With a cry, her eyes snapped open. Darkness filled the air above her, interrupted only by the pulsing of green-filled runes that etched an otherwise smooth, onyx-like surface. They were inches from her face. She willed her hands to move, to push against what appeared to be an encasing of sorts, but hands remained at her sides. Her eyes darted back and forth, attempting to take in her pulsating surroundings. A sarcophagus, or something like it. Terror panged through her.
I’m buried alive! I’m alive, I’m still alive! She screamed and screamed. Or wanted to. Something clutched at her chest, tightening it to the point that no sound could wrench itself free. No chains wrapped her wrists yet they lay motionless. Only her eyes could move, though without turning her head, she could only glimpse so much of her cage. Laying prone, the only movement other than the panicked movement of her eyes were the tears that streaked down the temples of her face, wetting her dark hair.
Please, she pleaded to no one. Please, get me out of here.
A tug at her chest. With a gasp, Idella felt herself plunging downward. The pulsating runes fell away, a ceiling to her sudden endless descent. Briefly, she glimpsed her body still remaining prone in the heights far above; whatever fell now perhaps only her consciousness, or even soul. She lifted her hands to her face, curling her fingers. She had control again — whatever control this was. Only in spirit. Her body was not hers. Not anymore.
Where am I going? She wanted to speak out loud, but words were still robbed from her. Of course, she thought bitterly to herself. If I don’t have a body, how could I speak? No tears fell either. What she regained in autonomy, she lost in expression.
She fell, plunging deep into salty, cold water. Disembodied as she was, she couldn’t ascertain how she even knew such things. She felt no taste of salt on her tongue or freeze on her skin. She floated to the top with ease, her foot alighting on the shore. The coast was almost serene save the stench of beached kelp. Jagged rocks rimmed the shoreline, languid waves lapping at their edges. It was low-tide, the remaining water left tame while its cresting waves were drawn out to sea. Her feet left no prints on the soaked sand, her robes were stirred by no sea breeze. Blinking, she wandered the shoreline, taking in a scene that felt both unfamiliar yet familiar.
Why am I… Her mind mulled over the possibilities. The dreams she experienced were odd as of late. A combination of her memories and someone else’s, or what she assumed to be someone else’s. Trapped within the sarcophagus, she was at the whim of whatever forces trapped her. Why couldn’t she remember… someone. Something important. Someone important. Who was…?
“Bergljot!” a voice called from further up the shore. Idella turned her head. A man strode towards her, but his form was obscured by a mist seeping from offshore. As he came closer, he grew larger than expected — his shoulders broad, arms immense. What she expected to be human in proportion was far broader, taller. A vrykul came into view, male, yet instead of bloodthirst in his eyes, there was affection. He stepped forward, his hand reaching out. Idella recoiled, the very hint of a vrykul sending her away in fear.
Yet the man was unaffected, the source of his affections lay beyond where Idella stood. Turning, she saw what he saw: A woman clothed as he was, her own armor crested in the same emblem. In her fear of the approaching vrykul man, Idella did not have the mind to study it before. Her hair was woven into a braid, its color the same as straw. Her eyes bore the same affection to her counterpart. She smiled at him, her teeth the seafarer’s grey and black.
As the woman vrykul smiled, Idella was overcome with the same notion. Her own lips parted in a loving smile. Gasping, she covered her face with one hand. Yet the feelings didn’t cease and neither did the smile. As the vrykul woman spoke, her language utterly foreign to Idella’s ears, she still felt a rush of excitement, relief, and anticipation, like the feelings behind the words were her own.
Stop it, she mouthed at them. She didn’t understand what was happening. Why was she here, why did she feel like all this hers, yet she recognized none of it at all? Stop it, she pleaded. Stop it, stop it, stop it!
Stop it? a voice asked, its tone like honey. But my dear, you willed it.
I… I what? she first looked to the vrykul, who continued to converse alone on the beach. They were deep in discussion, eyes focused and brows furrowed. Whatever words were exchanging between them were of the utmost importance. It wasn’t them that spoke. It was…
You, Idella’s breath came in shallow. Wait, wasn’t she only a spirit? Breath shouldn’t matter. It —
Yes, Claret replied, her voice streaming from somewhere unseen. You were so intent on escaping that I gave you a little place to go to. In fact, you’ve delved here a few times without meaning to. You’re not the first to try, but you have been quite tenacious.
Let me go! Idella gritted her teeth, her head craning to the sky, trying to ascertain where the witch’s voice came from.
No, Claret said simply.
And with that, Idella felt another tug at her chest and she plunged downward again. Deep into the surf, lower and lower, feeling the bite of the ocean’s cold yet no water touched her skin. It was all a dream within a dream, endlessly chaining her and pulling her down, down, downward.