For anyone wondering... yes, this has been uploaded again. I added about 600 words to the last part of chapter three because they fit better here than at the beginning of chapter four. In anycase, hopefully people are reading this. I can't tell because Fictionpress is being reallllly weird with my account, and I can't access any of my stats pages or my review history page.
I've sent about four emails about it and so far have received no word back, so if someone wanted to get on that and tell me how to fix all this, that'd be great. And of course, drop a note to let me know you were here!
I did sleep though, and my dreams that night were unsurprisingly troubled. I started as a girl, walking the streets of Moirée, the city in which I last saw my parents alive. All around me buildings were burning, people were screaming and crying out in terror. There was chaos in the air and blood on the streets beneath my bare feet, squishing between my toes and staining my skin. Ashes were landing on my hair the way the snow had earlier and my lungs and nose stung with the smell of burning hair and skin.
I remembered this in reality, remembered watching the city tear itself apart from my safe little room in the fortress on the hill. In the morning, we would leave the country, but for that night we watched superstition, paranoia and ignorance leave good people with the need to destroy each other and what had once been one of the greatest cities in the eastern world. Still, I had not seen the terror that was before me in the town center for myself. This was all new to my eyes and all the more horrifying because, according to Edward, there was all the possibility of it happening in my safe, logical home country of Raudaine.
In my dream, I followed the screams of pain and terror all the way to the elegantly sculpted fountain where, in the daytime, wives would have gathered to draw water and gossip or sew. Now, instead of cheerful smiles and absently happy singing while life went about its business, there were corpses strung up from the hands of their goddess. There was the fear of their supposed crime, the fear of their power, but mostly the fear of the word leveled against them and passed from person to person through the streets. "Witch" was whispered, with round eyes and a quick ward against evil drawn against the breast-bone.
Orange light, flickering and wavering, was reaching from nearby pyres to caress the faces of the deceased. My nose had gotten used to the stench of burning hair and skin by now, and I ignored the sight of those unfortunate enough to be burned alive so that I did not have to remember their faces, twisted in agony, in the daylight when I woke up. These faces, though, I would always remember, the way they looked almost waxen now, without blood and energy pumping through their veins, the way two of them stared blankly back at me, and most of all, the way that there was no lingering trace of magic anywhere around them. These people had not been witches at all, had had nothing to do with magery or magical practices, but had simply, unfortunately, made an enemy of the wrong person during the wrong time period.
It made me sick to think about the smallest of them, a girl who could have been no more than ten years of age, being strung up by her neck on the accusation of witch-craft. More, it made me sick to think that, if Edward was right and this madness touched Raudaine, that girl could easily be my misunderstood little cousin. Terrified, sick in heart and wishing to be anywhere but right there, staring into the faces of the dead, I spun around and pushed frantically through the crowd that had been slowly gathering in the square. I did not even care to see what they were up to, and in my rush to get away from that place, did not look back to see which direction they were going in. All that mattered was that they were pushing in the opposite direction that I was, preventing the hasty exit I had planned on.
By the time I stopped panicking and actually looked around me, I realized that my dream had taken me back home. I was never more thankful that dreams had a way of transporting you across continents in only minutes. Feeling that relief start to weigh my body down, I decided to sit and close my eyes for a minute, waiting for the trembling in my fingers to pass. When the hem of someone's skirts brushed across my knuckles, I opened my eyes again.
Now I was on the roof of the house, sitting on the walkway our servants used to maintain our roof. The woman who'd brushed by me was standing not ten feet away, staring down at the flagstones below us, and my poor, mute little cousin was standing next to her. Ellie couldn't have been older than four, clutching her doll to her chest and staring at her mother in confusion. There was no trace of fear in her expression, only trust and the faint consternation she showed when faced with a particularly difficult math problem, her brows knitted together. The woman next to her—who must have been Ellie's mother and my Aunt Katherine by the family resemblance—didn't appear to even notice her daughter's presence.
"Momma?" Ellie finally asked, yanking on her mother's hand.
Katherine only freed her hand and gave a great sigh before choking out a sob that sounded strangely like "Forgive me," before she took two steps off the edge of the roof and plunged to her death against the flagstones she'd been admiring moments earlier. I flinched with the sound of contact being made and then choked back my gag reflex; my horror so much worse this time because of my relation to the people involved. Still, when I looked at Ellie, she was just staring at her mother, no horror or sadness or even comprehension lighting her blue eyes up again. This was the look I was used to and the look I would face upon waking up, if she were conscious the next morning.
When I slid out of that dream, I did not drift into another, which I was curiously grateful for. Even in those few moments of dreaming I was terrified to think of what would come next. In the morning, when I woke up, the smell of burning still lingered in my nose, curiously strong and terrifyingly real. The more vivid of my dreams had a tendency to linger like that, and considering the events of the night before I'd gone to bed, I wasn't wholly surprised that my subconscious had decided to dream about death and witch-hunts. What did surprise me that morning was that I had also included my Aunt's fall from the roof in my journeying. Since I had never met the woman, and had rarely had occasion to think about her, I should perhaps have thought about that more than I did. Being a mostly flighty creature that morning though, I did not dwell on her cameo appearance for more than a moment before I found more pressing matters to consider: like which color dress Ahmaire'd be pleased with me wearing for the guests.
I did also consider whether or not my cousin would be conscious for the day, whether she'd throw a fit over the strangers or not, whether Ahmaire had been told of last night's adventures already and what—if anything—he would have to say about the matter. Still, I was a teenage girl and wholly unused to thinking about how things would affect the world around my little household, so I wondered about all of these things only so that I could worry over whether or not my house would run the way it usually did. I wondered if my day would go through its usual routine without any hiccups or delays or awkward pauses.
For about five whole minutes, in the bright light of the day, I forgot how serious the night before had been and brushed it all off. And then I remembered the complete look of terror, the certainty with which our guest had steered me back home, how utterly wrong the night air had felt against my cheeks on the return trip. Then I wondered how things could possibly return to how they always were. I was trying and even as I went about my usual routine and sat at the little dressing table in my room, brushing my hair off of my face, I found myself unable to shake a feeling of complete nervousness and an achingly deep certainty that something was wrong.