The world swept by in a slow thunder of hooves: a storm passing low over sun-baked plains, everything flattened in its wake. The smells of crushed grass, of dry earth, of damp horse rose in her nostrils; the glitter of sunlight on armor flashed like lightning around the edges of her vision. Honor, glory, and desire for vengeance stiffened the spines of those around her; she had once felt as they did, but grief and long, hopeless, dreary duty had stolen it from her. Only her determination kept her going now, arm clasped around her small cloak-clad companion, eyes fixed on the golden flow of her brother's hair from beneath his helm.
Despair weighed heavily at her heart; she knew she'd disobeyed the orders of her King and abandoned their people, but what else could she have done? She was a shield-maiden, born to the saddle and the sword, as courageous and capable as any man; she could not continue to sit still, caged in the trappings of her rank while all those she loved rode off to certain death without her. It would be the ending of her, as swift as any orcish sword; it would drive her mad to wait, knowing that if the war be lost, she and all the remnants of her people would be swept under the flood of Sauron's advance, and if by some miracle it be won, she would be doomed to a marriage of alliance despite the barrenness of her heart.
She'd lost Boromir, after barely beginning to get to know him; Aragorn, who had appeared with the news and caught her stricken heart with his beauty and kindness, had never been hers to begin with, promised long ago to an Elvish maid nearly as old as the kingdom he hoped to reclaim. What other man could ever hope to banish such specters from her heart? And if such a man did exist, would he permit her to be what she was, or shut her up in a tower to wither like a wildflower displayed in a vase?
She blinked back a tear as it crept down her cheek, and rode onward.
Buffy woke with a gasp, clasping a hand over her mouth to keep from sobbing aloud. She'd dreamed of other Slayers' lives more than once since her own Calling, but rarely were any of the dreams this clear, or anything more than an obvious warning. This one seemed much more than that; it was like a slice of the woman's life, a chunk of memory dropped wholesale in Buffy's mind. She could almost feel the warm leather of the saddle against her legs even now, and the weight of the helm hiding her long golden hair as she followed her brother and uncle secretly to war.
She had never really paid that much attention to her first Watcher's claims of reincarnation, but every so often something like this would crop up, something that really made her wonder. In the rider's despair over her two lost loves, she felt the echoes of the souled vampires that had held her heart; in the other woman's fear of being caged, she read the reverse of her own desire to be normal, a desire that had backfired so badly on her over the years.
What would Giles say, she wondered, if she asked him what the dream meant? Would he tell her it was normal, and that he-- like Merrick-- had also kept watch over a series of recycling Slayers as the centuries rolled by? Was it something in the mysterious Slayer's Handbook that he'd never thought it necessary to give her?
In another dozen years or so, would Kendra be back? Or Amanda? Or Chao Ahn? Was that why there were only just so many Potentials before, and Slayers now?
Would he be able to tell her what had happened to Éowyn? Did she even want to know?
Buffy wiped at the wetness on her cheeks, then snapped on her bedside lamp and reached for the dream journal she kept in her endtable. You never knew when one would turn out to be prophetic-- or when it was something that she shouldn't forget.