With as much information drained as possible, his questioning complete, Melanion turned to make his departure. He stepped up onto the ledge to await his winged mount.
A flicker on the far horizon caught his eye, making him pause. As soon as it came, it disappeared, only to brighten once more - throbbing indefinitely. He spun sharply and walked back across the tower chamber in a few long strides. Aura’s eyes beamed a beating heart of silver, lashes wide and unmoving.
A stab of fear wrenched his gut. Straightening taller, he pounded roughly on her coffin with his iron fist. “Aura, awaken!” he called, a hint of tight despair in his tone. He beat at her shielded face repeatedly. “What mischief are you up to? Awaken, Aura - awaken!”
She proved irresponsive to his pleas. Her lips moved in soundless chants; hair, skirts, blown with life without a breath of wind. He stopped pounding briefly as her mouth ceased, movement silenced. Red blood bloomed a deathly rose at her bosom; the ugly stain spreading its reaching roots throughout the white satin of her gown. Deeper and darker, thicker and richer it grew, her chest, limbs, trembling with uneasy fever.
Melanion backed away, shocked, stumbling over himself. He looked frantically to the window, the light still pulsing unfailingly. Aura gasped loudly, fingers splayed in taunt agony. Her eyes reeled over in their sockets, and she collapsed lifelessly against the crystal.
The Knight of Shadow held his breath as a single star rose heroically in the distance. It hung a torch beaming forth through the gray, silver rays falling graceful arches through the sky, through the tower windows. They gathered like wingless butterflies about Aura, their warmth centering around her bloodied form.
The star began to fall as a bird, shot clear from the sky. All around him, Aura was screaming with a million voices, and yet her lips were stagnant, her body, unmoving. Melanion crumpled to the ground and held his ears, the hideous sound twisting him inside out. The wind yelled from all angles, light shattering in a sudden wash of white. Melanion lay helpless against the horrific torrent, his very being wearing at the relentless ambush.
It was warm. Beautifully warm. He was wrapped in sweet, dry warmth.
He, for a moment, was confused; trapped, unseeing, in the darkness of his mind. He did not recognize the voice, did not recognize the name.
He woke on the second calling, his surroundings clothed in the sleepy blur of a dream. He was laying in the dappled shade of an expansive tree, cradled gently in a bed of root and moss. Birdsong twittled in the leafy branches above, squirrels raced restlessly over the wooden tracks. He sat up slowly and looked about him, gazed around the empty emerald meadows. A lone horse - his horse - raised its head and nickered through a full mouth of grass. But, otherwise, there was no one in sight.
It was not until then he realized the sword was in his hand. It glittered idly, sunrays playing at its silver ripples. Was it there when he first woke up? How could he not realize it until just now?
For no reason in particular, he stood, weapon in hand, and wandered from beneath the tree. He walked through the pathless pastures until he reached a shallow brook. Standing at its sandy edge, he could see a single fish swimming, struggling against the current. He crouched down, mesmerized by the little creature and its battle.
As he watched, he slowly was enveloped by the water, drawn into the creek. He could no longer see the fish, or the sun. The gurgle of water turned into the incohesive murmur of a tender voice, everything fading into white, irrevocable nothingness…
He opened his eyes, face down in a muddy puddle. Rider sat up and shook the cold water from his hair. His horse stood in the desolate scenery, sniffing a vacant goblin body.
Was that a dream? It surely felt different than any other before. So real.
Rider looked down into the small pool. A small fish fluttered restlessly in its dirty depths, a glint of sun playing at its silver fins.