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By Gilean Majere

Chapter 1

Noc’thul shifted his stance a bit to the left, causing the rocks to tumble. Several pebbles fell to the ground, and Noc’thul silently cursed himself. He re-centered his weight, and soon blended in with the surroundings.

The only part of him that stood out was the scar along his left eye, a stripe of paleness within the darkness of the shadows.

His breathing slowed, and came in tune with the speed of the wind, making it inaudible. He slowly brought his hands out before him, and touched them together. He pulled his hands back towards his body, making a perfect triangle with his palms and thumbs. Then, he began to meditate.

He stood there, in invisible silence, not making any noticeable movements. Seconds...then minutes passed. Still he didn’t move.

The wind blew softly through the peaks, making small whistling noises. He listened to the sounds of Gloom, the shifting of the rocks, the wind’s ebb less flow.

A clatter of pebbles.


Off to the right.

A small movement of shadows within shadows.

He slowly turned his gaze over to the portal, and silently pulled his staff from the small strap behind him that carried it close to his back. The wood felt smooth, natural in his hands....his only weapon of choice.

Deep within the shadows, he sighted what he was waiting for. A Horron... skulking in the darkness.. waiting for hapless dreamers to wander by.

Noc’thul pressed his back to the wall of the canyon, keeping his position upon the ledge. He looked down at the rocks, and picked out the ones that wouldn’t shift, and give away his position. With impeccable silence, he slowly stepped from rock to rock, nearing his mark.

Two more jumps.

He looked at the mare, noting its facing. The creature was facing away from him...good. It still hadn’t noticed him leaping among the shadows, so little noise or movement did he make.

Noc’thul made the last jump, and brought his staff up overhead, swinging it in a downward arc as he landed behind the horron. The beast caught the full brunt of the attack, completely unnoticed. It fell to the ground roaring, caught entirely off guard. It turned to level a chak at the new threat, but was caught from the side by the staff again, and flipped completely over.

Noc’thul swung the staff again and again, striking the horron repeatedly on the back and sides, damaging it, and stinging around what little defenses it managed to raise. The horron roared in rage, as the staff was everywhere that his claws were not. Noc’thul brought the staff behind him, and twirled it around for another overhead swing. The horron flung its arms up to block the blow. The staff swung down, slamming against the horron’s outreached arms...but Noc’thul skilfully stepped aside, and brought the butt-end of he staff up from beneath, slamming it against the horron’s chest, and flipping it around again.

Re-aiming the staff with his left hand, he twirled in a swift circle, bringing the staff straight toward the horron’s re-exposed backside. The butt-end of the staff slammed into the horron’s back, and it screamed...then, collapsed.

Noc’thul bent down, and picked up the essence. Then, he stood, folded his arms across his torso, uttered a quiet prayer to the Nameless One, and walked silently out the portal.

Chapter 2

Kaya rushed up Mt. Illapse, skilfully dodging the small areas where skirmishes had broken out again. Her small feet made little noise as she padded quickly up the mountain. A small satchel clung at her waist held all of her elemens...she was completely sure that they’d be used by the end of the day. Her light blonde hair trailed along behind her. She detested tying it up, preferring to let it flow free.

“Why do they do it?”, she thought to herself, “All it does, is cause more hurt, raw feelings, and hate...”

She sighed, and continued running upwards. At the entrance, she was greeted by a dreamer, Guardian of the Dreamers of Light, Metrol.

“Little one!”, the roughened, old Gatekeeper called out.

Kaya couldn’t help but smile at him. Metrol was like a grandfather to her...and, with the brown beard on his face slowly graying, he would soon look the part. Kaya beamed back at him, as he grabbed her, and pulled her into a tight hug, lifting her off the ground.

He sat her back down, and her smile soon faded. “So, I see you’re fighting with House Calenture again, old man...”

Metrol’s wizened face grinned, the many creases looking oddly out of place with his strong body. The old Gatekeeper had seen many wars between DoL and HC, and would probably live to see many more.

“Yes, little one...that we have.” Metrol said..and then laughed lightly, “In fact, I’m not sure, but have we ever gotten out of war with them?”

Kaya grinned. “Well, as long as you keep getting in wars with them, I’ll keep offering my help as a Free Spirit Soulmaster...”

“Glad to have you aboard......again!”, Metrol said, winking. Kaya had been appearing to act as healer for the past few years, ever since she had learned the art of Restore, in fact. Now, she was one of the best healers in the dream.

Kaya reached down, and patted her small pack. “I’ve got a few elemens in here....I’ll do the best that I can to keep you coherent.....gonna need all the help I can get, for don’t forget, I’ve seen you fight old man...” Kaya said, winking back.

“Alright...well, you’d best be getting inside the keep, and work from there, missy. I think the main force of House Calenture is about up here.” Metrol said, and drew his blade. Kaya nodded, and headed inside.

Chapter 3

Kerrian laughed with glee as her blade sliced through the shield of another pathetic Dreamer of Light’s shield, and then snaked around and slashed him violently, collapsing the warrior. Grinning with delight, she saw that most of the floating Soulspheres were headed back up the mountain, showing that they were DoL casualties.

Turning to her HC forces, she smiled noting that Matrion was still in the front lines. He showed great promise as a warrior...following closely in her footsteps. Smirking, she thought that someday, he might even make something more useful to her than another warrior.

“Forces of Calenture, our enemies retreat!”, she shouted, and then swung her blade towards the portal leading to Illapse Keep. “Follow, and engage!”

The several ranks of Calenture swept forward toward the portal with all the strength of a typhoon. Bursting through the portal, they were immediately set upon by the Dreamers of Light. Blades clashed together, the continual clanging and clattering making the peaceful area outside of Illapse Keep noisier than a blacksmith’s shop.

Kerrian lept atop the small ledge, and began ordering her forces. Almost immediately, the battle began to turn in House Calenture’s favour. She ordered the right flank to press forward, while keeping the battlement covered with a few of her chakram-wielding warriors behind.

Suddenly, to her side, she heard the sound of footsteps on stone. She twirled around swiftly, and saw an old, wizened warrior standing before her, the lines of age and the lines of rage equally dispersed upon his face. His short, cropped beard bore streaks of grey, and his normally soft-brown eyes were now hard, and cold.

“Well, grandpa, seems you still have a few tricks up your sleeve after all...”, Kerrian said, smirking.

Metrol’s only answer was to draw his blade.

Kerrian laughed. “So, you think you can take me, gramps? Have at ya, then..”, Kerrian said, and drew her blade.

As the two circled each other upon the stone dais, the battle around them slowly stopped, as the warriors began to watch the spectacle off to the side. The clatter slowly shrank to a tension-filled silence. The only noise was the scrape of foot against stone, and every now and then, the nervous clatter of a sword shifting position.

Kerrian struck first, faking a slash from right to left. Metrol brought his blade to the side to parry the blow, but Kerrian didn’t stop to slash again, instead letting her momentum twirl her around in a circle, allowing her the chance to slash upwards from the same side.

Metrol cursed as the blade slid along his right hand, and tossed his blade to the left. He swung awkwardly towards Kerrian, and she jumped aside, laughing. Metrol grunted, and shoved to the side with all of his weight. Thinking him unable to fight left-handed, Kerrian didn’t react swiftly enough, and caught Metrol’s blade along her right side. Cursing, she stepped back, and put her hand on the wound.

Never letting up, the battle-wizened Gatekeeper launched himself forward, slamming hard into her, and knocking her down off of the ledge. Kerrian screamed in rage as she fell the short distance to the ground, and her blade fell from her grip and clattered off to the side.

Metrol stood alone on the rock, his stoic figure an impressive sight. He raised his arms above his head, and yelled, “TAKE BACK THE MOUNTAIN!” He yelled a battle cry, and jumped off the ledge into the midst of the Calenture forces.

The forces of DoL shouted in triumph, and the roar of battle began again. The Calenture forces, stunned at the defeat of their commander, and the renewed vigour of DoL’s attack, stood in confusion. From off to the side, a voice called out, “Calenture, fall back!”

Matrion stood near the portal, holding the unconscious body of their felled commander. Even in the midst of the chaos, he seemed calm, and control. The forces of Calenture slowly began to withdraw, escaping through the portal one at a time. DoL pressed their advantage, forcing them back, and collapsing those that were not fast enough.

Metrol leaned wearily against the Keep wall, watching the warriors fighting. His breath came in short, ragged gasps. His body, no longer used to such vigorous activity, was revolting on him, reminding him that he was no longer the age he wished to be. From out of the battle, a female warrior ran up, her hair dark, curly, and cut at shoulder length. Her dark eyes showed concern as they took in the present state of the legendary warrior.

“Pella, get a healer!”, she called out.

Nearby, one of the dreamers turned, and looked at Metrol. “Yes, immediately, Anya.”, he said, and dashed inside. Shortly afterwards, Kaya burst from the portal.

“Grandfather! Are you okay?”, she called to him

Metrol grinned. “Aye....that I am.....just....out of....breath....”

Kaya looked visibly relieved. “Here, old man, come inside and rest, and let us take care of your hand.”, she said gently. Anya helped Metrol to his feet, and with Kaya’s assistance took him inside the Keep, and set him down on the floor along with the other wounded, which were slowly mediating, and being healed.

Once Metrol was taken care of, Anya turned her gaze toward the portal. Hatred burning across her face, she stormed out of the Keep.

Even the members of DoL were taken aback when they saw Anya. Everyone stepped back, and allowed her passage to the front. When she got to the portal, she turned to the assembled warriors.

“Brothers, the time to strike is now! We have them on the run, and we cannot let up!”, she shouted, “Follow me, we go to destroy the Calenture dogs! For Metrol, and for the Light!” As she finished, a roar rose from among the dreamers, and everyone charged out from the portal.

Chapter 4

Matrion and the rest of Calenture stopped, and regrouped midway down Mt. Illapse. He carried Kerrian over to their Soulmasters, and set her down at her feet.

“Take care of her, and get her ready to fight as soon as possible.”

Turning to the rest of Calenture, he called out, “We make our stand here! Any of you that wish to return to the house, may do so now without a loss of honor. But, one of our own has been injured,” he said, motioning to Kerrian, “and I will not leave until we have enough heads from DoL to compensate!”

This was met by a rousing cheer from all of Calenture.

At once, the portal began blazing, and dreamer after dreamer flooded in from above. Matrion grabbed his blade, and dove headfirst into the onrushing DoL mob, followed by every warrior from House Calenture.

Once again, the two factions were embroiled in battle... led by two different commanders this time, however. Anya’s blade slashed and slice with deadly precision, cutting down in one or two strokes any dreamer foolish enough to step in her way. Matrion hacked and slashed, collapsing dreamers by pure force, shouting orders at the top of his lungs. Avatars collapsed, and soulspheres were restored with an amazing rapidity. Suddenly, from across the field, the two commanders lay eyes on each other.

A colder glare never passed between two dreamers.

People between them seemed to disappear, and they walked towards each other in a straight line. The battle raged unchecked, in truth, unnoticed around them as they stalked towards each other.

As they neared, each rose their blades to strike at the other. The blades swung with such speed, that no hum was heard, only a small slicing sound. The blades locked together, and the two glared straight into the others eyes. Matrion roared, and pushed forward, unlatching the blades. He swung overhead, bringing his blade straight down towards Anya’s head. The swift thinking Gatekeeper brought her blade up at an angle, deflecting the blow. As the two blades sang, continually slamming against each other, the war around gradually sunk into another uneasy halt.

Time and time again, the two blades clanged and clashed, neither warrior gaining an advantage, nor being harmed. Over and over, blades swung in bright shining arcs, reflecting the light off all sides of the mountain’s walls. Stepping back, Matrion roared a battle cry, and lunged forward with his blade swinging from the side, a full-force slash.

Anya twisted, and brought her sword to block.

The two blades met, and with the sound of an explosion, they clashed.

Both blades broke.

Shards flew everywhere, nicking and scratching several of the bystanding spectators. Both of the duelists stared blankly at their now-empty hands, and their opponent.

Anya was the first to recover. “You Calenture dogs have done enough damage on this mountain today!”, she said, glaring steely at Matrion. “Take this pack of ravenous scavengers you call an army, and go back to Evernight.”

Matrion’s brow creased with anger at the insult, but taking stock of his army, and Kerrian still unconscious at the Soulmasters’ feet, only glared back.

“Yes....we have proven our point at how inept your defenses are.”, he said stonily, staring straight at Anya. He turned to the Calenture army, “Warriors....let us return to Evernight. This frail house has learned their lesson for today.”

Saying that, he turned his back to Anya, mocking her, by allowing her an open shot at his back. He walked nonchalantly over to Kerrian, and picked her up in his arms. Nodding to his warriors, he then stepped out the portal, followed by his warriors.

As the last Calenture warrior stepped out of Mt. Illapse, a roaring cheer rose from the Dreamers of Light. Anya was unexpectedly hoisted upon their shoulders, and to her surprise, carried as a hero back to the house.

Chapter 5

Raman coughed roughly, the spasm shaking his snowy white beard. His gnarled hand gripped his staff tightly, until the coughing passed. Slowly, he continued on up the path to the Gathering of the Entranced. His wooden staff, shaped like a Shepard's crook, make a steady click-clack on the stone path as he walked.

The brown robe he was wearing swayed steadily with his footsteps. The robe was, in fact, a present from the many friends he had in the Gathering. While still remaining a Free Spirit, he had helped greatly the people working to re-open the house. And, as such, was treated as an honorary member, since he wouldn’t pledge his life to any house.

He finally reached the end of the path, his stooped form barely coming halfway up the height of the Portal. As he stepped through, he smiled, expecting to see the many people that were always in the entrance, ready to engage in wholesome conversation.

He went through, and was mildly surprised.

The entrance, normally bustling with people, held only two dreamers....he knew these two, Mayan and Berol, a newly married couple. As he approached, he knew something was wrong....Mayan, she was crumpled up in a heap on the steps, and Berol was standing off to the side, looking sad, dejected, and guilty all at once.

Raman sighed...another lover’s spat. Stepping forward, he coughed softly, to make his presence known.

Mayan looked up quickly, wiping her teary eyes, and managed a slight grin. “Good day, Raman!”...she said, brokenly.

“Good day, eh?”, Raman replied, “That’s not what it looks like to me....come now, you young’ns know you can trust me....what’s wrong?”

Even Berol managed a slight smile at that one. The couple looked back and forth at each other, and for a few minutes, it seemed like neither one would speak. Finally, Berol straightened up, and looked at Raman.

“We.....we think that maybe the marriage was the wrong thing to do, Raman.”

“Eh? And just why’s that now, lad?”

Berol looked at Mayan, and sighed. “I....I still love another, Raman. Several months ago, I was seeing another dreamer, her name was Melata, and....I fell in love with her. No matter how I want to deny it, I still have feelings for her.”

Raman smiled, a truly grandfatherly smile. “Son.....our feelings make us who we are. Without them, we would only be a shell, wandering from point to point, with no direction. Our feelings are the internal fire that give us all reason to get up in the morning. Now, when Mayan here fell in love with you, she fell in love with you regardless of the fact that you still had feelings for this....Melata? That’s her name, right?”

Berol simply nodded.

“Anyways then, son, you may still have feelings for this...Melata....but, I know that you care more for pretty little Mayan here. I can see the fire in your eyes every time you look her direction....she’s your reason for dreaming, it’s obvious to anyone!”

Mayan, and Berol both smiled a little.

“Come didn’t honestly think that just because you married someone, you’d lose all the feelings you ever had for anyone else. Don’t feel guilty about having feelings, Berol. Our feelings make us WHO WE ARE.” The last three words were each punctuated by three pokes in his chest by Raman’s bony finger, and an accompanying grin from the wrinkled old man. Raman then turned to Mayan.

“Now, Mayan dear...I know, you’re so dang pretty you could have any man you wished, but you chose Berol here for some reason.” Raman looked sideways at Berol, and grinned. “Can’t say as though I see why, but ya did. Now, tell the poor confused boy that you won’t stop loving him just because he’s acting like a normal, healthy dreamer!”

Mayan stood up, and smiled. She walked over to Berol, and instead of telling him in words, told him by grabbing him by the head, and forcing her lips on his in a passionate kiss. Even Raman himself was blushing by the time they were through.

Finally, the two composed themselves, and smiled at Raman. Berol stepped forward, and smiled. “I can never repay you for that, Raman...”, he said, “is there anything I can do for you?”

Raman looked around, and turned back to Berol and Mayan. “Well, I came all this way just to talk, so, it’d be thanks enough if you two’d just sit, humor an old man, and talk with me for a while..”, he said, with a grin and a wink.

The trio sat down on the steps, and soon, Raman was deep into a story. Meanwhile, Mayan and Berol listened...somewhat intently.

Chapter 6

The Union of the Covenant hunting party slowly made its way through Harrow Glades. Suddenly, the leader of the party, Janus, called a halt.

“Ryan....Ryan, get your scrawny little but over here, NOW!”

A small lad, barely the age of 10 scrambled over. His dusty brown hair was completely unkempt, and he was covered in splotches of mud, from slipping on the trail, and getting lost in the underbrush on the way here. Light blue eyes looked up at Janus from the muddy face.

Janus reached down, and grabbed one of his scrawny arms.

“Listen, Ryan....I’m not gonna risk these other dreamers by taking you out hunting with us. You are going to sit here, and gen sit, got me? You move from this spot, I swear, by the Union, I will collapse you myself!”

Ryan could only shake, and nod his head vigorously, looking at his reflection in Janus’ shiny UotC ruler’s crest. Janus dropped him to the ground, and motioned the rest of the hunting party forward.

Ryan slowly stood up, and then began scouting around for the gen. He sat down by the gen, and then began to listen to the banter of the others who were hunting, through the voices in his mind.

Ryan closed his eyes, and imagined that he was there with them. The party had cornered a shamblix....Janus was going around behind it, and Yanku was to try and distract it. Lasin was moving into position along with Janus. Yanku screamed...the sham had hit him. But, Janus and Lasin dashed out of cover, and began blasting the shamblix. Soon, the Nightmare was reduced to a swirling wisp. Ryan opened his eyes, smiling.

Just in time to see a Plum Fire Elemen disappear into the gen.

“Dang!”, Ryan said, diving to the ground, trying to grab the elemen unsuccessfully before it dissipated.

“What’s wrong?”, he heard Janus’ voice call to him.

“N...n...nothing, sir...”

Ryan stood back up, and took his seat again, watching the gen intently. He was watching it so intently, in fact, he never heard the dark mare sneak up behind him.

Suddenly, Ryan was tossed head over heels off of the stone he was sitting on, and into the surrounding underbrush. He screamed in pain and fear, and immediately scrambled up the nearest tree to hide from whatever hit him. However, he was only partway up when the dark mare hooked onto his leg with a claw, and pulled him back to the ground.

Ryan hit the ground roughly, and leaves fluttered down from the tree above him. He looked at the dark, and screamed in fright. Immediately, he began trying to scramble to his feet, but the dark was too quick for him. It set upon him quickly, slashing and biting at him. Ryan screamed, and closed his eyes, prepared to collapse.

Suddenly, the weight from upon him was lifted. He heard chakram fire, and opening his eyes, saw that the dark was no longer on top of him. Off to the side he saw a large boulder against some brush, and scrambled over and hid behind it in the shadows. He peeked out, and saw the hunting party engaged in battle with the dark.

Digging in his pack, he began fumbling a chakram nervously. If the dark came near, he would shoot at it...but, he wasn’t going to go out in the battlefield to engage it. As he listened from the safety of his cover, he heard the dark scream in rage and pain, and also the members of his party being hit. Trembling, he hoped that they would be able to defeat it...if for no other reason, than so he could get out.

After a while, he noticed that it was quiet. He looked out, and saw Janus, Lasin, and Yanku standing above an essence. He smiled, and climbed out from under the rock. Janus glared at him.

“You worthless piece of’re no more a warrior than someone from the Alliance.”, Janus spat, “The only reason you’re even in the house is because your mother married Maku. You got in by blood, but if you want to stay, you need to learn to fight.”

Ryan hung his head, and Janus cuffed him on the side of the head.

“Go back to the house....the mere sight of you disgusts me.”

Ryan frowned, and sulked out of the room, back towards the Union.

Chapter 7

Prinaala looked up from the codex she was inscribing, and sighed. Selak was still there...him, and Dryuss, and Klitan, and R’Tul. They never stopped following her around. She finished the inscription, and then turned to her aide, .

“Be a dear, and take this to one of the Gathering’s rulers, Corna, please?”

Corna smiled, and she nodded, glad to help Prinaala, her idol. She took the codex, and dashed quickly out the door. She reached back, and pulled her long dark hair up into a ponytail, much more suitable for wandering the dreamscape than letting it flow clear to the back of her knees.

Her pale skin contrasted with the dark tan walls of her house, the Order of the Sable Moon. However, the pale skin fit well with her aloof personality. Prinaala was loner by choice. She had countless scores of men that would give anything to have her return their affections. However, as a ruler, she stated that one of her position did not have time for such foolish nonsense, as love, and romance.

She turned to Seya, her other aide.

“How many are outside, Seya?”

Seya grinned. “More than I wish to count, m’lady.”

Prinaala sighed. It was like this every spring....young, single dreamers came from all over the dreamscape to seek the “beautiful Prinaala’s” hand. Did no one realize that she had responsibilities? Duty?

“Well, give them my reguards in a while, Seya...I’m going to Threshold.”

Prinaala evoked Invisibility upon herself, and walked out into the front entrance, around the scores of hormonal impulsed single male dreamers, and out the front entrance.

She laughed softly as she left the house behind, imagining the surprise of the assembled dreamers when they discovered she was no longer there. She smiled at the thought, and began her trek down Trinity to Threshold.

As she was crossing the bridge over the Passive River, she heard a voice call out to her.

“So, escaping from your suitors again, m’lady?”

Prinaala grinned, recognizing the voice. Looking around, she didn’t see him.

“Melekai, you scamp, show yourself!”, she called out, grinning.

From underneath the bridge peeked a lone man. Atop his head sat a dark-green archer’s cap, with a single white feather sticking out of it. The cap was set sideways, and made it look like he’d sat a long triangle atop his head, and forgotten about it. A patch of dark blonde hair stuck out from the right side, covering his right eye. But, his left eye sparkled as he smiled at her. In his hands, he held a long lyre, approximately 3 feet long, and a foot wide. The instrument of his trade. On his shoulders rested a short red cape, more for show than actual functionality.

Melekai jumped across the river, and climbed up the bank on the other side, near to Prinaala. As he got there, he readjusted his hat, licked a palm, and used it to flatten down the shock of hair that was sticking out on the right. Prinaala smiled as she watched him, knowing that it was all done in jest.

He was one of the few male dreamers that she actually respected....and, that was mainly because he thought with his heart, and not....well, other parts of his anatomy. More importantly, as a bard, he did her a service as a ruler, as well. He brought her information of other houses, and events in the city....things that people would tell a common man, but not a ruler.

“So, Melekai, what news have you brought me today?”, she said, resuming her diplomatic, emotionless poise.

Melekai grinned. “Well, not much that you wouldn’t know about, m’lady....HC and DoL are either in, ending, or starting another war....I can never really tell which it is, it all seems the same to me. The City Guard are arranging a festival of some sort in a few days, a carnival of sorts, if I hear right. Oh, and another thing, my friend Ariana..I think you’ve met her, she just got her halo today!”

Prinaala’s stoic face broke into a smile yet again.

“Why, that’s wonderful, Melekai! Give her my congratulations!”

“Aye, that I’ll do, m’lady...” Melekai said, smiling. He looked down the path. “So, what’s a lovely lady like you up to this evening?”

Prinaala sighed. “Well, as you said....escaping the suitors, and trying to find some place to spend some relative peace and quiet for a while.”

“Ahh....well, I think I know of the perfect place, m’, come with me!”

Melekai reached out his arm, crooked, offering her to slip her arm around his. Smiling, Prinaala hooked her arm around his, and laughed.

“So, most noblest of bards,” she said, jokingly, “where are we off to?”

“A little known part of the Dreamscape, m’ get you some time to yourself. And...perhaps, to let you listen to a few of the tunes I have been working on before I start playing them publicly.

“Well, it would be my honor to be the first to hear your music, Melekai!”, Prinaala said, smiling, “Lead on then, fair sir!”

Hand in hand, the two good friends proceeded down Trinity, to Melekai’s chosen spot. Once there, he led Prinaala over to a rock nearby, and sat his cape down as a cushion. Then, smiling, he sat down on another rock, and began to tune his lyre.

“ have the pressures of the ruling caste been treating you as of late?”

Prinaala sighed. “Same as usual....rush here, rush there....don’t forget to set a good example for all the initiates...clean out the essence room....give out sphere tasks....I wish that I had time to be something BESIDES a ruler.”

Melekai looked at her oddly. “You know, m’lady, the job is only how much you choose to put into it. Just because you’re a ruler, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a dreamer.”

“Easy for you to say,’re free to roam whenever you feel like it. You don’t have schedules to keep, and meetings to attend.”

“Oh, don’t I? Do you think that my reputation as a bard would last very long if I failed to attend a carnival? Or, do you think I would be able to show my face if I never practiced, and next time I played, it was horrid? We all have responsibilities, just matters how you prioritize them.”

Prinaala smiled at him, but shook her head. “You don’t understand....there are just so many things that have to be done!”

Melekai set his lyre aside, walked over, and took her hand. “Then, let someone else do them for once. You need some time off, m’lady.....for in truth, what kind of a ruler would you be if you forget what it means to be a dreamer?”

She looked at the ground, and sighed. “Melekai...I just....don’t know how to delegate. I can’t...bring myself to trust everyone else to get it done..”

He smiled gently. “’re not the only one in the house....there ARE other rulers, you know.” He stopped, and then continued jokingly, “Now, if you were in the Gathering, that’d be another story....”

That got a grin from Prinaala, and she sighed wearily. “Oh, Melekai...I know you’re’s just, part of who I am.”

Melekai smiled, and reached a hand out, caressing her chin. She looked up at him, and he said, “Perhaps you should give freedom a chance, m’lady.” They looked deeply into each other’s eyes, and Prinaala slowly leaned forward towards his lips.

Melekai stood up and walked back over to his lyre, leaving Prinaala sitting bent over, slightly awkwardly. She hastily sat back straight, and acted as if nothing had happened. Reaching his lyre, he picked it up, and smiled at Prinaala. As Prinaala returned the smile, he began to sing...

A fire is burning inside us all, eternal flame, life’s sweet bliss. Yet dreading ever to take the fall, we still our hearts with love amiss The strongest stone holds heat within, the coldest ice has flickering light Yet holding safe, always as we’ve been denying all n’er feeling right The bonds we wear are those we make yet stronger chains we’re n’er wrought We forgo the things that we should not forsake In our quest to do what we think we ‘ought. We must forsake the feelings we grow for if we have none what are we then? A dreaming automaton, this you shall know no dreams of joy dreams of work without end Forego your duties, if for but a night! find the dreamer you used to be And see if the dream does not feel right find happiness, peace, and then you shall see.

Melekai lowered his lyre, and smiled at Prinella.

Prinella looked over at the minstrel. He was truly quite handsome, now that she thought on it. She stood, smiling, and crossed the room towards him, and took his hands.

“We shall see, dear bard...we shall see.”

Chapter 8

Mia stooped down, and washed the dark mud off of her face in the waters of the Harrow Glades. As she rose, she studied her face in the water....her small angular eyes, like a cat....her small, sharp face, accentuated by a sharply pointed nose. Gods, was she ever unattractive.

She patted the pouch beside her, and smiled.

Unattractive...but not poor.

Her face and arms were covered with mud, an old habit back from when she first entered the dream. Back then, to be a successful pickpocket, she had covered herself with mud, and snuck among the shadows, pilfering whatever she could lay her hands on. Then, she’d taken to hiding in the dark near mares, and picking up whatever the collapsed dreamers dropped. Finally, when she had gained enough talent, she had sought out a teacher, and learned the art of Chamele. Still, she always camouflaged herself with the mud, first of all out of habit, and secondly in case her Chamele ran out before she was prepared.

She smiled to herself, and pulled the pouch off of her belt. She dumped the pouch out, and started to inventory the contents.....someone’s blade, a few chakrams...ooh, a Teal alt...that’d come in handy...also handy, here’s a few Insight elemens...

She continued until she had two small piles, those to keep, and those to trade to other people, or to replace in packs so nothing was noticed missing. She sighed at the slim pickings, and looked out toward the exit to the Valley of Totality.

Soon, it would be time to get the big one...soon....

Chapter 9

Noc’thul sat atop Gloom Peaks, deep in meditation. He listened to the wind pass between the peaks, the rustle of pebbles as the wind shifted the rock, the liquids boiling deep within the mountain...

....and the rustle of footsteps.

Noc’thul looked down, and almost moaned in annoyance.

Coming up the path, peering into every shadow was a young dreamer, blade drawn. His blonde hair flew back and forth, and he craned his neck to peer into this corner, and then that one. Noc’thul reached behind him, and pulled his staff out. He stood, and rapped the butt-end of the staff on the ground.

The approaching dreamer’s neck almost snapped as his head flung around. As he saw Noc’thul, his face broke out in a predetorial grin. He dashed forward, and stopped three paces in front of Noc’thul.

“So.....this is the famous Noc’ don’t look that scary.”

Noc’thul said nothing, only brushed his hair back, revealing the scar along his eye. The dreamer before him stepped back a little bit, but didn’t turn.

“Bah....any fool can get a doesn’t take much effort to get scraped.”

Noc’thul only stood there, saying nothing.

“So....the mighty Noc’thul is too good to speak with me?” the young dreamer retorted, angrily. He moved closer, bringing his blade to bear.

Noc’thul simply stood there, and brought his staff up into a defensive position.

“Draw your blade, fool!”, the dreamer spat at him.

Noc’thul only shook his head in response.

The dreamer grinned. “Well...just makes it easier for me, then...”, the dreamer said, and lunged forward with his blade screaming. Noc’thul swung his staff sideways, and the blade cut a large nick in the staff. Taking advantage of the halted blade, Noc’thul swung around sideways, and smacked the other end of the staff against the dreamer’s forehead.

The dreamer roared, and jumped back. He lunged forward at Noc’thul again, and was easily parried to the side. As Noc’thul stepped aside, the dreamer’s momentum carried him forward, and he tripped on the exposed end of Noc’thul’s staff.

Noc’thul turned, and placed one booted foot on the dreamer’s exposed back, pinning him down. He placed the end of his staff directly behind the dreamer’s head, and pushed forward, pinning his head to the ground.

The dreamer almost panicked when his face was ground into the dirt. It was over...he was going to be collapsed. His mind raced trying to think of some way to roll, to get out of it. Suddenly, the pressure on his back was released. He jumped to his feet, and looked around.

He saw an empty cliff.

Chapter 10

Inside the house of the Dreamers of Light, everyone was astir. People ran back and forth, rushing to and fro, talking in loud boisterous conversation, and in whispers. Something big was going to happen today, but none of the Rulers would let slip exactly what it was. However, they were all walking around with grins on their faces.

Popular opinion was that it had something to do with the recent battle against House Calenture. Some thought that HC had surrendered to DoL, some thought that maybe one or two of the Rulers of HC had stepped down in shame for losing. Still, others thought that it might have nothing to do with the battle...maybe they were forging a new alliance, or someone was getting their sphere today.

Finally, one of the guardian appeared, and called everyone into the meeting chamber. At the front of the room was assembled all the rulers, with all of the guardians assembled behind, and beside them. All of the guardians, except for one.

Whispers began rushing back and forth.

“Where’s Metrol?”

“Is he okay? He was hurt in the battle a couple days ago...”

“Yes..he’s fine, I saw him just the other day!”

“Did someone forget to tell him?”

“That, or he’s getting so old he forgot...”, someone said, and was consequently smacked. Metrol may have been getting up there in years, but he was still highly respected by all of the house.

Tyrran, one of the rulers, raised his hands and ordered silence in the room.

Slowly, the whispers and chatter died down, and Tyrran smiled.

“Greetings, initiates. Now, as I can tell by the looks of total bewilderment on all of your faces, you’re curious as to why we called this meeting.”, Tyrran said, smiling. “Well, I shall not tell you...that is up to another. But, I can show you what it is about.” Tyrran said, grinning mysteriously. He turned, and stepped briefly through the portal, and led another figure back in with him.

A figure that most noticeably, no longer wore the red crest of guardian, but the blue and white crest of an initiate. A collective gasp filled the room, and everyone began stirring. Metrol smiled, and raised his hands.

“Fellow dreamers....I know that this may come as a shock to you...”, Metrol said, and then added, “especially since I’ve worn the crest of a guardian almost longer than some of our rulers here have dreamt.” Metrol grinned, and winked at Tyrran. He continued, “However...I have made the decision that I should no longer wear the crest. This recent battle showed me that I’m not the young dreamer I think I am, and I cannot have all of you depending on me as much anymore.”

Murmurs of disagreement, and sighs rustled throughout the crowd. Metrol cleared his throat, and the silence returned.

“However....I have spoken with the rulers, and they have listened to my opinions. And, we have chosen a replacement to take my place.” Metrol’s eyes scanned the crowd, and everyone looked at each other, and shifted nervously. Finally, he sought out the dreamer he wanted. “Anya! Anya Steelblade.....for taking charge of our forces in my absence, and leading our house to victory against the forces of Calenture, you are the new guardian elect! Do you accept the position?”

Back in the corner, Anya staggered. “Umm....but....of course, Metrol!” She smiled, and stepped forward, her dark eyes glistening with aprehension. “This...this was just so unexpected!”

As she stepped forward, and Tyrran placed the crest of a guardian upon her shoulders, the house’s foundations shook as every member assembled shouted and cheered.

Chapter 11

Kerrian sighed, stepping forth from the portal. The City Guard was preparing to have a festival today, and she was to pick an initiate to participate with her in the games. Rules forbade more than one guardian or ruler in each event. She smiled inwardly to herself, already having made up her mind which initiate it would be well before the rulers actually passed the job on to her.

She located him in the armory, and went down there.

As she entered, she saw Matrion, and his friend Danlon dutifully looking over every chakram, making sure that it was fit for use. Stepping up behind Danlon, she tapped him on the shoulder, and nodded her head backwards toward the door.

Danlon looked slightly confused, but shrugged, turned around, and left.

She walked over to Matrion, shaking him out of his examination of a chakram.

“So, Matrion....what plans do you have for tomorrow?”

Matrion looked up, and grinned slyly. “Well, I suppose that all depends on what yours are, m’lady...”

Kerrian smiled. “Well, I thought perhaps you would like to attend the festival with me my teammate, of course...”, she said, her lips turned up in a playful smile.

Matrion turned his head up, grabbed a hold of her crest, and pulled her lips down onto his, kissing her solidly. He released his hold, and she slowly sat back up. Matrion smiled at her, his eyes twinkling, and replied, “But of course....”

Kerrian laughed, and pushed him down on the floor, jumping atop of him.

“So...shall we start getting in shape for some of the events?”, she asked.

Chapter 12

Ryan shifted back and forth nervously. Everyone was assembled in the main hall at the Union, planning out the next round of duels. Janus was due up next, and everyone was arguing over who got to duel him. The interesting thing was, it was not over an argument over who wanted to duel was everyone not wanting to duel him.

He looked in admiration at the guardian. Janus was standing in the middle of the room, casually checking his blade for nicks, and scratches. He had defeated the last 3 challengers, and the most curious development, was that he did not challenge any of the rulers. In fact, several of the rulers were very unnerved, literally shaking in their seats, fearing for their position. Janus could have easily defeated almost any of the rulers, and taken their spots. However, he didn’t.

Finally, a young lad by the name of Patrius entered the ring, albeit somewhat hesitantly. He stood across the room from Janus, and quickly formed his blade in his hand. Janus smiled cordially, and advanced.

The two circled around the room, Patrius glancing about nervously. Finally, steeling his nerve, he dashed forward. Janus swiftly ducked, and Patrius continued right over him, bowling both of them over. Janus rolled to the side, grabbing his and Patruis’ blade as he lept to his feet.

Patrius paled as he looked at the Gatekeeper standing before him bearing both blades, and fell to the ground, as a sign of surrender.

The crowd applauded loudly, until they realized that this meant one of them would have to duel Janus. Then, everyone heaved a collective sigh of relief as Janus let his blade dissipate, and stepped out from the center circle, having protected his position as guardian.

Sighing, Ryan faded through the crowd, and snuck out the front entrance. No need for him to stay at the duels....he’d never be able to defeat anyone. Hell, if he even stepped into the middle to challenge anyone, he’d be laughed out of the arena. He walked out of the deserted entrance, towards Threshold.

As he neared Threshold, he began noticing more and more dreamers. He looked around curiously, not used to seeing this many people out and about. Then, he recalled that he’d heard something about a City Guard festival today, or something like that. He smiled, thinking that maybe today he could actually enjoy himself, and rushed onward.

The main festival was taking place in the Upper Basin of Stars, and as Ryan rushed in, he smiled. All over were dreamers enjoying themselves....over here, there were duels going on....over there, a food stand. Up on the steps, they were having an auction of some sort....and by the falls, there was a storyteller with a huge crowd gathered around.

Ryan smiled, and ran over towards the storyteller. He was partway there when he felt a strong tug on his collar, yanking him back onto his butt. He turned around, and turned white.

“So, this is why you snuck out early, you worthless little scamp.”, Janus said, glaring at him.

“B..b..but Janus...I can’t du..duel...there’s no p..p..p..point in me..”

“Oh, shut up, Ryan.”, Janus said. “Who cares if you can fight or not...that’s not the point. You are to stay in the hall until the duels are over. Keep this up, and you’ll never earn your crest, you emph-sucker.”

Janus pulled on Ryan’s shirt, and yanked him to his feet. He then shoved him forcefully towards the portal. “Go gen-sit in the pits for a few hours, maybe you’ll learn something about honor, and responsibility.”

Ryan sulked away, holding in the tears.

“Y....y..yes Janus...I mean...sir...”

Janus watched him walk away, hands on his hips, and a scowl on his face.

Chapter 13

Raman smiled, holding his staff closely. He had been asked a week ago by the City Guard if he would tell stories the day of the festival, and he had greatfully accepted. Shortly after his first story, the ground around him had filled up with dreamers of all ages, eager to hear his stories.

He looked over the crowd, trying to read it, to tell him what type of story he should tell next. A smile crossed his lips as he saw Berol and Mayan in the back, both holding each other tightly, and still wearing their wedding bands. In fact, as he looked, the crowd before him seemed to be teeming with young lovers. Good! He thought of the perfect story to tell.

“Ahh, me....young love...such a wonderful thing. Have you all heard the tale of Sara and Bryton, the Dreamwrights?”

Everyone shook their heads...either because they truly had not heard the story, or because they simply wished for him to tell another tale.

“Well, perhaps some of you have stumbled upon the cliff in the Valley of Totality, and seen the place we now refer to as Sara’s bright outlook. Well, let me tell you, Sara was a beauty to behold in her day. Any of the Dreamwrights would have done anything they could to have had her hand. However, the poor dear had already been wed in Cloudsbreak, to a poor fellow named Dartagnan. ‘Ol Dartagnan was one of the first taken by the plague when it swept through, leaving the poor lass a widow at the age of eighteen.

“She was one of the first Dreamwrights, and worked with the rest to build this wondrous city. However, she often worked off in realms by herself, because after the her husband’s death, she rarely enjoyed the company of others.

“One day, though, a young lad named Bryton sought her out, and asked for her assistance. Seems he was trying to create some waterfalls up in the Basin, and couldn’t manage to get the dreamstate’s elements to form correctly for him.

“Sara gladly taught him how to make water, as the idea of waterfalls in the dream intrigued her, it was something she hadn’t thought of. She showed him how to gather the Resilience, and mix in just the right amount of Lucidity and Insight to create a molecule of water. Then, to just increase the proportions.

“Bryton swallowed heavily, and began to gather the elements. However, he miscalculated just a bit. He did manage to bring forth a handful of water, however, he brought it into being just above his head.

“Sara couldn’t help but laugh at the poor damp dreamer before her, and she laughed even more when Bryton gathered, and splashed a handful of water at her jokingly. Soon, the two were both completely soaked, and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

“Sara also realized that the pain in her heart that had been evident since Dartagnon’s passing, was relieved. The two began spending more and more time together, and began developing whole rooms, dedicated just to enjoying themselves. Those being mainly the Waterhole, most of the waterfalls in the Basin, and the Ring fields nearby those.

“As the creation of the Rubicon ring came near to completion, the two were indeed beginning to grow close. They joined the group working on the final plane, the Valley of Totality, and swiftly fell to task creating cliffs, and rocks.

“One day, while they were working on a room, Bryton stopped, and turned to Sara. “Sara”, he said, “There’s something I need to tell you.” At this, ‘ol Sara became nervous, as this was exactly what Dartagnon’s maid had told her the day she brought news of his death.

“”Sara, you have no idea how much you mean to me. You are my reason for dreaming, for creating...for living. The only time I can enjoy....truly enjoy myself, is when you are by my side. When you aren’t here, I miss you so much that it hurts.

“Now Sara was blushing profusely by now, her blond hair gleaming against her bright red skin. Bryton decided he’d better hurry up, so he just blurted out, “Sara, will you marry me?”

“Sara stepped back, and looked off the cliff that they....they alone...had built. She looked off, and for the first time in a long time, did not think of her past....her village destroyed by the plague...her husband dead...her inner pain, and loneliness. Instead, she thought of the future...happiness, and being with Bryton. She turned to him, and said, “ mean just as much to me. You brought light into my life when I thought there never would be again. Of course I will marry you.”

“And, the two were wed the very day the Rubicon ring was completed...and, that room where Sara looked to her future, and not her past, is the room we now term as Sara’s Bright Outlook.

As he finished the story, everyone applauded. Raman looked over the crowd, noticing that most of the lovers seemed to be sitting, if at all possible, closer to each other. He smiled, and reaching down, took a sip of tea.

“So, children...what story shall I tell next?”

Chapter 14

Branton stood under the shade of the overhang, tapping his foot nervously. His City Guard insignia, pinned to the front of his shirt, still managed to glow softly even when in the shade.

“Where are you, Meleakai?”, he asked to the air. Melekai was now five minutes late. He had agreed to come to the festival, and play for a couple hours. He never missed a scheduled appointment...what could be keeping him?

Then, the Portal across the way shimmered, and Melekai entered. Branton stepped forward, ready to tell him just what he thought of his timekeeping abilities, but stepped back as another figure stepped through. He could understand why Melekai was late, for hanging onto his arm was the most beautiful, and most unattainable woman in the dream

“Prinaala?? Is that you?” he asked in wonderment.

Prinaala smiled, and turned to him. “Yes, Branton? How can I help you?” She said, holding possessively to Melekai’s hand.

“Oh...nothing..”, Branton said, the hint of a smile on his lips. He turned to Melekai. “’re spot is over that underhang over there, in the shade.”

Melekai nodded, and walked hand in hand with Prinaala over to the spot, leaving a speechless Branton behind.

Prinaala sat down on the ground, as Melekai tuned his harp. He took his place on a rock near the wall, and sat down. As he began to play, dreamers began to assemble. Glad to have a crowd, Melekai began to sing.

Every dreamer hear my song, joyful to the ever-end all are welcome, all in love In Underlight, or Overlight above Hearts dark and black, or white as a dove Together we are one My heart is in my song, my soul is therein too come and listen, take your part read my soul and feel my heart listen carefully, and then you’ll start To see that we are one It matters not from whence we came, nor to where we’ll go Together here, we breathe and live we all must take, and all must give and all you feel, you’ll feel more if You know that we are one Senseless are these wars we fight, and pointless is our hate we must all try to get along instead of fighting, and feeling wrong each of us sing our own song And we shall all be one

Melekai sat his lyre down, and tuned it to the next song, amid a chorus of applause. A day of peace, a good day for a peace song, he had decided. He smiled at Prinaala, and picking up his lyre, began the next song.

Chapter 15

Kaya was beaming with joy as she walked through the festival. After the brief period of war, it was great to see everyone getting along well again. After listening to the storyteller for a while, she had gotten tired of sitting with all the loving couples.

Not that she minded being single, or course....but, every now and then, it would be nice to feel a man’s arms wrapped around her. It’s not to say that she hadn’t been approached by anyone, either...just, that she had not met the right one yet.

She sighed inwardly thinking back to her last disastrous relationship. The guy had spent day after day doting on her looks, and her personality....but, in the end, had only wanted her for her body. She remembered the scathing comments he’d said when she told him he had to wait....and also remembered him storming out of the room, only to be seen again with another lady the next day.

Then, looking to the side, something caught her eye. A man....elderly looking, in fact....all white. Not just his clothes, his whole avatar was pale white. For no reason she could really pin-point, she felt drawn to him, and walked towards him. As he saw her approach, he turned and walked away. Confused, and drawn all the more to him, Kaya rushed after him. He ducked around a corner, and rushing forward, Kaya followed him.

She ran headfirst into another dreamer, and fell to the ground. Rubbing her head, she looked at him. He was fairly tall, and dressed in dark clothes. The most noticeable thing about him, was that he bore a scar over his right eye. He reached a hand out to her, and helped her up.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but did you see a man dressed all in chalk?”, he asked.

Kaya gasped. “I...I was just about to ask you the same thing!”, she exclaimed.

He looked at her curiously, and turned around.

“Thank you anyway.”, he said, as he walked off.

She watched him walk away in complete confusion, then sighed, and walked back to the festival.

Chapter 16

Finally, it was time for the competitions. Branton gathered everyone together, and began calling out group names and competitions. First off was a race up and back down the Basin, followed by a tug-of-war, then wrestling, and more games lasting well on into the evening.

Branton called everyone up to the starting line at the Basin Gates.

“Okay, may I have everyone’s attention? The race is from here, up to the Arch of Protectors, right outside the entrance of the Gathering. You may take any path you wish. The first one there, and back is the winner.”

Anya stepped up to the line, along with sixteen other dreamers. Each team was made up of one ruler or guardian from each house, and one initiate of that house, along with two dreamers elected from the free spirits. With her was Lylet, an initiate from DoL. Looking down the line, she noticed Kerrian and Matrion from House Calenture.

Branton continued, “Okay, is everyone ready? On my random, take off!.”

Branton quickly evoked Random, and as soon as the chaotic voice rang out, everyone took off from the starting line. Anya jumped off to an early lead, following closely behind one of the free spirits. Soon, she left the pack behind as she turned off towards the Lagoons. Most of the dreamers avoided them, as it was easy to get sidetracked, and slowed down. But, Anya knew her way, and soon made her way through.

As she jumped down the Lower Staircase, towards the Bridge of Memories, she saw the free spirit that had been in the lead enter from the other side, followed closely by Matrion. Running, she beat both of them to, and across the bridge, and was soon in the lead.

The three of them were in a dead heat as they ran up along the Basin River. Almost at once, all three of them burst into the Arch of Protectors, and turned quickly, and began heading in the other direction. They got spread out quickly, as the traffic was running in both directions now. Anya lost sight of the other two, and blindly ran against the current.

Breaking from the crowd, she saw that she was still in the lead. She beamed as she ran down the Basin River, and she noticed that Matrion and the free spirit were both catching up.

Just as she sat foot on the Bridge of Memories, she was struck from behind heavily, and knocked to the ground. She was jolted again, as a second person plowed into her, and all three fell into the river. Anya sat up cursing, and spitting. She glared at Matrion, walking out onto the shore with a smug grin on his face. The free spirit was drenched likewise, scrambling out onto the shore.

Anya jumped to her feet, and ran ahead, far back in the pack now. She dashed back into the Lagoon, and ran for all her life. She burst from the hidden path, and emerged still in the middle of the pack. As she ran forward, she saw Kerrian, the guardian from House Calenture, cross the finish line.

She sighed, and slowed to a stop. Damn House Calenture. Damn them to Chaos.

Chapter 17

Noc’thul watched the celebration from the sidelines. Completely at peace with himself, he had no need to join in the togetherness. Watching the ceremony from the sidelines, he really felt that it wouldn’t have been that enjoyable anyway. Each event was played out, and in each event, it was ruined by some underhand trick by one of the competitors. First, House Calenture won when their initiate tripped the three in the lead, allowing the house guardian an easy win. Then, the Dreamers of Light struck back, by having three of their own initiates chamele, and help them in the tug of war.

Each incident was followed by another, the competitiveness of the two houses souring any of the fun for the others. At the end of the night, four of the awards went to House Calenture, two to DoL, and one to OoSM, and GotE.

Noc’thul sighed, and turned back towards Mt. Illapse, and his small cave he called home. Tomorrow was another day...perhaps the dreamers of Underlight could find peace then.

He uttered a short prayer to the Nameless One, and left.

Chapter 18

Standing within the shadows of Fayd's Fortress, Mia watched the festival disperse. Slowly, the scores of dreamers separated, and everyone returned toward their own homes. She looked around, and tapped her foot in anxious anticipation.

He was late.

She heard a sound off in the distance, coming towards her, and faded back into the shadows. Another dark figure appeared at the entrance to the fortress, and looked around. Mia watched him, until she was sure. Then, her hand shot out, and grabbed him by the tunic.

“Where have you been?”, she hissed.

The dreamer pulled back, pushed her hand away, and straightened his tunic.

“My most abject of apologies, Mia..”, he said, sarcastically. “I got hung up, and got here as soon as I could.”

Mia shook her head. “No matter. I have talked with the others...they are almost all in position. One for sure, the others are near. How are you proceeding?”

“I’m doing fine, almost there.”

“Remember what she has offered you....offered all of us.”, Mia said, staring intently into his eyes. “We cannot afford for you to fail us. If even one of us cannot succeed, then her bargain is off.”

The dreamer sighed. “Don’t get your tights in a bunch, stick to your shadows, and let me stay with mine. I’ll get it for you...for all of us.”

Mia simply nodded. “For your sake, I hope so. You don’t want to imagine what she can do to us if we fail her.”

The dreamer sighed. “Have a little faith, Mia. I’ll be there, with the item, at the appointed time. Just make sure you don’t fail, either.” he said, and turned and walked off.

Mia glared at him as he walked away, and fading back into the shadows, left the Basin.

Chapter 19

Weeks after the City Guard’s festival, House Calenture called a meeting in the main hall. Quickly, everyone in the house assembled within the meeting hall, and fell silent. Recently, one of the rulers of House Calenture had fallen ill, and was forced to abdicate his position. Talk was that this meeting was to choose which of the guardians would move up to take his position.

As soon as everyone had assembled, Yassun stood, his abyss ruler’s crest standing out strongly against his white robes.

“Greetings, everyone. Now, as well as we keep secrets in this house, I’m sure you all know what this meeting is about.”, he said, smiling. A soft rustle of laughter rolled across the room.

“Now, Haleth has fallen ill, and, as you all know, he asked to be demoted from ruler last week, as he would not be able to fulfill his duties. Therefore, we were forced to decide which of our guardians would be most worthy to fill the vacant spot as ruler. Our decision, for her fine preformance at the recent games, is lady Kerrian!”

He motioned Kerrian up, and she came. She stood before him, and bowed, as he slipped off her red guardian’s crest, and replaced it with the abyss crest of a ruler. Kerrian stood, and smiled. She began to step down, but Yassun took her hand, and motioned for her to stay.

“Now, before lady Kerrian here leaves, we have one other matter to fulfill....since lady Kerrian is now a ruler, that leaves an open position as guardian. Now, we have also spent the past week in debate over which of the initiates was worthy to become guardian, and have narrowed it down to three. I shall whisper these to Kerrian, and she shall cast the deciding vote.”, he said, smiling. He already knew which of the three it would be, but bit his tongue. He leaned over, and whispered into Kerrian’s ear, and she smiled.

“Dreamers of House Calenture,” she said, smiling broadly, “I would like you to welcome your new guardian, Matrion!”

Near the back of the crowd, Matrion snapped to attention, and walked up to the front when Kerrian and Yassun motioned him forward. He couldn’t help but smile when he bowed, and they placed the crest of a guardian upon him. As he stood, Yassun stepped back, and left him and Kerrian standing alone in front. The whole house began cheering madly, with soft mutters of disappointment, and disapproval kept to a minimum, and in the back.

After the cheering, everyone began to slowly filter out, and Yassun stepped back toward them. “So, Kerrian if you would be so kind as to take Matrion here, and explian his duties as a guardian to him, that would be your first act as ruler, and save the rest of us the hassle”, he said, grinning. “Afterwards, I think I can manage to round someone up to take you through the process of familiarizing yourself with rulership.”

Kerrian nodded, smiling. “Okay, Matrion, you heard the old man...let’s get a move on.”, she said, and taking him by the hand, pulled him into the guardian’s chambers. “Okay...let’s see...where shall we begin? First off, there’s the mission’ll get the hang of it, no need to worry right now. You know everything about protecting the rights of the initiates, and all that blather. Oh, over here....come here.”

Matrion followed her over to the side, and watched as she reached within an indention in the wall. Her hands came out, holding a large, pulsating orb, positively glowing with power.

“This, is the Orb of Calenture.”, she said, her face flickering with light and shadows as the orb’s glow pulsated. She passed it to him, and he shuddered as he felt the raw power of the artifact flow through him. He looked at it for a moment, and handed it back to her. She placed it back into its sheltered spot, and smiled

“Now, “ she said, sliding close to him, and putting her arm behind his neck, “for the most important benefit of being a ruler or a guardian....none of the initiates can walk in on us.” Her eyes flashed brightly, as she pulled him close to her.

Three hours later, Kerrian reported to Yassun for her introduction to rulership.

Chapter 20

Silvara, ruler of the Gathering, ran back and forth among the house with an amazing intensity. Today was the day! The day of the forging of the Sphere of Harmony! After many months of anticipation, they had finally gathered everything together, and their Lyran was going to forge it today in Threshold.

Of course, the whole thing was veiled in secrecy...not even the initates knew that it was going to be forged this day. It was to be unvieled tomorrow in a ceremony at the house.

Looking at her timedial, she noted that it was nearly time. As she stepped out into the main entrance, she smiled. There were many dreamers here, all enjoying themselves immensely during the tired day. If only they knew! She grinned inwardly, and started down the steps.

“So, Silvara, in too much of a rush to talk to a poor old man?”, a voice called out.

She turned, and smiled warmly. Sitting on the steps was Raman, the elder friend of the Gathering. She walked back towards him.

“Well, in truth, Raman, I have an appointment in Threshold that I must keep.”

“Ahh...appointments, meetings, conferences....your house sure does live up to its name, the Gathering. Mind if I accompany you down to Threshold then? Everyone here’s too busy in their gathering to stop and talk to a tired old man.” he said, smiling heartily.

“But of course, Raman!”, she said, and extended her arm to him.

Raman took it in his hand, and stood up, leaning against his staff. Slowly, the two proceeded down to Threshold. As they entered the Pits, Silvara quickly located their Lyran Mellanar in Renrut Nek’s library, and they proceeded there.

“So, Silvara...finally, you have gathered enough essences, and have all of the items?”, Mellanar said, as they entered.

“Yes, m’lord, that we have!”, she said, smiling. Raman hobbled over towards the wall, and sat down while the two prattled on.

“Alright...then, we shall begin the making of the Sphere of Harmony.”, Mellenar said. He closed his eyes, and gathered the forces of the dreamscape towards him. He pulled forth a small hammer, and anvil. He put the items that Silvara brought down on the anvil...three small eggs, four of the strongest chakrams in the dream, one for each focus, and three essences of the foulest darkmares, Fulgaroth, Blaaagg, and Saaltak.

The essences began to glow, and melt as he focused the power upon them. He took the eggs, and sat them in a circle, and molded the melting essence around them, forming a soft orb. Then, at equal points around the orb, he pressed in the different chakrams. Finally, he began shoving pure Resilience into the orb, to clean the taint of the Dark’s essences, and finally shoved Will into it to strengthen it. He focused Resilience into it, to make it strong through fire, and finally focused Insight into it, to cool it down, and complete it.

As the light died down, Silvara’s eyes adjusted. Sitting before her was Mellanar, and on the anvil in front of him was a small floating orb, emitting a steady hum.

“Your sphere, m’lady..”, said Mellanar, smiling broadly. With a wave of his hand, the orb floated softly over to her, and began to circle around her. As Silvara held out her hand, the orb hovered over it, and then softly settled on it, and the glow faded, along with the hum.

“Thank you, Mellenar!”, she said, her gratefulness nearly beyond words.

“You needn’t say anything, Silvara...your house has worked long and hard for this. It was my honor to be able to forge it for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must wake, for my dreaming time grows short. I wish you luck for you, and our house.”, he said, and slowly faded away.

“Raman, isn’t this wonderful!??!”, she said, turning to the aged man in amazement.

Raman smiled oddly, and looked over her shoulder, noticing two slits of white...eyes...deep in the shadows. He gave a silent nod. “Yes, Silvara, that’s wonderful! This seems to be a great week for everyone. Have I told you yet that I finished my task for Abjure?”

“You did? That’s wonderful, Raman!”, she exclaimed.

Raman smiled, and evoked Abjure on her two or three times.

Suddenly, Silvara stopped short, and froze, as a red blaze of light surrounded her. Mia stepped from the shadows.

“ have to love a level 40 Paralyze, right, Raman?”

The old man simply frowned, and nodded sadly.

Mia stepped behind Silvara, and slapped her across the back of the head with the butt of her blade. Silvara’s avatar flashed, and slowly faded, as she fell unconscious. The Sphere of Harmony fell to the ground with a soft clatter. Raman bent stiffly, and picked it up.

“You know how I feel about this, Mia..”, he said wearily.

“Yes...and remember the bargain you made with her, Raman. Youth and vigor.”

Raman simply nodded. “Yes.....I remember. I will meet you there, Mia.”

Mia faded into the shadows, and Raman began his long trek to the rifts.

Chapter 21

Janus sat in the classroom, and began to talk. Initiates and guardians from the house were all assembled, and that made him proud. Today’s class was on the history of the Union, most notably on one individual that was often forgotten.

“Today’s class is on Oriolus, one of the first initiates of the Union, long before The Great Loss. First off, I know that many of you are not very familiar with most of this fact, it is legend more than anything. The only proof that we have is this..”

Janus reached behind him, and pulled forth a long blade. It’s shaft and guard were white, with slashes of black across it. The blade itself was silver, with the exception of the last 9 inches of it, which were pure, jet black.

“This is the blade of Oriolus, our most legendary warrior. A devout follower of the Nameless One...”

Janus stopped as the looks of confusion in the crowd became clearly evident. He laughed softly, and slowly shook his head back and forth.

“Okay....let me begin with the basics. In each realm, we all have a force of goodness, and a force of evil....or a force of darkness, and a force of light. Is this not so?”

No one said otherwise, so he continued.

“There is much debate as to whether there really are these beings....however, their concepts are there. The Nameless One is the spirit of light, and good. The tales say that when, and if this spirit takes form in the dream, it is in a chalk avatar, and usually an elderly looking being. The force of darkness is named the Temptress. She usually appears in the form of an attractive, and powerful female. Now, while these two beings are more than likely just figments of the imagination, their concepts are quite real. We all have feelings of good, and evil...and, the evil is usually tempting, is it not? Anyway...that’s the basis.

“Oriolus was reputedly the best warrior of the Nameless One. He fought evil whenever he saw it, acting as a Paladin of sorts, really. He was one of the first initiated into the Union of the Covenant, and soon became its first guardian.

“According to the tale, the Keepers of the Eternal Shadow were experimenting, and ended up allowing the Temptress to manifest herself completely on this plane, through their dark rituals. Swiftly, they began to attack the other houses, using her dark powers to enable them to strike strongly, and suffer very little damage. Their arts became the most powerful ever seen in the dream, and it was not unusual to meet a Keeper that could, in fact, use the powers of several focii.

“Oriolus gathered the Union’s best warriors, and those of the Protectors as well, and charged an assault on the Keepers. They fought valiantly, and many of the Keepers were collapsed. Soon, they had forced their way into the Inner chambers, where the Temptress had manifested herself. As they burst through the door, they saw her standing before them, and flames roared, and they were all blasted out of the room.

“Oriolus was the only one left standing, and he turned back towards the chamber, where the Temptress was smiling evilly, preparing to strike again. He roared, and charged towards her, regardless of the consequences of his actions. Then, legend has it that the blade was blessed in that instant by the Nameless One, for as she evoked, the blade glowed white, and the fire flew around Oriolus, missing him. He screamed in rage, and shoved the blade deep into the Temptress’ chest. Writhing in pain, the Temptress sought a way to pull the blade out. As she began to fade from the Dreamscape, her last action was to use Dreamstrike, her most powerful art, on Oriolus.

“Then, as she faded, all of the power she had put in the Dreamscape rushed back to her, sifting swiftly into the void left by her passing. The Keepers were suddenly caught defenseless in the middle of their raids on the houses, and were collapsed instantly.

“In the aftermath, those with Oriolus went into the chambers, and found only this blade, laying charred, in the remains of the room. They brought it back to our house, where it has remained as our most treasured possession.

Finishing the tale, Janus got to his feet. “And, that is our class today. Now, I must go, as I have business I’ve got to take care of. Clear dreams, to all of you.”, he said, as he turned, and walked out of the room.

He entered the dueling chamber, and reached up, and sat the Blade of Oriolus upon its rack at the front of the room. Then, he turned and left to attend the guardian’s meeting, leaving the Blade in the spot it had rested for centuries.

From the darkness, a pair of young eyes watched intently.

Chapter 22

Kaya smiled as she walked out of DoL. She had just been to visit Metrol, to see how he was holding up with being an initiate again. The codgery old warrior had simply shooed her off, saying he was heading up to Gloom Peaks to do a little hunting. Laughing, Kaya agreed to let him have some of the fun he’d been missing while a guardian, and left to go to Threshold, promising to meet up again with him later.

As she walked out of Illapse Keep, she saw a familliar figure running up the path ahead of her. It was Anya...that new guardian that had replaced Metrol! Kaya grinned, and rushed on ahead to talk with her. She ran, but it seemed that the more she sped up, the faster Anya ran.

“Anya! Anya! Wait up!”, she called. Ahead of her, Anya froze, and whirled around, her dark curly hair lashing switfly, a flash of annoyance, and anger crossing her face quickly, before she pulled up her mask of friendliness.

Kaya caught up to her, breathless from running to keep up. She smiled warmly at Anya, and tried to strike up a conversation.

“So, Anya, how are you enjoying being a guardian?”

“It’s fine, Kaya...”, she responded nervously. She moved to the side, hiding something behind her back. “I’m kinda in a rush, though, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, well, do you mind if I tag along, at least until Threshold?”

“Actually, yes, I do mind..”, she said, shifting to the side. Kaya caught a glimpse of the item behind her back. Kaya’s face became clouded by confusion, her brows creased. She looked at Anya in surprise.

“Hey! Wait a minute, isn’t that the Dreaming Stone, DoL’s art..”

Anya swung around, and smacked Kaya across the back of the head with the Dreaming Stone, knocking her unconscious. She cursed to herself. She had to do it, she was asking too many questions...but, she also couldn’t leave this unconscious body laying around on the ground. Damn.

She picked the unconscious Kaya up and sat her across her shoulder, and rushed onward towards Dorsal Rift. Mia wasn’t going to like her taking this bother up there, but she had no choice. Oh well, if she DID regain consciousness....they’d be able to handle her. All of them.

Chapter 23

Prinaala and Melekai walked hand in hand to the North Sanctuary atop Trinity Rise. They entered, and sat down. Prinaala rested her head on Melekai’s shoulder, and sighed.

“So, m’lady, are you finding it enjoyable if you don’t let your house run your life?”, Melekai asked, and kissed her forehead softly.

Prinaala smiled happily. “That I am, Melekai....that I am.”

“You houses are so odd in your attachments, and rules, and laws. You don’t see us free spirits risking our lives over some silly artifact, or forcing others to take care of the Dream for us. In fact, I’ve failed to understand completely the point of your artifacts. I’ve Identified the Orb of Calenture, the Dreaming Stone....they all have no real USE! In fact, I think I’ve had the chance to ID every item except the Sable Sphere...”

Prinaala looked up to him. “They’re not designed to have a use, like a normal item. They’re not created to bring us power, but to help us rid the dream of the mares. More of a functional item, instead of a beneficial item.”

Melekai shrugged. “Maybe if I ever had a chance to ID it, I’d change my mind....but, until then, it’s always going to be a waste of elements to me.”

Prinaala looked at him in amazement.

“I know, Prinaala...I’m not making fun of it. I know how much you treasure it...I’m just saying that to me, it has no obvious use.”

Prinaala looked around, and then kissed him. She stood up. “Wait here a moment, Melekai....I’ll be right back.”

Melekai watched in confusion as she ran off, and shrugged. He picked up his lyre, and began to pick out some notes for his next song, and was still doing just that when she returned. She picked the lyre from his hands and sat it on the floor, taking its place in his arms. She snuggled close to him.

“So, what did you leave for?”, he asked.

She took a hold of one of his hands, and reached within the folds of her robe. Pulling forth a round object, she pressed it into his hands. He stared at it in amazement.

“You brought me the Sphere??”, he asked in wonderment.

“Yes, dear..”, she said, smiling at him. “Now, Identify it, so you don’t think it’s useless!”

Melekai grinned at her. “ matter what my Identify turns up, this Sphere will always mean something to me....if only because it means so much to you.” He pulled her close, and sat the sphere to the side, and began kissing her passionately.

Prinaala giggled, and rolling backwards, pulled both of them to the floor, where they continued rolling, kissing, and embracing, among other things.

Chapter 24

Mia smiled in approval. Things were going well. At least one of the items was in their possession, and the second would be soon. She snuck swiftly along the cliffs in the Valley of Tranquility, keeping to the shadows. Not that it mattered much, there was no one around that would see her.

She ducked into the entrance of the Protectors of Radiance. Good...the house was almost deserted...only two or three people here. Even better, one of them was a guardian. She snuck around, and ducked within the house. She ran quickly to the Essence Room, and hid in the shadows.

Soon, the guardian came in. He sat the Stone of Radiance to the side, and began to gather the essences. Mia peered from the shadows to the stone sitting in the middle of the room, while he bent over on the other side, completely unaware of her.

This was too easy...he was simply offering it to her!

She smiled, and quickly paralyzed him. She stepped forward, and slammed the back of his head with her blade, knocking him unconscious. She always knocked them unconscious, for if she collapsed them, they would be free from her paralysis to warn the rest of the house. If she knocked them unconscious, they either sat there in the paralysis, or woke from the dream into unconsciousness. Either way, they wouldn’t be warning the rest of the house.

Then, picking up the Stone, she snuck out of the house using the same route she came in from, completely unnoticed by the house guards.

Chapter 25

Melekai rolled over. They had fallen asleep in the Sanctuary. Well, to be truthful, Prinaala had fallen asleep, and he had simply lain there, waiting for her to. He slid his arm out from underneath her, and stood up, setting her head gently on his his rolled up cape so as not to disturb her slumber.

Looking at her hair, strewn about, falling from its careful braid during the throes of passion, he couldn’t help but smile. Her face looked so peaceful, and at ease now. Oh well. Sure, her heart would be broken...but, she was strong. She’d recover, and her family would be there to help her.

He laughed softly. They would be, for a while, at least.

He walked over to the ledge, and picked up the sphere. He looked towards her, and tipped his troubadour’s hat. Then, taking a small rose that he had brought just for this occasion, he placed it in Prinaala’s hands, and slipped quietly out of the Sanctuary.

Chapter 26

Noc’thul stepped forth from his cave.

Something was not right. The winds seemed tormented....restless.

He closed his eyes, and listened to the wind, the ground, the dream. Suddenly, he felt a presence near him. He opened his eyes, and looked. Standing off to the side, near one of the portals, was the same chalk man he had seen a few weeks ago at the City Guard festival, when he had led him into that young lady.

He watched the figure, who only simply stood there, as he did. Finally, the other man’s brow creased, whether by worry, or impatience, Noc’thul couldn’t tell from this distance. Finally, the old man turned, and walked through the portal.

Noc’thul lept to his feet. For some reason, he felt that he must follow this man. As he ran forward, he felt himself being propelled...he was moving faster than he ever had been able to, as if the wind was helping to speed him along.

He followed the figure through room after room, through Gloom, and finally to the entrance to the Dorsal Rift. The chalk figure shimmered for a moment, waiting for Noc’thul to catch up, before stepping through the entrance to Dorsal.

Once in Dorsal, the chase resumed. Through the dungeons, and the ridges. Finally, he stopped outside of the Temple of Insanity. And, as Noc’thul watched, the old dreamer faded in the middle of the room, leaving him standing there alone. Then, he heard a soft whisper, “....hide.....wait....”

Noc’thul looked around, and saw no one. He stepped back into the shadows, and waited, as the mysterious voice had commanded. Then, several curious people began to gather...

First, a tottering old man wandered in, clutching a small glowing, humming orb tightly. He entered the temple, and was shortly followed by a young lad bearing an odd blade, and what appeared to be a guardian of House Calenture, bearing the Orb of Calenture. Then, the minstrel from the City Guard festival came in, bearing yet another large sphere. Finally, the most shocking, a guardian from DoL came in, bearing the Dreaming Stone in one hand, and the young lass he had bumped into at the festival, unconscious, across her shoulder. He stepped forth to stop her, but the voice called out again.. “....wait....

As he waited, he felt, but did not see another person. He looked around, and finally saw her in the shadows, hiding the same as he. She looked around, searching, and once her suspicions were allayed, she stepped out of the shadows, and entered the temple.

Chapter 27

Mia stepped to the front of the temple, and frowned.

“What in the chaos is she doing here, Anya?”, she asked furiously, pointing towards Kaya, whom was laying, still unconscious, off to the side of the room, her golden hair strung about her recklessly.

“She stopped me, and saw that I had the Dreaming Stone, Mia. I had no choice...and, if she causes any trouble, I can handle her.”

“You had better be able to, Anya...the Temptress will not stand for any mistakes.”

Mia raised her hands, and began chanting. Her hands began to glow, and the room grew darker, and darker, until the only light was that coming from Mia. Mia continued chanting in her strange, unintelligible dialect, that none of the others could understand. Suddenly, a light burst in the middle of the room, and she appeared.

Her form was transparent, yet still held an aura of power. Her dark eyes held secrets that any of these assembled would have died to know, and her lips turned upwards in a smile that instantly trapped the hearts of all the men, even Raman. She towered above them, eight feet tall, yet even as they watched, she seemed to grow shorter, until she was the size of a tall dreamer. Mia smiled, and took her position among the assembled dreamers.

“My children...”, she said, in a soft, low, sweet voice, “you have done well, and we shall all be rewarded. Bring me the artifacts, our keys to power.”

Raman, Matrion, Anya, Mia, and Melekai stepped forward, offering the Sphere of Harmony, the Orb of Calenture, the Dreaming Stone, the Stone of Radiance, and the Sable Sphere. The Temptress took each, and sat them before her.

“ hold the item most dear to me....Oriolus’ blade. The only weapon that can cause me harm. I shall destroy it, and we shall reign!”

The Temptress’ face became shadowed, and her eyes seemed to glow red as she continued. “With the power in these artifacts, we can force the great houses, and the free spirits to bend to our will, and we will control ALL! The most powerful ruler will bend to our will, the strongest warriors will bow before us. I shall be the new ruler of the Dreamstate...and you, my most worthy servants, will be the new order. I can give you such power as you have never before dreamt possible...the very elements of Order and Chaos at your command! But, first.........a bargain is a bargain. both asked for the blade of the Gatekeepers. You shall each have one.”

She raised her hands, and suddenly, several shards of blades appeared in the air before her. As everyone watched in wonder, the shards joined together, and fused, and finally, a blade was floating before her. Then, the blade seemed to separate from itself...a blade of mist separating from the solid blade..and then, the blade made of mist solidified, creating a second blade of the Gatekeepers. They fell to the table with a thunk, and Matrion and Anya both stepped forward, and took them.

Anya smiled at him. “Now, we are the most powerful warriors in all of Underlight, my love!”, she said, looking upwards to Matrion. He smiled, and put his arm around her.

“Yes, my dear, we are. And, we shall defeat any who dare to challenge us!”

The Temptress smiled mysteriously at this, and moved on.

“Mia, my trusted wished to be the most able thief in all of Underlight. To help you, I can only proffer this.” From the Temptress’ hands, a small alteror appeared. Mia took it. “It is an Invisibility will make you invisible for ten minutes with each use, and, it has an unlimited number of uses.”

Mia’s eyes brightened with desire, as she reached forward, and took the alteror.

“Now, wished for your youth and vigor to be it.”

The Temptress raised her hands, and they began to glow. Raman stiffened, and his body began to glow as well. As everyone assembled watched, he gradually straightened up, and his beard began to fall out, leaving a clean chin again. His balding head grew darker, as new hair grew to replace the old. His wrinkles smoothed out, and his frail arms grew thicker. Suddenly, before them stood a dreamer who looked nothing over 20. Raman gazed at his new body in amazement, and fell down to his knees before her, worshiping her grace. The Temptress only grinned slyly at him, and turned to Ryan.

“Now, brought me the most valuable item. The blade of the only one able to defeat me. You wished to be strong, and a great be it..”

Chapter 28

Outside the temple, Noc’thul shifted back and forth impatiently. Dark forces were gathering...whatever was going on in there was not good. Should he wait for the voice to tell him it was time? Or should he go in now? Should he run back, and bring more dreamers with him?

The portal to the temple slowly shifted in colors...from green, to red, to black, to blue....and mists were gathering at the outside. Would he even be able to get through the portal, or was this some mysterious sort of Ward?

Suddenly, he heard the voice again.


As the voice rang out, he staggered. Everything suddenly took on a dull white glow, his skin, the ground, the entire area. Needing no further signal, he went.

Noc’thul pulled his staff out, and charged at the Portal. He made it through without resistance, and stopped short at what confronted him. Five dreamers stood before him, veiled slightly in the swirling mists of chaos that rolled through the room. And, at the head of the table stood...something He knew it not to be a dreamer, because the power emanating from her was beyond anything he had ever felt...could it be....the Temptress?

The lady at the front noticed him burst through the portal, and her lips turned upward in a snarl. Her face was distorted by rage.

“The white.....the nameless one....His Warrior! GET HIM!!”, she roared, “He’ll not stop me this time!!”

The dreamers swung around, drawing their blades. Almost before Noc’thul could move, the first one swung at him. He swung around, with his staff extended, and knocked one of them in the arm, but the other four dashed toward him. He did the only thing he could think of, and brought darkness upon the room. The others froze momentarily, and he took advantage of that hesitation to slam his staff down on the sword hand of one of their, the guardian from DoL’s, hand. She yelled, and dropped her blade. Suddenly, off to the side, the one he’d never seen before....was he carrying a walking staff too?....began evoking vision. He swung his staff in that direction, knocking the dreamer out of his evocation.

The darkness ran out, and they all shook their heads, and charged toward him again. But wait...there was only four, wasn’t there five? Suddenly, he was struck from behind by an invisible force. If he hadn’t heard the footsteps, he would’ve been stabbed..but he heard them in the nick of time, and shifted his stance to the right, and was only skimmed. Then, the guardian from House Calenture grabbed him by the arms, slammed his elbow into Noc’thul’s chin, and wrestled him to the ground. The invisible one evoked Paralyze upon him, and he was froze on the ground. He looked up at the faces surrounding him, looking at him mockingly. As he lay there, the glow of white grew dimmer, and finally was extinguished.

Had the Nameless One forsaken him?

At his feet, a spot cleared, and the Temptress stepped forward. She smiled at him in triumph, and turned toward the sky.

“So, this is what you send to challenge me this time, Nameless One? This is the best that you have to offer, this pathetic, worthless waste of an avatar? This is the great hero that is to save the Dreamstate from my wrath? Has your power sunk so low, that you cannot even summon a warrior?”

She glared down at Noc’thul. “You dared to challenge, I shall be the last thing that you see.....ever.”

She raised her hands, and began to evoke Dreamstrike. Noc’thul cringed as the flowing mists began to gather...then, behind the Temptress a bright white light flashed. The Temptress froze in mid-evoke, and looked down. Sticking from out of her chest was a blade....with black, and white streaks....Oriolus’ blade.

She roared in pain, and began thrashing out in anger. Her body glowed brightly, and the roar of Chaos grew stronger. Everyone gathered around Noc’thul flinched, and then collapsed on the floor, as the power of the Temptress was drawn out of them, pulling their life-force along with it. The room flashed and glowed, and the mists swirled about angrily. With a great eruption, the glowing form of the Temptress, writhing in agony, disappeared, leaving a strong vacuum, pulling all the mists swirling about the room into it. Then, she was gone.

As the paralysis wore off, Noc’thul got to his feet. Shakily, he walked over towards the front of the room, where the Temptress had been standing. Buried beneath a tumble of rock, he saw a form. He pulled the rocks off of her, and pulled the young blonde lady to her feet, the blade of Oriolus’ still clutched tightly in her hands. He sat her down, and began to check her. He determined that she was still alive, but in grave danger.

He felt a touch on his shoulder.

He turned, and saw an elderly man dressed completely in chalk standing there...the same one from the festival. The elderly man stepped around him, and laid his hands on the young lady.

“Kaya....return to are safe now. It is ended.”, he intoned.

Slowly, the color returned to Kaya’s face, and she sat up. Her green eyes fluttered, and began to open. She looked around, and then paled as the memories of what happened came rushing back to her. The old man put his arm around her reassuringly, and patted her back. Then, he stood, and helped her to her feet. He turned to Noc’thul, still standing off to the side.

“I must leave now, as the Dreamscape will be unbalanced if I stay too long, and She will be able to return. I must thank you both though...Noc’thul, you are my most devoted worshiper, and I will watch over you always. And Kaya, you are the most caring person in the dream. May the solace you both have within yourselves be spread to everyone you meet.”

Then, he smiled warmly. “You have both done an old deity proud!”, he said, grinning. Then, he slowly faded, and the two were left in darkness again.

Kaya looked around, and smiled at Noc’thul.

Noc’thul nodded, and turned toward the portal. Just before he stepped through, he turned toward her.

“I owe you my life, Kaya.....I am forever in your debt.”, he said, then he turned, and walked out the door.

She sighed, and began picking up the artifacts, to return them to their houses. They’d meet again...and perhaps next time, she would be able to loosen that tongue of his a little bit more. Such a quiet dreamer. As she picked up the last artifact, she smiled. No one would ever know what happened here...and if she told them, no one would ever believe her. The houses would be relieved to have their artifacts back, though.. and the absence of two guardians would surely cause some disturbance. Well, they’ve recovered from worse. She sighed. Then, she stepped though the portal, starting her trip to Threshold. And, to rest.