I had offered up before sleeping, in the prayer of a non-adherent, almost certain to go unheard, but perhaps in this place:
O Desna, great Tender of Dreams, thank you for this space of yours. Please guide us to dream what we need to dream.
I wonder sometimes, if I hadn’t seen what I have, if in some other life I might have followed Desna. But if I had lived differently, why would I love dreams as much as I do? Perhaps, perhaps not.
I had hoped to dream of Inbupenita. I do not know if my prayer was heard or not, but the next two hours were the longest any have ever been.
< Dreaming >, I curled among kings’ ransoms, the greatest treasure this egg, borne of my body, my message to the eons to come. Alert where I would sleep were I free, thought I on Inbupenita’s words. This my testing, my lesson? Simple enough. To guard, though weary, this I offered to my friends, no less to my own bloodline. My vigil stretched unbroken. But it was never so easy…
< Dreaming >, I watched my wyrmling climb awkwardly atop a heap of coins, crowing proudly at the summit. Foolish thing, coins make poor footing. No knowledge of tactics whatsoever. Without training, support, surely would he succumb to this biting world. Did I not have grander schemes to wage? But I understood, or thought so, knocking the heap, sending him tumbling to dust, judging his recovery, challenging him to learn. Would that it were so simple…
< Dreaming >, I spread homeward wings, jaws free to grip goat’s carcass, food enough for < Little One > and I for some time. Something felt wrong, a stirring in the air or perhaps in my mind, as I returned to the cave. My screams rent the night at the sight of the mauled corpse of my son. I sniffed the air, dropped the goat, and took to the air seeking vengeance.
< Dreaming >, … returned to the cave with good speed. My screams rent the night at the sight of the mauled corpse of my son. A pale humanoid with parrot wings spun around from his examination of my treasure, baring teeth like needles. < LARABAY > I roared, and dove to the attack. He fell, but the victory was cold.
< Dreaming >, I avoided hunting to keep Malikni safe. His plaintive hungered cries pierced the night.
< Dreaming >, I hunted nearby, finding little prey to sate the hunger of me and mine. I spotted a Larabay in the forest, it ran to ground quickly before my might.
< Dreaming >, … returned to the cave with all possible speed. A foreign scent alerted me to trouble, and I approached to see a humanoid creature threatening Malikni. I flung down the goat and attacked swiftly, wounding it and forcing it to flee.
< Dreaming >, … threatening Malikni. I attacked with stealth, hoping to pin it beneath my claws and rend, but it surprised me by casting a cone of cold at my son, killing him instantly. Raging, I slaughtered it, learning only after its death when it reverted form that it was a Larabay. < LIVE!> I demanded, cradling my hatchling’s corpse. < LIVE! > But it was no use.
< Dreaming >, … < LIVE! > I roared again. < BY MY WILL, LIVE! > The world shook and bent with the force of the working, but it was not nearly enough. The broken body gave no answer.
< Dreaming >, I arrived too late to save the wyrmling, but soon enough to avenge him. Again.
< Dreaming >, … with the force of the working, but power such as that requires sacrifice. Sacrifice? Wait. What Inbu-
< Dreaming >, I killed the Larabay, and held Malikni, his life in the balance. < Where is that healing wand? I need to find it NOW! > One claw scattered gems and coins in a desperate search, a struggle against time, as his life leaked from the wound and onto the stone. Life. I… see.
< Dreaming >, the battle waged hundreds of ways, Malikni uninjured, wounded, dead. The Larabay fleeing unharmed or damaged, or dead upon the stone, the path, the forest floor. Full fourteen times it was I who died, the Larabay crowing in triumph as it sank the rapier’s point in again and again. More than that the times it < suggested > I leave on another mission and bufuddled, I abandoned my son, or wrapped my thoughts in mazes that I killed Malikni myself. Those were the worst.
< Dreaming >, I killed the Larabay, and held Malikni, grievously injured. < You will live > I told him, but even a hatchling could see the wound was fatal. He looked up at me with beautiful wide eyes. < I love you > Then the eyes closed, his blood slicked scale and stone. < Love > my reply in words, and my blood replied to his as I jabbed my claw deep in my chest. Excruciating pain blossomed, a flower of love and sacrifice, and my strength ebbed. But I kept my WIll, and shaped it to the power I needed. < From my sacrifice >, and that power surged even as a red miasma crowded my vision, < By My Will, LIVE! > I collapsed on the floor, exhausted, my own blood crowding out both Malikni’s and the Larabay’s combined. < His eyes opened. >
I startled awake, Dolg’s hand on my shoulder. I was still True? No, wait. I was a halfling again. He asked if I was all right. My head swam with a thousand dreams of the same night, one overlaid on the next. I don’t even remember what I said, but I’m sure it was confused. My focus was solely on the lesson I’d learned — or hoped I’d learned — from those two hours.