what dreams may come [original]

{five ficlets on a theme, as i try to get to know the characters from the novel/world-building project i’m working on; not in any sort of chronological order.}


1.

In his dreams, Iranan hears the city whisper to him, her voice that of a woman long lost and forgotten, save for her drowned gift to the world. “Rise,” she says, soft and sweet and lonely, even now, even as he listens to her speak his name every night and asks for hers in return. “Rise, Iranan. Rise.” And he does, waking, but this is not what she wants.

Only when he sits on the hidden, long-empty throne and suddenly hears her singing in the water-hidden daylight does he understand. “Up,” he whispers back to her, holding onto the throne as if to keep from being washed away. “Up, up and through and out. Rise, arise, wake.” And she does.

2.

Go, or stay? The choice hangs heavy on Emalin when she goes to bed that night, weighing on her lungs, clutching at her heart and throat, so that sleep comes as escape even as she prays for some sign, some guide to help her choose. She is not wise enough for this, and has no one to turn to for advice.

When she dreams, she finds herself in a garden, formal but untended. “You should be loved, not forgotten,” she says aloud, and wishes for a knife so that she could prune the roses back to shape.

“Not gloves, to protect your hands from thorns?” a voice asks, laughing in her ear. When she turns, a young man is standing there, face and clothes besmirched with soft earth, rose petals wild in his curly hair.

“With gloves on, you cannot feel the shape of how things should be,” Emalin says.

“No,” the young man agrees, face breaking into a thousand smiling wrinkles, old beyond words for one sudden, fleeting moment. “But many people wear them anyway.” He holds out a pair to her, and she can see that they are soft and supple and strong, cut to fit her like a second skin. In his other hand, his left hand, he holds a rusty knife, with broken handle and only the whisper of light along its edge to suggest that it can still cut. “You may have one or the other,” the young man says, sounding older than the ground beneath them and younger than the freshest bud on the vine curling past his ear. “Choose.”

Emalin takes the knife.

3.

When he dreams, and he seldom does, Adharil dreams of the forge, of the strike of hammer on anvil, the double-tap, the sparks, the fire, the glowing red; the sound, the heat, the bending and beating of iron and steel. He has not set foot in a forge for many long years now; has not needed to. The blades (and nails and other things) make themselves when he asks, with only a finger’s-touch for hammer and hard memory for anvil and his fierce, burning will for fire.

He wakes with the smell of hot metal in his nose, the taste of it in his mouth, and is glad he does not dream of his days as a tanner.

4.

She does not dream of whispering cities, does Lady Ulilon, nor of choices to be made or of the past that’s made her. She dreams (when she dreams) of her husband’s death, as she has for all the long years of their marriage, though she has never told him this. In the dream he falls in some strange village, surrounded by strange forests, struck down by strange men, in defense of people she does not know, and she is not there to weep for him.

Once, the first time the dream came, she described it to him, or tried; he would not hear her, after she spoke the words ‘death’ and ‘battle’. “I am a soldier, Lady,” he said. “I know my end already, and have made peace with it. Details would only take the heart from me. If you love me, say no more.”

And she did love, does love him, and so has held her tongue, although it burns within her. Why else has the dream been given her, if not to change the ending? How could the details do aught but inform and help?

He is a soldier and she is a lady, and although she loves him, she does not understand.

5.

Indaron dreams in patches and tatters, in snatches of stories and half-broken memories, each night a kaleidoscope of what was and what might of been and what couldn’t ever be. A single night might span epochs, entire imaginary histories with a hundred thousand players; or might linger on a single instant, a frozen memory.

He only ever tells the parts that might bring laughter over breakfast, for he was brought up to be polite like that, and to not speak without purpose.

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