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Cassiopia Cassell awoke from a deep, wonderful sleep. In her dream, it was autumn, and the breeze had become almost too cool for a picnic. The leaves on the trees in the valley below blossomed with color. She stood on a green hillside, looking up at the weeping willow atop it. A cloaked figure waited there, a man dressed in the simple brown cloak of a monk, the hood shielding his face. Light seemed to radiate from him. Cassiopia climbed the hill to greet him. Clearly, he was a source of wisdom. He would expect a question. It would need to be profound to warrant his consideration. She stopped and bowed her head in respect. “Can you tell me, what is the true nature of the universe?” she asked.

Tell me first about love,” he replied.

I’m sorry. I don’t know about love,” she answered.

Below the shadow of the hood, she glimpsed his smile. “You will,” he said. “You will.”

A sudden gust of cold wind made her turn away. When she turned back, he was gone.

She searched the landscape and the chill returned. She hugged herself and realized one shoulder hurt. The sound of howling wind broke into her dream. Her eyelids fluttered open, but her eyes refused to focus. There was a sore spot on the left side of her forehead. She touched it and found a bump. Struggling to awaken, the world became a white blur. Her eyelids felt heavy, and uncooperative. She forced them to open fully and tried to make sense of the snow-covered cliff in front of her. A twisted sculpture of metal and wire drew a frame around her vision.

Her mind began to catch up. The twisted metal was the fuselage of an aircraft. She was still strapped in her seat. Snow and a bundle of wire lay in her lap. Other drifts of snow filled the isle beside her. An icy wind cut at her face.

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