Aleja could not remember how she came to be in this place. The forest was dark, unfamiliar. Pale white trees, their limbless trunks towering like giant wooden spikes, pierced the starless night sky.
Aleja felt afraid. More than ever in her life.
The feeling crept into her slowly, like a chill that cuts through the skin and then buries itself deep into the bones. Aleja walked along a path with stumbling, uncertain steps.
The twigs under her feet looked like burned bones. Blots of red colored the leaves on the ground.
A strange, rumbling sound filled the forest. At first the sound was chaotic. But as Aleja walked deeper into the forest she detected a pulsing rhythm in it. The low rumble was joined by a halting, high pitched screech tearing through the forest like a knife ripping through flesh.
Aleja began to run, hands over her ears, hoping to somehow outrun the sound. The ground glowed in the distance. She ran towards the glow and came upon a canyon filled with light. She looked down into it, and saw the Syncronia. Instead of a mosaic of the Queen there was an enormous, bright mirror pulsing a strange, liquid light. The skin-masks were on the Syncronia stage, standing behind a child covered with a veil. As they held up the knife they would use to kill the child, the mirror’s light intensified and reflected off the ghostly skin of the audience. Only one face in the crowd looked any different from the others. It was a man, looking up at the stage with tear-filled eyes.
Aleja watched helplessly as the child was killed, and covered her ears at the sound of her father’s scream. The light from the mosaic went out, and the forest again filled with a terrifying noise. The forest was now filled with the ruins of an ancient city, one that looked like the decaying corpse of Mir. The buildings were torn apart by towering trees, the streets blocked by thorn bushes, and streets littered with rot and ash.
Aleja could not escape the forest, and got lost in the maze of trees and crumbling stone. The faster she tried to run, the slower her legs moved. She collapsed on a decrepit, crumbling wall, and felt a chill flow like a wave over her skin.
She was not alone.
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