Chapter Twenty: Jasmine

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There was a horrible sound - a sort of wailing - almost as though an animal was dying, but multiplied, as if there were millions of dying animals, all over the city. Everything was hazy but I had a strong feeling that the sound was human - human grief. A ghostly figure sat at a window sill, another lay in bed: weak; fragile; dying. More lined the streets, as if they were waiting for something to pass between them. The world was colourless, as though the life had been sucked from it, leaving only monotone and gloom.

The crying continued, but the picture around me grew less hazy. I realised that I was standing in a garden. The people grew clearer too: Caleb, Grace, and Zephyrus, all in black robes, tears flowing freely down their faces as they huddled around a stone block. I looked more closely and noticed that the block was ablaze. Flames caressed their way around the stone, encasing it in their grasp. They were the sole source of colour in the scene, full of deep oranges, reds and shimmering gold.

Imogen, Cameron, Devon and even Brody were there too, yet it felt like something - or maybe someone - was missing from the scene. Someone important. But the haziness from the view before me had been replaced by haziness in my head and I couldn't focus my mind enough to work out who it was. The more I struggled to clear my mind, the clearer the picture before me became instead. The flames on the stone retreated, so that I could make out the words etched into it, but only one stood out. A name:


Then the fire was all around me.

I woke with a start for a second night, drenched in sweat from the heat of my dream and tangled in my covers as though I'd been struggling. The dream was still clear and sharp in my mind, the image of Brae's tombstone burned into my eyes. Like the first dream, it had felt far too real, like much more than a dream. This time, however, I was certain that I had to do something. The dreams weren't natural - they were a warning and I had to pass it on to Brae. But the only way of doing that, would be to go to the Helian Realm.

It only took me a few minutes to pack everything I was going to need: some spare clothes, what little money I had hidden in my wardrobe, my prayer stone and my ring, which I thrust onto my figure for comfort and luck. It was still early, so I threw on plenty of layers to keep out the cold - not that I'd need them once I'd made it to the Helian Realm. The purple in my hair was well hidden, but I pulled a hat down over it to be safe.

But packing was the easy side of leaving - excusing my absence would be a lot harder. I took out a piece of paper and stared at it blankly for a few minutes before picking up my pen.

Dear Caleb and Noni, The past few days I have been feeling increasingly unsettled about Brae and the others, so have decided to spend some time at the monastery in Bayamo in order to pray for their safe return. I was due another visit there next month, but feel that it would be more beneficial to time my pilgrimage now. I'm sorry not to tell you this in person, but a dream I had last night made me feel like I shouldn't lose a day in going and I need to leave now if I want to reach Bayamo by nightfall on foot. I shall return in a few days - maybe a week maximum - and wish you both good health while I am gone. May the God be with you. Jasmine.

Letter written, I folded it and crept out of the house without making a sound, pausing to leave the note on the kitchen table. My message wouldn't seem too out of the ordinary. As high priest, Caleb encouraged all acts of piety and would probably be proud of me for leaving so promptly. And it wasn't all falsehood either. I really was leaving in a hurry because of a dream. My next challenge was to find a boat, though I already had a good idea of where to start; I just had to hope that Brody's dad was taking advantage of the temporarily opened waters around Halia.

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