-The Dream World
"Perchance To Dream"
The blue mist swirled around his ankles as he stepped forward, believing in the firmness beneath his feet—or else it might turn out to be Void and he would endlessly fall until the moment he expected to hit bottom. He took a step forward, not even hearing his own footfalls on the invisible ground, as much as he wanted to.
"Seraid?" He called, but his voice came out a muted whisper. Sound did strange things in the mists of the Null.
It didn't matter how far his voice carried anyway. Her face appeared first, right in front of him.
"Took you long enough, Alarin," she teased as the rest of her deep-indigo dress formed. She tossed her head so the pale-blond braid draped over her shoulder. "How you ever managed to achieve Archwilliam in spite of being so easily distracted is beyond me." She twirled easily and a tendril of mist wound around her legs.
Alarin cleared his throat and adjusted the collar of his Archwilliam cloak. "I wasn't distracted," he muttered. "That was a particularly nasty terror I dispatched!"
Seraid curled her lips in mock pity. "Yes, saving a little toddler from the big, scary shrub was much too difficult for a mere william!"
Alarin scowled. "I never said it was difficult! Just tedious—you know how foliage can be, in dreams. Leaves and twigs everywhere!"
Seraid bobbed her head and pretended to inspect her rapier. "Well, next time work a little faster, all right? A william's job is never done."
Alarin nodded. "So long as children dream, there will be terrors trying to mar those dreams."
"And as long as there are terrors, there will be an army of williams and Archwilliams to travel those dreams and defend them against it!" Seraid agreed with a keen, cold light in her eye. She grinned at Alarin. "Ready to go again?"
"Half a moment," said Alarin. His collar had gone tight again, and he fought to loosen the knot at his throat before it choked him to death—or at least to what the williams, the dream-walkers, referred to as Void.
Seraid rolled her eyes. "Must you insist on wearing that stupid tie? It makes you look like an old man."
"Does not, either!" Alarin ran his hands through his sleek brown hair. "My tie looks very dignified, thank you!"
Seraid wasn't listening. She clambered over the swirling, uneven clods of mist changing shape and shifting endlessly, eternally. "Whatever helps you sleep at night," she joked, knowing that a william never slept; it was always night somewhere in the world, and someone was always dreaming. It was their job to be ready when the terrors struck.
A flash of light parted the formless blue clouds in the distance.
Alarin pointed, the long sleeve of his robe flapping below his arm. "There!" He cried. "It's happening!"
Seraid drew her sword. It blazed with a brilliant white light. "That's our cue," she said. "Let's see what terrible beasties stalk this night!"
The two Archwilliams sprinted toward the light of an open portal. Their pace did not slack as they crossed right over the glowing space in the mists.
Within two paces they landed together in a sunlit realm. Green grass spread in graceful rolling hills as far as the eye could see. A brilliant rainbow stretched across the sky, teeming with resplendent butterflies—no, fairies with butterfly wings. The two Archwilliams stared in astonishment as a herd of milk-white unicorns galloped over the ridge and began grazing in the grass.
Alarin glanced at Seraid, who huffed and began tromping down the hill. In the valley at the base of a mountain range, a tall waterfall cascaded into a deep pool where mermaids frolicked.
Seraid snorted as she moved to sheath her rapier. "What is this? These dreams are in no mortal danger!"
Alarin pulled out a round, reflective surface—their scrying-screen into the real world. A young woman lay in a dingy apartment, tossing fitfully in her sleep.
"It looks to be about the 1950's, in England," he announced to his compatriot. "Maybe we haven't gotten far enough into the dream yet."
Seraid shrugged. "Where do we go looking for trouble, then?"
A chorus of terrified whinnies erupted from the back of the unicorn herd—the side closest to a lush, green, shadowed forest.
Alarin loosened his own blade as the unicorns rushed away from the forest, right in their direction.
"Looks like trouble has found us," he remarked.
Seraid rolled her eyes and charged toward the thing that threatened the tranquility of the girl's slumber.
"That's our cue!" She called over her shoulder.
Together they entered the forest, only to dodge and parry as a flurry of gnarled claws sailed at them from every direction. The monster in the shadows roared viciously, threatening to break from among the trees.
"All right now, Archwilliam!" Seraid grunted as she whirled and swiped with her sword. "Do your thing! Figure out what is causing the terror!" She dropped from the branch she held as a jet of flame headed her way.
Alarin used his intuition to slow dream-time down so he could get a good look at the monster. Everything—including Seraid, mid-bound—froze in suspended animation.
Alarin saw a massive body made of darkness, with myriad bony arms, each bearing a at least two savage claws at the end. Everywhere he looked, a claw headed right for him.
"She feels trapped," he murmured. "Unable to get out of the situation she is in."
What else? There was something still; he moved closer to the monster. He stood right beneath the distended, muscular body when he saw it: embedded in the monster's chest was a large clock, and even in the stopped-time, the hands glided smoothly around. In normal time, the hands must whirl at a discomforting rate.
"Time!" Alarin cried. "That's it!"
Just then, his intuition wore off with a rush, and the william went tumbling head over heels. Alarin tried to rise, but a searing pain sliced across his middle.
"Alarin!" Seraid yelled, dropping to the ground a few feet away.
Alarin placed a hand on the pain and felt a deep gash from the monster's claw. He coughed as Seraid struggled to right him and fend off the beast. Waves of pain threatened to overwhelm him—a dangerous state for a william inside someone else's dreamscape. He pointed with a hand red and glistening with his own blood.
"Time," he gasped.
"What?" Seraid smacked away another attack. "What did you find, Alarin?"
"Time..." He found it harder to speak. If they didn't resolve this now, he would be trapped there forever. "She needs time," he told Seraid. "You need to give her time to get free!"
Seraid sliced off another claw and peered closely at the spinning clock.
"I know what to do!" She cried, jumping and dancing to avoid the raking claws. "Stay with me, Alarin! Stay..."
Previously in This Series:
Crossover Parts: "Rendezvous" (SM 6/SL 2) "The Viking and the Lore-Master" (SM 9/SL 4)
#26 "The Tides of Battle"