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She was floating in nothingness, a grey, heavy nothingness that hurt and made it hard to breathe.

Sometimes there was a buzzing noise, deep weaving together with high.  She thought the buzzing meant something, but it was too hard to concentrate.

So much easier to bask in the colorless emptiness and try to find relief in oblivion.

It was eternity in the void, floating through the ether with a chest of lead and numb limbs.

The darkness grew, and the floating lessened.

Soon everything would disappear altogether—including the throbbing in her stomach.  Relief.  To cease to be, and no longer ache.  It was comfort.  What was the word?  Oh.  Death.

Soon, death.  Until then, half-alive in vacancy.

The buzzing returned, a wretched annoyance interfering with intentional unconsciousness.  One buzz wove through the grey, seeking her out.  The struggle to breathe intensified as increased awareness deepened the pain under her ribs.  She wanted to fight, to flee the buzz, but it found her and brought warmth.  What was it?

A voice.  A voice she knew, reaching into her, pulling her back like a hooked fish dragged through the water by the fisherman’s line.  To struggle would increase agony, but she struggled anyways.  She tried to close her ears, to lull her mind back into the blur of peace.

But the voice was too strong.  It was louder.  There were words in it now, but she couldn’t understand them.  It hurt too much to think.  She tried to groan to fend off the voice, and it stopped for a minute, just long enough for her to remember its name:

Will.  Brother.

Then the buzzing picked back up, more voices, but Will’s voice the clearest.  “Is that good?  Is she waking up?”

Not waking up.  It’s not sleep if you know it’s happening.

The greyness was too far back to reach again, but a barrier she couldn’t breach separated her from the voices.  She pushed against it weakly.

The other voices grew stronger.  “‘Blood calls to blood,’ that’s one of the fundamentals of magic,” the deepest buzz said.  “Talk to her.  Maybe you can reach her, wherever she is.”

“She’s laying right there,” another voice added, so familiar she should have known it but couldn’t reach it.

“Her body, yes—” the deep voice—“but a human is so much more than body.”

Then Will’s voice, close and glowing, “Annette…if you can hear me?  You can do it.  You can come through.  You’re not going to die, okay?  Um…I guess…I mean, you’re supposed to be my sister, right?  Trevor says…Anyways, I need you to help me remember who I am, and…”

His voice pushed against the barrier, stretching it thin.  She reached out toward him with all the strength left in her, ignoring the flare of agony in her belly, straining toward the sounds.

The barrier snapped.  She gasped.  Light and color flooded her brain.

“Annette?”  Will asked.

“She’s awake!” the sage rejoiced.

She screamed.  It dissolved into a cry, but that hurt, too, so the cry turned into short, gasping breaths that yanked something torn inside her with every inhale.  Blurred colors resolved into definitive shapes.  She looked up into three faces, one concerned, one unrecognizing, one pleased, and tried to figure out where she was.

“You are alright,” Trevor assured her, a twinkle in his old eyes.  “Someone tried to kill you and very nearly succeeded, but we managed to pull you through, and you yourself fought well.  Steven, fetch a fresh cup of water for young Annette, will you?”  He turned around and rummaged through the shelves around the cottage, looking for she knew not what, leaving her alone with Will.

Will, who clearly did not know her.

The memory slid back: Facing the sorcerer and their parents, Will’s choice, the knife thrown at her stomach, the horrible stretching feeling that knocked the wind out of her, seeing Trevor’s face just before losing consciousness.  “You found me,” she rasped to Will.  “Why?”

An internal conflict crossed his face before he answered.  “Steven wanted to find what happened to you, and I wanted to know how he knew me and why little things kept not making sense.  Then we found you, and I found out I had to wake you up.”

“Why?” the repeated word chafed at her dry throat.

“Because you’re the only way we can defeat the sorcerer and save Clachan.”

Oh.  She wanted to scream, but mostly, she just wanted to ignore him and rest.

She really wanted to rest.

And she still couldn’t feel her feet.

Thanks for reading!  Look for Chapter 21 on Monday.


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