I HAD NEVER BEEN ONE TO DREAM. This irked me much in my youth because dreams were rich with portents and guideposts for one’s life. I sorely envied those who dreamed, even though Arne always said it was for the best, that I was far too susceptible to being swayed by superstitions as it was.
At any rate, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was the dreamless kind and would always remain so, until that night in late spring when I had the dream about Rose.
I woke up drenched with sweat, clutching Arne’s arm so hard that he had marks on his forearm for days afterward.
“Eugenia!” he was saying, half in pain and half in concern. He told me later that my eyes had been crazed, wide with terror.
“Arne,” I gasped, barely able to breathe.
“What was it, my dear? A nightmare?” Arne asked, reaching out his arms to pull me to him, to comfort me, but I jerked back, holding him away with a hand on his chest.
“It was horrible. Horrible,” I moaned, and began to shake.
“Tell me,” Arne said.
“It was Rose,” I cried. “I dreamed . . . Oh, Arne!” And with that, I began to sob.
He held me and kept me close until the tears eased and I could breathe again.
Rose was the youngest of our seven children, and she was always the one who had given me the most anguish over the years. Indeed, little more than three years earlier, we had come close to losing her forever when she set out on her quest to find Charles after he had been taken by the Troll Queen.
“’Twas only a dream,” Arne said softly, trying to comfort me. But all I could do was shake my head in despair.
He led me into the kitchen and made me a cup of chamomile tea. While it cooled, I tried to sort myself out. Part of me did not want to tell Arne the dream. I worried that giving it voice might somehow make it come true.
Arne tried his best to reassure me, pointing out that the night before I had eaten rather more onions than usual with the roasted beef, which wasn’t a bit true.
Finally he said, “Tell me the dream, Eugenia.” And I did. I could not keep it bottled up inside me any longer.
“The dream began,” I said, “with Rose wandering alone through a forest. And I was there too, following behind, but she could not see me. As Rose wended her way through the trees, she came upon an overlarge gray raven perched on a low-hanging branch. Instead of giving it a wide berth, as I would have had her do, Rose made straight for it. And the raven swooped toward her. She froze in place, and as the bird hurtled at her, cawing loudly, Rose suddenly faded to a dull gray color, and I realized with horror that she had turned to ash.”
“Ash?” Arne said, making sure he had heard me correctly.
“Yes, ash,” I said, “and then the bird flew up into the sky, its powerful wings beating the air, which caused the ash-Rose to fly up as well. But all at once, she was no longer recognizable as a person, was instead a swirling, spiraling pattern of gray. Abruptly the bird disappeared and the air was still. The ashes dispersed and separated and fell softly to the ground, blanketing the forest floor, as if with a dusting of gray snow.”
Arne was staring at me, his mouth slightly open.
“Something terrible is going to happen to Rose,” I cried out, my voice shrill.
We had not seen Rose and Charles for more than a year, but they were due to visit us in two weeks’ time. Rose was coming with her bairn from their home near La Rochelle in Fransk, while Charles was returning from a recent stay in Stockholm, Sverige, where he had been commissioned by King Gustav himself to play his flauto in the royal orchestra and to share his expertise and refinements on the orchestra’s wind instruments.
Arne shut his mouth and sat up straighter. “Nonsense,” he said briskly. “’Twas only the onions you ate.”
“But Arne—” I cried.
“There are no ravens on ships,” he said. “You’ll see, Eugenia. Rose and her bairn will be with us soon, safe and sound.”
I prayed that he was right.