On the ground, among charred grass, plants, and trees that still smoldered and cracked with the intense damage that had been done to them, laid a young woman. She didn’t move, didn’t breathe, and she was face down, with blood pouring from her ears and down her face.
Just outside of her immediate area, lying amongst the damage, were several others. Some of them were dead, their bodies mangled and blown apart, while others were much like the young woman: just outside of what had been the area of greatest impact, unconscious, but near death.
Her eyes shot open, and a deep breath painfully filling her lungs. A scream bubbled up in her chest, but her broken ribs wouldn’t allow her to call out as she continued to gasp for air, tears coming to her eyes.
Slowly, she stood on shaky legs, clutching at her side as she leaned against a tree and looked around the area with blurry eyes. The light that shined through what was left of the canopy blinded her, and there was an intense ringing in her ears. Everything else sounded muffled in comparison, like she had a thick pillow over her ears while trying to listen.
She could hear the faint crackles of the trees that were still on fire echoing through her impaired ears, but something else made its way to her. Was that crying? Somehow, she felt curious, but didn’t care much past that. It was only a faint sound, but she just couldn’t make it out. It seemed foreign to her right then.
Letting it go, the woman turned herself around, her eyes taking in the sights around her. There was smoke slightly wafting into the area. It wasn’t enough to choke her, but she certainly felt the dryness in her throat and nose with every painful breath. There were bodies all over, but she didn’t recognize any of them.
A few yards away, she saw what must have been gallons upon gallons of blood splattered all over the trees and forest floor, body parts strewn about. Intestines, organs, and human limbs littered the ground all around her.
But there was nothing inside her.
No sadness. No anger. No emotions of any kind.
She felt as if she were asleep, dreaming. None of that was real. Not the burning forest or the mutilated bodies, however that had happened. Not the scent of the smoke or death around her. Not the crying men and women on the ground that she had now made eye contact with. She just groaned and shook her head as some of them grasped at her ankles as she walked by.
It was all a dream.
Ears still ringing and her eyes still sensitive to the light, the young woman stumbled through the woods, periodically wiping the blood streaming down her forehead. It continued to drip down her brows and into her eyes.
Without knowing or understanding why, there were times she came to a stop, leaning against a tree. She wondered if her body knew something that she didn’t. Was she tired? She didn’t feel tired…
She sighed, letting that go, too. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t really in control of herself, and that was fine. It was just a dream, and she would be awake soon.
She continued to walk, not knowing where she was going, but not caring. She just needed to get away from that mess, that nightmare. Before long, she found herself coming to the edge of the river. There was something familiar about it, but she just assumed it was another part of the dream playing tricks on her.
After all, she had never been there before.
She continued to walk forward, smiling suddenly as she looked down at the rushing water. At that moment, she found herself wondering how badly it would hurt to bend over and take off the boots she didn’t remember putting on.
Shrugging, she decided they would dry eventually. It was the water that was important now. Maybe it would help her wake up.
The ringing in her ears had yet to stop, but she heard something trying to break through it. It sounded as though someone was screaming at her from below the surface of the water. She smiled, wanting to laugh. That can’t happen. They would drown.
She shook her head, quickly wiping the blood away again as it dripped into her eyes, burning them unmercifully. There it was again, the sound, that yelling. It was louder now, but she couldn’t understand what that person was yelling, let alone why.
It was so peaceful there, why would anyone want to scream?
“Arryn!” the sound came again, only this time she made out the word.
Turning, she looked around, but saw nothing. The action made her feel a little dizzy, and she laughed as she stumbled over to a large rock by the river bank.
“Arryn!” The voice had completely broken through the ringing now, and she saw a man stepping out of the forest and walking toward her.
Who was he, and why was he shouting at her?
“Arryn!” he said, his voice taking on a relieved tone now instead of the frantic one he’d had before. As she looked at him with total confusion, the relief fell from his expression, a look of worry replacing it. “Arryn?”
She laughed again, pointing at the man who seemed terribly worried about someone named Arryn. “I…” She coughed, realizing the smoke had done more to her throat than she had thought. But she would wake soon—so again, it didn’t matter. “I don’t know who that is. You have the wrong person.”
The man stared at her, his long, blonde hair blowing slightly in the breeze. He began to shake his head a bit as he stepped closer. “You are Arryn.”
The young woman’s smile fell as he began to approach her. She had no idea who he was, and he was much larger than she was. There were knives on his belt, and blood on his clothes and hands. There were even a few drops on his face.
At that moment, she thought back to the dead bodies she had seen littering the area she had awoken in.
“It was you! You hurt them.” The thought had occurred to her to run away, but why? She wanted to see where this dream went.
The man’s eyes flashed green, earning a gasp out of the young woman before he said, “I’m sorry to do this, but it’s for your own safety.”
Dream or not, she didn’t want to stick around to see what he meant by that.
She tried to move quickly, but he was much faster. Vines shot out from the ground, wrapping her from her elbows down to her ankles. They held her tight, keeping her from moving at all.
The man made his move then, running up and placing his hands on either side of her face. His hands were large, and very warm. Something about that warmth felt familiar as it raced through her entire body.
And then everything began to change. She didn’t like this, not at all.
Suddenly, she was painfully aware that her ribs had been crushed, and was now aware of the splitting headache she had. She began to see memories flashing through her mind, explosions in the forest, and then she became aware of even more.
It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a dream at all.
Within moments, though it seemed like an eternity, her ribs cracked back into place, her headache dissipated, and she took her first painless breath.
“Is it you?” he asked cautiously. “Do you know where you are what happened?”
She slowly nodded, her expression reflecting the rage that was quickly coming back with all her other emotions now that her broken mind had been healed. All the bodies she saw in the forest came back to her. They hadn’t been a dream either.
They will pay for this, she thought.
Wasting no time, Arryn said, “Get me a fucking healer. I need to be at full capacity. I made a promise to Alaric, and I’m about to make good on it.”