The Beginning of the End

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They were sleeping soundly still, though it had been quite a long time since they'd arrived at their destination. Already days had passed—but no matter, for they would all have plenty of time when they awoke. As much time as they needed. At least, as long as they handled themselves right. But surely they would. They knew what they were doing; they weren't children.

But they were just as innocent as children still. All five of them, huddling in their peaceful cocoons, were wonderfully oblivious to what would greet them in the morning. Still so untouched by the world, the real world. If only the morning would never come and they could remain in whatever dreams encased them now. Whatever dreams protected them.

It was painful to strip their protection away, but necessary. Nothing would be accomplished otherwise. They would stay how they were, innocent and ignorant and weak. It would have been perfect if they could have done what they were here for without losing that precious innocence, but it was impractical to think that way. Something always had to be sacrificed for something greater to be achieved, and what needed to be achieved was much greater, much more important, than that.

But then, perhaps it was naïve to think so. Did they truly have to lose it? They were incredible, beyond all doubt; surely they, of all people, could find a way.

But not if they remained asleep.

The old building creaked and cracked, settling in the quiet hours before dawn, and one of them stirred. She murmured something in her sleep, tossed and turned, and stilled again. She was as flawless as the ancient carving of an angel, no trace of pain or fear or lingering shadow in her features. All of them were the same, each a simple wonder to look upon, so much more than they would realize for some time yet. There was another crack from somewhere below, louder this time, and she jumped. Like a row of dominoes falling, they one by one came to life, their sleep disturbed. They had woken and there was no more turning back. Whatever fleeting chance there had been was gone.

All that could be done was to wait and watch.

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