Dhashi dreams of a lightless corridor. Even her highly sensitive aasimar eyes can detect no light, and only her outstretched hands touching dry, flat stone tell her she is hemmed in on two sides. The hairs on her neck tingle and she walks carefully forward, hoping to find an intersecting wall against which to put her vulnerable back. The walls seem to curve slightly as she walks and around the bend she begins to detect a faint orange glow. Foreboding settles heavy and cold in her stomach at the sight; she freezes, heart hammering in her chest and temples, but a sound like chains rattling behind her drives her forward again. She sprints down the dim corridor, one hand trailing against the stone wall, and with another turn suddenly bursts out into a fierce red light.

“Pop… Dad… no!”

The corridor is gone. Dhashi stands in a clearing lit red by the flames consuming the nearby farmhouse and, farther back, the fields of crops. At her feet lay her fathers, their throats cut and torsos impaled. The wide pool of blood seems to flicker and ripple in the firelight. Tears stream down Dhashi’s cheeks at the sight but terror holds her in place, unable to move either toward her slain family or away from the carnage. She can only sob, horrified, and urge herself to wake up.

The hot, dry wind carries the sound of a low chuckle to Dhashi and she finally tears her gaze away to find its source. A figure stands on the deck of the farmhouse, apparently unbothered by the surrounding inferno. It wears heavy black robes which obscure its figure, as well as thick bandages across its face. Seeing Dhashi’s attention, it smiles through a gap in the bandages, a wide gash of a grin with a mouth full of needle-like teeth, and speaks in a rasping, sibilant voice the girl cannot understand. Through other gaps in the bandages red eyes begin to open and focus on Dhashi, slitted pupils blown wide as they bulge.

The figure raises a hand and a crushing weight closes around Dhashi’s slim body as if an invisible fist has gripped her. Its arm lifts and she mirrors the motion, rising into the air as the grip tightens. She kicks desperately, unable to breathe with her chest so constricted, her vision darkening at the edges. Somewhere, distantly, a raven crows.

Dhashi woke with a cry, her cheeks and collar soaked with tears. Beside her, Row also jerked awake, hand moving automatically for her staff. From the jenasi’s unsteady breathing and jumpy nerves, it was easy to see she had been visited by a nightmare of her own as well.

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