A fog of breath. A collapse of lungs. Inhale. Exhale. Ah, oxygen. The process repeats in empty heaves. He remembers. Running, yes, he remembers running. It was why he was here, where the trees crooked and creaked. It was why he was not familiar with this place—it was new, sinister in its silence. But the silence was what he needed, what his aching body craved—an end to the noises.
And as he felt the bark against his ragged, clawed hand, black as though dipped in ink, he remembered something else—a name. Rather, a title.
The Crow King.
It was purpose. It was glory. It would end the noises if he but did as the voices echoed against his skull. If he but accepted the role—he could find peace. But the panting would not stop. The grasp for breath would never end. And in the most secluded part of his mind an eye opened—and the nightmare began.