For some unexplainable reason, when the Dreadlings came, Harry was not surprised. Perhaps it was because the desolate village screamed with paranormal activity, or maybe it was her deeper intuition of things that could not be seen in the light, things of nightmare.
It began with blackness. The sun had set a few hours previously, plunging the party into the familiar ice of the desert night. Fires were lit and torches were bared, but they appeared to provide neither light or warmth, even when right up close against them. Harry wondered whether she should say something to the high men about it, but decided against it as she knew realistically they would not listen to a word she said. All that would be gained from it was a punch to the face.
It was a clear night, as many desert nights were. The stars had always fascinated Harry and they were one of the few things that kept her moving onwards. The clusters in the sky, the faint misty patches, the shiny red planets and the domineering moons were her company and her comfort in a lonely, inhospitable place.
Harry knew something was deeply wrong when the stars began to go out. One by one, first the fainter pinpricks, then the brighter ones, began to fade into blackness. Their camp and the village grew steadily darker, the yellow glow surrounding torches shrinking, retreating as if threatened by some dark danger. Slowly people began to stir and realise something was happening. The high men instantly called out to the low ones, partly blaming them and partly demanding their protection against an invisible enemy.
Harry sprang to her feet, but not to aid their defence. Instead, she watched.
Darkness began enveloping the buildings around her - a thick cloud like smoke. It swirled and thrashed around as it came upon them. At first Harry had thought it was wind, but in fact it was creatures in the cloud. There were small insect-like things; a cross between flies and scorpions. But the most terrifying manifestations were much larger, human-sized monsters that were made of bones and black cloaks.
People everywhere broke and fled, overcome by horror and hysteria. High men pushed low men to the floor, scrambling for horses and provisions, trying to escape. The 'Dread', as that was only how it could be described by Harry, attacked them, pulling them off their horses and with one single touch turning their skin and bodies to bones and dust. A low, drone-like scream rang in the air, piercing the flesh and vibrating deeply through Harry's very soul. She dragged herself along the ground, somehow unable to walk, like in a nightmare where one is being chased.
She coughed violently as dust filled her lungs; a mixture of the sand from the ground and the remnants of those that had been taken by the Dreadlings.
Shift you fool! something in her mind yelled at her.
She did not need telling twice. Staggering to her feet, she cried out and transformed into her dragon form in an explosion of white light. She shot upwards into the air, ripping through the thick, oppressive blackness as she rose further and further. Around her the dark cloud was sucking her down and bony hands clawed at her scaly white flesh, but she kept beating her wings furiously, fighting them off with fire and flame.
Eventually she caught a glimpse of stars ahead of her, and she surged towards it, breaking free suddenly of the dense cloud of death. With eerie suddenness, the world around her grew completely silent as the screams of dying and that oppressive low-pitched groan left her in an instant. She took a breath, panting, unsure of when she had last actually breathed. The air was clean, and it felt like the purest, most magnificent breath she had ever taken.
But she could not feel relieved. Below her, the black storm of dread surged. She flew upwards and away, weeping and choking in exhaustion and despair.