Deirdre woke up, not surprisingly, sitting up and embracing me. It took me a moment to realize that I hadn't died, that my body wasn't completely flattened beneath tons of rock and that the pressure I felt against me was her gentle hugging. It took me quite a few moments to calm down from my inner panic and let reality flow into my senses again. It was still quite dark, I wasn't even sure if more than two hours had passed since we fell asleep.
But I didn't feel restful enough to fall asleep again.
I told Deirdre about the dream, going into as much detail as I could. She had a very interesting reply on it.
"This is the third time you've had a dream like this, each time you die and you meet a child. I wonder how much more you will see..."
I thought for a moment. "Well, this should be the last, she said she only had two sisters."
Deirdre nodded. "Didn't it get worse?"
I nodded sadly. "Yes, the first death was quite swift, then it took longer and longer... It was so real that..." I took a deep breath. "It was interesting, in a way. I mean most people don't get to live through deaths multiple times. But it's quite distressing as well. It makes me feel disconnected from my body."
She squeezed me a little and kissed in my neck. "Let's look at it in the morning."
She pulled me down with her and pulled the blankets back up. I heard the horses whinny a little when we attempted to sleep again. Deirdre was out like a light after another kiss in my neck, breathing calmly against me. It calmed me down, finally. I let myself drift away, filing away everything in my memory but feeling I could let it go for now. I had a nagging feeling that I should be able to unravel everything already now. Two sisters... Why only two? Why did I have the feeling I should be expecting more?
Sleep granted me rest from my troubled mind, Deirdre's soft skin helping immensely.
We both woke gently when the sun was about to come up. The nearby lake cooled the air quite a bit and left a gentle fog above it. It was still in the shadow of the surrounding trees, but I knew the low clouds would evaporate as soon as the light hit them. The morning was a bit strange, mostly because my head still hadn't lost it's chaos entirely. We both washed ourselves before we got dressed and ate our last food before we got on the horses. They were quite well-rested and fed, they'd cleared the ground around them of anything edible.
"Did you get any sleep at least?" Deirdre asked me as we got on our way again, letting the horses guide us back to the path.
I nodded. "I did, thanks to you."
She smiled. "Good, wouldn't want you too tired to deal with the Masters." She winked playfully.
I yawned a little. "Oh right, we'll arrive today."
It was almost a goodbye when we let the lake behind us, but we felt clean and ready to face the new day. Deirdre looked quite a bit more rested than I did, but at least it wouldn't be too obvious. Part of me wasn't looking forward to arriving in Rockwall, besides all the trouble waiting for us there, being on the road was a nice feeling. Travelling in a direction, having a clear purpose with few distractions.
Today was also the first day we saw another traveller. A single horseman from the opposite direction rode past us, at much higher speed too. He barely allowed us a glance but nodded slightly as a sort of greeting. We assumed he was only heading for the abandoned village, as riding at a full gallop wasn't something a horse could keep up for more than a day, depending on the horse.
Of course we speculated if he was on the run from anyone. But we doubted that, his clothing was hard-wearing and of good quality, as far as we had seen it anyway. That was all we saw until the end of the day. I was glad for it.
We'd been riding upwards almost the whole day so it didn't come completely as a surprise to see mountains, but it was still almost magical. When we reached the edge of the forest we saw them in the distance, some even covered with layers of snow that looked thin until you got nearby. In fact it looked like it was a whole mountain range, touching the edge of the forest and spreading for kilometres. If I had the clothing and equipment for it, I'd love to climb one of them and enjoy the brilliant view from another perspective.
The city itself was true to its name. Rockwall had a tall, stone wall around the whole city, there weren't even any hovels outside of the walls, nor fields. It was surprising until we finally entered through the main gate, unhindered by guards. The city wasn't on alert at least. Inside the outer walls we saw how large the city area actually was, they'd created a second wall, much thicker looking (but about as high) as the one before that, surrounding the inner city. Between the two walls were several fields, many hovels and lots of people going about their business.
Even though we still outside the inner city, we could see the two castles. They were different in design from the ones in Dawnbridge, quite different. The ones I came from were almost Gothic in design, going for height and impression rather than function. These were much squarer and simpler in looks, but also a lot stronger looking. These castles hadn't just been build to last, but they had been build to withstand storms and attacks while they were lasting.
I couldn't wait to see them up close.
When we got closer to the inner city gates, there was a crowd there, stopped by a number of guards. There was some screaming as well but it was hard to make out what they were saying until we got much closer. The guards mostly ignored us, much too preoccupied with the crowd in front of them. The people didn't look at us either, something else was on their mind.
Had there been more disappearances?