A warm breeze whistled passed the large, grassy mound upon which Mec stood. All around him was nothing but rolling hills, rising and falling among the sea of green that extended far beyond what he could see. He had never been in this place before, yet he felt an odd sense of familiarity in the ocean of grass. He felt safe, content, and whole. A flock of swifts soared above his head, flying off into the ever expanding, pale blue sky.
He let out a loud shout when he suddenly began to move backwards. Rather, he was not moving backwards at all, but the hill suddenly lurched forward from under him and sped away. All the hills seemed to soar passed at unfathomable speeds, while he stood still. The air around him swirled violently, threatening to sweep him off of his feet. He shielded his face with one arm, while he pressed his shirt down with the other. The blue sky above him began to turn red. It started with a gaping red wound at the center of the pale canvas up above, which blistered and bubbled with malice. Soon, the red began to bleed outward, staining the sky until there was nothing but crimson overhead.
A light flashed, followed by the crackling of thunder, and then rain. But the rain was red, like the sky above, and it, too, stained all that it touched. Without thinking, Mec began to run. He ran and ran, until his legs, sopping wet with the scarlet rain, would not let him run any more. He pressed on, trudging at a meager pace. Eventually, he grew tired. With a wave of a hand, he willed a small sapling to life. It died almost immediately, reduced to nothing but a long stick that protruded from the reddened earth. Mec gave it a tug, breaking it, and used it as a walking stick as he continued onward. Onward, towards what? He wondered.
Do not continue, warned a raspy, whispering voice. You will find naught but blood and death. You will bleed the lands dry, you will tarnish the sun, and you will bring the mankind's final frost!
He pressed on, quivering at the loud shrill that resounded in his head. Even as he continued, the cries still persisted.
Blood and death! The final frost!
His clothes, reddened and damp from the scarlet rain, grew heavier and heavier. Without giving it a thought, he began to shed the articles as he walked, leaving them behind. Even his shoes had begun to deteriorate in the torrential downpour, and just like his shirt and trousers, he chose to peel out of them and leave them in the muddied earth behind him.
Without warning, there was another flash, but there was no lightning this time. The bright, white light lingered as he tried to blink his sense of vision back. Only when he could finally see could he feel the salty air flying passed him as he fell... fell... fell. It was not until he could see the dark blue ocean beneath him did he let out a frightened scream, which was silenced when he suddenly collided with the sapphire waves. The force of the collision did nothing to slow him down, and he continued to quickly descend into the depths, dragged down by an undetectable, yet eager, force. As he was pulled further and further down, the ocean around him grew darker, darker, and darker still. He felt no need to breath here, and yet he could sense the danger the darkness around him brought.
What is happening? he thought, finally able to will out a conscious thought. G? Can you hear me? Are you here?
Blood and death! The shrill voice returned, and with it, the need to breath. An immense pressure weighed on Mec's temples, and his lungs convulsed, begging for air. He thrashed about, fighting the urge to breath, unwilling to fill his lungs with the salty water around him. He fought hard, even as dark clouds began to creep into the peripherals of his vision. Eventually, there would be nothing for it, as he watched the dark haze overcast the last of his vision.
He felt his body rising back towards the surface, faster than it had descended. The clouds were pushed out of his sight, as if a gust of wind had blown them away. That same gust seemed to fill his lungs with sweet, sweet air, which he inhaled eagerly. As he escaped from the ocean's depths, he was surrounded with light once again. The rocks, anemone, and creatures he did not recognize seemed to zip by. There was only one constant sight, which was the pale face pressed against his, lips tightly locked against his own. Mec could hardly make out the face, his eyes burning in the salt. Was it a woman? A fish? A monster?
He was launched from the surface of the waves, sent skyward by his mysterious savior. Mec blinked the sting away from his eyes, but could only catch the glimpse of a green and blue tail as it disappeared back into the water. Suddenly, the area of water where the tail vanished began to blacken... An alarmingly large area of the water. The water seemed to roar as the large jaws emerged violently, erupting from the surface of the water. The full span of the gaping, black, mouth was longer than any building Mec had been in, and the rim was lined with three rows of white, sharpened, teeth.
He felt himself begin to descend back towards the water, with the jaws between him and the ocean below. He croaked, lacking any more strength to shout as he fell towards his inevitable fate.
Again, he was wrenched away from doom by someone else, or something else, that he could not see. Firm hands grabbed him from beneath the arms, and he suddenly soared. Away from the jaws, away from danger. Mec hardly managed to glance upwards to catch a glimpse of the creature. Save for the large, white wings that protruded from his back, it seemed to hardly be a creature at all. Rather, it was a man, with a nearly perfectly chiseled face. Long brown locks streaked behind him as they soared, and his squinted eyes focused onward towards a specific goal.
"What is happening?" Mec managed to cough. "Who are you? Who was she? What was that!?"
The winged man did nothing to respond. There was no reason to, either, as an island had come into view, and he began to descend. Once they neared the the island, he let Mec drop, and he plunged straight towards the earth.
The magician jolted upright, gasping loudly from his spot underneath a large oak. His eyes whizzed around, dashing from side to side as he searched around him. His palms pressed hard into the ground on either side of him, confirming the presence of solid land. "It was a dream? It was a dream..." He almost sobbed as he rolled onto his front and buried his face in his hands. He sat silently for a long moment, holding his face in his trembling hands.
When he finally caught his breath, he pushed himself from the ground, picking up the crumpled paper that was underneath of him. It was part of the map he had traced, routing the way towards the safehouse. He gave it a long glance before folding it, and stowing it away in his pocket.
Back in town, Mec changed his clothes, taking a moment to wipe away his sweat as he did so. There was much to do, in preparation for the Misfits' first large performance in Demue. The square had no stage, but elevation was needed to enhance the appearance of the performers during the night's act. So, Mec, along withsome of the others in the troupe, got to work together their portable stage. The work was almost automatic to him now- each board had become familiar. The worn patterns in each board served as a unique fingerprint, a way to identify where they go and how they fit into the overall build of the stage.
The ability to work autonomously, without thought, allowed Mec to lose himself in his thoughts. The dream he had was still fresh on his mind, stubbornly refusing to dissolve into nothingness like most dreams. Even still, the dream was not at the forefront of his mind.
You have to do something, without any more delay, he could hear Clair's voice echo in his mind. This... wait, this... impending sense of doom, lingering over my head like a dark cloud... It's almost just as bad as any curse could be. I can not keep losing more sleep over it. There is too much to do, too much at stake, to let this go on any longer. This is urgent, Mec.
Mec had assured her that he was doing all that he could. His ability to stave off the curse, despite his lack of experience, was a miracle on its own. They had already tried to experiment, to find ways to do more, with only frightening results. The best course of action was to brave the storm- continue to stave off the curse's effects until Mec could find help, or learn how to deal with the curse himself. Sometimes, such assurances were suitable. Other times, Clair would push more, demanding more and more from him to no avail. Then, usually, she would break down, and Mec would have to try to build her back up. Sometimes, he was able to sooth her with the use of his magic to manipulate her mood, but other times it was not possible for his meager skills, and so more conventional means of calming another person were needed. He spoke to her gently, with kind words and calm assurances. If words alone did not work, he pulled her close, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.
His heart pounded with guilt at the thought of Clair's pleading face, her eyes moistened with tears as she stubbornly demanded a solution. She was the very symbol of the Misfits, the famous traveling troupe known in almost every town. Confident and beautiful, charming and clever, and in those private moments, vulnerable and puffy eyed. The woman was not accustomed to harboring such fear, and was too proud to show it to anyone- save for Mec, if only out of desperation for him to just do something. On the bad days, she concealed the dark circles under her eyes with makeup, and wore her hair down so that a loose curl or two would conceal the worry her face may betray. She would play her part as the troupe's leader well, but was more likely to distance herself during the slower times, when she would usually find opportunities to bond with the others individually. Mec had even overheard the gossip, from Ella of course, that Clair hardly batted an eyelash at the desirable men in the taverns they visited, and hardly entertained such men's advances anymore. Mec prayed that Ella's observations stopped there. The last thing he desired was another wave of rumors about him and Clair spreading, like they had with Sean's announcement that Mec had found a way to make Clair "feel good" upon his introduction.
The magician placed the final board of the stage himself, stepping back to admire the neatly stacked planks, the mark of a job well done, with his peers. He felt Godrich's firm hand press firmly against his shoulder.
"So, tonight's the night. Shallan finally gets to have her first big performance! Is she ready?"
"I think so, but knowing her, she might be feeling butterflies right now," Mec said. "She's going to do great. She's been working so hard, and Sarah has been steadfast with her training... What? Why are you grinning at me like that?"
"It's... it's nothing," Godrich chuckled, slapping his shoulder again before wondering away.