Tiga stood in the middle of the street, a stream of mist rising as she breathed quietly. The silver moon was full and its pale glow illuminated the entire street. No-one was out this evening, the chilly breeze would make even the bravest huddle around a fire. Tiga became aware that her feet were beginning to tingle, and wriggled them. Icey mush settled around her toes and Tiga was confused to find that she was wearing no shoes. Blue veins were displayed under her clear pale skin and she shivered slightly at the sight. As another gust of slicing wind blew through the street, she turned towards the tavern. It took her just a moment to enter the tavern and close the heavy oak door behind her.
A hundred beady eyes turned to watch her as she entered. It was dead silent, even the barman had stopped wiping a glass and was staring at her. Tiga moved cautiously further into the room, feeling more and more uncomfortable. Something was off, something was terribly wrong with this situation. Eyes continued to follow her every step and they didn’t even blink.
“If I can just get upstairs and into the room with Colvan and Milna…” Tiga thought, hurrying her steps.
Tiga reached the stairs that ascended to the top floor, where the sleeping quarters could be found. She ran up the steps two at a time, but upon reaching the top, heard a disturbing whispering sound below. Her heart pounded as she approached the railing of the balcony that overlooked the bar area. Everyone’s heads were tilted upwards, staring expectantly at the balcony. Quiet laughter echoed through the room, drifting to Tiga’s ears as she gazed down. Upon spotting Tiga peaking over, everyone’s mouths widened into wide, Cheshire cat styled grins. Tiga felt a shiver course through her nerves and her arm hairs stood up on end.
“Run! Now!” Tiga felt her subconscious mind yelling at her.
She took not a moment longer in sprinting to the room where she had been staying with Colvan and Milna. Tiga slammed the door shut behind her and fumbled in putting the wooden slab in place, locking the door. She panted heavily, as adrenaline continued to course through her veins.
“Phew… the hell was happening down there,” Tiga muttered, letting out a sigh.
However her relief was short lived when an icy hand was rested on her shoulder. Tiga spun around, grabbing for the hand and flailing to get away. She didn’t find contact in any of her swings though, for there was no-one standing there.
Tiga stood in shock as she stared at a double bed on the left hand side of the room. Colvan and Milna lay on their backs, the covers of the bed made neatly below them. Their hands were folded on their chests, which rose slowly with each of their breaths. Their eyes however were wide open, staring at the ceiling with unseeing eyes.
Tiga remained frozen, she had no idea what to do. What could she do? After all, she wasn’t a doctor or sorcerer. There was no way she was going to go down stairs and ask for help there. Tiga was definitely not certain that they would help her anyway, in fact they were probably the ones who had done it.
“It’s your fault you know,” a faint whispered murmured from below her.
Tiga looked down to find a swirl of black smoke engulfing her bare feet. It floated into the air, swirling inches away from her body.
“You’re trying to leave again,” the whisper said. “You can’t do that.”
The smoke had made its way up to shoulder height and billowed over her shoulders gently. It snaked its way around her neck and then through her hair. The smoke stopped at her brow and circled the wound slowly.
“My poor girl, did those thugs injure you?” the whisper asked, hissing.
Tiga remained staring at Colvan and Milna but she nodded slowly in response.
“Those idiots,” hissed the smoke. “I told them to stop you from leaving town, not to leave you for dead. I should have chosen someone else to stop you.”
“Why?” Tiga whispered. “Why would you do that?”
“Why?” the smoke repeated. “You were trying to leave… You aren’t allowed to leave. How can you even think of leaving? No, I can’t let you… I must stop you.”
The smoke became thicker and darker and swirled to engulf her entire body. Tiga’s eyes watered and her lungs heaved, as she breathed in the fumes. Colvan and Milna faded out of sight and Tiga began to swing her arms around, attempting to escape. A fit of coughs raked through her body and fell to her knees, weakened. Even as Tiga was being smothered by the thick smoke, she heard a faint voice calling her name.
“Tiga!” a loud male voice yelled.
A crack of light broke through the smoke and Tiga reached upwards to it.
“Help me, please!” Tiga whispered hoarsely.
“Tiga! Wake up, it’s okay. Whatever you see, it isn’t real,” the voice called again.
Tiga closed her eyes, forcing herself to relax. She took a deep breath and realized she could breathe properly. Tiga opened her eyes again and found herself sitting on her bed in the tavern.
The first rays of sunlight were shining through the open windows and birds were chirping their morning song. Colvan stood above her, his hands resting on her shoulders as he shook her gently. His eyes watched her with a serious gaze and a furrowed brow showed his concern.
Tiga sighed and reached up to hug Colvan’s strong arms. She then realized that several tears were sliding down her cheeks and felt a handkerchief dab them away quickly. Tiga spotted Milna kneeling beside the bed, a bowl of cool water and cloth in her lap. As she embraced Colvan’s arms, Tiga felt Milna wipe her brow with the cloth. It was cool and damp on her hot forehead and she sighed again.
“You’re finally awake,” Colvan stated, relaxing his furrowed brow.
Colvan sat down and drew Tiga into a hug. His relief was felt as he squeezed her gently. Milna smiled across at her and placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder.
“You were in such a deep sleep and tossing and turning, we were worried. So Colvan decided to wake you up, but he couldn’t. We spent fifteen minutes trying to wake you up, we were worried,” Milna explained. “Then you started crying out in pain and we knew you had to wake up.”
Tiga trembled with exhaustion but kept hugging Colvan tightly. She knew it was safe in his arms and that he would protect her, along with Milna.
The group was so relieved and happy to have saved Tiga from her nightmare that they barely noticed what was happening around them. Thus a cloud of black smoke billowed out of one of the windows unnoticed, retreating from the room as the sun rose further into the sky.