The visions came on, too fierce to deny, their brilliance stark and unsettling: of the scouring mists that had invaded through Southgate, and swallowed the fall of clean sunlight. As though past events revisited in review, she watched the rising that unseated the high kings erupt in slaughter and flames. Then the Mistwraith's dank fog masked the horrors in white. Drifting like flotsam in the coils of the future, Meiglin looked down on a scene by a riverbank, where a gray haired man wearing the crown colors of Shand lay in gasping extremity. A young man rode up, and leaped off his horse, crying aloud in his anguish. The man, who was mentor, died in his arms. Consumed by fierce grief, the boy reached to take the jeweled circlet from the brow of the corpse.
"Don't!" Meiglin cried.
Though her protest was made in the fabric of dream, the boy started and glanced up. For a stopped second, their eyes met and held, joined in the half world of mystery. He was young: as unmarked by life as newly forged steel, but beautiful in the purity of his unwritten potential.
"Don't." Meiglin whispered. Her beating heart seemed to freeze as she sensed the boy's determined fate. "You will meet your death."
He smiled, brash youth. "I must. What hope can survive if the last of the sunlight is lost to the Mistwraith's conquest?"
Time unfroze. His impetuous fingers closed over the circlet, and the dream narrowed in, vibrant as a shout that should have held power to rock the seat of the world.
Like a stone, Meiglin plummeted. Her awareness swooped toward the stream bank, as though the trapped cry of her mind and will could sever the spun strand of tragedy.
"Don't! You must not!"
Yet the choice had been made. Though Meiglin wept, the doomed prince faded beyond reach.
Fog closed, choking white. Tears of sorrow fell on a country swathed in lead. The boy would die, his brave sacrifice futile. The Mistwraith would seize its fell triumph. Meiglin cupped the drowned world between her two hands, her denial a silent shout wrenched from the dreaming core of her spirit.
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