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Dark Dreams

Chapter Text

Artists prayed to the Darks. Writers, poets, painters, actors, artists of all kinds, they all called on the Power & the Magick of the Darks., prayed that they would be heard, their work accepted by those who mattered, so they could make a living at their Calling.

Actors called on the Dark Horned Ones, to let their voices be heard and their roles bring their audiences to laughter or tears as the role called for, to poke their audiences to the reactions they desired.

Writers, poets, painters called on the Dark Winged Ones to bring them gifts from the Realms of Inspiration, to take them to the Far Reaches where all creativity lived, to let them soar to where the Muse(s) lived, to find the words & the works that could change the world, or at least the part of it that were blessed to receive their work.

Shopkeepers, merchants, business people of all kinds, prayed to the Darks for good seasons, for good profits, for the ability to continue their trades. To the Winged Ones to spread their message, to the Horned Ones for triumph over their competitors.

Lovers prayed to the Darks for success – in finding their True Loves, for being able to make matches, for blessings in a marriage. To the Winged Ones for sending their Heart’s Message flying to their loved one, that they might meet in this world. To the Horned Ones to protect the match against any who would seek to harm it.

Nearly everyone, at some point in their lives, would pray to the Darks for one reason or another. Whether for love or money or art, in the City, in the Villages, it didn’t matter. They all prayed.

And some were answered.

“What is it, Ebon Sunlight?” the young woman asked as she reached out to soothe the restless Dark. The Winged One snorted, then settled, leaning into the touch, urging scratching. Laughing, the young woman obeyed, finally reaching for a currycomb as the black mare with an overtint of gold kept insisting on more scratching.

“Are you going out tonight? Is that it?” The mare nodded her head and then nudged the young woman again, who laughed and started applying the currycomb again. “Is it going to be bad? Is that why you’re so demanding today?” A protesting snort. “Well, yes, that’s true. You’re demanding ALL the time. Why would this be any different?” Another nudge, this time nearly strong enough to knock her over, followed by a picture of hay and mash.

“All right! All right!” The young woman went to do as she was bid, filling the mare’s manger high with fresh hay. “The mash you get after you get back.” A snort of protest again. “You know that’s what’s best for you.” A sigh of resignation. The young woman came over, petted the mare’s shoulder. “The Blessing of the Goddess go with you tonight,” she said softly. “It sounds like you’re going to need it.”

Winged One Ebon Sunlight wasn’t the only one who was restless tonight, the young woman thought, as she went down the aisles, checking the Darks who resided within. Winged One Ebon Fire, her black coat streaked with dark red, was also having that restlessness that spoke of a mission once the darkness came. Some of the others were still out to pasture. Some were out on assignment and wouldn’t be back until their mission was fulfilled.

Among those was Horned One Pricks the Conscience, a neuter who was known for a fierce Will and a no-nonsense demeanor. Privately, she’d always wondered at the people who’d received them as their Dark. What had they thought? And more importantly, what had Pricks the Conscience done in response to the Plea?

While the Darks were the get of the Goodness Goddess and Sworn to her Service, still, exactly HOW they accomplished her Bidding was up to them, and thus, dependent on the personality of the individual.

Privately, the young woman wondered whether getting a Dark like Pricks the Conscience was better than receiving no answer at all, but that was not her place to decide. No, she was an acolyte sworn to the Goodness Goddess’ service and to the care of Her Horses, the Darks, but that did not mean that the Goodness Goddess had raised her to the level of a Goddess herself.

She worshipped, she fed and curried and mucked and cared for the Darks, she read the Ritual and the Litany, she did the Sacred Things that were to be done, and that was more than enough for her.

Turning her back on the stables now that everyone who was in had been cared for, she took her steps back to the Temple, where her own food and care awaited.

His feet trembled on the narrow ledge of the bridge. Why they should do that, he wasn’t really sure – after all, he knew what he was doing here. Or at least why he was here, he thought a bit bitterly to himself. The knew what he was doing part, well, that was a laugh. A laugh like all the other ones he’d been failing to get in his too-short career as a comic actor.

He’d lost his job last night and his rodent-infested flat this morning and tonight, he’d lose his worthless life as well. After all it’s not like anyone would miss him, except for maybe those who enjoyed throwing various bits of refuse at failed comics. He’d come here now as a run-through, a preparation for the main performance later. A rehearsal like any other, even if for a show unlike any other.

After all, something should go well, he thought. There should be at least one performance worthy of the name to his credit.

He looked around, made sure of his surroundings, then climbed back down. Everything was set. Now, he’d go and feast before returning later. For wasn’t every condemned man allowed a sumptuous Last Meal?

The time had come. A burp from his satisfied stomach rather interrupted the solemnity of the moment, but he presumed that was simply what he’d earned. Even this couldn't come out entirely the way he’d meant it to. Still, a performance was a performance, and it didn’t do to be late.

He climbed up on the bridge’s edge again, sneaking a look at the river flowing far below, faint sparkles here and there from the lights on the bridge and the city to either side. How beautiful, he thought. For a moment, he thought of turning back, suddenly afraid that somehow he’d mess this up too, and suddenly wondering if he even wanted it in the first place. Why mess up such beauty with his unworthy body? He even climbed down from the ledge back to the pathway, but then turned back. No, he’d make sure he’d at least get this one thing right in his life.

Even if it were only the ending of it.

With luck, the river would forgive him someday.

He closed his eyes, silently mouthing ‘I’m sorry!’ tho’ to who or what he couldn't exactly say, and then let go of the ledge, of his life.

And suddenly stopped, as a black horse came out of nowhere and swept him up, banking around to land on the bridge’s walkway, cantering a few steps before stopping and folding those lovely large wings.

And that’s when his brain began to catch up with him. Wings? Horse? Oh, Heavens, it was one of the Darks! He scrambled off the Winged One’s back, not wanting to sully them with his presence. They had chosen to save him, unworthy as he was and that was enough.

More than enough, really. The bigger question was… why?

As if on cue, at that moment the horse began to glow, the golden highlights of her coat, growing, glowing, blinding him with their brilliance as a voice came out of the middle of the great golden cloud.

I do not give you Leave.

“Wh-what?” was all he could come up with.

I do not give you Leave to end your life, Goodman Evans.

“Wh-who?” and cursed himself for not coming up with something more… intelligent, witty, something, to say.

I am the Goodness Goddess, speaking through my Avatar. And I say that you are to live.

“Why?” Finally, a word that came out straight and true, tho’ then he wondered if She would simply strike him dead for his impertinence. Although, since She’d just said that she wanted him to live, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Nothing was making sense, tho’, so maybe this didn’t have to either.

...tell my stories.

“I’m, sorry, what?”

I say, the Voice repeated with just a touch of impatience, which he found oddly soothing, that I desire you to live and tell my stories.

“But I’m no good,” he whispered shamefacedly.

You’re no good at comedy, the Voice corrected. That doesn’t mean that you’re no good at all of it.

“Oh?” he said, the dawning realization that She might be correct, along with the shame that it hadn’t occurred to him to try another genre. Just ran off to the Bridge, ready to….

Doesn’t matter, the Voice cut across his thoughts. You know now.

“I… I guess I do,” he said slowly, as the thoughts began to trickle down his spine, filling him with Light.

I will make a Bargain with you.

“Oh?” he said, this time in wonder.

Yes. People have thought you a failure because you hadn’t found your way. You thought yourself a failure because you hadn’t found your way. What way is that? You don’t make people laugh, you make them think. Now, go write stories that make people think. Perform roles that make people think. If it doesn’t work, if yourself and other still consider you a failure, then come back and I will take you into my Arms Myself.

A moment, while all he could do was gape at the golden cloud while his brain strove to catch up with all that had happened, going from the lowest lows to the highest heights in the breath and breadth of a moment.

Will you accept?

Finally, he found words again. “Yes, yes, I will. And thank you!” He sobered. “Only, where will I eat? Where will I sleep? With what will I write? I lost all of that this morning.”

I will take care of you. Now go, write, live. And the golden cloud disappeared, leaving only the Winged One behind. Who gave a quick neigh of impatience and turned their head over their shoulder.

“You wish me to ride you?”

At the Winged One’s nod, he slowly came back over. The Winged One sidled next to the bridge’s edge, and he used the stone as a mounting block, swinging his leg over the Winged One’s back with a faint resemblance to grace. Once he was settled on their back, the Winged One took off, cantering down the bridge to gather speed before launching themselves into flight and wheeling around for the temple.

As he saw the distinctive spires and carvings that made up the Temple’s face, he suddenly understood, or thought he did. The Winged One made for the central courtyard and landed gracefully.

“Ebon Sunlight! You’re back!” a young woman’s voice cried as she came and caressed the Winged One’s neck. He slid down from the Winged One’s back and stood unsure in the courtyard as the young woman continud to fuss over the Winged One, who absorbed the attention with bliss.

“Oh! And you must be the person Ebon Sunlight was sent to save!” At his mute nod, she replied, “Just let me get the Winged One settled and then I’ll see to you.” He nodded again as she led the Winged One away. He looked around the dimly lit courtyard and saw a bench off to the side. He went and sat, wondering what would happen next.

What happened next was that in a small while the young lady came back and took him into a comfortable room that she said would be his for as long as he chose to stay. She brought him nightclothes and end-of-day food & drink and then told him that she’d be back tomorrow to show him the rest of what he’d need to know.

Bemused, he let her small whirlwind surround him then leave. In the quiet, all he could think of was how fortunate he was. How Blessed.

“Thank you,” he said to the air.

You’re welcome. Now sleep.

And he did just that.