Morjen ran down the streets of Marlina, allowing the wind to pick up her hair and skirt and throw them behind her. She was dressed as someone from the Seriotư kingdom, and the loose-fitting blue clothing was much better than the ones they wore back home, thick and scratchy. The marketplace whipped past her as she ran down another street, the noises of yelling at each other over prices and different offers becoming indistinct, lost among the whooshing of the air around her.
She turned yet another corner, the light turning into a brown and musty darkness as she entered the alley. Small motes of captured sunlight occasionally drifted across her vision, but they became fewer and smaller as she entered the depths of the village's black market.
The atmosphere here was different from the one back at the village square. Instead of shouting prices at one another, the people whispered about deliveries and silently slid away, obviously so much more still trapped behind their lips. And instead of business and enthusiasm, the faces here were lost in people's hands, with expressions of hollowness and boredom once they seperated. The language was different, too, one in which Morjen could freely converse without being teased for her accent.
"Morjen!" someone called from across the market. Morjen's ears prickled at the sound, a smile beggining to appear as her eyes watered. She once again began to run, chasing Jorai's voice. She bustled through the crowd of people, most of them refugees, and with a final push she found the bespectacled girl.
"Jorai, how are you!?" Morjen cried, trowing herself onto Jorai. She was smiling crazily, trying to express all her feelings for her best friend in a single hug.
"Be quiet," she said with a commanding voice, but soon both were laughing again, conversing and throwing at each other the past few years. They talked into the night, until the crickets began to buzz around them, and then they chased each other around the marketplace. In the nighttime, is was busier than during the day, merrier. But they chased each other too far, perhaps, or maybe time just stopped, and suddenly the wind was ice cold, chewing into their bones with an intense precision. The darkness was no longer a simple fact, but rather an overwhelming and suffocating presence, as tangible as Morjen herself.
"Oh, I wonder what this is!" she said out loud, thinking that perhaps the enthusiastic and curious sentence would break the eerieness. Instead, it only augmented it, since the silence that returned, the lack of an echo, even the sudden cold now seemed terribly otherworldly, somewhere she shouldn't be.
"Hello," the voice was emotionless, precise, each vowel clipped. Morjen reached for Jorai, but instead found nothing. "I have a mission for you"
Morjen was tired of missions. She was tired of standing on a podium and yelling at the crowd, the crowd that somehow listened, and she was tired of everyone discussing politics, countries, when all that mattered was the sky and the grass melting together on the far-off horizon that turned orange, then red, then a melancholic purple.
"Listen," the voice said, and in her mind Morjen could feel her presence, large and cold and tragic. "The book of stories is unravelling, and with it the universes it holds. You are a part of those," she stopped, and some short gasps came from her direction, along with the sound of vomit. "And you need to prevent it from happening,"
Morjen smiled. It would be interesting, to save the universe, wouldn't it? But she was already saving too many things.
"And I can help you," the voice screeched, becoming faint. "I must go," it croaked, and slowly the presence dissapeared. However, in Morjen's hand she felt her fingers gripping a long, slender, metal rod. She held on to the tangibility of it, to the coldness against her fingertips, before she felt her body begin to be sucked away, kicked up by the wind and deposited somewhere else.