I don't have a long, fancy intro here. Have a deleted scene. It was fun but every book involves sacrifices. The Ruin of Snow went through a lot of changes throughout its many versions (more on that story later) so I have a lot of these sitting around.
I knew I was dreaming because it was summer. The snow was gone, replaced by grass waving in a breeze scented with flowers. Fat green leaves weighed down the branches, casting dappled shadows across the ground. Underbrush rustled with life. Birds sang.
And I knew I was dreaming because Kye walked beside me, sunlight turning them all gold. It was a false image, I knew, an imagining conjured up by my mind, but I couldn’t look away. They nearly glowed, and I silently vowed that I’d find a way to make this sight real.
But I tore my gaze away before they could make some comment about me staring, and we kept walking. Neither of us spoke. We didn’t hurry; I didn’t know where we were going, but I was alright with that in my strange half-lucid state. There was the sun beating down, and the brush of Kye’s fingers against my own whenever our hands swung close together, and all was well.
Finally we reached a clearing—maybe the clearing where we trained, but I couldn’t be sure. I saw no landmarks I knew from the waking world forest, but my head was just a bit too fuzzy to try to look. The clearing was as picturesque as the rest of this dream forest: long, soft grass, gently sloping trees, a few rocks and ancient logs around the edges. And in the center sat a mirror. Taller than I was, framed in silver and sapphires. Kye stopped, but my feet kept going, carrying me to it.
I just watched my reflection approach. Pretty, perfect Neyva in a sleeveless white gown, hair plaited in a crown around my head. I stopped a step away from the glass and met my reflection’s eyes. Behind her stretched the clearing, the forest. Empty and still.
I twisted to look over my shoulder, but Kye still stood behind me, at the edge of the trees, waiting. When I turned back to the mirror they spot where they stood held nothing but grass and air. I studied my reflection again.
Her feet were bare, as were mine, but blood spotted them. Little red flecks, half-dried. I looked down to mine. Clean.
When I raised my head my reflection kept looking down, and all I could do was stare.
A dream, the lucid half of my brain reminded me.
But was it?
I raised a hand and waved it, but my reflection never moved. My heart picked up at the base of my throat and I took a step back. Another wave, faster, the fear rooting itself into my chest making my movements quick and jerky. My reflection didn’t so much as twitch.
“Kye—” I started, not daring to look away from the mirror, but it was as far as I got before she finally looked up, slowly, like she’d just been delayed in following me.
But her eyes were cold, hard, watching me like a predator. My feet tripped over each other in my hurry to back up.
She stepped forward, feet sliding through the glass like it was water. Her gown stirred the grass as she walked, and where it touched green shriveled to dry brown. My throat closed; part of me wanted to scream, wanted to run, but I could only watch in horrible fascination as she passed me, as if I didn’t exist at all, and crossed the clearing to Kye. A trail of death spread in her wake.
I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even hear my pounding heart as she stopped in front of them and lifted one hand, flat against their chest. They looked down at her with that barely-visible smile, golden eyes shining.
I couldn’t hear my heart, but I could feel it, and it thundered against every inch of my skin, burning with rage, as she reached up on her toes to press her lips to Kye’s. Their arm slid around her waist. The sight freed my feet and I bolted to them, snatching my reflection’s slim shoulder and tearing her away from them. She swung to face me with a laugh like crackling autumn leaves and when she stilled her eyes locked on mine again. Shadows danced in them.
I knew those shadows, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to close my eyes and turn away, claw my way out of this dream, but she held my attention like a snake held a mouse. Her lips tugged into a cruel smile. “What are you waiting for, Neyva?” she asked. The wind swept loose wisps of hair around her face, spun itself into little songs between us. Fire curled at her fingertips. “Don’t you know you can have it all?”
Have it all. Kye, my power, my name, my family. Her green eyes bore into mine, piercing and prying, and I couldn’t look away.
There was a way to have it all, wasn’t there?
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