The beautiful man did not return the next day. Nor the day after. Thoughts of him faded quickly. By the third day she had returned to spending time with her friends, with only the occasional thought for him. Come the fifth, she had almost completely forgotten him.
So as the sun set on the eve of the sixth day, Cassinda bid farewell to her friends and turned for home. The streets were typically quiet after the closing of the markets as people disappeared indoors. The day was at an end.
She was within sight of the family home when a sweet tune started playing from behind her. She stopped in her tracks and slowly turned to see him standing there, leaning against a wall, blowing into his pipe. She stood transfixed as he continued to play before he seemed to notice her and stopped. He smiled and lowered the pipe.
“Well hello there Cassinda, the angel sent to listen to my melodies.”
Cassinda was lost for words. Her breath became laboured and short. She could feel her heart pounding like a metal-maker’s hammer. The beautiful man stepped away from the wall and came over to her. Her breath caught, stuck in her throat. He reached for her hand, and she let him take it. Raising it to his lips, he kissed the back of her hand lightly.
“Such beautiful hands. Worthy of an angel.” He looked up at her, his face warm and inviting. “I must admit to a secret desire to seeing you again, and here you are. I am twice blessed.” He held onto her hand and Cassinda felt her fingers grip his hand slightly. Sensations flowed through her that she had never felt before. Emotions raged within, yet she was unable to speak or move. Her eyes were locked on his.
“There is something I would love to show my heavenly messenger. Would you like to see?”
Somewhere in the chaos of her mind, a voice cried out telling her to go home, yet she found herself longing to know more of this beautiful man, and how he made her feel so alive. “Yes.” She barely had breath to speak the word, and she nodded shyly. The voice in her mind cried out again but was not heard.
“I’d hoped you’d say that. Come with me sweet Cassinda.”
He turned still holding her hand in his, and began to lead her away from her home, to the edge of the village, and towards the trees of the nearby Holloway forest.
The sounds of music could be heard, like that of the man’s pipe, but he was not playing. They were faint and distant. Cassinda stopped and was separated from herself. Suddenly there were two Cassinda’s. One running off with the beautiful man. The other turned…
…to face me. “He is coming.” She said. “He is looking for me.”
She started panicking. “No no no. I’m not done yet. I haven’t shown you everything.”
She turned to face me again, as if she could see right into my mind, and said with force “I must show you.”
My mind was flooded with images of violence. Naked men. The beautiful man angry, holding her by the throat. Cassinda bruised and beaten. A strange man standing behind her as she was bent forward on a bench. Dark rooms with disturbing noises. Other young people tied with rope tied to their hands and left dangling from the ceiling. The beautiful man screaming to another young girl “Never betray me again.” So much more that flashed by too fast. Ugly and violent. Dark and disturbing.
Then she pushed me from her mind.
The shock of returning from the dream walk felt as though I had been hit across the head by a door. I flung backwards and fell to the floor. I was dazed with disturbing images filling my thoughts. I struggled back to my feet and found myself unable to walk straight. Cassinda was already off the cot and rushing out the door.
“He must not find me here. He must not know I’ve seen you.” She fled the room.
I struggled to follow her, yet seemed unable to recall how to place one foot in front of the other. Toppling several times, I made it to the door. There was strange music in the air. The same melody I had heard before Cassinda panicked, except it wasn’t pleasant or enticing like it had been in Cassinda’s memories. It was harsh, flat, and without rhythm.
I stumbled to a nearby window, to watch Cassinda disappear up a side alley. I began to run after her as my footing became more sure. My head still full of foreign images began to pound painfully, yet I stumbled onward. I was in no state to catch her, yet I desperate felt a need to know where she would go.
I eventually made it to the village wall to see she had climbed to the top. I saw her tattered robes vanish over the other side, and then tried to follow even though every movement made me head feel worse. As I climbed I began to feel sick but I persisted until I was able to see over the edge.
There at the edge of Holloway forest stood the man in black, playing his pipe. Cassinda ran to him, falling to her knees before him. He stopped playing the pipe and reached down to her. I could not tell if he patted her head or grabbed her hair but she looked up at him. He seemed to speak to her, then helped her to stand before directing her into the forest. He then turned to glance back towards the village, scanning it from side to side, before following after Cassinda.
It was still early morning. The sun low in the sky. The village was only just beginning to awaken. Sounds of movement and people talking could be heard from the market centre. I started to feel the chill in the air as the exertion wore off. I carefully made my way back down the wall, and returned to my home. My head still pounded painfully so I went to brew something to ease the pain.
The images would not leave. They flashed through my mind repeatedly. Troubling images. This was beyond my experience. For this, I would need to return to the place of my birth. I needed the Council of Walkers.