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09 January 2013 @ 02:45 pm
Rusalka fic: Dream of Drowning, and Wake in Snow  
Title: Dream of Drowning, and Wake in Snow

Word Count: 1613
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Summary: Sasha's fever dream wakes Eveshka in the middle of the night.

Notes: Written for Yuletide 2012 as a gift for minutia_r.  Takes place a little over a year after the second book.

Disclaimer:   I don't own the Rusalka novels and no infringement is intended, nor profit being made.

* * *

He had dreamt he was drowning – not a dream to take lightly, not in that house, even if wizards could afford to dismiss their dreams at all.

He woke on his knees in the snow, under pale grey trees.

Or thought he did – the night was hazed, indistinct. He might well still be dreaming. He could smell the smoke from Eveshka's chimney, but couldn't see the house at all. And the woods he saw instead . . .

The trees were not only winter bare, but broken, skeletal, as they hadn't been in years. There were no tracks of foxes, mice, or hare in the brittle snow. Not even a hint of wind stirred the barren branches.

But he knew the woods were living again. That Eveshka was. He wanted suddenly to hear her voice, scolding him for wandering out in a dream. Wanted Pyetr, warm and solid, to pull him to his feet and show him, there, boy, the house is just behind you, save some vodka for Babi, would you? as he turned him round – wanted it, wished it, foolishly – but the image dissolved even in his mind, and wouldn't come again.

In its place came darkness, and a breathless dread.

He staggered to his feet, and ran.


* * *


Eveshka woke wrapped in Pyetr's warm arms, but for a moment all she felt was cold, and loss, and fear. The wish she threw out had nothing to do with reason then, all to do with instinct – and it was selfishly strong, a mother's wish. But Ilyana slept still – the banked embers in the hearth glowed warm and red. Pyetr murmured in his sleep, and his arms tightened slightly.

The timbers of the house creaked – the domovoi was disturbed, either by her reactive wish or something other. She frowned, listening. The house settled, but it was an uneasy rest.

She eased her way out of Pyetr's embrace, wishing not to wake him, and flinched as her bare feet hit the cold floor.

Her daughter's face was drawn in concentration, but even as she watched, Ilyana managed to free her hand from the warm blankets covering her, and her face smoothed. Eveshka bit her lip. Carefully, so carefully, she tucked the tiny hand back under the blankets. The child frightened her, more than almost anything, but she loved her fiercely – that, she thought, was the most frightening thing of all.

She would find her book, she thought, and write down that waking wish. And the ill-feeling that preceded it.

But as she took her first step on the kitchen floor, the feeling came again – a crawling numbness, her heart in her throat. And a thread in the midst of it, afraid and alone . . .

"Sasha," she said, and flung a new wish into the dark.


* * *


The air he breathed was cold, bone dry and sharp as ice, but he gulped it down in great heaving breaths, bent nearly double, hands shaking on his knees.

He wanted to go home, to Eveshka's warm hearth, to Pyetr's hand on his shoulder and the mouseling's burbling laughs. Even, god, to his lonely little house on the hill, where there were at least walls to shut out the cold – but every wish scattered; every thought fractured, splintered, froze.

He could not find the road.

He could not find his way.

"Misighi!" he called, before his aching throat stole his voice entirely. But it was not the leshys that came out of the dark. Not his old, mad eyes gleaming back at him.

He raised trembling hands, and wished it back.


* * *


The little house on the hill was new still, an unexpected shadow against the stars. She hadn't fought Sasha for building it, though Pyetr had grumbled. Sasha was family, and welcome, and loved, but she had felt relieved to have Pyetr and Ilyana to herself, at least this much.

She knew she was selfish. She tried, very hard, to keep that part of herself in check.

It was dark, and quiet. She hesitated at the door – it seemed unfair, somehow, to barge in on his privacy after valuing her own so much.

She wished him to hear her – but her wish found only snow, and a dead and darkened forest. The thought was so clear it staggered her, but no, the trees may be rattling in the winter wind, but they lived.

The door wouldn't open. She knew Sasha never locked it. She tried it again, wanting it open, wanting in – but something inside the house wished against her. "Sasha," she called, recognizing his wish, though it felt somehow wrong -- "stop it! Let me in."


* * *


The vodyanoi seemed larger even than he remembered, dark as the river, eyes huge and wicked.

"Have you come to add to my collection, wizard?" Hwiuur asked. Sasha stepped back, and his heel splashed through water. He could hear the river then, its slow, malevolent whisper right behind him.

Distantly, he wondered how he'd come this far.

"Your bones aren't as pretty as hers," the River-thing went on, sliding closer. "But they're surely worth more than his."

At the corner of his eye he could see the willow, Eveshka's willow, impossibly green and gold and supple. He turned his head to stare at it, and Hwiuur laughed.

It was an indulgent, possessive sound, and Sasha shuddered.

"Did you think they were alive? What have you been dreaming, little wizard?"


* * *


She'd woken Pyetr with a wish, and he came up the hill frowning. Cross with her, she thought, and she was sorry, truly sorry. But she hadn't been able to make herself leave, not even that far, when something was, so clearly, wrong with Sasha.

But Pyetr just put his hand flat on Sasha's door. "Babi's sitting with the mouseling. What's happened?" he asked, and his voice held no censure.

"He's dreaming," she said. A dark and dangerous dream. "I can't reach him."

"If you can't . . . is he safe?"

"No," she said. There was no softer way to put it.

Something hardened in his face. "If wishing will not open the door . . . " he said, and kicked it in.

Sometimes it frightened her, the way he could act contrary to the strongest wish. And sometimes she was fiercely glad of it.


* * *


Dreaming . . . had he dreamed it all? Could he have possibly dreamed up the last few years? Eveshka, alive and in love, Ilyana in her arms. Pyetr helping him build his house, all the time earnestly assuring him of his welcome at theirs. Had he dreamed them up? Was he so lost?

His lungs hurt. The air at the river was as painfully dry as it had been in the forest . . . the dead woods that had surrounded him, that he could not remember passing out of.

That he could not remember running into.

"Dare then, little wizard. Wish them too you." Hwiuur was mocking now, as he coiled his bulk around Sasha, half in and half out of the dark river.

"Are you certain of what you would be bringing to your side?"


* * *


He was tangled tightly in his blankets – had pulled them with him onto the floor. All she could see of him, as Pyetr knelt at his side, was his dark hair, sweat-plastered to his forehead, and one thin arm twisted awkwardly behind his back.

He looked very young. Fragile, though she knew better.

"Sasha," her husband said, voice soft. His hand brushed the boy's hair away from his face, lingered there. "He's fevered," he told her. "I knew he'd been too long alone up here."

She could feel the dark currents of his dreaming – his wishes were unfocused, diffuse; they beat at her like moth wings. His strength, that which had held her so readily outside his door, was spent.

"Can you wake him?" Pyetr asked. "Would it hurt him?" His eyes, turned to her, held too much trust.

She didn't know. She didn't know.

But if they didn't wake him, what then? Whatever darkness he was dreaming was sapping his strength – she'd wished him well, as she wished Pyetr well, as she wished Ilyana well, everyday. And yet she hadn't kept this away from him.

"I think we must," she said.


* * *


"Do you hear them?" The vodyanoi was nearly touching him now. Sasha's skin crawled at his nearness. "They're calling. Bare bones and lingering wishes, calling for you. Do you think you ought to answer?"

He would almost swear he felt Pyetr's hand. It didn't feel like bones.

He tried so hard to keep from wishing that his head swam, but the warmth of Pyetr's hand remained. He could still hear Eveshka – she sounded angry, but he knew that tone. She was worried.

"Yes," he said, voice shaking. "I think I must."

The river surged behind him – he could feel it, lapping round his legs like Hwiuur's coils. But the snake was gone. The river was gone. Briefly, the forest wrapped around him, dead trees and thorns, but then that too was gone.

In the dark and the cold, he reached for them recklessly. He let himself wish.


* * *


His eyes opened, and Eveshka pulled Pyetr away, studying them – they were dazed, fever bright, but they were Sasha's. Nothing else looked out at her. When Pyetr tugged himself out of her hold she let him.

They gathered their friend off the floor, together, and ended all entangled on the bed. She wished them warm, and safe, and well. She wished them well. And as Pyetr pulled the blankets back up and over all of them, she felt Sasha wish the same. Slowly, the dread and misgiving left the air until it was only a natural dark. Only a natural cold. And even that was warming.




This entry was originally posted at http://theladysnarkydame.dreamwidth.org/21218.html. You can comment there if you prefer.
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