Crackling of distant fires echoed across the plane. Melisande Flamestouch pulled her cloak tight as she ran, but the distant figure followed.
Her breaths came in heavy pants and her boots kicked up grey pebbles that danced along stone ground. A sky streaked with red, and orange, and grey loomed over head. Slow turning maelstrom’s curled in the distance, perched above jagged mountains.
Still she ran.
What she ran from, she did not know, but it had pursued her for days. A figure, perhaps a shadow. Black as night. It would get close enough that she could smell it. Brimstone, ash, fire. The beast was fire, black fire, or was it ash? Whenever it drew close, she would pull away, and so the pursuit would continue.
It continued for days, maybe weeks. She could not tell.
The ground rumbled, and pebbles were tossed. Not round pebbles presently, now jagged obsidian stones. As a black as a moonless night.
There came a distant screech. Like a thousand birds spooked by a hundred horses. It was no noise Flamestouch had ever heard before. No noise she had heard during the pursuit, but it was the noise of the beast. She knew that much.
She could feel its breath on her neck. Hot. Like her mother’s stove. It stank of brimstone.
“Flammmestouch,” it howled like the wind, perhaps. No, not like the wind, like the wind had been stabbed by a serrated blade.
Melisande spun around and her eyes went wide. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The beast’s eyes glowed red, before purple, then burst into flame. It’s teeth gnashed like pieces of flint, its hair dripped like sticky magma.
“Go to the Firelands, Flamestouch. Unos Wills it–”
“Melisande – Melisande!”
“What!?” Flamestouch screamed as she awoke to Lorena’s green eyes staring down at her in the dim candlelight of their bedroom.
“You were dreaming… You were yelling. Was it…”
Melisande shook her head. She often dreamt of her torture at the hands of the Light’s Voice, but not this night. “No, Lorena.” She paused and rubbed the brand on forehead. The scar shaped like the rune of fire itched and burnt. “We must travel north, to the Firelands,” she finished.
“Why?” Lorena said.
“I do not know.”
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