"Get away! Stay away from me - No!"
Fina sat straight up in bed, gasping for breath. The familiar smells and sounds of her room greeted her at once, offering some small degree of comfort, but her heart still pounded in her chest. It felt like a frightened little creature, struggling to escape...
Slowly she settled back into her bed, forcing herself to breathe slowly and deeply in an attempt to calm herself. But no matter how hard she tried, the images kept creeping back before her eyes. She saw a green giant, strange and unnaturally shaped, stomping across endless plains as it pursued her. She saw her ship sputter and falter, saw it finally draw to a stop as the monsters came close, and with horror she saw one massive fist raised above its head as if to strike -
Shuddering, she sat up and swung her feet onto the chilly floor. No, she couldn't sleep. She'd learned about the fall of Rixis that day - they'd shown her images of Grendel's rampage through the jungle. She hadn't been able to concentrate on anything else after that...
She hoped that Ramirez was still awake; she desperately needed someone to talk to. It was late, but sometimes he would stay up for hours past bedtime, working on his model ships or reading one of his old Arcadian maps. She stood up, shivering - the room was no colder than usual, but she was still afraid - and made her way over to the console. "Ramirez," she murmured as she touched the controls with shaking fingers, calling his room. "Please answer me..."
For a distressingly long time nothing happened - perhaps he had gone to bed early, she thought. He had been training with his sword today and the exercises took a lot out of him. She would have to deal with her nightmares herself if he had -
Then the console lit up, and the familiar face of her best friend appeared. "Fina?" he asked, looking suddenly concerned. "Is something wrong?"
Moons, but she felt foolish. "Ramirez, I... um, I had a nightmare," she said awkwardly. "Can... can you come to my room for a little while?"
"Of course. I'll be right there." He smiled at her reassuringly before the console went dark again.
Fina smiled a little bit as she walked back to her bed and sat down, pulling up her blanket and wrapping it around her shoulders. She was so glad... the only others in the Shrine were the Elders, and she didn't think she wanted to disturb them for something like this. It seemed so silly to bother them over a nightmare... at least she knew that Ramirez didn't really mind. They'd played together at night before, sneaking to each other's rooms to read books or just to talk, before the Elders had stopped them; they had stayed up all night once or twice too often.
Ramirez came quickly as he'd promised, his fencing coat pulled hastily over his nightclothes. The door opened quietly for him. "Fina," he said, looking at her from across the room - and she must have looked pathetic, she thought, wrapped in a blanket and hiding like a little girl. "Are you all right?"
She nodded, trying to look brave. "I'm ok. I'm just... a little scared."
"Well, I'm here now. I won't let anything happen to you." He walked over to her and sat down on the bed next to her, rubbing her back comfortingly. "What happened?"
"Well..." she swallowed hard, remembering the images of the giant that had chased her in her dreams. "I... I learned about Rixis today... and now whenever I sleep... I see the Gigas chasing me..."
He was silent for so long that she started to worry. Then he shook his head. "What were the Elders thinking?" he asked so softly that she thought he was speaking to himself. "They know how terrifying those tales are. Fina, there's nothing to be ashamed of - I had nightmares the first time I learned about the Gigas too."
"You?" She looked up at him in open surprise. "But you're not afraid of anything!"
He laughed a bit. "I fear more than you'd imagine, Fina," he said wryly. "They taught me about... about the razing of the Blue Civilization first. For days I could not sleep without the Red Gigas burning in my dreams." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "It was only the thought that we seek to prevent such things from happening ever again through our training that allowed me to sleep peacefully. If we do not learn about the Gigas, how can we hope to prevent their use in the future?"
"I... I don't know." She shook her head. "I mean, they've taught you to fight, but they haven't taught me. I... I don't know if I'll ever be able to do anything to stop them."
"You'll learn. You just aren't ready to fight yet." He smiled and patted her shoulder. "Try not to worry - you need your sleep, and I'll be here with you."
"Thank you," she said, managing to smile. "Could you... could you stay with me until I fall asleep?"
Ramirez stood beside Fina's bed as she snuggled back down between the sheets, and covered her gently with her blanket. He kneeled down next to her as she slept, smiling gently as he stroked her hair. Fina smiled back at him - she felt so safe at that moment that even if the Gigas were to come for her, she wouldn't be afraid. "Good night, Ramirez..."
"Good night, Fina."
She was quickly asleep, and the nightmare did not come again.
Fina sat up in her bed, her heart pounding. There was a horrible moment of disorientation - this was not her room on the Shrine, the heat and the smells and the sounds were all wrong - before she relaxed and allowed herself to remember. This wasn't the Shrine, this was... where were they? Nasrad, that was it - the inn in Nasrad.
Horrible images still played out in her mind. She was in the tiny lifeboat with Aika, falling down into Deep Sky after an explosion had knocked them into a tailspin. She could see Drachma on the Little Jack, being carried off into oblivion by the gigantic arcwhale. And she saw Vyse, reaching out for them as he screamed, just before another explosion struck his ship and tossed him away like a toy...
She tried to slow her breathing, but it didn't work. She was terrified, and the dream was far too real to push aside. She remembered dreaming when she'd learned about the destruction of the Old World, strange things about being chased by a Gigas or pulverized by the Rains of Destruction - but she had been safe in the Great Silver Shrine then, and she had known that nothing like that would happen to her there. But now Drachma and Vyse really were gone, and she and Aika were stranded. She was so scared that she'd never see either of them again....
Back when she'd been in the Shrine, Ramirez had been there to comfort her. Now Ramirez was the one who had fired on her and on Vyse, and had almost destroyed them. That hurt more than anything else, not having her most trusted friend anymore...
She sighed and laid back down, squeezing her eyes shut. Somehow she was cold, despite the heat that constantly radiated from the Red Moon, and she couldn't figure out what she could do about it -
"Fina? You okay?"
Fina opened her eyes quickly. "Aika? Is that you?" she called, momentarily confused. Fina turned her head to see Aika standing near her bed, still wearing those green pajamas she'd brought the first night they'd arrived.
"Yeah, it's me," Aika finally answered. She walked next to the bed and stopped. Her voice was thick and soft, dampened by the sleep. "I thought I heard you screaming. Is something wrong?"
"I..." Fina sat up in her bed. "I had a nightmare," she finally admitted.
"Oh, man... yeah, I figured it was something like that. Do you want to talk about it?"
Fina nodded. "If... if it's all right," she said, turning so that her feet were against the carpeted floor. It was much softer and warmer than the Shrine had been... "I didn't want to wake you up."
"Oh, forget it." Aika laughed it off as she sat down next to Fina. "Air Pirates don't get to sleep through the night much when they're on ships, you know? You get used to it after a while." Her voice turned serious quickly. "So what's wrong?"
"Aika..." Fina shook her head. "I... I dreamed about Drachma and Vyse. When they were... lost." She faltered; she was determined not to let herself think that they were dead, but it was hard. When a lifeboat was shot down into Deep Sky, or a tiny ship was being dragged along by a huge arcwhale... Fina might not know much about Arcadia, but even she could see that neither of them had much chance. "I can't help but worry about them... I wish that I could be as brave as you are. You don't seem to have nightmares..."
Aika wrapped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her close. "That's not true. If you could've seen me after my parents died... I mean, I had nightmares almost every night for weeks." Her voice grew distant. "They were out raiding when Black Pirates attacked the Albatross. They died defending the ship... I was really upset, for a while. If Vyse and his family hadn't taken care of me, I don't know what might've happened." She turned to Fina and smiled at her, barely visible in the dim red light of the moon through the window. "I used to think I was a real coward. I mean, I was scared all the time."
"Really?" Fina asked, startled. "But you're so brave..."
"Yeah, but being brave isn't about never being scared. It's just about not letting fear control you." She smiled again. "I know I might be wrong, but I have to keep believing that Vyse and Captain Drachma are both alive out there somewhere. And as soon as we can get ourselves a ship, we'll go searching for them."
Fina nodded. It was easier to stay optimistic when Aika was around... being with her made Fina feel stronger, more resolved. "Aika... thank you."
"Don't mention it. We can't let you lose hope, right?" Aika kissed her on the forehead.
Fina felt herself blush. "Will you stay with me for a little while?" she asked quickly before she could change her mind.
"Hey, I was just about to ask you if you wanted me to."
Aika stood up and pulled the sheets back so that Fina could crawl beneath them. Fina laid down carefully, and was about to turn onto her side so that she could see Aika's face in the dark when she felt the bed shifting. Aika was soon snuggled up behind her, one arm wrapped around her waist and pulling her close. Fina couldn't help but stiffen slightly in surprise.
"Um, is this ok?" Aika asked, feeling the slight change in Fina's stance. "I mean, you're not uncomfortable, are you?"
Fina was quiet for a moment, thinking. Truth was, she wasn't uncomfortable, not in the least. In fact she was more comfortable than she'd been in a long time. "No," she said. "I... I like it here."
"Good. Mom always told me that hugs keep nightmares away." She felt Aika laughing behind her. "Just wake me up if I start bothering you, ok? I'm told that I, um, toss and turn a lot. And I snore sometimes."
"I don't think that'll happen." Fina smiled. She'd been so worried about not having anyone to talk to... now she felt a bit silly, but happy. She turned back to look over her shoulder at her friend. "Good night, Aika."
Aika kissed her on the cheek and snuggled in close. "Good night."
Fina was quickly asleep, and as she dozed off she knew that the nightmares would stay away for the rest of the night.