Crying fills the room.
Sitting up, the bed sheets slowly fall off Meah. Her tired eyes search the room for the source of the crying, but she’s alone in the room. The morning sun is barely lighting the sky.
The crying increases and Meah stands, grabbing a silk robe. She opens her door and peeks out into the hallway. The crying is coming from the room across the hall and Meah crosses to the door, leaning against the cool wood. The crying continues and Meah hesitates before opening the door.
Leaning in, Meah surveys the empty room. At first, she doesn’t see anyone, but when her eyes spy the bed, she sees a small head poking over the top of the bed. Meah looks down the hallway before walking into the room and crossing around the bed.
A small boy is seated on the floor his knees pulled up to his chest. His arms are wrapped around his legs and he buries his head in his knees.
“Hello?” Meah says, leaning down. “Are you all right?”
The small boy squeezes his knees, tightly. “I’m scared.”
Kneeling down to be level with the boy, Meah pulls her robe around her tighter. “Why are you scared?”
“I have to do something bad.”
“Why do you have to do something bad? Is someone making you?”
The boy lifts his head enough so Meah can see his icy blue eyes. “I have to do it. If I don’t, they’ll kill me.”
Meah scoots closer to the boy. “Who’ll kill you?”
A loud slamming on the door makes Meah jump. She quickly climbs to her feet and stares at the door. Something slams against it again and she steps back. She looks at the boy, but he’s disappeared and the room is empty. The furniture is gone and the window is blocked by a black shadow.
More slamming on the door shakes the walls of the room. Meah moves as far from the door as she can. The air of the room grows heavy.
The sound of the lock turning sends a shot of terror through Meah. The door swings open, revealing darkness. Strange voices rise from the darkness, beckoning Meah forward.
Her legs move on their own and she walks through the door. The floor changes from stone to damp earth. The door slams shut behind her, blinding her in the darkness. She walks forward, cautiously, barely lifting her feet from the ground to feel her way forward.
The voices whisper around her, indiscernible. She feels breezes pass over her skin and move her robe. Hard stones become numerous around her feet and she slows her speed to prevent stubbed toes.
Breathing ahead of her makes her stop and she hears the whispers growing louder. She can sense a figure in front of her and resists the urge to reach a hand out. She swallows a growing lump in her throat and listens.
“Ones With No Names. I am Einar Vacuda. I accept your will and I accept a Ruler. With my sacrifice, I welcome whosoever finds me worthy.”
Meah is startled at the familiar voice. Though it’s familiar, it’s far younger than the last time she heard it. But she’s never heard the name Einar and stays quiet to hear who the figure is speaking to.
After a brief silence, the darkness lifts from Meah’s eyes like a curtain and she can see clearly. She is standing at the center of a large room without a ceiling. The floor is covered in skulls and the bones of the dead. Standing in front of her, facing her is a very young Blood King Klaeon. His eyes, both icy blue, are wide and filled with terror as they take in the sight of the dead.
Meah freezes, knowing he can’t see her, but still afraid to catch his attention. He holds a knife in his hand over his left arm, ready to slice, but the sudden granting of vision has frozen his hand. Laughter fills the room.
A disembodied voice floats through the air. “Choose your sacrifice carefully, Einar Vacuda. If none find it worthy, you will die.”
A sudden wind pulls Meah from the room and into blinding light. She winces and covers her eyes with her arm. When she lowers her arm shadows stand before her. They move as though made of water. Two of the shadows are melting, turning to puddles on the ground. The other shadows are crying, their tears white streaks on their otherwise featureless faces.
Blue fire surrounds the figures and race towards Meah. She screams and sits up, waking from the nightmare. Her hands shake and she releases a scream.
Her door opens and Jaxon runs in. He crosses to the bed and pulls Meah into a comforting hug, whispering comforting words to her and telling her it was only a nightmare.