Ok. This was written quite late at night and is basically a fail. But what can I say. =P I know it is sort of a repeat of the chapter before it…I need to go back and edit. Oh well. Anyway. =)
Chapter Summary: Ada puzzles over this odd relation between the brooch and her dreams, and talks with Lora about it. That night she has another terrible dream. She sees men sack the inn. Daniel is lost in the burning stable.
Fire, air filled with a haze of blood, heat. Smoke and ash. Destruction and death. Scream. Fire…Ada reached out, grasping after the fading pillar of fire that was the girl. Flames tickled her arms, rough and strange. Her groping fingers halted abruptly, stopped by an invisible wall…
Ada awoke slowly, her mind still clinging to the shreds of her dream. Opening her eyes slowly, she let her hand drop from against the wall of the stable loft, where it had struck as she reached after the girl. Sitting up, the rough hay scratching her bare arms, Ada shook her head. She staggered dizzily against the wall as she stood, her dream flashing again and again through her mind. That woman…who was she? Was she the same one who Ada had seen at the inn in her dreams before? Somehow she had looked different…and the flames. Why was there so much fire? Why had that…thing killed the woman? And the girl…
The girl. Ada froze, her heart jumping. The shadow child…her face. Ada had seen her. The fog and mist were gone. And in their place…Ada shuddered. That face, those expressionless, terrifying, resentment-filled eyes. Bitter as a winter so cold the trees explode as they freeze. Burning with crazed hate, hot as smothering hellfire. Speaking death…a blazing passion to die. Destruction…
Shaking, Ada reached her hand into her pocket, absently rubbing her fingers over the soothing familiar shape of the brooch. Slowly her thoughts slowed and her mind cooled, relaxing with the coolness of the gold. Ada pulled it gently out. Cold morning sunlight spilled through a knothole in the wall, turning the hay to golden ribbons. She let the ray of dusty joy pass over the brooch, causing it to shine as though from within. As the light played over the scalloped edge, it caught upon the small portrait within.
Dropping the brooch as though it scalded her hands, Ada jumped back, away from where it lay smoking in the dust motes. She tripped and fell into the hay behind her, eyes wide and frightened.
“…Ada? Now what did you do?” a sleepy voice inquired, and Ada whipped her head around, shrinking back. Her dark hair fell before her eyes, hiding her startled expression.
“Ada? What’s wrong?” Lora sat up, brushing hay from her hair and pulling her blanket around her, shivering and half asleep. “Why did you jump like that? You woke me up.”
Ada pointed mutely, gesturing towards the brooch and shaking her head.
Lora sighed and pushed herself to her hands and knees, crawling to the small object and picking it up. “What about it? It’s just the same as usual…” She held it out to Ada, who shrank back. Growing frustrated, Lora dropped it at Ada’s feet and sat back, regarding her. “Oh come on, Ada, it won’t bite you. What is it?”
“The girl…the girl in the brooch…” Ada spoke as though in a trance, eyes frozen to the brooch. “I saw her. In my dream. There was fire, and then it collapsed. Something killed the woman! It wasn’t supposed to! She was supposed to be safe! Something was supposed to be protecting her. But it didn’t. It forgot her. There was blood in the air…I couldn’t breathe. And then she was in the fire, up above. And I was there. And she turned around…and it was her, in the brooch, only different. Horrible. Hideous. Her eyes…she hated me. She hated me! but I don’t know why. Why was she horrible?” Ada’s words came out in a rush, tumbling over each other with mounting urgency.
“That’s it? Come on Ada, you probably just dreamed about her because you’ve been obsessing over the brooch so much. You’re always looking at it, I’ve seen you. …that is an interesting dream, though. Are you still dreaming about that…inn, or whatever, that you told me about before?”
Ada nodded slightly, eyes still fixed on the brooch. Slowly, she reached down, picking it up carefully and gazing hard at it for a moment before placing it in her pocket again.
~ ~ ~
All day Ada’s mind hovered around the brooch and the dream…and the mysterious connection between the two. The shadow child, hardly visible again, seemed to beckon from behind every tree, peer out of every window, and whisk out of sight around every corner. Even the slightest noises startled Ada, and when darkness fell over Mandor she passed into a restless sleep, huddled in the hay in the cold stable loft, the wintry wind sifting through the cracks and sighing her to sleep.
~ ~ ~
The wind was rocking her softly, breathing in her ears and trickling around her body. It shifted slowly, growing heavy and turning to water, cool and refreshing, suddenly growing icy. It hardened and froze around her, a block of ice and mounting dread. Suddenly, as though at a sharp blow, the ice shattered and a blossom of flames erupted before her, encircling her. As though swooping her up in a saving embrace, the hot flames curling around her skin and twining in her hair, the fire lifted Ada high into the air. When she stopped moving, Ada looked out over the edge of the fire-flower. She gasped at the sight below her, shrinking back into the comforting flame.
The inn yard was filled with a band of howling, shouting men. Glinting steel shone in their hands and greed blazed in their eyes. Destruction fell from their open palms, smashing on the ground and scattering over everything in sight. They tore at the inn, smashing windows and hurling the furniture into a pile in the yard, setting a torch to it. Cruel laughter ricocheted off the sky. As they ransacked the inn, the men took everything of value from among the items they tossed upon the blazing pile. Every bit of silver, every golden drop, every costly item they saved, shoving them gently, greedily into sacks. One man came out of the inn brandishing a large box over his head. He threw it to the ground, splitting it open. Silver coins spilled out. Laughing, the man scooped them up and let them slide through his fingers into a sack.
As Ada watched from her perch, she saw the woman, the shadow child’s mother, struggling in the grasp of one of the men, anger and fear etching her face. The shadow child, her mist returned once more to veil her figure, lay beside her mother, thrown to the ground.
One of the men turned and noticed the stable, standing above the inn. He shouted, brandishing a torch. Hurling it onto the roof, he grabbed another and tossed it through the open door. The hay caught fire in an instant.
The building burned, sending jets of sparks high into the air. Cinders rained down on Ada’s face and arms, burning her painlessly. The shrieking of the horses within split the hot air. Suddenly a dim figure in the smoke and sparks sped up the hill to the stable. Ada gasped as she recognized the dim face of the stable boy. He shouted, looking back at the shadow child where she lay on the ground. Hesitating a moment longer, he turned swiftly and plunged into the blaze. An explosion of melting hot coals blew up before Ada’s face. The front wall of the building collapsed inward. Time slowed to a crawl. A second wall fell inward and the roof split down the center under the strain. The entire building collapsed, each splinter of charred wood taking hours, days, years to fall. The screams were cut off in an instant that lasted a lifetime.