"So talk."

The old woman nodded. "I know what you did in Marsten, Noman. I know about the Incursion. I know you died, and that by the grace of the Goddess of Death you've returned."

"So what," Noman asked, "You want an award? I'm pretty sure the Incursion was pretty hard to miss for anyone with magical ability. Which, judging by the fact that you're in my dreams, I think I can guess you have. And yes, obviously I'm not dead. You're talking to me, so great job. Very observant. Now what are you after?"

Concern brought some few wrinkles to the old woman's face. "I want to know why. Airea isn't one to break her own rules. Not now, nor before the barrier limited her powers here. She must have a reason."

"That's what you want to know?" he balked. "You want to know why she's playing favorites?"

"Your being here, alive and as an extension of her will... it bends the rules of the world near to breaking." Jesra's clouded eyes stared at him, steady and unblinking. They seemed to see through the very fabric of his being, and it made him uneasy. "She sent you to stop the Incursion. Now that it's over, now that the danger is passed, why strain the fabric of the world by purposefully sending you back? What is her plan, Noman?"

"I take it back," he told her, and stepped forward. "You don't deserve an award. You've seen the pieces, but you have no idea what the big picture is. I guess you couldn't see through the barrier, even with the gaping hole it had, could you? Otherwise you wouldn't have missed the twisted, corrupted, demented wreck of an Old God bent on turning the world into its own personal torture chamber."

Jesra's eyes widened. "What?"

"Aeduun," he snarled. "Something happened to him out there, and now he wants back in. That's why I'm still here. Now it's my turn. Who are you, really, and what's your part in this?"

"In a way, I'm like you. I..." she paused and looked off to one side, head tilted as if listening. "We'll talk again, Noman. Soon."

In a rush of wind she was gone, leaving him alone with the wreck of his dream. He thought about starting it over again from the beginning, but the moment was ruined. He took a deep breath, let it out, and woke up.

Pale moonlight shone in through tall windows, illuminating the room as well as candlelight. With a heavy sigh he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The floor was cold under his bare feet, but the sensation had long since stopped being an uncomfortable one. When Airea had first given him the gifts he bore as her champion a cold numbness in his chest had come along with them. After his death and subsequent resurrection amid the debris of the Ivory Tower the warmth of a living body had returned. He pressed a hand against his chest, feeling the warmth of the skin and beat of the heart beneath. 

Despite it's disturbingly normal feel, he still possessed a champion's gifts. He didn't actually need to sleep, for one. It wasn't even a habit anymore. He only did it because it allowed him to access the Between, and now he wondered if he shouldn't refrain for a little while. And if there wasn't to be sleep or happy memories relived, then how to spend the rest of the night? After a moment's consideration, he decided on a walk.

The End

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