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“The realm of dreams; A place where the Keeper of Mind holds absolute dominion. Would that I could reach it… I must find a way in.”


Madia

Violet eyes opened to the light of stars littering the skies, brightening up the evening and flickering like fireflies.

Madia sat up, finding herself on a sparkling coastline late at night. Though even in this darkness, the young woman could see clearly as she gave her surroundings a cursory glance, a grin appearing on her face, spurred on by understanding.

I am dreaming…

In an instant, a lack of clarity she had not been aware of before vanished. With a rush of warm, ocean air, her curled, black hair flew behind her as the sounds of waves gently lapping at the beach filled her ears, and crickets nearby sang to her a song of the peaceful cover of night. She blinked and sighed as the scent of salt water filled her nostrils.

Madia reached her hand into the sand, feeling the grains as they gently ran along her palms and between her fingers. The lady let out a sigh as she leaned back a bit. She gazed upon the starlight shining down upon her as she let out a contented breath.

She remained there - almost motionless for a time - enjoying the serenity of her dream, the waking world melting away.

“Madiaaaaaa!”

A voice rang out and the young lady’s peace broke for but a moment as she looked over her shoulder. A young girl with bright blonde hair was waving to her from where the grass met the sand, her blue eyes shimmering in the moon’s light.

Madia smiled at her. “Rell, you’re asleep awfully early tonight, aren’t you?”

The child – though she could scarcely be called a child at her age – ran forward, barefoot as sand flew up behind her.

“It’s not that early,” she chimed as she slowed to a stop next to Madia. “Besides, I wanted to see what you were doing tonight…” she admitted.

Madia chuckled as the girl’s white nightgown blew in the sea breeze, its golden trim glimmering in the light. “You know, dreams are supposed to be my domain as the Keeper of Mind, right?”

Rell avoided Madia’s gaze as she sighed. “I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself.”

Madia grunted as she shifted around, patting her own nightgown free of the sand. She looked up into the sky with a sigh. “You’re still young, Rell…” said she. “I’ll allow it for now.” Her voice was soft as silk as she glanced at Rell out of the corner of her eye.

Rell stared into Madia’s eyes, the smallest smile on her face, which Madia returned with earnest.

There was a brief silence between the two as stars seemed to float up from the moonlit water ahead, the sea sparkling almost as blue as the daytime sky.

“Madia?” Rell said without even making eye contact, her focus on the sea.

Madia glanced down in curiosity. “Yes, Rell?”

The little girl seemed distant now as she took a seat and stared into the sea.

“What sort of people do you meet in your dreams?” she nearly whispered the question.

Madia opened her mouth to answer quickly, but already knew what her guest was looking for.

“Well, I see people from around the castle, people in the city below, people in the mountains…” she began.

Rell looked up at Madia expectantly, prompting Madia to continue.

“People far away on the coastline… sometimes I even see people from the future.” She hesitated, a whisper of concern tickling her ears.

Rell tilted her head. “Then you must see people from the past, too.”

Madia bit her lip, avoiding the dreaming girl’s gaze. “I- well…” she stuttered.

Rell adjusted her sitting position in the sand to look at Madia more directly.

Madia finally sighed and looked sorrowfully at Rell. “Yes, I see people from the past.”

“I see.” Much to Madia’s surprise, Rell seemed satisfied with this answer. The child turned her pale face seaward, not a smile nor a frown gracing her expression.

Madia let out a relieved sigh, relaxing again as she got down to rest in the sand and enjoy the sights with her new company.

“You’ve seen my parents, haven’t you?”

Madia’s heart skipped a beat, her hopes of a peaceful evening dashed.

Rell looked over her shoulder, a painful smile on her face. “It’s okay, I just miss them is all.” The tone of Rell’s voice cast a bittersweet tension on the surrounding atmosphere.

Madia felt emotions coming back to her she had not felt in a long time. “Rell, I’m sorry.”

“Are they happy for me and my sister?”

The young girl’s inquiry took Madia by surprise. She let the faintest smile spread across her face. “Yes, Rell. They couldn’t be happier.”

Rell took in a breath and turned away.

Madia tilted her head in concern. “Rell?”

“Thank you,” she whispered in response.

Madia sat up and looked long and hard at the girl as she held her legs close to her, her face hidden by her wavy hair. Madia placed a hand on the child’s shoulder, causing her to flinch briefly, before relaxing. Moments later, Rell leaned into Madia without a word. The Keeper of Mind looked around awkwardly before wrapping an arm around Rell.

Madia could sense it; a fierce anxiety rising within the young girl like the very tide she gazed upon. “Rell, your parents prepared a wonderful kingdom for you. The people love you; you have nothing to fear.”

Rell nodded with a sniff, but even through that she let out the slightest chuckle. “You’re reading my mind again, aren’t you?”

Madia blinked and blushed a little. “O-oh,” she stuttered. “Ah, yes. I suppose I am.”

Rell giggled a little again before sighing contentedly. “Thank you, Madia.”

Madia grinned awkwardly as she looked ahead again. “You’re very welcome.”

She comforted the child but a few moments longer before letting out a satisfied sigh. “Well, I believe it’s time that I went to work. The festival is in a week, after all; the Realm of Dreams must be at peace before it begins.”

Rell nodded. “Okay.”

Madia let go of Rell and looked her in the eye. “Do not forget that the waking world is not so different. It can be just as beautiful as your dreams if you look hard enough.”

Rell’s eyes shimmered with wonder. “Yes, Madia.”

“Good… now off you go.” Madia stood up with Rell and ushered her back towards the grassy plain behind the coastline. Rell waved before turning around and running off, stars scattering around her as she faded away.

Madia let out a relieved sigh as the princess left her. Close call, she thought to herself, confident she had chosen her words wisely.

She is not the only one haunted by loss. There are others out there suffering from the aftermath of the Dragonkind War. She walked forward, water flowing over her feet as the miniscule waves lapped at her shins, rising and falling gently. Her nightgown quickly stuck to her legs as she steadily went deeper. She reached her hands out to the side and took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she once again allowed her senses to accept everything around her. She felt the chill of the water against her legs, hearing it running against the sand, striking and retreating repeatedly.

No, no, that will not do… something softer, she thought.

Immediately the gentle waves became gentler still, hardly moving the water at all as her ears now picked up the crickets in the field behind her, the scent of the sea breeze again reaching her nose as she let out a contented sigh.

Much better. Now focus.

She lifted one leg and pulled her foot out of the water, placing it above of the soft current, before pulling herself up on top of it. She opened her eyes and looked down, grinning confidently as she stood upon the now quieted waves.

Perfect.

She walked out on the water, even now still feeling it trying to tug gently at her feet. The stars seemed to blink with anticipation as she walked across the sea and over the chilled waters. Lights danced around her bare feet as she reached out beyond her own dream and into the dreams of others.

She looked into the water and saw images woven by the imaginations of hundreds; some good, and some bad. The waters began to stir as she walked further and further from the shore, forcing her to take careful steps despite her efforts to calm the waters.

The seas are rough tonight, she thought to herself, as she investigated the dreams below, furrowing her brow in confusion. She saw the fears of many being realized in the tumultuous waters; those who fled from dark, nameless terrors; children - much like Rell – wrought with worry; fears of rejection, denial and hopelessness. As she strode forward, the water sprayed up around her, waves climbing higher as though reaching to grab her. Concern washed over the lady’s face as she knelt and reached into the waters.

The water is cold, and the surface tumultuous and wild. I have not seen the tides in such turmoil since the war. She opened her eyes again as she looked through the ocean, before standing up tall and stretching her arms out to either side of her.

People of Alarulin, troubled by their realm’s past, present and future… She placed one foot far behind her and raised a hand high above her head, palm to the sky as the waves beneath her grew rougher.

You are not alone…

At that moment, Madia, Keeper of Mind, leapt into the air and danced, each movement fluid as she traced her feet across the water and drew patterns in the air with her hands, gently weaving the ways of the dreaming world below her as the water leapt up. Though her eyes had shut in focus, her body relaxed as the light of the sea below shone up and the waters beneath her every step calmed.

Like painting a picture, Madia tempered the nightmares of those below into tales of valiant heroes and stories of hope. Images of winged men and women flashed through her head as each flick of the wrist and each splash of the sea heightened her understanding of each dreamer’s struggle, her mind opening to the hearts of the young and the old.

 

Minutes turned into hours until – at last – Madia opened her eyes and saw the surrounding waters completely still. She let her arms down and sighed.

“I will not dwell on the past; I will not dwell on the what-ifs and worries… I – no, we – will focus on creating a future that all peoples of Alarulin can enjoy in peace,” Madia finally spoke for the first time in hours, sensing a familiar presence nearby. “Isn’t that right, Flain?” Madia said, turning around to find a clean-shaven man out on the waters approaching her.

The man named Flain froze on the spot, staring at Madia intensely, looking at the waters he stood upon, then back to her. His close-set eyes squinted at her as his lean physique traversed the sea.

“True peace borders on fantasy,” he replied. “Some say peace comes from balance, but balance is something even we Keepers still struggle to comprehend.”

Madia let out a sigh as she crossed her arms, locking eyes with him.

Flain continued to approach as he brushed his short, golden hair back. “You spend your entire dreaming evenings here perfecting the dreams of everyone. Do you think it is safe to banish all nightmares?”

“Truly, Flain. You are only a few months older than I; I do not need you pretending to be my father,” Madia retorted.

Flain appeared taken aback. “I am the Keeper of Law. It is my duty to make sure the forces of the realm are under control. This world will be satisfied with nothing less than perfection.”

“True perfection borders on fantasy,” Madia echoed his words.

Flain frowned before shaking his head and stopping, looking around at the scenery. “This is your domain; I’ll not tell you how to maintain it. The sun is about to rise, so perhaps it is time to wake up.”

Madia smiled. “Oh, is it now? Well then, I suppose I’d best greet the morning sun!” she said as she darted forward.

“Wait a moment, Madia, I did not come here to wake you.”

Madia slowed after passing him and looked over her shoulder. “You didn’t come to scold me, and you didn’t come to wake me. Is something the matter?”

Flain shook his head and followed her. “Have you ever walked through the dreams of the Dragonkind?”

Madia stared. “So that is why you’re here…” she said with a sigh.

“They’ve been in this realm for a year and we’ve hardly seen any sign of them.” Flain reasoned.

“The Realm of Dreams is not meant for spying,” Madia replied.

“The people are growing anxious, Madia,” Flain insisted. “We need answers.”

“Perhaps the Children of Muurin have moved on to another part of the world.” Madia suggested.

“Too optimistic.” Flain started as he paced a bit behind Madia. “From the Tellimar forest and beyond, it is hot and smoldering with the heat and hate of the sprites, and we all know the Revrian Valley beyond the mountains is dry and dead. Tell me, have you seen their dreams?”

Madia met the Keeper of Law’s gaze for a moment before looking down into the waters. “Dreams are private and vulnerable experiences. I feel it would be wrong of me to disclose them.”

Flain scratched his head, seeming to get the message. “I see.”

“Flain, I understand everyone’s concern. They are an unfamiliar people, but while we fought last year, I could sense it in their hearts. They were lost and afraid; unsure of whom to follow. There’s a reason so many deserted their army upon arriving here in our world,” Madia pointed out.

“Yes, yes, I know… but the Dragonkind are naturally aggressive and may yet be bound to their late King’s wishes.”

“Do not worry, Flain. When their future in this world is uncertain, they will come to us.” Madia smiled knowingly.

Flain frowned and resumed his walk, passing Madia. “On what terms?” he muttered.

Madia had no response to that. She just watched him walk forward.

“We should not become too confident and comfortable where we stand. It has only been a year since their war threatened to bring our realm to total collapse.” Flain called over his shoulder.

Madia nodded. “I understand Flain. I will keep that in mind.”

As she finished her sentence, Flain disappeared in a glow of light, leaving Madia to roam her dreams alone. She remained there for a moment, the conversations of the evening leaving her to speculate.

“Hmm, that’s two visits in one night. Maybe I should be more careful about who I let in…” she wondered aloud.

Even so, Rell would be heartbroken if I did not let her come here, she thought to herself. The war took her family; the least I can do is give her this comfort.

As Madia stepped back onto the shore, she turned around to gaze into the open waters. The light of day was starting to peer up over the ephemeral horizon, and the stars disappeared above. Madia grinned as she closed her eyes, visualizing the day ahead of her.

Good morning… Alarulin.

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Marcato

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