It was the same place where she had fallen asleep. It always was, when the Raven came to her. Yet usually, the sky was that of the brightest sunrises on the loveliest days in Rhoona; tonight, it was shadowy, with billowing clouds threatening a downpour that could drown villages.
The raven swooped at her. On most nights, it landed before her or on her shoulder, speaking so quietly she had to lean in to listen; tonight, it was wings and talons and fury, and it was all she could do not to raise her arm to defend herself.
The attack never came. The crimson bird broke off its dive inches from her cheek, near enough that she could feel the wind of its wings as it shot upward with a high, long scream.
The scream held no words, yet she heard its meaning as easily as a baker took an order of buns.
“Entropy’s spores ride Uisge’s winds!” The cry said, though she did not know who Uisge was, what Entropy’s spores could possibly be. “They seek to take root on the Great Tree! Beat against them, child! Send them back to the dark grove from which they sprung up, for their rooting on the Tree can only be cleansed with flame!”
She opened her mouth to ask the raven what it meant, what any of it meant, what had made it so angry, but it wheeled in the air and dove again. “The flame the elves knew! The flame the elves knew!”
Then the ground under her split open with a crack loud enough to wake the dead, and a burst of heat engulfed her, consumed her…
She sat bolt upright. She was on her hammock, in the small cottage she’d built with help from some of the villagers. Her dreams of the Raven always brought comfort. Tonight… she shook, drenched in sweat, enough that her hair was pasted to her skin and her nightgown clung to her. That scream still echoed in her ear, mixing with her own scream as she’d awoken.
She would not sleep again, tonight.