The nightmare began like it always did.|
Rain. Freezing, torrential rain. I can't see. Sheets of it turn the world grey and hazy. The wind is fierce and cold, sending icy shards into my eyes. Howling in my ears.
I can't stop. He's out there somewhere. I must find him.
I am so cold. I lost my cloak sometime past. Sodden, heavy, I shed its weight to gain speed. Now the rain has soaked through my clothes and glued my hair to my face.
Where is he? I'm losing his tracks. Jorag.
The flash. The roar of the lightning. The explosion, the crash as the tree's trunk was ripped away.
The tree. He's under the tree.
But it isn't a tree that exploded.
It is Raina's house.
The rain is gone. Flakes of ash brush my face and settle on my clothes. No wind but raging of fires and screams of the dying.
The thunder must have hidden the roars of the giants in the demon's army.
The flood is gone. Now the fires reflect in pools of blood, the lives of my family, my friends soaking the ground.
I must save them. I must stop this.
Any concern for Jorag is gone. He is dead, I am here. I am focused only on ending this battle, stopping this slaughter. Without thought, I ready my bow and take an aim on two wolves cornering a young boy.
At the sound of my name, I spin around. It was Arilyn's voice. Hope jumps within me. My friends are here. Together we can save my people.
It is not Arilyn.
It was once but what she is becoming?
Please what? Kill her? Kill Aram? He has already finished with Islan and Nyran. With eyes glowing red, they hurl spell after spell at each other. Their corrupted, twisted bodies are torn and bleeding but they don't stop. Behind them lies Elana. The sun blade embedded in her chest.
Arilyn's face is twisted, snarling. Her hands have formed claws that rake across her chest. Blood oozes from the cuts as her cries become screams of pain.
All around me screams. Help my people. Help my friends. And the screams. I turn to face my village and Arilyn's pleas for help fill my head. I turn to Arilyn and drown in the cries of dying Argunsunur. I am frozen. I stand locked in place by the screams of pain, helpless to stop it.
I can't, I can't. I can't let them die. I can't. I don't know.
The screams are quieting, muffled as though they now came from a long way off.
"I can stop them, you know. I can end this. They need not suffer."
Antifex stands before me, holding the screaming at bay.
"Give me your crystal and this need never happen. I can do this. You know."
I reach inside my shirt where the crystal lies against my heart. Under the wrappings where it is warmed by my blood, almost alive.
Alive when no one else will be.
Salvation, relief, peace. All I want, all I desire. I could return home and find it safe. Aram would be stopped. Just give in. Give him the crystal. Evil, evil bound by law, cannot be as bad as what Aram will bring. Give in.
Stopped; but not defeated.
I bring my arm down and wait for the screaming to start again.