45: Changes

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Again, I found myself alone in that dull room with neither doors nor windows. Three mirrors appeared—one in front and two behind me. There was no reflection when I stood in front of the mirrors, and I knew that this was the same dream I had in the forest during our escape from Possen Fort.

I turned to face one of the two mirrors behind me, then waved my hand slowly across. Little by little, Sye-Liene's reflection materialized in the mirror. Her image moved in sync with me, just as my own reflection would. I stepped to the second mirror beside it and waved my hand again. Nothing appeared. I must have spent a good fifteen minutes peering into the second mirror, and I was ready to abandon it entirely when a reflection slowly came into focus. My hand went over my mouth when I realized that I had seen her only once before, in my vision of Mór Mountain.

It was Lise-An.

***

I woke up with a start and clutched my locket against my heaving chest.

The two mirrors behind me had reflected both Sye-Liene and Lise-An. What did this mean?

I mindlessly flipped open my locket and fixated on the compass. Last night before I left Rahaiwen, the compass was spinning, but once I had returned to reality, the needle pointed south-west and it was still locked in that position as I looked at it now.

I let the lid snap shut and stuffed the locket back under my shirt. By now I was far too awake to go back to sleep. Elossai was wrapped snugly in her blanket with her head covered. Ilta's bed, farthest to the right, was neatly made with no occupant, and to my left was Martin's empty bed in disarray. The sound of running water came from the bathroom.

"Martin?" I was loud enough, but still mindful of Elossai.

"Yeah?" he answered.

I wonder where Ilta went?

I sat up sluggishly and gently combed my fingers through my hair before peeking out the window. There were few clouds in the sky and the sun was positioned high in the sky. Why was Elossai sleeping so late in the morning? She was always one of the first to wake up.

"Elossai," I said as I got up from my bed and sat next to her. Elossai shifted under the blanket but didn't respond. "Elossai, it's time to get up," I said, this time a little louder.

"No, I can't," Elossai moaned. Somehow the voice from under the blanket was unmistakably Elossai's, but the texture of her voice sounded different.

"Are you sick?"

"I don't know..."

I tugged at her covers, but she held them down firmly.

"Elossai, are you being difficult? You can't hide there forever."

A little whimper came from underneath the blanket, then she slowly pulled down the covers to reveal her face. My mouth hung open in complete disbelief.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

"It's that bad, I knew it!" She threw the blanket over her head again.

"No, it's not," I said, gently pulling her covering down to look at her again.

She no longer had the face of a prepubescent girl. I was looking at the face of a lady. Elossai looked every bit like she had aged ten years overnight. She was astonishingly beautiful.

Elossai's eyes glistened with tears. "How can we fix this?"

"I don't know if we can. Aging is a natural process, though I've never seen anyone change so suddenly."

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