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Autumn ran around in the darkness, her heart thumping in her chest with worry.
Stop, she told herself. Where are you?
She stopped to look around, straining her eyes in the dark. She could see nothing but thick blackness surrounding her.
Don’t look with your eyes, her head told her.
She closed her eyes and reached out with her magic. She sensed she was not outside. She felt as if she was in something … but what? She reached out, further searching for Earth life.
“It’s all long dead,” a voice said behind her.
“If only we had heeded their warning,” another voice said beside her. It sounded familiar. “It was your choice. Death would have been better.”
She heard soft weeping in the darkness, “I should have listened.” Autumn held her breath and felt her heart sink into her stomach. She knew that voice. The weeping continued, and she wanted the voice to speak again. Her ears must have been playing tricks, because it couldn’t be. She wanted to be wrong. She needed to be wrong.
“It’s my fault,” the voice sounded in the darkness.
Her voice: older, sadder.
Her hand covered her mouth. “No.” Her knees felt weak beneath her.
“Yes,” a voice replied so close to her ear that she could feel a warm breath on her neck. Rot enveloped her senses, and her stomach heaved. “You killed us, locking us in a prison.”
She knew this voice too and shook her head. “You’re okay,” she said weakly as something slimy grabbed her arm tightly. The touch of rotting skin against hers made her want to scream. She didn’t want to see who the hand belonged to.
Slowly she turned. She wanted to close her eyes, but they wouldn’t cooperate. At first she couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing, and then the figure came into focus. Dingy black hair and dead brown eyes stared at her; not cold, but dead. The face she had been so used to seeing every morning since they’d been together. She shook her head, stepping back.
“No, no,” she repeated over and over again and took another step back. She walked into something fleshy.
She turned her head, and the corpse smiled, his teeth, broken and black. She had seen those teeth before, in a dream. “You did this,” River accused.
“You did this to us all.” Rowan raised his black, rot-filled, hand and moved it closer so she could see better. “Look what we’ve become because of you.”
Laughter filled her head. It wasn’t Rowan’s laughter but a cold laughter she’d heard before. Light engulfed the darkness, and she saw she was standing in a cave. The people who belonged to the voices were gone, but zombie Rowan and zombie River stood still, watching her with their dead eyes.
“It’s not really you; this is just a dream,” she whispered, close to tears, willing herself awake.
“Are you sure?” Arawen asked, his voice low and sensual as he walked out of the shadows.
“Go away!” She yelled.
“You speak so to your king?” He walked to her reaching out, touching her hair, petting her as if she were a dog. “You’re God, your only hope of living.” His silver eyes penetrated hers, and she could feel the stirring of magic inside her.
Calmness filled her as he continued. “You are not my god,” she said placidly.
“I will be, my element of Earth. You will help me live.” He wrapped his hand in her hair and tugged gently.
She called for her energy, and as he tightened his grip, she declared, “This is not real!”
“But it is, or will be.” Arawen bent towards her neck. She knew as soon as his lips touched her, whatever magic he was using would seal a spell. “You should give in, my pet, and help me freely.”
She released her energy, and the living pulse of green light flared brightly. Her magic pushed Arawen away with such force, he took a handful of her hair as he hit the cavern wall.
“No!” She ran into the darkness. Darkness was better than being in the light with the undeads: Rowan, River, and the King of the Underworld.
His voice followed her, laughing, “You will.”
With Arawen’s vision over, he knew Earth had awaked. “My, my, it seems my little witch is getting more powerful every day.”
He sat with his bare leg draped over an arm of the throne, staring off into space. His thoughts troubled him. I have to get to them, but how? He thought of the witch’s friends, and an evil smile appeared on his handsome face.
“Orran!” He called as he scooted to sit normally.
The short, red, hunter tunic moved with him as if part of him, barely flashing anything hidden underneath. The little creature of his bidding ran up to him, bowing his head to the floor. Orran, his best slave, stood three feet tall. He looked at its clothes with disgust, if you could call them that. They looked more like rags. Filthy dirt-colored rags that barely hid any of his body.
“Yes, Master,” Orran said in a thick slithering voice as he dropped to his knees in front of the throne.
“Call the hounds.”
Fear from the other slaves ran through the room, lighting his body on fire. He fed off of it. He licked his lips. It almost made him dizzy, buzzed, like after drinking good mead. How he missed the pleasures of the real world. When he took over the Earth he would drink, eat meat like a glutton, release himself in a harem of unwilling flesh, and make bodies bleed.
“B-but, Sir.” He paused, his eyes dropping to the floor. “The hounds have not been called since the days of old.”
His mood shifted, and he glared down at the fairy. All of the other slaves in the room felt the change and slunk into the shadows. “Did I ask for a history lesson?”
Orran smashed himself to the cavern floor. “No, Master, I’m sorry, so sorry. I shall call the hounds!”
Arawen waited a few seconds. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Orran jumped to his little hairy feet. He turned and let out a high-pitched whistle that the king could not hear, but the other fairies did. His smile returned as he watched them wince and squirm, looking around, waiting to see where the hounds would enter.
Loud howling could be heard as the doors to his room burst open, and four giant white dogs bounded in. They paused, sniffing the air and growling as pools of drool puddled at their feet. They advanced towards the fairies, making them shrink into the walls.
“Welcome, my friends,” Arawen said loudly, greeting the dogs. The lead dog walked up to the god, growling, stopped and looked up at him, waiting. He reached down and stroked its red ears.
“I have a job for you. Regretfully, it is work for only one, but I will let you all out to play when the task is done.” He bent over, whispering into the dog’s ear. The dog howled loudly, showing it understood, and ran to the large oak door. Arawen’s head fell back as he let out a belly laugh.
“Orran, let my dogs play. They will need a handful of evil souls to chase, and when the other comes back I want to know.” He slouched back in the throne, eyes rolling up to the ceiling. “It will be fun to hunt on the surface once more.”
Stefan sat up in bed, covered in sweat. “What a dream,” he said out loud. He looked around his room, waiting for something spooky to jump out at him.
Fuck this, he thought.
Tomorrow he was going to ask Autumn for a nightmare cure. He lay back and tried remembering his dream. He felt hungry.