She was flying westwards, laughing as the stars shone above her. The night was dark, but that was the best time for such a flight, and the wind whistled through her air as she spun and dove. Despite herself, she laughed out loud, reaching out and letting cloud trail through her fingertips.
As she spiralled through the air, she could feel herself gaining speed, and the whistle of the wind gradually changed to a roar. Looking down, she saw the islands passing by below her, and she looked at their shapes quizzically. Behind her, looking back, she could see Citrios, but he was so far away, and tied to the ground, walking along the surface of the water. For a moment, she thought to go back and show him how to fly, but when she tried, she found the wind carried her ever-further away, and she soon lost sight of him.
Her attention was drawn to an island ahead of her. A sickly green light shone from it, and the sky was green as it spread outwards. A black wall stood around the island, and darkness beat back the green, but cracks were forming in it and the green light was beginning to shine through. The seas boiled in its passing, and the roar of the wind changed around her, becoming a howl of agony that sent spikes of pain down her. Panicking, she dove down towards the island, shaping the wind as she went. Her own darkness, somehow bright against the night sky, merged with the wall, and she felt the pain of the green light spilling outwards into her. The wall chuckled, and winked - and she found a moment to wonder how a wall could find the joy to wink - and pushed alongside her, but the light was strong, and green poison spread into the sea. And she screamed in pain, because poison was washing through her veins, and the wall was crumbling, and she was crumbling, and the very sea was crumbling around her, and the wind was screaming in horror at the devastation unfolding over the sea...
And then flames washed over her, melting the cracks in the wall, and a great fire stood beside her, as the green poisons were igniting and burned away. And it spoke. "Girl! Girl, are you alright?"
For a moment, she was disoriented. She looked around the darkened barn, just starting to be lit by the pre-dawn glow of the sun over the horizon. She looked up at the man kneeling above her, one hand resting on her shoulder, and her first thought, her head still reeling from the impact of her dream, was that he wasn't Citrios.
When he pulled back, and shook his head, she realized she'd spoken aloud. Memory returned in a rush, and she sat up slowly. "Thank you, Master Lodaris, but I'm fine."
Lodaris frowned. "You were moaning in your sleep. Sounded like something terrible; you certainly spooked the animals."
Alina only half-heard him, sorting through her thoughts to order the dream before the details faded. One thing remained crystal-clear. "We have to go west."
"What?" Lodaris frowned. "We were going to travel south..."
"West is where I need to be." When his frown deepened, she sighed, and brushed hair out of her eyes. "I have these dreams sometimes. Prophetic. I have since years before I Exalted; it was why Citrios's family purchased me." Lodaris's frown stayed, and she pressed on. "They're... rarely pleasant. But they're always accurate, basically. Something terrible is going to happen west of here if we aren't there to stop it."
Lodaris sighed, and leaned back. "Prophecy in your dreams, eh? Hm." He considered for a moment, and then shrugged. "West is as good a direction as any, but there are a lot of islands out here. Are you certain that you know which route to take?"
She nodded, and, after a moment, smiled. "Yes. I can remember the islands along the route. If you get a map of the region, I can even point the island out." She paused, thoughtfully, and continued. "And we have to hurry. I think Citrios is gaining on us."
"Citrios?" Lodaris raised an eyebrow. "The pup should be halfway back to the Imperial City by..." He stopped. "Unless he didn't GO back. He wouldn't be mad enough to follow us with his Hunt that beaten up..." He trailed off again, and sighed. "Right. We'll have to move faster, then."
Standing, Lodaris spent a few minutes going through katas while Alina rose and brushed hay off her dress. Then, she did the same, her Air Dragon movements more fluid than the sudden shifts in Lodaris's stance, but still somehow complimentary. When they finished, Lodaris looked her over and frowned. "We might be able to disguise you, but anyone who knows these things will know that I am an Exalt. So we'll have to compromise." He rubbed the stubble on his chin. "I won't cut my hair or shave just yet; better to seem less Immaculate for the time being. And I have enough money left to acquire a cart, although we may have to bargain for passage on ships westwards. We can hide my armour in the cart until we find a smith willing to remove the Realm markings from it." He sighed, reaching down to touch the armour. "I never thought I would have to say that, but I am without House now."
Alina reached out, and laid her hand on Lodaris's arm. "I'm sorry."
"Why? It wasn't your doing." He laughed humourlessly, then continued. "For the time being, I will simply claim to be an Outcaste warrior. You..." He trailed off, giving her a second look. "My niece, I think."
"I can be your servant." She shrugged. "It's not as though I don't have practice."
"Bah. I wouldn't know what to do with a servant. Family, I can understand and adapt to." Lodaris smiled suddenly, and reached down, putting a hand on hers. Compared to his, her hand was tiny, and she surpressed a quiver of nervousness. "Besides, as my servant you'd have to deal with all sorts of boorish behaviour that, as my niece, I'm legally allowed to hurt people for." He grinned fiercely. "This is the West, girl. Women have few rights, and if you are family, I have excuses to protect you."
She pulled away. "I don't need protecting."
"No, of course not." He snorted. "You're just a Solar Anathema who doesn't speak the local language, has a Wyld Hunt after her, is running off towards a random island, and isn't allowed to speak with men because of local customs. You'll be fine." She paused, torn between a desire to glare defiantly and her training, which told her to never meet a Dynast's eyes, and he sighed. "You don't want people connecting you to who you truly are, girl. If you demonstrate your skill, they will. Fearfully."
After a few moments, she nodded. "An outcaste warrior and his niece, then." She gathered her thoughts, and held out her arm again, letting a twitter enter her voice and raising its pitch, with a vapid smile on her face. "Shall we be off, then, Uncie dearest?"
Lodaris's grimace as he took her arm was priceless.