Jakkor looked back at the grand East Gate of Aeronaea just once as he, Mak and Gnost marched towards Goldenvale and away from their home. He did not regret his decision.
The walking was easy so far, as the flat, grassy plains of Aeronisia commanded little exertion to traverse. At the gate, they'd been given shortswords (they'd learnt how to use them as part of their training after passing the Test of Five Elements) and the white Air tunic. They'd stop twice a day for food, and then again an hour after sunset to sleep. They carried one tent between three people – although they weren't yet needed, as the summer air stayed warm enough at night for a comfortable sleep. Sleeping in tents would be too hot.
They'd marched for five days now, and were fast approaching the border to Goldenvale. It was a natural border as the grassy plains suddenly met a sea of golden trees that were unique to Goldenvale. Just as coniferous trees kept their leaves green during winter, Goldenvale trees kept theirs golden during summer.
Right now the day was drawing to a close, the sun making its slow descent towards the eastern horizon – which was covered in the gold of Goldenvale trees. The falling sun emphasized the trees' stark difference to any else of their kind.
Jakkor sat on the eastern edge of the camp among the people closest to the Goldenvale border. Mak sat on his sleeping blanket on his right side and Gnost to Jakkor's left. They watched the setting sun wordlessly.
The group didn't have a Watch. There was no need if the enemy could turn invisible and slice their throats without anybody making a noise. Jakkor was a little uptight about sleeping so close to the edge of the camp, but somebody had to.
It was darkening now. The layers of dusk increased until they were so thick they were opaque, except for where the myriad of pinpricks of light pierced through the blackness.
Jakkor turned onto his side, forgetting the night sky for now – little speech had passed between the companions throughout the entire journey. He sank into sleep soon.
He started to dream. He was in Silversong – it was exactly how he remembered it from when he was a child. Except one thing was wrong.
The trees' leaves were falling. As they met the road, they quickly shrivelled up and turned black, and then dissolved into the air, almost as if an imaginary fire had consumed them. As Jakkor looked around, the leaves had begun to fall faster. Now there was a torrent of leaves, until it was a golden blizzard, unlike anything he had ever seen. He felt the leaves whipping his face as they whistled past. Surely there weren't enough trees to account for this many fallen leaves? Then, simultaneously, they all turned into black dust and floated away on the wind. Silversong once again looked like his memories, and Jakkor looked around and then down at himself.
His eyes widened in horror as he noticed a black hand mark on his right wrist, as if someone had been gripping him with hands made of blackness. He recoiled, wishing he was away, out of the dream, back in his bed.