“When one awakes from a dream, that world is destroyed. It persists only in memory, and even then it is imperfect memory, as we dreamers well know.” The Margrave spoke calmly, letting the words flow out at a languid pace. “Nevertheless, the dreamer often will try to cling to fragments of the dream, fragments of memories. There are things that are worth saving in that dream. Though they are not real, we value them.”

She paused a moment. “If this town were a dream, and you were to awaken, what would you remember? What would you struggle for, even as it ran away like sand in your fingers?”

“My mother.” Ruby said fiercely. “My brother. My friends.”

The Margrave scoffed. “You remember family, individuals here and there, the occasional event. It could have happened anywhere. What is there about this town that is worth remembering, worth saving?”

Ruby’s lip began to tremble. Slurs in the dark, whispers of atrocities past, and the grinding everyday…what did she have?

“You cannot think of anything. No one can. But for the incidentals, the rosy spectacles of childhood, there is nothing.” The Margrave smiled lightly. “Let it die.”

Still speechless, still trying desperately to think of some rebuttal, Ruby had sunk to her knees, sobbing.

“What we have here is a dream that is worth fading away. I have seen it a thousand times or more, and this may yet be the last. You must awaken, the dream must fade away, and there will be no awakening for those who cling to it.

“You could say that about a hundred places,” Ruby snarled through her tears.

Those impenetrable eyes shone, dark and deep, as she continued in her strange singsong register. “Yes. And I say it now, about this place. There may be a million places worth destroying across time and space and possibility, but this one is mine.”

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