Thursday, September 1, 2016

In Dreams by Dara

Imraldera frowned down at the parchment before her.
She was not in a good mood.
Giving the Shadow Hand poem to Childe Lionheart earlier had brought back a swarm of unpleasant memories, ones she would rather have kept buried.
She shook her head, bit her lip, and glared down at the parchment. To her chagrin, she couldn't think of a single word to write down. She was supposed to be recording an account of their previous adventure, ending with the young Queen's Varvare's ascension to the throne and subsequent coronation feast, but she had no idea where to begin. Lionheart banishing his childhood friend to the between? Lionheart's own banishment? Queen Anahid fleeing the castle with the newborn Varvare some twenty or so years previous?
That seemed as good a place to start as any. She put her pen to the paper and wrote Queen Anahid of Arpiar gave birth...
No, that wasn't the right way to start.
She tried again. The Princess Varvare was born on...
No, not that either.
She scowled. What was wrong with her?
Unbidden, a 1500 year old memory flashed before her eyes. Eanrin stumbling into the haven half-carrying her long-lost betrothed...
She scowled harder and shook her head a little in an attempt to get rid of the memories.
It didn't work.
Eanrin and she standing in the middle of the wood shouting at each other. Looking back, Imraldera cringed at herself. She had not been thinking straight, just like Eanrin was saying.
"If you're so certain it's doom and folly, you can turn around and wash your hands of it!"
Eanrin laughed derisively. "That I won't."
"And why not?"
"Because I love you."
Imraldera slammed down on the memory with an iron door. Why was she even thinking of that time?
She bit her lip and blinked rapidly, telling herself she had gotten something in her eye. She looked around; Nidawi's children were still spooked by Diarmid's break-in and were hiding themselves. The Haven seemed more lonely and empty than it had in a long time.
Her nerves. That was it. What with the battle earlier, and Diarmid... it was no wonder she was feeling sore inside.
And there was no use in dwelling over the past. It's not like Eanrin liked her anymore anyway. That was abundantly clear. And why should she care? It wasn't like she wanted him to like her. Right?
Of course not.
Besides, he loved his Lady Gleamdren.
That thought reminded Imraldera of something she wanted to record; a song that had been performed for Queen Varvare at her feast. Smiling brightly, she got out a fresh piece of parchment, dipped her quill into the ink, and proceeded to write, ignoring some very recent memories that had also risen to plague her. Memories of her heart-stopping fear, sorrow and despair when she had thought Eanrin was dead, and of Eanrin cradling her head in his hands while she wept.
Oh, Gleamdren fair, I love thee true
Be the moon waxed full or new,
In all my world-enscoping view
There shineth none so bright as you.

Sing thee of all the lovers true
Beneath the sky of sapphire hue,
In light of the love I bear to you
All others fade like morning dew.

This passion that I feel for you
Is something rather like the flu
The flu brought on by cook's new stew
That tasted like an old man's shoe...

She smiled as she looked down at the words. She had gone to Queen Varvare privately, making sure a certain enraged poet-cat was out of earshot, and asked for the author of the song. Her fondness for Childe Lionheart instantly increased upon hearing the answer. Once he returned from his current mission, she would have to ask him to play it for her... purely so that she may be certain she had recorded things aright, and to check if there were more verses to write down.
Her eyes began to droop, and suddenly she yawned. Stifling it with one hand, she rubbed at her eyes and blinked. She still had to at least record the prologue to Queen Varvare's tale before she slept...
Her pen dropped from her fingers, and her head slowly sank down onto the page on the desk before her, her cheek pillowed on one hand.
Eanrin sat before the doors of the Haven, twirling a silver-white flower between his fingers and humming softly to himself.

Oh, woe is me, I am undone,
In sweet affliction lying...

His Prince had informed Eanrin that in a few days he would need to go and fetch the newly-appointed Childe Lionheart from the Southlands. The Prince had also mentioned that Eanrin might see King Shadow Hand's return from the past while there.
The poet-cat's smile was both fond and bitter. He would be pleased to finally see what happened at the end of King Shadow Hand's tale... but it brought up some memories that tended to stab thorns into his heart.
He stood up abruptly, tossed the flower out into the clearing, and opened the door to the Haven. His nose was instantly assaulted by a few unexpected scents. The unicorn, and blood, and death, and...
Slowly, unwillingly, he followed the scent to its end, deep in Imraldera's library. For a moment he stood with his head bowed on the spot where the trail ended, and a single tear trickled out from beneath one scarlet eyepatch.
It was then he became aware of Imraldera's scent. She hadn't said anything when he entered, so either she must be deep in a book or caught up in the task of recording something.
"Imraldera, old girl?" he said in an attempt to bring her back to the present.
No answering sound came, and it was then he heard the faint sound of her breathing and realised she was asleep.
He took a step closer and his foot knocked against something. Reaching down, he discovered it was Imraldera's pen. She must have fallen asleep while working.
He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, giving her a gentle shake. "Wake up, my dear. At least long enough for you to reach your own bed."
Imraldera shrugged his hand off in her sleep, let loose a delicate snort, and did not wake up.
"Well, that's just great," the knight muttered sourly, folding his arms across his chest. "What am I supposed to do now?"
He had half turned away to consider the problem when Imraldera said, "Eanrin."
He spun back to face her. "Finally awake, old girl?"
His only response was a faint sigh and soft, even breathing. She was still asleep.
It took half a second for the implications to sink in. She talked about him in her sleep.
He roughly jerked himself back into reality. What was he thinking? He had probably misheard her, or imagined the entire thing.
But then she repeated, "Eanrin?"
If he had eyes, he would have blinked. She was dreaming about him! Unconsciously, he reached out one hand towards her...
Then she said, "You dragon-eaten cat!"
Flushing abominably, he dropped his hand and took a few hasty steps back. He should just leave...
He half turned, but swung back again. He couldn't just leave her there... but what could he do?
"I was so worried," Imraldera said.
Eanrin's ears pricked.
"I thought that dragon had killed you--I don't want to lose you."
Eanrin's heart made a rather painful jump inside his chest.
"Even though your poetry is terrible."
The poet scowled.
"Things haven't been the same since King Shadow Hand... I miss you," she said.
She couldn't possibly be asleep, Eanrin decided. This was all one huge prank. She must be awake.
The knight picked up her pen and tickled her nose with it. She snorted and let out a tiny sneeze, moving her head away from the offending quill.
But she did not wake. She must be completely worn out from the past several days.
Wanting to be absolutely certain, he reached out and gently caressed her soft cheek with his knuckles. She made a slight sound but did not wake.
He brushed a few locks of her glossy black hair away from her face, smoothing it back and tucking it behind her ear. He ran his fingers once through her hair, then let them slide down her smooth cheek. The tips of his fingers suddenly brushed against her lips and he jerked his hand back as if stung.
Dancing in his mind were old but vivid memories of the times he had touched those lips before--twice in an attempt to wake her on the shores of the river, and once--once when he had told her he loved her, and she had rejected him.
Yet his feelings had never changed. They continued to plague him, these thousand and more years later... still he would never wish them away, no matter how much they hurt him.
"Dragon's teeth." The bard said.
He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "You need to get up, Imraldera. You'll crinkle the accounts you're sleeping on."
Since the records were one of the most important things in her life, he thought that might work to wake her up.
It didn't.
With a muttered curse, he tried again. "You'll destroy the binding of that book if you continue to sleep on it."
"Lady Gleamdren is a spoiled brat."
Eanrin let out a laugh. This was some dream she was having.
He decided that maybe he had better try to shock her out of her sleep. He suddenly changed into a cat and hopped up onto her desk, purring profusely. The cat rubbed his head against her cheek and purred louder.
"Frostbite," she muttered.
Eanrin's fur poofed in indignation, his ears flattening and his back and tail arching. She had to compare him to a dog, did she? He didn't even remotely resemble one of those senseless, flea-bitten tail-chasers!
He licked her cheek with his rough tongue. She muttered unintelligibly and moved her head away. Padding closer, he leaned toward her and whispered, "Every time I sleep, I see your face in my dreams."
"You made me kiss a bullfrog!" she grumbled indignantly.
This time, the cat was rather relieved when the dame did not wake up.
He sat on the desk, his fluffy tail sweeping back and forth slowly. What was he to do now?
He came to a decision. He jumped down from the desk, changing back into a man almost instantly. He turned back to Imraldera and slowly, gently, lifted her into his arms. Carefully adjusting his hold on her, the knight carefully made his way out of the library and into the hallway, cradling her against him.
He was rather uncomfortably aware of how her head lay against his chest, her long, soft hair falling against his arm. He could faintly feel her heartbeat and the gentle feel of her breath on one of his hands. She was so small and delicate... and so vulnerable in her sleep, like she had been by the river so long ago.
He tucked her head under his chin protectively, and she instinctively snuggled against him, like she must have when her long-gone father carried her to bed when she had been a tiny child, before her mother died. Her scent filled his nostrils--comforting, dear, and familiar.
"You were always too handsome for your own good," sleeping Imraldera informed him.
He stumbled and nearly dropped her before regaining his balance with cat-like grace. He wasn't quite sure whether to be pleased or affronted, but since he was a cat and had a high opinion of himself already, he decided to go with pleased.
"And you were always far too beautiful to be a mortal," he responded lightly, his dazzling grin flashing even though she couldn't see it.
"You had no right to kiss me by the river," she complained to him.
Such strange and wandering dreams mortals have, he thought to himself. And half-delusional, for there's no way that Imraldera truly felt half the things she said. Well, except the ones that were criticisms. Those she definitely meant.
Still... his heart felt lighter than it had in a long, long time.
"Lumé love you, Eanrin. You're hopeless," he growled to himself.
By this time they had reached Imraldera's bedroom. He nudged the door open with his foot and walked in, laying her gently down on the bed then lifting the soft blankets to cover her. Once the blankets were arranged about her to his satisfaction, he stood next to the bed, his face tilted down towards her, inhaling her scent.
He heard her shifting around on the mattress in an attempt to attain a more comfortable position. Then she mumbled, "Why didn't you stop by and tell me where you were going five years ago? I was worried for you!"
That made him think of his sweet mistress, Una... and he was glad she had attained her happily-ever-after, even if he never would. And thinking of Una made him think of his old charge, Sairu, so long gone now... and that made him think of the gift she had given him "for Starflower".
He felt a blush creep across his cheeks. "Sorry, Sairu," he muttered, "I don't know if I'll be able to pass on your gift."
"Dragon's teeth, Eanrin," Imraldera muttered. Eanrin could hear the faintest echo of the tittering laughter of Nidawi's children, who were doubtlessly thronged around the two of them. He scowled slightly, and his ears would have gone back if he had been in cat shape.
"Thank you for helping me and rescuing me..." the dame said softly. "You've always done that, ever since the beginning. I hardly ever thanked you, if ever. I'm sorry."
Eanrin started, then reached out and touched her hand. She did not move; she was still asleep. He brushed his fingers lightly across her forehead, then suddenly, impulsively, he stooped and kissed her cheek. "I still love you," he whispered.
Then he turned and ran from the room, blushing, leaving the door ajar. The invisible Haven attendants giggled to themselves and shut the door. So it was that only Nidawi's children heard the final words Imraldera muttered in her sleep before her dreams changed to different things.
"I... I think I love you, Eanrin."

The End

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  1. Oh goodness, Dara! This was priceless, you did wonderfully! Love it!

  2. Thanks! I was giggling the whole time I wrote it.

  3. Oh, lol. XD
    He should totally get a chance to pass on Sairu's gift... *wonders who will try to write that*
    This was a cute, fun story, Dara; you did a great job! :D