Aisling stirs in her sleep, pushing through the shroud of reality holding her fast to her bed. She points a finger, pops the gauze and places one foot through as the line bulges to reveal a huge dust cloud and the heavy tramp, tramp, tramp of boots moving across her field of vision. The cloud lifts slightly to reveal dusty sur-coats masking the smell of unwashed bodies and weapons clattering as they move along.
Onwards they tramp, ignoring her appearance. She crouches, afraid to draw attention, stretching out a hand behind her to steady herself – withdrawing it quickly as the crack of a huge snapdragon beside her alerts her to a new danger. Even the fauna is ominous.
Skirting behind a nearby rock she finds cover in the bracken, and hugs her long t-shirt about her knees. ‘Shoes would have been good,’ she thinks, ‘Too late for that now.’
‘It’s later than you think,’ answers an older internal voice, ‘They crown the new king tomorrow, and then there will be war.’
To this Aisling mouths a quiet oval ‘O’ and glances quickly about her. She has the sense within that whatever answers her questions is not something of her own.
‘Your friend has loosed his bonds within your world, Aisling, did you think that he would remain tamed all your small years?’
Another noiseless, wide eyed ‘O’.
‘Come,’ urges the voice, ‘We must preserve what little strength is needed for the next witness.’
Aisling closes her eyes and concentrates on the feel of sheets and blankets, but her fingers don’t grasp them. Instead she feels a seismic shift beneath her feet and an unyielding coldness tells her that her position has changed. She opens her eyes and catches a kaleidoscopic flutter of banners drifting high in the breeze above her, the loud chatter of people in front of her. Her position behind a wide-girthed stone pillar affords some cover against the piercing chill of this great cavernous cathedral.
Through the huge yawning doors at the back she sees gathering figures; it seems the ceremony will begin. Dignitaries of all dimensions move forward and finally she realises what she has been brought for – there is the face she has always known – the orange-bearded grin. ‘Was he always destined for this day,’ Aisling wonders silently.
‘Nothing but the best for you, princess,’ answers the internal voice.
Finally the pull is too strong, and Aisling surfaces from her sleep in bed. Although the air still holds the day’s warmth, her feet are freezing, even beneath the warmth of her covers. She glances skew-eyed at the wall from the corner of the covers and misses the russet-bearded grin she’s come to know so well. This trick of evening light and pattern is one that reassures and scares simultaneously. Just before sleeping, it is her ritual on these long sunny evenings to stare. Seconds drip by as the red-gold shadows decline leisurely.
*an aisling is the Irish for a vision or a dream