Morgana awoke from a fitful sleep well before dawn. Tattered remnants of troubling dreams lingered in her mind like thin gray clouds after a summer storm. The fire had been stoked and the crackle of flames broke the silence of the house. Shadow dancers performed on the ceiling or sprang from hidden alcoves to spin across the room only to vanish against the walls. A movement caught her eye. Bernadette sat sleeping in the chair near the fireplace a blanket thrown over her. Morgana frowned. Why was the girl not in her room? Was it she who stoked the fire? Questions that would have to wait, she was simply too tired. She closed her eyes and drifted off again.
There were horses, hundreds of horses. They moved in unison across the broad rolling hills of clover and purple flax. Like a flock of birds they wheeled and twisted, always moving away from her. She rode after them on a horse unlike any she had ever ridden. A war horse; a stallion. Black as pitch his muscles thundered under her carrying her against the tide of wind and sky. A thousand horses now all moving as one and always away from her. On they rode, horse and rider in pursuit of the unattainable herd. It wheeled and bolted for a rise of hills that lifted higher than the surrounding lands. Morgana knew what lay beyond that rise; a sheer cliff that dropped a thousand feet to the river below. She cried out and urged the stallion on. But still they failed to narrow the gap. She screamed and reached out as the herd rolled over the rise and disappeared.
Someone was shaking her awake. Bernadette sat on the edge of the bed a look of concern on her face.
“Milady! Milady! You are dreaming again and crying out.”
Morgana opened her eyes. A strange feeling of dread fell across her heart.
“A dream? Only a dream?”
“Yes Milady. This is the third time tonight. I heard you scream earlier and came down to check on you. It was I who stoked the fire. Is there anything I can get you? Some tea perhaps?”
Morgana shook her head no. The dreams clung to her like the smell of a smoky fire. She lay back bewildered at their meaning, particularly the last one. So many horses gone willingly to their deaths. What could it mean?
She slept again. This time there were no dreams.
In his sleep he heard a scream from the other side of the house and stirred in his bed. Sitting up he listened carefully, the way one does when they are unsure if what they heard was real or part of their own dreams. Hearing nothing more he lay down again, but his mind was awake. So much to be done. The seeds had been planted. Now it was a matter of waiting.
In the morning he would go to the West docks and shop for wine to restock his cellar. That would take most of the day considering how long it would take to get through the growing throngs. He lay back running lists through his head. His wife was planning a dinner party at the end of the festival and there were supplies to set in. Additional staff would have to be hired. Perhaps he could use Morgana’s two young snipes. That would save him a pretty penny.
His wife shifted in her sleep. Still a few hours until dawn. Thomas rolled onto his side and closed his eyes. A few more hours sleep would help.