Braelyn sat nervously on the rug in the center of the study. Pioran had taken each streamer of the rug and placed it on part of her body. The two behind her were draped over her shoulders. The two in front of her placed in her lap, on her knees. One on each side was held in each hand, closed in loose fists at her sides, while the two remaining pointed out and ahead.
“Close your eyes, Braelyn,” came his instruction. “Take a deep breath and empty your mind of thoughts. If you begin to think of something, squeeze your hands and let the the thought pass. I’m going to say a series of words, and I’m sure they will evoke images to your mind. But I want you to force them away.”
Braelyn closed her eyes and nodded her head. She sat there a moment, and then began to breathe deep and slow. She forced all thoughts from her mind, and used Pioran’s technique to rid herself of new thoughts that crept in. But why was he having her do this, she wondered, then squeezed her hand to send the thought away.
“Water,” called Pioran softly.
Images of rain filled her head and she squeezed her hands to make it go away. It lingered, though, and changed to a splashing sound on the floor to her left. She inhaled quickly, then forced herself to breathe again and release the thought.
Reflexively, the young girl inhaled deeply, remembering her mother’s banana muffins, warm out of the oven. Gosh, she missed them. Did she have banana muffins here? She squeezed her hands and the images faded away.
“Boulder,” was the next word.
Damn you! Tears welled up within her and she tried to force the memories away. Mavleen’s legs could be seen from under the giant stone. She gripped the streamers tighter, willing the images away. The pool of crimson turned to rivers as her sister’s lifeblood sought a softer earth to seep into. Shaking, but knowing she had to force the thoughts away, she squeezed the streamers so tightly that her fingernails dug into her hands. She didn’t feel the pain. It couldn’t be as painful as being crushed with the boulder. I wonder if she died right away or if she suffered.
A rune lit up on the rug. Pioran jumped out of his chair and leapt for the rug. On his hands and knees, his face inches from the glowing rune, he watched another light up.
The ground shook beneath them and Braelyn called out. “Mavleen, stop! Come back here!” But her sister turned and glared at her. No! Thundering down the steep hillside she saw it falling and then heard the thud and the crunch of bones. Blood soaked both of her hands as her fingernails pierced the flesh of her palms. The white streamers had turned red with blood, and the other six streamers, in their lust for blood, found their way into her hands as Pioran watched, enthralled. Drinking deeply of her blood, each of the streamers in turn became red and all of the runes had begun to glow. Brighter and brighter they glowed until they had become blinding.
And then they went dim. Finally she had forced the image from her mind. She was soaked with sweat.
Pioran shook his head slowly and said softly “Class dismissed.” He remained on his knees for several moments and did not notice her stand up and leave the room. What had he just seen? He had no explanation for what just happened and knew he had much research to do before they continued. He slowly stood up and composed himself, then left the room himself, locking the door behind him as he went.