Tumbling, turning, no colours, no blackness, just feeling. I feel like wretching but i have no stomach to turn. Everything is clammy and turned around, and then I open my eyes.
Im in the gallo manor, my bed feelings like sand, fleas hop absent mindedly across my legs. There’s an itching in the back of my skull like one of the fleas crawled in through my ears. I get up, trying to shake the damned flea loose. Snow blankets my room, a roaring fireplace blowing snow into my face.
Then it hits me. The adrenaline. And the itching isn’t itching, its burning, burning dread and fear. I brace myself, closing my eyes.
The snow is gone and I’ve found myself back on the bed. It isnt coarse this time, this time it’s smooth and layered, like silk in fat cords spread across a merchant’s desk. The burning never left, I reach back to scratch the base of my skull and I feel my hair sink it’s teeth into my hand. I don’t cry out, its more like a weary sigh that escapes my lips. Then my bed reaches up, it coils around me legs and my arms and it sinks it’s teeth into every inch of me.
I’m lying in a bed of vipers, and I open my mouth to laugh but nothing comes out but a whimper.
Then the adrenaline hits and I’m on my feet. Something is wrong, the floor slanting this way and that, fighting me as I make my way to the door. The doorknob has been swallowed in to a viper’s mouth and I stick my hand into it’s gullet, letting it taste my wrist.
Orva’s room is lavish, with curtains hanging from every corner, hiding his bed behind walls of sheer silk. I’m pushing through them but they’re as heavy as steel, and poison is sapping my strength. Orvas is lying still, still but not asleep. I have to get him out but when i reach for him his slit eyes wink sideways and his clothes shluff off in coils and his neck unravels into a copper snake and he winks at me again, and I’m running.
Dakers doesnt have a bed, he just stand casual and confident in his pool of blood. I feel small hands grab at my ankles as i wade toward him, my skull thrumming, by heart tearing at it’s bone cage. He hold a knife towards me, it’s ruby red eyes boring into me, and he smiles. It’s the knife I gave to Tajen and now he’s sinking it into my breast. The blood has solidified into a writhing mass of snakes.
Rand is hunched over a desk, quill in hand, the ink running from his vein through it’s fangs and down to it’s tail. I look over his shoulder, almost tentative, like a curious child. He’s scratching the same word over and over but I can’t read it. Do I even know how to read? But I’m urgent and I turn him in his chair. His tongue lashes out from his parted lips, snapping it’s powerful reptilian jaws. And the arms of his chair wrap around my wrists.
Arven, his room is empty, completely empty, and he stands in the centre of the vast nothing. He shakes his head as I approch, he’s saying something but all I can hear is maddening hissing, like steam escaping from every pore in my body. He looks about as scared as I feel. I reach him and my hand is on his chest, then my hand is in his chest, then my arm as he swallows me whole.
Vola is on her knees praying, and her room is so thick with incense that i can barely breathe. A kneel down beside her, her prayer rug writhing uncomfortably at my arrival. My hand is on hers, and it’s pressing down on the hilt of a dagger. Now it’s in her hand and mine as well, and she brushes away a tear and slides the blade up her arm, from wrist to elbow and her blood comes out in great red coils thrashing at their bloody birth. I raise my knife my neck and press down.
I’m awake. The feeling is gone, my head is clear but I’m so scared, it was so real and I run my hand over my body and find everything in the right place. Slowly my heart returns to it’s regular pace. The winter air chills my bones, and the shaking of our sled keeps me from real rest. I wrap my woolen blanket around myself tighter and press my body back up against the familiar comfort of Torrent’s warmth.
And then it starts again, and I’m pulled from the sled and through a door and it happens the same way but different each time, and I always think that the sweet release of the knife has brought me back to my world. To the brothel, the rat shed, the Seela village, Crysten’s home, the tower where we slept, the council chambers, the Repository, the inn, the market, and then home, to the smiling face of my aunt.
Each time I think that I am free, and each time I am the fool of this cosmic joke. I lose track of how many times I awaken, and it all blurs together into one nightmare. And it keeps going until I lose myself in the dream.
Im cold, face pressed against the alley floor.
Did I sleep or fall?
There’s a voice in my head, the first clear words that I’ve heard in what feels like my entire life time tripled. I lurch to my feet, and I think that I start running but truthfully I can’t say. The Gallo manor is burning and I watch it tumble and break. I lose track of time but when I regain my senses Im at a gate and I see my fellows. I want to go to them but my feet won’t budge. Then Vloa turns.