There was a soft whisper of breath, the rise and fall of her chest beneath the sheets. Yngraine breathed, half awoke, and fell beneath her dreams again. She was on a cloud, built of light and warmth and something…greater, lingering just beyond the edges of her vision. So beautiful and bright that she lay there, unmoving, too overwhelmed by the grace to move but too warmed by it to want to.
But beneath that golden cloud…
There was a storm. Memories, dark and heavy, that swirled around on the winds of sleep and then were tossed away again, impossible to hold. She didn’t try. She let them slip away, because of the terror. The fear. The faint whispers that, even now, she worried would return, even in her bliss.
The red monks had taken her in the midst of war, as they had with many. She was singled out. Mage touched, they said. She remembered happy things then, sparkles of light that rose around her. Playing with magic as a child, before the books, before the laws, before the kneeling and the prayers and the rule took her.
Even then the whispers started. She had no idea who her parents were. Where she’d come from. She’d overheard it was something awful. She…felt it. And as she kneeled before the stained glass and the altar of stone, the whispers would come, so quiet, so soft. Whispers of power. Of fire. Monks would walk with her, take her to other studies. The sermons grew. Whispers from their realm, of blood and fire and righteousness. Human whispers, harsh and fierce in their possibilities. Not like the quiet little things in her head.
She struggled to remain drifting, asleep within the cloud. In her sleep, she paled, her eyelids fluttered. Fire. Fire would purify the unholy. The ravages of plague. The stinking shadow of evil. Fire was good, child. Fire would cleanse. The red monks took her hand and showed her. Cared for her. Praised her when the books of the ungodly rose in an towering flame. Cheers that felt hollow, when the whispers in her head promised so much more. Wound her madness within her, strengthened her.
The monks whispered again, now. Unstable. Odd. She strayed further and further from the chapel, playing with her fires when she should be at mass. The colours changed. Grew brighter. This was freedom, the whispers said. She would be free. The chapel was a dark place. Lies, they said. And then a sudden urge, a push. Show them the power, the voices said. Find a place away and show them how you can cleanse the earth.
SHe’d barely been over the wall when she heard the screams. Shouts. Cold air, roiling over head like the hand of the devil himself. Whispers. Run. Run. Burn them. Run.
She huddled like a rabbit underneath a pile of rubbish and watched.
A white woman with horns. Splattered with blood.
Yngraine’s breath, turning to frost as the chill over the monastery deepened. Snow. No, ash.
Burn them burn them *burn them*…
She stirred in her sleep, the fever touching her brow again. The whispers had overcome her. The last she knew…fire. So much fire. And blood. And ash. More fire, as she wandered the wastes alone. The few survivors, the last of the red monks she had known, finding her in fear. A ship. Fearful, hurried words over tight smiles, gold changing hands, and then…sleep.
She felt a cool hand, and the peace, the light and the warmth soothed her troubled mind again. No more whispers. No more voices. For now…for now she was safe. A mind in turmoil, but one unburdened by fel and fear. A ship on a storm tossed sea, but with the sun breaking through the clouds. She was safe.