She knew before she opened her eyes that she was alone. Her back and neck felt stiff and sore, her legs a little numb and for no reason that she could fathom, she was wary.
Lanle’s and Yume’s bags and possessions were gone but their donkey remained. It was odd that they would leave their donkey. She stood up and looked around and like a ghost, Dare slipped into view.
“Did you see them leave?” He said nothing. She ran her fingers through her hair and she noticed he looked up startled. “Is something the matter?”
In response, he resumed what he was doing, gathering her things. She watched him rooted to her spot. Something was wrong, she could tell something was wrong. And her dreams had been – different. Flashes of herself being mutilated, torn into pieces, skinned and worn by women who beamed, and laughed and danced. Something was wrong but she would never find out from Dare. Why had Lanle and Yume left so early? The sun had barely come up.
“I need to wash my face,” she turned to head to the river, but Dare grabbed her arm. “What?!” she looked into his eyes and she saw it. He was looking at her but his eyes were guarded. He was the cause of their absence! She pulled her arm away from his and ran to the river. The water distorted their features. They looked up at her, accusing her. The laughter and mischief was gone from their eyes and their stare was eerily blank. They could have had fathers, husbands but they had run into her and their lives had been cut short.
She sank to her knees and the tears came and kept on coming. From the corner of her eyes, water organisms nibbled on Lanle’s face. She should have said no when he offered her a place to rest. She should have known it would end this way.
Dare was standing behind her. She could sense him.
“I relinquish you as my bodyguard. I invoke the second turn of the fifth descendent.” She held her breath and stared straight ahead. She felt him still at her back for five beats and then he was gone. She felt relief followed by an instant rush of fear. She was on her own now.
Lara closed her eyes and prayed for the two men floating before her. Then she stood and headed back to the clearing where she had slept. Dare had left her the food items that had belonged to the dead men. She walked past it, knowing that she would regret her decision but unable to do anything else. She would head to her home town and seek refuge there.
She stayed hidden from the main road, and walked amongst the trees; much as she had done when she had trailed Dare. But without her guard, she was much more alert. The village was half a day’s walk from where she was, at least.
She began to run. She wanted as far away from the past few days as she could get. And the sooner she got to her village, the safer she would be. She thought of the warmth of her grandmother’s arms and her sister’s constant raised eyebrow and wan smile. She would have to see her father too, and he would be furious, but that couldn’t be helped. She prayed he wouldn’t turn her away. She had nowhere else to go.
Tired of running, she leant against a tree and waited for her breaths to regain normalcy. Suddenly she felt an overwhelming need to sleep. She fought it, but it was a losing battle.
She walked through a land that was green and filled with lush flowers and bubbling brooks. She walks barefoot and squints at the sky.
It is beautiful - gold and red. The clouds sail through.
She is supposed to be going somewhere…she can’t remember where. Before her lies a rock and on the rock is a sword and a feather. The sword is fashioned from the steel that only her family lays claim to. She recognizes it. The feather belongs to a bird that she has heard tales of and seen sketches of but knows does not exist.
Her grandmother stands before her. Her white hair is in tiny threads, the way she always carries them. Her brown eyes are smiling and her dark skin, though patterned with wrinkles, looks healthy.
“Ma,” she knelt down to show her grandmother the respect she owed her. Her grandmother smiled at her.
“I have missed you, my dear. You have grown more beautiful.”
“Thank you, ma.” She moved to embrace her grandmother but her feet would not budge.
“You must not come to me.”
“The Chief’s men have struck against the village, convinced that we harbor you.” Lara swooned and leaned against the rock.
“Have they killed anyone?” Her grandmother did not respond to this.
“Don’t come here. They will kill you on sight.”
“Where do I go?”
“Head to the Osobolands.”
“No-one survives the Osobolands.”
“You will. You must. Take the items before you.” Lara looked at the sword and the feather, when she looked up, her grandmother was gone. She picked up the sword. It was light, but even so, she had never wielded a sword. She could, however, understand its necessity; which was more than she could say for the feather. She carried them both, far be it for her to disobey her grandmother and the only other dreamwalker her people laid claim to. She headed back the way she had come, hoping that this would lead her back to wakefulness.
She was still on her feet, but when she realized that she still held the sword and feather, her knees buckled and she fell. She remained that way, still, for a while.
Her village had been invaded, because of her. Her grandmother wanted her to head to no man’s land. But if she went home and surrendered she could end the slaughter that was undoubtedly taking place. She didn’t want to die. But the Osobolands was not exactly friendly territory. Even with Dare by her side, their chances of survival would have been slim. Alone, she didn’t stand a chance. Especially not with a sword she didn’t even know how to use.
She willed herself to stand up. The Osobolands would have to wait. She couldn’t run towards her demise but she walked as quickly as she could. She kept on walking long after her feet had begun to hurt. The sword no longer felt light after hours of carrying it, so she dragged it behind her. Then deciding she would be of no use to anyone if she fell down as soon as she entered the village, she chose to rest. The sun had gone down again and she didn’t have anything in the way of light.
She formed a bed of leaves behind a bush and lay on them. She closed her eyes and slept a dreamless sleep.