The frost-stiffened grass let out a light crunch as Fiona's bare feet stepped lightly off the cold stone bridge. She didn't know how she got here and she certainly wasn't unhappy that she was departing. The horrors that she had lived through in the past two days played in her head like a film reel on an endless loop. She had seen her life flash before her eyes so many times she had lost count, and the physical pain didn't help the emotional struggle.
Blood leaked from a gash on her side, soaking the expensive silk clothes she was wearing, but the clothes meant nothing to her as long as she could get out of this hellish place. Fiona's canine companion, Hewie, nudged the back of her leg, urging her to continue on through the forest. She pushed on, continuing through her sea of dread, step after step hoping that each one was worthwhile.
But before she knew it, she was facing an immense river, about 80 feet wide, with waters darker than ink. If she tried to swim across, the cold would surely take her life before she could drown in the rushing water. There was no way across from where she was at, and she couldn't see very far in either direction because the thick mass of trees surrounding her. She turned to head upstream and called Hewie to her side, and together they began to walk.
As they walked, the sky began to cloud as twilight set in and their shadows gradually got longer and more distorted. Fiona paused and removed her hand from her wound to find that her side was finally done bleeding. As she stood there examining her wound, rain began to fall, and gradually it grew harder. Lightning illuminated the sky and a clap of thunder rang out as Fiona and Hewie continued to search for a way across. In the distance Fiona could make out something arching over the river, and she continued towards it through the downpour.
At her dismay, it was only a fallen tree with its bottom splintered and glowing with the remains of unextinguished embers. Obviously the base of the tree had been struck by lightning, and it had fallen across the river and just barely connected with the adjacent banks.
"C'mon, boy!" Fiona called to Hewie, and he jumped up on the fallen tree to guide her across. Fiona questioned whether she should have waited until it stopped raining, because the log was even slicker than she had imagined. As she slowly crawled across, guided by Hewie, she noticed the water level of the river was starting to rise, and if she didn't get across soon then she would be swept away into the river. Her pulse quickened and she edged her face with a look of concentration as she pushed onward. As she neared a fourth of the way across, the water began to skim the bottom of tree trunk.
Pieces of bark slipped away into the current and bobbed under the water then disappeared. Fiona's legs began to slip on slick wood as she quickly crawled onward, and she finally reached the halfway point of the tree, which meant that she had half of a chance to live.
And then the trunk snapped clean in half, just about ten feet behind her, and the entire tree shifted on the bank. Luckily the half she was currently fighting to maintain her grip on slid diagonally downriver and its other end was weighted down by sand on the banks. The other half of the tree was swallowed up by the deadly river, and it didn't even bob up to the surface.
Fiona was halfway submerged in the water, adrenaline being the only thing that kept her holding onto the log. She struggled to get out before it was too late, and Hewie also seemed to know the danger she was in, because he was struggling to keep Fiona's sleeve in his mouth. Both of them fought the current with the last of their strength and little by little Fiona was able to surface on the log. Her teeth chattered as she struggled to surmount the temperature and move on.
Fiona pulled herself onto the banks and staggered disorientedly to the edge of a clearing, where she dropped onto the ground, shivering uncontrollably. Hewie nudged her face and gently pushed her forward, and Fiona realized he was right, they needed to move on or they could face impending doom at pneumonia. Fiona nodded at him and struggled to her feet, "Let's go Hewie" and they walked further into the forest of leafless, colorless trees.
Fiona walked on and on and she continued into the enveloping darkness where her best chance was to hope that she didn't bump into anything, but she did eventually bump into something, and it was only something she could describe from her state as "The Wall of Reality".
A strange violet light emanated from a distance into the wall and for a minute Fiona believed that the impenetrable barrier would hold her away from the light that she thought of as a portal. But a portal to where, exactly? She could only hope a portal to better times.
She struggled as she shoved her arm into the thick magic substance between her and her departure from this hell. Hewie barked at the light, but this time it wasn't a warning bark, it was a hopeful bark, he was ready to leave as well. Fiona was a finger-length away from the light, her entire arm submerged in the alchemic material, and with one final push she shoved her entire body into the wall and grasped hold of the portal…..
Time stood still, everything that had ever happened was viewed upon by Fiona, the only one who was willing to break psychological bonds in order to acquire what she and Hewie had been looking for this whole time: salvation. She saw all that had happened during her time at Belli castle, and she saw that there was someone else in on this entire situation, someone that Fiona had never encountered, but she knew they were on her side and she watched how he had secretly helped her from the moment this victim of Riccardo's tyranny ever even awoke in Belli castle.