The further adventures of Noman and company! This is my attempt at writing a follow up for my first story turned ebook, Clockwork & Old Gods. When finished it will also be an ebook. Until then, enjoy the free preview. :)
A Goddess had once explained the Between to Noman as a place not fully in the realm of mortals, yet not quite the realm of the Gods. It was just that - between. He knew now that it was where mortal minds came to dream. In it's basic state it was pure, uncontrolled potential. When a mind entered it began to shape things, pulling fantasy and nightmare forth from the roiling mass of untapped possibility. As the body slept, the unconscious mind explored without limit.
Some, like Noman, could consciously control how it all manifested. He liked to go there to think, these days. Well, not so much think as... reminisce. It was easy to bring one's memories to life in the Between - a fact that Noman exploited frequently. This time he was back at Ironclaw, the village overlooked by a fortified monastery and guarded by men and women of the Iron Order. It had been Noman's last home before accepting the offer to serve the Old Goddess of death, Airea. He had, in fact, agreed to serve her to spare the village from a demon attack.
He wasn't here because of any of that. He'd come here, to this place, on the very day he'd accepted Airea's offer, because of a girl he'd left behind. Her name was Ella, and he'd been in love with her. He told himself she'd felt the same, even if neither of them had ever said it aloud. If he'd had more time, maybe...
But he hadn't. They'd had one last picnic together, and then he'd gone. Aldrick would have told her what happened. Noman wondered if she'd missed him for very long. Over a thousand years later, he still missed her. His dream, if not the memory, started at the gates of the monastery. He walked down the dusty road towards the village, none of the figments that populated it taking any notice. Nor would they. He wasn't here for them. To him they were naught but scenery.
It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear and blue, with not a cloud to be seen, and a warm summer breeze tugged at strands of long black hair that had escaped the clasp at his neck. He passed dogs, chickens, horses tied to carts... all scenery. His eyes were focused on the baker's shop, where Ella would be working for her father. It seemed like no time at all before he reached it, and the smell of warm bread reached him. He smiled, heart beating a little faster at the thought of seeing her. Just a few more steps and he'd be at the door.
The warm breeze turned suddenly cold, turning into a harsh wind in the blink of an eye. The bright sun turned dim as dark clouds rolled across the sky at impossible speeds, and thunder rumbled nearby. The village became as still as the grave. All of the villagers were gone. His smile disappeared, replaced with a deep, angry frown. What was this? He tried to force things back to the way they were, exerting his will upon the raw aether of the Between. Nothing changed.
"Airea," he growled, immediately suspecting the Goddess. She was nowhere to be seen out in the street, but he had a guess at where she was. Fist clenched, he stepped into the bakery. He knew Ella wouldn't be there, her absence was expected. But the woman who stood there instead wasn't Airea, and that took him by surprise. She had long, stark white hair and pale skin, and her sunken eyes were clouded over. He could tell she was old, but hardly a wrinkle touched her face.
He reached for the sword at his waist - another product of the dream - and found it gone. He searched her face, looking for some sign of her purpose. "Who are you?" he asked.
"Noman," she spoke his name and it echoed through his skull. "Champion of the Goddess. Airea's Champion. I've been looking for you. My name is Jesra. We need to talk."