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The Element of Surprise: Prologue
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
--Edgar Allan Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”
Normally, when confronted with shrouds of mist and whiteness and in an environment completely dreamlike, one would want to run away screaming and pinch themselves so as to wake up in the world of normality, the place where everything was as real as it could be, as one was used to.
Or at least, as normal as it was these days.
But not this girl, with the hair like fire and the eyes that were such an odd color, light amber with flecks of gold, like the dying embers of a flame. Instead of cowering away in fear of the unknown, she stepped out into the thick expanse of it, squinting against the powerful winds that whipped her hair around her head, clenching her fists and digging her heels into the ground beneath her feet.
The mysterious girl let her eyes fall shut for a moment, and when they opened, they were no longer the eyes of a simple teenager with the abnormal physical traits. They were the eyes of a long-trained warrior.
“I’m not alone here,” she sang over the wind, her voice carrying even through the harsh volume of the tornado-proportioned storm. “I know it. Now that you’ve got me here, might as well reveal yourself.”
Another voice answered from a distance that was seemingly not all that far away. The fire-haired girl’s muscles tensed, but still she remained locked in place. “Azara Rowanson,” the voice taunted. “I didn’t expect you to appear so quickly. Usually, you seem so... cautious.”
The wind picked up for a fraction of a second and then yielded completely, showing just who the girl with the strange golden eyes had expected it to be. The one person who was always in her nightmares.
“Ilmatar, what a surprise.” She took a breath and tried to keep the acid out of her voice, though it was difficult due to the strength of her dislike toward the female in front of her. “Cautious isn’t really my style anymore. In fact, you could say I’ve thrown caution to the wind.” Her heart was thudding at a maddening rate, faster than she was used to. She waited, muscles stiff, for the attack that she expected to come. Her weight shifted slightly to be in a position of ability to move in any possible direction at any moment, and she waited, still unmoving as a statue.
Ilmatar laughed, her silvery eyes alight with barely controlled hatred. “Smart one, aren’t we?” she mused, crossing tan arms over her chest. “But I’ll bet you didn’t know that once I snap my fingers, all of this will disappear. Or are you actually as smart as you act? You sure don’t look it.” The corners of her lips curled upward into a sneer.
“I’m one step ahead of you, sweetheart,” the fiery-looking girl answered, her long fingers held out before herself, ready to snap. “I’ve had enough of you for one night. For a lifetime, really, but that doesn’t seem to stop you.”
With that, she smiled beatifically to the reward of seeing Ilmatar glower at her, and then as she snapped the world went dark.