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The Guardian
7. The eternal forest

He saw a small light floating somewhere above and realized the dream was over.

Then came the sensations. Monotonous humming of night insects; the rustling of leaves above his head, the smell of forest and flowers. He was lying on the warm and soft earth; the cold was far away now. The strongest sensation now was hunger. He tried to guess where they were, but in vain. The memory of the last events were all dream-like - their eerie flight, the terrible hunter, the red-eyed monstrosities coming at them, snow covering all around. Nlaminer shook his head and managed to sit up.

The light turned out to be a moon. It was small and cold; and the stars were all unfamiliar. Their colors seemed amazing, after many days passed in the stone trap of the lighthouse. He froze in place and listened. Somewhere nearby a familiar voice was singing a song. It was charming, though none of the words were in known language. He rarely heard Rhissa singing songs, not prayers or mantras. He decided not to interrupt her.

By the time she finished the song his senses returned to normal.

A small fire was burning about two dozen feet away from him; Rhissa's dark silhouette was sitting between it and Nlaminer. Then she called, without turning her head, "Another world, another life. Come here, I know you are not sleeping." Her voice contained both taunt and joy, the emotions that left her completely in their prison somewhere far away. It was Rhissa of the long past days: joyous, living and keen.

They took several steps toward each other and Nlaminer hugged her happily. He heard her heart beating quickly... then he put her on the ground and sat by the fire, looking into her glistening eyes.

For a moment, they needed no words. The death that towered above them was tricked again. They waited several minutes in silence and then the life came back.

"It seems I always miss the most interesting," Nlaminer said, enjoying the warmth. "Where are we now ?"

"Not so quick," Rhissa moaned. "You are yourself again, I see. I will tell you why we are here, though it is a short story. I guess you are awfully hungry, as you slept for five days."

"How ??" Nlaminer was astounded beyond all limits. "Well, I never guessed..."

"You have to sleep to regain your state," Rhissa added. "I meditate, and then I need very little sleep. Normally, you do not sleep very much. After our voyage you were drained and almost dead. I detected it was only tremendous tiredness. You regain your powers amazingly quickly - the only thing you need is sleep."

Five days ! Nlaminer looked around, embarassed. For him, only a moment passed after they entered the black wall and were safely away from whomever was invading the island.

"Here," Rhissa pointed at the miscellaneous food lying covered with large leaves of some plant. "The game is abundant here; though I am no hunter, I had to become one," and she pointed at the spear, leaning on a tree nearby. "There are many edible plants here, too.

While we have to rest here, this will be enough. I tried to keep this land as untouched as I could."

While Nlaminer fed his hunger, Rhissa told him her story.

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-- mecenat --

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