Not just a dream.

Hot afternoon air was filled with cicadas singing and a faint smell of dry grass, flower blossoms, and strawberries. Children’s laughter rang across the garden and Circe blinked several times trying to get used to the white sunshine. That garden! That exact day, she realized, shaking her head in disbelief. That dream… She hadn’t had it in a while.
Stepping lightly, she walked deeper into the garden to once again watch, and listen, and… remember.
The boy and the girl were there, sitting near the fountain and arguing.
“Stop it, that looks stupid! I look stupid” the boy tagged at the side of a flower crown.
The girl giggled. “You don’t! You look cute. Sit still.” She added another flower.
“Why can’t we just get the books and talk of dragons?”
“‘Cause we did it last time and I have won the bet!” Another flower joined those in the crown. “As always!” singsonged the girl.
“Not always!” argued the boy. “I let you win, so I don’t have to see you cry!”
“Are you now?”
“Yes, I do!”
“No, you don’t!”
“Yes, I do!”

Circe could recall with a minute to minute precision every word they would say, every move they would make, as well as every time she dreamed of this scene.

The first time she had this dream many years ago, as a child, just mere weeks before her friend perished with his whole family in something that later her Nan called a “daedric incident”. The dream was back after that each time to leave her in tears on waking up from it. She remembered that one and only time when it changed, adding another detail to itself. Several years after the incident she felt the presence of another spectator in it, moments later noticing a vague cloaked in shadows figure behind the trees on the other side of the clearing. A couple of months after that she acted on her decision to run away from home to avoid an arranged marriage. Since then that Another, as Circe called the figure, became the essential part of the dream. Time after time she tried to get closer to the figure to see the intruder more clearly, failing every time, always facing an invisible wall, preventing her from getting a better view.
There it was again, dark figure – standing and looking at the children’s playful argument. Slowly, carefully she moved, trying to reach it again.

Step.
“You look like an elf from the book,” said the girl. “Nan has that book with fairy tales she read me when I was smaller.”
Step.
“You’re still small,” scoffed the boy. “You’re only 12.”
Step.
“Hey,” the girl lightly pushed him. “Almost 13 and I don’t need Nan to read me anymore!”
Another little step. That’s where she usually is met by the invisible wall.
“But you’re still reading fairy tales,” teased the boy.

To Circe’s surprise, she could take another couple of steps towards the figure. And then some more. She could see it clearer now – definitely male, stubborn chin and pressed together lips. The upper part of the face, as well as the edges of the silhouette, were still blurred, but whoever it was he seemed to be mesmerized by the scene in front of him.
Circe stole a glance at the children near the fountain. 12 year old her tucked the last flower in the boy’s hair and was now examining the flower crown on his head with deep satisfaction on her face. “You really look like an elf, but we will need to think of another name for you. “Alastair” doesn’t sound very elven.”

Circe blinked, suddenly noticing that the smell of strawberries overpowered everything else. She carefully reached forward trying to touch the man’s arm, and as if sensing her movement he turned to face her. “Who are you?” she whispered, blinking furiously and trying to make out his face, still being unable to see it clearly. The smell of strawberries and cicadas trills got overwhelming and the dream suddenly crumbled in pieces, shattering like glass around her.
She woke up in her small apartment at the Belkarth Inn. “Time to get the job done!” She will check that abandoned house in the outskirts of Elinhir to see if its previous owner left anything of value behind and then head back to Abah’s Landing, she decided. She’s been away long enough.

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