It has been over a week since your father’s latest disappearance. While a part of you has perhaps begun to wonder if there is something truly wrong with this time compared to his other wanderings, you have to admit that you have grown accustomed to Kaj’s company, and enjoying it in the more public parts of the manor. Early in the morning, though, he hid himself away as from your tower you spied the figure of your town’s witch ascending the hill to your home, barely after sunrise. Glamour had a task for you: nurse a sleeping stranger at the inn. You were given no real time frame, just a vague answer of until the stranger awoke or her companion took over for you.
That night, your legs are sore from the two trips back and forth you made at breakfast and dinner. Perhaps it would be best to use Kaj’s horse until your father can bring his, even if you want this secret for yourself. Kaj draws you a warm bath to soothe your muscles and you fall asleep quickly and mostly content.
You dream of creaking sounds. You think maybe the dream is of your manor, mostly reclaimed from the ruins after which your town is named, sinking yet another story past the ground, so that only the very tops and the tower show above the earth the way it sometimes looks when the snow gets too deep. You dream of swinging, creaking rope, pulling tighter and tighter, hung from a tree and stretched from your bones.
You dream of dust—the same dust that fills your old, decrepit house and the older, decrepiter toys your father fills it with. You feel like you will die in that dust, and in your dream, you feel like it’s drowning you. You struggle to breathe as the liquid dust pours over your face and dries down into something tight and powdery and ancient and horrible. A shroud of dust. A dusty death mask in this house of your father’s you swore you’d leave.
There are white faces, blank and pure. They peel away the dust and peel away your face with it. You try to scream but they have stolen your voice as well. You fear that they will steal the entirety of you just as you feared you would lose yourself to this place.
You awake to sunlight dancing through the dust motes at the room at the top of the tower. There is no death mask of dust. There are no blank white faces. Your skin is damp with sweat and chilled where the winter air can touch it. You are tucked into the covers like a child, or a doll. Kaj is not in the bed with you. Is this the room you fell asleep in last night?