Running. Running through corridors and tunnels Through old faded tapestries and cobwebs and dustsheets. Always running, never slowing or stopping. Can't stop! Oak and ash, I cannot stop! To stop is to get caught and to get caught means never getting out, never being free.
I hear the calls behind me, they are getting closer, i must move faster. Hounds belling and worse, the chime of harness bells and clatter of horses hooves. Above that the ceaseless, remorseless whispers. Telling me it's my turn. That I'm next. They did it, for love the Queen and the fair Summerlands and now it's my turn. <i>Don't you love Her? Don't you love your home? Don't you love us?:</i>
I run faster but still they follow, still they are catching up, I feel the hot breaths of the horses on my neck. Cu sith nip at my heels, and a hand touches my shoulder; cold as the grave. i know hose hand this is. My sister, gone these last seven years.. Gone to Hell. I duck my shoulder out of her grasp and dart down a new passageway that has just opened up for me. It it short and narrow I have to bend double under earthen roof and squeeze through on my knees. And still the hounds follow. Tears run down my face and I am gasping for air but still I press onwards. I reach the end of the tunnel and murmur the charm that opens the door.
It opens! But too slowly, the first of the hounds reaches me and I kick backwards in fear and panic. Tumbling out amid yelps and barks onto the riverbank. I cannot utter the words of the closing charm. A cu sith has pounced upon my chest and I cannot breathe. Cannot utter the words. We grapple and roll like puppies but the fight is deadly earnest. Finally I tear him loose and roll downhill to the water.
Blood soaks my hair and dress; hot, thick, wet and nearly chocking me. I struggle upright and a voice, kindly like a favorite aunt or grandmother says, "Strip those wet things off, dear. And hand them over. That's a good girl." My fingers shake as I do as I am bid. The wind that strikes is cold, burningly so, it cuts through my shift as if said garment was already off. Worse than the wind in the Excolo, this wind is Winter's Breath and it chills me all the way through. I summon fire to me and the Hag at my side sucks in her breath and smacks the back of my head so my ears ring.
"None o' that me dear!" She cries at the top of her lungs it seems, "Don't be wasting your fire on that. Save it for a real emergency!" The cold creeps down from my head freezing me in place til I can't feel my toes despite the previous heat of the blood river. My hitch as the very breath in them freezes solid and I realize I am stuck. A statue of myself. I cannot move and never will again. I doomed to stand right here, so near to the freedom I sought unable to reach it and unable to die because statues don't die and neither do fae unless the right conditions are met. These are not it. My last breath sighs out of my lungs and the last tears slide down my unfeeling cheeks. The final darkness closes in on me and I feel despair rise in my heart.
My eyes snap open and I suck in a deep breath. The air is a bit chilly but nowhere near as cold as Winter's Breath, I shiver and burrow deep into the blankets of my rented bed. I look to the window and she by light it is dawn. Slowly I relax. It was a dream, this did not happen. And here in the Iron World it cannot happen. Not like that. But I will not go back to sleep, I think. Not just yet.