Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
- Friederich Nietzsche
She lay screaming. And crying. Screaming. She seemed small, pale and vulnerable in the big bed wearing a white night gown with her golden hair streaming down her shoulders and chest. Tears and sweat trickled down her forehead and cheeks. She could not stop screaming and she could not wake up. She could not see. The birds – they were everywhere. Their beaks picking her gray eyes from her lifeless body. But she could feel everything. She was paralysed and the world was distorted and dancing before her and then she could see no longer. Until a new image appeared through half-open eyes and dizziness. The light came from another place, through water. So… so dark. It was cold and damp. And a taste, something filled her mouth – dirt – dust. She could feel the enormous pressure surround her body, submerged in earth. Something heavy on her chest. No, she could see, but it was black and shiny – the raven. It blinked and the world changed. She was at the beginning and the dead girl hung from the tree and croaked with joy, “there is no law here”. And she dropped with that horrible sound of her neck snapping like a dried twig under one’s feet. But her dead black eyes still stared – filled with condemnation and malice. She felt how she was sucked into this abyss and her white face disappeared in anguish and blackness, but still she screamed… She was lost, free-falling in nothingness, disappearing. Then something clasped her shoulders and heaved her upwards. Soft feathers caressed her face and with each stroke the fear disappeared. She could breathe again and with a gasp she let air surge through her lungs, and slowly opened her eyes. A single light in the dark. The face of her maid glowed in the flickering flame of the oil lamp. She narrowed her eyes and made out more silhouettes. Kundal’s huge frame, Daniel’s coldly appraising eyes and Gurul’s bared gleaming teeth. “Are you okay?” she heard Travin’s voice. “It was but a nightmare,” she stammered, trying to control her quivering voice. “I’m sorry I awoke you. Go back to bed. I’m fine.” Nothing happened. They all stood perfectly inanimated for seconds. Finally, Daniel turned around and left. “Come on boy,” Travin called. Gurul growled low and threatingly, then heeded his master’s call. Her maid turned away with the light, paused and looked at Kundal who did not twitch, but simply stared suspiciously into the dark. “Leave Kundal! The Duchess has had a hard time, she needs to rest.” Kundal let his gaze drop to mylady who nodded. “We are here if you need us,” he assured her and left. The maid closed the door behind them and everything was dark and silent again. “I died,” she whispered under her breath, barely aware of the warm tears that moisted her eyes anew. “It was just a nightmare,” he whispered and pressed his lips against her forehead. “Sleep!” She sank into the embrace of her pillows, but when morning’s first golden rays slipped in through the windows, her eyes were still wide open for fear of the reaper in the dark.