Chapter XXI: The Nightmare Man (2/13)Mature

Food was served in bountiful amounts, everybody filling themselves to burst, and everybody sat as Elena's clan performed an interpretative song and dance to tell the story of Creation. The Elementals were transfixed by each of the members meant to represent their ancestors, watching as each of their births was illustrated, whilst the girl to represent the Goddess - in a long dress and, customarily, an obscuring veil of white - stood singing at the centre. The pride of the magi people was exemplified beautifully, the Goddess girl gave a speech about the pride of the First Sprites and the glory of their birth - though Will couldn't help but notice nothing was said about the Days of Darkness or their deaths. Tayna once more pointed out that Elena was staring at them throughout this speech, as if to remind them of their "duty" to the royal families, which only made them laugh at the painful irony of the situation.

Will felt himself tiring after a while, different from the previous night, he wanted to depart to bed long before the Aurora left the skies, but held on until then. The countdown was enacted once again, the lanterns readied at the peak of the hillsides, and when the Aurora disappeared in the same way it had come, slithering away across the sky. Will felt sad to see it disappear, thinking on what Sayara had said about the Aurora being an omen on their generation, but what kind of omen? He mused on this as the students and clan released the lanterns into the sky, carried by the gentle, nightly wind. 

That night, exhaustion swept over Will easily and he knew he would not have the dilemma of getting to sleep like the previous night. His eyelids felt heavy, and with Andrel quietly snoring opposite him, he was sealed into dark slumber.

                                                                           * * *

Will's eyes opened, but he quickly realised that he wasn't lying inside his hammock in the tent. Instead, he was lying on stiff and splintering floorboards inside an attic made with decrepit wood and cold stone. A bed which looked more like a coffin box was pushed against the wall to his left, stocked with an old pillow and a dulled drape as a duvet. It took him time, but eventually he worked out where he was; his old home.

He had lived in the entirety of the attic, but as he observed, he noticed that the belongings in his room were what he had owned years ago. What he remembered of living in Vincula as a child was that he'd made something out of anything, his toys were evidence of this. A train track circuiting the room was made from twine and gnawed colouring crayons, a horse and cart had been manufactured from a cardboard box and a broom, and some old bald rag dolls were hanging out of a trunk in the corner scribbled with 'Will's Toys.'

'What is this?' Will asked, he knew that he was dreaming, but why was he so aware, and why of all places did he dream of this?

'It's the past, Willow,' Maga's voice rang through the room like the ear-wrenching clash of a cymbal. Her voice sounded weak, she sounded in pain. Her light appeared beside him, but her brightness was like the flame of a candle threatened by a gathering wind. 'It must be another memory returning to you.'

'In a dream? That's never happened before, though. And what triggered it?'

'I don't know - Willow, there's something different here, you should be -,'suddenly, she was gone, her light suddenly extinguished, her voice fading away.

'Maga? Maga?' he asked for her, but he neither heard or sensed her. Worried for her, but finding it hopeless to contact her, he caught notice of the wall that the bed was pushed against, covered with drawings and doodles. There were pictures of stick figures and tall castles, green forests and bright blue lakes. He looked up and saw that drawings of yellow stars on black paper had been stuck on the ceiling in a collage of the night sky. He heard a piece of paper crunch under his foot, he lifted and saw that the drawing he had left a shoe print on was of a family of nine. There were six children of different heights, and two parents, on the mother's arm was a baby who was represented as little more than swaddling with two eyes peeking out. They were drawn as meagre stick figures, but Will couldn't believe what he was seeing; it was a picture of his family.

But how could he be drawing them if his memory had been erased of them? Had the enchantment been failing even at the beginning? Perhaps a young Willow had drawn the family, thinking of them as a random creation, characters in his imagination with no idea that at one point they had been his family. Then Will noticed something that scared and confused him more than anything, out of the nine figures in the drawing; six of the faces had been crossed out and scribbled on in red crayon.

The End

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