18A

Audrey breathed the warm floral air deeply and felt it melt through her entire body. She was finally happy, a dozen vague faces shimmered at the edges of her consciousness—comforting her that she was safe and loved. She could lay like this forever. No!

This is wrong! Audrey sat up suddenly as the grass turned dry and brittle under her and an icy vacuum pulled away the warmth and scent of flowers. Fumbling around she located her glasses and shoved them back on quickly to examine her surroundings.

She was dreaming. Even in the dark Audrey recognized the garden she shared with Nadine and Horera—a garden Elise knew nothing about and so couldn’t be using against her. Only it was so dark, there were no stars and the wind raged like some dreadful phantom. The garden had never been like this even on the worst nights.

“I have to wake up!” Audrey shook her head and shut her eyes, “My friends need me! I have to wake up!”

“Audrey leaving?” Horera whimpered from close by.

“Horera?” Audrey opened her eyes again.

More adjusted to the darkness, Audrey could see she was inside what was left of the house she’d made for herself in the dream world. Half of it had been torn away, on the side the wind was pulling toward, and a tangle of dead plants was growing out of the carpet. Everything in the garden was dead.

“Why dream so scary?” a wind-blown Horera crawled into what was left of Audrey’s room to hug Audrey’s legs.

“I, I don’t know,” Audrey knelt down to cover the shivering dogling with her mantle. “But I have to wake up; we’re fighting Elise right now! She cast some sort of spell; it must have put me to sleep!”

“So is bad day? Horera day not so bad, but maybe Audrey Nadine days very bad?”

Audrey looked back out to the dream garden. More than the quality of their days, it had really been their emotional states that had shaped their shared dream. Audrey felt urgency to return to the fight in Fantasia, but not nearly the level of negativity to conjure such a nihilistic dreamscape. Like Horera said, her day was not so bad.

“Have you seen Nadine?” Audrey turned back to Horera.

Horera shook her head, “Nadine place missing! All gone!”

Standing resolute, Audrey felt the weight of her spell book in hand and turned toward the gaping void that cut through Nadine’s section of the garden. She needed to get back to Fantasia as soon as possible, but she couldn’t leave things like this in their dream garden.

“Let’s go, Horera,” Audrey pulled her hood up, “We’re going to find Nadine.”

“Woof,” Horera nodded, producing her guisarme with a flourish.

Praesidium a elementa,” Audrey raised a hand overhead and released a bubble of calm air around herself and Horera.

By the time they reached the old playground where they first met Nadine Audrey’s spell of protection had already been stripped away by the vortex ahead. Audrey doubted Horera knew what a black-hole was, but that’s what it looked like had landed in their dream garden.

Horera sniffed the air, “Things go in black, no come out.  Is no smelling, no seeing… Is nothing?”

Before Audrey could respond an unearthly wail ripped through the void, seemingly amplified for being the only thing to come out of the vortex rather than go in. Holding her spell book out firmly toward the vortex, Audrey braced the World Scepter on top of it with her other hand.

Praesidium a elementa!” Channeling her spell through the Scepter Audrey surrounded herself and Horera with even stronger protections than before. “Let’s go!”

“Woof!”

Audrey and Horera stepped together into the unknown. Overwhelmed by a sudden sense of vertigo, Audrey briefly wondered if her magic would be enough to get any of them out of the abyss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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