Euphoria, Part 2
There was something she needed to do. Urgently.
Despite her forgetfulness, Adani’s mind continued to fill with slippery images, flowing like oil into each other in a goopy mess behind her closed, delirious eyes. Cavaliers doing battle in a mining town. A Coghanese ship sinking somewhere along the eastern coast. Sanna, her mentor, impressing, inculcating something about urgency. About life.
Adani feels something glide along her robe. Then another. Millions of hands touch her, burning-hot fingers touching her along every surface, maddening, impossibly warm, sending her nerves sizzling from head to toe. And the murmurs, the whispers. Aimless, all-encompassing, floating through her dreams of snowstorms and a population huddled in shelters by the banks of a river.
There was something she needed to do. But what was it?
The urgency of some forgotten task, the claustrophobia from the millions of scorching hands, the whispers–Sogh-iove, the whispers, coalesce into the singular image of a snowstorm atop a nameless mountain.
Coghan, definitely. No place like it had this biting cold, the rampant snowstorms which never seem to die.
Somewhere in the continental interior, perhaps. The sea itself, especially in the north, kept Ighodia warm enough to allow it to survive the Storm. This place has no such allowances.
Yet still, atop this peak, a mighty, intimidating gray stone structure. A fortress. A bastion of war, populated with decrepit engines, catapults. Wights and other dead things traipsed aimlessly within its walls, atop its bastions, across its gantries.
Adani wills her mind’s eye to observe the inside of this place.
Through the biting wind, a gentle, female voice comes to her, issuing a single word of panic.
Wasn’t there something she needed to do?
Inside, like a tomb, hung the humid stench of something warm and undead. Her mind’s eye begins to examine an ancient armory, a bibliary of soggy, rotten things, quarters and barracks for an army of survivors which no longer exists. A dungeon, a torture rack, a post to which men would be bound to receive their treasonous lashings. A tower.
And at the very top, in the center of the small, circular apex, lit only by the wan light which makes it through the snowstorm and the frosted-white windows, sits a figure. Armored from head to toe. A helmet with two curling ram’s horns as decor. An ancient axe across his lap. Eyes, staring in eternal alert meditation, sunken and yellow, with slit pupils like those of a viper’s.
Wasn’t there something urgent to do? Adani begins to feel the panic well inside her.
The voice again, the hands, pushing, violent.
There was something she needed to do. Now.
Adani’s eyes fly open, as a surge of the purest fear courses through her adrenaline-soaked body. Reflexively, she throws her arms out wide, hoping enough vertical distance exists for her robe to catch air before she slams into the black water below.
The robe flaps and billows, and Adani grits her teeth, bracing both against the force of her deceleration and for the possibility of her end, before it catches, and the force of the rushing wind draws the robe out like a pair of heavy wings, allowing the girl to glide forward and redirect the momentum of her lethal plummet.
The black lake almost rises to meet her, catching her form as she reefs the now lethally-heavy robes so they don’t soak too much and pull her under. As her abdomen and chest submerge, she forces herself to deny the shock reaction, suppressing the inhale as she begins to swim with what remaining momentum she may have.
Already, Devotees have begun rushing to the shore where she intends to beach herself. Another Never-Night, Chiima, looks on, her usual guise of sagacious superiority mollified into pride and understanding. Empathy?
Adani drags her tired form ashore, and lays with her feet barely out of the water. The snowstorm above threatens to freeze her, and already her heart hurts from the cold, but Adani begins to sweat. The memory of a millions scorching hands upon her flesh is enough to cause the sensation to echo once or twice more, and is more than enough to stir her to claustrophobic panic at the wet, heavy, sandy robes about her. Her breathing slows, the only sound even amongst the silent Devotees.
“So,” comes the voice of Never-Night Sanna, her mentor.
As if on cue, a booted form slushes into the soft sand nearby.
“What did you see?”