Merrie woke from her nightmares in blissful darkness. There wasn't even a hint of light against her skin, just the icy balm of shadows covering every centimeter of her skin. It bore down on her with steady weight, as if the world had been buried on top of her.

She moaned and worked her lips. The taste of the regeneration magic was in the back of her throat, one of the more powerful spells that Rakin had embedded into it to bring her back to life if she was ever killed.

Trembling reached up for her throat. The smooth end of wrist stopped along a deep scar on her neck. The wound was deep, she could feel scar tissue and dried blood. When she pressed, there was a deep agony that transmitted clear to the inside of her throat.

With a soft whimper that came out as a wheeze, she brought her other wrist up to explore the cut from one side of her neck to the other. To her surprise, it continued on both sides of her neck and clear to the back. A prickle of pain along her spine told her everything she needed to know: Trien had cut off her head.

She gasped, she remembered why he had cut her throat. She yanked her wrist lower, patting her collar bone and shoulders. When she didn't feel the ever-present metal ring, her whimper grew into a high-pitched whine.

Frantic, she felt around the deep gash around her neck and up to her chin and down to her shoulders trying to find it. Part of her mind spun furiously, there was no way he could have taken her collar. More than one person said that even gods couldn't take it away from her.

Her body shook and she realized she was sobbing. Her body shook as she tried to pull herself to her wrists and knees. Something heavy rolled off her body and a fresh scent of garbage flooded across her nostrils.

She frowned as she realized she had been buried in the garage. It was already piled over her body, the weight was heavy against her form but not crushing. The layers of filth also protected her from the light as the regeneration magic brought her back to life.

It was sheer luck that Trien had dumped her corpse. It could have also been Parn but Merrie doubted the goddess was able the affect the world in that manner.

That didn't stop her from sending a quick prayer to her goddess.

Unsure if she would suffocate, Merrie set about crawling up through the muck. The garbage thumped against her body. Rotted food scraped across the deep wounds in her throat. The burning pushed her to keep crawling, digging her way up pass rotted vegetables, rat corpses, and charred hunks of spoiled meat.

She was afraid of breaching the surface of garbage and coming out into the sun but she had to escape. There would be warning before she burst into flames. That didn't help the tension in the back of her neck, right where his blade had sliced off her head and, no doubt, fucked the resulting hole.

Fear pushed her forward as she dug for freedom. Her short limbs were almost useless and she could feel every scrape along her body. She kept going, crawling and passing as the tears ran down her cheeks and her body was smeared with filth.

Finally, fresh air and more darkness. Not even the moon lit up the sky. The only indication that she wasn't buried was the lack of weight along her naked body. Something rotten and wet dripped down her shoulder.

She crawled up on top of the garbage and took a deep breath of the relatively fresh air. Freedom felt good along her skin as did the ability to move her limbs freely.

Blinking, she peered around. Without a moon, she couldn't see anything but the village lights in the distance. Underneath her, she could already feel the garbage shifting with her movements. She could be on top of a pile or in a valley, either would be fatal if she crawled in the wrong direction.

Shaking her head, she toyed with the idea of just crawling without magic. Images of knife blades and exposed metal rose up with the fear of impaling her eye or tearing off her breast. After a moment, she knew she had to find shelter before sunrise and the only way was to use magic.

After a moment of guilt, she let the darkness flood through her and let her vision sharp.

The night peeled back to reveal she was in a ruined building of some sort. The walls was destroyed and crumbling. Rusted bars rose up from inside the bricks. Around her, she could see the outlines of cells marked out by quills of rusted metal.

She was in a former prison cell.

Breathing deeply, she crawled around the sharp metal that could have easily torn into her side or even pierced her body. She was thankful she used her magic. It took her a few minutes of unsteadily crawling until she reached the edge and looked out.

It was the prison, or what used to be one. Now there were only gutted corpses of buildings with metal sticking out in all directions. A stone gallows had been set up in the middle of a quad. Next to it was a pile of skeletons and bodies. Even from a distance, she could see the glint of metal among the bones; she had a sinking feeling it was prison guards that had been executed.

There were ghostly lights moving between the buildings. They slid out of the corner of her eye before appearing meters away. She saw the image of rotted bodies and torn-open throats before she looked away: ghosts. Horrible things had happened at the prison, things that keep the dead restless and the air fouled with despair.

On the far side of the gallows, one of the buildings shone with light. Even from a distance, she could see spears of the magical brilliance spearing out in all directions. None of the spectral bodies went near it but neither could she.

The light burned. Turning away from it, she focused on the haze in the distance. She had to get back before sunrise. There, she could hide in Horge's place or find some place from the light. However, even with the ability to see in magic, whatever creatures prowled the former prison could attack. She wasn't sure if they could affect her but she didn't want to find out.

She summoned the powers and let her body melt into shadows. She couldn't step forward but she could travel far faster as nothing more than a whisper on the ground. With the icy comfort of magic flowing through her veins, she flowed down the wall and toward civilization.