She dreamed of blood. Hip deep in it, like she was wading into the Kaltlina.

The raid had been brief, but successful. Now, they headed south, following an old logging trail. The wounded were culled, so they wouldn’t be slowed. They hadn’t even been buried properly, left for the carrion birds to pick at, bloated and unrecognizable under thick, dark dried blood. She didn’t look back, stumbling to keep up with the horse he was tied to.

She dreamed of blood. It was whispering something, she couldn’t catch it over the splashing underfoot.

Her feet were bleeding. She could feel it soaking through the wrappings, was she leaving a trail, a clear “here, follow me, right this way” drawn along the trail like a child with paints? Don’t look back, don’t turn around- just go, go-
She’d stopped briefly, getting as close as she dared to the river, to bathe and check her wounds. The cold felt like knives. But she was clean, she was awake. She was alive. More than she could say for others. Keep going. Keep going.

She dreamed of blood. Faces appeared, distorted, ran away with the current. Netta, laying just out of reach. Her father’s braid, hanging on a belt- she knew whose but the face was blurred. The dream wouldn’t let her see clearly-

“Do you speak Gothic?”
She shook her head.
“Another refugee- poor thing.”
The woman made a sympathetic noise and motioned her inside. She was given a change of clothes. A pair of boots. Food. When she made a confused noise- she didn’t want to take it from someone who needed it more- the two women shook their heads. They tried to pray over her, tried to bathe her. She panicked and shoved them away, expecting a slap or a shout. But they just…looked at her. Like a wild thing. Like something to be pitied.

She didn’t want to dream anymore, frenzied and exhausted, trudging on towards the next settlement, the next safety.

But it came in again, like the tide, when fatigue pulled her down.

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