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Laiva enjoyed marching through the snowy forest and so did Saya.
Mynor on the other hand somehow managed to look annoyed, which is
quite a feat for a wolf, but then again he had a good reason to take
that special effort, the snow reaching up to his chest. Not a word
crossed the girl’s lips and neither those of the five rangers that
were escorting them.
The girls had tried just about anything to be allowed to go on
their own, but after what had happened to Saya, nobody was going to
take any chances, and by now Laiva and Saya were thankful they had
lost the argument. Nobody could tell what could happen in the two
weeks to Saya’s home village and if nothing else their escort knew the
Saya was glad to be finally leaving. She wasn’t just getting
closer to her home, her parents and friends step, but with every step
she was also putting a little bit more distance between her and that
dreaded place she had been meant to die at. The last night, out here
in the woods, was the first one she didn’t suffer from nightmares ever
since she had been kidnapped.
Laiva was glad to leave as well, but for wholly different
reasons. To her it meant freedom. Of course, it was nice to have a
proper bed, food and heating for a change, but after all those nights
in the wood lands she felt a lot easier without a ceiling people all
over the place; it would probably take her weeks, if not months, to
get comfortable with that again.
Twelve cloaked figures assembled around the fire, waiting. It took a
whole ten minutes until, the thirteenth finally showed up, wearing a
slightly wet cloak and leaving a trail of water behind him.
‘I hope this is important, I was having a bath.’
‘Yes, we can see that.’ another one answered, snickering and
trying hard not to look at the puddle, or rather the fluffy pink
slippers it had formed around.
‘Quiet, let’s start.’e
‘She is still alive.’ one said.
‘She is still alive?’ the others responded.
‘By half a dozen elves… but we have a little surprise for
Lava glimpsed a movement in the corner of her eye. Of course it might
have been anything; a squirrel or just a chunk of snow falling from a
tree, but she instantly knew that things were wrong. In a frantic she
threw her head around to face the source of distraction and met the
cold gaze of a single eye lining her up with a crossbow. With all her
might Laiva hurled herself at the ground, around her hell breaking
Her heart raced and she could feel the blood pulsing through
her veins; that had been close. Far too close. It had been close
enough for her too hear the bolt whizzing past, indeed she had almost
felt it go by her arm. There even was a stinging pain at the place.
And there was something warm and moist as well. It was quite a lot of
The words reached Laiva from a distance, as if they had to
cross vast lands before getting to her. And vast the lands were. Sand
stretched as far as the eye could see, only the ridges of the dunes
casting the odd shadow and disrupting the uniform brownish yellow.
And where the horizon should have been the colour simply shifted into
blue, like paint being mixed.
Laiva watched her shadow; she couldn’t remember it ever being
that small. It was as if the sun was standing almost above her. When
she looked up, however, all she could see was the blue of a cloudless
sky. So maybe she couldn’t see the sun, but she could feel it. It
wasn’t the burning heat to be expected in a desert, though; it was
gentle, warming her, relaxing her muscles, almost caressing her.
‘Come on, wake up.’
There it was again. Laiva watched the words float past; she
were so close she could almost reach out and grab them. Something in
the back of her head kept telling her that this was a terribly
unnatural way for words to be, but she ignored it. Things weren’t real
– she knew that; and she could do very well without someone to telling
her; especially when that someone was herself. Besides she enjoyed it.
It was comfortable, peaceful, warm instead of cold, danger, pain,
‘I told you to wake up!’
This time the words didn’t float past, but crashed into her,
knocking Laiva off her feet and sending her flying. They tore the
dreamscape around her apart, leaving her in blackness. It wasn’t the
blackness of a void, though; it was the unique blackness of closed
All kinds of sounds reached her, but they didn’t mean anything
to her. Laiva made an effort to open her eyes and a glimpse of light
penetrated the blackness, but then she suddenly felt the full weight
of her eye lids. She struggeled a bit, but eventually game in. Laiva
let herself sink back into the comfort of the warmth, into the
peacefulness of a desert, that could only exist where reality has no
She sat down on top of a particularly high dune and let her
eyes wander, but there was nothing more to see than there was before.
This place was so desolate it would have put every real desert to
shame and yet it was simply right. At least as far as she was
Laiva pulled her fingers through the warm sand as if wanting
to comb it. She wasn’t surprised when she saw it flow around her hand
like water. Somehow she had expected it would. She took a hand full
and let it trickle to the ground, watching the large drops hit the
surface of the sand and form ripples. Just like they would have on
water. And why not? Laiva closed her eyes and splashed some on her
face. It was refreshing like water, it ran down her face like water
and it even tasted like water; in any way it mattered it was water.
Cold water. Freezing water even. It was as if her face had been
covered in icicles and it hurt.
Laiva lifted her hands to brush the ice off, but the instant
she moved her arms a wave of pain flooded through her body. She wanted
to scream, but something was pressing hard against her mouth; she
wanted to wriggle away, but that made the pain get even worse. Laiva
yanked her eyes open. This wasn’t the desert; this was for real. And