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Perchance To Dream

By Fiona Skye All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Fantasy

Prologue

The moon hung huge and bloated in the cloudless sky, spilling down dim light that seemed to have a viscous weight to it, as if the sullen red colour staining its face was dripping onto the land like so much sticky blood. All across the world of Oshetavalen, people huddled inside their homes, clutching at each other for safety, and counting the hours until the sun rose and chased away the ill-omened sight.

Those brave enough to keep their eyes on the skies were horrified to see the moon slowly disappearing, as though some great monster was eating it. Its reddish colour deepened to the same awful brown as week-old dried blood, and at the peak of the eclipse, when the monster had completely devoured its meal and only sickly light illuminated the world, even the bravest souls turned away with alacrity, not wanting to be caught staring if the monster suddenly turned its attention to the land below.

In the small coastal village of Orumbury, on the Silver Sea, the eclipse stained the white sands red, and the waves crashing against the beach were capped with bloody foam. A shallow-draft boat floated ashore, grating against the sand and coming to a rest with a soft jerk. Moments later, a score of booted feet slapped quietly against the water as dark forms vaulted out of the boat and moved up the beach. The shadow-cloaked figures hurried into the lee of a large boulder, where they amassed and the sound of a lyrical, musical language was briefly heard above the endless din of the breakers.

Directly above their heads, the moon slowly reappeared, its light changing from brown to red and finally back to silver. Shafts of pure moonlight illuminated Orumbury once more, bringing a sense of calm and normalcy to the citizens of the village. They went to bed, and fell asleep snug and secure in the knowledge that the heavens had returned to normal, that something had vanquished the moon-eater, and life would go on as it always had.

The black-cloaked figures left the shelter of the rocks on the beach, slipping into village like silent wraiths. Glossy raven-black hair, flashing green eyes, and skin the colour of ripe plums were the only indications that these were living creatures and not merely animate bits of darkness. They swarmed the village, the score breaking into groups of four or five individuals. One group went to the well and dumped a small cask of something foul-smelling into it. Another group headed for the village's grain stores and moments later, small fires broke out both on the storage sheds' roofs and inside the buildings themselves. A third group headed for the mayor's home and the council building and more fires broke out along the foundation of the wooden building, then set about barring each and every door in the village. A fourth and final group split up even more, its individual components lighting brands and tossing them atop thatched roofs of homes and businesses alike.

Soon Orumbury was consumed by fire and chaos. Thick, oily black smoke smudged out the moon and rose from nearly every building in village. Screams and fervent prayers and the stench of burning wood and flesh—both human and animal—joined the smoke in hovering above the village. The wind rose and blew away the smoke, and the moonlight illuminated something straight out of Humanity's worst nightmares. Orumbury was utterly destroyed; its buildings and homes were blackened, smouldering ruins where dust and flaking charcoal stirred by the wind were the only moving things. Bodies lay in their beds, curled in tortured positions, arms and knees bent and fists clenched as if trying to ward off attackers. A village of over seven hundred souls—men, women, and children—had been murdered in just a few hours' time, while the serene face of the newly-restored moon watched it all.

In the forest that surrounded Orumbury, living shadows slipped soundlessly into the trees, disappearing from sight just as quickly as they had appeared.

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