In celebration of Halloween, I’m re-posting an excerpt from The Dead of Winter. This is probably my favorite sequence in the entire book. I call it “Emlyn Ran.” It comes from a ways into the story, so try to tell your brain not to worry about context or details you might not understand. All “realms” [think of realms as realities] border one another — and young Emlyn learns that she can traverse them. However, at this point in the story she doesn’t fully comprehend that. I think it is one of my best sequences. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Emlyn ran. She panted for breath, but she dared not slow her pace. She wasn’t sure why she ran, but she knew she must. One minute she had been holding an ancient skull where she had fallen into a cave, and the next she was in a strange building. The half-light and washed out colors told her she was in the Realm of the Dead.
The sense of him was overwhelming. She shuddered. She felt a horrid taint everywhere she turned. It even seemed to coat her lungs as she breathed. His name filled her mind and she could not escape it — Arawn. Emlyn had not even known the name until the night before, but now it was as if she knew him and knew him well. She could feel the blackness of his soul. Arawn. Everywhere she felt his presence, and she could not find the way out. Worse, she felt that now he knew her as well! Arawn.
She didn’t know how long she ran down one corridor after another, or if she had been running in circles. Her side cramped. The building seemed to be a palace, though it was empty. She rounded a corner in the corridor, not knowing where it might lead. She couldn’t see very far in the half-light of the Realm of the Dead. However, something red stood out in contrast to the washed out dimness. It was a window with heavy red velvet draperies. Just beyond it another hallway crossed the one down which she ran.
She stopped, her breathing ragged. Emlyn felt panic rise as she tried to decide which way to go; right, left, or straight ahead? She also wanted to look out that window in hope that it would show more about where she was. But she was terrified of what might be outside it, looking back at her. However, she knew that in past dreams, which had taken her to the Realm of the Dead, she had not been able to see anything beyond the windows; only gray darkness.
Her trembling hand reached for the red drapes. She hesitated. Her ears strained for any sound of pursuit as she looked all around. All she could hear was her pounding heart. Cautiously she moved the drape just a bit. The chink in the curtains revealed only the accustomed grayness. Her hand shook harder as she pulled the fabric farther aside.
The laughing countenance of Arawn filled the window. She screamed. Emlyn didn’t know how she knew it was Arawn — she’d never heard anyone describe how he looked, but she knew it to the depths of her soul. He tossed his straight black shoulder-length hair. Blood was smeared across his mouth. He wiped it away. His long hard fingernails had blood under them. He smiled at Emlyn in a dreadful insinuating way.
She ran ahead where the corridors intersected. If she turned left it would seem to take her closer to Arawn, though she suspected it was possible for him to be anywhere he chose in this realm. She knew he was toying with her. The way ahead ended at a staircase. She took a few steps closer to it, but as she looked up, she realized that the stairs went nowhere. They stopped at a blank wall.
It seemed like she heard distant thunder, but it was likely the pounding of her heart. She turned to the right and would have gone that way, but she heard a soft yip. Emlyn turned back and looked up the staircase to find the great white wolf standing there. She was certain it was the same huge wolf she had seen on her way to visit Osabide on that strange morning just before her journey began.
Stumbling backward, she turned again to her right, now running away from both Arawn and the wolf. She skidded to a stop; stumbled and fell down to one knee. The wolf stood before her; head down and growling ominously. She gazed into its blue, blue eyes. It bounded past her to the staircase, and looked from the stairs and back again to Emlyn.
She heard a voice, but she wasn’t sure whether it came from within her mind or from somewhere in the corridor. “Hurry! Winter is coming,” the voice insisted.
He ran up the stairs and disappeared right through the wall where the stairs abruptly ended. Emlyn braced herself. She closed her eyes and ran toward the top of the stairs, following the wolf.
She fell forward. She was dizzy and unable to open her eyes. Beneath her face and hands she felt damp grass. After a moment Emlyn opened her eyes to see dew sparkle on green blades of grass. Sunlight was warm on her shoulders. She was back in the Realm of the Living.