Clash of Dreams
Two worlds collide as characters from the "Lyra" Underlight meet those introduced in "Shades of Truth". Tensions are sure to rise as the social structure of the dream city is thrown into a state of utter chaos.
The Debate Begins...
Three men stood around a table whose surface was littered with writings. These ranged from crude carved tablets to elegant parchments, some with wax seals still intact, and still other were papers even now smoldering around the edges.
A stout man on one side of the table stood scratching his wiry ginger neck beard, “Sooooo..,” he offered, as he awkwardly broke the silence, “Do 'ye still think 'dey was joost buildin' safe rooms?” At the inquiry from their stout friend, those around him nervously glanced at each other before turning their eyes back to the table and falling back into silence.
A moment later a figure on the opposite side of the table spoke, daring to look to each of those gathered in the room as he searched for words,“Whatever is happening now I still believe their intentions were true. They wanted for nothing more than discussion about the nature of the city; an open forum where we could gather in safety and try and make sense of why we were called here.”
He thought a moment before continuing, “These new debates are sending us into chaos. Brothers are taking up arms against brothers. And now the battlefront is not just made up of our brethren turned against each other. We're receiving new reports every day about dark figures tracked in the wilds. Men are vanishing and when and if they do return they are raving mad and speaking of a dark horde. Things are rapidly descending into madness.”
A silence descended again. At the mention of the dark ones, all three men looked away from each other. It was clear none of them wanted to show fear and yet at the same time none of them wanted to address the issue.
A strong yet feminine voice spoke this time from the corner of the room, causing the men to start. “If men are willing to destroy each other over philosophical debate then the darkness we are now discovering has already won. They stand as children building their pretty rooms and citadels as if this reality is like any other.”
She paused then, allowing the weight of her disdain to settle upon those gathered, “Debate whether or not you are truly free and in control if you will, but there are forces all around us that have motivations of their own. We are not alone, your rivals also think they are the masters.”
Gloved hands reached out, delicate fingers taking up one of the stone tablets. She considered it a moment before snapping sharply in half. The act was rewarded by cries of protest from the men around her. Her response was simply a roll of the eyes and a smirk, as she reached to the core of the tablet and gently wiggled loose a folded mass of paper. With a flick of the finger she sent a small piece of the broken clay towards the ginger man, “It doesn't matter to me if you listen or not. We will continue to study the dark time and understand what you would like to deny exists.” With that she stepped back towards the corner of the room and vanished before the figures at the table could finish saying her name.
“She is right you know.” offered the previously silent figure standing at the table, “The debates of the Free and their opposition are going to continue. They genuinely believe they are arguing in defense of freedom, choice and a liberated destiny. Furthermore there is rumor of the Cabal knowing of a heart of chaos and a soul of the city. The violence will only increase. This is not scholarly debate, this is becoming zealotry. This is becoming madness.”
He picked up a paper from the table, its edges flaking away where it had been burned. “Did we really think it would be as simple as defining a connection to our waking lives? Were we truly that naive?” His question lingered in the air as the men sat. No answers came from any of them as the flickering light of the braziers kept them and their thoughts company. As they sat in the awkward silence a klaxon sounded. They cast apprehensive looks at one another before taking up their arms and silently exiting the room.
The first dreamer war began with a fizzle. Looking back on it now I do not think that any of us understood where our idealism would take us. We were like children in this new place, eyes wide and hearts open with wonder.
Those gathered around me had not been there to begin the construction of the city. The completion of that work left us with too much time for thought and with too little for our idle hands to do. Perhaps we should have remembered the old sayings about idle hands.
I watched as friend began to turn away from friend. Those once close now found themselves divided by the Freesoul-Illuminate debate.
The core schism saw dreamer turn against dreamer. Once innocent abilities and powers of the mind now became the tools with which others were attacked and beaten down. Before long, restraint was forgotten. Some believed there was no risk, no true loss and thus no consequences. For others it was the exact opposite, and through their actions they would seek to change not only dreamers themselves but the worlds of those dreamers.
A memorable turn came when the fighting began to spread through Threshold. It was of crucial importance to the various factions to claim and control territory and Threshold became a battleground of conflicting claims. It was during this climax of the struggle that one of the greatest achievements in the Dream would occur: perhaps at the worst possible time.
There were those who had turned from the violence to focus on the power of creation. It was through their skilled manipulation of essence and pure power of imagination that their hands and minds wrought the first talisman our kind would experience.
It began simply enough, with items to sustain themselves. Within the span of only a few moons these new creators, these Dreamsmiths, began to work tirelessly to bind abilities and powers to talismans which would shape history forever.
The availability of arts and powers in item form drove the conflict to new heights of bloodthirsty violence, alarming even the Dreamsmiths. They discussed withdrawing into hiding until the wars abated. Before they did so, some of them desired to leave their mark on the face of the Dream itself. They may have wished to even the scales, allowing all dreamers access to the new items, but I have no doubt that some of them were simply curious to see what new levels of chaos their work could inspire.
These Masters turned their powers upon the face of the city itself. They manipulated, some would say corrupted, the very fabric of the city. Their work resulted in the formation of the item fonts. The Masters then retreated, taking the secrets of the process with them.
Dreamers moved into all corners of the city searching for the new items and powers. Powerful groups began to hoard their treasures and it was only a matter of time before the battles escalated to near cataclysmic proportions as they did at Sunroof Cavern.
I thought then that we knew the depths my fellows would explore to dominate the Dream with their ideologies. But hindsight is, as it is. Had I gone deeper into their minds even I would have been shocked to see to what depths they would eventually sink. But that is a tale for another time.
Of Dreamstrike and Nightmares...
Time moved ever forward. Dreamer continued to battle with dreamer, reducing enemies to dissolution on sight. Although there was no death in the dream, power could be eroded with every collapse. The carnage became so widespread that those of us who had been content to retire became alarmed. Our creation, the city itself, was being abused for the purpose of warfare.
A group of us determined to put an end to the conflict once and for all. They used their skills as Dreamwrights to new and deadly purpose. They would be forever remembered for their terrible creation as the Dreamstrike Masters. Dreamstrike was to be the ultimate punishment.
With their new power at the ready, they entered threshold and moved through it, defeating and Dreamstriking dreamer after dreamer. This surprise assault became known as the Dreamstrike Offensive.
Through this I believe they changed the city forever. The anger and righteousness that had fueled the warring clans became fear. The greatest of the awakened retreated to the outer reaches of the lands. There they gathered in dingy caves and cast off temples. Some of us, had been so moved by loss and grief that we sought to soothe our own spirits by joining them. We left our own retreats and aided them in constructing great fortresses.
The open warring had been put down with the unleashing of Dreamstrike, but it would be only a brief calm before a new tempest.
Many of us were angered by the coming of this accursed gift. Some may have desired the power of it for themselves, but others truly empathised with those who had lost too much.
Some of those angered by the Dreamstrike Offensive looked outside the city for a new source of power to wield against those those masters they believed deserved punishment. They sought to focus and channel the raw energy of chaos from outside the city walls, thinking to use it to power their vengeance.
It seems that invoking this chaotic energy weakened the walls which formed a fragile barrier between the ordered city and the raw chaos outside. Small rips formed in this delicate fabric and suddenly new creatures pushed through these tears and into the city.
The dreamers could do nothing against the horror and carnage that swept over the city on what became known as the Day of the Savaging. A great multitude of horrors streamed over the face of our home, our world, and no dreamer was spared in their onslaught.
For the first time in a very long time, the eldest of us set aside our own opinions and worked together to protect what we could. We used our skills to create the first sanctuaries, structures of serenity and order which tore at the dark ones in ways most profound. Using all of our skill and craft we evaded the horde and set about fortifying the city with the new sanctuaries. These gave a foothold from which dreamers could stand against the destructive tide washing over the city.
We could aid them, but it fell to the various factions of the city to join together and deal with the threat of the nightmare invasion. They strengthened the fortresses as never before, and we worked to equip them with sanctuaries, armories, vaults and libraries, hoping that our efforts would allow them to outlast the seige.
Vile Creation & New Passage
We found ourselves carrying on, growing weary yet clinging to a sense of purpose and responsibility. We had inspired the population of our city to organize and patrol, to confront their fear and face it down. We refused to believe that it could not be defeated and tried to use hope as a new power of its own.
As the factions grew stronger in their organization, their philosophies took on new purpose. They knew of the acts that created the incursion and would deal with that issue in their own ways. Their thoughts turned though to different question.
"What were these foes?"
But the quest to find this answer proved as elusive as defining our own existence. The expanding philosophies of Freesoul and Illuminate experienced a schism. With the fracture, factions began to further move away from each other. At times barely keeping themselves from falling back into the tumult of war.
Centuries stretched out before us with both dedicated study and dark acts explored by the growing population of the city. Science stood at odds with occult practices, militia stood ready against mercenary, tension lay ever present behind every smile and curtsy.
A number of these talented minds sought new and dark purpose. Thinking the attempts to purge the old fell-masters with the weakening of the city walls a foolish gesture, they would prove themselves far wiser. Or so they hoped.
Using this time of less factional warfare and the preoccupation with combating the nightmares they began their twisted work. Using all of the knowledge that remained from the age of spawn creation they wove new power into the process. When their work was complete they had found new power to control the points of incursion.
Many thought this new limitation to be a gift, but their work had been born of duplicitous purpose. They would turn the incursion to their benefit, thinking the dark forces could be controlled: their presence monitored, studied and further manipulated. The experience of the defeat twisted to become a new font of power and growth.
Enthralled, intimidated, and perhaps inspired by such work, many stepped forward. They sought to parcel the land, restrict it, control the movement and access of the dark beings. The segmentation of the city worked to great affect in limiting the once never-ending flow of nightmares.
Less obvious at first was that the new portal system also restricted the movement of dreamers themselves. Had devious machination inspired even those acts which appeared benevolent?
From this, at first, the city began to experience a renaissance. The control of the dread beings and the construction of portals gave dreamers continued inspiration. Creative minds turned towards new ability and theory. The Nightmare War was over, but the most powerful legacy was just being created.
As the renaissance bloomed the factions turned work inward. Wanting to show their own power and ability to rival the eldest and our work; their minds turned towards the creation of fantastic artifacts. These would become the prime embodiment of their dogma and an expression of their cause. With these new tools they would harness the power of the dark beings much as they used energy to empower themselves.
Land divided, fundamental belief not to be questioned, the outcome would now seem inevitable. Friction between the factions grew as each clung tightly to its own ideology. Great factions, one by one decided upon their own distinctive way to deal with the essential power wrought from some aspect of vanquished dark being.
The factions used this new era as a well for existential exploration. What were these dark beings? What of their souls, their mortality? Did such exist? Could such darkness find or possess a sentience of its own? Philosophical questions were no longer bound to our existence alone. The quest to find these answers would drive the renaissance forward.
And there we stood, down to the last of us. Weary or not we could not help but remark that what had started with but a seed of lucid thought was growing more wild and complex. Many of us began to turn inward, grow more contemplative, and prepare. For in these few centuries of our history so much had already occurred that we were convinced the future would be beyond our imagining.
A Great Loss
As time stretched out before me I became used to a particular cycle. There would be strife but it seemed always countered by a time of peace and restoration. As this cycle continued, dreamers became hardened and more inflexible.
A group of dreamers came together during this time, some of them with connections to the great thrones of the city, others dreamed as free people. These dreamers had come together as a group dedicated to research, though one might in hindsight consider them destructive meddlers.
They called themselves Overscanners, and believed that they should set aside the common beliefs, which they saw as sources of conflict, and focus on protecting the city itself. They busied themselves with studying the walls which protected the city, looking for entrances that our kind had overlooked.
While they thought the energy outside of the city to be potentially destructive, they believed themselves capable of devising protections against it. It was their passion for study that ruled them. Their dedication to an ideal that told them the potential far outweighed the risk.
What they failed to account for turned out to be a simple principle to some of us. The energies outside the city buffeted the walls as water would crash against a dam.
As their work continued and they failed to achieve their desired results, they increased their efforts. Inevitably the sections they continued to work on grew weaker and weaker. Where they found any distortion at all they probed and tore at it, growing desperate in their work.
These actions eventually breached a section of the walls and great waves of destructive energy crashed through the immediate surrounds of the city. Overscanner and dreamer alike fled, some never to be heard from again.
Dreamer after dreamer turned out to offer what repair and support they could. This tragedy though was not to be a singular occurrence. Though the damage was catastrophic, the intentions were still believed to be good. The Overscanners still believed the potential gains outweighed the hazards.
Thinking that they had learned enough from this first attempt, they struck out to a secondary location. This time many other dreamers went with them. Some were convinced they were witnesses to the dawning of a new age. Still others convinced themselves that they could offer sufficient caution and assistance to prevent such error from happening again.
The second greatest project of the Overscanners began, even as the damage from their first was still being assessed.
I cannot blame the 'Scanners alone in this. For there were many there willing to work with them. Caution was too often ignored, the siren call of potential was the dominant force at work: its song too sweet and compelling to ignore.
The work in this second section of excavation was not much different than the first. The anomalies they detected were acted upon. They continued to consider new methods, safer methods, for opening what they thought were doors.
Fissures began to appear, this time more slowly than before. Messenger after messenger came to me with word that they pressed on. I offered what advice I could until the messages stopped all together.
After perhaps too long a time, I ventured out. It was then that I discovered their second project had met with nearly the same results as the first. A wave of destruction had again washed over their work site, leaving few traces of the encampments. It seemed that once again dreamers had fled in the wake of the barrage. As with the first flood of destructive energy, many of them were never heard from again.
Though some Overscanners remained, they never again attempted to work on this scale. Whatever they continued to work at was done quietly and on a less massive projects.
To this day the Dorsal and Caudal rifts stand as a testament to their failed experiments. Rumors have always persisted that doorways exist to other worlds and realities. However no one since had been able to organize and continue such work as the Overscanners attempted.
A Second Great Loss...
I've been dreaming for such a long time! I remember how busy and active the City was when I first awakened. So many Dreamers! All the Great Houses open and vying with one another!
Maybe that was part of the trouble. Everyone was so passionate about their beliefs that they were forever fighting over them. Houses warred on one another, both actively and stealthily. Houses fell and were reopened. While some Dreamers thrived in this atmosphere of conflict, others became discouraged and stopped dreaming.
As well as enemy Dreamers there were always the Darkmares—creatures of chaos from outside the City which mostly attacked the Dreamers. Some tried to talk to the Darkmares, trying to understand and perhaps even ally with them. Others fought them at every turn, trying to drive them out of the City.
Over the years, the Dreamer population of the City dwindled. Some grew discouraged by the endless wars between Dreamers and between the Dreamers and the Darkmares. Some simply stopped dreaming. So often friends disappeared from the City and we never knew why or how.
As the Dreamer population dwindled, the Darkmares grew bolder and more numerous. A group of Darkmares took over one of the Great Houses for a time. Again, many Dreamers fought them, some tried to ally with them. In the end, the Darkmares proclaimed that they had learned what they wanted to know and gave up rule of the House.
We discovered too late what they had learned: the Houses could be toppled by destroying their Prime Artifacts. A war, far more vicious than even the fiercest conflict between Dreamers, erupted. The horde of Darkmares rampaged through the City, collapsing Dreamers over and over. They invaded the Houses, destroyed the Prime Artifacts and one by one the Houses fell.
Seeing their great strongholds closed and dark, many Dreamers gave up the struggle. As the last House fell into Darkness, most of the remaining Dreamers lost heart and awoke forever. Only a few of us remained or returned, eking out a furtive existence in the nearly deserted City. With the hated Dreamers gone or driven into hiding, the Darkmares seemed to lose interest in the City.
Over the years, a few more awakened or reawakened and a small, stubborn population began to hope for the dawn of a revitalized Dream. Now, almost a decade after the second Great Loss, it seems that our hopes may soon be realized.
The nightmares initiated a destructive spree,
Left in ruins the eight ceased to be.
For years most dreamers could not but flee,
Thus the task of rebuilding fell squarely on me.
The times have changed and dreamers plea,
The return of strongholds they expect for free.
Ah, but that is the rub you see,
For these buildings, I hold the key.
I will let you run them for a fee,
You need only ten, plus the three.
Give cautious thought before sounding off with glee,
Less than eight there are sure to be.