Till wakes up during the night, gasping for breath.
“I fell!” he sobs into the darkness. “I fell! It was so cold!”
But no arms come to embrace him, no tender hands cradle his head and caress his hair. No soft voice speaks words of comfort and sings gently until he once more settles into sleep, the dream terror first half-remembered, then forgotten.
He is alone, far away from home, from Stellia, in a strange place with strange people.
If he cries out for comfort, will anyone come, anyone at all? And who?
He whimpers his sister’s name, afraid that someone else might hear.
There is no response, only the rain drumming on the window.
He sits alone in the bed and weeps for a while, until weariness steals over him once more. Bit by bit, his tears and his grief give way to a drowsy observation of his surroundings. He sinks back into the vast down pillow.
He feels lost in the room.
The ceilings here are all too high; it’s almost as if he’s sleeping in the open, or in some place where people wouldn’t normally sleep.
The only light is a faint red glow from the embers in the fireplace, this one smaller, like the one in his parents’ house. He sees the shadowy outlines of a table and a chair, and above the fire a woven picture that seems to be of a person, though he can’t see it clearly in the dark. He squints at it for a while, and eventually he thinks he can make out the face of a bored-looking old man with not much hair who is gazing off into the distance.
There’s writing on it, too, the letters are the same ones they use at home, but he can’t make out any of the words. Somehow this makes him feel even more lost and alone.
He remembers what Lord Osdath said, that his visitor will arrive tomorrow, hopefully.
After some time, the raindrops lull him back to sleep, and he dreams a very different and pleasing dream now, that daybreak has already come, that he wakes up and the room is brightly lit by sunlight, and that Stellia is sitting in the chair by the table, looking up from a book she was reading, and smiling as she wishes him a good morning.
NEXT: The Visitor