"Speaking in Rakahi"
extra line here
"Speaking in Common"
"Speaking in Common sign"
There was a lot going on in the Waiting Place, though Hart wasn't the one to react to it all. Wren did. Orbs popped and turned to silver; books screeched and wailed, and the little boy's wings fluttered behind him like a nervous lamb's tail. He kept close to Hart, very close, and held the book he had taken from the shelves carefully but securely in his hands.
Sephira appeared and approached, and when she whispered to him, Hart said back in a low tone, "I was with Wren when this started. Whoever or whatever that was, it was not the wingless man."
Wren hugged himself closer to Hart, his eyes big as he took in everything that was happening. He looked up at Sephira, and watched her as she crossed the room to sit in one of the chairs.
"Be safe too,"
Hart murmured as she left, and turned in time to see a man eat the caterpillar,
right before him.
Hart looked at the man and then to the caterpillar, which was still on the table as if it had not just been eaten. He realized his mouth had fallen open and he closed it. Karshe said, in an affronted voice, "Uh, what?"
"Are you okay?"
Hart asked, but it seemed the caterpillar was fine. Fine enough to offer tea, which Hart took in an unsteady hand. As the man who had eaten the caterpillar turned green, actually green,
the teacup chittered on the saucer before Hart picked it up to take a sip. "Wren, Karshe?"
he offered, but both of them shook their heads. Wren was still hugging tight to Hart's leg, looking across the room at Sephira.
Hart had said, "It's just that I tried to wake up, and I couldn't,"
and the caterpillar responded, "No. No one can. Not until you've fixed what you broke. No one will wake up again until then."
Hart nearly choked on the next sip of tea, but he made himself take his time and finish the cup. "Excuse me?"
he said as politely as he could.
Karshe repeated, and he and the stag looked at each other. The teacup in Hart's hands started to chitter again in his nervousness. He set it down gently on the table.
he breathed, and Wren looked away from Sephira, up at him.
"Hart, can you feel them?"
the little boy said.
All of Idalos,
he meant, Asleep and unable to wake.
And none of the people here were allowed to leave, Hart realized. Not until he
--they-- had fixed it.
extra line here
They were standing in the Waiting Place and then they were standing in a perfectly circular tunnel. Hart's feet touched the ground and the things which had been floating around him clattered to the floor. He picked up the mirror and book from the maze, and the orange-- if it was with him still. He looked at Wren to see if the little boy still held the book he had taken from the library.
The caterpillar had come with them and Hart stood back up. He was with Eliza, one of those who had made it to the end of the maze, and he tipped his head to her. To the other woman with bright reddish hair, Auya, he said, "I'm Hart. This is Karshe,"
he indicated the stag, "And Wren."
The little boy still clung tightly to Hart's leg. He looked at the two women and put his face into Hart's clothes.
Karshe said to all of them, but especially to Eliza's own companion, the monkey Eberhardt. She gave the monkey something of a grin, a gnashing of her teeth, but the stag's smile was not the cheerful expression it usually was.
She was worried.
"Did you hear,"
she asked them, "That Idalos will not wake?"
When the caterpillar asked if they had any questions, Hart considered his as the kaleidoscope of screams and color whirled and twirled beyond them.
"Do you know who brought us here, to the dreaming world?"
he finally said.
"Do you like oranges?"
Wren asked the caterpillar abruptly. Then he turned his face back into Hart's leg again.
"Where are we?"
Karshe promptly asked.
The caterpillar explained their task and Hart looked again at the screaming whirl of color and-- fear. It was fear and sadness and despair and Hart could tell that Wren did not like it.
Neither did Hart.
Would I mind helping you to untangle the nightmares of children?
Hart thought. Yes, I would mind very much.
But if it meant waking Idalos he would do it.
He couldn't help but feel that this, all of it, was his fault.
So he took the colored thread, and when he did--
--they were in the nightmare.
Or they were in the windmill of what the nightmare had become.
Being in the dream was like standing on flat ground except that the ground was turning, turning, and Hart was only turning halfway with it. Immediately he almost fell over.
Karshe was doing better because she had four legs, but Wren was--
Wren was no longer holding onto Hart.
Hart said, but Karshe said, "It's alright Hart, he's right here."
The small boy had huddled himself underneath Karshe. Along with Wren there was another child, hiding also beneath the stag. She was a tunawa child, tiny, so tiny, and she had her hands covering her eyes. Wren, beside her, was also hiding his face. He refused to look up when Hart said his name.
Hart wobbled on the spinning ground and caught sight of the jumbled dream.
They were in a forest, and Hart could tell at once that the forest was not what it seemed. There were old steps leading up to one of the trees and he could tell that the trees were-- they were only pretending.
Out of the trees came a creeping mist and it came forward as if on slow feet.
Something told him to look away from the trees very quickly.
As soon as he did the flower crown on his head writhed and the flowers spun themselves into blue roses. The roses had eyes and the eyes gaped wider and wider and Hart tore the crown from himself and flung it away.
Karshe said, and kicked at something that snatched at her from the dream.
It was the mist.
There were hands in the mist and they snatched at the tunawa. The stag reared on her front legs and kicked
and sent the mist back but it had the girl and she vanished into it. Karshe dug in and kicked and fought and swept her antlers forward, and the mist backed away. Wren whimpered and clutched with small hands at Karshe's legs.
"Stay with Wren!"
Hart told Karshe, and then he plunged into the mist after the girl.
In the mist there were many eyes and hands and grabbing things and Hart ripped and tore through them, struggling against their grasp and against the tilting, shifting ground which wanted to tumble him from his feet. The forest seemed to twist the deeper he got in it, the mist to thicken, and all at once the ground rolled sideways. Hart staggered into a tree. The tree gave him a flash of something, a memory or a thought so terrible there were not words, and he staggered away from it and felt himself panting. As soon as he opened his mouth the mist tried to reach into him and he choked on a startled scream.
he realized, with one of his hands clamped over his nose and mouth, breathing hard, It was death which grasped. Death. The trees, the forest, the mist, and all of it. It was him and it was the tunawa and it was death and all of them dying.
he reminded himself amidst the panic, the girl.
He struggled further in.
he thought, and with a cry of effort the shining sword from his dreams swept into his hand. He hacked and slashed through the mist before him and it fell away, shrieking and laughing. It had been grasping at him, dragging on him, so that he had hardly been able to walk. Now he strained from a walk to a jog and he kept the sword in front of him. Anytime the mist started to grasp, he ran it through and it backed away.
Fix the dream,
he told himself wildly. Fix the dream, fix this world,
--the dreaming world-- and the girl will wake. She'll wake. She'll be okay.
He tore and hacked and slashed at the mist.
something said but it wasn't the girl and Hart turned warily. The mist gathered around him close as if to watch. "Help,"
he heard again and he continued to turn.
"Let me help,"
the thing whispered, and behind him a huge form rose up.
Hart did not look at it.
it said again. "Let me help,"
Hart slashed through the mist and began to call out.
he called. And then, struck by inspiration, he pulled the girl's name from the shine of the sword and from the very hands of the mist. "Pala!"
he called, and he heard the girl respond. He spun and swung the sword to push the mist away.
She was crouched on the ground not far from him, crying in earnest. She didn't seem hurt but when he knelt over her she curled up. "Let me--" help,
Hart almost said, and she trembled and cried in a language he knew was Xanthea. He gathered her up gently and she was so small that he could hold her in one hand against his chest.
He looked down at the ground where he had found her.
Barely visible within the mist were tiny scraps of wood. They were the same color as little Pala, a pale rose pink, and they were torn and burned. Seven of them,
he thought, and the little girl trembled in his hand. They were dead.
"Let me help,"
something said from behind him. "Let me help."
Out of the mist loomed a figure. Large, too large, but Hart saw that to the little girl, someone even as tall as Hart would look that big. The figure was amorphous, and not like little Pala at all. Its voice spoke in Common, in words Pala would not understand. "Let me help,"
it said, and Pala screamed, and her voice was hoarse. Hart realized she was having trouble drawing breath. Her little voice rasped out in terror.
The mist wasn't mist.
As soon as he thought it he knew it to be true.
It was smoke.
The smoke hung heavy around them and Hart coughed and swung the sword but it only clung thicker. It didn't grab; it wasn't malicious, it was just smoke. He heard, distantly, someone cry out in Xanthea. And then he heard the screaming. He knew that sound. He'd heard it once before. A tiny voice wailing.
Wailing as they burned.
The figure in the smoke leaned over them and Hart pointed the sword towards it. "Let me help,"
it said. The forest was just a forest, like the forests of Desnind. Lush and green. But choked with smoke. Death still lingered but Hart knew it wasn't his or Pala's. It belonged to someone else.
He felt his eyes stinging. The sword wavered in his hand.
As clarity came to him the ground stopped turning. There was just the smoke and the trees and the figure. The nightmare had steadied, had become what it was meant to be.
Unable to look, Hart held little Pala. The huge figure tried to take her from his arms.
"Let me help,"
it said, and Hart almost let it take her because a caterpillar had told him to.
He almost did.
And then he told the figure, "No."
The sword rang out in his hand and Hart whirled it over his head. Suddenly the smoke was gone.
He pointed the sword at the figure, and the figure screamed and disappeared.
Gently, he tapped the point of the sword to the forest floor seven times. Not far from him, the scraps of wood fluttered and blinked awake.
Pala cried out. Hart didn't have to know Xanthea to know what she'd said. Mama!
One of the tunawa came running over and Hart knelt to put Pala into her arms. Mama,
the little girl screamed again and then the girl began to cry. Her mother hugged her tight.
Hart stood up. With a last wave of the sword he put himself from Pala's mind. Then the sword itself vanished from his hand.
The crown of flowers he had flung away reappeared, looking as it always did, fresh-cut and not-monstrous above his head.
Wren screamed as soon as Hart came out of the forest, and he knelt and Wren ran into his arms. The boy hugged him around the neck and burst into tears. He cried into Hart's shoulder and like Pala and her mother Hart stood and hugged him. Karshe came over and nudged the both of them with her nose.
Hart told them. "The little tunawa girl,"
he said, "She had a nightmare about her family. They were--"
He couldn't say it, but Karshe seemed to understand.
"Someone was a part of the nightmare. I think they were trying to help her."
He wasn't sure. "But she was so scared."
Wren clung more tightly to him. "Karshe, she was so scared and I couldn't--"
"I know Hart,"
Karshe said. "Wren told me."
"Her name is Pala,"
Hart said. "She's so small. And I couldn't give her back to the nightmare."
The stag and dreamwalker both looked at Wren and Karshe said softly, "We made a promise, Hart. I'm sure you remember."
"We don't leave people to their bad dreams."
The string was tied to Karshe's antler, and Hart touched the string and as he did they were back in the tunnel. Auya sat against the wall and Hart knelt next to her. "Are you alright?"
Then he looked at the caterpillar and he spoke quite directly. "You said to fix the nightmare and I did. But I refuse to make children afraid."
OOC: Hart dealt with Nightmare 3 and Phrase 5. I chose them randomly.
Also, please note that Eliza can hear Karshe (and probably the caterpillar as well), but I don't think Auya can.