The part of the meeting that I had witnessed had ended in chaos. The scar-faced young man wanted me locked up and most of the others seemed to agree. Raynor, Merran and Jarvik spoke up in my defence. To my surprise, so did the blonde woman. Lowanda was silent. She seemed to have withdrawn into a place within herself where nothing could reach her.
In the end Raynor and Merran had escorted me to my cell. They both kept telling me not to worry, that they would have me out in no time. I told them it didn't matter. It didn't. All was lost and nothing mattered anymore.
They left me laying on my bunk in the darkness. I heard their footsteps disappear into the distance. I closed my eyes and cried.
I must have fallen asleep, because when I opened my eyes again I could see the first grey light of morning enter my cell. I was glad to have a window - being able to tell night from day would help me to keep my sanity. I turned over, pulled up the blanket and went to sleep again.
My body was heavy and inert, yet my mind was awake. My eyes were closed, but I could still see the interior of my cell. I needed to pee, and I got up and relieved myself into the bucket in the corner.
I fastened my breeches and looked up. The little girl was on the mountain path looking at me. I felt embarrassed and wondered for how long she had been watching me.
"Sorry about that," I said. "Nature called."
The girl didn't respond. There was a cold wind blowing and I was shivering in my uniform. I took a step towards her and said "Come on, we need to get you inside."
"No. You can't touch me," she said.
I took a step back and raised my hands. "Alright. But you can't stay here. It's freezing."
"Set me free," the child said. "Set me free."
"What do you mean? How?"
I was in a dark and lonely place. It was neither warm nor cold. The only sound I could hear was a soft keening that almost wasn't human.
I was standing in a circle of cold, white light with Lowanda huddled at my feet. She didn't seem to have heard me. I bent down and gingerly touched her shoulder. She gasped and started to sob. I picked her up and cradled her in my arms. She seemed to weigh almost nothing. "Please tell me where to go," I said. It came out as nothing but a whisper. I looked to my left, and saw a silver cord spiralling away from where I stood into the darkness. I decided to follow it and started walking.
I was climbing a flight of stairs, Lowanda still in my arms. I looked up, and saw a starry sky illuminated by a full moon. The stairs seemed to go on forever. I continued to climb, ignoring the aches in my arms and back.
We were in a great hall, a forest of pillars surrounding us in all directions. Lowanda stirred. Her sobbing had stopped. I put her down, my hand around her waist until I was certain she was able to stand. She began to walk and I followed her.
She stopped and knelt down, and I did the same. She covered her face with her hands. I staid where I was, watching her in case she needed me. We sat there in silence for a long time.
I must have dozed off, and when I opened my eyes again I could see the first light of morning in the east. Facing Lowanda was a veiled woman who was holding both of Lowanda's hands in hers. The sound of her voice seemed to be everywhere around us. "No, you cannot come back," she said. "You are my beloved and you have never been away from me."
I was back in my prison cell and Lowanda was in there with me. She laid her hand on my forehead. "Sleep," she said, "and heal". I closed my eyes and slept without dreaming.
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