Willow found herself before an immense carved-stone door. She lifted her hand to trace the engravings when the door disappeared. No trace of its existence remained.
Beyond the stone doorway lay darkness. The type of darkness that only comes when the moon is new and the stars are hidden by clouds. The type of darkness rarely seen in the civilized world.
Willow peered into the darkness, trying to see something, anything that would indicate what was ahead.
Then, a tiny flicker of light caught her attention. Barely bigger than the flame of a candle, it drew Willow, peaking her curiosity, creating a yearning.
Hesitantly, she crossed the threshold, approaching the light. She hadn’t taken a half dozen steps when the light disappeared, leaving her in the eternal darkness.
Blind and disoriented, fear suddenly swept through her.
Straining her eyes, Willow tried to find the light, but then a giant roar permeated the room, echoing off of the unseen walls. The sound was horrible. Unexplainable.
The ghastly noise had barely died down when a sudden brightness, a blinding brightness, appeared before her.
It was a blaze brighter than the hottest man-made fire ever known. The blaze was both beautiful and frightening.
Stumbling away from the heat, she looked around for water to put out of the fire.
There wasn’t any.
The flames grew in height and intensity with every second that passed, making Willow feel suddenly anxious.
The scorching heat drenched her body, forcing her back to the safety of the cold stone doorway.
But she found the carved stone door, absent only seconds before, blocking her way. Blocking any means of escape.
She ran her hands along the wall, trying to find a way out, but she found nothing.
She was trapped.
Trapped between the stonewall and the flames, Willow looked for some way out, but the fire’s light was blinding. It was impossible for her to see anything beyond them.
Willow tried to make her way around the flames, but no matter where she moved, the flames followed, keeping her a prisoner.
After multiple thwarted attempts, and with the heat forever increasing, Willow decided she would have to go through the fire to get to safety.
Taking a deep breath, she ran at the flames and jumped –
The violent rocking of the ship woke Willow from her nightmare.
Shaking her head clear of the terrifying images, the same ones she had been seeing for the last two weeks, it only took her a minute to remember where she was and why she was there.
Her Master had bought passage for her and his family on this ship, the Lif, in order for them all to get to Sondertoft. As to the why, that was more complicated.
After she’d made sure her Master and Mistress were undisturbed, Willow sat up in the dimly lit cargo hold and marked the locations of the three other families who shared the space. Willow saw they were still asleep and relaxed.
Every family in the hold was traveling to Sondertoft for the same reason, all with the same goal in mind: glory. Glory for their families. Glory for their people.
Turning over on her pallet, Willow tried to sleep. Between the rocking of the ship and the disturbing images floating through her mind, sleep proved to be impossible.
The dream had been so vivid. She could have sworn she had actually been in the stone room with the blazing fire. Even lying in this muggy cargo hold, she could still feel the intense heat that only a furious inferno could produce.
She wished she could leave the hold, go up on deck and get some fresh air, even if it was only for a minute. But she knew she couldn’t. Captain Ahti refused to let passengers walk on deck during the night.
Too many dangers lurked on deck, be they from the sea or from man.
Closing her eyes, Willow tried to stop her mind from going over and over the nightmare. Tomorrow they would arrive in Sondertoft. She had too many tasks to finish before they arrived and she could not afford to miss even a few minutes of sleep. Finally, sleep took her. The nightmare stayed away, replaced by an idealized version of the coming day.
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