Dream the Dance

Prompt: Ashen. Picture: by pygmymuse. Ficlet O'Clock: Bring ye commentfic requests!

So this was interesting because I was handed a picture that made someone think of Ashen, and it made me think of Ashen, but the woman in that picture did not look like Ashen, act like her, and I knew it would have to be something stylized, symbolic, and then upon thinking back through her history, I realized there was one trait of hers that this picture embodied.


Liana Mir

Series Listing

16 — 02. Summer

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

16 — 02. Summer through 03. Autumn

Wake and Thrive

16 — 03. Autumn through 17 — 01. Spring

Its Own Absolution

16 — 03. Late Autumn

After the Grief

16 — 03. Late Autumn

Battery Acid

17 — 02. Summer

Accounting for Redemption

17 — 02. Summer

Counting Heartbeats

18 — 01. Spring

Song Between the Waking and the Dreaming

20 — 04. Winter

Echoes of Anchor Lost

21 — 01. Spring

Don’t Remind Me That It’s Over

21 — 02. Summer

Welcome

21— 02 Summer through 22 — 01 Spring

Name Me Another (or Glass Angel, Redux)

22 — 01. Spring

Glass Angel

22 — 01. Spring

Pause the Sonata

22 — 02. Summer

Without a Reason

22 — 03. Autumn

Learning Legato

23 — 02. Summer

Acceptable Cost

23 — 02. Summer

History Lesson on the Night Train

23 — 03. Autumn

Abyss Looking Back

23 — 03. Autumn

Collateral Damage

23 — 03. Autumn

Five Reasons I Love You

23 — 03. Autumn

Little Things

23 — 03. Autumn

Owning Beauty

23 — 04. Winter

Dream the Dance

23 — 04. Winter

Snow Day

24 — 02. Summer

As the River Breathes

AU 21 — 04. Winter

Normal written in coffee grounds

Dream the Dance

She had danced the dance of death so many times.

Ashen is able to kill or heal with a simple touch, but it isn’t until a disturbing dream that she realizes mastery goes beyond the waking world.

23 — 04. Winter
Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction
Short Story

She dreamed of a chill wind. Her hair was long—longer than it had ever been—and she wore a red dress with streams of red silk spinning out from it. The wind danced around her, cold and damp beneath a grey blue sky misted with sea and salt. Her hair and dress danced around her in that cold, damp wind, warmth against her skin, and everywhere she danced life fled out like rivers from the earth beneath her feet, the small green plants beneath her touch and fled into her, leaving only ash remains. She dreamed the dance of death, and though she had never dressed in finery, never worn her black hair long and beautiful and flying, she had danced that dance before.

And then she woke.

Ashen’s eyes opened on a plain small city apartment bedroom in the city of Bellyn, so far inland that were it not for overseas assignments, she would never have tasted sea mists before. Her sheets were warm, tucked under her arms, which in turn were tucked under her head. Everything around her was plain and simple as she was—simple furniture, simple cotton nightshirt, simple glazed wooden plaques with a couple of quotations she liked hanging on the walls. Even the window was small with plain white casements. She kept no plants and she drank no life from the bed.

Shivering, Ashen sat up and slid out from under the covers, uncertain of why she had dreamed this now. She rarely dreamed, rarely remembered what she did dream. It bothered her more than she could say. She glanced down at her finger, at the only piece of jewelry she had ever worn besides a pair of earrings. Oh, she had had other proposals, but she had never accepted one before last night, and—

Something cold washed over her as she thought of something she had never had cause to consider. Ashen’s ability was deadly and everyone who really knew her knew it. They knew that she could steal their breath and life with a single touch. They also knew she only transferred life when she wanted to, but she had never had that tested while she slept.

A self-healer. They were rare, and she only knew one well enough to beg such a favor. To ask his life— She stopped herself cold again and yanked down clothes from her wardrobe, simple ones favorable to a night passage on the tram. Storm did not live in Bellyn. Perhaps she should take the train.

Edyll was the next city over and not far distant enough to make the journey not worthwhile, but it was far enough for Ashen to find that fear did not keep her alert. She found herself dozing and dancing death in a red dress. Disconcerted, she stepped off the train into a chill breeze, not unlike the one she dreamed of. She paid tram fare and let it drop her off at the edge of Storm’s neighborhood. He had chosen an area of small houses rather than the ubiquitous apartment complexes so many of the team members had chosen.

It took three knocks to rouse him, longer to wait for him to let her in. Storm had been her leader once. He had raised her and helped her where he could, but as a child, she had never known anything other than war; he had remembered everything—his name, his family, and what it meant to not be master of the storm. He let her in now without hesitation because he had been her leader once and because she was his in a way still. He had named her Ashen.

Once inside, she paused, unable to speak her terrible, formidable request, and Storm waited for her. He had a birth name, but even in her thoughts, she could not call him by it. Finally, she simply said, “Storm.”

“You’re afraid,” he said quietly, a statement. He was not like Red Wolf, the man he had passed his leadership to. He did not ask questions, did not soften blows.

Ashen nodded helplessly in the face of the truth of his statement. “I need to know if I dance death in my sleep.”

That took him aback for a moment before understanding dawned. They had called her Dancer once, Wings of Death, Breathless, Ashen. They knew why.

He made her up a bed on the couch, and she did not ask why he would do such a thing, did not ask when she knew he would die for any of them if it were required. This could demand much of him, possibly kill him for a time, but his ability included self-healing—of a kind. He would live.

It took a while for her breath and heart to calm, for her to feel sleepy again under his watchful gaze as he poured himself a cup of tea and settled down in the chair nearby. She had slept under his watch before, as a child, as a woman when they were assigned a mission in hostile territory. Eventually she slept.

She dreamed the dance of death in a red dress and her hair longer than it had ever been. She danced in a chill night wind that blew off the sea and felt rich, warm life drain from everything she touched and give her strength. She had never dressed in finery and never bothered to be fierce rather than matter-of-fact and sensible, but she had danced the dance of death so many times before.

Ashen woke to morning light, to Storm sitting in his chair nearby and looking at her. She sat up and looked into his face intently, trying to see if he was too white, if she had taken anything from him.

He shook his head.

She breathed. She nodded curtly in gratitude, gathered her things, and left. There was time to take the tram to catch the first morning train back to Bellyn. There was time to call her fiance, to hear his voice, and to put away her fears.

#


Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction

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