actions that made sense. Clean. Simple. In my own fucked-up logic I had control there. I'd had a choice from the moment I'd drawn that sword. I knew the outcome. Win or lose. Life or death. Continuation or cessation. It was my clarity.
       Now everything is all sharp broken edges inside me and no matter which way I turn they cut me and it hurts and it never seems to go away.

       I watched Matthias go and for a long while I sat alone in the room and tried to cry, to feel something other than the sharp edges and the emptiness that had gnawed inside me since Stark had told me of the truth of... recent events.
       There was nothing there, though. Not for Matthias, not for me. I drank those first days, not to dull pain, but to fill up the hole inside me.
       My brother held me and told me, "You didn't do anything wrong."
       But I'm not sure I'm doing anything right, either.
       The days passed, and I made the effort because I didn't know what else to do. I paid attention to the body so that I didn't have to think about the mind. I focused on the sword, its weight in my hand. Clean edges. Straight lines. Life. Death. Power. Strength.
       Vengeance. Absolution.
       But there was no clarity there, not anymore.
                                                                                                                                                        Think, Cecily, how you got to where you are...

       I know they all wonder what's going on in my head. I see it in their eyes and I can't blame them. I wonder a dozen times a day, myself. "Will this break her?" "Can she hold up?" "Is she strong enough?"
       Except Shen. He watches me just as they do, but he doesn't wonder about anything. Even as I have relied upon his presence to get through the day, he tells me it is my strength he seeks.
       He looks at me and knows something I'm just beginning to grasp.
       I look in the mirror and this woman looks back at me, the one Shen sees. She stands there, whole, reborn in body and in spirit. She faced what I'd once thought my greatest fear, and now it just doesn't seem as important anymore.
       She understands that there's nothing clean about death, not really. She is aware that nothing is that simple. She knows now that strength isn't in the weight of the sword or hand that holds it.
       She recognizes that power is not in death but in life, that the power to avenge these wrongs is not in the blade in my hand but in relenquishing the pain, letting go of that which no longer serves. She knows that my vengeance lies not in death, but in life. My life. My tranquility, my strength to endure what has happened and stand tall despite it.
       She taught me that. And I understand.

                                                                                                                                ...and where you will end up if you stay on the same path.

       I stand at the center, and I know where I am. I know my path, and where it will end. I stand at the center, sword in hand, and I know it is an instrument, a means to the end, not the end itself.
       I am the end.