ASN 1.2: Dreaming Anew

by Matt P.

The Marshal who was not yet the Marshal dreamed, and did not dream. He saw, and did not see. He had dreamed often of late, and sometimes the dreams that were not dreams were confusing—and other times they seemed confused. Sometimes they would start normal and end in darkness and heat; sometimes they began in fire and ended in peace. Rarely they would be all one or the other, normal or altered, and those were notable nights for similar but opposite reasons. He rarely remembered more than impressions, and that was a blessing.

As he dreamed now he thought it would be neither normal nor blessed.

The heat of the forest pricked his skin with sweat, giving the air a weight and a smell and a taste. It hummed with the sounds of lush life, and the very verdant-ness of it threatened to overwhelm him. Might have overwhelmed him, save for his distraction.

The tree was as large as life itself and teeming, overflowing with every form of buzzing and chirping. It was an ecosystem to itself, a whole world given form and shape and leaves. Every bit of it was as vibrant as the world, and every bit of it was the world—entwined and flowing in to all the other parts without beginning or end. It was natural and perfect and unending.

The brown streak coming off of one of the mighty limbs was all the more shocking for its unnaturalness, although it would have been so anyway for what it held. He stared at himself hanging from the hangman’s noose, the rope rough and swaying in the breeze. He blinked, and the man hanging from the rope blinked—at the same time, of the same substance, yet staring at him as though from a great distance.

“What was begun cannot be stopped,” the man who was and was not him said, his voice heavy with knowledge and sorrow. “The path must be walked.”

“I am afraid,” the Marshal replied.

“That is well, for there is much to be fearful of here. But the path will threaten those who we care for, and to try to leave it will put them at risk,” the hanging man answered.

“I am angry, and it is not my anger,” the Marshal said.

The hanging man nodded in return, carefully for the rope about his neck. “And that must be watched, for it is danger; but it is also a power we have been given, to shepherd for a time. And to use, when the right time is at hand.”

“I am afraid,” the Marshal said, and his voice was soft. Again the hanging man nodded.

“And I am afraid as well, for all that we have been and may be. But what has begun cannot be stopped,” the man who was and was not him repeated, with all the sorrow and knowledge still weighting his words. “The path must be walked.”

The Marshal, who was not yet the Marshal, awoke painting and reached for the water by his bed. Storm clouds crackled outside, the rain falling in heavy sheets, and he knew it was an ill omen.

**** ****

The High Priestess and the Lady of Ravens lay in slumber. They dreamed and did not dream; they saw and did not see. But they knew the quality of their seeings and not seeings, eyes and sight awakening to the things they had known but not known until recently.

The one in white considered the world around her. The one in black smirked, and walked toward her sister. The ebony spirals of her clothing faded to mist behind her as she moved, nipping at her heels almost playfully before fading away.

“For how long have we been able to speak in to one another’s dreams, and share our visions such as this?” The Raven asked, and the white lily gave an artless shrug.

“We have always shared dreams,” she answered, before holding up a hand to forestall her sister’s comments. “I don’t know if we’ve always been able to speak like this, or if it is a recent development. It could have to do with our power, awakened last year.”

Darkness swirled in thought about the face of the Raven as she considered it, and she shrugged. “And do we have to speak as if we are in yonder romance novel, forsooth?”

The white light that surrounded the High Priestess froze in place, the shimmering motes hanging in the air in silent consideration, before she let out a sigh. “Do you always have to ruin things?” She asked exasperatedly.

“I’m just saying—” the Raven began.

“No, come on, I’m serious. We can’t have one thing that’s…genuinely heartfelt or dire? We’re sharing psychic visions, for God’s sake. Would it kill us to have a little gravity to the proceedings?”

The Raven started to laugh, until she noticed the very serious and very old fashioned look that her sister was giving her. After a moment she sighed, the swirling darkness even managing to look apologetic. “Fine, we can speak all forsoothly.”

“No, the moment is ruined,” the High Priestess rolled her eyes, and turned out to look at the world around them. Off in the distance, thunder peeled in from the waking world. They both looked out toward the direction it seemed to be coming from. “I think now is when I’m supposed to say that a storm is coming in, in more ways than one; but that’s so cliche.”

“It might be a cliche,” the Raven spoke quietly, “but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also true.” Neither one of them had anything to say to that.

The High Priestess awoke in to a world of rain and thunder outside the safety of her windows, ominous in the dark night. To distract herself, she took a spare pillow and hurled it across two rooms to bean her sister in the face as she awoke.