Waves crashed over my head, dark and cold and loud, almost drowning out the roaring thunder, rolling over the black sea. Water was in my eyes, in my clothes, everywhere, freezing my hands that tried desperately to hold on to the ship somehow. A dragon's head, made from ancient wood, ploughed through the seemingly impenetrable darkness.
There was a scream, but no one was on the ship with me. Another screech... unnatural, inhuman. It was that of a raven. Huge, black wings spread in the mist of spraying water, rose above my head with the crushing waves, tall as a mountain. And there was a man, old and with only one eye, suddenly sitting on the ship with me, so calm as if the chaos around had no meaning to him.
Smoke. The wings were of black smoke, twisting and swirling in their form, mesmerizing, frightening. It was...
...the void calling to you, the old man quietly finished my thought, without moving his lips.
His voice was that of an old tree, quiet and rough, but still clearly audible through the thunder. His eye fixated me, trapped my gaze so I couldn't watch the wings any longer. But I felt them, their cold touch, icier than the water, swallowing me into the darkness and...
I gasped, eyes snapping open. Frantically I sat up, looking around the quiet room, trying to find the smoky wings to... to...
I sagged together, finally waking up enough to know it had just been a dream. This wasn't the ocean, it was Ivar's hut, calm and warm from the fire. With a sigh I lay back on the bed and snuggled myself under the blanket again, facing the black haired men beside me. He looked worried.
"'twas just a nightmare," I mumbled, immediately feeling the cold images fade as Ivar snaked his arm around my middle to pull me closer.
"It's the long darkness," he murmured against my ear. "It plays tricks on your mind."
"Maybe... good thing it's Yule soon."
I shifted a little to look at him. "But then the light comes back. That's a good thing."
He smiled sadly. "Mhm... The light returns and so do you. To wherever you came from."
I lowered my eyes, pondered for a while, without really having a clear thought. "You don't even know me," I only mumbled. "Why would you want me to stay?"
Ivar chuckled, stroked finger over my cheek, warm, gentle. "You truly are from another place. Do you not know? When you live, knowing you could die any day, you cling to whatever life gives you in the moment. What does tomorrow matter when I can have today?"
My eyes closed, my body relaxed, felt warm, so snuggled up. Yeah, what did it matter? If only I could think like that, if only my mind wouldn't spin all those threads and possibilities.
"You might end up not liking me anymore," I mumbled sadly. It always happened. Sooner or later people come to notice how different I was from them. And then they push me away, leave me alone without as much as a goodbye. Always. There had never been a single exception. "And then I'd be stranded in a place that isn't my own, with people that don't want me and nowhere to go."
Ivar held me, nuzzled my hair, just breathing. He smelled like leaves and snow, reminding me of the calm woods. Those people lived and thought so differently to what I was used to. Maybe they wouldn't mind, maybe...
"What did you dream?" he softly murmured, his thumb stroking over my site.
I told him, in as much detail as I could remember.
"That is a strange dream, little one. You know who often disguises as an old man?"
"Yeah... it is said Odin likes to do that. To wander amongst humans to watch and to seek new knowledge." I smiled. Gods weren't real. Not like that. "I always liked him, somehow. A god who is on a constant search for wisdom. It's like... he is just one of us, in a way. So much more powerful, but still... a person."
Ivar laughed. "What else would he be?"
"I know of another god. And people make him... so elusive. Like he is everything and has no faults, possesses all knowledge there is and all power over everything."
"I see... you came from the land of the Christians. That is why you're so weird." He shifted a little to look at me, leaned down and kissed me softly. "But you know so much of our stories." He smiled against my lips. "Why is that?"
"'m not a Christian." Absently I played with the strands of his beard. "Their god is so... so far away. It's so hard to believe in him. But yours... your gods... they are just people." Playfully I tugged at him, coaxing another kiss from his lips. "So powerful. But they have friends and enemies, sons and daughters, lovers and husbands. They have a story, they live and die, mourn and celebrate, like everyone else."
"Yeah. One day even your people will understand this."
If only. My smile faded and I curled myself up against Ivar's chest. I wouldn't tell him. That his gods would become nothing more but stories on Youtube and in Comics. That the Christians would one day steal all their traditions to make them into their own, that only a few people remained to believe in what he now thought as real. And that they were mostly smiled upon and called crazy.
"Where were you?" The Master's voice sounded incredibly indignant, as if I had offended him.
Right now I was with Gerion, sparring with an axe again. It got a little easier. The movements turning into something that, one day, might even become reflex. Not that I would have the time for that... The blacksmith returned to his forge at the other side of the field and I leaned the axe against a tree that was standing nearby.
"Not there," I offered with a shrug.
My eyes were watching the nearby sea and the crows fluttering over farms. The tone of his words made me look at the Master.
"Didn't think you'd be concerned. Wasn't even sure the two of you would return for the night."
He lifted a brow and let a smirk show. "And I thought you were so eager to learn more about telepathy."
Right... I was. "And that has to be in the middle of the night, when I actually want to sleep?" I mocked. "Don't tell me you had such important things to do the whole day."
I stepped in front of him, giving him an annoyed glare. "And you're an arsehole."
"Tell me something new." His mouth widened to a grin, arms folded in front of his chest.
Alright. He seemed to be in a provoking mood. And it was riling me up a lot more than it should.
"Want me to train with you again?" he offered with a twinkle in his eyes.
I huffed. "Yeah... no. Seriously, if you want to bully me, just piss off. I don't need a rerun of yesterday. I know you're stronger and faster than humans. Don't need a reminder, thanks."
Strangely enough his eyes dropped at my words. For a second he looked almost a little sorry. Almost. I wondered if he had really just been a sod, the day before, or if he had lost control over himself. Not that it mattered too much. The result was the same and by now I came not to expect an apology from him.
There was something else, however, I needed to know. So I sighed and looked at him. "Regarding telepathy... did you... I'm not sure it's related or not, I just keep having really strange dreams. Maybe..."
His relaxed pose stiffened, eyes suddenly on me, fixating. The Master took a step towards me, his face as serious as I had seldom seen it before. "What kind of dreams?"
"It's... hard to describe. The images alone aren't telling much. It's more how they... feel. Can't you just look at them yourself?" I shrugged.
"Mhm," he made, raising his hands. But before he could touch me he blinked confused and hesitated. His eyes narrowed to tight slits, distracting me for a moment. Long enough to make me wince in surprise when his fingers connected with my temples.
Images flashed before my eyes. And they were not from the dreams, but from the evening before.
"Jeez, you were busy," he commented dryly.
I tore myself away from him, a scowl on my face. "That's none of your business," I grumbled.
Strangely enough... the Master seemed pissed. Everything about him radiated it, starting from the angry look on his face.
"What do you think, you're doing there?" he snarled, towering himself above me.
My mouth dropped open, closed again. I shook my head in disbelief. "First of all – you have no rights whatsoever to just dig out random memories," I scolded angrily. "And just for the record – I'm an adult and I can do whatever the hell I want. And with whom."
"You really think so?"
"Well... duh!" I rolled my eyes.
"And then what?" the Master spat.
Confused I blinked at him. As he got no answer the rage in his eyes only increased, almost physically radiated from him. Without a warning he reached out, grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to the toes. Shocked I pushed my hands against his chest, trying to get free of his grip.
"What's your problem?" I whined annoyed.
"That you don't think, ape," came the dark reply.
"'bout what, dammit? I'm on the pill, nothing can happen."
Okay, that probably wasn't the issue, but still. My hands pushed against his chest, barely managing to keep him at a distance. Under my palms I felt his double heartbeat, weirdly fast, next to fluttering.
It almost seemed as if he wouldn't say a word. He only glared at me, but then let go and hurled around.
"He'll die. Now," the Master muttered darkly, striding away with large steps.
He couldn't mean that, could he? "Don't you dare laying a hand on Ivar!" I called out, grabbing his elbow. The Master effortlessly tore himself out of my grip and marched away, me closely following. "Harm him and I'll never speak a word with you."
"Like I'd care," he grumbled.
"Well, you obviously do!" I ran ahead, blocking his way. The Master simply trod to the side, but I followed, almost making him bump into me, but he avoided so fast I couldn't keep up. He simply left me behind, standing there in utter confusion.
Somehow I managed to overcome my stupor and stormed after him. A thought popped up and I almost had to laugh. It was ridiculous, but right now hardly anything he did made sense.
"Don't tell me you're jealous," I deadpanned.
He growled angrily, stopped and hurled around, pushing against my shoulder to make me stumble away. "You don't even know him," he said, voice dark.
"You don't even know me," I countered immediately, arms crossing defensively over my chest.
There was something sinister in his eyes, something that told me this was about much more than I suspected. But his behaviour made me angry, in a way that it shouldn't. He had no right to ruin the one good thing in years, to just run ahead and murder the only person, who had been kind and nice to me.
"This is not..." The Master shook his head, clenched his hands to fists and released them again, surprisingly at a loss for words. "It's not... why the heck would I be jealous?"
"Then what the hell..." I paused, straightened. Listened.
There it was again. A faint noise, like a scream, but not a human sound, not that of an animal either. None that I knew, at least; deep and roaring. It seemed the Master heard it too. He looked around. The noise came again, a little louder this time.
A horn sounded through the whole village, it's moaning long and repeated two times. Doors flew open or slammed shut, people were running, shouting. Within a moment chaos was all around us. I had no clue where to go, what do. What was even happening?
The Master took a step back, reached a hand out to grab my arm or whatever, but didn't.
It exploded in front of my eyes, bright and hot, raining down next to me in splinters of wood from what once had been a house. Everything happened so fast my mind couldn't catch up. The forge was burning! High blazed the flames, black smoke rising into the cold winter air. And there were...
Grotesque swirling wings grew out of the black, as big as the house had been, twisting in size and shape, impossible to catch with sight alone.
A hand was in mine, tugged, tore, forced me to move, although my gaze kept glued to the dark mass in front of me. It had eyes, piercing purple, pulsating specs within the flames around. It saw. Saw me. Held me captive, froze my body.
A wall was in my back, something obscured my view. No. Someone. A hand waved in front of my face, made me blink in confusion. I glanced up, finding an equally puzzled look on the Master's face.
"Hey!" he called out. "Wake up!"
My mouth opened. There were words, but I couldn't speak them. I tried to look past him, turn around the corner of the house to look. Just look. The Master wouldn't let me, grabbed both of my shoulders and pressed them against the stone, chuckled.
"Yep. It's a dragon." The excitement in his voice was hard to miss.
"Th... the wings," I finally muttered. My body was shaking, pulse racing like mad. "Saw them... dreams. How... how..."
His face dropped. "Hey, snap out of it!" He shook me, then grabbed my arm and tore me to the side. "It's not a nightmare." Finally I had a view again, saw the flames devouring, growing. And a black mass slowly emerging from it. "Look at the thing."
He was right. From the fire came no nightmarish abomination, no twisting mass of black smoky wings. Not the wings of ravens, either. They were huge, black, but leathery, and attached to a not less enormous body. The beast dropped forwards, stepped out of the fire and onto the field where I had trained, moments before. Its wings folded so it could use them as front legs, riddled with sharp claws. The body parts were muscular, neck and tail long and elegantly thin, giving it an almost cat-like appearance. It's head narrowed towards the snout to a longish triangular shape, with scaly fins instead of ears, and in deep sockets sat two purple eyes, glowing, mesmerizing.
I watched for what felt like hours, but could have only been seconds. The terror that had paralyzed me before slowly dissipated, got replaced by simple fear, but one I was able to control. Each time the dragon moved, the flames reflected in its black scales, let them shimmer in a beautiful manner. Its mouth opened, revealed not only sharp, long teeth, but also the source of the scream we had heard before. Raw and old and mighty.
"Oh, you bloody idiot," the Master grumbled next to me.
"I've done nothing," I ground out.
"Not you. The Doctor. There, look. Right in front of the head."
"There is no o..." I glared at the spot that clearly had been empty before, but now that I paid attention to it, I saw someone standing there, with a raised hand, pointing something towards the creature. It was weirdly hard to keep him in focus, as if he kept slipping out of my perception. "What's he doing?"
"Trying to play the hero again?" The Master shrugged.
The dragon seemed not to be aware of the man in front of it. Maybe it had as much trouble as I had, but in opposite to a human it clearly had some finer senses. The snout was searching the air, intelligent eyes roaming the field, the small fires. The Doctor ducked out of the way as the creature spun around, almost hitting the Time Lord with its tail. He kept scanning, however.
Until the dragon turned once more and lowered its head to the Doctor, mouth opening, nose sniffing. Something hit against the scales, ricocheted from the hard surface and dropped to the ground. A second thing hit, distracting the dragon from its prey.
The Master was throwing stones!
Surprised I saw him picking more up and aiming them, but the dragon seemed to have lost its interest.
Only that it hadn't. With a swift, elegant twirl it hurled around to the Doctor once more, opened the mouth to let out a dark roaring scream, then hit the Time Lord away with its wing. He flew backwards, against another house and lay still, whilst the creature swung itself back into the air with mighty, heavy flaps.
It searched around and found some sheep outside, shot towards them and grabbed one with its hind claws. The head snapped back, seemed to search the area where the Doctor had been. And, just to make sure, the dragon bent its head backwards and seemed to spit, only that a small ball of flames was emerging out its throat, racing towards the house the Doctor had sagged against. The ball erupted into an explosion of flames. Debris rained down on the field, smoke billowed out and obscured out vision.
Only then did the dragon fly away.
Only then did the Master start to run.