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The Price of Dreaming

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She has so much potential, this small girl, and the story of her life is only starting to unfurl.

He reads the script, memorizes his part. For once, he doesn’t have to sit in the background, a tagline here or vague mention there. No, this time he is a main player on the stage of this life.

His cue: Dream Lord enters, stage left.

She doesn’t recognize the man in her shadows, the pale face in the moonlight under the trees outside the house. She smiles and waves, thinking it is one of her new neighbors. It is all right with him; he doesn’t expect this small scrap of humanity to be any different than those before her. He doesn’t speak now. He waits.

She drifts into sleep, into his realm, and Gainel gives her the first message that will set her apart, the first message that is about to transform her into something extraordinary. She listens, eyes wide in awe of the God before her, and nods vehemently. She will remember what he has told her.


~Dream Lord exits, stage right.~


He watches, sending little dreamlings off to the Mortal Realms with flicks of his fingers, and he sees that she does remember what he has told her.

They will come, she says.

Who? The villagers ask, confused by this tiny girl child. Who is coming?

The Protector of the Small, the girl tells them confidently. The Protector is coming.

The people nod hesitantly, unsure of this child. She appears out of nowhere and then tells them of potential redemption, something so very far from their memories. She is their last child, the last piece of a future that they can hardly imagine anymore.

She is so small, and so brave.

Gainel carefully fashions a dream of sunshine and roses for her, a blanket to hug tight against this cruel Scanran chill, and drapes it over her bed.

She giggles and laughs inside the dream, waving at him and beckoning.

~Dream Lord, cue center stage.~

When her dream dissipates, she sits up and waits for her Protector and Gainel watches his girl from the shadows. He wonders at the turn of phrase, but she is small and slight and oh so significant.

He can’t leave, even when she doesn’t recognize him; her eyes pass over him, no spark of recollection taking flame in her mind. Gainel pretends he doesn’t notice and follows his instructions; more dreams of the Protector, of her animals and her justice he sends to the little girl, and she speaks of them to all.

She never remembers where her prophecies come from.

When the Protector of the Small rides into the village, she brings hope and justice in her retinue, just as the little girl saw. Gainel watches this mysterious child talk to the lady knight, his fingers deftly weaving another dream just for her.

She dreams of him again the night that Blayce the Gallan falls; she twirls with him in a field of flowers and falls breathlessly at his feet and Gainel is helplessly hers.

The morning the Protector of the Small returns, the dream has escaped, mist before the dawn, and she leaves Scanra with the Lady Knight, the animals, and the children.

~Exit, Dream Lord.~

The powers that be have no great plans for her in the years that follow, so little dreams and little insights are all that Gainel has for the girl. She knows where to find lost things, knows when the worst storm of the season will come through the town of New Hope, knows when the cats will kitten and the dogs will breed.

Gainel lets himself walk the grounds of New Hope on feast days and festivals, hoping for a glimpse of the little girl. In no time at all, she’s a girl no more and she too is dancing in the firelight at the start of the summer.

The boy she dances with is not good enough for her, but Gainel cannot ask her to dance himself.

He is forbidden to speak in the Mortal Realms.

She dreams of him at midnight, searching him out where he stands beneath the branches of a towering pine.

Who are you? She asks softly, as if she might startle him to flight.

If only she knew; flight is the last thing he could ever do now.

I am the Master of Dreams, he tells her, calm on the surface while underneath he roils.

She does not run away. She doesn’t notice the edges of the dream wavering in and out of focus; he’s losing control of the dream and ribbons of maybe slip through his fingers.

Why have I never seen you here before?

She thinks she’s awake, and Gainel passes a hand over his eyes. You have. It’s all he can tell her. She sees him when he walks the realm, but she forgets him as soon as her eyes slide away from him.

The rest of the dream runs through his fingers. He’s standing by her bed, and all that’s left is a puddle of possibly on the floor, oily rainbows suspended on the surface.

~Dream Lord, box out stage front~

It isn’t the Gift, the mages tell her when they visit. She could have told them that, though; foretelling comes and goes. One morning she’ll wake up with something, words about to fall from her lips unannounced.

She doesn’t notice Gainel. He waits for her to notice him, waits patiently, patiently for her eyes to rest on him for just one more moment, and he turns away before she looks away because he doesn’t want to see her expression smooth out when she forgets him.

Do you always visit people’s dreams? She wonders, sitting on the roof with him. He’s fashioned a sunset just for her, one with warm magentas and brilliant orange streaking across the dream-fabric sky, and her wondrous expression tells him that she loves it.

Sometimes. When he needs to, but he won’t say that.

He doesn’t have to. So, just mine then, she teases lightly, turning to him and giggling at his face. I don’t mind, I like dreaming of you.

Do you? He asks before he can stop himself, hesitant and on edge.

Yes. She doesn’t offer more, but her attention has moved from the indigo night he has mixed into the sky, and she’s simply looking at him.

~Dream Lord retreat, stage back.~


Gainel shouldn’t be surprised the first time one of the village lads asks her on a walk, a step up from the simple dances of the summer before, but he is and something else boils up from the pit of his stomach to choke him. Her golden hair falls in rippling waves down her back and her brown eyes sparkle with mischief and a hint of the unknown.

It was unfair of him to hope that words and foresight would keep any young man from noticing her.

He doesn’t care.

He opens his mouth uselessly.

He is forbidden to speak in the Mortal Realms.

She wouldn’t recognize him if he called to her, either.

~Stage front, cue Dream Lord~

That night, she is flushed and pretty and happy to see him, her face alight when she sees him, and Gainel cannot deny her his smile, though he has precious little left to smile about.

I wondered if you would come.

Of course he would. I come when I can, he admitted, carefully steering away from the end of the sentence: and sometimes when I cannot.

Or should not.

Is this too much meddling in a mortal’s life? He doesn’t want to know.

I missed you. She says simply, and the words unravel him. He looks away; out over the landscape he’s created for her this evening. Waves break and crash over barnacle studded crags, sending sea froth leaping into the dusk.


It isn’t a question, and overhead the gulls wheel and scream plaintively.

She doesn’t answer him. He’s glad, in a way, because words are petty and plain underneath his mellow indigo sky. A wind kicks up and tangles in his dark hair, blowing it back from his face in frantic tendrils before letting it flop back on his neck again.

Dolphins break the surface across the water, and she points. Look.

He does, simply because it’s her, and when they disappear he realizes that she has moved, closer so that their thighs brush.

He blinks, his ink black eyes holding traces of astonishment that only grows when he feels her lips brush his cheek gently.

See? Its not quite an answer for his not quite question, and he doesn’t really see, but she’s knocked every word he could have spoken to her right out of his head and he settles for simply gaping at her until the dream unweaves and he sits alone, awed.

His awe lasts for several human days, so it is nearly a week before he finds himself in New Hope again, and even then he is at a loss. His long pale fingers tangle with themselves, not dream-fabrics, and dream settings flit across his mind, not quite settling.

She’s falling asleep under her patchwork quilt, and he’s stuck here, a clandestine Romeo, silent under her window.

He’s forbidden to speak in the Mortal Realms; he cannot call.

She will not wake.

~Box out, Dream Lord stage left.~

He watches a butterfly land on her nose, wings opening lazily to brush her skin with tiny caresses.

You came! She’s inordinately happy. The setting sun reaches long golden fingers, over the treetops and across the field they sit in, and touches her cheeks with color.

You’re beautiful. The words appear on his tongue before he knows what he’s saying, and he ducks his head so his unruly mop of hair falls across his face.

Gentle fingers touch his face, lifting his chin so that he cannot hide from her eyes. You think so?

He simply drinks in her image before him, quiet and yearning and he knows, knows, knows that this is so far beyond what he can have, what he can claim but he tells her anyway.


This time he turns his head so his lips catch hers.


The taste of her still lingers when the dream threads unravel in his fingers. His fingers, pressed to his mouth, feel her slight heat still hovering there, even though he’s ever outside her door and she’s still sunk in sleep.

The sun wavers on the horizon, peeking out but not yet making an appearance. In the pale half-light, something catches Gainel’s eye.

The daisy sits on her windowsill, unassuming in its simple glass jar. He wished he could say that he brought them to her.

He didn’t.

~Stage up, Dream Lord retreat.~


He loses his heart to her, loses it faster than he thought he would because one day he looks around him and realizes that her hands are already cupped gently around that most delicate part of him. She looks up, and the butterfly resting in her hands flutters into the softly fading sunset.

Her smile breaks like the return of the sun over her face and he cannot move at all.

Hello, love.

When did he open his arms? When did she move? When--?

She is so close, melting into the midnight blue black of his cloak, smiling up as if he were something special, someone important, and it is hopeless to struggle because, Gainel knows all too well, he has already surrendered.

Relaxing into her embrace, he dips his head forward until their noses touch. Her eyes tell him things that leave him speechless, and his surrender is complete; he breathes the name he’s never said before.

Oh, Irnai…

He loves her, this little mortal girl, this fragile mortal girl, and he cannot stop it.

She reaches up for his kiss and he does not deny her, his precious girl.


He cannot remember the last time he stepped out of a dream to find it wound around his throat, binding him in drifting, wispy remnants of his own creation.

He tears at it, casting it away behind him.

Oh, he’s sinking fast. Too fast; he can’t catch his breath.


There is a new light in her eyes, he sees by light of day when he cannot stay away any longer, when he is inescapably drawn back to New Hope.

A lie, that name.

His hope shatters on the packed dirt when another man takes her by the hand and makes her laugh.

No Hope.

He should leave.

He can’t. Not like this.

~Cue Dream Lord, downstage.~

What is it? She is worried, he worries her, but she can never know, he will never tell her. Here, in their meadow, a favorite dream of hers (and his, he refuses to admit), he will never say the things that she does not remember because it is theirs and the illusion of safety is still firmly in place.

His arms tighten around her. I love you.

Her breath is sharp; startled.

I love you, too. Please, what is it? What is wrong?

But everything is wrong and nothing is right and he drinks in her words, a parched man in the desert.

He stays as long as he can, but every dream unwinds and he finds himself alone, and her still asleep.


When he looks, there is a ring on her bedside table, and nothing can stop him falling, nothing can heal him now.


Gainel stands outside New Hope, early in the morning. He’s still in his element; he is the Dream Lord, an enigma that slides through the understanding of mortals and leaves only a trace like the thin skin rainbow of gasoline on the top of water, able to be burned off and forgotten in a moment.

Maybe there is still time left for a dream; perhaps, if he tries, once more, then…

His fingers are spinning a dream web on their own when he notices white lace hanging on the door to her closet.

His throat closes.

His fingers clench.

The dream stretches only so much before the strands snap harshly, tracing red lines fiercely across his palms, and he is left holding only broken silk. He leaves before she wakes up, startled by the sensation of her dream breaking.


Would anyone oppose this exchange of vows, here before the throne of the Great Mother Goddess?

His open mouth gapes, an open wound, but words escape him, they always escape him here, and no one expects the shadows to shout out, anyways.

He is forbidden to speak in the Mortal Realms.


He can still hear.

Words clang in his ears, and his hand covers his eyes.

He is forbidden to speak in the Mortal Realms.

It takes only a moment to slip from the room; it is too bright here under the light of day, and there is nothing left for him.

The words buzz in his head:

He is


The Mortal Realms…


~Exeunt, Dream Lord, Stage Right. Fin.~