The dream begins as it always does. I know it’s a dream. I’m not sure how, exactly, but I always know.
I’m running. Not away from, or to, just . . . running. Along a white road through rolling green meadows. Stacked walls of blackened limestone and granite divide the land into oddly shaped, verdant fields. Sheep country. Farm country. There’s the smell of bog in the air, too—but faintly, not unpleasant.
And I’m running. Now wolf, now human. Now both at once. Maybe that’s how I know this is a dream.
The sun is shining brightly, amidst large, clumpy white clouds. The wind drives them hurriedly across the sky. The light flickers from bright to dark and back again, as each cloud passes.
There’s a large hill in the distance. A mountain, almost. But that’s not where I’m heading.
But where am I heading, then?
Small birds flit from copse to bramble, across the road, or along it, as they please. Two keep pace with me while I run. But it’s not a competition. It’s a game. And we all win. As long as we move.
The air is cool in my nose, and on my tongue. It has an edge of dampness, but only enough to be pleasant.
But, somehow, things start to change.
The clouds grow thicker. They pile together in rafts, and the wind seems less able to push them along. White dulls to grey in places. The dark moments grow slowly longer, and yet I run on. I have to be somewhere.
I thought I was just running.
I look around, but the birds are gone. Weren’t they here just a minute ago?
The air grows damper, colder, in my nose. It chills my skin, despite my fur. And I have fur now. I’m no longer both. I’m no longer human. Just wolf. Just running.
Towards now. And maybe away. No, definitely towards. But towards what?
I don’t know, but I need to get there. I need to get there soon.
The sun is gone, and the clouds descend. There is mist in the air—little tiny drops of rain, so tiny they don’t fall. They just scurry in the air, before my eyes. And into my fur.
The stone walls have fallen into disrepair. There are big gaps in them, now; places where the rocks lie sprawled across the ground. And the green is now tinged with yellow—a sickly yellow. A deathly yellow. The white of the road has turned to blackened dirt. And the mist smells of bog—of wet, rotting vegetation, rotting for an eternity, rotting without any hope of turning to dust.
I’m cold now. I shiver, even as I run. And the world is grey.
There’s a crossroad ahead.
And suddenly I know I’m running the wrong way. I shouldn’t have come here. I should be running the other way!
But I can’t seem to turn.
And there she is—off to the side, kneeling beside a tiny trickle of water. My feet slow, and stop, even though I’m ordering them to move. Away.
And I’m beside her. Only a few feet away. Within arms reach. And she is ancient, from the look of her skin. It sags from her face, and neck, and arms in deep folds. Her hair is white and thin, unkempt. Stiff, even, like wire. It doesn’t move in the wind.
In her hands she holds a white shirt, dripping wet. She thrusts it back into the stream and turns to look at me. Her face cracks into a wide grin, full of missing teeth, and my skin crawls.
Her eyes are black as night, two holes of infinite depth, waiting. Always waiting.
“You are Tiergan,” she says. But her voice is inside my head. And it grates at me, at my entire being. I want to flee. I need to flee. But my feet won’t move.
She releases one hand from the shirt and reaches out to pat my head.
She growls, “It’s so nice of you to come.”
And I’m awake, instantly—a very human scream unable to form through my very canine mouth. And my body is way ahead of me—I’m already pushing off the ground, ready to attack. Ready to run.
But the dream leaves my vision as quickly as it came, and I know where I am. And it was just a dream. Like always.
I look up. Faolan is standing over me.