11A

The air was still and warm. Lengthening shadows provided cool pockets and in their depths points of absolute cold. Audrey still had her spell-book, no matter how often she wished she’d just left it alone back in the book shop it rarely left her mind—and as long as she thought of it, the book would be here in the dream, and as long as it was here she felt the need to carry it with her.

It had taken far too long to fall asleep tonight. Audrey felt exhausted. Not exactly like she needed to sleep, that never seemed to be the case in this dream world. Instead she felt this heaviness of spirit, like she’d sink down into the earth and disappear forever if only the ground were a little less solid.

Ahead Audrey could hear Nadine’s laughter and Horera’s excited yipping. She smiled and felt suddenly completely alone at the same time. Of course as soon as Audrey reached the edge of the clearing she was spotted by Nadine and Horera both. Nadine lowered her arm instead of throwing the stick she and Horera had apparently been playing fetch with.

“Hey, there you are, Audrey,” Nadine smiled. “How’re things?”

Audrey sighed and offered a shrug. She wasn’t sure.

Nadine looked up at the fiery sky, “Been getting some interesting dream times lately. Used to just be either day or night. But last night it was morning, and tonight it’s gone from late afternoon to evening.”

“Things are getting more complicated…”

Horera crawled toward Audrey, then sat back to look up at her kindly. Audrey was so alone not even Horera could break the distance between them. Suddenly a torrent of silent tears Audrey didn’t realize were coming washed her face. She couldn’t stop; no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t even look away. Instead she just stood there running like a bloody fountain.

“Audrey okay?” Horera whined.

“I don’t know,” Audrey shook her head.

“Do you need to talk about it?” Nadine walked over next to Horera.

Why? Why was Audrey so alone? Why couldn’t she go to Horera and Nadine? Why couldn’t they come to her? Or was the distance between them really so great? It felt like they were in entirely different universes.

“I, well,” slowly Audrey’s tears stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun, “there isn’t much to say… Elise’s death giant got the World Scepter. I still have the Scroll of Depths, but two of the three artifacts are now in Elise’s hands.”

“That’s terrible!” Nadine’s fists clenched.

Horera whined sympathetically, “Death giant sound bad…”

Audrey hugged her spellbook tightly, “He’s the worst monster I’ve seen in all of Fantasia! He doesn’t even look like a big human the way some giants do, he just looks… Evil. And his armor, or whatever it is, is made from the screaming souls of the people he’s killed.” Audrey shook her head, now would be a good time for tears but no more were coming, “We almost had him…”

Nadine finally broke the distance to Audrey and put a hand on her shoulder, “So that’s why it isn’t night. Things are bad, but you’re getting there! I can’t imagine fighting something like that, but it sounds like after a night’s rest you’ll be ready for a re-match.”

“A re-match?” Audrey’s strident laugh made her wince inwardly, “I, I guess so… We have to.”

A surge of relief flooded through Audrey as Horera finally latched tightly around her waist. She wasn’t alone. There wasn’t much her friends could do, but they were here for her. Nadine squeezed Audrey’s shoulder and made a fist with her other hand.

“I’ve been thinking about the portals myself, and I think I’ve finally figured out how to get through!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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