With a scream, he casts off the wolf pelt and jumps out of bed.
The stone floor is cold underneath his feet, and reminds him at once where he is.
He bursts into tears without understanding why. The grief in his dream, the sadness of having to leave, the terror of the fall. In the past, when he woke up from the nightmare, there was always someone there to run to, someone that comforted him with her embrace.
The memory seems no more real to him than the dream from which he has awoken. No more, he tells himself, but no less, either.
Here in the Storm Hall, there is only one that he can run to, and she knows nothing of embraces.
She sits on her bed, watching him. Always watching him. Does she ever sleep?
“The dream,” she says.
He nods. “It was different, this time. I always saw the last part, where I—” Did he fall? It seemed to him now that he did not, not really. “Where I jump.”
She says nothing, just looks at him, waiting. Or maybe she’s not waiting for anything. If he were to lie down again, and went to sleep, she would probably do nothing, say nothing, care nothing.
“I saw a crystal,” he says. “Like a Shard, it was. And I was riding. Someone was there, too.”
The memory almost makes him cry again. But to what end? She can offer no comfort, he knows that now. But she can always offer knowledge. Oh, of that she has a vast store. And none of it ever helps him.
“Who was—” Again, he hesitates. He could not see the other rider in his dream, but he could sense, know in some way without knowing, that it was a man, a young man. A boy, perhaps. “Who is he?”
“Someone you will see soon,” she says. “Though it was not your wish.”
“Why not? I was sad when he was gone.” He frowns. “Why do I jump? Do I die?”
“There is no death,” she says. “You were merely running away.”
“Running away?” He closes his eyes, trying to focus, to remember the dream. He almost thinks he can hear the distant horns again. “From what? Or whom?”
She sits down next to him, places a hand on his head. Her fingers feel cool, but he likes it, it soothes him, and the tears stop. He knows that she is cold inside, very cold, yet she can do things like this, too.
“You ran from me.” She strokes his hair. “Just like you did on the pier, before we crossed the lake.”
He is getting drowsy. Rain falls through the open roof, striking little glass notes on the water in her pool. The coals crackle softly in the brazier next to his bed. His tongue is heavy in his mouth, and the words on it are heavier still.
“I’ve had this same dream for as long as I can remember, since long before I knew you. How can it be you I’m running from, in my dream?”
“Because it isn’t a dream,” she whispers.
Then his eyes close, and he is sinking, sinking ever deeper into a bottomless ocean of ink, where there is nothing to see, nothing to feel, and nothing to think.