“Quite the dreamscape you have here, boy,” observed the old man that had blindsided Aylan. He knelt by the prince, his skull staff hovering threateningly over Aylan. His free hand clutched Aylan’s tunic hard, as if he was about to be torn away.
Aylan lifted his head to look around, completely disoriented. He looked around and could hardly believe what he saw. The environment itself was shifting around him. The ground mutated from lush green grass to barren rocky soil in only moments, and dark clouds raced through the sky at breakneck speed. Aylan thought he glimpsed faces appear amidst the cloud’s turmoil, some of them familiar. The black wizard mumbled incoherently and waved his staff about, still latched onto Aylan’s tunic and peering about into the swirling madness.
“What’s going on, where have you taken me?” Aylan queried, more than a bit lost and feeling very apprehensive.
“It’s not where I’ve taken you, it is where you have taken me,” cackled the pale old man. “Do you not recognize your dreams, boy? Here, let me help you…” The wizard flicked his skull staff with a quick motion at a flitting shadow. Almost immediately the transformations began to slow and the area around them solidified. Goldshore Castle materialized around them slowly, and Aylan found himself in the same room as his lost love, Kiana.
“It’s going to be all right, Aylan,” she was saying, her face beset with worry. She forced a fake smile and said, “Father might not understand, but we are betrothed anyway, so no true harm can come of this.”
“I know, it is just that with my father and the king being on such bad terms at the moment, I can’t help but worry. And if the king finds out about you- er, us, then he may overreact. Your father has never been the easy going sort, I fear.” Aylan watched himself speaking from across the room. They were in Kiana’s maids’ quarters, where they would often sneak away to meet each other. Now the two lovers were seated on a plain bed with blue cotton sheets and down pillow. Aylan marveled at Kiana’s beauty, as he had that very night. She wore a lace evening gown that revealed much, even in the meager light of the fireplace.
“Oh, isn’t she pretty,” remarked the black wizard. “Bet that was a bit of fun for you.”
Aylan grunted angrily and tried to wrench free of the old man, but could not. The wizard simply laughed and held on tighter, giving Aylan sharp crack over the head with his staff for his troubles.
“Well, let’s see what else your dreams have in store for us, shall we? It’s been such a long time since I’ve been on a good dreamscape romp.” The old man waved his staff again, and the room around them began to dissolve. Aylan’s dream manifestation that had been sitting next to Kiana disappeared also, along with the bed. Kiana however, stayed behind. After the entire room had gone and left her in swirling transforming blackness, she stood and faced Aylan and the wizard.
“Why haven’t you killed him yet?” She spoke to Aylan, her eyes piercing straight into his soul. An image of her assassin flashed in his head as it had so many times before.
“I will. I swear it.” Aylan replied, meeting the specters stare.
“And who is this you have brought with you? You have friends with knowledge of the dark arts?” Kiana loomed closer, walking slowly towards the two. She was still beautiful, Aylan noticed, but her beauty had transformed. Hers was now an ethereal glamour, with her perfect translucent skin and shimmering blond hair that seemed to float weightlessly in nonexistent air currents.
“He is no friend. I do not know how he followed me into my dreams, but he attacked me earlier-” Aylan was cut short as the wizard rapped him yet again with his staff and began chanting.
Kiana let out a terrible shriek, her face distorting into a thing of pure terror. She rushed at the black wizard, snarling wickedly, her hands reaching out for the old man.
Just before she reached them a crackling ball of dark energy surrounded the two. Aylan felt a violent surge, then a ripping sensation as if he were being torn apart. The feeling subsided momentarily, but was replaced by an intense wave of nausea. Aylan rolled to his side and retched, hardly noticing the old man was still there clutching Aylan’s tunic tightly. They were on solid ground for the moment, but the shifting sky told Aylan what he needed to know. Still in my damn dreams,he thought bitterly.
“You have a strong bond with an evil spirit, boy. That’s old magic, and ridiculously strong for what it is. Yser’s magic should’ve faded a bit more by now, I would have wagered.” The old man almost sounded shaken.
“She isn’t… evil…” Aylan spluttered, lying back and panting. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his tunic and coughed.
“She may not have been when you knew her boy, but she certainly is now. Murder can corrupt a soul, especially if you couple it with an evil curse, and trust me, I know evil,” the old man said with a glint in his eye. He smiled malevolently down at Aylan. “But we shouldn’t give up after one good scare, should we? I’m sure a healthy dreamer like you has plenty to tell me!”
With that, the aging wizard waved his cursed skull staff and the ground shifted again beneath him. Aylan went along for the ride unwillingly. The two visited every dream that he had dreamed in months, some taking more time than others. Aylan noticed that the black wizard carefully dodged any dreams about Kiana, although those visions seemed fairly numerous indeed.
“Are you done yet?” Aylan asked petulantly. His head reeled from so many visions, and another wave of nausea was beginning to wash over him.
“Fret not, you useful little tool. I do believe I am about done with you. There are only a few spots left I have yet to uncover and then we will be off.” The old man waved his staff yet again, mumbling a few words of unintelligible speech as he had every time they jumped to another of Aylan’s dreams. This time however, the shifting stopped. The ground solidified, and the ground sprouted forth lush green grass spotted with purple and yellow flowers. As the sky turned a bright, cloudless blue, Aylan recognized where they had gone.
“Ah, you’ve found the only decent dream I’ve had in forever, old man,” Aylan joked, relaxing amongst the tall grass and enjoying the aroma of the flowers.
“This isn’t a dream, you fool,” the old man hissed, apprehension building in his voice. He was looking around nervously, as if some hidden danger lurked in the heavenly open field. “I didn’t take us here.”
“I brought you here.”
The voice came from a familiar source. As if out of nowhere she appeared, radiant and beautiful. Aylan recognized her long flowing white hair and golden eyes from before, although he noticed the loving, motherly expression she carried before was gone. In its place was a scowl, a look that darkened the sky itself and stirred up the gentle wind into a near gale.
“You Vau’kir grow bolder with every year my foolish son is imprisoned. Men call you the Damned for good reason,” she spoke to the pale old man directly, who lifted his skull staff as if to protect himself.
“We do what we must to secure our future in this world!” he retorted, his voice wavering.
“Is it not enough to enslave one of my sons and kill another? Still you fools plot and plan for more power. I cannot believe that you would be so bold as to dare step foot into the dreamscape as well. If there is one place my sons power cannot elevate you to, this is that realm!” Her voice was rising steadily, and she walked slowly toward Aylan and the old wizard.
“Stay back, you wench!” The old man finally released his hold on Aylan and stepped back warily, still holding his skull staff defensively.
The woman sighed and flicked her hand nonchalantly through the air, as if she were swatting a pesky insect. The staff, skull and all, burst into pieces, peppering the foolish wizard with thousands of jagged splinters. He gasped helplessly and recoiled from the advancing, terribly beautiful yet horrifying female vision. Aylan could only watch, confused yet not displeased with this new development.
“Wait.. wait… spare me! I... I will release the boy, he can go!” The hard old wizard that had seemed so cruel and powerful only moments ago had melted away, revealing a desperate, pale and feeble being that was pleading for his life. His eyes were wide and sunken as he stumbled backwards and cowered before the angry white haired woman. His pale smooth skin was dotted in red everywhere his robe did not cover, no doubt a result of his staff exploding.
“Spare you? Oh my, how all the bravado of the immortal Vau’kir fades away as they are faced with sure destruction. I am not a being without mercy, sad little wizard, but I am afraid you are one who is quite undeserving of it. I shall afford you what mercy I can, namely a quick and painless death.” As she spoke, she leaned in closely to the unnerved wizard and gazed into his wide frightened black eyes for a moment. He is actually shivering,Aylan noted. The old man never even tried to fight back, he must know of this spirit. She mentioned an imprisoned son, but surely she’s not the… No, that’s crazy. This is all crazy.
The female vision continued to stare unblinking into the face of the mortified wizard, her hair still whipping in the wind, but she seemed to pay it no mind. The sky grew darker still, a perfect reflection the glower on her countenance. Sweat glistened on the bald head of the old man as he trembled beneath her gaze.
Suddenly she leaned forward and laid a light kiss on the wizard’s lips. His eyes widened in surprise for a moment, then slowly closed. He slumped to the grass beneath him, lifeless. The woman sighed, then stood and walked towards Aylan. He was not watching her, however. He stared agog as vines snaked up out the ground and wound around the dead wizard. In seconds the old man’s corpse was blanketed in flowery vines. Aylan marveled as the vines continued to writhe, and then suddenly yanked the cocooned body into the earth. The ground ripped apart to suck the old wizard in, then reformed seconds later as if nothing had ever happened.
“You still have a darkness about you, child.”
Aylan jerked his head back to the beautiful woman, still momentarily stunned by the turn of events. Her facial expression had abandoned its terrible expression from moments before, and now had adopted a cheerless look, almost sad.
“Do what you must do, yet do not let your anger consume you. I will wait for you when you have resolved your issues. I can bestow upon you great power, but that power is not to be misused. I will watch you, judge you, and help you if I see fit.” She was now kneeling before Aylan, looking straight into his frightened face. Her golden eyes seemed softer now, yet they seemed to carry a hint of disappointment.
“I do not understand…”
“You are currently bound by another magic, a curse of sorts. I’ll not aid you in that venture, yet nor will I stand in your way. That is all I will say on the matter.” She patted Aylan on the shoulder with a slender, perfect hand and then added, “You will see me again, in your dreams or your afterlife.”
Well that’s comforting, Aylan thought sarcastically. The beautiful white haired woman smiled at him almost imperceptibly, and then waved at him. Aylan felt himself falling backwards, back to his body or into more dreams, which he did not know.