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lucid dream

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Jester has never been without her friend but here she is truly and completely alone, and it is terrifying. The trouble is, in some ways, Jester doesn't know where here is, exactly. How did she get here, and why is she here, and why is she alone? 

She can speak, feels her throat buzzing with the effort of projecting her voice, but no sound comes to her ears. She tries again, then tries to scream, and feels her throat burn like she's hollering at the top of her lungs--

Nothing. Just the cloying, terrible light of this lonely place, that is both in the middle of nowhere and locked away. It's a familiar, if small, back room. She smells the stink of stabled horses nearby and thinks surely she is somewhere with the Nein. Except-- none of them are here. No one is in the room but her. Not even Nott, or Beau. 

So they have abandoned her too. She thinks this and has to sit down on her bed, because the thought that she won't see the others again makes her want to cry until her eyes fall out and then probably die.

For a while, she does cry. 

Her tears hurt in this place, sting her eyes and nose and make her feel her stomach cramping. She tries to do it quietly, though the more time she has to think of why they've left her all alone, the worse it gets. Her chest hurts. Her eyes feel swollen, she can't breathe through her nose. one comes.

No one will come, will they? She's alone, and they're not coming back.

All Jester has left are pictures of them, on her desk and easel, on the wall above her childhood bed. She wipes her eyes and tries to stop sobbing. Nothing helps. She would give anything to have her friends back-- all of them or any of them. That the Traveler is curiously silent is maybe the worst part of all. 

Eventually, the tears and misery gel into a solid mess of exhaustion. Jester is too tired for more. She lays on her side in the bed of her childhood and tells herself to be thankful for what she has. The memories, at least. 

She should feel happy, maybe, being back in Nicodranus, but something is missing. Not just her voice, not just her friends, but something else, something important. Her paintings, she thinks, something is wrong in them.

Jester has drawn the Mighty Nein many times now; most recently was in Hupperdook. She touches the face of Kiri, of Fjord, of Nott. She misses Nott. She misses everyone. But why does the picture look like they are all pointing behind her? 

Ignoring her misgivings, she looks at the next, from Zadash. This, too, is wrong, all wrong, the faces of her friends twisted with fear and horror, pointing behind her as if in warning. Jester glances over her shoulder, heartbeat racing, but there's nothing. She looks back and there are no paintings. There is a book. (She can't read it, but somehow knows that it is a book of the Traveler's thoughts.)

She tries to ask the Traveler to say what he thinks of her, but her voice is a raspy half-whisper, unintelligible. 

She looks around for an exit out into the garden. There are no doors in this room. 

She looks back at the desk. There is no book. 

She looks at her hands, and they're fading, and she screams and screams and screams, crying desperately for her friends, any of them, all of them, but no one seems to hear her. 

When she wakes in the cage in her dirty travel clothes and sees Fjord, unconscious, she has a disconcerting moment of relief. Jester immediately is guilty, for that, but she is not alone. 

At this moment, anything, anything would be better than that.