"The Dream Storm"
Across the sleeping lands of the moon, a storm erupted. It brought no rain, it bore no driving winds or claps of thunder. It was a storm of silence and shadow and deeper, darker things. It raged silently everywhere at once, tearing away at the gentle evening.
Here and there and everywhere, slumbering magi tossed in their sleep, suddenly accosted by disturbing dreams. Villagers across the land suddenly found themselves wide awake, breath coming in ragged gasps. They awoke to an unnatural stillness, remembering vague dreams of strange shapes and colors and sounds and smells—all fraught with an odd feeling of fear and loathing. In the stillness they sat, trying to discern the nature of their nocturnal distress. No answers were to be found in the silence, and soon the wild beating of their hearts drove them from their warm beds to seek solace from their groundless fear and panic.
In the darkness of the Underneath, bleary-eyed mothers calmed their crying children whose cries filled the caverns with their echoing choruses. In the lands of Mountain and Fire, warriors came suddenly alert and dashed outside to scan the dark horizons for signs of trouble. The swamps of Bograth were alive with the bleating croaks of its shadowy inhabitants, as they leaped from their muddy beds to take up arms. The waters of Orothe boiled in agitation as all manner of tails, tentacles and fins propelled the confused magi to and fro through the deep as they sought the source of their fright. The great Forests rang out with the sounds of alarm and the sudden flickering of hastily lit lanterns. High above it all, the fluffy clouds were suddenly whipped into chaotic disarray as the Arderians took flight, scouring the dark skies for answers.
As distressing as the sudden storm of bad dreams was for those who experienced them, they were the lucky ones. For there were those special few who had dreams of a more tangible nature. Dreams whose shapes and colors, sounds and smells had form and meaning.
In the conquered city of Vash Naroom, young Pruitt screamed and opened her eyes to the bleak darkness of her prison. She had seen an old and dear friend in dire peril, surrounded by horrors on every side. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she flung herself once more at the barred wooden door, cursing the evil Twins for imprisoning her so. Pruitt cried the remainder of the long night, trying without success to convince herself it was merely a bad dream.
Farther out and higher up, the tragic eyes of Yaki suddenly blazed in the darkness of the treetops. He did not cry out, but he found himself trembling with the force of his sudden nightmare vision. An old flame, now a treasured friend, was in desperate need—alone, and unarmed, assailed on every side by monsters too terrible to mention. He moved to leap forward into the night, filled with a need to save his friend, before remembering his duty to the rebellion. This was no time to go dashing off into the unknown, chasing what was surely nothing more than a terrible dream. With a heavy heart, he sighed and resigned himself to ending the matter of the Dark Twins once and for all. Still, try as he might—he could not chase the nightmare from his thoughts.
Much farther away, among the smoky wreaths and wispy ash-devils that haunted the city of Aragonar at night, the mighty Warlord of Cald suffered the most terrible nightmare of all. He came awake with the sudden clarity of one who has trained for combat all his life, a half-formed war cry stillborn on his thin lips. Body and soul ablaze, Barak leapt from his bed, grabbed his heavy armor and a handful of rings and dashed out into the night of his obsidian balcony. “Tryn!?he bellowed, uncaring of who might hear. “Tryn!?he cried once more, uncaring of what his warriors might think. “Tryn!?he roared a third time, his thunderous voice breaking this time.
The city about him was alive with shouts and confusion, as the citizens of Aragonar came awake to seek out the source of their shared nightmare. Barak paid them no attention, his mind still replaying the dreadful images of his dream. Over and over.
Tryn: the woman he had come to admire so deeply, hanging from a strange crystalline precipice, a gulf of hungry lightning yawning beneath her. Tryn: the playful Naroomi who had teased and cajoled and even bullied her way into his warrior’s heart, unable to summon her creatures, unable to do anything but cry in helpless despair as fiendish monsters struck at her again and again, trying to rip her from her precarious perch. Tryn: the woman he had refused to allow into his rigid existence, whose affection he had cast aside as having no place in a life of military vigilance. Tryn: falling at last—alone and afraid—the precious oval of her dear face vanishing as she fell into the blinding maw of radiance awaiting to consume her.
“Tryn!?Barak cried once more, this time nothing more than a hollow whisper filled with all manner of new emotions, not the least of which were guilt, remorse and a gnawing pang of tender affection which fed the flames of the first two.
Armor in place, rings upon his fingers, the Warlord of Cald leapt the obsidian railing, dropping to the suspended street below. Without hesitation, he dashed toward the side of the bridge and flung himself up and out. In mid-air, he invoked a Silth Giant, whose great dorsal fin rose from the lava lake below to break his fall. Barking a series of short commands, he sent his great steed sailing through the molten rock toward the far shore. His eyes blazed in fury and desperation as he disappeared into the smoke and ash, leaving his city to sort out its own chaos on this cursed night.
As Brilleon carried his mistress downward through the myriad green orbs of light, he was suddenly buffeted by a powerful blast of energy from behind. He pivoted in mid-air, both he and his passenger gazing back in the direction from which they had flown. The mists were alive with huge pillars of white-hot energy. As they watched, bolts of lightning flew in all directions from the storm. One of these shot past the hovering Timber Hyren, blasting him once more.
“What is it??yelled Tryn, fearing the answer would be that more terrible monsters were coming after her. She was very tired of fleeing.
“I don’t know! I’ve never seen anything like it before!?Brilleon sounded truly disturbed. Tryn shuddered. “We’d better get down!?Brilleon turned and dove. Within seconds, they had set down in the midst of a blazing vista of emerald fire.
Tryn was momentarily dazzled by the glow. She found herself surrounded by large stationary objects, but their outlines were indistinct and fuzzy. As her eyes adjusted, she took a closer look at her new surroundings. Wherever she directed her gaze, the landscape drew into clear focus. It was a forest! A strange forest, to be sure, with towering trees trimmed in glittering lines of green light, but a forest nonetheless! Gleaming leaves, like beautiful jewels, shimmered upon each delicate branch. The air was filled with small orbs of golden radiance, floating on some unfelt ethereal breeze. In the distance, Tryn thought she could hear the roar of river rapids or perhaps a waterfall. Overhead, another blast of lighting tore through the air.
A blurry shape came lumbering through the brilliance of the underbrush. Tryn recognized its characteristic waddle, even before it drew into clear focus. “Flash!?She bounded toward the rudwot, flinging herself upon him, arms tight about his short neck.
“Hey, whatcha tryin?ta do? Choke me or somethin??Flash’s gravelly voice was music to her ears. She didn’t reply, but looked instead back to where Brilleon was still standing, watching the reunion in silence. Feeling guilty, she turned back to the Timber Hyren, and gave him a warm and gentle hug as well. “Thank you,?she whispered into Brilleon’s wooden ear. “It’s so good to have you both here with me. I don’t feel so frightened and confused anymore.?/div>
Flash looked up at Brilleon, one leafy eyebrow raised questioningly. Brilleon nodded back to the Rudwot. “Yes. She seems to have lost all of her usual sarcasm and bravado,?he chuckled.
“Hey!?Tryn looked up at her Timber Hyren accusingly.
“Well, perhaps we should bring her here more often,?commented Flash, with a lopsided grin at his mistress. Both dream creatures shared a laugh.
“Knock it off, you two! There’s nothin?wrong with my bravado!?/div>
“Hmmph!?snorted Brilleon derisively. Flash just kept chuckling to himself.
“Aaarrgh!?Tryn grumbled. “So where are we anyway? What’s going on back there??She nodded her head in the direction of the violent storm they had seen heading their way.
“I can’t say fer sure ‘bout the storm. Never seen the like! But this,?Flash indicated the forest around them, “this is where we live, T,?said Flash.
“The forest energies are all bound up in this part of the Dream Plane, and so this is where we belong,? explained Brilleon.
“Forest energies??Tryn asked.
Brilleon nodded. “All the elemental energies of the Dream Plane are bound up into separate energy types. Your land of Naroom is a focal point for Life energy. This energy is held in place by the lesser nodes of Paradwyn and the Weave.?/div>
“What’s a node??/div>
Flash chuckled again, “Not so smart now, are ya, missy??/div>
Brilleon ignored the rudwot and continued. “Nodes are gathering places for energies. They are what keep our little section of the Dream Plane all neat and orderly.?/div>
“Neat and orderly! You’ve got to be joking!?Tryn remembered the chaotic journey to get to this place.
“That’s right,?Flash agreed. “You c’n thank yer lucky leaves yer ancestors thought to tie it all up like this! Why, it’s said that out yonder, past the Barrier, the Dream Plane has no structure at all! Just thinkin?of such a mess gives me a terr’ble headache!?/div>
Tryn shook her head again. Too many crazy explanations! She was sick and tired of trying to sort it all out. She sighed, “Forget I asked. Just tell me how I can find my way home again!?/div>
Both dream creatures shook their heads at that. “This is something that has never happened before,?said Brilleon soberly. “If anyone will know what to do, it will be Trunnk.?Brilleon glanced back to storm with a worried eye. “Perhaps Trunnk will be able to tell us what is happening back there as well.?/div>
There it was again. Trunnk. Tryn wondered at the hint of reverence she noted in Brilleon’s voice as he said the name. “So take me to him! What’s the hold up??/div>
“We can’t find him,?said Brilleon. “He has to find us!?But Tryn had already stomped off into the radiant forest. Flash turned to Brilleon and observed, “Well…that didn’t last long. Sheeee’s Baaaack!?Brilleon snorted in agreement as both turned to catch up to their mistress.
Tryn tried hard not to think about anything at all as she stumbled through the crazy dream forest. She could hear Brilleon and Flash right behind her, and she took comfort in their presence. Beyond the shining leaves high overhead, she could the sizzle and swoosh of the lightning as it poured out of the approaching storm.
With only a vague sense of urgency to guide her, she headed for the source of the roaring water sound. Bit by bit, the strange foliage of the forest twinkled and glittered past as she continued onward. Gradually, the rubbery forest floor beneath her feet began to slope downward and the sound of rushing water became steadily louder.
Behind, the two dream creatures kept pace with their magi, each wondering at her unprecedented appearance in the Dream Plane. As the ground began to slope steeply downhill, Flash turned to Brilleon. “D’ya think we oughta be headin? this way? That place makes me nervous!?He tossed his leafy head toward the source of the noise ahead.
Brilleon shrugged. “It’s as good a place for Trunnk to find us as any.?/div>
Abruptly, the foliage fell away and Tryn found herself standing at a great precipice. Before her wondering eyes there whirled a great spiraling column of emerald-hued energy…the source of the sound she had mistaken for rushing water. The vortex spanned wider than the whole of Vash Naroom, springing forth from a formless void far below. The surface was beautiful to behold as the glowing energy slowly spiraled upward. Far above, the great slow-motion whirlwind dissipated in an ever-widening umbrella of glorious green light. The outermost edges sparkled with dancing energy, which cascaded in great sheets to the forest below. This was the source of the little globes of golden light which floated lazily through the forest, Tryn realized. Tryn shook her head once more as she took in the spectacular sight. Strange and wonderful, to be sure, but Tryn had had more than enough wonders recently. Now she merely longed for the comforts of her forested homeland. A REAL forest, she thought. Not this glowing green stuff!
A deeper, more primitive part of herself longed for even more—the smoky air and fiery vistas of distant Cald, a land where she had come to know love and, ultimately, rejection. Stop it! Tryn scolded herself, purposely seeking to divert her thoughts. She turned to face her dream companions.
“This is the Life Node,? announced Brilleon. “The magical energy which feeds the land of Naroom and filters into the Weave and Paradwyn.?/div>
Tryn nodded, caring little for such explanations just now. “So what do we do??she demanded. “Just sit around and wait??/div>
“That won’t be necessary, daughter of the forest.?A resonant tenor voice rang out loud and and clear against the background noise from the vortex.
Tryn whirled to face the newcomer. Her eyes widened as she took in his appearance. He had the facial construction of a woodland Hyren, not unlike her own Brilleon, but his body was very like a large and muscular magi. From his head sprang two twisted wooden antlers that gave him a wizened appearance. His eyes, too, glowing softly, gave the impression of great age and wisdom.
The strange being nodded his head once in reply. He was very large, Tryn noted as Trunk stepped closer to her, placing long wooden fingers upon her shoulder. At least ten foot tall, far larger than any magi she had encountered. “Huh…Hello,?Tryn stammered.
A brilliant streak of lightning arced overhead and slammed into the vortex behind them. A thunderous BOOM! echoed out across the forest. Brilleon jumped and Flash’s leafy neck ruffled in clear agitation.
“What’s going on??demanded Tryn, sure that anything that upset her dream creatures was sure to be more bad news.
Trunnk looked upward, glowing eyes tracing yet another bolt of white-hot energy as it flashed past. “It’s a new thing. I have never seen this before, and I have seen everything there is to see since the Barrier was erected and I was first magined more than 3000 years ago.?/div>
Tryn was about to voice another question when suddenly, the air beside Trunk began to fill with mist. The floating balls of gold light began to thickly cluster within the mist, accumulating until the cloud was shining as brightly as the sun in the real world. The glowing cloud dissipated as rapidly as it had appeared, leaving behind the furry form of the Dreamkeeper.
“Dathka!?exclaimed Tryn, surprisingly pleased to see his familiar face. Then she noted his unkempt appearance. His robes were tattered and blackened, his fur was singed in several places, and his stubby whiskers were bent and broken. “What happened? Are you oaky??Tryn moved to the Dreamkeeper and took one of his paw-like hands into her own.
Dathka bared his teeth in a gentle growl, then spoke. “I’m alright little one. I am pleased that you are too.?He looked down self-consciously at his rumpled and torn clothing. “The creatures that were attracted to your animite put up a terrific fight, but I showed them who was still their master.?He chuckled grimly, then turned to Trunnk. “And you, Guardian, it is good to see your form. How fares the Green??/div>
Trunnk bowed in deference to the much smaller Dreamkeeper. “All has been as it should be, until…” the Guardians eyes shifted in the direction of the storm, “until that strange disturbance began.?/div>
Dathka glanced in the direction of the storm as well. “Yes. It’s most distressing. I have not seen its like since my days as an Animite Scout in the Followers of the Horizon.?/div>
“Do you know what it means? Why it is happening??Brilleon asked from beyond the hulking form of the Guardian.
“I’m afraid I do,?nodded Dathka. He turned to Tryn. “Your rings…did you??/div>
Tryn lowered her head and nodded in shame. “I…tried to use them. I was desperate!?And then she found herself spilling out the tale of her journey in the direction of Green. How she had tried to cross the great gulf and been attacked by something from below. How she had tried to call Brilleon, but lost her rings during a violent attack. Dathka stopped her then.
“Your rings fell into the chasm??/div>
Tryn nodded. “Is that bad??/div>
“Well…it’s the source of this storm, certainly. You see, this is a Dream Storm. They’re caused by animite from the real world becoming disassociated with an animite bearer while traveling the Dream Plane.?Dathka saw the questioning look on Tryn’s face and continued, “Animite belongs in the real world, little one. It is the fuel which powers the existence of those who live in the land of Dreams. When it is brought into this place, it becomes highly volatile. It doesn’t belong here.?/div>
Tryn was thoughtful. “So…what will the storm do? Is it dangerous??/div>
Dathka shook his head. “It would be dangerous at its center, but we are more or less safe from it at this distance. Your only bore a few rings with tiny pieces of animite in each. They should burn themselves out in a short while and the storm will dissipate.?/div>
Tryn gulped. “You mean, they could have exploded while I was carrying them??/div>
“Only if you tried to energize them. They remained more or less stable while in your immediate presence. You see, you project a field of…of…well, reality…around yourself. That zone of reality kept the animite in your rings from unleashing their energy. But their presence on your person is also what drew all the wild dream creatures toward you. They sensed the pure animite and hungered for it. I’m afraid they would gladly have destroyed you to get it! I was even more afraid of what would happen if you threw the rings away!?He nodded at the seething storm. “I’m afraid that dropping them into that chasm was the best thing that could have happened!?/div>
The Guardian now spoke up. “So the storm shall pass and the Green shall be unharmed??/div>
Dathka nodded, “I believe so. Although I daresay the real world is having a very interesting time of it just now!?Everyone looked at him questioningly. He chuckled, “A Dream Storm causes a widespread plague of bad dreams throughout the real world. I’m willing to bet that things are becoming very interesting in the Moonlands right about now!?/div>
“But…that’s terrible!?gasped Tryn.
“Well…it will pass soon, little one. The important thing is that you are safe now, and we must set about the task of sending you home!?/div>
Trunnk stepped forward. “I have been thinking about this since we first felt her presence here. I am afraid I have only bad news.?Trunnk pointed to the vortex of the Life Node whirling in the gulf beyond. “As a Guardian, I can call upon the full force of the Node to render an opening into the real world. But I cannot guarantee your safe passage through the opening.?The softly glowing eyes of the Guardian looked at Tryn sadly.
“What do you mean??/div>
“Well, the passage I create would allow your body to return to the real world, but because you have no anchor on the other side, I fear that your energy—your life force—would not make the transition along with your body.?/div>
“Umm…that’s no good,?murmured Tryn. “Well, how do I get an anchor??/div>
Dathka responded. “In the old days, we each had a special piece of animite that was attuned especially to us. A lifeline of sorts. Occasionally, an accident would occur while exploring the Dream Plane and we could focus on our anchor to draw ourselves back into the real world, both body and energy.?The Dreamkeeper paused. “I…er…don’t suppose you have such a thing??/div>
Tryn shook her head. “The only animite I had was in my rings.?She hung her head in dejection. “So, does this mean there is no way for me to get home??/div>
There was no answer from her companions as each was lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Trunnk raised his great wooden head and addressed the all, “Let us gather all of the Guardians, pool our knowledge and perhaps find a way to send the daughter of the forest back to her rightful place.?/div>
Dathka nodded in agreement. “I will perform the calling at once,?he said. Tryn was silent, exhaustion and despair settling in. Beyond the glittering trees, the storm had begun to abate.
What happens next? Read Part 8 "Anchor"
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