Nightmares New and Old


As he averted first his eyes and then his thoughts from the company a dark mood settled over him. He was back at the house, the night before he sold it. It was dark. Pale moonlight failed to make the small band it illuminated any less dreary.
{I hate this house. There is nothing left. None of the things that make this house ours. Not the silly collection of incense burners that she collected, not the comforting sound of her just being about. Nothing... Just the roof and walls they spent most of their life together in.
Why can't we be together anymore! He caught a glimpse of someone, her, outside. And he rushed after her. She was standing there in the grass besides a dusty road that slithered into the distance. But between them was a unicorn. Somehow familiar, but even more menacing in its brilliant whiter than white halo.
Suddenly, nightfall. I am fading in darkness. All around darkness engulfs others. But Crystal is unaffected and smiles in pity as she mounts the unicorn and becomes the bright spot that makes the surrounding darkness absolute.}
Garber stood over Dwynn for a moment, watching him twist and turn about. 'Must be a hell of a nightmare,' he thought, trying to stave off thoughts of his own plaguing nightmares. He reached down and gently shook Dwynn's shoulder.
"Wake up," he said softly. "It's time for your shift."
"...Left! In the darkness! Shift?" Dwynn awoke somewhat confused by the transition. "Shift, yes. Has the first watch finished untroubled?"
"Aye," he replied. "Takayoshi and Breannyn aren't back yet, though, so keep an eye out for them."
"I had the strangest dream, that I need to think about. Who is on second watch with me?"
"DeMorte--I just woke him up. Though I'll likely be awake for a bit longer, if you wanted to talk." Garber had a suspicion or two about what was troubling Dwynn. He'd seen his attempts to get closer to Linna--and the way Ceridon kept shutting them down. He also knew how such problems of the heart, if left unresolved, could compound themselves into downright dangerous confrontations; he'd seen it time and again, both as a mercenary and a Tower guard. He hoped this wouldn't be such a trouble. 'I'm glad I'm past such things,' he thought a trifle smugly.
"It's just... I don't know." Dwynn looked around uneasily. "I've been trying to get closer to Linna, but Ceridon keeps interfering. It's working too. And the thing is I don't know why. It may be just my frustration, but I think there is something going on with Ceridon. She is changing. She may even become dangerous. I don't know how to interpret the dream, but it was scary."
"She does seem more...tense than she was at the outset," Garber replied thoughtfully. "I don't know if it's because she's anxious to finish this quest, or perhaps because she's not used to dealing with others in her unicorn form. I don't know that it's dangerous, but it does bear watching.
"As for Ceri's opposition to you and Linna...well, that could be something as simple as her not wanting to share Linna with you--or anyone. Rather like twin sisters, I would think--they don't always have an easy time when they start to have separate interests and friends. And those two have been closer than most for some time now. I think Ceri just needs a little time to get used to the situation--I'm sure things will work out," he finished with an encouraging smile.
"Anyway I should probably start keeping watch." Taking note of DeMorte's position he took up a relaxed position with his axe resting idly in his hand.
Sherwood, nearly asleep in his makeshift bed, decided to tactfully forget Dwynn's problems. "None of MY business, anyway," he thought to himself. When the movements of the current shift settled into stillness, Sherwood slipped into a light slumber that yet registered the sounds of the night. Birds, insects, even the occasional bat made their timid impressions on his mind as he slept, assuring him that all was well.
While Dwynn's senses stayed alert, his mind wandered off to think about the way he had connected with the rest of the group. {There are some nice people here, but I haven't really paid much attention to them, yet. Maybe I have been too focused on Linna. I should get to know the others a bit better.} He looked over at where DeMorte was keeping watch and fell back into silent watchfulness.
Garber snapped awake, his eyes opening to the sight of a dark, featureless forest. For a moment, he lay still and tense, sweat beaded on his forehead and upper lip, his breath quietly rasping in his throat. Then he relaxed--marginally. 'Just a dream,' he thought. 'Just the same damn dream that's been plaguing me for eighteen years.'
He turned over only his back and stared up at the sky. The stars were beginning to fade; it couldn't be long until dawn. 'No sense in trying to get back to sleep.' He got up, throwing off his blanket, and walked quietly to the campfire, where Linna and Ceri were keeping watch.
"You're up early," Linna remarked, handing him a mug of leftover tea.
"Woke up early," he replied shortly, taking a cautious sip. "It's a little too late to try to get back to sleep."
::Bad dreams?:: Ceri directed her penetrating amethyst gaze at him. He grunted a vaguely affirmative reply, feeling rather uncomfortable. ::Talking about it might help,:: she continued softly.
Garber kept his eyes down, trying to keep his bitter, shameful memories from showing in his eyes. Ceri suddenly snorted sharply, drawing sleepy nickers from the other horses and a started glance from Garber. The kindness and sympathy in her eyes moved him, and he abruptly said, "All right. I suppose you should know." He gulped down his tea, then stared into the empty mug, slowly turning it in his hands while he spoke.
"I left out a few details about that attack on the village. When Kieraan and I and the other two got back to the horses, we saw that the unicorns were regrouping and coming after us. I guess they intended that none of us should leave there alive. I was the only one with a bow, so I took the rear as we rode away as fast as we could get the horses to gallop.
"Unicorns are fast, though, as I'm sure you've found out." He looked up with a brief smile. "It wasn't long before they were within range of my bow. My first few shots missed, but then the lead unicorn turned aside a bit to dodge a tree, and I shot it in the neck.
"You've never seen a unicorn die--you can't imagine what it's like. There's a moment, just before the end, when it seems like all its spirit and grace and light are burning just below the skin. It's more beautiful than you can possibly imagine." He closed his eyes, seeing the memory again. "It only lasts a second. Then all that light and life leaves the body, and it just...drops, dark and cold. I saw that--I *caused* it--and not just once, but twice." He paused, fighting to keep his emotions in check.
"The rest kept after us, though, and they were almost on us when they suddenly stopped and threw their heads up, as if they had heard something. They stood still for a moment, and I pulled up my horse so I could see what would happen. They began turning away from me...and that's when it happened."
Garber took a deep breath. "I was suddenly filled with the urge to kill another of them, even though they'd stopped pursuing us, just so I could see that moment of perfect beauty again. I'd nocked another arrow; I was beginning to aim. Thankfully, *something* stopped me, and I just watched as they disappeared back the way they'd come."
Linna watched as Garber fell silent and continued to stare into his empty mug. Finally, she asked, "And that's what you dream about?"
"Aye," he replied. "Off and on ever since."
Linna looked over at Ceridon. She felt out of her depth with this revelation of Garber's past, and she hoped Ceri would somehow be able to give him some ease. When Ceri finally broke the silence, however, her question gave Linna a definite shock. ::In the time we've been together, have you ever wanted to kill me?::
"Of course not!" Garber's head snapped up, astonishment plain on his face in the growing dawn light. The astonishment faded as he paused. "No, I haven't," he finally continued, thoughtfully.
Ceri nodded. ::You see? You've been so caught up in the past, you've forgotten that it *is* the past. We've all had thoughts and impulses that we're not proud of, that don't do us credit. But so long as we don't *act* on them, there's no reason to dwell on them. Measure yourself by the highest you have achieved, Garber, not the lowest you have contemplated.::
Garber held her eyes for some time, then he slowly nodded his head. He wordlessly shifted his gaze to the fire, but Linna could see that his expression was more peaceful. It seemed that he had found at least some closure for that fateful day. ::Well done,:: she sent to Ceri.
::I'd known *something* was bothering him,:: Ceri sent back privately. ::I'm glad he finally told us about it.::
::Aye.:: Linna began to hear stirrings from the rest of the group. ::But here's another question for you. What happens if we find the unicorns, and they recognize him?::
::That...can only be answered by them.:: A sigh tagged the end of Ceri's reply.
"Good morrow gentlebeings," Dwynn said sounding quite cheerful as he came up to the fire. But he looked hardly any less tired than last night. To Linna and Ceridon he said, "I dreamt about you two, this night."
Sherwood tossed fitfully in his bedroll, shifting to put a cold cheek towards the fire. Somewhere in his consciousness he was aware of a conversation, but it was between friends, and he drowsed off again. Though a dream -- or nightmare, to be truthful -- came upon him and he found himself shooting his runed bow at Ceri. Detachedly, he wondered why she needed to be slain. Yet even as he was loosing the arrow, its flight was redirected at a darkness that had arisen behind her. He raised his hand to his brow to wipe sweat off it, and when he failed to feel his gloves' fringe, he was startled to wakefulness. Confused, he sat up grasping for his sword, before settling himself down and forcing himself to studied silence.

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