The following night’s sleep wasn’t as peaceful.

Those earlier confessions had stirred up memories that – while no longer nightmare inducing – were unsettling all the same. Vandrysse had expected this, however, wading through the detached recollections with a degree of irritation. It was better to let it play out rather than forcibly make them go away.

“It’s never too late, you know.”

Vandrysse was standing in the middle of the Carrion Fields in a scene befitting an abattoir. It was so realistic she could smell the freshly spilled blood and days-old rotting flesh. Blinking, she looked down at the familiar sight of the Little Girl, an image of her childhood self, protectively clutching that scraggly old teddy bear, Mr. Chester.

“Never too late for what?” Somehow, Vandrysse immediately knew the answer to the question, which still shocked her.

“The Light casts a Shadow; the Shadow cannot exist without Light …” The little girl’s voice was changing, becoming multiple voices at once. THE LIGHT IS HOPE. IT HAS ALWAYS LOVED YOU, JUST AS I HAVE. THE LIGHT WANTS YOU, TOO.

Abruptly, a 7th Legion soldier appeared with a ghoul attached to his arm; everything went quiet save for the wet sounds of devoured flesh and splintery-cracking of bone spilling its sweet marrow. How many times had she heard those very real sounds in the waking world? The man stoically fought despite the terrible agony he was in; he pulled out a large knife and began hacking away at the limb, leaving the Scourge with its “treat” while he tried to run back to Wintergarde. He was going to die from blood loss before that, but just as Vandrysse thought this, a snow white gryphon descended and plucked him off the ground, speeding him away to the keep and to the healers. He’d live, only because Vandrysse clearly recalled tending to that stump.

SUCCUMB, OR CUT OFF THE LIMB THAT IS KILLING YOU. CHANGE HURTS. IT IS ALSO GROWTH.

The Little Girl winked. Mr. Chester’s stitched mouth had reworked itself into a smile.

And then they were gone.

Vandrysse awoke with a start. Instead of looking beside her for a person she knew would not be there, in a momentary bout of confusion she imagined herself back in the dormitory, cozily wrapped up in that blanket and dozing in the chair. She looked across the room expecting to see a bed with its sleeping patient …

The disappointment only lasted a moment. It was becoming an old friend.

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