Nightmare

A sea of tall grass swayed in the stiff breeze. Colored blossoms bobbed and danced between the stalks, bright splotches of color like dots of paint still wet from the artists’ brush. Sunlight filled a sky empty of clouds and bluer than she’d ever seen.

On the corner of her vision, Domerin Lorcasf stooped to snap one of the bright blossoms free of its crisp stem. He moved with a grace she had always admired; not the cultivated grace of the palace courtiers, but the measured grace of a warrior who wasted no energy on inefficient movement. His preferences had never lay in her direction but, then, perhaps that made her admire him all the more.

He lifted the severed blossom until it hovered just beneath his nose and inhaled deeply. “Ah,” he murmured, a smile splitting his lips. “Life is so ephemeral.”

The queen lay her head against the sole tree rising from the center of the clearing and laughed, rich and deep. “Ephemeral? That doesn’t sound like you at all.”

He glanced at her over his shoulder, dusk and midnight even at noon. The sun created a shimmering gloss against his midnight hair and nearly washed the grey from his eyes, leaving only a frosted blue. “Fragile, then. By the time we realize the value of its most precious moments, they’re already gone.”

She frowned. Not only was Domerin uncharacteristically philosophical today, she could swear he had said that once before. It was on the edge of her memory, if she could only grasp it…

Lightning filled a dark sky. Instead of thunder, two swords collided. Steel scraped against steel before one blade repelled the other and darted forward to press its advantage. Again and again the blades crashed together, a flurry of powerful strikes, a building crescendo. Always the wielders of each blade remained just shrouded in shadow, though she could almost make out the shapes. If she could just focus…

“Say that you love me,” a frantic voice pleaded just outside her vision.

“It would be a lie.” Domerin’s face peered down at her, clouded with grey, dark, like storm clouds on the edge of rain.

“Please! Just let me hear it, one last time.” It wasn’t her voice that spoke.

Domerin’s brows furrowed. An inner war took place in his eyes, though his expression remained difficult to read. There were times he almost seemed carved of stone. She had always wondered how he managed that. “Without feelings to back them, they’re just words. Meaningless words.”

“I don’t care! Domerin, please!” Dying, she realized. The voice was dying. She had seen this before.

“All right,” Domerin relented, relaxing his face so that it showed no further sign of emotion. “I love you.”

Silence. Painful, penetrating silence.

“You’re right,” the dying voice gasped and she vaguely recalled the shaking of a head. “It’s not the same.” The voice was barely more than a whisper now. “Empty…” it gasped, and spoke no more.

Rain fell. Heavy, pelting rain. It washed the blood from the blade and a cut on his right shoulder. Another flash of lightning and she saw, for the first time, the battlefield, lit bright as day. Domerin in his torn and bloody uniform fighting four other men, soaked and snarling. But was it an old memory? Or was it new?

“Support his head. That’s it. There you go.” She shifted Domerin’s hand, placing it beneath the baby’s tiny, fuzzy head.

He looked awkward, uncomfortable, tense enough to snap if someone applied pressure to just the right spot. It was strange. She had watched him face down men twice his size, had watched him calmly face the oncoming rush of more men than he could hope to fight with the allies at his side. And yet, he seemed terrified of the baby nestled in his arms, as if it alone could conquer the old soldier.

“It’s all right,” she insisted. “He’s a baby. He’s not made of glass.”

“He’s very squirmy…” Domerin scrunched his face when he said it, looking and sounding uncertain.

“He just isn’t used to you yet. But it won’t take long. Look at those eyes… I’ll bet he’s going to look just like you, someday.”

“Let’s hope he isn’t too much like me. He’d only get in all kinds of trouble.”

She smirked. “Oh, I don’t think it would be so bad…”

Footsteps. Yelling.

Why couldn’t she penetrate the din? Why couldn’t she see the clarity through the dimensions of chaos? It wasn’t usually like this!

A sharp stab of pain just beneath her left breast. With a cry and a gasp she spun, hand flying to her chest.

A crystal loomed over her, dense and multifaceted. Her chest was fine. No wound. No blood. The crystal glittered in a light that seemed to have no source. Jagged outcroppings branched from the tower, sharp as knives.

A flash of movement caught her eye; blond hair and a hint of a tail. Cat ears laid back against a head, a clear sign of distress. “Honestly, Domerin, what have you gone and done to yourself now?”

“I’ve gone and gotten myself killed.”

She shifted, three steps to the right, and there he was, skewered on a set of crystal spires. One penetrated his chest, just beside his heart, another speared his abdomen and the third, almost comically, had impaled his knee.

Her heart stopped. She remembered this.

Crescent’s ears shifted, up, down, side to side, before laying flat against his head again. He eased forward enough to lay a furred hand on Domerin’s cheek. “If you die, Domerin Lorcasf, I swear I’ll-” but he choked and the rest of the words fled.

Something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong.

Domerin exerted every ounce of effort his body had left in it to lift one arm. He might have been trying to grasp the hand set against his cheek, but he only managed to lay his arm limply across Crescent’s. “I’m already dead. They just haven’t let my body realize it yet.”

Lightning. Thunder. A sword biting through flesh. In one side of a body and out the other, driving further, until the blade embedded itself in the trunk of a tree.

I’m already dead…

 

Gasping, flailing against sweat-soaked blankets, Rose woke. Her eyes snapped open and she was sitting before she comprehended how tangled she was. She searched frantically for a clock or a sign of the moon and stars outside the window. But she couldn’t get her arms out of the blanket, couldn’t get her feet over the edge of the bed…

No time. Her frantic sense of desperation grew, the last moments of the dream echoing in the vaults of her mind. If you die, Domerin Lorcasf, I swear…

Without thought or care for her current state of dress, Rose teleported. Not just out of the blankets. Not just out of the small cabin that now served as her house. Not just out of the woods or into the nearest town. To the other side of the country, to the castle she knew so well. To the courtyard where the king stood surrounded by his siblings and a hastily gathered entourage of guards.

Armored bodies littered the walkways. Everyone panted in an attempt to catch their breaths. The guards jumped when she appeared out of nowhere, but relaxed when they recognized her face.

Rain pelted her bare flesh. At least she had been wearing a nightgown, though it was hardly appropriate attire. Her hair was a wild tangle of curls rapidly plastering to her neck and back. It didn’t matter. Since the crown had passed to her heir the courtiers could think her as crazy as they liked. There were more important matters at the moment.

“Mother?” Three voices exclaimed woefully out of unison. Eyes widened with fear and concern.

“Domerin,” she gasped, scanning the faces of those gathered. With the king obviously having fallen under attack, she would have expected to find him here. But she didn’t see him, not even among the fallen.

Her oldest son crossed the small gap between them and took her arm, drawing her focus to him. “Mother, what is it? What’s wrong?”

“Domerin,” she said again, grasping Dormal’s shoulders, squeezing as hard as she could. “Dormal, where is your father?”

Her heart pounded in her chest while he glanced around and shook his head. “He must have been with another group-“

Too late, something screeched in her head. She’d already experienced the snap of a terminating spell. Unless it had been a fore-echo, a warning from her foresight of the impending disaster.

“Find him.” She shook her son’s shoulders. “Find him!” she ordered louder when no one moved, her voice carrying all the command that had served her as queen.

Dormal turned and waved over his shoulder. “You heard her. Search the grounds!”

“You too.” She spun her son away from her before he could protest, trying to stumble in his wake. But the nightmare hadn’t fully released her yet, and the icy rain numbed her limbs. She closed her eyes and sucked deep breaths, clenching her teeth against their chattering.

The spell had never been meant to last this long. And yet, her mind reeled against a possibility she had never properly considered.

Everything feels like a dream. Feels like… I’m not even here anymore.

Sobbing, head in her hands, the former queen stumbled into the night, hoping, praying for one last miracle.

rose - nightmare

*********
This week’s prompt was simply ‘a nightmare.’ I’m not sure if this particular scene will ever make it to a larger body of work, so I’m glad I was able to write it. Can you believe this is prompt number 51? That means we’ve got something special coming up next week to celebrate the 1 year mark! :D

Check out what my writing partner did for this one.

And if you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week!

2 Responses to “Nightmare”

  1. ganymeder Says:

    Wow, that was great! I admit to being a bit confused by the first part, but the second was amazing.

    • Megan Cutler Says:

      Thank you so much! :D I tried to convey the sort of fractured nature of dreams without stating it from the beginning. It probably needs some refining but it was fun to write. ^^


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