Dreams to Dream:
Disclaimer: I do not own Sandman or any characters in this work of fan fiction. The Sandman and all related characters were created by Neil Gaiman and belong to Neil Gaiman and DC comics.
Dreams to Dream:
The scene was a familiar one but somehow so much worse than it had been before. He had never imagined it could get this terrible this quickly. Even when he had been imprisoned things had not changed this drastically and so swiftly. The bleak landscape that had once been his home was barren and unfamiliar to him now. Even the sky felt alien and cold. Why did it feel so cold?
He was improbably pale, with wild dark hair and completely black eyes that were still somehow expressive of a wide range of emotion. He was painfully thin. And the black robes he wore moved with the wind around him.
He stared up at what had once been his castle. The dark robes around him felt paper thin, too thin to keep out the unnatural chill. He held his arms around himself as if to shield himself. He felt cold.
Even the words he spoke were too familiar to his ears. “Lucien… What happened here?”
Lucien was a good head taller than him. He wore a suit that had seen better days and a bowtie at his neck. He wore round spectacles over his dark, intelligent eyes. His ears were pointed. This was a common trait here. His hair was short and brown. His entire appearance reflected a stereotype of his own function. It practically screamed librarian.
The answer he received now from Lucien was not the one he had been given three decades and two-years-ago when he had escaped from his long confinement. It was a strange answer with words unfamiliar to him, peculiar, modern, mortal words that were little more than gibberish to him. What in The Dreaming was an A.I.? He had some vague idea of what Lucien was telling him but he was still confused. Where was Cain? Where was The Corinthian? Where was… Where was Dream?
He had some vague idea of what was going on, knowledge of Dream and his relationship with the girl, Ivy, and of the geas he had been put under. But he had never imagined it could get this bad.
He, himself, had been Dream once. He was no longer Dream of The Endless. He did not feel that familiar psychic connection to his old servant. It seemed a profound sort of loneliness to not feel that connection webbing its way outward from his mind to those of his domain- to not know their thoughts and feelings. What little power he had now was a weak imitation of what it had once been and there was no mental link with the others of this Dream Time. He was not Dream of The Endless anymore. He was just… Morpheus. Morpheus, who had existed for years now, peacefully in the dreams of his old friend, Hob Gadling. A dead and remembered dream and therefore a living dream, just no longer an aspect of Dream of The Endless- that life was over. That role was no longer his. He was free of the title. Free of his shackles linking him to The Endless, his former family… Free… Free of the burden of his own responsibilities. He thought he had been free… As Dream of The Endless he was dead. As a dream, however, he was Free… or was he?
He suddenly felt weaker than he had been already, as if the air had been syphoned out of him. He had never felt so frail and small in The Dreaming as he did right now. He put a bony hand to his milk-white forehead. He stumbled.* “Oh…”
Lucien, ever-faithful, Lucien moved toward him. “My lord?”
“I’m fine. I’m perfectly capable… I don’t need any-“ But his knees had buckled. The ground was rising to meet him, or so it seemed. Dignity was a losing battle now and pride was as broken as this landscape. And then Lucien’s hands caught his narrow shoulders. Lucien caught him. And suddenly Morpheus felt safe. Safe and somewhere familiar. Safe and protected. Safe and needed. Even without the psychic link he could sense Lucien’s anguish. It was palpable. He let his head rest against Lucien’s chest as his old friend supported his light frame. His own despair was washing over him. “What have I done?” He whispered.
“It was not your fault, my lord.”
“No? Then whose?”
Once he was strong enough to stand on his own Morpheus stepped away from Lucien, choosing to pretend he hadn’t needed the support at all. “I must find him.” He said finally. “I must set this right. I am no longer Dream of The Endless but Dream of The Endless needs me…”
Morpheus walked with purpose and determination toward the shore of The Sea of Night. Lucien was following behind him, ready to catch him should he fall again though he did not tell him that was why he was staying so close. And that wasn’t the whole reason as to why he was staying so close. He had lost two Dream Lords. Now this remnant of his first master, this fragile thing, was all he had left. He could not lose him again. He had lost too much too fast.
Black wings spread against the stars, heavy flapping in the salty sea air. Matthew The Raven saw the two figures walking toward the water. The taller figure was Lucien. He recognized him immediately. The other, thin figure, with the mop of wild dark hair. Well, it had to be his imagination, right? That couldn’t be who he thought it was. Longing and also anger pierced the heart of the raven. He swooped down toward the pair.
“Who the Hell are you?”
“You know who I am, Mathew.” The voice was weary, calm and familiar.
“No! No, you’re not! He’s dead!” The raven argued, angrily, fluttering around him.
“Yes, I am.”
Morpheus knelt down in the sand. Not close enough to the water that the sand might be damp. Here the sand was soft, and dry and almost white in the pale blue light of a crystalline moon. He motioned to Lucien.
“Now I will need some cloth, a large square of about two thirds of a meter in each direction. Scissors or a large sewing needle. And a cord. Soft rope is preferred. Matthew?”
“Huh? Why would I have that? And what are you doing?” He was still skeptical of the pale figure. “If you’re really him, what was the last thing I said to you?”
“Matthew, please.” He didn’t want to think about that right now. He put a hand to his own temples.
“I don’t think you’re him and I’m not helping you until you tell me.”
He sighed and looked up from his intended work. “You told me… That you would see me when I come back to the castle… That you would wait for me there. I sent you away…”
It was really him, wasn’t it? Well, even if it wasn’t, he was going to treat him like he was. Matthew was furious. “You sent me away so you could die! You knew they were gonna kill you and you just let ‘em! Why!? WHY!?”
He stared at the raven and finally, reached out to him, placing a hand on the bird’s head, gently, stroking. It wasn’t a normal gesture. In fact it was quite alien for him.
“Don’t touch me!” Matthew snapped.
Morpheus drew his hand back in a quick recoil.
“You killed yourself! You left us! You don’t give a damn about any of this! So why come back now?” Matthew demanded to know.
“I do care, Matthew. I am… I was just one aspect of a greater whole. When one aspect of Dream of The Endless is …destroyed, another takes its place. I was… so very tired…”
“You self-destructive, selfish, asshole! You gave the kingdom to a kid and left us to rot!”
“I thought he would protect you. I thought he would govern well. He is me after all… or what I used to be. I did not want the kingdom to crumble as it had during my last absence. I thought he could fulfill his function without aid. I was wrong. I am sorry.”
The raven snorted. “Sorry doesn’t cut it.”
“Please, help me now. Help me to set this right …and to save him.”
Matthew’s anger ebbed for a moment as he looked at those glassy black eyes. “All right.” He said defeatedly. “All right. I’ll help ya. What do you need, boss?”
There was a trace of a smile on the pale face.
Matthew had retrieved the items Morpheus asked for and Lucien had retrieved the helm of dreams. Lucien carried the helm under one arm, protectively.
Now Morpheus knelt with the cord and a square of red velvet. He was working with these things.
Matthew perched on Lucien’s shoulder and asked. “What’s he doing?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Matrhew? He’s making a pouch of dreamsand.”
Morpheus filled the crimson, velvet pouch with pale beach sand. “There.” He said as he held up the pouch in the moonlight. It was about the size of the brown, leather one that he had left to Daniel years before.
“Will you be needing your helm, my lord?” Lucien asked.
“I am no longer your lord, Lucien.”
“Sorry, my Lord. I mean… Morpheus?” No, that didn’t sound right.
Morpheus gave him a reassuring look. “The helm is no longer mine, Lucien. It belongs to him now but have it ready, please. He may need it. I told you. I am no longer Dream of The Endless.”
“Yeah, you’ve said that.” Matthew said. “So what are you?”
“I am a dream of an old Dream.”
“So you have no clue, huh?”
Morpheus frowned, not precisely answering the question. “I am the failsafe in case the true master of this realm falls. I am Morpheus. And I hope that is enough.”
Morpheus stood and secured the pouch at his waistline at the belt loop of a pair of trousers that Matthew wasn’t entirely sure he had been wearing under the robes before. It was probably best not to ask. Morpheus stared out at the glittering, lapping waves.
When Morpheus’ sister came for him he knew that his time as Dream of The Endless and his reign was over. And he had felt at peace knowing The Dreaming was in safe hands. When Dream (Daniel) had called him- his spirit- the essence that was his very soul, back, Morpheus had known what Daniel’s intentions were. He found himself, a newborn dream-creature. Sustained by the memory and thoughts of who he had been, from those who knew him. Especially of Hob, his immortal friend.
“Can you sense him?” Matthew asked. “He closed himself off from me.”
“No.” Morpheus said. “But I know where I would go and so I think I know where he is.”
“Because he is you? Eh… What you used to be… This is confusing.”
“Something like that, yes.” Morpheus reached his hand for the new pouch of dreamsand. It was different from the old, leather pouch. But it also was familiar. It felt good to feel the sand between his fingers again, even though he didn’t dare to admit it even to himself. Perhaps he had missed this.
The glittering sand scattered in front of him and hovered in the air by his very will. He had to concentrate to maintain it but what he wanted was taking form. The way was opening. The spiral of sand became a vortex in the air, leading to another place.
He looked back at Lucien and Matthew. “Are you coming too?” Though the true meaning was along the lines of “Will you come with me?”
Matthew understood but it didn’t really seem like something Morpheus would say and there was that brief pang of doubt that this was him.
Lucien adjusted his own bowtie. “You want us to come with you, My Lord… er… Morpheus?” He carefully set down the helm under a purple tree with curled branches, somewhere easy for Daniel to find upon his return, if he should return before they found him.
“If you stay here, you will likely die. I would rather that not happen.” Morpheus said.
Matthew laughed uneasily and then said in a fake Austrian accent “’Come with me if you want to live.’”
Needless to say, Morpheus did not get the reference.
Matthew: “We’re right behind you, boss.”
Morpheus rose up off his feet as if he was weightless. Matthew could see the white feet were bare. And Morpheus plunged into the void beyond…
Darkness. Darkness and the plunging sensation of falling. Spiraling, spinning. Lucien was screaming. Matthew was fighting the powerful current with desperate and frantic flapping.
“MY LORD!” With one hand Lucien was trying to hold his spectacles on. With the other he reached out desperately for Morpheus, whom he couldn’t actually see in the maddening whirl of dark haze as he tumbled through the abyss. Lucien felt a sudden tug on the back of his jacket. Someone had him. Morpheus had him in a grip much stronger than Lucien may have expected considering Morpheus’ recent signs of weakness.
Matthew let out a surprised cry as he was caught in a pale, bony grasp.
They were descending now, more slowly. Gracefully. The trio landed on a platform floating in an oddly colored void. Around them was a vastness of a cloudy nebula that was somehow devoid of distant stars.
Morpheus released his two companions. Lucien dusted himself off and straightened his spectacles. He attempted to restore his usual appearance of being prim and proper. Matthew fluttered to get a higher angle and look around the strange nothingness that surrounded them.
“My Lord, what IS this place?” Lucien asked.
“This is a place outside of known reality. A place to commune.”
“Commune with who?” Matthew asked with a wary and cautious tone.
Morpheus chose against directly answering but instead reached out a pointed finger and started to draw in the air. A simple symbol- a pentangle of sorts. A simple five pointed star. Where his finger touched at empty air a golden aura of light lingered behind and soon the symbol took form. The star floated in the air as if suspended by an invisible wire.
“What’s that?” Matthew asked as he flapped down to settle a perch on his old boss’s shoulder. It was familiar and good, as if no time had passed between them at all, no time lost that they could have and should have shared- now on this strange adventure. And Matthew wondered- would Morpheus go back to being dead after this? Like really dead? Would he be gone again, inaccessible to them? For the first time in the entirety of his life as a raven Matthew wished he had arms to physically grab him and maybe give him a good shake to knock some sense into him. He dreaded the end of the adventure that he knew was bound to come.
“It’s a star.” Morpheus said simply.
“I can see that. I mean… Why are you drawing it?”
“It is a very old sigil.”
Matthew and Lucien understood this. Sigils were symbols of magick and power. Each of the family of Endless had a sigil. Death’s was her ankh. Destiny’s was his great, chained book. Desire’s sigil was a heart. Despair’s sigil was a hooked ring. Delirium’s was a strange splattering of rainbow color that maybe once vaguely resembled a flower.
“Whose sigil is that?” Matthew asked.
“Yours?” Matthew asked and then Matthew and Lucien exchanged looks.
Matthew attempted to broach the subject delicately as if dying and current existence had left Morpheus addled somehow. “Uh… Your sigil is your battle helm. Don’t you remember?”
“Yes, Matthew. I remember. But before the helm there was another sigil. Before I created the helm my sigil was a star. And He knows it. He knows I am the only one who would use it now. He will come to me.”
They stood in silence for several, awkward seconds. And just before Matthew could state that nothing was happening something did happen. A glowing vortex opened in front of them, golden in color and bright as the sun. And a figure emerged from this light, as pale as Morpheus but in a white roman toga that draped down to his feet from his midsection. A sash, also of white, was across his shoulder. And around his neck hung a pendant of bright green emerald. It glowed with power.
“Hello Dream.” Morpheus said without the slightest hint of recognized irony.
“Hello Morpheus.” Daniel replied in the same tone. The tiny star-like pupil in Daniel’s eye flared and the mirror that was Morpheus gave a bitter smile as the two walked toward each other. With Morpheus’ dark hair and dark clothes, and Daniel’s white hair and white clothes, the two seemed to be opposite halves of a yin yang moving in toward each other. Two pieces of a puzzle finally connected and whole. It was… weirdly beautiful to the raven but he would never say it.
There was some unspoken communication between Morpheus and Daniel, some silent communication that Lucien and Matthew could not see or hear. It passed silently between the two as an exchange of knowledge and memory. And when the silent exposition had ended Morpheus spoke out loud.
“I see.” Morpheus said as most of his questions were now more or less answered. “The girl? Ivy?” Morpheus asked as if the question conveyed a great deal more than it seemed.
“She is safe.” Daniel replied. “I have her.”
Morpheus nodded. “I underestimated your humanness. For that I am sorry.”
Daniel shook his head. “That which was human was burnt away long ago. I am no more human than you.”
For a moment it looked like Morpheus was about to protest but Matthew gave a croaking caw to get their attention, his wings flapping. “You’re both more human than you’d want to admit! So shut up and let’s postpone the pissing contest. We’ve got The Dreaming to save!”
“Quiet, Matthew.” Morpheus commanded.
“Don’t talk to him that way.” Daniel said.
“Yeah, you’re not the boss anymore. Don’t talk to me that way.”
“Matthew, quiet.” Daniel said.
And Matthew gave them both a look. He then turned his head toward Lucien. “It’s like he’s in stereo.”
Lucien wiped a tear at seeing Daniel. He was sniffling, trying not to sob. He was trembling from all he had recently experienced. From the A.I. that took over the dreaming, to the digitization of the library. To his exhaustion at trying to keep The Dreaming running without his king for a second (and somehow more trying) time.
“My lord, what are we going to do?”
Daniel gave Lucien a warm and sad look, “There is nothing I can do. I am-…“
Before Daniel could finish what he was saying, Morpheus was walking behind him. He seemed to be circling Daniel like a vulture encircling prey. He placed a hand on Daniel’s back. “This…” His hand rested on the dream catcher tattoo, a geas spell that bound him. “This petty hedgemagicking? This is what has crippled you?”
“I am not crippled.” Daniel said indignantly.
Morpheus gave a tiny, strained smile. “Am I always so-?”
Matthew interrupted “Stubborn? Usually refusing help? Cocky? Acting like your shit don’t stink?”
“I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘Incorrigible,’ Matthew.” Lucien said as he adjusted his spectacles, no longer quite sounding as if he was on the verge of a break down.
“Yeah, that. Uh…You are.” Matthew answered Morpheus.
“Ah. I see. Fascinating.” Morpheus said with actual consideration as he rested his fingertips on the dream catcher. It was part dream catcher and part solomonic figure. He grimaced, trying to mask that the magick was hurting him. “This… This will not do. But Dream Catchers were never designed to prevent or stop dreams. Only Nightmares. And you are the master of both. Or… Are you?”
Daniel blinked. “You know how to remove it, don’t you?”
Morpheus sighed “At great sacrifice to myself, yes…”
“I can pull you through it, your very essence but the darker part of you. The part that governs Nightmares… That will be ripped from you. It will be painful. And you will lose much of yourself.”
“Where will that part of me go?”
“…Where it once was…”
Daniel nodded solemnly and turned to face Morpheus. He stared at him for a very long moment and understanding the sacrifice he was making, the freedom he was giving up to save him- to save his kingdom- the balance he meant to preserve, he took Morpheus’ hand, his fingers intertwining with his. And he breathed the words, “Thank you.”
Morpheus was briefly surprised by the sudden grasp of his hand, their fingers instinctively twisting together. Again Morpheus nodded sadly.
The two figures, one light, one dark, were rotating in the void, and speaking, now separate from the two dream creatures. They were away from both Matthew and Lucien.
“This will hurt.” One of the two similar figures said.
“I know.” confirmed the other as the light and dark figures moved in circular formations like a slow waltz.
“It will be like being born again.” Said one solemnly in the rotation.
“It will be like dying again.” The other replied apologetically.
“And when it is over…” said one.
“When it is over things will never be the same again.” Said the other. But it was hard to tell which was speaking.
Matthew and Lucien were now on a platform of displaced terrafirma though Matthew did not remember leaving Morpheus’ shoulder. He was fluttering in the air (or was it air?). “What’s happening? What are they doing?”
“I… I don’t know.” Lucien said with puzzled worry.
There was darkness and then a great explosion of light. Someone was screaming. Both were screaming. An agonized cry, like a man dying, or a baby being born, or both. It was deafening and heartbreaking and all around Lucien and Matthew they could feel the rush of a tremendous energy. They knew they were witnessing something profound but they could not quite tell what it was.
After what seemed like a small eternity it was over. In a strange crater lay two naked beings. A burnt dream catcher made of wire, and a wooden frame, and beads, and feathers, with Hebrew letters that Matthew could not read lay on the ground. It was as if the hideous geas of a tattoo had been ripped from Daniel’s back and made manifest into a tactile object. But in reality Daniel had been torn through the pentacle and the tangible object was merely all that remained of it now. It looked like someone had tried to shove a fire cracker (or a small star) through it. The mark on Daniel’s back was gone, but the flesh of his back was raw, pink and slowly healing back to bone-white.
Morpheus lay on the ground, curled in a fetal position as he lain once before when summoned to the cellar of a human occultist, Roderick Burgess. He lay there with his eyes clenched shut. He seemed to be in a great deal of pain. Clutched tightly in one hand was a pendant. A brand new, glowing amulet, a jewel hanging from a chain. Ruby? Perhaps garnet? A bright red new dream stone made from the torn piece of Daniel’s essence. He could feel the power of the dreamstone passing into himself, coursing through him. He couldn’t throw it away now. It had been the only way to save them- to save his world. There has to be balance. There must be two. Two sides to the coin. Light, and darkness. And he, as he had always loved his Nightmares, had accepted the darkness that could not survive the journey through the magick of the dream catcher. He placed the pendant over his head and let the stone’s weight hang against his chest. This was so very familiar.
Oh, certainly there was a way to give it back to Daniel now. If he thought about it for a few minutes he might have. But sometimes things happen for a reason. Sometimes sacrifices must be made. And sometimes… There must be balance.
Lucien had somehow made it from his safe, floating shelf, to the crater on the other floating ground. “Morpheus?” He asked.
Oh, poor Lucien. He hadn’t remembered to not call him “My Lord” that whole time and now he finally had remembered to disregard the formality. And now he was to be corrected again.
Morpheus slowly, shakily stood up, not too modest about his current nudity. “Is that any way to address your king, Lucien?” he asked softly. But though his voice was soft there was power there, familiar power. And Lucien felt him there, felt him and the other Dream- both in his mind.
“Ugh…. Kings.” Groaned the other similar voice, correcting him.
Lucien hurried over to help the white haired one to his feet.
Matthew flew over to Morpheus. He could feel the restored connection too. “What have you done?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Matthew? There needs to be balance. That Dream Catcher would have destroyed a great deal of his essence if there was no one else to claim it. “We are now both Dream of The Endless.”
“My Lord!” Lucien exclaimed, while supporting the weakened, white haired Dream.
“Yes.” Both answered, as if it was a question.
Daniel had a moment of uncertainty. “He said I wasn’t real.” Daniel said in a near whisper. “That I was nothing more than a dream that you shaped in your image.”
“You are real if you choose to be real. No one else can tell you who or what you are.” Morpheus assured Daniel. “I never chose to be Dream of The Endless… Until now. Now we both have a choice. To be the rulers of a realm that needs us or to cower in the face of those who would make us doubt ourselves and leave a world to be deprived of story, mythology, creativity, and wonder, and ultimately destroyed for it. The choice has to be yours. Will you stand with me now?”
Far away from where The Dreams stood a lonely figure wandered an old house.
The scent of burning toast was no longer there. That was good. How he hated that smell. The old man walked down the hall of the manor house known locally as Fawny Rig. He never liked the name. He always thought of changing it, rechristening it to something more dignified. There was a history to Fawny Rig. His father’s history, the house’s history…
Why were the windows shattered in like a Central America tornado had touched down nearby? Had he ever even been to America? Of course he had. Of course he had. He had been to lots of different places. It’s just a little fuzzy now. That’s all.
The old man was making his way down the stairs to a secret, cellar room. There was no one there now. No prisoner. No guards. Even the great crystalline cage was gone.
For a moment everything seemed as clear as crystal. He knew something was wrong. But he would be fine if he just got to the hospital in time. Paul… Where was Paul? Would he need his coat? It was winter, wasn’t it? No. He had just passed the shattered window. Those flowers outside only bloom in June. Everything was so confused. So hazy. And there was that tingling in his arm. What smelt like burnt toast? Oh, this could be serious. He’d be fine if they just got to the hospital in time…
Alexander Burgess wandered up the stairs and into a great hall, his entire form flickering and wavering like a candle flame as he ascended and then made his way down the corridor to the room he wanted. He felt old. He was old.
A pale hand caught his shoulder. He almost thought his heart would give out from the jolt he felt at the contact. He thought he might leap out of his skin.
Startled, the old ghost turned with a gasp. There stood two nearly identical figures in flowing robes. One in white robes that looked ghostly and wispy. The other in black, also ghostly and wispy. Though they were similar, the older, darker one, was the more familiar of the two and by extension the more terrifying.
The unusually tall man in the spectacles, and wearing a suit with bowtie, and the raven perched on that man’s shoulder, wasn’t as startling as it was to see him- the king of dreams again.
“But you died.” Alexander wasn’t entirely sure how he knew that. He couldn’t really recall The Wake he had attended in his dreams. He remembered a candle. He remembered the white haired king. He remembered feeling… forgiven…
“So did you.” Morpheus replied.
“No… I… I’ll be fine. Damn it, I just… I just…”
“You died in the year two thousand and six, by your method of keeping time.” Daniel said gently.
“No!” Frightened, Alexander shook his head.
“You needed a wheeled chair to move about in the end. You could not walk.” Daniel told him. “You could only walk in your dreams. And yet you are standing right now.”
“I… I just… I was feeling better, that’s all.”
Matthew the raven leaned in to Lucien. “De Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt. How can he be of help? He doesn’t even know he’s dead. If you ask me the ghost is a few cards short of a full deck.”
Alexander Burgess heard the bird and it seemed the reality of the situation was sinking in. He couldn’t really be dead, could he? He felt the bony hand on his shoulder. He shuddered. “No. It can’t be true.” He said sadly, desperately.
“Listen to me.” Morpheus said to him, in a tone much different than the one he had the first time he had spoken to him, the night he had condemned him to what had ultimately been a temporary “eternal waking.” A nightmare that would seem to end only for him to awaken into yet another nightmare that would play out and then awaken into yet another nightmare. He had suffered that fate for six long years as punishment for carrying on the captivity his father had started when he had summoned and imprisoned The King of Dreams.
“I- I’m sorry.” Alexander’s entire form was changing.
Alexander Burgess wasn’t an old man anymore. He was a frightened boy wearing round spectacles. His dark, reddish, hair sweeping over a forehead that was no longer bald. He looked so confused, so lost that it was almost heart breaking for Matthew to watch the strange transformation from elderly ghost to teenaged boy. The form Alexander had in his preferred dreams.
“I know.” Morpheus told him. “It is in the past. You were forgiven long ago.”
“You still feel guilty though.” Daniel told him. “That is why you linger here. Our forgiveness wasn’t enough. You need to forgive yourself.”
“We would request your assistance.” Morpheus said.
“You... need my help?” Alexander asked in a confused, boyish voice.
Morpheus scowled, not wanting to confirm the boy-ghost’s statement. “Your father’s hedgemagick. We would have you cast his spell. The one you used to call me down. Cast it one final time.”
Alexander jerked away from Morpheus’ grasp. “In God’s name, why!?” he wasn’t the kind to speak of God but the request almost seemed too terrible to comprehend.
“The realm of dreams has been usurped.” Daniel explained. “We would have you invoke and trap the usurper for us.”
“No.” Alexander shook his head. “I mean- it was a mistake when we got you the first time.” He said to Morpheus though somehow he was also addressing the white haired one. “It was a mistake. We didn’t mean to call you. It was Death we wanted.” He laughed bitterly, and his voice became nearly hysterical. “Death…”
“Will you help us?” Daniel asked.
Alexander was scared. “I- I…” He swallowed. “Why can’t you do it?! You’re so powerful!”
“There are rules.” Morpheus said. “We cannot do this. This spell requires a mortal’s handiwork.”
“But I’m… I’m dead. Aren’t I?” he asked with some lingering confusion about that.
“Yes, you are dead.” Morpheus told him. “But you are still the ghost of a mortal. And… You are all we have.”
“Because you were there.” Daniel told him. “Mistake or no, you know how it was done.”
“Help us.” Morpheus said softly yet firmly. “Help us and I will give you a candle as he gave you a candle.” He said of Daniel. “And just as when he gave you that candle to light your way home. I will give you the candle to light your own way home.”
“Paul…” Alexander whimpered.
“He passed ten years after you died. He went where you did not go.” Morpheus said.
“And you are here because of the weight you feel, as a human soul, for your old sin.” Daniel told him.
“This is your chance to atone.” Morpheus told him. “To relieve yourself of this guilt. To repay your debt to me.”
“I paid! I paid that debt! I PAID!” Alexander said in a mixture of fury and despair. “For six years- locked in a Nightmare Hell! I paid!”
Alexander threw his fists against Morpheus chest in his anger. Morpheus did not resist the strike. He stood there and allowed the attack.
“Perhaps I was too harsh in my methods of dealing with you.” Morpheus said.
There was a near hysterical laughter from Alexander.
“And yet,” Morpheus continued, “you …feel you deserved worse?”
“No. I…” But if he did feel he had more than paid his debt for his crime against The Dream King than why was he still here? Why did he feel so much pain and anger while looking at him?
“Will you help us?” Morpheus asked.
Slowly Alexander nodded.
There was work to be done and they each left the house several times to retrieve the components needed for the spell. Sometimes Lucien left with Matthew and Alexander and sometimes individuals left alone, depending on what was needed.
The books Alexander requested lay open on the floor. He had asked for more than just the Magdalene Grimoire but somehow they had managed to obtain all that he had asked for. Several dusty old volumes were open with scattered spells and diagrams on yellowed parchment.
On his hands and knees Alexander worked to draw the circles of white chalk around the duo ..Sandmen? Several steps away from where the spell was to be cast. One wearing a brown leather pouch of dream sand, white robe, and green emerald pendant. The other wearing black robes, and a red, velvet pouch of dream sand at his hip. At his neck hung a pendant almost identical (but not quite) like the one his father had taken from The Dream King so long ago.
It felt strange to Alexander that these two would entrust him to draw the intricate circles around their feet. But the servant and raven were standing nearby, perhaps in case he betrayed them. Alexander finished the work on the circles. “This should protect you from the magick while we cast the summoning.”
“We?” Matthew the raven asked.
“Yes.” Alexander said, turning to look at the bird. “I can’t do this alone. The three of us… We’ll have to do. As I understand it, we each used to be human at one time or another. This spell requires a human touch.
“But I’m not human anymore.” Matthew said.
“But you were human. You still use your human name, don’t you? While we were preparing I heard him call you Matthew.”
“Names,” Alexander said “Names have power. Which reminds me…” He looked at the two entities. The light haired dream king’s circle was long finished and the dark haired one’s circle was nearly done. “I can’t just keep calling you both Dream King, it’s confusing.”
Morpheus and Daniel exchanged looks before answering.
“You may call me Daniel” the white haired one said.
“You know me as Morpheus.” Said the dark haired one.
“Very well… Morpheus… You know it’s hard to believe all this time I was never certain what your name really was other than King of Dreams. …Why are there two of you?”
“That is because I died.” Morpheus said.
“This is not the time.” Daniel said.
“Right. Yes. Of course.” Alexander went back to work. He asked a few more questions and he got a few more answers.
“But if this thing is an A.I,” Alexander asked while looking up from an old book, “what makes you think I’ll be able to deal with it? If the year really is twenty-twenty, that means I’ve been dead fourteen-years. Tech changes very quickly. What makes you think I’m the one who can help you?”
“Are you kidding me?” Matthew said. “These guys think a computer mouse is a rodent who lives inside a machine.”
Morpheus and Daniel exchanged puzzled looks. Wasn’t it?
“I’ve been a raven for thirty years. You’re more up to speed with this stuff than I am.” Matthew said.
“What if this fails?”
“Pray that it doesn’t.” Daniel said. “Your world is dependent on it.”
Finally everything was ready. Candles lit around the circle where a glass prison once sat.
“Servant and Matthew.”
Lucien stepped forward and bowed. “Lucien at your service.”
“You’re going to help me with this invocation.” Alexander said. “It won’t be like the order of Ancient mysteries but I’ll be borrowing magick to help fuel the spell.” He looked over at the two Dream Kings. “If what you’ve told me is true I imagine you’re both permanently at half-power. That makes you vulnerable, especially here in The Waking World. It’s important you not leave those circles during this invocation. I doubt you can anyway- not until the circles are broken. Once the spell has begun it cannot be stopped. You’re certain you want me to do this?”
“It is the only way.” Morpheus said.
“Wan is more dangerous than you think. They mean to erase all myth, all legend and the consequences for your world would be catastrophic.” Daniel said.
“I know. I know.” Alexander said. He laughed but it wasn’t bitter or hysterical like before. “I just realized. Me… Poor, old, selfish fool… Me helping save the world. I mean, that is what we are doing, right? Saving the world?”
Morpheus nodded. “Yes, Alexander Burgess. You are helping to save the world.”
From within their respective pentacle circles, neither Daniel nor Morpheus could feel The Dreaming or the Dream Entities that had come with them. They could not telepathically communicate with them. They were completely cut off. It was safer this was.
Alexander cleared his throat and walked over to help form the triangle around the binding circle, he was at one corner of the triangle around the circle. Lucien at another corner. And a raven, looking somehow awkward, was at the final point of the circle.
“Let us begin.” Alexander picked up the athame in a mock pose of his own father, Roderick Burgess. “I give you coin I made from a stone.” He held up a flat, circular stone. “I give you a song I stole from the dirt. I give you a knife from under the hills.”
Lucien said the next part. “And a stick that I stuck through a dead man’s eye.”
Alexander looked at him with some contempt.
“I still can’t believe you did that.” Matthew said.
“I apologized for that.” Lucien muttered.
“But you had to dig up his body right in front of him. If he wasn’t already dead I thought he’d faint. And then that twig just skewered his eyeball.”
“Matthew, please. We have to concentrate.”
“And it was like it was made of jelly!”
“Mathew…” Daniel chided.
Alexander continued, trying not to recall the recent exhuming of his own corpse. Had he the capacity he might have vomited. It was the final true confirmation that yes, he truly was dead, to see his own, frail, and rotting, withered remains that the cold English soil had not quite rendered skeletal. “I give you a claw I ripped from a rat.” With each offering he picked up the object from the debris of scribbled notes, ancient spells, and open grimoires. Each object gathered within the last few hours of preparation. There was even something box-like under a grimy, greyish tarp.
“I give you a name and the name is lost.” He looked to Lucien
Lucien stepped forward and cleared his throat. “I give you the blood from out of my vein.” Alexander tossed him the athame so he would not have to leave his corner of the alchemic triangle outside the circle.
Lucien fumbled but managed to not drop the athame. He cut his own palm with the blade and let the glittering blood drip.
“And a feather I pulled from an angel’s wing.” Matthew said as he picked up the white feather next to him with his beak and with the cock of his head he flung it into the circle as best he could. Thankfully the edge of the circle was close as it was an awkward throw of something that did not seem to want to cooperate.
The feather hadn’t been too difficult to get. He just had to talk to this book seller named Aziraphale who had turned out to be an angel. Who knew? The guy had been really friendly and helpful but his buddy with the sunglasses and snake-eyes had been a bit of a jerk and gave them a hard time. The snake eyed man kept trying to talk Aziraphale into not trusting them. Not that Matthew could really blame him. Apparently you could do a lot of damage with a plucked of a feather from an angel’s wing.
The snake eyed, and paranoid, demon gave this long tangent about what could be done with a stolen pinfeather and dark magicks and finally Daniel came and the demon took a somewhat unwilling nap while Daniel, Lucien, and the angel book seller, Aziraphale, had a nice chat and tea.
The Angel and Lucien seemed like old buddies as they talked about obscure books and books that never existed outside of some author’s head. They seemed to, at the very least, like each other. All while snake-guy snoozed away on the carpet, with a blanket and pillow provided by the angel, Aziraphale.
The words of the spell were ringing in Alexander’s mind. And he realized he could not stop now even if he wanted to. The spell was too far along to be interrupted now. “I call you with names. Oh, my lord. Oh, my lord! I summon with poison and I summon with pain. I open the way and I open the gates. I summon you in the name of The Old Lords. Namtar, Allatu, Morax, Naberius, Klesh, Vepar. Maymon . We summon.”
Matthew and Lucien began to chorus “Come. Come. Come. Come…”
“This feels ridiculous.” Matthew said. “I swore off messing with dark magick before I even died! I feel gross doing this.”
Morpheus watched with a dark, brooding fascination to know this was the very spell that had cost him so much, that had lead to his seventy-two-years of imprisonment.
“Ashema calls you.” Alexander continued. “Maborym calls you. Horvendile calls you. From the dark they call you. INTO the Dark they call you.”
All three called “Come! Come! Come!” The chant became a din. “Come. Come. Come. Come.”
“Coin and song. Knife and stick… Claw and name. Blood and feather. Here in the darkness. Here in the darkness! Here in the Darkness! Here in the Darkness! Here in the Darkness! We summon you together! COME!”
There was an intense white light and something was humming in the air. It was an electrical-like hum. And there was wan with the body they had conjured for themselves. Wan tumbled down into the circle in much the way Morpheus had fallen into the circle long before.
From his impassive stance within his own protective circle Morpheus spoke. “Hello, Wan.”
Wan looked at Morpheus in confusion. The creature knelt on hands and knees.
“You poor, befuddled creature.” Morpheus said. “You cannot help what you are or the harm you cause yet you cannot be allowed to continue. You know not what harm you are doing or what other harm you may do.”
Alexander scrambled over to Morpheus and dragged his own foot over the chalk line work of the small circle around Morpheus to free him.
Morpheus casually stepped from the circle as Alexander now moved to release Daniel
“I can pity you. But I cannot allow this harm to continue.” Morpheus looked to Alexander. “Are you strong enough to cast the banishment?”
“I’m not sure.” Alexander said with a frown. “I shouldn’t have been able to cast that. The magick I channeled- that I borrowed from elsewhere, I didn’t know if it would be enough, but it was like…”
“Like you had help?” It was a girl’s voice, a young woman, sweet and familiar. Alexander turned to see a girl in black tank top and black leggings. She wore black ankle boots and a silver ankh pendant hung from her neck. Around her right eye was an eye of Horus tattoo.
She smiled at the two who were one. A warm and wistful smile. “Hello Dream. And Dream.”
“My sister, thank you for coming.” Morpheus said.
“Oh, don’t thank me yet.” She said to Morpheus as she stepped to him. “I owe you this.” He had not noticed the baguette in her hands until it was too late. And based on the sound of the impact as the bread met the top of Morpheus’ head, it was probably stale. She moved to Daniel and a similar thunk was offered. “You are both so… so….”
Lucien and Matthew spoke in unison “Incorrigible.”
“Thank you.” She said. “Why didn’t you call to me for help?” As Daniel had not been able to call out to anyone for help while the solomonic-dream catcher geas had been on his back she clearly meant to ask him why he had not called out to her more recently.
Daniel rubbed his head “I didn’t want you to worry.”
“Didn’t want me to worry!? When –should- I have worried, Dream? When the world ended? When all human creativity was destroyed?”
“But I…“ Daniel struggled to explain.
“No ‘buts,’ Dream.”
“I didn’t think-“
“No, you didn’t think. That’s just it. You didn’t think. This was irresponsible. And I know you know what I said to him the last time he pulled something like this! He was dead, he gets a slight pass…”
Morpheus was rubbing his head where he had been smacked with the French bread. “I appreciate it…”
“You’re just lucky I was paying attention!”
She smiled at Alexander and her manner softened. “You’ve done a great job, sweetie. Now let me help you with the last bit, okay?”
Alexander nodded slowly. “I know you. I- I remember you. You’re the one we wanted back when… I’m so so-“
She put her finger to his lips. “I know. It’s okay. I forgive you. We all forgive you. Don’t we?” She looked over toward Daniel and Morpheus and then back at Alexander. “Come on. Let’s finish up here. Then we can all go home.”
She looked to Morpheus, her anger now calmed. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too, my sister.” Morpheus said. And now she was his sister again, wasn’t she?
“No!” The strange A.I. spoke. “You can’t do this to me!”
“What exactly is that thing?” Alexander asked out loud. He knew it was an A.I. but none that he was familiar with.
“An abomination…” Lucien muttered.
“I bind you now from doing harm, harm against yourself and harm against others!” Alexander Burgess cxclaimed.
“I am not of magick, I merely know how to exploit it. How to-“
“You dare!” Morpheus said angrily. “You dare to damage my- our realm! Have you no shame? I mislike the machinations behind your creation. I do not like having to do this but I cannot abide what has been done.”
“I BIND YOU NOW, In the name of the Old Gods and the new! I bind you!” Alexander commanded.
Death had her hand on Alexander’s shoulder “That-a-boy, Alex.”
Magick was rising around them.
“NO!” Wan protested.
“I banish you now to where you can harm none and where your power will be shackled for all time. In the name of Odin! In the name of Zeus! In the name of Osiris! In the name of Yahweh! In the names of those long forgotten! I banish you from Dream and from Wake. I banish you to a place beyond both. A place without release. A place without Modem!”
Wan screamed and thousands of little 1s and 0s swirled around them like over-sized grains of sand. They spiraled and swirled and finally swept up the fading image of Wan.
“Lucien, now!” Daniel called.
Lucien scrambled from his point in the triangle over to a tarped contraption. He drew back the faded, greying cloth to reveal the computer- the old Commodore 64 donated to them by the angel Aziraphale.
“You can’t trap me in that antiquated thing!” Wan said defiantly while fading.
“It’s not any old computer.” Daniel said. “One enhanced by the will of an angel. Despite its limitations it does what he wants it to.”
“Even if it doesn’t have a modem.” Matthew said triumphantly. “See ya in digital Hell, Wan. Hope you learn to say fuck you in binary.”
Wan was sucked down into the antique computer as the small crowd watched. Lucien picked up a cricket bat that was waiting for him. He picked it up with both hands and slammed it down hard on the computer monitor. He slammed it down again and again and again. “This is for The library!” And again and again and again and again and again he bashed and beat the old computer. All that remained were tiny fragments of circuitry and glass, and plastic and wire. A single microchip had a tiny solomonic circle painted in blood red. Daniel carefully picked up the tiny chip that held the captive A.I.
Morpheus walked behind Lucien and gently placed a hand on his arm. “Lucien… Lucien, that’s enough… Lucien, please…”
“I’m sorry, my Lord. I don’t know what came over me.”
“We’re done. We have won. It is time to rebuild. Time to restore The Dreaming. It is time to restore your library.
Lucien looked hopeful and nodded. “Of course, my lord.”
Morpheus released Lucien’s arm and walked over to Alexander. “You have done well, Alexander Burgess. It is time for you to go home as well.”
Alexander looked on in wonder as Morpheus, whom he was no longer so afraid of, presented him with a candle in a small holder. “Take this candlestick to light your way.”
Alex took the flickering candle in the antique holder. As soon as he touched it he saw a bright flash of a glowing silver ankh in front of him. Death’s sigil only far larger and brighter and it seemed to glitter.
He felt a strange warmth like a cozy blanket on a cold day. And he heard the flap of mighty wings, he could feel them against himself, fading now, the soft feathers. He knew whose feathers they were. They were the feathers of Death’s wings that he was certain only the dead could see. Alexander was alone in this strange new place. And he found himself walking up a cavernous tunnel toward a bright light. The candle burned as he walked. The light was intense but it did not hurt his eyes.
“Alex, darling, what kept you?” The voice was familiar and filled with such love.
“Paul? Paul, it is you! Paul!” The candlestick vanished as soon as his true love had him. He didn’t need the candle anymore. He had found his way home. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I know, love. I know.” Paul said.
The Dream King had kept his word. And in the glowing light of Paradise that welcomed him, Alexander Burgess had finally forgiven himself. And he was home.
The Dreaming was once again whole. Mervyn Pumpkinhead, the Jack-o-lantern headed grounds keeper, in the style of a certain cartoon, was forced to write on a chalk board a thousand times “I will not attempt to ‘Make the Dreaming Great again.”
All things considered the punishment was light and rather short lived. And ultimately Merv was happy about how things turned out even if he was grumbling for the moment.
Another human soul, this one of a man named Hyperion Keter, was also now at peace, since the damage he had done with the creation of his A.I. was now rectified. He had truly thought he was saving humanity from its own fears and superstition. He had not realized the damage that would be done with his intentions. And now he could rest.
Cain was back at The House of Mystery and Abel couldn’t be happier to be shoved off a widow’s walk.
The library was whole.
In The Gallery of The Endless a new frame was beside the one holding the helm sigil. In this frame was a five pointed star.
Daniel walked in the lush garden with his queen, Ivy.
Morpheus still did not believe the relationship between Daniel and Ivy would last, especially with her demanding way about her, in trying to pressure him into being tattooed and crying over it. He did not approve of such manipulation tactics. And he found it distasteful that she had done this before having the excuse of being controlled by occultists who wanted to manipulate Daniel.
Morpheus knew Daniel as he knew himself (which might not actually have been well at all… and he felt he knew that Daniel was too proud to bear that for long. And when Daniel’s heart would break (as he was certain it would) Morpheus would be there to help him pick up the pieces as no one had been there for himself during his own heartache, at least no one who truly understood himself as he did…
When Ivy would leave, Morpheus would remain. He would comfort and console and he would be there for Daniel.
Morpheus was relieved to know the incident with the catcalling bachelor party had only been soundly dunked in water and no one had actually drowned over something so petty. The idea of a version of himself murdering over something so trivial was something he couldn’t stomach.
“So was that really Desire, or you who warned Rose Walker about what was happening?” Matthew asked Morpheus, after all the pieces had more or less been put together.
Morpheus sat on an intricate throne of skulls, pumpkins, and molded wax. Candles burned on the top of the throne. Matthew was perched near Morpheus’ left arm.
Morpheus gave Matthew a wistful smile. “Desire can sometimes pass for a Dream and sometimes a Dream can pass for Desire…”
“So it was you? Then why’d you act like you didn’t know what was going on?”
“I knew part of it… Not enough to make a move just yet. I told her all that I knew for certain. But shortly after that I saw Lucien. I saw his pain. And I knew I could remain idle no longer. I could no longer just exist as a dream. I had to become Dream once more.”
“I think I understood that… You know… you’ve grown a lot since we first met.” Matthew said to Morpheus.
“So have you, my friend.” Morpheus rested a hand on the raven’s head. “And… I don’t feel quite so alone now… Perhaps… Perhaps it was all worth it.”
“You mean you’re not gonna go back to being-“
“No, Matthew. I’m home. The Dreaming needs balance. It took me… took us too long to realize that meant there should be two of us to keep things going, to keep each other going. To save us… from ourselves…”
The raven nudged a little closer to the old king. And Morpheus was surprised by the feline-like act of affection from his raven that used to be a man- rubbing his head against him in a sort-of bird hug. Morpheus gently pet him.
In the house known as Fawny Rig a man named John Constantine walked through the rubble and into an old ritual room. He saw the markings on the floor. And he saw the shattered remains of a 1980s computer. “What the Bloody Hell happened here?” he asked out loud as he felt the residual magick.
“I have no idea.” Came a female voice. It was a girl in a flannel shirt with dark brown hair. How long had she been standing there? There was something distinctly not-human about her. A Night Hag? There was no stupid, drawn-out, guessing game to be had. Yeah, this was a Night Hag. She had what looked like tiny feathered-wings for ears but otherwise she looked human. “But I feel like I missed a lot.” She said.
The magician looked over the night hag. She was kind of cute in a creepy sort of way. “Say, you wanna get something to eat? I know this little place called The Oblivion Bar. They’ve got great steak.”
At least this mortal seemed to get certain things about her nature already. Dora smiled. “You know I’m not entirely straight.”
“What a coincidence! Neither am I! You want some steak or no?”
“Yeah, I think I’ve earned it. Somehow I feel like I was the pawn in someone’s badly written fan fiction.”
“Yeah, I only recently started to feel that way but maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe the bloke writing my story actually knows what he’s doing for once? One can hope.”
And Constantine hooked arms with Dora and headed out with her. “Rare and bloody right?”