Even with the men nearby trying to break down the locked door, the view was breathtaking enough to take Sarah’s mind off of the chaos around her for a moment. The sky was cerulean blue, clearer than anything she had ever seen in the cloudy and smoke-filled city. The houses of the surrounding village had thatched straw roofs, with stone walls serving as people’s fences. The land beyond the village – and it was a vast land – was green and wild. The grass grew as tall as Sarah’s knees, and the trees of the forest outside swayed without wind, teeming with all manner of unseen life. In the distance, a gigantic range of purple-gray mountains stood high on the horizon, like an impassable wall that kept the tiny jewel of the world safe from the outside world.
But all was not peaceful within the valley. The ground shook under the weight of what must have been a hundred mounted soldiers. The armored troops surrounded the town, bows and swords ready to strike as soon as their leader’s time limit was up. Riding at the front of the forces was a tall, dark-haired man with a long wispy mustache. He wore green metal armor, with a breastplate that shone brightly even from a distance. The warlord didn’t seem to see Sarah and Kay, but Kay immediately shrank down and tried to hide despite that fact.
“Is that Baelan?” whispered Sarah.
Kay gave a start as he peered out the broken window. He didn’t seem to have expected Sarah to actually follow him. “Yes, that’s Baelan. He’s been hounding me for weeks, and now he’s finally tracked me down.”
“He’s not really going to destroy this village just to get at you, is he?”
“Not if I get out of here first. He’s not about to waste the energy.” The boy peered over the edge of the roof, mumbled something to himself, and dove off without so much as a warning. A badly shingled canopy extended for a few feet just below the window sill. The boy slid down the sloped roof, and then dropped over the edge. He grabbed the eaves on his way down, slowing his fall enough to keep himself from being hurt.
“What an annoying boy,” muttered Sarah. “Whoever is after him must have a very good reason.” Still, as the men outside nearly knocked the wooden door off its hinges, Sarah decided it was better to take her chances with him. Following Kay’s lead, she climbed through the broken window and balanced precariously on the short outcrop of roof outside. At the edge of the village, some of the soldiers pointed in her direction.
The ground seemed to spin when she looked over the edge. Kay was already on his feet and ready to run. Sarah hesitated. The drop down was farther than she thought. It wouldn’t kill her, but it might break her legs, leaving her helpless while the black-armored soldiers closed around her.
“What’s there to be afraid of?” asked Sarah to herself. “If worse comes to worst, you’ll just wake up. At least this will make a good story to tell Dr. Goldberg next week.”
With those words of urging, Sarah let herself slip over the edge of the roof. She dangled on the eaves until her fingers got tired and then let herself fall. The drop wasn’t nearly as bad as she expected it to be, but the landing ended up being worse. Kay stopped himself in mid-stride and turned back to try to help her. The boy moved underneath Sarah’s falling form, trying to catch her on the way down. Instead, he bungled it. Sarah landed hard on top of him, and the pair fell to the ground in an undignified heap.
Kay pulled Sarah to her feet and got her running almost immediately afterwards, but Sarah’s attention was focused on something more unexpected.
“My leg hurts,” she said.
When they had gotten far enough out of the village to stop and catch their breath, Sarah touched two fingers to the tender area on her thigh. A wave of fresh pain surged through her leg. The area she had touched was soft and sore, no doubt badly bruised from her collision with Kay.
“Why are you still following me?” asked Kay. “Don’t you realize you’re putting yourself in danger?”
“My leg hurts,” said Sarah.
“My leg hurts,” she repeated.
“Is it bleeding?”
“Is it broken?”
“Then what’s the problem? It will heal soon enough.”
“The problem is that it’s not supposed to hurt at all. You’re not supposed to feel pain in dreams.”
“Of course not. But who said you were dreaming, anyway?”