Illusions of Shadows

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By Gilean Majere

Chapter 1

Serintha skipped happily down the path on Lambent Flats. Her pigtails bounced from side to side, the light glinting off her golden curls, wind rustling through her hair. The happy five-year-old’s small boots clicked with each hop on the stone path, creating a steady, and her red and white dress bounced merrily. Her young blue eyes shone with wonder and curiosity.

“Oh MAAAAAAAAAAAAAtthewwwwwwwww!!!!”, she called, cupping her hands together and shouting through them as she skipped along.

A young boy stepped out from behind a small boulder alongside the path, covered from head to toe with dirt.

“Yeah, whadda you want, Seri?”, he said, with a slight aire of annoyance.

Serintha grinned widely. “Ohhhhhhh, nuuuuthin. Just wanted ta show ya THIS!”, she said excitedly, pulling a small thin object from behind her back. Matthew looked closely, and chuckled softly.

“Your OoSM ID? So when did they finally decide to let you in?”

Serintha grinned. “Moooooommy talked them into it. She said I was a gooooood girl!” She tugged on a small chain hanging around her neck, and pulled out her House Crest. “Seee? I got eeeeeeeverything!”

“Sure...I’m glad for you...” Matthew replied with a soft smile. He held out his hand. “Can I see that ID for a minute or two? I’ve never seen one before..they look cool!”

Serintha grinned, and extended her hand, holding the house ID out. Unfortunately, a swift gust of wind blew up quickly, and she lost her grip. The ID flew from her fingers, and they both tried frantically to catch it. The ID floated to the ground erratically, and before either could grab it, drifted into a small crevice formed by the boulder where it met the ground. Serintha gasped, and fell to the ground, stretching her young fingers as far as they would go, but to no avail.

She sat up sobbing, and wiped a tear from her eye. “M.m..m...m.mommy’s n.n....not gonna be ha..happy...” she sobbed. As she sat there sobbing, with Matthew looking rather concerned and peering at the crack trying to figure out a way to withdraw the ID, she felt a firm hand laid on her shoulder. She lifted her head, wiping the tears streaming from her eyes, and tried to see whom it was here.

“Oh...oh, Add..Addicus I...I lost my.... my ID... un..under the ro... rock..” she said to the figure above her.

Addicus looked down at the rock, and pushed his spectacles back up on his forehead. Running his fingers partway through his thick dirty brown hair (they got stuck in tangles halfway), he thought. As he looked at the rock, an idea slowly dawned on him.

“Okay, Serintha, Matthew, you two step back.”, he said, backing up himself, and brushing some of the dust off of him. After the two young children had taken a few steps away from the huge boulder, Addicus stepped forward, and placed his fingers in the crevice, gaining a handhold of mere centimeters. He braced his feet, prepared, and pulled upward on the boulder with all his might. His face strained with the pressure, his nose and forehead glowing bright red. His thin arms bulged, ever so slightly. And as he pushed with reserves he never knew he had, and stressed his body to its absolute extreme limit, beyond the realms of mortal possibility.......the boulder did not even shiver. After nearly a minute of trying, he collapsed exhausted on the ground. He sighed, and pushed his spectacles back up on his nose.

“Well, I guess we all now see why I never got accepted into Sable Blade..” he said, jokingly, drawing a slight grin from Serintha, even though her bottom lip still quivered ever so slightly.

“It’s lost...isn’t it, Missu Addicus...” she said, sadly.

Addicus shook his head firmly. “No, little one, you need to learn that brawn isn’t always the best solution...” he stopped, and looked at himself, before continuing. “And for some of us, it isn’t even a remote possibility. So, that’s why we DreamSeers capitalize on our mental resources.” he said, smiling.

Serintha looked at him curiously. “Umm...Missu Addicus...what did you just say? I dinna understanna word of it..”

Addicus chuckled. “Well, watch and learn, you two.” Addicus closed his eyes, and gathered the forces of the dream to him, creating a sturdy DreamBlade in his hand. Upon opening his eyes, he smiled. “Ahh...part, for part two.” He dropped the small pouch he carried everywhere with him, and withdrew from it a single Alteror. Then, very hesitantly, and with his head pulled back and turned aside with his eyes closed so he wouldn’t have to see what happened if he missed, he swung his blade at the alt, chopping the orb off of the end of it.

After realizing he hadn’t disconnected his hand from the rest of his body, he opened his eyes, and then stepped over to the rock. He jammed the blade underneath the rock, and tugged upward on it. The rock didn’t even budge. Then, he fitted the small orb underneath the lower end of the blade. He kicked at the orb, and it slid further underneath the blade. Kicking at it again, and again, he pushed the orb farther and farther under the blade. Ever so slowly, the orb continued forward, and the blade rose, and with the blade, the boulder. Finally, he had the orb pushed in as far as he could kick it without kicking the blade.

“Matthew, can you reach under there, and try to grab the ID for us?”

The young Freespirit boy nodded, and rushed over. He fell to his knees, and snuck his arm underneath the boulder. He groped around for a few minutes, and finally, smiling, he pulled out Serintha’s ID. Serintha jumped happily as he handed it over to her, and she tucked it into a pocket on her dress. She ran over, and hugged Addicus tightly.

“Oh, Missu Addicus, thank you so much!”, she exclaimed.

Addicus patted her softly on the back. “Well, I’m off you two. Gonna work on that soil study of Higher Lambent. I’d wager that there’s something special in that soil...seems like their grass is just a bit more healthier than that on Evernight.” He winked at Serintha. “But nowhere NEAR as green as our grass on Trinity.”

Serintha giggled.

Addicus waved, and walked off through the Portal.

Chapter 2

Mariana stepped into the Ceremonial Hall just as class was finishing up. As the small crowd of dreamers filed past her out the portal, she looked over their heads, searching. Finally, she caught a glimpse of the person she sought standing near the pedestal, engaged in conversation.

“Mother! Mother!” she called, and the dreamer looked towards her, smiled, and motioned her over. Mariana walked over, her long raven hair trailing behind her.

“Good dream, my daughter! I would like you to meet Serandith, our newest ambassador from the Union of the Covenant.

Serandith bowed slightly, taking her hand, and placed his lips gently on the back of her hand. Mariana blushed, and giggled slightly.

“So, this is the beauteous daughter you’ve been telling me about, Lenna? I must say that your words do not do her justice, for she is a million times more beautiful than words can possibly describe.”

Mariana began blushing furiously, her normally pale skin becoming flaming red, and contrasting sharply with her long, raven hair. Men had paid her compliments before…in fact, they did all the time. Seldom could she walk through the halls of the House, or Threshold without being swarmed by gentleman admirers. Never had she tread the grounds of Trinity without bearing a bouquet of roses from an admirer, or without a small flower tucked into her hair. However, none had gone to this extent, or had complimented this lavishly.

Mariana took her hand back, and folded her hands behind her back, still overcome. Lenna and Serandith smiled, and Lenna turned to her daughter.

“So, my dear, you were seeking me out for something?”

“Yes, mother,” Mariana said, still slightly stammering. “I was coming to talk with you about a task, in fact.”

“A task?” Lenna questioned, “Well, my dear…did you know that Serandith here is a teacher as well? Perhaps you can ask him for a task.”

“No, mother…I don’t need a task for an art this time,” she said, “I needed to speak with you about a task for attaining my second Sphere.”

Lenna smiled brightly.

“Ready for your second Sphere already, my dear?” Lenna asked, “Why, it seems but just months ago that you were asking Altoc for your first Sphere task”

Mariana smiled.

“Well, my dear, why don’t we go ask Altoc about it, shall we?” Lenna asked, “Serandith, we shall take our leave. Feel free to come back and visit anytime you wish.”

Serandith smiled sideways at Mariana. “Yes, m’lady Lenna, you can rest assured that I shall be visiting your fine house often in the future, especially if my future trips find the scenery as lovely as it has been this dream.” Then, smiling ever so slightly, he turned on his heel, and walked out the portal.

“Well, my dear, let’s go see Altoc about that Sphere task”

Mariana smiled, and followed her mother out the Portal. in search of Altoc.

Chapter 3

Much later that dream, Addicus finally returned from his expedition to Higher Lambent. Covered completely in dirt and mud, he went straight for the Watering Hole to clean up a bit. As he slid down the fall in the Armory to the Watering Hole, he was met by a surprised trio of young children, all hunched over in the middle of the room, staring intently at something. They jumped, and turned around when he splashed down..

“Oh!”, exclaimed Serintha, “’s’s just Missu Addicus.” she said, and turned around to continue on what they were doing.

"What're you up to there, kids?" Addicus asked, reaching down to splash water on himself to clean the mud off. Jarred, a small lad with dirty blond hair, shining ruby eyes and with a very long lineage of Fatesenders looked up and grinned.

"Nothing much, Addy..we'd just heard that when you leave a mare's essence in water for a long time, it shrivels up, and dissolves, and it leaves a small, shiny jewel behind!"

Addicus chuckled. "Well, kids, I don't know where you heard that, but I know...."

He was hushed as Kels turned around, and brought his finger to his lips, a mischievous grin crossing his face. Addicus stopped, and began to watch with much more interest.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Jarred..", Serintha said, sighing. "It doesn't look like it's changing to me.."

Kels coughed, and bumped into Serintha, knocking her over. Serintha screamed shrilly, the sound reverberating in the cave, and ringing Addicus' ears. Kels jumped, and quickly extended his arm to Sernitha, who reached for his hand, and stood up. Unnoticed to the side, Jarred quickly kicked the essence away, and dropped a small item in it's place, and bent over looking very concerned for Serintha.

"Are you alright, Serintha??" he asked.

Serintha sighs, and ran her hands over her dress, pulling it up a bit to ring the water out.

"Oh, I'll be fine...darn, and this was my goooooood dress, too." She sighed, and turned to Jarred. "I dunno, doesn't look like it's...oh, wait!" she exclaimed, "It changed! It's true! It DID turn inna a jewel!" Serintha grinned, reaching down in the water for the shining object. As she pulled it up to look more closely at it, however, her face turned sour.

"KELS! This ain't a jewel, it's your FADDER'S AMULET!!!" she said, turning to him and glowering, with her hands placed firmly on her hips. Kels and Jarred dashed toward the platform up, laughing heavily the whole way.

Sighing, Serintha waded over to where Addicus was standing, cleaning himself up and watching the whole episode with an amused aire.

"Gosh, Missu Addicus...there's just nothing to do around this house...all the grownups are busy off runnin things, and keepin the house clean, and fightin those mean Mawen monsters. And we just get to sit around da house all day."

Addicus scratched his chin thoughtfully, and smiled as he got an idea.

“Here, Serintha...come up with me, I thought of a game you could play while the grownups are busy if you want!”, he said, and pushed his spectacles back up on his nose.

Serintha followed him as he ran up to the Courtyard, and out into the Main Entrance. He pulled her aside into one of the alcoves off to the side of the staircase, so they wouldn’t be in the way of traffic.

“Here, it’s a simple gamgged him. Addicus grinned, and hugged the young dreamer in return. Then, he heard a noise above at the portals.

Mariana walked in, and Addicus’ heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t help but gaze at her standing at the top of the staircase, her long black hair brush in his hands, working on focusing as much resilience into it as possible. He held the ball out for Serintha to examine.

“Lots of resilience, so it should be really bouncy now.” he said, grinning. “Then, there’s just one more thing...” he said, reaching into his satchel. Smiling, he pulled forth several small codi. “There we, watch.”

He tossed all of the codi on the ground, making a scattered circle. Then, he knelled down at the edge of the circle, and motioned for her to hand him the ball.

“The point of the game is to bounce the ball, and see how many of the codi you can pick up before the ball bounces, and you have to catch it again.”

Serintha looked at him curiously. “And...this is supposed to”

Addicus shrugged helplessly. “Hey, I never said it’d be the greatest thing since Freeze Tag. Hmm...let’s see, what else can you do...”

He smiled brightly, coming up with another idea. He dropped his satchel, and began digging through it. Then, grinning broadly, he pulled forth a shield. He evoked his Dreamblade, and then began hacking at the shield.

Serintha looked at him like he’d gone mad.

Finally, he’d cut out the round part of the shield. Then, noticing that it was rather heavy, he began flaming the back side of the shield, to lessen the weight. Then, finally content with his creation, he handed it to Serintha.

“What am I supposed to do with this, Addicus?” she asked, cluelessly. Addicus sighed, and reached for the disk. Then, he ran to the other side of the Main Entrance.

“Get ready to catch it!” he hollered, and tossed the disk sideways. The frisbee flew across the room, and Serintha’s eyes lit up as she jumped and grabbed it.

“That was NEAT, Missu Addicus!” she said, and ran over and hugged him. Addicus grinned, and hugged the young dreamer in return. Then, he heard a noise above at the portals.

Mariana walked in, and Addicus’ heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t help but gaze at her standing at the top of the staircase, her long black hair brushing the back of her legs, contrasting with her light skin. Her bright red lips moving softly, and her bright green eyes glinting in the light. Altoc walked in right behind her, his light brown hair streaked with grey and black, and creases of wiseness showing up around his eyes. His mouth was creased by laugh lines, and even though he was getting up there in age, he still stood straight and tall, a proud Gatekeeper.

At the top of the steps, Mariana curtsies to Altoc, and he laughed and extended his hand, shaking hers. Altoc stepped back through the portal, and Mariana walked down the stairs. She stopped when she saw Serintha and Addicus, and smiled.

“Looka this neat toy Missu Addicus made for me, Mariana!” Serintha said, rushing up and embracing her sister in a hug. “I was bored, and he made it for me, cuz I was bored, and there was nothing to do, and mommy was busy with runnin’ the house.

Mariana laughed, and picked Serintah up in her arms. “Now, Sery, mom’s just been busy lately...there’s this talk of a treaty with the Union, and of possible Peace Treaty with House Calenture, she’s just got a lot to do lately.”

Serintha puffed up, placing her hands on her hips, and jutting her childish face out. “I know...mommy’s busy runnin’ da house.”

Mariana laughed softly, music to Addicus’ ears, and set Serintha down gently, and patted her on the back.

“Run off and play with your friends now, sis. I’ve got to go to Threshold, and get to work on this task. G’bye, little one!” she called, and turned to Addicus. “Thanks, Addicus...she’s really been getting bored lately, and needed something to do to keep her occupied. Mom’s just been so busy with house business, she hasn’t had time to play with her like she would like to.”

“It’s...ahh it’s .. ah.. it’s nothing, really, Mariana...” Addicus stammered.

Mariana smiled. “Well, I’m off to Threshold. Goodbye, Addicus!” she said, with a grin on her face. Then, pulling her pack close to her, she turned and walked out of the Main Entrance, leaving Addicus standing in the middle of the room in shock, with a single thought rushing through his mind...

“She TALKED to me!”

Chapter 4

Addicus knelt down on his hands and knees in the Valley of Totality. He laboriously sinks his blade in the ground, pulling out heap after heap of soil and humus. Finally, the dirt he hauled out began to take on a solid brown tint in color. Smiling, he tossed his blade/trowel aside, and pulled a small sack, and board from his pack. He sat the board on the ground, and poured the contents of the first sack, labeled “Edgeward Barrows” on the board. Then, he reached over, grabbed a handful of dirt from the new hole, and sat it in a small pile next to the first pile.

He pulled forth a small notebook, and peering closely at the two piles of dirt, began scratching and scrawling notes in the book, accentuated every now and then by a nod of his head, followed by him pushing his glasses back up.

He jumped, nearly falling into the small hole he had dug, when a hand tapped him on the shoulder. Glancing upward, he nearly passed out again, seeing Mariana standing above him, smiling happily at him.

“Whatcha up to, Addicus?” she asked, brightly.

“Oh..n n n..n..nuthin much...just c c collecting soil s s samples..” he stammered.

Mariana bent down, looking curiously at the two small piles of dirt.

“Found anything interesting yet? I’ve never really been able to comprehend how you can learn things from a pile of dirt.”

Addicus smiled. “Oh, it’s quite, let me show you.”, he said, turning to the small board. “Now, look at this pile of dirt, from the Barrows. It’s fairly light colored, and sifts fairly easily, but is still nowhere near as pure in state as that of Trinity or the Basin. It smells slightly odd, as well...not what you’d expect dirt to smell like. Then, look at this pile, from here in the Valley. It’s very dark, and clumped together. It seems chunky. All this pretty much proves the old stories we’ve been told.”

Mariana looked at him curiously. “How...does all that prove anything, Addicus? I honestly do not understand..”

Addicus sighed. “Okay, remember the breaking of the rifts? How it was told that Dorsal rift burst, and waves of chaos rushed across the dreamstate, and how the sudden shift in pressure caused the opening of Caudal rift, sending torrents of Chaos rushing back into the dreamscape?”

Mariana nodded slowly, the story of the breaking of the rifts having been told to her several times, at her father’s knee.

“, compare the soil...the soil in Edgeward is lighter than that of the Valley...the torrents of chaos struck here full force first, as the Barrows are straight between Dorsal Rift and Threshold, the center of the Dreamscape. The waves of chaos stormed over here, to the Valley, which is directly across the dream, effectively washing both in one tide, or explosion of chaos. Then, when that was contained, the other rift broke, just outside of the Valley, sending it awash in chaos once more. That’s why the soil there is darker, and stickier as the fury of the chaos’ second wave molded the soil together, into clumps.”

“That also goes quite a way to describing the general area of here in fact...I mean, look at it..” Addicus said, waving his hand at the toppled pillars, jagged pathways, broken walls, and upturned caves of the Valley. “It looks like this plane was turned upside down, and shaken like a child’s rattle. Enough proof of the older tales for you?”

Mariana looked around the plane again, her eyes taking in the planes tattered state. She turned to Addicus with a look of wonder crossing her face, and it slowly faded into a warm smile.

“You should show this to the rulers, Addicus...I’m sure they’ll find it intriguing..”, Mariana said softly. Addicus started to get to his feet, and Mariana reached a hand out to him. Hesitatingly, he took her hand, amazed at the softness of it and suddenly self-conscious of his own dirty, tattered, grimy state. However, looking at the wonder in her eyes, he knew that she didn’t see any of it. As he got to his feet, he came to a resolution.

“M..Mariana...,” He started, working hard to keep from stammering. “T..the Freespirits are having, a ...well, they’re going to put on a...”

“A dance?” Mariana said, halting him. “Why, I’d love to go with you, Addicus.” she said, grinning. “But for now, let’s take this back to the house.”

She bent down, and helped him to pick up his excavation tools, and Addicus followed her every movement, amazed, and still disbelieving that she had agreed to go to the Freespirit dance with him. Then, once the tools and everything were picked up, Mariana smiled and led him out of the Valley, and he followed her back to the house in a daze.

Chapter 5

The following day, Addicus was standing guard at the house, while Mariana went to Threshold to work on her task for her sphere. He stood stiffly on the steps, his scrawny body feining to have some semblance of intimidation and strength. In truth, he looked quite comical, wearing his uniform which was a size too large, glasses slowly sliding off his face from the sheen of nervous sweat, while standing defensively in front of the house.

While he stood there watching the assorted house members and guests milling about the entrance, Lenna stepped into the room. He bowed formally to the ruler, Mariana and Serintha’s mother, as she entered. She smiled, bowing her head to him slightly. Then, she sighed, and unceremoniously plopped down on the steps.

Addicus stepped toward her, but Lenna only smiled, and waved him away.

“I’m okay...just tired. These ruler’s meetings are taking too much of my time lately.” she said, sighing. “I can’t even remember the last time I sat and played with my dear little, she’s off running around Threshold with her Freespirit friends. At least Mariana’s down there to keep an eye on her.”

“Yes...Mariana is quite a wonder, isn’t she?” Addicus said, smiling in spite of himself. Lenna merely smiled, and leaned back against the wall, shifting slightly. Addicus watched the ruler shift around, trying to get comfortable, yet failing. He turned to one of the nearby dreamers, and whispered something to them. The dreamer rushed off, and returned moments later, bearing several weak shields.

Addicus smiled, and sat the shields on the floor. Lenna looked over at him, curiously, watching him work. He sat four shields off to one side, then two more in another pile. He handed the rest to the dreamer, who took them back to the vault. Then, he sat his pack down, and pulled a large vial, and brush from his pack.

“What is that, Addicus?”, Lenna asked, pointing to the vial.

“This? Oh, it’s merely a concoction I stirred up. I asked Altoc to ward some portals for me, and I took my blade and chopped off some of the red substance in the middle. After mixing it with some more Will elemens I crushed up, I made’s a rather wondrous adhesive. It works wonders...never seen a better one in my life.”

Lenna nodded, and continued to watch the industrious dreamer. He arranged the first four shields in a square, forming a hollow cube standing up on the floor. He dipped the brush in the vial, and spread a generous layer of the “Will Glue” around the shields vertices, binding them tightly. Then, he placed the hollow square against the wall, and kicked it. The side less cube held firm, and Addicus couldn’t restrain a grin.

Then, he took one of the remaining two shields. He smeared “Will Glue” around the top of the square, and placed the shield on top of it, forming a box with an opening in the bottom. He pounded the shield against the box, sealing the bonds tightly. Then, he reached in his pack, and pulled forth two Sand elemens. He glued these to the one side of the box, leaving them sticking up halfway. He then applied glue generously to the exposed side of them, and, picking up the remaining shield, he pressed it against the two Resilience-containing elemens. He stepped back, and admired the chair that he had built...the box being the seat, and with the springy Resilience elemens in place, the last shield acted as a reclining backrest. He motioned Lenna to go over and sit on it.

Lenna stood, and looking at the device hesitatingly, and albeit somewhat nervously, she sat on it. She clenched her teeth as she sat down, half expecting it to collapse underneath her. However, her face relaxed, and she looked down in wonder as the chair made of shields held her.

As Lenna leaned back against the backrest, the Portal to Trinity shimmered, and Mariana entered, followed closely by another dreamer. She pulled the dreamer following her towards Lenna and Addicus, and he followed hesitatingly, as if unsure of what he should be doing.

“Mother, I would like you to meet Janus! I met him in Threshold...he’s newly awakened, but he is quite intelligent, and charming..” she said, grinning slightly at Janus, and squeezing his hand.

Addicus felt a flash of rage and jealousy surge through him. He looked at this new dreamer, taking stock. Janus was fairly tall, with Mariana coming up to his neck. Unlike Addicus, who came up to Mariana’s nose. His night blue hair was streaked with traces of abyssal black, and his dark eyes seemed to be rimmed with silver, but barely a trace. His face was pale, but not sickly. He was muscular, Addicus noticed, sighing. He could probably bend him up into a pretzel, and toss him to the other side of the dream without a second though. However, the charming, shy smile on his face belied his naivety, and made it impossible to hate him (even though it was obvious who now was tugging at the strings of Mariana’s heart).

“Greetings, fair ruler of the Moon. It is truly wondrous to finally see this house that Mariana has been telling me so much of in the past few hours. And she has had nothing but pleasant things to say about you as well, milady.” He said. Bowing deeply, he grasped Lenna’s hand, and brought it to his lips, gently kissing the back of it as a show of respect. Lenna nodded curtly at him, and then smiled warmly.

Addicus watched the entire exchange through a dull curtain of jealousy. Who was this dreamer, who in mere seconds thought he had the right to vie for the heart of the lovely Mariana, and gain the respect of Ruler Lenna?

Mariana tugged on Janus’ hand, and he trand woven. Then, he brought all three strands together, and wove them all through the middle band of the elemen one last time, making a small bow effect.

Patting Serintha on the shoulder, he told her it was done. Serintha opened her eyes, and looked at the hair now, and teach him the ways of the dream...I shall be back later on this eve.” she said, and Lenna answered with a nod. Mariana giggled, and tugged on Janus’ hand, leading him from the house.

Addicus stood guard the rest of the eve, staring straight at the portal in front of him, unaware of anything else, as stinging, biting jealousy tearing at his heart and soul.

Chapter 6

Three days later, Addicus ran into Serintha. She was standing in the Ceremonial Hall, staring intently into the tub of water. As he walked up behind her, she began weaving her hair, and after a few failed attempts, tossed her hair up in a rage, and slammed her hands against the water.

“What’s wrong, little one?” Addicus said, bending down.

The small figure turned toward him with a look of solid consternation.

“Missu Addicus, da Fweespirit dance issaday, and Matthew aska me ta go wif him...but my hair looks ucky. I canna get it to look puwdy, and I been trying aaaaaaaaaallllll day!”

Addicus looked at her hair, and smiled.

“Here, let me give it a try, Serintha. Happen to have an elemen on you, one that would match your dress?”

Serintha nodded, looking at Addicus slightly confused. She pulled forth a Jade elemen, to match her spring green dress. Addicus nodded, and took the elemen from her hand. He then pulled a comb from his pack, and combed her hair straight.”

“Okay, lean forward little one...” he said, and Serintha complied.

He separated her long blonde hair into three strands. Then, he wove the middle strand down through the middle of the elemen, and bringing it back to the top, wove it through again. He then took the two side strands, and wove them in a cross-pattern across and through the elemen, mixing them along with the first strand woven. Then, he brought all three strands together, and wove them all through the middle band of the elemen one last time, making a small bow effect.

Patting Serintha on the shoulder, he told her it was done. Serintha opened her eyes, and looked at the hairdo. Addicus knew it was acceptable when her face burst open in a bright smile. Serintha turned around to hug Addicus, and he held her hand out to her.

It was then that Serintha actually looked at Addicus for the first time. He was covered in muck from head to toe, not a bit of him remained clean.

“Missu Addicus, what happena you? Aintcha goin to the dance tonight wif us?”

Addicus shook his head sternly.

“But, I taught dat you was goin wif my sis?”

“Ahh..she’s probably forgotten all about it, need for me to go get all dressed up. Besides, she deserves to go with someone better.”

“Nonsense, Missu Addicus!” Serintha said, sternly planting her hands on her hips. Addicus knew that pose. If he didn’t comply, he was going to get the berating of his life. He sighed in resignation.

“Missu Addicus, my sis dont make no promises dat she ainna gonna keep. So, you bedder get youself cleaned up afore she gets back! Get over here, an lemme wash you hair.”

Addicus leaned forward, and Serintha scooped up water, pouring it onto his head. The ceremonial tub quickly became black with muck and fact, they had to move to the second pool before his hair was completely clean. Then, Addicus left Serintha, and ran down to the Watering Hole. Finally, after a good hour of cleaning up, he returned to the Ceremonial Hall.

“Now, Missu Addicus, let’s pick something for you to wear.” Serintha said. She looked at Addicus’ tattered brown jacket, faded blue shirt, and stained green pants. She whispered some suggestions in his ear, and Addicus went into the library to change. After a few short minutes, he emerged, dressed stunningly in a yellow shirt, with a black jacket and pants, accentuated by dark Night blue shoulderpads and boots. Serintha smiled her approval, and the two went out to the front to wait.

In the front entrance, Addicus and Serintha tossed the frisbee back and forth that he had made for her just a few days ago. With each toss, Addicus was elated,thinking of the frisbee as himself ...flying, he had a date with Mariana....soaring, he was part of a great, he chose his own path in life, and was truly, for the first time in it, happy. The frisbee soared with the reckless abandon and true carefree feeling that he felt deep in his heart.

Mariana stepped through the Portal, catching them both off-guard. She smiled at her sister, and turned to Addicus.

“My, you look stunning tonight, Addicus!”, she said, gasping.

Addicus could only smile. “Yes...Serintha helped me in picking it out.”

“Yeah..he was really messy..” Serintha said, with a child’s innocence, as Addicus blushed furiously. Mariana only giggled, making the blood rush to Addicus’ head. He extended her his hand.

“So, shall we, milady?”

Mariana only looked at him confused. “What, Addicus?”

“Huh? I thought we...but..” Addicus stammered. Just then, Janus stepped through the portal, wearing a night and abyss suit, accentuating greatly his hair, and physique. In one soul crushing instant, Addicus realized what happened. He stopped, and turned his back on Mariana. In the background, Mariana gasped.

“By the Trinity, that’s right...I had promised I would go with you...” she said, bringing her hand to her mouth. Janus walked down, and put his arms around her, and she leaned toward him.

“Janus...I..” she started, only to be silenced by Addicus as he whirled around, and made a negating motion with his hand.

“You two go have a fun night..” he said, and turning, walked to the other side of the room, followed by Serintha. Janus looked at Mariana questioningly, and the two whispered back and forth...finally, they left towards Threshold, with Addicus watching forlornly from the corner. He felt Serintha’s small hand in his, and looked down at her sad face.

“You can go wif me, Missu Addicus..” she said, in a small voice. Addicus only smiled sadly.

“No, little go and have a fun time with Matthew...I’ll be fine.” he said. Then, he stood, and disappeared out the front portal to Trinity, leaving Serintha sitting alone on the front steps of the house.

Chapter 7

Addicus flew through the dreamscape, his burning rage and jealousy pushing his body to new physical limits. His eyes burned with inner hatred, his hands clenched in fury. His suit was torn by the rocks as he scaled Mt. Illapse, and ripped on branches as he passed through Harrow Glade. On and on he forged, burning, seething anger fueling him.

Finally, he came to a stop in Fayd’s Betrayal. He looked around, wondering how he ended up in this spot, so aptly named. He turned, and slammed his fist full force into the wall, so filled with pain already that he barely noticed it.

Finally, with the last of his jealousy spent, he turned, and sat down on the ledge. He looked out over the pit before him...eight pillars lined against the wall, each successfully lower than the one before it, leading down to a portal below, all of it suspended over a pool of green muck. For some reason, he felt at home here.

He stood, and lept over to the first ledge, then to the second. As he lept for the third pillar, his foot slipped, and he ended up jumping prematurely. His hands groped for the ledge as he fell past, but to no avail. He plummeted down, landing on his bottom in the greenish muck below. He slammed his fist in the muck, and turned around to go to the portal below the muck, to the Black Pit. As he took his first step in the muck, his foot gave way, and he fell onto his back once again. However, as he fell, the last thing he saw before his head went underwater was the wall behind him. In the split second he looked at the wall as falling past, one thought came to mind...”something was wrong with that wall”. Of course, the next thought was “damn that hurt!”

He stood up and, shaking the muck out of his hair, turned and walked toward the wall. He put his hands against it, searching. The wall, unlike the others which were solid rock, seemed to be made out of crumbled if the previous wall had fallen in on itself here. Without giving a thought to caution, Addicus’ curiousity got the best of him (as usual) and, evoking his blade, he began to chip away at the rock.

He swung his blade repeatedly, chopping small bits of rubble, and knocking more loose from the wall. Suddenly, he swung his blade, and it went through the wall. Addicus jumped back, was hollow! He began knocking the rubble away with new fervor, and finally, he had created an opening large enough for him to crawl through. He peered inside, but saw only darkness. He reached in his pack and pulled an alteror forth and, putting it on the end of his blade, evoked Tranceflame on it, setting it ablaze. He held the blade with the burning alt out in front of him using it as a torch, and climbed into the small opening. As he got inside, he realized he could stretch to full was in fact a very large tunnel.

He moved the makeshift torch against the wall, and gasped. There was writing on the fact, it appeared to be a very finely crafted tunnel, of exceptional workmanship. He traced the intricate designs with his fingers, unable to understand what they meant, but still overwhelmed with their beauty. He looked down the darkened passageway, which seemed to go on forever. He walked, and walked, and walked. Each step echoed for what seemed like eternity. The walls continued forward, each side bearing the same intricate craftmanship.

Suddenly, a gust of wind blew through the tunnel, extinguishing the torch. Addicus staggered, and his blade dropped from his hand, clattering loudly on the floor. Cursing, he reached down and began searching for it in the darkness. After several minutes, he finally grasped the blade. Just as he pulled it close to re-ignite the alteror, he dimly realized that he could see.

A dim, dark blue light illuminated the passageway, the source seeming to be from much farther down the tunnel. Putting the blade and alteror back into his pack, Addicus walked forward, using only the dark light as his sole source of illumination. As he progressed, he began to hear a steady, low hum. Thinking back on how far he had traveled, he realized that he must be nearly below Threshold by now.

The hallway made a sudden turn to the left, and Addicus nearly ran into the wall. Turning, he found the source of the light...a dark blue portal rotated slowly in the middle of the wall in the room. The chamber spread out before him, the darkness making the small room appear larger than it was. He saw that in this room, there were symbols as well..but, unlike those in the hallway, they conveyed no sense of beauty. Quite the contrary..the emanated a feeling of fear, and war. As Addicus’ eyes slowly adjusted to the brightness of the portal, he began to see a shadow in the middle of it. As he looked, he saw that the shadow was in fact a dreamer, standing hands down to his sides, watching the portal intensively. As he stepped forward, the dreamer slowly turned his head towards him, and his gaze settled on Addicus.

“G.. G.. Greetings, sir..” Addicus said, controlling the fear he felt.

The figure lowered his head in a nod of greeting, and turned back toward the portal. As Addicus watched, the portal began to take on a sickly green color, shifting between shades of brown at times. Addicus stepped forward to examine, but the dreamer held up a restraining hand.

“If you value your coherence, sir, I suggest you not come any closer.” the figure said.

As Addicus began to ask the dreamer why, the Portal flashed bright orange, and a dark figure lept forth. Immediately the dreamer drew his blade, and the two engaged in combat. The dark figure slammed against the dreamer with explosive force, slamming him against the wall. The dreamer pushed forcibly, and the dark figure flew off of him against the wall. Landing on its feet, the figure dashed around behind the dreamer, and lunged at him. The dreamer rolled, and turned to face where the dark figure landed. He jumped on top of the prone figure, and raised his blade. The dark figure rolled to the side, knocking the dreamer off to the side. The dark figure rose, and ran toward the tunnel where Addicus was now cowering. The dark figure tripped over Addicus, sending the two sprawling. Addicus jumped to his feet first, more from fear than from any facet of strength. The dark figure lept to its feet as well, and Addicus turned toward it.

He was looking at himself. As Addicus stumbled backwards, the other Addicus leapt towards him. As the creature slammed Addicus against the floor, it raised its hand, which turned in midair to a dark claw. Addicus looked into his clone’s eyes, which flashed dark blue as it stared intently back at him. The dark claw began its descent, straight in line with Addicus’ neck. He gritted his teeth, prepared to lose his coherence.

Suddenly, the weight was lifted from his chest. He rolled to his side, and saw the dark figure pinned against the wall, with the dreamer pressing against him, blade extending from the dark figure’s chest. Slowly, the twitching figure’s movements slowed, and it faded into a floating abyssal mist, and was drawn back toward the portal.

The dreamer walked over to Addicus, and extended his hand. The skin of the dreamer was strangely darkend, seemingly burned. Addicus gratefully accepted it, and was lifted to his feet.

“My appearance is due to the emanations from this portal, dreamer. For ages I have guarded it, and the chaos behind it has inevitably tainted my avatar.”

Addicus only stared blankly at the dreamer before him, the strangely colored guardian, in his tattered dark clothes, very savage in appearance. Huge rents were in his clothes, Addicus assumed from battling those...creatures. Dark strands of hair fell down about his face, masking a pair of piercing dark eyes beneath them. Strong arms and worn hands cleaned the blade he held, while the dreamer continued talking.

“It has been ages since another has trod this path, dreamer. From whence do you hail?”, the dreamer asked, staring intently at Addicus.

“I.. I am from the Order of the Sable Moon..” Addicus replied, watching the dreamer intently.

“Then, the realm is safe?”

“If you refer to Underlight, then yes, the dream is quite safe.”

The dreamer nodded slightly, and turned his gaze toward the eerie portal.

“Then...they have forgotten about me.” He said, and lowered his gaze.

Addicus looked at the fierce dreamer oddly. The dreamer looked up, and noticing Addicus’ querying gaze, only sighed.

“Forgotten you, sir?” Addicus asked.

“Yes, dreamer. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Darken..” he said, and bowed stiffly, “...Guardian of the Third Rift.”

“Third Rift??” Addicus asked, completely befuddled. “But...there are only two rifts in the fabric of the dreamstate...Caudal, and Dorsal.. in fact, I just reached here through a passageway near the Caudal rift..”

The dreamer shook his head. “I, it truly has been all forgotten... allow me to tell my story, dreamer. Many ages ago, I was one of the Overscanners, a group of Dreamsmiths and Dreamwrights that were charged with taking care of the city walls. At the time, we were keeping close watch over two main parts of the dreamstate, one to the extreme south near the Cenotaph, the other to the extreme north near to the Chasm, which were both showing signs of weakness. Those places are still known, I assume?”

Addicus nodded, and the dreamer continued.

“Ibioc, our leader, sent different groups of us out to study these two spots of weakness, and we returned to him with our findings. Noting that the two spots of weakness were at the polar ends of the dream, we began studying what that could portend. Until Marcen brought forth a revelation. Actually, it was more of a warning, or a portend, as it were. He called forth a bubble of resilience before us, and to demonstrate his theory. He pressed inward on one side of the bubble, and it bulged on all sides. Then, he pressed inward on the two opposite ends of the bubble, causing it to bulge on all sides, and rise off of the table. Finally, he pushed upward on the bottom of the bubble. The sudden shift in pressure caused the first spot to burst open in a small hole, immediately followed by the second spot he pressed, followed at last by the spot at the bottom.

“Turning to us, he said that if the realm was to break in the North, because of the polar shift the next immediate break would appear in the South. Then, because of the force of gravity pulling against the fabric of the dream, the final weak spot would appear in the center, midway between the North and South rifts. I led the expedition into the Caves below Threshold, and then we began shifting through the dream, probing for this weak spot in the fabric. Finally, we found it, here in this spot.”

He motioned to the eerie blue portal standing before them.

“Ibioc’s plan was to create a filtering system, as a sort of precautionary system..thus, these tunnels you see...”

Addicus looked behind him, and indeed, there were two more exits to the room besides the one through which he came.

“One leads to the rift in the North, one to the rift in the South, and one to the Threshold Caves. The plan was to station Guardians at each rift, and if the rift should r Rifts, to try and stem the flow of chaos.

“As my remaining group watched, the walls in this room began to shift. Suddenly, it exploded in a burst of blue light, and hordes of these dark, evil creatures flew forth... a strange hybrid of Nightmares, seemingly fr the wall were our barriers...created to keep the forces of chaos flowing in the directions we intended them to.

At this point, the Darken lowered his head.

“Alas, the forces of chaos were much stronger than we anticipated. In our foolish pride, we thought we would be able to control it. One day, disaster struck...a group of the Overscanners were in study near the North Rift, when it broke. Raw consciousness tore through the rip in the fabric of the dream, instantly destroying the Overscanners there. The chaos tore into the dream, and we remaining Overscanners immediately knew what had happened. Rushing against the flowing tides of chaos, we ran to the three areas. A small group followed me through the Caves, coming here to help to attempt to draw the chaos down, while the other groups led by Ibioc and Marcen fled to the Northern rift to repair it. They reached the rift, and began repairing it. Struggling, they began trying to draw the fabric back together...and finally, it appeared as if they would be successful..”

“Such fools we were...we never sent anyone to the Southern Rift.....once the Northern Rift had broke, the Dreamstate had been immediately compromised, which shifted the pressure upon the Southern Rift. Just as they drew the Northern Rift to a close, the Southern Rift exploded, and chaos flowed straight toward the Northern Rift, destroying everything in its course. Ibioc and Marcen, and the rest of the Overscanners there were utterly decimated, leaving my small party here near the Middle Rift.

“The pressures shifting wildly in the Dreamstate, it was only a matter of time. My forces and I stood our ground in the passageways, straining to fight against the forces of Chaos. I dispatched small groups to the other Rifts, to try and stem the flow of chaos.

“As my remaining group watched, the walls in this room began to shift. Suddenly, it exploded in a burst of blue light, and hordes of these dark, evil creatures flew forth... a strange hybrid of Nightmares, seemingly from the deepest bowels of Chaos. As we fought, we were taken aback as they shifted in form, taking the appearance of our own warriors. We could not fight well, because we knew naught if we were fighting our own dreamers or the dreaded Mares. After hours of fighting, the last of them fled back into the rift, and we were left to tend our wounds. Alas, there were not many wounds to friends lay about in Soulspheres, or worse...simply an essence laying on the floor. I tried to heal as many as I could, but the wounds inflicted by these dread mares were beyond my capacity to heal. I sent the remaining dreamers to return topside, to see what remained of the dream. Shortly after they left, I felt a great rumbling, and shifting...and I knew that they had sealed the rifts back shut as the Dreamstate re-secured itself after the onslaught.

“After many days of waiting, I began searching down the passageways, wondering why none of my compatriots had returned for me...only to find that all the entrances to the passageways had been sealed. I was shut off from the dream. Since that day, I have guarded this portal to the Third Rift, against the mares beyond. Several have probed through, in an attempt to reach the Dreamstate....yet, all have failed...

Darken again lowered his head.

“All, that is, but one. Several months ago, one of the mares came through, and I was ready for it. As I launched the attack, the cowardly mare shifted form into that of Ibioc... I was caught completely off-guard, for they normally took on my appearance. And, in my moment’s lapse, the foul being ran past me. I chased it down the hallway, as it exited toward the Southern Rift, planning to catch it at the end of the tunnel....but, the evil creature shifted form into a mist, and flowed through the smaller cracks in the rock, leaving me. I can only pray that my fellow Overscanners above were able to confront it.

As the dreamer spoke, the portal began to shift colors again. Darken looked at the portal, and turned once again to Addicus.

“It’s not safe for you here, dreamer....flee back to the dream.” he said.

“Sir..Darken.. I have cleared the path, you can come back to the city as well.. we can all fight these mares, as we fight the others in the dream.” Addicus said, concernedly.

Darken looked sternly at Addicus. “Dreamer, I have pledged my life to guard the dream. I stand my post here at the Third Rift, and shall not abandon it. Go back, and collapse whatever way you came through here, and never return! If these mares were to ever get loose in the dream, it would be the end of us all.

The portal began shifting more violently, glowing purple, orange, and green.

“Go, NOW!”, yelled Darken, as he drew his blade and turned toward the convulsing portal. Addicus turned around quickly, and dashed down the portal, heart pounding, mind racing. He left, and after he was out, he brought the ceiling of the tunnel back down upon itself, closing the portal again. Just before the last rock fell into place, he heard a deep roar of pain echo through the tunnel.

Deeply shaken, he returned to the house.

Chapter 8

Four days later, Addicus was sitting inside the Celebration Hall, surrounded by several of his family members. Today was the day for Janus’ initiation into the Order. Mariana stood by his side, once his lover and his sponsor. The two dreamers had not been together for long, but already Addicus had grown used to seeing them together. He no longer felt a dull rage when he saw Janus put his arm around her..only a deep emptiness, and pain.

Lenna emerged from the Ruler’s chamber at the tlp of the stairs, and smie house cheered the happy couple, never noticing Addicus walk quietly out the portal.

Chapter 9

Addicus paced back and forth in the Vault, carrying items from the middle of the room to the Third Rift, and she had laughed at him, telling him that he imagined the whole thing. LAUGHED at him! As he looked at her, he only felt the pain within grow. He looked down into the water tub, staring sullenly at himself. His face was perfectly fact, he was dressed quite nicely. Since the day in the rift, he had not ventured outside the halls of the house. He felt a small tug on his shirt, and looked down to find Serintha standing there.

“Hey Missu Addicus!” she said. He reached down, and picked her up, putting him on his shoulder so that she would be able to watch. A hush fell over the crowd as Lenna began the ceremony.

Addicus watched in silent resignation as Lenna proceeded through the ceremony, and Janus swore to uphold the ideals of the house. The whole time, Mariana was standing beside him, clutching him tightly. When Lenna handed Janus’ house ID to him, the entire room erupted in cheering, except for one isolated corner, where a small girl sat on a silent dreamer’s shoulder.

“Quiet, everyone..” Lenna said, as the commotion died down. She leaned down towards Mariana. “I believe that you two had another announcement that you wished to present tonight, correct?”

“Yes, mother..we do...” Mariana said, climbing the stairs to stand beside her mother. “, we would like to make an announcement, my family...” she said, motioning Janus to come stand beside her. As Janus put his arm around her, Mariana turned back towards the assembled dreamers.

“Three days from now, I would like for you to all gather here in the Ceremonial Hall for another ceremony...” she said, and looked lovingly up at Janus. “..for Janus and I are to be wed that day!”

Again, the dreamers cheered. Addicus reached up, and sat Serintha down on the floor to run up and congratulate her sister. The whole house cheered the happy couple, never noticing Addicus walk quietly out the portal.

Chapter 10

Addicus paced back and forth in the Vault, carrying items from the middle of the room to their respective places. People had returned from Gen-sitting just before the initiation, so the Vault was badly in need of cleaning. He ID'ed an Elemen, and carried it over and sat it down.

“Maybe I did just imagine the whole thing...” he said to himself. He was beginning to question even himself as to the whole matter. He had returned to Caudal Rift a few days later to search for the entrance to search for the wall, but he hadn’t been able to find it. He’d returned home after two hours of searching, even more depressed.

He could still remember the whole experience in vivid detail...the mare slamming into him, Darken fighting it off, the creature slashing at him. Most of all he remembered the shock of looking into that alien face....exactly mirroring his own...with the eyes that flashed dark blue in rage. Shaking off the daydream, he returned to his sorting in the Vault.

He picked up a couple of the elemens laying on the floor, and ID'ed them. Cursed. Sighing, he tossed them in his pack, to find a use for them later. He looked at one of the shields laying on the floor, and fixed a small dent in it, and walked over to set it on the pedestal. He continued IDing, and fixing things until he had the entire vault cleaned up. Then, he turned, and walked out of the portal.

He began walking through the maze, staring at the floor sullenly. He turned a corner, and slammed into an object, hearing a loud “Ooof!” as he fell to the floor. He looked up, and saw Mariana standing above him, looking down at the floor. He turned his head, and saw a very angry Janus glaring at him, his eyes flashed in rage. He gasped, and jumped to his feet, and extended his hand to help Janus up. Janus refused, and stood up on his own.

“Good day, Addicus..I was just giving Janus here his tour of the house..” Mariana said, lightly. Addicus looked at her, and Janus. Sighing in resignation, he nodded to the two, and passed between them on his way out, not saying a word.

It was several hours later, when he had a revelation. When he’d knocked Janus down, something had seemed out of place...but he hadn’t been able to put his finger on it yet. Sitting in the Main Entrance that evening, going over the events of the day in his mind, it lashed out at him like a sword. When he’d bumped into Janus, he had glared at him...

And his eyes had flashed...a dark blue color.

Chapter 11

“Yes, Altoc, Mariana has been working diligently on her sphere task.” Lenna said to the other ruler. Altoc nodded solemly, and turned around, his silvery hair glinting in the light.

“I was just curious, milady. I had given her one of the more difficult tasks, for I believe that she is quite a capable girl.”

“Yes...and she has that lovely Janus to help her...he has been simply a dear about all of it.” Lenna said, smiling. “I’ve never seen a dreamer more dedicated to a girl than he is.”

Altoc chuckled quietly. “A good thing, too, or I would have never agreed to officiate the ceremonies.”

Lenna grinned, and hugged Altoc. “Oh, you silly old dreamer..” she said, smiling.

Altoc smiled, returning the hug. Then, he walked over to the portal. “I must go, I’ve been told that one of the rulers at House Calenture needed to speak with me. Tell your daughter congratulations...and, to start thinking on her vows.” He turned, and with a nod to Lenna, stepped out of the portal.

Lenna looked about the library, and sat a few more codecii on the floor. Just as she turned to leave, she was nearly bowled over as Addicus dashed into the room.

“Lenna! Am I glad to see you!” he said, frantically.

Lenna scowled, and glared at Addicus. “You need pt through careful, Addicing to move as silently as he could. He quickly grabbed a teal alteror out of his pack, and blended into the background. Closer, and closer he edged toward them. One strike would be all it would take..for hment. “What are you saying, boy? Spit it out!”

“He’s a mare, Lenna!”

Lenna glared at him. “Now Addicus, I know you had a crush on Mariana, but that is NO CAUSE to go about...”

“No! Remember what I told you...about the shapeshifting mares?!?! He’s one of them!!”

“That ridiculous story? I thought you were over fairy tales like that, Addicus! Come now, Janus is a nice, responsible young lad...quite sane too, unlike some I could name...” she added, scowling pointfully at Addicus.

“But it’s true, Lenna!! Why won’t you believe me?!?!”

“Addicus....I will not tolerate you trying to disgrace another’s name simply because he found love with my daughter, and you did not!”

“No, Lenna...this has nothing to do with Mariana! We need to stop him!”

“Addicus, what has gotten into you?!?!?!”

Addicus yelled, and slammed his pack down on the floor in rage.

“What is wrong with me?!?!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!! Why won’t you believe me!?!?!”

Lenna glared at him. “Addicus, I want you to”

Addicus stared back at Lenna, his eyes glowing in rage. He tossed his blade to the floor, and ran out the portal. Lenna stood there, looking down at the pack and blade discarded in rage, and sighed. She turned on her heel, and ran off in search of Altoc, hoping to catch him before he left the house.

Chapter 12

Addicus ran through the house, checking in each room. He had to be here somewhere..with Mariana. He shoved his way through small groups of dreamers on his way through the house, pushing people aside, knocking some of them down. He cursed, as Janus didn’t seem to be anywhere...he ran to the vault, and looked around. Then, he turned, and jumped into the water, dropping down to the Watering Hole.

He landed quietly, and looked about. There they were! He crept through the water, trying to move as silently as he could. He quickly grabbed a teal alteror out of his pack, and blended into the background. Closer, and closer he edged toward them. One strike would be all it would take..for that one strike would cause the mare to lose its concentration...and the illusion would fall. They all would see what he was beneath the surface...they all would believe him then!

Finally, he was mere feet from the mare...any closer, and he would be sensed. He crouched, and brought his blade up to bear. Then, with a roar of hatred, the timid Dreamseer launched himself forward, fully intending to shove his blade right between the mare’s shoulder blades.

Suddenly, he felt two strong hands grab him by the should, and heave him backwards, slamming him against the wall. He landed with a solid thud, and groaned in pain, feeling his blade slip from his grip.

“What do you think you’re DOING, boy?!?!?” Altoc roared, lifting Addicus’ feet off the ground, pressing him against the wall.

“I..... mu.. must .k.. k. ki..kill.. J... Ja..” Addicus said, before passing out. Lenna walked up next to Altoc, and looked at the unconscious form.

“He was in the library just before I came after you, ranting on about Janus, and that he was evil, and must be killed..” she said, sighing. Mariana gasped, and pulled Janus tighter, her eyes opening widely as she looked at Addicus.

“Well, we’ll see about that.” Altoc said.

Chapter 13

When Addicus came to, he was sitting in one of the Caves. He looked around as the dream slowly came into focus around him, and groaned. He felt behind his head, and felt a rather large bump on the back of his head. Straining to sit up, he heard some movement off to the side. Looking up, he saw Serintha running toward him, and a dreamer standing guard, next to a warded portal. He looked at the other portal, and noticed that it was warded as well.

“Oh, Missu Addicus! Ya finally woke up!” Serintha said.

“W..where am I?” he asked, looking around groggily.

“Missu Altoc said dat you needa stay in hewe for a while, Missu Addicus..” Serintha said. Suddenly, it all came rushing back to Addicus, and he jumped to his feet.

“What day is it, Serintha? How long have I been sitting in here??”

“You’ve been in here for a few days, Missu Addicus...hey, guess what day it is!”

Addicus leaned wearily against the wall in realization. “Today’s the day...isn’t it... Janus and Mariana are getting married..”

Serintha grinned happily. “Yup! Well, Missu Addicus...I gotta go for now, because I get to be the flower girl!”

“Wait, know, I’d really like to go to their wedding...”

“Oh, well we can just ask Kels’ dad over here!” she said, and cupped her hands to yell to the dreamer standing guard. Addicus hushed her just in time.

“No, Serintha...I don’t think he needs to know about this...I can just sneak out to see it, and then come back in...and he wouldn’t even have to know that I was gone...”

Serintha looked at him disapprovingly. “Missu know I can’t do that...”

“Serintha...please...I’m begging you...” Addicus said, pleadingly, “..please..”

Serintha looked at the guard, and reached within her pocket. She pulled a small shining object, and handed it to Addicus. “It’s Kels’ dad’s amulet...I still have it from that day they played that trick on me in the Watering Hole..” she said, grinning widely.

She patted Addicus on the shoulder, and skipped over to the dreamer standing guard. He nodded to her, and reached over, handing her an amulet. She smiled innocently to him, and skipped out the portal. The dreamer looked over at Addicus and, satisfied that he was secure, returned to his inscribing. As the guard began writing, Addicus slid behind one of the pillars, and then dashed through the shadows, and out the unguve, holding a glowing chakram, trembling.

And below, cringing on the floor, was the writing form of Janus. As all the dreamers watched, his form slowly changed. Altoc slowly released his grip from Addicus, dropping the frail DreamSeer to the floor with a thud. A the portal, surrounded by their loving family. In Altoc’s hand, he firmly gripped the two golden rings that the two dreamers planned to exchange.

“Mariana, do you have any words to say to Janus?” he asked, smiling broadly.

“Janus, “ Mariana started, staring up into his eyes, “before you entered my dream, I had known joy. But, I had never known such joy as the joy I feel when I am in your arms. You have made me feel complete, in a way that no one has ever been able to, and have broght me true and complete happiness. I can think of nothing better than to be in your arms for the rest of my dream.”

Altoc smiled at Mariana, and turned to Janus. “Janus, do you have any words to say to Mariana?”

As Janus opened his mouth to speak, however, a shout ran out in the room. Altoc dashed to the side just as Addicus lept from above. He knocked him from his fall, and against the wall, quickly grabbing his arms, and knocking the blade from his hand. He pressed Addicus against the wall, holding the struggling, frantic being with ease.

“By the Trinty, boy, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?!?!” he shouted, as Janus and Mariana looked at him in shock. He looked pleadingly toward Mariana, who only turned her head away.

“HE’S NOT WHO YOU THINK HE IS!!!” he screamed, looking at Janus. Everyone in the room averted their gaze.

“Addicus, you will stop this nonsense now, or you will LEAVE.” Altoc said, glaring deep into Addicus’ eyes, still frantic with adrenalyne. For what seemed like an eternity, Altoc held the struggling dreamer against the wall, while everyone from he house muttered, glared at Addicus, or voiced their approval aloud.

A chakram fired, followed by a scream of pain.

Standing atop the steps was Serintha, the young lass of five, holding a glowing chakram, trembling.

And below, cringing on the floor, was the writing form of Janus. As all the dreamers watched, his form slowly changed. Altoc slowly released his grip from Addicus, dropping the frail DreamSeer to the floor with a thud. As Janus struggled to stand to his feet, the illusion fell completely away, and before them was a large, dark shape, black wings beating slowly, eyes glaring blue, claws draped to his side. He stretched to his full height, standing high above the dreamers, and looked down at them.

With but a seconds hesitation, chakfire screamed through the Hall as every dreamer fired, the smell of charred Dreamsoul overpowering. Janus roared in pain, and began thrashing about wildly with his claws, slashing dreamers, ripping, cutting. In mere seconds, the dark figure was slain, his essence laying on the ground, his soulsphere floating above the floor. As the dreamers watched, his soulsphere slowly faded, dissapearing from existence. The whole room stood in shock.

Addicus jumped to his feet, and ran over to the shaking Serintha, scooping her up in a tight hug, holding her close, comforting her.

Chapter 14

Two days later, Addicus went forth from the house once again, heading towards Threshold. If his story were true, then surely he would be able to find traces of it at Threshold, and at Dorsal. He had returned to Caudal Rift twice since then, and after looking, had found where he had crumbled the rock down. Yet, when he tried to clear the rock away, it held firm.

As he came to the first bridge crossing the passive river, he heard sobbing. Looking to the side, he saw Mariana huddled beneath the bridge, crying. He stepped toward her, and she looked up at him, eyes red from tears.

“Mariana..” he started, and stopped, looking into the water. He reached over, and put his arm reassuringly on her shoulder. “Mariana...are you alright?”

“Alright?!?” she replied sobbing. She turned, and shoved Addicus’ hand off of her shoulder coldly. “Am I ALRIGHT?!?!” she said loudly, her voice rising to a frantic scream. “How in the abyss can you stand to ASK that, Addicus?” She rose to her feet, and walked away from him, turning her back on him and facing into the shadows.

Addicus stood, and walked toward her. As he opened his mouth to reply, Mariana swirled around swiftly, slamming her fist into his face, knocking him sprawling. “Why did you do it, Addicus? WHY?!?!”

Addicus brought his hand to his face, rubbing his sore jaw. “Mariana...he was a mare. That is why.”

“He was a mare? SO WHAT! He made me HAPPY, Addicus!! Why couldn’t you accept that?!?!”

“Mariana... he was fooling you. He had you in his sway..”

“No, he didn’t Addicus.” she replied, matter of factly. “I loved him for who he was, what he wanted in his dream. He wished no ill toward the house, he only wished to be accepted. Who cares if he be dreamer or mare? Did he cause any harm to you? To me? To the house? The only time he ever raised his hand toward ANYONE was in self defense when you and the other testosterone bravado es in the Ceremonial Hall broke loose upon him with your damnable chakrams, blades, and arts, the sole reason being that his body is made of a different substance than yours, and he comes from elsewhere than Cloudsbreak.”

Addicus lowered his head. “Mariana...I cannot believe that he had honorable intentions. He is a spawn of chaos, and as such, incapable of good.”

“Yes, apparently that’s what you all think..” she said, and reached to her breast and pulled loose her OoSM crest. “And if that’s the ideals that you hold dear, and apparently so with everyone in the house, then apparently I have made a bigger mistake than any of you!” She replied, flinging the crest at Addicus. He flinched as the projectile slammed against his chest, and fell to the ground.

Mariana turned her head, and faced into the shadows again. Addicus turned away, the rift between them growing swiftly. He looked at the shining crest laying on the ground, stained with tears and sweat. He stepped out from beneath the bridge, and left, never looking back.

Moments later, Mariana turned around, and walked back to where he had stood. She reached down, picking up the Order of the Sable Moon crest, and for a moment, considered pinning it back upon her breast. She knelt by the water, looking at her reflection in the water..her dark, beauteous hair now sticky, stringy, worn. Her normally pristine face marred from tears, her eyes cracked with redness. She closed her eyes, and thought of all the memories she had of the house....Altoc, the noble Gatekeeper....Lenna and Serintha, her mother and sister...most beloved of her life....

She gripped the crest tightly, as she stood up. Then, she turned, and flung the crest as far downriver as she could. She stalked back to the darkness, and stood there, her pale skin blending in with the shadows, disappearing completely...except for her eyes. Which glowed with a soft, blue light.