SG: The Dreamstrom #4 -- Awake In A Dreamland
frobozz at eyrie.org
Sat Nov 3 12:48:15 PDT 2007
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
"A Dream Within A Dream"
-Edgar Allan Poe
She stared at her long shadow and tried not to shiver at the sight, but
sometimes the will bends where the fantastic treads. She wrapped her arms
around herself and sank to the ground, watching her shadow do the same. It
was her twin, but one who was a crooked and misshapen parody of her
coltish body. Worse still, her shadow-twin hadn't even the grace to own
features... what she saw in it was herself, stripped bare; boiled down to
an outline which was then twisted even further beyond recognition and
-still- somehow it remained her...
...and it was -connected- to her. It was stuck to her feet no matter
where she ran, no matter how far, how fast she fled it clung to her,
running alongside as a silent, twisted companion whom she could never
escape. It was a terrible night-terror that clung to her like... like....
Like a nightmare.
She curled up on herself under the afternoon sun and began to cry,
ignoring the stares of the other children on the playground. She already
knew that if she looked up, she'd just see them looking with pity,
confusion or -- most popular of all! -- mockery. Nothing ever changed.
Nothing ever could. Her father and mother wouldn't even listen to her when
things got this bad, so what could she do besides cry by herself and
silently scream at long shadows that kept peace at bay?
But today, something -did- change. A hand touched her shoulder, not
with the roughness of a bully who was about to begin a little school-yard
'play', but with the firm, worried touch of something that was so alien to
Amanda; so alien in fact that she almost didn't recognize the touch of a
"Hey Mandy," someone said from just above her. The girl felt herself
relaxing a little at the tone, feeling the strange strength that came from
not being alone. "There's nothing here to hurt you... so what's wrong?"
She uncurled and stared up into the earnest face hovering above hers.
The boy who stood there was tall for his age; and strong too, which was
good for dealing with bullies who took exception to his deviation from the
accepted norm. But though he was both big and strong, he looked far too
kind to be your typical playground thug, and thus once again deviated from
the expected norm.
"Just... just nothing," sighed the girl, uncurling further to let
herself be helped up, before pointedly taking a step away. Neither of the
two dared cling overlong to the other, for fear of inviting more
playground scorn than even the boy's strength could sort out. "It was
"Nope," said the boy, looking firm as he shook his head. "It was
something. And it wasn't something good, either."
Reluctantly the girl nodded to this superior brand of detective-work.
She glanced down to her sneakers, sighing. "My shadow scared me..." she
admitted, waiting for the laugh.
"Why?" There was no mockery in the question, no questioning of her
sanity; there never was, which surprised her to no end.
"Because... it's big and long... and... it's like something I could
dream about. Something ugly. Something like me, but a monster-me."
"You know something?" the boy asked as he stepped near to the girl. She
looked curious, shaking her head. He pointed down towards the ground. "My
shadow's there too. It's keeping an eye on yours. If your shadow tries to
make trouble, mine'll just have to do something about it."
Despite herself the girl found herself quietly giggling. "But your
shadow's only around when you are." she ventured, trying to poke holes in
the boy's logic.
"So I guess I'll have to be around too, won't I?" he grinned again,
then knelt down before the girl. "Kind of like a knight; they protect
things. Well, I'll be your knight. I'll protect you, Lady Mandy."
Again the girl giggled, but this time there was a note of fear in her
laugh. Amanda realized that she wasn't afraid so much of her shadow, but
was afraid at how much she hoped he wasn't just teasing to make her feel
better. There'd been hope in her life before, but it had never lingered
for long. Amanda feared that this time would be no different.
"You cant'," she said, shaking her head firmly, trying to head
disappointment off at the pass. "You're not old enough."
"Doesn't matter," replied the boy, still kneeling. "I'm your knight.
Called it, can't take it back. Doesn't matter if I'm not old... I'll still
kill those nightmares so you don't have to jump at your shadow. Because
that's just not right."
The girl flushed with a hope that threatened to swell the banks she'd
raised to hold it back. Seized by sudden impulse she whirled to present
her back, plucking from her pocket a lovely, dried flower that had once
caught her eye. She turned back and proffered this token to her knight,
who rose to accept it.
"There's no nightmares behind those bushes," he said, nodding to a
clump of hyacinths. "Got my marbles, want to play some till recess is
over? No shadows invited."
The girl nodded quickly, smiling as she let the prospect of having a
-nice- recess take root. That would make a nice game, and no one would see
them where the boy had proposed hiding. The two darted towards the bushes,
while the boy carefully pocketed the yellow rose that he had been given.
After all, one didn't cast away one's lady's favour, once it was given.
Frobozz Magic Productions
In Association With
*The* Mason Kramer
The Fourth Volume (of Six)
"Awake in Dreamland"
Coy leaned down to examine the winter's crop. His hands ran along the
softness of the Wyld-dream which was growing tender and well under his
long-practiced stewardship. For a long two-centuries Coy's father had
tended the royal fields before finally passing on to his just reward, and
passing the duty on to his son, who could imagine no better life than this
one. There was nothing so liberating to a soul as the feeling of growing
primal dreams this far away from the centre of the realm. It took a man
with courage and a love for the impossibilities and dangers of the land to
stay here, day-in and day-out, with little to keep him company save what
dreams may come.
The Dreaming had claimed his father's life and one day it would claim
Coy's as well. The dream-farmer felt neither fear nor defiance regarding
his eventual fate; if anything, it was a comfort to know that he would one
day return to the thing which he most loved in all the worlds.
A sudden breeze whisked through his orchard, turning the farmer's
attention towards his trees. No matter how often Coy saw a windstorm, he
still stopped and watched it in breathless delight. For while Waking trees
were said to dance metaphorically in the wind, the trees of the Dreaming
knew no such half measures. Their long branches swayed and cavorted to
catch one another's limbs while miming spins and flourishes that caused
these rooted behemoths to appear -- if only for a moment -- like the most
graceful of feathers. Dead leaves choosing that moment to detached
themselves; singing a swan song as they cut into the gusting air to flit
and spin in a final funerary dance. The moment froze for Coy, and he'd
swear on his own father's grave that the leaves had formed together into
the shape of an exploding star before wafting singly to the ground below.
All of a sudden -- between one whisper of wind and another -- the
ballet transformed into a slam-dance. Clouds above spat down a heavy storm
of wet and cold whimsies that broke the leaves' spell and sent Coy running
for less tempestuous environs. But the wind and rain seemed to seek out
Coy wherever he ran, dogging his every step. The farmer dove behind a rock
and closed his eyes, shivering against the torrent of human whimsies which
beat down upon his head, threatening to drive him mad with their constant
and conflicting notions.
"The woods know me," he whispered, huddled for safety and surcease.
"They know me, they know I don't take what I don't need, they'll shelter
me as they sheltered my pa a thousand times before..."
But what Coy sought, the woods could not give. The torrent grew to a
maelstrom and greedily drew all air into itself, leaving the air thin and
unsweet. The farmer gasped for breath while he huddled, waiting for the
Dreaming's fury to spend itself and move on, leaving the poor, simple man
alone. The sound of the tempest rose and rose until there was nothing to
hear -except- for the Dreaming's strange rage... and then...
What was that, he wondered, slowly uncurling from his fetal position.
Something had changed, but what was it that had brought on such a sublime
change in the world? When it struck him, the truth startled Coy -- the
storm had stopped as quickly as it had begun.
Oddly, so oddly, the day was calm as a pilgrim's holy dream. Coy
emerged battered and bruised from his hiding spot; the Dreaming had
decided it wouldn't take him this day. Gingerly the farmer probed his
injuries, even as an old, half-forgotten folkway from his father's time
slipped from his lips. It was a word that described this sort of
witch-storm, this sudden onset of mad notions that ended as quickly as it
"Fringestorm," he muttered, staring up at the sky. But he found no
"Hey! Hey Manda!"
Amanda skidded to a stop at the friendly cry, feeling somehow like she
should turn right around and run back the way she came. What had she
expected Ray to do about anything? No matter his claims of knighthood, he
was still a kid just like herself. And like herself, he -didn't- have the
power or the strength to make her life any better better.
A warm hand fell on her shoulder as she turned to leave. Against her
better judgment, Amanda looked over her shoulder. She had come running all
this way from her home, hoping against hope that Ray would be here -- and
sure enough he had been.
"What's wrong?" asked Ray, tilting his head and looking ready to make
everything all right. Ah, if only she could believe that was in his power?
-Amanda, we need a favour from you. A big-girl favour, all right?-
In Amanda's house, it was dangerous to look up from what you were
doing. It was almost -always- the best policy to keep your nose stuck
firmly in a book, which would get mocked by your father for trying to act
oh-so-smart, but it rarely lead to actual Trouble.
It was usually all right to glance up when mother spoke. She didn't
hit. Mother didn't ever understand Amanda, but she was safe. Usually safe.
It all depended on where father was when you looked up at her.
-We need you to look after the house for us.-
"Nothing," replied Amanda, glancing away again. She wanted to believe
in Ray's promise, but what was it other than air and shadows? There were
real things in the world, and what could airy shadow play do against
"Isn't nothing," Ray surmised, stepping around to face Amanda fully.
"You ran all the way here, didn't you? From your house?"
"You're out of breath. You're all red in the face. You've been
"No... no -no-..."
"And..." Ray trailed off, his eyes widening as he spied something. With
a gasp, Amanda grasped her sleeve to pull it down, but too late.
-We're taking your brother to a hospital. He needs tests performed,
Amanda. Tests to see why he's sleeping so much. Do you understand? We need
you to be a big girl and watch over the house while we're gone.-
"Leave me alone!" Amanda screamed, tearing away from Ray, feeling
betrayed by her own skin. Though once she'd turned her back on him, she
found herself unable to go a step further. Truly there was nowhere to
run... nowhere to hide... and she wasn't sure that she -wanted- to hide.
"What happened," asked Ray, his voice filled with more than just a
child's anger. "Who did that to you?"
-We won't be gone -long-, I promise. Just three days. There's food in
the fridge and... and... oh Amanda, your poor brother...-
Three days. Really, Amanda didn't hear anything past 'three days'. That
meant that the girl was about to get three days of peace. Three days of
quiet. Three days of not reading the same sentence over and over as you
mentally tried to get your father to walk on by and leave you alone.
Three. Whole. Blessed. Days.
Amanda couldn't help it. She gasped with joy at the prospect that
spread out before her. Which is when a dark shadow fell across both her
and that quiet -- but not quite quiet enough -- joy she had been feeling.
-What the hell was THAT for?-
"No one," she replied, hiding her face in her hands so as not to be
seen while lying to Ray. If she cried... no, scratch that. If he -saw- her
cry, it would be all over. He'd know that something really was wrong and
he'd want to know more about it and then he'd try to help and he -just-
-couldn't- -do- -anything-. Ray just couldn't. She had to hide her tears
in the only way she had open to her: by hiding her face in her hands. She
could cry silently, she knew; she practiced the skill all too often at
home. It came in handy after a nightmare, so that father wouldn't hear the
sound and give her trouble. "No one..."
-What did you SAY?-
-Nothing... nothing, Henry... she gasped a little, that's all---
-That's all? That's -all-? So, pity is it? So terrible that I fathered
a good-for-nothing-layabout who's such a girl he can't even wake up when
there's good sunlight in the sky?-
-Henry, no, I'm sure she didn't mean---
-Don't YOU tell me what she meant. She'll tell me herself, won't she?
Are you pitying your old man, you useless shit? Is that what you're doing?
Are you FEELING SORRY FOR ME because I have such a worthless son? Well?
Amanda couldn't say anything. There really was nothing more to say.
Silence would earn her trouble; but speech would earn just as much, if not
more. She fought hard to hold her tongue as her father jerked her by the
arm to punctuate his questions. It was better if he didn't hear you cry
out, Amanda reminded herself. It was better if he didn't hear you cry out.
It was better if no one saw you cry. Then no one would go to your
parents and ask why you were so sad. Then you wouldn't face trouble. Well,
you wouldn't face trouble for being an ungrateful shit, anyway. Because
that's what you were when you caused problems for your parents --
especially for your father -- who already had enough more than his share
of problems in life, as he would never let you forget.
It was so much better if no one heard you cry, which is why Amanda knew
how to make not a sound when she did. But somehow, despite all her
silence, Ray heard her. And then Amanda's tears caused something other
than trouble. For the first time ever, they did something other than earn
-You don't RESPECT me, do you? Never should've had you, you were a
mistake anyway! Well you need to learn some respect here and you need to
learn it now! DON'T YOU LOOK AWAY FROM ME! Don't you DARE look away from
me! You take your lesson with your eyes on me!-
Ray's anger dissolved. For once, tears didn't earn her a rebuke or...
trouble. Arms slid around her shoulders, enfolding her in a strong -- but
surprisingly gentle -- embrace. Amanda had been hugged before -- at least
by her mother. Ray's embrace was nothing like her mother's, which had been
fleeting, weak and furtive. Ray's was strong and lasting; almost like it
was a strong castle's wall. He didn't look over his shoulder to make sure
that he wasn't caught showing affection. He didn't care about anything
except making her feel better. This embrace armoured Amanda, and she felt
as though it would never, ever pass.
Amanda never wanted it to pass. No matter how great their chances of
being discovered by the children - or worse, by a well-meaning adult -
Amanda never wanted it to end..
"Who gave you those bruises?" asked Ray, his voice now all but a
whisper. Amanda tried once more to hide her tears, but something had
changed between them and inside of her. Safe now, surrounded now, it
didn't seem so bad to cry. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she
wouldn't be given trouble for her tears, at least not this day.
"My... my father did," began Amanda, and between the sobs she began to
tell Ray everything, beginning with a gasp and ending with the bruises he
had spied on her arms.
Julie smiled, hugging herself as the dance played itself out around
her. The twirl of sleepers -- happily spinning through their stately
gavotte -- pleased her knight. He glanced down at Julie and nodded, then
offered a hand to the girl, which she gladly accepted.
Most recently, the pair had found their Lord of the Dance, from whom
the rest of the dancers took their cues. The two had welcomed to their
sleeping revel the Star Dancer -- a woman who understood the ways of the
deadly sword dance -- whose portion of the reel would help raise a defense
against any who might seek to stop the slumbering promenade. And there
were others - dozens of other sleepers for whom the dance was as dear as
life itself - whose souls had united in the cause of raising high the
standard belonging to Julie's knight.
But though the dance had come off to a good start, need existed still.
Julie nodded as silently her knight conveyed to her exactly what was
required next. They needed one for whom dance was an all-consuming
passion... one for whom the dance was -life-. One who could raise the
walls of the knight's fortress and raise them to last forever so that they
would hold fast and shelter those who dwelt behind them.
Stretching out her arms, Julie cast forth the next invitation. Her soul
sought the target and flew unerringly towards it, propelled by the mission
for which it had been born.
To Amanda's astonishment, Ray believed the story that she told. In
fact, he believed every word that she said.
He should have told her that she probably deserved it when her father
gave her trouble. He should have rolled her eyes at her nightmares and
called her a coward - at best - or a freak - at worst.
Instead, he listened. He listened to the stories of Amanda's waking
nightmares and her sleeping horrors. He didn't turn his back or laugh or
tell her that what she was experiencing was impossible. He didn't tell
Amanda that she should see someone about her problems so that they could
try to talk them away. He didn't exclaim that surely there was a rational
explanation for everything that had happened to Amanda.
"You have nightmares every night?" he asked, in their hiding place
behind the hyacinths. "No breaks, not ever?"
"No breaks," replied Amanda in a soft moan, ducking her head. "I hate
"That's not right," he said softly. Glancing up at Amanda, he nodded.
"That's not right."
Amanda shrugged her shoulders. While she agreed, what did it matter? It
was what was and that was that.
"I'll be there tonight," he said. "You won't be alone with them, not
"If my father finds out..." Amanda shivered, really not able to finish
that sentence. But now Ray knew enough to finish it for her.
"He's gone tonight, right? For the testing? So we won't let him find
out. Ever. Okay?"
Hope warred with a long-practiced impulse to just accept that things
couldn't change, wouldn't change... hope was dangerous. If your hopes
rose, they only did so to fall again. But there was something so
dangerously seductive about the feeling...
"Okay," she heard herself say. Ray smiled and took her hand, squeezing
it. Despite herself, Amanda found herself smiling back. Maybe tonight
would be different. It probably wouldn't, but... maybe.
In the very heart of the Dreaming stands the beautifully aetheric
Castle in the Clouds, from which the current dream monarch reigns over the
Realm Nocturne. But no ruler, no matter how capable, could hope to handle
the day to day workings of a realm devoted to the dreams and nightmares of
every sophont in the known multiverse. Thus there was a long tradition of
each ruler having trusty and efficient advisors who could provide
information, advice and guidance to a monarch when there was nowhere else
Sadly, sometimes you had to search hard to find the one you were
looking for. Samantha Ward -- current queen of the Dreaming and more than
a little bit ticked off at her current situation -- reflected that there
was never a good Nightmare around when you needed one. She'd been
searching for Enigma - her dream-advisor - just a minute longer than her
patience could reasonably hold. Stomping a foot -- fortunately, no one was
around to see her childish action -- she finally put fingers to lips and
emitted a piercing whistle.
--Yes, your Highness?--
"You're a hard guy to get ahold of," observed Samantha, as she turned
to face the now-present Nightmare.
--You had asked me to do research into the coincidences surrounding
your sister. I've merely been following orders.--
--Yes, your highness?--
"I hate when you have a perfectly good explanation for things.
Especially when I'm getting ready to have a good tantrum. But anyway...
what did you find out?"
--It would be easiest to show you, Samantha.--
"Right-o. Where to?"
--The Library. And ah... don't worry.--
--You can enjoy that 'tantrum' once we get there. The librarian could
stand to have his queen's wrath visited upon him today. Just as a reminder
of his duties, you understand.--
"Enigma... you're the -best-. Let's go!"
And so they lay there, side-by-side on Amanda's bed. Nothing untoward
would go on that night; both were fully clothed, and both were still just
a touch emotionally under-ripe to consider romance. He held her hand and
she his, fingers laced together as they lay there in the darkened room.
Sleep didn't come easily to Amanda and so she listened to the sound of
Ray's breathing in the darkness, taking comfort from that gentle reminder
that she was not alone.
Amanda wondered what he would do once she fell asleep. She hoped
that... she hoped that at least having him there that night would make the
nightmares easier to bear. She hadn't questioned Ray's determination to
help before, but now... now... what would happen tonight? What -could-
happen tonight? What...
Even as she tried to pose the question, Amanda found her eyes
shuttering. The body could only avoid sleep for so long, and Amanda knew
that she was getting close to her limit, having managed to stay awake for
almost two days now. The comforting, warm presence next to her just made
abstinence that much harder, and soon she found the world dissolving
around her, into... into...
The school yard. She was in the school yard, behind the hyacinths, and to
her disappointment -- though not to her surprise -- Amanda found herself
alone. Of course she was alone. She was always alone when the nightmares
came for her. Worse, tonight they were going to despoil one of her most
sacred sites with terrible images and bloody terrors. It wasn't fair; but
then again, Amanda's dreams were anything except fair.
The dreamer gave a start as she heard the first gibber floating on the
wind. Even though she knew that it was useless to even try, she glanced
around, trying to find from where the first attack would come.
Something icy cold and sharp -- so sharp! -- flashed behind Amanda,
tracing its chilly claws along her back as it passed. The girl screamed as
she whirled to the confrontation; but her attacker had already gone, lost
to sight but still lurking in at the edges of her peripheries. Despite her
nightly resolve to stand firm against these night-terrors, Amanda felt her
teeth start to chatter as she anticipated her next attack. And the next.
And oh God, the next... this was going to be a death-dream. She could
already taste its bloody flavour and knew that this night would npt end
until she lay -- torn and flayed -- upon the ground.
Those who claimed that if you died in your dreams, you would also die
in real life? Idiots. If that was really true, then Amanda knew she'd have
long since been free of her curse.
The next attack came without warning, and once again it struck from
behind. Amanda staggered with the force of this raking; shock and pain
were already starting to heighten her senses... which of course was not a
blessing when your fate was to be ripped apart. As always, Amanda searched
for some wall against which to put her back so that she could at least
face her attackers as they came, but as always there was nothing, simply
nothing against which... to place... what was that?
Something warm and -- wonder of wonders in this place! -- reassuring
pressed itself against Amanda's back. Feeling as though a terrible chink
in her armour had just been closed, the girl risked a look over her
"They don't fight fair, do they?" asked Ray simply, chancing a glance
back. He gave her a fast grin. "Told you. Not alone. Not tonight."
"Not alone," Amanda repeated, feeling her knees trying to turn to water
as relief flooded her. "How're we going to fight them?"
"Don't know." Ray glanced down at his hands, where he held his yellow
flower, and squeezed it tightly. "We just are."
"Okay," replied Amanda, accepting that answer as she took in a deep
breath. "They're coming."
"Yeah," replied Ray, straightening to scan the playground for attack.
"They're not getting you. I promise. I *swear* it."
Unseen by Ray, Amanda nodded. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of
something edging towards her, still mostly cloaked in the darkness. It was
hidden, but it had chosen not to hide itself completely. It -wanted- her
to know that it was coming. It wanted her to know that it was coming to
But this time she could see it as well as feel it. Amanda hoped that
this would be enough to make a difference. She folded her hands into fists
-- the only weapons she had -- and raised them in defiance, trying to
ignore how badly they shook.
Sabrina Tymor slipped into bed with a soft sigh. Much as she loved her
life as Dervish -- the dancing super-speedstress -- that life had a
distressing and regular tendency to wear her down to a nub. Closing her
eyes, Sabrina let herself fall free, drifting into the world of dreams...
and tonight, she dreamed about that which burned deep within her soul.
There was Dance in Sabrina's soul, and upon her changing from ordinary
girl into super-heroine, the spirit of the dance had consumed her to an
extent that even she did not fully appreciate. But there were those who
could see it and who knew what blazed within the girl's heart.
In her dreams, Sabrina danced a dance that would never stop; *could*
never stop because it had become the thing which brought all the
world's... the worlds'... hearts and minds together. She dreamed of a
dance that was lifeblood and breath; food and drink; sleep and rest. The
vast portion of Sabrina's soul saw this dance and yearned for it, reaching
out to grasp what it knew it could never have...
And as her spirit's hand extended, a smaller, slimmer one grasped it.
Sabrina hesitated at the contact, wondering at the touch, but Dervish
spared not a second thought for care. Feeling the pounding beat of the
promised dance surrounding her, Dervish knew that she would find here all
that she could hope, and more.
"Thank you," whispered Julie, as she drew Dervish into the dance. The
two embraced... and then set themselves to raising castle walls...
Again and again they came.
The things of the night wore horrible forms, and more than once Amanda
held her breath to keep her gorge from rising. The foul attackers looked
like misshapen lumps of... well if she had to give them a name, she'd call
them misshapen walking lumps of -cancer-, which lacked any natural
symmetry to their swollen, pustular bodies. These horrors sometimes
writhed into -almost- a human-shape; and that was when they become the
most terrible to behind. The cancerous creatures were coloured the white
of maggots and reeked with the fragrance of a long untended charnel pit.
Amanda nearly couldn't bring herself to lay a hand upon their bodies --
much less land a punch there -- since that would mean actually -touching-
such grotesque things with her bare skin.
But when rage and helplessness are bottled up for too long, and then
are finally given a channel for release, they can spur a person on to
almost any height. And Amanda had had more than enough of both to motivate
her to lash out with every bit of strength that she had in her dream body.
Suddenly something slashed along Amanda's ribs, and she screamed at the
feeling of flesh tearing. Seeing stars, the girl lashed blindly out with a
foot and was rewarded with a satisfying -- if squooshy -- thump in
But Amanda's victory was short-lived; another slash caught the lashing
leg, raking it to the bone. Behind her, the girl heard Ray cry out as well
as he too fell victim to a savage attack. Despite the tears welling up in
her eyes, Amanda threw every bit of her slight weight into a punch, only
to have her arm intercepted and caught by the teeth of still another
As if that was a signal to the rest of the night-terrors, the creatures
gathered in force to surround the desperate pair. The misbegotten
creatures loomed silent and still as the grave in a ring around them,
doing nothing for the space of a few heartbeats.
And then, with not a signal to warn, the clutch of nightmare creatures
surged at the two children, sharp claws and sabre-like teeth ready to
catch and tear Ray and Amanda into gobbets of lifeless, bloody flesh.
Amanda felt her heart sink as she saw how many there were standing before
them; there were too many to resist, let alone fight off. It seemed that
her only option tonight was, once again, to die...
"That... felt *good*," sighed Samantha happily as she walked out of the
Castle's library, a book tucked under her arm.
--It became clear to me earlier tonight that a Coincidence had taken
place somewhere nearby. I tracked it down to the library and as I
suspected, this book had been its locus.--
"And he just... closed it? The book? Did he even know that it was a
Coincidence that blew it open?"
--A librarian could never miss something of the sort. They are trained
to know what Lore can be acted upon and how Lore acts upon us. He
merely... didn't care that it portended anything of import.--
"He cares now," replied Samantha, with a glint in her eyes and a smirk
on her lips. "He's just lucky I didn't demote him to chamberpot duty for
the next fortnight in punishment."
--I wonder if perhaps he thinks he'd have been better off with that
duty. Rather than the upbraiding.--
"If I scared a little professionalism into the guy, that just means
that I'm doing my job right," Samantha said, holding out the large tome at
arm's length to examine it. Her eyes narrowed in recognition. "Hunh. Well
that's a coincidence."
--I beg your pardon?--
"This book. It's, ahem, _Thee Dream of Reconciliation_. I was just
reading it the other day, when I passed out..."
"Isn't it? I was reading this book when something really weird
happened, and now it's at the centre of -another- weird going-on? This
Coincidence almost -certainly- wants me to know about it and I want to
know why. I think tonight we need to burn the midnight oil tonight, don't
--I'll alert the traditional babysitters, your highness.--
Amanda's eyes darted wide as she gasped helplessly for air. As she
finally managed to control her breathing, Amanda felt Ray sit up next to
her, placing a gentle hand on her arm. She could feel that he was
trembling, nearly as much as she was, and yet... and yet...
There it was: sunlight, streaming through her bedroom window. It was
morning. It was morning! Amanda twisted to hug Ray hard, her trembling
growing all the greater.
"I'm sorry," whispered Ray in apology, holding Amanda in return. "I
couldn't stop them..."
"No... *no*!" she cried, drawing back to meet his eyes with her own,
which were feverish with emotion. He didn't understand, but he had to
understand, she'd make him understand what this all meant! "No, we... we
*lived*. Till morning!"
"They didn't kill me," Amanda whispered, her voice dropping low as it
filled with awe. "You didn't let them kill me."
Ray bit his lip as he slowly realised what Amanda was saying. He leaned
forward and lightly kissed her forehead.
"I'll stand with you, Manda. Forever, if I've gotta. They don't get to
fight you alone, not any more. Not where they can sneak up on you.
"T... thank you," sighed Amanda, holding Ray tightly, letting that vow
sink deeply into her soul. Suddenly her nerves -- very last one of them,
it felt like! -- started singing "Thank you, thank you, thank you THANK
"Ow, my ear," hissed Ray, before grinning at his lady. Amanda blinked
at the unexpected reply, and suddenly felt herself welling up with
something she hadn't experienced in a long, long time.
She began to laugh. And before long, Ray had joined her. In the
sun-dappled bedroom, the two children laughed themselves sick the morning
after their long night.
Amanda's cry drew Ray's attention to the door where she stood leaning
against its frame. She was still dressed, though Amanda's hair was badly
mussed, which suggested that she'd drifted off before she'd meant to do
"Bad dream?" asked Ray, his voice soft with worry. He and Amanda had
had their troubles recently, and Ray was still not entirely sure where
they stood with each other, but one truth still ruled his soul: he loved
this woman and would do anything for her, no matter what rifts might try
to form. It had taken the Dream of Reconciliation to remind him that
nothing could be allowed to come between them; but in the end they had
been reminded and perhaps were growing all the stronger for that.
"Yeah," replied Amanda, glancing down. "And that's the funny thing. The
dream didn't come from my dreamscape, Ray. I think something bad's
happening and this was just a harbinger. I think that something's coming,
and I need to find out what it -is- before it gets here"
Ray nodded. "I'll be right there," he replied, simply. There could be
no other answer, nor would he ever wish there to be.
"Thank you," whispered Amanda, a touch of relief spreading across her
lips. Ray watched his wife turn and head back into their room. It was time
once again to keep his long-standing promise; and more than that, it was
time for Ray to defend the only person in all the worlds who truly, truly
mattered to him.
Ray picked up the pressed yellow flower that he'd kept since his
childhood and examined the fragile blossom for a few moments, turning it
around and around in his hand. Finally he slid it between the pages of his
book, before rising and heading for his bedroom.
Who knew that a man's fetters could be so sweet?
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
"A Dream Within A Dream"
-Edgar Allan Poe
This issue is mine, mine, mine and you can't have it. Except for the parts
that belong to Mason Kramer, but you can't have those either. Nyah and
copyright 2007 and if you touch anything that doesn't belong to you, your
fingers will turn brown, your tongue will swell and Coke will go back to
its New formula. Bleem.
frobozz at eyrie.org
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