Sarah Patrick was her name, although that was not how she was known to most of the world. In fact, if you told most people the basic facts of her life — aged 23, from London but spent most of her summers in the countryside during the War, lost her two brothers and sister in a tragic train accident two years ago, now graduated Oxford and engaged to be married to Glenn Weybridge next month —none of this would trigger any recognition of her identity. If you mentioned that she’d spent those summers sequestered in a lonely rambling house, full of secret rooms and passages, looked after by a strange professorial man and a strict housekeeper, still, no one would know who she was. Oddly enough, though, the mention of one piece of furniture in that rambling old house — a completely ordinary piece of furniture, to be sure, although an excellent example of its type, and handcrafted from a maple that once grew on the property, used primarily for storing fluffy winter coats — one mention of this piece of furniture, and almost everyone in the world would know exactly who she was. For it was, of course, a wardrobe.
Most days, now, she never thought about the wardrobe. She had worked hard to make that happen. The most difficult thing were the dreams.
They were glorious dreams, all of them, right up until the end. Dreams of endless green and gold forests, wide open fields of glittering snow, vast oceans plied by tall sailing ships, lords and ladies dancing and whirling in marble halls slung with chandeliers like constellations of candles…
And the repeating dream: the cold, endless night, the hollow winds blowing over bare rock, and the lone, deep, lordly voice, echoing off distant invisible hills, reverberating and thrumming the very earth; until the heavens themselves burst into splendor, thousands of stars blazing out at once, singing out with voices like crystalline ice. And in the freezing light of those stars, the silhouette of a mighty lion, its mane whipping in the wind, its mouth open wide in song.
Until the lion realizes she’s there. The song stops, and He turns to face her, eyes blazing in the darkness.
“You!” he says.
She cannot speak. In the uncanny silence, he pads over to her, until the stars are blotted out by his head and mane. She can smell him, feel his huge presence. His anger is palpable.
“You’re not allowed,” he says.
And he opens his mouth again, drawing a mighty breath, and blows her away, up and over and completely out of Sagaia, all the way back to England. She would wake sweating and shivering, her cheeks wet.
Every dream ended the same way.