Tessa dreamt of the healer again. She had lost one patient and saved another.
In her dreams, she could see through the healer’s eyes. The girl was an apothecary of sorts. She broke down dried herbs with a pestle and mortar, then added warm water to create a paste. Steam rose from the bowl in trails, carrying the scent of lavender. She applied the paste to open wounds. It sizzled against blood.
The healer would listen to instructions, feel out spots on the patient’s skin, then poke with a fine needle. She lined bodies from head to toe with thin spikes. A method that Tessa did not understand, and could not look away from. She was bound to watch the healer’s practices.
Bound to listen to her cry as her patients stopped breathing.
Bound to live through her eyes.
Tessa hated dreaming of her.
- - -
Min dreamt of the dancer again. 'Dancer' was not the right word, but she had no other way to describe it. She danced with mist, holding a sword composed of smoke, her armour made of vapour.
The girl trained in a courtyard, sunlight strong overhead. She wore a purple ribbon tied high on one arm, and a jade bracelet around the wrist on her other. Mist swirled within the bracelet. When she summoned her blade of smoke, the bracelet glowed like a shining emerald. The source of her powers.
The mistweaver would listen to instruction, practice her form, then spar with others. The swords of mist struck one another as if crafted from iron. Weapons Min did not understand, and could not look away from. She watched as the mistweaver fell to her feet, defeated.
She didn’t move fluidly enough.
She needed to move like a dancer.
Min loved dreaming of her.
- - -
Tessa summoned her blade. Her bracelet glowed, mist coalescing into a sword. She gripped the handle. Her fingers sunk into the vapour. Her armour formed, encasing her in a weightless smoke, and she charged. Moonlight glistened above.
This night, she would not lose.
She swung at her brother. He parried, pushing her back, loose trails of mist drifting off in the wind. Tessa swung again, unrelenting. Her side swing didn’t connect. Her brother retaliated, a fierce strike that she attempted to block with her blade—no chance. It broke her weapon in two. She staggered back and fell to the grass.
The remains of her sword carried off in the wind.
“Get up,” her brother said. He released his blade and let it dissipate. “They’ll give your bracelet away if you keep this up. You need to be faster on your feet. Dodge, don’t block—your armour will protect you if you get hit.”
Tessa summoned her blade, then stopped, the glow fading from her wrist.
“Is someone watching us?” she asked.
“Focus, Tessa. We’re alone out here.”
At her chambers, Tessa sat at her desk and dipped a quill in ink.
In her dreams, she could understand the healer’s language.
A fast language, with letters that looked like art. She never remembered the language when she awoke—it became unintelligible out of the dream state.
Yet, if the healer dreamt of her too, then she would understand her tongue.
Tessa wrote one line before going to sleep.
Get out of my head, healer.
- - -
Min read through the mistweaver’s eyes. She could understand the letters, to her surprise, and remembered the words when she awoke. Get out of my head, healer. She couldn’t tell the cause of the dreams. Min tied her hair back with a purple ribbon, then left for the ward. Sunlight beamed above.
This night, she would leave a note too.
She brewed tea for her patients. A hacking cough, a plague, drifted in the wind and infected her people. One patient coughed, unrelenting. He spat blood on a rag. Min washed his mouth out with water, and proceeded with her acupuncture training—no luck. It didn’t help as she had hoped. Min leaned against the wall and sighed.
The violent cough would devastate her town without a cure.
“Keep working,” her instructor said. He handed her a mortar and pestle. “A trained healer does not mourn knowing there are more sick to attend to. You must never let them see you like this. You are their hope—your healing will save them.”
Min ground down the herbs, then stopped, looking at her hands.
“We have to find a cure,” she whispered.
“Work, Min. Remember my words.”
By the day’s end, she sat with her people at the town square, watching a ceremonial dance.
If the mistweaver could see, she could learn.
A fast dance, with string instruments plucking away, drums echoing through the courtyard. Women flowing like water—their dresses twisting around them. Men as agile as the wind, spinning blades through the air, dancing around the sharp weaponry.
She watched every move.
Min found a quill and wrote before she slept.
Remember the dances, mistweaver. I’ll watch them each night. Practice them. Flow as they do, and you shall be unstoppable.
- - -
Tessa practiced at the break of dawn, day after day. She held her blade overhead, her other hand in front of her, mimicking the form of the dancers. Elusive, quick, agile. Fast strikes before dodging to the side. Spinning the blade for momentum—for style, too.
She didn’t have to fight with brute strength like her brother.
She could flow like the healer’s people.
Her sparring partner, another knight in training, lined up across from her. He took one look at her form and laughed. She readied herself. Knights in the courtyard stopped to watch her.
He rushed forward. Tessa dodged to the right, mist drifting off her armour. She didn’t bother to parry his strike, instead letting it cut through air beside her. Her bracelet glowed. She let the mist cover her hand, then struck his chest with an open palm.
He staggered. Tessa stepped forward with a light overhead strike to his helmet of mist. He retaliated with a two-handed blow. Tessa glided to the left. She raised her sword, deflecting the hit, guiding it down her blade, then struck at his neck.
“I yield,” he said, her blade cutting through his armour.
By nightfall, she picked up her quill and wrote.
The cough your people are dealing with passed through my town a few years ago. Try dried snakeskin ground with garlic cloves, into a warm broth, twice a day. Sorry it took me so long—I had to check twice.
I’ll warn you now, it tastes horrid.
- - -
Min put together the cure at first light, batch after batch. She emptied cabinets, heated buckets of water, and followed the mistweaver’s instructions. Snakeskin, garlic cloves, warm broth. Her instructor agreed with the mixture. Pots boiled with the ingredients—it smelled as awful as it would taste.
She no longer had to worry about the plague.
She could save her people thanks to the mistweaver.
When Min returned home, she picked up her quill and wrote thank you; the coughing ceased-. She stopped mid-sentence. Her mind wandered. In every dream, she could recognize the flora and fauna. Could she thank her in person?
She rushed to the market. Would Tessa’s people accept her at the gates, or cast her out? She conversed with a mapmaker, pinpointing the mistweaver’s location as a growing town known as Silverkeep out to the south. A four-hour ride. On her off day, she rented a horse and rode.
Min dismounted her horse outside the gates of Silverkeep. She walked through the streets, following buildings she’d remember seeing in the dreams. In the courtyards, she approached a girl who practiced with one of the jade bracelets, creating a cloak of mist, and Min tapped her on the shoulder.
“Do I know you?” the girl asked, turning around.
“I…” Min didn’t know the language outside of dreams. She smiled, but Tessa only looked confused. She was shorter than Min imagined, with a different haircut. How did Tessa not recognize her? Had the mistweaver not lived through her eyes and heard her language?
Min spoke and Tessa cocked her head.
It struck her.
This Tessa was years younger than the one she knew.
Min held back tears, pulling the purple ribbon from her hair, letting it flow down around her. She handed the ribbon to Tessa and bowed. It’d be a good luck charm she would eventually wear.
She left the mistweaver’s town.
- - -
Tessa didn’t dream of the healer for two nights.
The last dream was Min riding south. She never arrived to see her. Tessa had waited at the gates, mistweaving a cloak to keep herself warm, and only a few market carts had passed by. At dawn, she rented a horse. Tessa followed the trail north, checking the map at each turn. Had the healer taken a wrong path, returning home before dark? Or had bandits gotten to her? Perhaps her horse had tripped and broken a leg?
Either or, she’d go to the healer's town and thank her herself.
When she arrived at noon, she stopped at a wooden fence blocking off the area. Tessa dismounted and walked to the edge. One road sign read ‘Do not cross’, while another wrote out the words, ‘Evacuate the surrounding area by nightfall.”
She leaned on the fence.
The sun gleamed down on a town in ruins.
Buildings with curved roofs, split and broken, made up for the view. An obsidian black liquid dripped off the sides of homes, pooling on the roads—a reflective puddle that fiends would rise from at dusk. Farms were reduced to infested spawning grounds. A river of tar snaked through.
A town consumed by fiends. They never had mistweavers to repel them.
Tessa returned to her horse. Her memory blurred. Why did she come here? A sense of loss deeper than a town she never knew pulsed within, yet she couldn’t pinpoint it. Who did she come here for?
Who did she…
She returned home.
By nightfall, when she couldn’t sleep, she lit a lamp and sat with a history book. Page after page told her the town she'd visited, Yàowù, had fallen four years ago, tomorrow. A thousand lives lost. A culture erased.
Tessa read until the sun rose, then slept, exhausted, at her desk.
She dreamt of destruction. Of alarm bells ringing, of warriors fighting, their weapons useless. Arrows passed right through the fiend’s shadow-like bodies, ineffective. Women cried with children clutched in their arms. Boys took up pitchforks. Pools of black ink consumed animals and drowned gardens. The shouting hurt her ears.
Her dream switched to an image of a statue. A four-armed, meditating man, staring at her, tears running from his eyes. He spoke the word, tonight, as screams echoed through the town.
No fiend dared to approach the statue.
Tessa awoke in a cold sweat. Evening crickets chirped.
The sun glowed orange outside her window. She tightened the purple ribbon around her shoulder, grabbed her bracelet, and dashed down the hall.
Her bracelet glowed as she concealed herself in a cloak of vapour. She formed a dagger of mist and cut locks off the rooms of the other mistweavers. Searching through their desks, belongings, cabinets and chests, Tessa stole a handful of jade bracelets. They’d be replaced.
Caught on the road by bandits, and she would hand them a fortune. Caught by her people? Banished from the knights. Exiled by her family. All for following a fever dream, and a sense of loss.
She was forgetting something or someone, and it pained her.
Tessa mounted a horse, the bracelets clinking against one another in her pack, and sped north.
- - -
Min slept. She dreamed of a horse pounding against a trail and found herself once again living through the mistweaver's eyes. Tessa. How did she forget such a beautiful name? How did she forget her?
Tessa, wearing a cloak of vapour, reined the horse to the right. She turned onto a forest path—low-hanging branches snapping against her. Wind whipped her hair, passing through her, leaving a trail of mist behind. Trinkets clinked together in the pack slung across her shoulder.
The sun set overhead. Beads of sweat dripped down her forehead.
Why was she going so fast? Min thought.
As stars breathed life into the night sky, Tessa reached a long wooden fence. A barrier. ‘Do not cross,’ one sign read. She kicked the horse and they jumped right over, sped down a hill, and into a town Min could barely recognize.
The horse whinnied as his hooves splashed into black puddles.
Yàowù. Her home. Four years in the future, flooded with shadowy creatures, with red beads for eyes, their skin an ever-shifting darkness. Pillaged homes, roofs caved in. Market carts left decaying with rot. Moonlight reflected off a pitch-black river.
Tessa charged into a group of fiends and raised her arm. Her bracelet glowed a jade light, a beacon in the dark, and a sword of mist formed in her hands. Her cloak became a breastplate. A helmet coalesced over her hair and a clear visor formed over her eyes.
Plates of mist lined her horse, readying him for war. Tessa swung her sword to her right, cleaving through a fiend, leaving it screeching, its body exuding black smoke. One reached to claw at her. Tessa pulled the reins, turned, and stabbed her blade.
She glanced left and right, shadows closing in.
Umbral hands reached up from the ink puddles. They gripped the horse's hooves, pulling him off balance, and Tessa fell. She hit the ground and bounced to her feet, grabbed the pack of bracelets, then let her sword dissipate.
Daggers of mist formed between her fingers.
Tessa dodged to the right, claws passing by her visor. She threw one dagger at the fiend brandishing its fangs at her horse. Tessa ducked, spun, ink splashing beneath her, and stabbed a fiend through its beady eyes. She willed the mist to line her palm and pushed another back.
She yelled to her horse. He took off.
One fiend, bigger than the others, caught Tessa’s blindside and tore through her armour. Blood dripped down her chest. She sidestepped another hit, then ran for the statue at the center of town.
Min woke up.
- - -
Tessa collapsed against the statue. The fiends stood at the edge, gathering into a horde, watching with glowing eyes. She raised her arm. The purple ribbon tightened. Her good luck charm. The thread of fate.
When she opened her eyes, a woman wearing a lilac dress kneeled before her. The fiends had vanished. The streets were silent.
“I’m glad I called for the calvary,” Min whispered.
Min. How could she forget her? How did she forget her? Tessa reached out, pained from her wound, and fell into the healer’s arms. Her armour faded, drifting into the air. Tears dripped from her eyes. Min’s warmth numbed the pain in her chest.
“I didn’t think…” Tessa breathed in, heavy. “How did you know I’d be here? How can I understand you?”
“I dreamt it. I awoke and ran. We’re still in that dream state, Tessa.” The way she pronounced her name sounded like music with her accent. “I don’t know for how long. It’s because of the ribbon I gave you-”
“That was you!” Tessa smiled, leaning back against the statue. “Four years ago, I didn’t know you then, and you handed it to me. That was you.” She looked at her arm, where the purple ribbon tied around it vibrated softly.
Tessa reached for the pack and handed it to the healer.
“There is so much I want to tell you, Min, but we have little time together. Take the bracelets and hand them to your greatest warriors. They’re skilled, and will know how to use them.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “Know that, wherever we end up, whatever time you are in, I will find you again, no matter what. I promise.”
Min’s smile wavered. She brought out a small piece of paper and tucked it into Tessa’s hands. “I wrote my name on this so you won’t forget me. Thank you, mistweaver.”
- - -
Min sat alone.
Tessa had disappeared. Back to her time.
Life returned to motion around her. She held onto the pack, listening to alarm bells, hearing men rush to arms, women barricading their doors. If everything went right, her people would live to see another day.
She had to hand the jade bracelets to her warriors.
Because Tessa told her so.
Because she told her.
Min got to her feet and rushed. She handed them out to the warriors losing to the fiends. They slipped them on, summoned long blades of swirling mist, and fought back.
- - -
Tessa could never tell what she was searching for.
She couldn’t tell if she was searching for a person, a painting, or a poem. An emptiness followed her wherever she went. She had cried over a note she found in her hand one morning, and couldn’t shake the feeling of loss since then.
It read: 我爱你.
It had taken days to find a translation for it.
I love you.
Weeks, months, and years passed. She became a full-fledged knight. Fiends were driven back. Trade routes developed between nations. The world moved on.
On the day of a town fair, she wandered, unable to start a conversation with anyone. Scared to form a connection—scared to give up that empty feeling. Yet, a woman in a lilac dress spoke with a shopkeeper in a fast, somehow familiar language.
At the sight of her, the emptiness grew light.
Tessa walked up and tapped her on the shoulder.
She turned, and they both asked in harmony,
“do I know you from somewhere?”