In a dream Pythia saw the city in the valley, and the seacoast beyond, and the snowy peak overlooking the sea, and the gaily painted galleys that sail out of the harbour toward distant regions where the sea meets the sky. They knew her in that city, in Celphais. The priests of the turquoise temple nodded solemnly as she passed, a greeting as friendly as they ever gave. The merchants of the Street of Pillars smiled and waved, their cries heavy with flattery and invitations to smell the perfumes and spices from distant lands, to run her fingers over the soft silk and gasp in amazement at the caged wonders. Even Kuranes himself, ruler of that shining city, gave a quick bow of his head to her beauty and her wisdom. He invited her to sup with her that evening, as he did whenever she visited the city of Celephais, and the great dining hall of Kuranes’s palace was resplendent with serving girls, boys playing the harp and the flute, eunuch jugglers and magicians. There was roasted pig, fruits and vegetables fresh from the palace gardens, exotic dishes made by slaves from distant lands. Pythia was seated at Kuranes’s side, as she always was, and he poured a glass of spiced wine for her and held it out for her to take. She observed with no small joy that the lords and ladies of Celephais, the priests from the temple watched with envy as her porcelain hand reached out to brush Kuranes’s strong slender fingers and accept the chalice from him.
In real life, Jennifer lay beneath an oak tree on top of a golden hill. She was flat on her back, her eyes locked on some impossibly distant vista, a single outstretched hand opening and closing mechanically, reaching for something that didn’t exist. Beside her, her friends drank cheap beer from cans. They joked and they shouted and they danced, and from time to time, they bent low to wipe the drool from the corners of her twitching mouth with a tender, gentle hand.