While I feel my best when the skies are grey and the puddles deep, this continuing rain seems prophetically ominous— almost that it has become a blatant and clichéd symbolism. Either Beath has asked Lutla to brew a storm strong enough to wash some stain from the earth or to signal a coming change. Heaven knows I don’t take change very well and Heaven willing I will be able to avoid any coming conflict as I have in the past. Fortunately, despite the recent rivalry between the upcoming heirs of the Khalids and the escalating feud between the Highlanders and Sonnet, Themis has yet to request my assistance in quelling physical conflicts in Indon or Arashi. I know I can’t avoid this reality forever, no matter how many times I take temporary refuge in the Dreamscape. But I know I haven’t the maturity or control to help anyone on Yneth like my kind has done in the past. I keep telling myself I can be ready when the time comes, but I know I won’t be. I won’t be until it happens.
And I keep praying it won’t.
In other news, I’ve shown admirable restraint and have kept indoors during this three-day downpour, which Yoshiro ought to be proud of. After the last time I hiked to the edge of Shades during a storm I thought he would have a heart attack. I never knew he felt so strongly about my health, nor did I know he knew how to make a homemade remedy without the use of alcohol as an ingredient or personal stimulant. Not that I ever did get sick, but bless his heart he did not want to take any chances. Yoshiro is debatably the best father I never had. It’s a shame that he won’t be able to come home this weekend. If he does, he’ll probably end up drinking and sleeping to recuperate from the past work week. I keep telling him to try talking to Prome to cut back his hours, but that woman scares him too much to dare look at her shadow much less speak to her. Not that I blame him; I’d ask for him if I hadn’t turned down her temporary work offers on so many occasions. I suspect she does not like me very much. Can’t say I blame her for that either.
Eden sat with her knees up, perched comfortably in the old desk chair, a mug of warm tea resting on her right knee and a pen twiddling over the left. An old music box-like contraption sang an old, archaic hymn from a dark corner behind her, somewhere on a shoddy bookcase bearing nothing but a few old books on history and runes and ancient art. A young girl with white hair and milky blue eyes lay stomach-down on the bed, doodling on scraps of paper, humming along with the music box.
Eden gazed pensively out the window, hearing the pattering autumnal rain but not seeing it. She was too lost in thought to be that aware of her surroundings. She tugged absently at the stone pendant around her neck. When some revelation or insight struck her, she dropped her feet to the ground and began scribbling a nearly illegible mix of runes and letters onto the journal before her. It was one of many she had kept over the years, a compilation of jumbled thoughts and dreams that poured out of her faster than she could write. Her closest friends had seen the archaic scrawl and wondered whether or not Eden could even read it after a few days. Maybe it didn’t matter to her, as long as the words made it out of her head. Communication had always been difficult for Eden. She was someone who had the type of thoughts that words had not yet evolved to tell.
Eden had been so deep in thought she had not noticed the large black dog come up beside her. It waited patiently for her to finish writing— seemingly accustomed to arriving in the midst of a thought, and knowing better than to interrupt it. It was the girl on the bed who cleared her throat to alert Eden of the dark and silent guest. Eden looked down at the dog in surprise. That emotion was immediately replaced with a smile and delighted crooning that encouraged the mutt to snuggle closer, reveling in the attention and loving hands that ruffled its black and surprisingly silky fur. Eden continued to lather the dog with affection as she looked up expectantly. Sure enough, another visitor was waiting for her attention. The boy’s hazel eyes lightened from a deep grey to a warm golden-green when he smiled at her.
“You should have told me you were coming over Peter,” Eden said, not at all scolding him.
“We were just passing by and wanted to say hello. I guess you’re going to be heading home for the weekend,” Peter assumed out loud. He walked in front of the bed, and when he passed the pale girl had disappeared. Eden saw her go but did not acknowledge it.
“Yeah,” Eden sighed. She reclined in the chair again, resting one arm on the back and keeping the other hand on Chernobog’s head, her fingers moving in a mechanical and slow petting motion. Chernobog moved closer and rested his head on her thigh. “I’m about ready to get out of this city. It’s been a long week.”
“You’re telling me.”
“You should come home with me,” Eden offered. “I know you’ve got no where you have to be.”
Peter stuffed his hands in his pockets like a bashful child. “Well, I was thinking I’d head out…you know, anywhere.”
“Ah,” Eden nodded, understanding but somewhat confused. “And where exactly do you hope to escape to for one weekend?”
Peter shrugged with a half-suppressed grin. “Wherever I feel like. You know me. A restless vagabond, escaping reality and responsibility.”
Eden couldn’t help but grin back. “I do know you. And I know that the fact you’re leaving on such short notice for such a brief time means you’re probably having trouble. You want to tell me what’s going on, or do I need to do some my own sleuthing?”
Peter’s brow creased with thought, and he looked out the rain-spattered window as if for inspiration. “Just felt like it was time for a new adventure, I suppose.”
Eden too turned her attention out the window, watching raindrops race lazily down the glass.
“Don’t worry about it,” Peter assured. “I just need some time alone.”
“You’ll let me know as soon as you come back, won’t you?” Eden asked, gentle concern on the edge of her voice. Peter smiled warmly at her.
“I promise, you’ll be the first to know.”
Eden pushed out of her seat. Chernobog plodded out of her path as she made a beeline for Peter and burrowed her face in his chest, muffling inaudible notes of affection into the layers of shirts and jackets that covered his wiry frame. He returned her embrace, squeezing her and pressing a brief kiss to her forehead before releasing her. She escorted him and his dark companion to the door.
“If I’m not back in a month you can worry about me then,” Peter teased.
“I’m already planning the rescue op,” she returned with a smile and a underlying tone of seriousness. An eavesdropper might have taken it as a threat.
She then bent at the waist to come eye to eye with Chernobog.
“Promise you’ll keep him out of trouble. You’re the second life form next to me that Peter listens to.” Chernobog let out a gruff notation of agreement deep in his throat. Eden nodded in understanding. “I’m holding you to that.”
“The rain’s let up a little. We better head out now, before it picks up again,” Peter coughed. He gave Eden one last kiss. “Take care, Denny.”
Eden leaned in the doorframe to watch his retreating figure. As soon as he disappeared around the corner a spritely girl with soft pink hair came into view, holding a stack of books in one hand and a half-eaten apple in the other. She glanced back, clearly watching Peter walk away as Eden had done.
“Kara! Finally got around to looking for research material?” Eden joked. “I hope you’ll be able to compose a ten page paper before the start of next week with all of those.”
“Please,” Kara scoffed, accidentally spitting a bit of apple, “Two days is enough time to pull a paper twice that long out of my ass, books or no.”
Then she jerked her head back in Peter’s direction.
“Where’s he off to?” she asked.
“Says he needs some time alone,” Eden frowned. “Wants to spend the weekend alone on the road.”
“On the road like, a boy and his dog on a normal weekend road trip, or one of those crazy post-apocalyptic realm-jumping thing you two do together?”
Eden glared at the girl, who held the apple up defensively. “It’s just a question.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have a newspaper on you by any chance, would you?” Eden asked in turn, nodding to the copious stack of reading material.
“Actually, I think there might be one in the blue book, but you’re going to have to get it yourself,” Kara said. She angled her body so that the books were accessible to her friend.
“Perfect,” Eden quipped as she slipped the paper from its hiding place. “It’s new, too.”
“I don’t know what you need it for, though,” Kara said through another mouthful of fruit. “It’s the same old same old.”
Eden scanned the headlines but did not see what she was looking for. “Have you heard any gossip about Vasco?”
“Vasco?” Kara frowned. “He hasn’t been in the news since he outbid the Highlanders for BG Corp.”
“I just have a feeling that Peter is trying to avoid something very particular and maybe very personal,” Eden mused slowly while flipping a page.
“You think his dad knows where he is?” Kara asked, extending her arm to touch Eden’s but withdrawing it when she remembered she had an apple in that hand.
“I’m sure he assumes,” Eden mulled, then rolled her shoulders in a not-quite shrugging motion. “Maybe I’m overreacting. It just seems odd to go to the Dreamscape for only a couple of days.”
“Did he ask you to go with him?”
Eden shook her head, and thumbed through the paper again.
“He isn’t suicidal, is he?”
Kara used the books to shield her from the newspaper beating that followed.
“Ow! It’s a legitimate question!” she all but shrieked.
“I know, but I don’t want to imagine that! Not with him,” Eden said back. “He promised he’d be back soon, and he has Chernobog with him. Chernobog won’t let him do anything stupid.”
“Maybe so, but that should be you making sure your boyfriend doesn’t do anything stupid, and not his dog,” Kara pointed.
“He’s a Watching Beast, not a dog,” Eden clarified.
“Denny, I assure you that as much as that dog—”
“—cares for Peter, it does not love him as much as you do.”
“Watching Beasts choose a Dreamwalker to protect until the end of that Dreamwalker’s life.”
“Denny,” Kara said firmly. “You know what I’m saying.”
“I know,” Eden huffed. “I just feel like I need to give him his own space. I don’t think that I have any place to mother him.”
“You’re his girlfriend, you should look out for him, and he should look out for you,” Kara imparted.
“We’re just friends,” Eden assured. Kara shook her head and waved her apple-laden hand in resignation.
“Well, I’ll leave you to wallow in uncertainty for a while,” she sighed. “If you need me I’ll be in my room, crying more than writing. I may call you to help me later.”
“I’m not going to be here later!” Eden refuted in exasperation. Kara groaned and bent her knees under the weight of this information.
“Why not?” she bemoaned.
“Because it’s the weekend and I want to go home!”
“Can’t you stay until I finish?”
“Kara,” Eden said, “you know that’s never going happen.”
“That you’re never going to stay or I’m never going to finish?”
Eden did not respond and instead sent a coy wave in Kara’s direction, which was received and answered with an upright middle finger.
“I love you Kara,” Eden called sweetly.
“If you loved me you would stay!” Kara wailed dramatically and kicked open the door to her dorm. Once she kicked the door shut again several heads peered out of their rooms in judgmental curiosity. Eden paid them no mind as she enclosed herself in her own government-funded study-sepulchre. She tossed the newspaper on her desk and sank onto the edge of the old wire-frame bed. It sagged under her weight and the collective pressure of every past student who heaved themselves in the same position when exhausted, stressed, sad, or any combination of the three. Eden rubbed her eyes and considered the possibility of taking a nap before catching the bus. She feared, however, that if she closed her eyes she would not wake up until class the next week.
She took a deep breath and heaved herself backwards. Her mind again turned to Peter. She tried to think if there was something she had missed or overlooked in his behavior prior to today that might have given some hint as to what may be bothering him, but the deeper she searched for an answer the more bothered she became. Finally coming to terms with the fact that dwelling on the matter was not helping her or Peter, she rose from her stupor and began tossing clothes and books sloppily into her bag. Once satisfied that she had cleared her room sufficiently for that weekend she slung the luggage over her shoulder and locked up.
She passed two other students ready to take their exodus to near or distant hometowns, and excused herself as she squeezed between their conversation which, alas, took up the entirety of the hallway. Mild and silent insults simmered on the tip of her tongue as she fought through the maze of bodies. She found herself too impatient to wait for other peers to lolly-gag and casually converse with each other when they would only be separated for two days at best. Were Kara there Eden would have made a sarcastic comment about natural selection, but Eden took little humor in the thought on her own.
By the time she had reached the street she was positively irritable. She did not sit at the bus stop— not that there was any room left on the four provided benches— and instead watched the road with a blank stare, standing a tolerable distance from the crowd. The rain had finally eased up to a light, hushed mist that clouded the air and obscured vision in a dreary blue-gray haze.
A bath would be a good way to calm down once she was home, she thought, but then countered and reasoned that that would only provide prolonged time to stew over any and all things that would upset her even further. She needed a distraction that would consume her time and judgements.
“You always let your mind run wild,” a long-faced woman said beside her. “It isn’t good for a Dreamwalker to be so scatter-brained. Focus your thoughts. Don’t let your fears consume you.”
Eden heard but didn’t look towards the woman. She was out of place among the students in their modern and “fashionable” attire. This woman was older, with hair that had aged into a yellowing grey but was otherwise well-kept. But her age was not what really set her apart in the crowd; her dress was overlong and black, and her overcoat had accents of cream and a ruddy-orange and gold. She was elderly and elegant and dated and yet no one but Eden paid her any mind.
The screeching of brakes startled Eden back into the present, and she took her place in line to board the bus. The woman pressed in behind her.
“I’ve been telling you for years to keep control over your emotions and imagination. How can you hope to maintain control over your powers if you’re so scatter-brained?” the woman continued to berate. Eden tossed her bag on an over head rack and plopping down in the second seat. As she passed by the front row, a younger woman with short and curly ember-red hair and a repurposed utility jumper smiled at her.
“Don’t let Linwe get you down. She’s never had anyone to love and fret over.”
“How dare you speak to me with such impertinence, Rasura,” Linwe snapped. “No wonder we failed to save our kind in Amasa. Youth like the two of you have no respect for the delicacy and danger of your power.”
“Don’t be bitter about something you never lived through, Grandma,” Ras said. “And don’t put Denny on the same level as me. You know she’s a top-notch Dreamwalker. Even better than you when you were her age.”
“If she allows herself to be overtaken by frivolous matters—”
“That guy is family to her!” the girl interrupted with exasperation.
“— then she will never reach her full potential—”
“She deserves to worry about people close to her, that’s what keeps a Dreamwalker grounded in reality!”
Eden was trying to say nothing, but her blood pressure was building up to a dangerous level. She was fortunate that a woman with kind eyes and a tired face leaned in over her seat.
“Quiet, both of you,” she said. “It isn’t helping.”
As soon as she spoke a girl with black-blue hair and loud headphones slid onto the seat beside Eden. The two of them exchanged quick and polite smiles before looking ahead. Linwe and the Ras were gone. It was like they nor the peacekeeping woman had ever been in the bus at all.
Eden knew that for the classmates around her, they weren’t.
The bus engine roared and the vehicle shuddered forward. Eden did not look at the faces of the people around her and instead turned her attention to the reeling scenery outside the window. Her hand became numb at some point, whether from the cold or from the way it was propping her chin up she did not know— nor did she have the will to care.
The rustic city of Elidare passed by and several stops were made in smaller towns nestled between the hills leading to the Bloodbacks. The girl who had been sitting next to her got off on the third or fourth stop Eden guessed. All of the sudden she was aware that the seat next to her was cold and empty. When the village Sives came into view Eden adjusted herself to grab her belongings. She was the last passenger on the bus, and before she stepped down she gave the driver a tip of 2 feore. He blessed her and her family for the money and she accepted with a polite nod.
Eden found herself alone on the street once the bus rumbled out of sight. Most of the homes were dark, but the pub was alight with a warm glow and merry silhouettes sifted in the windows of the lower level. The laughter and shouting carried over the crunching gravel beneath her feet where she had started down the opposite side of the hill. The tiny spots of city lights to the East were not so beautiful, Eden thought, as the stark night that lay to the West.
Few people lived past the foothills of the Bloodbacks. The thick forest used to be home to small villages and compounds for Dreamwalkers, but all those buildings were dead and quiet like those who formerly resided there. No one had bothered to repopulate the area for reason of superstition— not to mention Eden had taken over the Bloodback Mountains, for lack of a better term. She had erected a barrier that prevented things from entering or leaving save by one small, gated area that led directly up the mountain to her family’s old residence, where she continued to live with an old family friend. No power of the Namesan government opposed her actions, whether out of dutiful respect for the families that once lived in the area or for the fear Dreamwalkers still held in death. Eden reveled in the isolation the mountains provided her.
She followed the empty road to the black iron gate hidden discreetly in an overgrown enclave of trees and vines. With a swipe of her hand Eden reversed the mechanisms of the lock and pushed the gate to. The gate secured itself behind her as she flicked the same hand and produced a cold flame that rippled just above her index finger. It produced enough light for her to follow the remainder of the gravel road to her house, marked by an old wooden sign that read “Shades” in the old Ydrite. Coins and glass that had been strung in the surrounding trees as a token of good luck and fortune glinted in the light of the flame as she passed. A few clinked in the wake of a subtle breeze that Eden herself could not feel. She reminded herself for the seventeenth time that she needed to fix the streetlamp that should be giving the illumination that she was having to make. Fortunately as she entered the light of the main house, Shades, she was able to extinguish the magic fire and lower her now stiff arm. Only, that was not the usual case. The large and quirky stone house with its ivy-covered walls and old hand-blown glass windows stood with an odd sense of dignity in the surrounding darkness. The light that should not have been on signed that Yoshiro was at home. She didn’t think that he would be home from work this weekend.
Eden found the front door unlocked. She tried not to be chagrined by the carelessness of her godfather. She loved him too much to pick a fight. She simply locked it herself and kicked her shoes into the corner. Eden announced her arrival to the top of the stairs before ascending, a necessary practice in a house of people who had many enemies. She heard no answer and made sure to check on Yoshiro— a long time alcoholic— before shutting herself up for the night. He had fallen asleep with three empty wine bottles on the floor beside his bed. Eden tucked him in and moved the containers so he wouldn’t knock them over when he got up. She filled a glass of water in the bathroom and set it on the nightstand before turning out his light. Despite being her legal guardian since her parents’ death thirteen years ago, he was often the one who needed caregiving and Eden had always known that it was he who needed family more than she.
Inexorably exhausted, Eden did not bother to unpack and dropped her bag at the base of her bed and kicked off her boots. Though she had reasoned against a bath on the bus, she now determined that it was what she needed to wind down with. She started filling the tub with hot water and poured in the remaining portion of bitter, floral-smelling bath salts from a murky glass jar. As the tub continued to fill she returned the empty container to the counter for the time being and pulled another from a large store beneath the sink. She dabbled in a little more of the mixture to her satisfaction and rinsed her hands off under the stream of hot water. The temperature needed adjusting but rather than bother playing hot-cold, Eden shut the water off and decided to take it as it was.
Of course, she instantly regretted the choice when she tried to ease herself in. Her mouth was open in a silent cry of pain but she refused to let herself be bested by a tub of water. How many times she had done this before! What was that line about insanity and repeating things that never work?
As Eden’s body became numb to the near boiling water, she allowed herself to become lost in the thick aroma of the bath salts and the rhythmic plink steam that condensed on the metal faucet and dripped back into the tub. The sensation of weightlessness that the water induced heightened the out-of-body experience she felt coming on. Smell and sound became all she was consciously aware of. It was just the thing she had been in ignorant desperation for, this absolute and selfish relaxation. She sank lower and lower into the water until her head was covered and the ripples reverberated in her entire body. Eden became lost in wisps and shadows of color that took shape and encircled her psyche like a malformed vision.
Eden was aware of a door opening while in the midst of this bodiless mediation. She had barely been consumed by relaxation when a wintery draft pulled her back with an unpleasant lurch.
I had almost reached a moment of peace when Yoshiro barged in on my bath. The man may be harmless when he’s at home but I wish his drunk self had a sense of privacy. He had a long week at work it seems, and there was plenty that he wanted to vent about before going back to bed.
Apparently Themis is under fire for “letting” one of their prisoners escape. While it is definitely no small problem, everyone should have known that Nadezdha, the Yellow Witch, would not be incarcerated in any prison for very long. It’s a wonder they managed to arrest her in the first place. I cannot understand why they would need to worry about going through the steps to arrest, charge and hold a hearing about her crimes as obvious and undisputed as they are. I would think that conspiring with weapon manufactories to create magic-infused artillery and volunteering your services to assist in the destruction of multiple principalities and the assassination of more than a few political officials earns her a no-questions-asked death sentence. I know that Themis had argued for months with Namesan and Arashi politicians to authorize a hit on her, but as quickly as they were refused one was left to wonder if she had already put in her two cents— magically speaking of course. It wouldn’t be the first time she had used hypnotic spells to get her way, and it certainly won’t be the last.
As Yoshiro explained the situation it reoccurred to me that Helio Vasco was the one to purchase BG Corps after Boren Graive was arrested and hanged for treason after working with Nadezdha. Although Vasco so suavely assured the press that he was not using the factories for weapon construction, I again wonder if the two events are related. I wonder if Peter knows something I don’t, and he is hoping to fix it before I hear about it. If that is the case, then things are worse than I realized.
But I am going to try not to work myself up into a frenzy over anything yet. When Peter comes back I’m going to have to demand the full story. I don’t want to force a mindsweep on him but if he won’t be upfront with me I may have no choice. I am all for personal space and privacy, but I am no fool and I know that he is hiding something. If it has anything to do with his father—Nadezdha aside— then it has something to do with Dreamwalkers and thus has something to do with me.
And I sure as hell deserve and reserve the right to know about it.