Submitted by aran on Wed, 11/19/2008 - 12:59

She is walking through the woods. It is close to sunset, and the ceaseless sound of cicadas is softly filling the evening air. From the light and the temperature, she knows it to be late summer. She also knows she is late. She has an appointment, and miles to go yet. This delay is unwise; it might even be dangerous. They could be close behind her, even now.

They are a nameless terror, evil and deadly. But if she reaches her destination in time, she will be safe.

Where is this destination? Where is she anyway, and how did she get here? She has to have been walking for quite a while, for she is surrounded by miles and miles of deep forest.

Shadows are hovering at the edge of her vision. They move, sinuously, between the trees, waiting for the right moment. And now, they strike. Arrows appear out of nowhere, silver blades flash in the red light of the sunset, and she falls, mortally wounded. Her last thought is only confusion, a desperate failure to understand. What is happening? And then the world ebbs away into darkness.


Awareness came first, but little followed. She could see and hear nothing. She did not know where she was, nor, for a moment, who. Was she dead? Her arms and back still stung from the terrible slashes and arrow-wounds... but no, that was only a dream, she now realized with her waking mind. She was lying on her back on a cold stone floor, and her back was aching from what must be hours of sleep in this uncomfortable position.

Awake, the questions that had accompanied the end of her dream returned in full strength. What was happening? Where was she? How did she get here?

Memories flooded her. The forachid! Fire! The caverns filled with the terrible flame. Her escape cut off. The barrier she had created in a desperate last attempt at survival.

But around her was only darkness, and she perceived no difference whether her eyes were open or shut, so that for a moment she feared she had gone blind. Surely no darkness could be this impenetrable? Still, the stone floor was enough to tell her that she was still where she had fallen asleep: A short, blocked-off segment of a tunnel deep in the bowels of the forachid cavern.

Why was it so dark? Where were the artificial lamps that had given this place dim, but discernible light earlier? For that matter, where was her barrier that had hissed and crackled so brightly, lighting the walls in blue? The silence was so complete that her blood was roaring through her ears.