“Conspiracy!” screeched Panya the Vizier of the Meercat Collective. “Conspirators! They should be executed!”
“Any time.” Fiona said. She returned her attention to the animals. “Esteemed personages, we ask for mercy-”
“No!” roared Butu as he charged forward, massive arm swinging toward them.
“No!” screamed Hama as she completed her dark ritual dance, the moon crystals shattering all at once and casting them into complete, disorienting darkness. Roars and squeals and screams and screeches filled the room as the centuries long war was sparked anew.
“That’s our cue.” Fiona said, flicking her fingers and opening a door -a wound- and swiftly stepping into it.
Mathias waved a hand through the pitch black air. “Farewell, anthropomorphic beasts.” He then stepped through the tear, narrowly avoiding, unbeknownst to him, a gargantuan, blood soaked claw that ripped through the space he left behind not a trill after his departure.
They were back in the endless expanse of doors. Back where they started.
“One person,” Fiona said, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “One person without a weird, fucked up mental psyche. Just one bleeding heart who can provide a proper example of how to coddle a dreamer. Instead I get sexual deviants, animal fuckers, the horrifically deranged, and, and, and-”
“I was quite partial to the death area made of… what did you call it? ‘Cake’?”
“... Do you really not know what a confectionary is?”
Mathias shrugged. “I have had... sugar before, but it is an absurdly expensive commodity.”
“Then let me be clear: Your Wounded God is not salvation; he is a blindfold keeping you from an ugly, repulsive world - that just happens to be undeniably, infinitely better than the desolation that you call home.”
“Yes, so I have been told.” He didn’t seem prickled at all, but impassivity was his natural state. “I should clarify: I was taken with the colors, less so the taste.” It hadn’t been an experience conducive to pleasant sampling due to the gladiators constructed out of a firm, taffy substance wielding wickedly sharp swords made out of crystalized sugar and their crazed, chocolate emperor demanding their heads be removed.
“Okay,” Fiona patted herself down, brushing off bear drool and fur from her shoulders and chest. “How did it feel? Any different from the Nightmare?’
He ran a hand through his saliva-damp hair which stuck out in every-which-way once his hand settled back at his side. “It seemed much less… believable.” Not that the dreams hadn’t had their own oddly realistic natures - but that was just it: they were clearly dreams and clearly not his own. “In the Nightmare I could… feel, intimately, my own mortality, but here,” He waved a hand to the opalescent door behind they’d shut behind them, dark pearl glistening in the light that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. “Everything is... distant. Removed.”
Fiona was moving again, a quick wave of her wrist motioning him to follow which he did without question. “The goal of today’s exercise was to demonstrate the influence a dreamwalker has over a dreamer. UNFORTUNATELY, we’ve encountered nothing but self-indulgent fuckers lost in twisted fantasies. It’s never all that easy to find a dreamer once immersed in the dream. Once found, the lucid can cajole the dreamer, shift and alter his mood. Awareness is a weapon we, as walkers, possess and they will never, ever have; information, interrogation-”
Bright eyes - as they always managed to do inspite of how impossible it seemed - brightened. “Control?”
“Control.” Her eyes went vacant, distant, and for the first time he felt like he could have known her. “Always control.”
“So, the greatest challenge lies in locating the dreamer.” A summarization, not a question for once.
“One hurdle. People are… fickle. Varied. Like the animals of the world, they come in so many needless, pointless varieties.”
“Is it not different from how they are in the waking world?” Mortals were, by nature, exactly that, as far as he understood them.
“Regrettably no.” The distance in her eyes turned into cold, lonely anger. “We could have been optimized, instead we chose to squander it on every path in the world save solidarity - for some, finding the dreamer is the hurdle. For others, the influence on the sleeping mind has to be delicate. Surgical. I deal in information where I come from in the waking world.” One of the few times she had ever mentioned anything about herself.
Again, he nodded, only this time it was an indication that he understood - or seemed to, at least.
“This was supposed to be a gift. To find the very same challenges mirrored here… it’s a bleeding slap to the face.”
“Scraps.” She amended. “I touched a goddess and a piece of her was left on me. She hasn’t contacted me. She has not requested my slavery. Either she’s playing a long game or she never intended to leave what she left.”
“Is this… surprising?” If he was trying to be snide, it didn’t read in his blank expression or calm, collected tone.
Fiona shrugged. They seemed to communicate more meaningfully in shrugs and tiny notes and blank expressions than the words that came out of their mouths. “Any creed that teaches you that there is an almighty, omnipotent force responsible for everything in your life is nothing more than a cheap hussle. I expect demands; silence is disconcerting. It’s like waiting to repay a loan I did not ask for, a debt I did not incur. Has your Wounded God asked anything of you?”
“Personally asked, like your goddess of dreams may do sometime in the nebulous future?” He shook his head. “I give my offerings to Him, but I do not expect anything back in return - whether it be as simple as communication or something… more.” For a religious fanatic, he didn’t seem all that fervent about it. “Our scriptures claim he already gave us what he had to offer. Unlike you, Quacia asked for help and He gave it. We are now simply repaying that debt.” Whether or not he believed what he was saying, it was stated in so clear a fashion that, had the words themselves not been precisely what he meant to say, she might have thought he was describing to her the color of his own hair.
“This one.” If she accepted his answer, she didn’t seem quite keen on sharing. “Let’s go through this one. If we fail to find the dreamer, we’re calling it quits for the night.”
“As you say.”
They entered the door and they field of scorched sand and broken bones.
“Nope. I’m out. This has been a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible series of minds I’ve had the cuntin’ misfortune to encounter. Out the door-”
And that was when the three headed, winged camel swept down out of the blindly bright sky, grasping talons aimed at their heads. They both threw themselves to the sand and the talons found only air as the camel dived past.
Or so they thought.
Fiona’s left back had the imprint of three deep, bloody gashes gouged into it. Her eyes widened, her breath was quickening, and she looked even paler than she usually was. This was all very, very, very real for a dream. That surreal divide between the distant dream and the encroaching nightmare was quickly narrowing.
“Are you-” He started, brow furrowed as the unmistakable scent of copper filled the aired space between them.
“Isn’t real…” Fiona gasped, trying to take a knee. Trying and very much failing. The camel ripped into the skies again, preparing a second go at their heads. “Isn’t real… wound. Open the wound.”
For a moment, he thought she was referring to the gashes. “Op-” The camel let out a long, smooth jazz chord as it pulled a tight ariel turn in preparation to dive toward them again. “Oh. Yes...” He extended out his hand as he’d seen her do time and time again, only… this time nothing happened.
Graciana’s ever present, observant voice curtly reminded him of the fact the humps on the flying camel were filled with protruding teeth-tentacles, for whatever depraved and pointless reason.
“Cunt. Open, cunt.” The scorched earth begin to shake violently and the bones clattered like shaky teeth.
“Open how, exactly?” He tried again. He tried envisioning the stone slab and dark pearl. He tried forcing it into existence. He even tried mutely asking the thing to appear. Each failed attempt was another trill lost to the advancing genetically manufactured weapon that hurtled through the air, tentacles clacking. The shaking only intensified and the bones were rising up slowly, as if some kind of great attractive power had exerted its will over it.
The Camel reached its apex… then it descended once more.
He’d seen her haughty, mocking, irritable… but he never would have imagined he would ever see her so weak that she struggled to respond. Come to think of it, he had never even seen her sweat before, and here she was; sweaty, eyes red with strain, a chunk of her shoulder gouged out, and trying to-
“WHAT? DO IT.”
Naturally, she still had control over that raspy, commanding voice of hers.
Clapping his hands together, Mathias tired the last thing he could think of. In a tone that was disconcertingly similar - if not identical - to Fiona’s own, Mathias opened his mouth and sneered out an aggravated, “Fuckin’ gape wide, cunt-hole.” as he shoved his hand through the very fabric of the dreamscape. Whether it was the shoddy incantation or the slight glimmer he’d seen in the air that wasn’t air, he could feel the smooth, dark pearl against his thumb.
Overhead, the Camel let out a smooth A-minor diminutive chord, nearly upon them, hooves flailing, tentacles writhing with sick hunger-
He would not make it.
He would not need too; the violent earth rose up to meet the Camel in the form of a thousand lances ripping into every inch of its sandy-colored flesh so hard and so fast that it was grinded into fleshy paste and he knew, in that moment, that the earth and the bones was no mood swing of the dreamer.
It was Fiona.
He sensed no magic in that act… nor could he even if he tried. Abrogation was not his here.
“Go!” she said. “Go, fuck you, go!”
And in the next trill, Mathias had the door open and unceremoniously yanked the still bleeding pustule of rage that barely passed for a woman through behind him as the claws and teeth and tentacles crashed into the sand in an explosion of harmonies.
And in the moments after where they crashed onto the floor of the veil and caught their breath, something was still off about the whole situation-
Fiona was still bleeding.
“I thought you said-” She didn’t even need to interrupt him. He could hear the edged retort in her eyes. Well, clearly there was some massive inaccuracy with my findings, MORON.