By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 16 - Disturbing Dreams
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, night
As Marc gets in his room he looks around a bit, then he seats himself on the bed. First he lays his bow and arrows carefully down next to the bed. Then he takes time to concentrate and thank Chauntea for this day, the good things it brought him, the food he ate and of course for life itself. Still concentrated on his deity he tells her about these strange people he met, and how some of them aren’t as bad as he expected. He tells her about his worries about the well-being of Ditalidas too. He undresses and superficially washes himself, gives his dog another hug and crawls into bed. Within mere moments Marc falls asleep.
Marc finds himself riding a white horse through the streets of Berdusk, at the quays to be exact. He’s wearing a brilliant tunic on which the silver dragon’s claw on the royal blue field is proudly visible. In his hand is a long sword, shining with a silvery glance. Behind him walk a dozen guardsmen and guardswomen. There seems to be trouble in the streets as these guards are fighting and there are fires in front of him in the streets. Look there! That storehouse is burned to the ground. Only some fragments of the once so proud walls are still standing. Where there used to be doors and windows there are just holes, as if someone took the eyes out of a face, leaving empty eye sockets showing the blackness inside.
Marc waves his sword towards some crooks dressed as bargemen, and they mysteriously fall to earth, holding their stomachs. More scum appears in the streets. Marc, still riding on this horse, waves with his sword again, with the same easy results. He goes on, pointing his sword at every knave he sees, sending him to another world, making the streets in Berdusk saver with each horse-step he makes.
At the end of the docks he sees Lohgran. Lohgran looks fearful as he sees Marc approaching in his immaculate uniform. Marc smiles triumphantly and points his sword at Lohgran. Lohgran falls on his knees and seems to beg for mercy; Marc opens his mouth, soundlessly utters a war-cry and waves his sword in Lohgran’s direction once more. Lohgran falls down, dead.
Still riding forward, Marc sees lady Ditalidas smiling at him, an admiring look on her face. The sadness in her smile is gone and her eyes glow with happiness. Next to her he sees this halfling woman, looking up to him. She’s smiling admiring too. And there are Kim and Elisa, sheering. And, look, the greengrocer and his wife – their son standing in front of them and their baby’s lying on her arm – waving at him. And there are Kalil, Druth and Telsom. They are looking like they are proud of him. Next he discovers the red-haired priest between the city’s people, smiling confirming at him. And there’s Frey, she and her parents look very glad to see him. Endless rows of people he knows are standing near the streets, looking happy, smiling admiring at Marc. Marc is still riding the white horse and looks down at these people, feeling modest and proud.
Looking down at these people he sees just how high he’s sitting on this huge horse. He must be as high as the rooftops, and as he looks sideways he sees he is. With each step the horse takes Marc gets higher above the streets. Marc suddenly realizes the horse is rocking tremendously. And as the horse takes him higher, above the houses, he seems to loose his grip. The horse goes on, towards the castle, which looks smaller now, as if one’s looking at it from a nearby mountainside. As Marc passes the symbol of Azuth, on top of a slender tower, this dream suddenly ends.
A piece of the night goes by without anything special to report, then …
It’s spring in the forest and nearly noon. The leaves are brightly green and birds are singing joyfully. Marc is wandering alone – well, nearly alone, of course Friend is with him – in this forest, somewhere in Slimlandshire. Apparently he’s on one of his lonesome strolls again. He feels alright and whistles a cheerful tune. Before him he sees through the foliage the sun shining on grass and moss on the ground; apparently he’s approaching a clearing. Marc considers it’s time to have a short rest, so this open spot is a welcome occasion, he’ll be able to sit and feel the warmth of the sun while he’s eating.
As he emerges from the bushes unto the grass Marc’s blinded by the bright light at first. But as his eyes adept he realizes he’s been here before. It’s the dell near Nipplechurch, the same spot where he and Frey sometimes, ehm… well, before he wanted too much that was … At the thought of the loss of this valuable friendship his eyes moisten. Not prepared to let himself get overwhelmed he sits down, leaning with his back against a tree trunk. He opens the backpack he’s carrying and looks inside, to find something to eat and to drink.
As he looks up he sees a frail human girl entering the light from the opposite side, carrying two backpacks. A young girl as it seems. She comes closer and smiles at him. She looks a bit like Frey did some 6 years ago, apart from the clothing, which is a bit odd, with a scrimshaw brooch etched with a hummingbird and flowers, at her chest. But while he looks at her approach she seamlessly transforms… It’s confusing and weird, and strange enough it’s heart warming and familiar at the same time.
It are the same changes he’s seen surfacing on Frey over the years, only now it’s happening in a matter of seconds. The shape of her hips alters, there grows this gleam in her eyes and hair, not to mention the intriguing arising of breasts. And as he gazes at the girl, ehm the half-woman… her clothing becomes transparent and disappears.
By the time Marc and this woman are closer then they’ve ever been, in fact a few steps further than where Frey denied him, a whole lot further in fact than he’s ever been before (perhaps apart from his dreams) – he looks in her eyes deeply. But in a sudden change of the world something’s terribly wrong! The joyful amber eyes seem to have been wiped away; now he is struck by the sadness and compassion in the young woman’s green eyes – Green? What’s happening?? And why is this handkerchief-thing on this girls’ nose and mouth?? Marc retreats and screams.
With a scream Marc wakes up. He looks around drowsily a bit, irritated at this type of dreams, but turns on his side and falls asleep again.
Again here’s a share of the night in which Marc and Friend are sleeping and nothing much has to be added to that. Slowly Marc realizes it’s the end of the day. The sun is setting quickly now, above the meadows in the west, giving a strange, yellow color to the fields. He’s walking behind his flock towards the sheep-pen, so his bearing is east, the sun glowing warmly upon his face. He realizes he’s gone quite far this morning so he ought to have left from the moor earlier. Then again, it’s nearly full moon, so he won’t expect to encounter many problems finding the pen.
As he walks the sandy trail between the heather fields he realizes he’s much further from home than he thought he was. He might be as far as Ashes, so it’s near to the Dog’s Ridge, Uthgardt territory. Not that he has ever had any problems with Uthgardt, as they are as much enemies against Orcs and Goblins as Marc is. While his thinking wanders away with these memories, he and the animals walk on. Hardly without any conscious hints from Marc, Friend keeps the flock on the trail.
And as his thoughts get further away from the ‘here and now’, the last sheep walks around a bend in the trail, unseen for a few seconds until Marc will walk the same bend, around a low hill. But as soon as he does he finds his sheep have run away in all different directions, and Friend is running to find a way around the ones who went most far away from the path.
In the dimming, near orange light of the setting sun, a few yards before him he sees, two horses. Strange, he would not expect to find a horse up here – a pony perhaps, but no horse. Then he sees only one of the horses is mounted. Marc looks at the horses more concentrated, while walking forward, and sees that while the other horse may not carry a human being, it is saddled. Marc looks at the man on horseback. It’s a muscled man, wearing a suit of meticulously clean yellow and black studded leather and on his head he wears a one piece full visored helm, made of steel tempered a red color.
When Marc he gets nearer he recognizes this man. It’s Telsom. He’s smiling as ever, but his look is scowl while he points his index finger in Marc’s direction, talking to him in rage, “Now just look what you’ve done.” Then Telsom grins in a mean way and points at a ditch along the trail. On the rim of this ditch lays this lady he met in Berdusk; The one who seemed to be so much more human than he ever would have expected of a rich person like her; the one who disappeared as sudden as she came.
The woman lies on her back in a long neat dress. She is lifting her upper body halfway with one arm, using the other to protect herself from some attacking figures. Marc looks at these creatures and discovers they all look like his mother in some strange way. All attackers are walking dead bodies; each of them in another state of decomposition. Some are quite like he buried his mother, pale and slim. Some are not much more than skeletons with rags of brown skin hanging from the bones and some locks of hair on the skulls. Most are somewhere in between these two states. But they all are his mothers.
Marc opens his mouth to scream something, but he can’t get any breath out of his mouth. It is as if something warm and heavy is pressing his chest together. He runs towards the attacking monsters, lifting his crook to hit them as good as he can. But as he hits the first one, hard enough to make her loose an arm, Ditalidas cries out from pain and she lays her hand on her stomach as if his crook has hit her in stead of the zombie. He sees the hurt in her eyes when she looks him in the eyes. “I’m sorry Marc.” She says softly but loud enough for him to hear. As tears start filling her eyes she turns her head away.
Marc stands there for a long moment, speechless, motionless, mentally knocked out. In the mean time more and more zombies emerge from the burial mound, all coming towards Marc and the lady. One of the zombies, with muscles dangling through the skin, whose hair and even more whose eyes are clearly his mothers’, comes really close to him. It whispers his mothers’ last words “It’s just another goodbye, Marc” and starts hugging him.
The raging voice of the mounted man comes to his ears “I warned you, the wrath of a paladin of any religion is not something you’d want to bring down on your head.” Then Telsom laughs evilly and Marc falls backwards on the ground, pulling the animated corpse over his chest. Marc is feeling completely without any power to do something and groans.
And he groans. To add to his confusion Friend seems to think Marc’s playing – as Marc tends to do on the long days on the fields – and licks his face. As Marc tries to push the zombie from his ribs he feels Friends’ fur and as he looks down he sees Friend lying on his chest, licking him in his face, but… ehm… he’s lying in a bed… in some inn. Marc realizes this was just a dream; well… nightmare is a better word. As he sees the first light of dawn in the sky through the sky light above his head, he realizes the night is coming to an end. Suddenly he remembers where he is and what happened yesterday night: The quay, the horses, the lady, the guards, riding a horse, sitting against an elf, the inn, all those people, the lady, the veiled lady too, the halfling woman, the other elf, the red haired priest, Telsom, Matteo, the lady, Elisa, the lady… THE LADY!
He realizes she should arrive here shortly and quickly jumps out of bed, washes himself thoroughly, and thoroughly again. He dresses quickly, uses the chamber pot, grabs his bow and arrows and runs down the stairs. He quickly retrieves his crook from the private room, puts on his smock and walks to the stables, where he leaves the building. Of course Friend followed him all this time. While Friend searches a nice place to do her bit, Marc looks down the streets to try to catch a glimpse of a returning lady Ditalidas.
After half an hour or so, while in the east the first dimming of the night appears in the sky, Javroun steps out of the Running Stag to fetch a fresh barrel as part of his preparations for the upcoming day. He sees Marc sitting there, chattering from cold. Javroun convinces Marc to come in and ‘orders’ him to sit next to the chimney in the private room, Javroun brings him a mug with hot chocolate and brandy. A bit later, one by one Kalil, Grim and Druth come in and they and Marc greet each other. Al this time Marc remains sitting quietly and shivering next to the chimney.
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