Charlotte Dreamt. She knew it was a dream, like she often knew, but her dreams carried their own momentum that she was powerless to change. She was always a live witness, never fully lucid and in control.
She was in the Molney homestead, where she and Rone had stopped to wait out her sickness and the discomfort of her monthly period. The ruined stone walls of the abandoned farm house were the same, but clean-cut rafters supported a well-tended roof above. She was sweeping ashes out of the hearth, which was piled with the remnants of many fires, when she realized where she was. She turned as a little girl ran in through the front door.
“Mommy! Daddy caught a rabbit for us!” The little girl, wearing a simple duck dress, ran back out of the door. Charlotte paused a moment to look up, and a strand of hair fell in her face. She blew it away and wiped the ash from her hands on her apron. The girl appeared a moment later, and Rone, wearing his traveling clothes, was standing behind her with his musket and a freshly killed rabbit. “When are we having dinner?” the little girl asked excitedly, clapping her hands together.
“We’ll have to let your mother tend to the skinning and such,” Rone said, smiling at the little girl. “I’m going to go chop some firewood so we can get cooking. You sure do like a bit of coney, don’t you?”
“Of course!” the little girl said.
Rone put the dead rabbit down on the table and walked over to Charlotte. He kissed her on the cheek. “I’m sorry I haven’t patched the roof yet.” She looked up and saw the thatch roof letting in a few sunbeams in random places.
“It’s alright,” Charlotte said, “It’s not going to rain tonight.” She felt surprise as Rone pulled her into a deeper kiss. His beard tickled her and she pulled away laughing.
Rone was gone.
The rabbit on the table seemed to look at her, though she knew it couldn’t. Charlotte could hear the little girl singing outside, in a familiar tune, though it seemed to her like she had forgotten everything about it. She wished to run outside to the little girl, but couldn’t stop staring at the rabbit. The words drifted in to her:
The point of a name
Is that it’s always the same
Alone, or with fame
Your name is the game
With a name you’ll see
You’re who you want to be
And so the raven cawed
And sat on his claws
And asked what should I be called?
I said ‘you can choose
To make your own news’
He said “fine! My name is Zald!
With great effort, Charlotte pulled her gaze away from the rabbit, and saw that she wasn’t in the farmhouse at all. Suddenly, she was back in her old room in Cataling. Fine furniture sat against ancient stone walls. Her heart leapt, recalling somehow in her dream the horror of that room. Her small dining table was behind her, but she did not want to turn around to look, knowing the rabbit would be there. There was something unsettling about that rabbit, and the thought of it itched her in the back of her mind.
She ran to the door. It was locked tightly like always. She shook the handle and the hinges and bolts on the outside of the heavy oak door rattled.
She shook harder. Normally, the guards would notice her by now.
“Damnit!” Her voice cracked, though she tried to yell.
“Yes mistress?” A voice from behind her said in a calm, soothing tone.
“Ardala?” Charlotte held her hands on the door for a long, drawn out moment. “Is that you Ardala?”
“What can I get you? Fresh water? Are you ready for tea?”
“You survived?” Charlotte still could not will herself to turn around. “Why didn’t you meet me at the inn?”
“You look tired. I shall have the guards take you to the baths?”
“Why am I here?” Charlotte said. “I shouldn’t be here. I left. I escaped!” She turned around suddenly to find the space where she expected find Ardala to be empty. Feeling a sickness overtake her, her gaze slowly slid to the right, to the small table where she had eaten virtually all of her meals with Ardala, her only friend.
There was no rabbit. It its place was a baby, tiny and bloody, with unformed features; a miscarriage.
Over it she heard, as if near her left ear, a familiar voice. Serpentine and far too calm, it spoke old words:
“You are mine, child, whether you like it or not, though I suggest you learn to like it. While you attempt to regain my trust I suggest you think on the poor women of the city. Who of them would not trade places with you, given the choice? You can cry if you wish, but know that they would not.”