She came to me in a dream…

Lewarrin

He became aware of the voice in that odd way that you might realize that a sound has been repeating for some time and you have only just made sense of it. For the small, dark-beared man, it was sleep that muffled his senses. But, for the first time in his 54 years that he could recall, he remained in a state of sleep but was perfectly aware of it. It was a surreal sensation, but not upsetting. It felt like a mild form of surprise, but it did not flash in and out as genuine surprise does. Milder yet still vaguely exciting. It was a feeling of foreknowledge that something important—something vital—was about to happen.

What a rare dream this is,” Lew thought within the expectant silence of his unconscious. Somehow the thought felt wrong just like calling a bear a rabbit would feel wrong. The gnome searched his mind, trying to get a bearing.

The road… a foot train of pilgrims, making their way east to Bador. They were trail-weary and with only a few competent men to guard them. It did not take much talking to convince them that their path lay to south to Esanti. They would be safe there, for the time being at least. The sickness didn’t appear to be plaguing the City of the Wood, at least not yet.

But then the memory turned to nightmare. Orcs chasing children, cutting them down from behind. The screams of pain and terror. Lewarrin had thrown himself and Kitteh into the fray with a ferocity he hadn’t known that he had. He’d screamed his throat raw in those few moments of bloody slaughter that he and the others had wrought upon the orcs and their filthy champions. Again and again he suffered the wounds laid upon his eidolon to keep him in the battle, and Kitteh had taken a terrible toll on the monsters—claws and teeth a red wall of destruction, but the orcs and bug-a-bears just kept coming.

Anguish wracked his mind. Kitteh was dead! His beloved eidolon had suffered the dread pain of death. Because he was only partly in the world when he was slain, Kitteh was not truly killed. But Lewarrin had fully shared the eidolon’s senses as he died, and he knew it was a terrible experience whose horror would fade slowly, if it ever did. When he was able to summon his dearest friend on the morrow, they would have to have a long talk and sort things out.

The one you call ‘Kitteh’, Lewarrin Grimmer, is called Avanada by her people. She is in My care this night, and I have given her peace and rest.”

“Great, my dream is talking to me.”

“You are in a state somewhere between dream and consciousness Lewarrin Grimmer. Your mind is as rational as it would be if it were awake. I am not a creation of your mind. I am simply speaking into it.”

“That’s exactly what a dream spirit would say.”

“Faith is not your best attribute Lewarrin Grimmer. I expected as much. This conversation will not fade as dreams do when you awake. But that will not be enough for you either, for you doubt the very substance that holds you world together. I will mark you and you will begin to believe.”

The gnome felt a point of searing brightness touch him. There was pain, but it was brief. Lew tried to force himself to wake, but nothing changed. That feeling of raw expectation lingered.

“It looks like I’m stuck here with you dream spirit, at least until this dream plays out. Please, go ahead and speak your piece so I can go back to the oblivious kind of sleep.”

“I am called The Dawnflower, and I would ‘speak my piece’ with you, Lewarrin grimmer, for I have need of you.”

“I’ve heard that term used before for one of the fanciful gods they bow to in this land, but I’m afraid I have prior commitments that I simply cannot break dear lady. I’ll be sure to look you up when I pass by this dream again, after I’m through.”

“I am the one that you have heard others speak of, Lewarrin Grimmer. I am the Bearer of the Flame; the Glory of the Rising Sun; the Bringer of Succor; the Radiance of the Light; the Redeemer of Lost Souls.”

“It must have taken a master scribe a full week to paint your title on the shingle outside your shop. Does it pay well, this radiating thing?”

“This day I will suffer your insolence Lewarrin Grimmer, for you do not yet understand the quality of your error. But please do not test my benevolence. You would not treat the lowest peasant thus.”

A moment went by as Lew tried to sort out the irony of being scolded by a dream spirit.

“Okay, my apologies. You’re right. I don’t treat people like that unless they deserve it. But you must understand that I do not acknowledge the existence of divinity. It is pabulum fed to the masses to keep them happy and compliant, but I will not comply. I am perfectly capable of building a philosophical foundation for sorting right from wrong. I do not need some slippery snake-oil salesman with a fancy robe to instruct me.”

“None need more than faith, Lewarrin Grimmer. It is enough. Even so little can be precious hard to find for some. But even you whose soul is ever-so-stingy with trust, have learned to give it. Trust is the handmaiden of faith. Faith is given without proof, but not without thought. Those who have faith in Me have reason for their belief. But reason alone is not sufficient. One must have love in one’s soul to open it to Me. One must seek redemption to be redeemed.”

 “Okay, let’s say for the sake of argument that you and all of the other gods really exist. So you are very powerful beings from other planes of existence. Even your priests say as much. You can create miracles, and you can teach your followers to do the same. But it’s just magic. You’re just harnessing the same elemental forces that I weave, only your weaving is much grander in scale. What makes you more than just another creature of phenomenal power?”

“Dear man, you are not ready for that lesson yet.”

“Ah, so I am not worthy of your beneficence then? I am not wise enough to appreciate the logic of your divinity?”

“Neither, Lewarrin Grimmer. You are not ready because you chose not to be ready. But I do not wish to debate you upon this question, as fundamental as it may be. You may believe that I am merely a being of great power if it pleases you. What I am to ask of you does not require your acceptance of My divinity.”

“What would you have from me then, Dawnflower?”

“The path that you are upon is grave and dangerous. It is laced with peril more dire than you can appreciate. And yet what you must do is of such importance, to fail will see our world cast into shadow for untold generations. I wish to aid your quest, though its nature is still a mystery to you. To aid I must have a vessel. To be effective, that vessel must be of good heart, and most of all willing to bear the responsibility.”

“How would this work, me being a vessel for your aid to our quest?”

“I will simply invest a bit of my power in you, Lewarrin Grimmer. It is a simple thing for Me, but without your faith in Me, it will take time.”

“Why don’ t you just give us some powerful magic to ensure that we can win any battle, or send a few of your better acolytes along on our journey to keep us safe?”

“Things of power come to those who are worthy of them. And despite what you may have read in storybooks, We may not direct mortals to act, in keeping with the Tenants of the Covenant. There are greater powers at work than even I can understand, Lewarrin Grimmer. Just as My followers must have faith in Me, I must have faith in these greater powers, for they are beyond wise.”

“Fine, but I’ll need some time to think about it.”

“You believe that you will awake in the morning and that all memory of this will have fled. But you will not, Lewarrin Grimmer. You will remember, and you will see my mark, and that will make you think aplenty.”

A white like exploded in the gnome’s head, sending him reeling into unconsciousness.

 

A new perspective…

Lew made his way carefully down the stairs at the Oakenwood Inn. The blasted dream wouldn’t go away. It bothered him that the tortured musings of his own mind were causing him distress and he wondered if perhaps… just perhaps… he was losing his mind. Was this what it was like—hearing coherent voices in your head that told you to do things that any rational person would reject, or more likely never hear in the first place?

He hopped up on a stool by the board and motioned to the innkeeper, then asked for some breakfast. The man gave him a strange look, but in a moment he had a plate full of peppery chopped potatoes and onions mixed with old ham that looked and smelled quite delicious after days of travel and battle. He made his way across the inn to a large table where a few of his fellows were already enjoying their breakfast.

“Wa..what’s that on your beard Lew?” the lad who went by the name ‘Wart’ asked. His stutter had diminished significantly since Lew had met the boy. The army should never have let him enlist, and that was the simple truth. He was good in a fight, but his innocence and naiveté were more of a curse than a blessing at time.

The gnome looked down at his curly, black beard. There was something in it he could not quite make out. He grabbed the beard and held it out where he could see it clearly. The blood in his veins froze. Some of the hairs were woven in a complex design that looked something like a figure with wings upswept, and the hairs were white as snow.  After a moment  staring at his beard , he noticed that the others were staring at him.

He grinned, weakly. “I must have had more to drink last night than I thought,” he mumbled, appearing to dismiss the matter and focus on his meal. But the food could as well have been shoe leather for all he tasted it. His thoughts were focused on the remember conversation with The Dawnflower.

When he was finished, he dismissed himself and went back into the stable yard. A moment later, the large, black-and-white striped form of Kitteh shimmered into being after he performed a simple ritual. Lew threw his arms around the beasts neck and hugged it fiercely.

“I am so sorry Kitteh! I will never ask you to suffer through that again! Please forgive me!”

There is nothing to forgive. I chose where and when I will fight. That I always choose what you would choose for me to do simply proves that we are of like mind.

“If I could have given you more of my blood, I would have. You were magnificent!”

You gave too much. You put yourself in great danger. If you die, you will not come back.

“I did what I had to do old friend. Here, let me heal what wounds remain.”

I have no need. The Mother held me in Her arms and made me whole.

“What… how… who is this ‘mother’?”

“She is the Bearer of the Light, the Glo…”

“She’s real?”

She is.

“She is one of your people then?”

No, we are her people.

“Wait, so you’re… female?”

Quite. I am surprised you have not figure this out already.

“Avanada,” the gnome said, as if trying a new coat on for size, “why did you not tell me?”

You did not ask, and it did not matter. My devotion to you is not predicated upon gender.

“But I love you, yet I love Lidya, and I must keep faith in that.”

When you give love someone, does your capacity to love then diminish? Do you love your son less for loving your wife?

“No, but my love for them is different from one to the other.”

Of course, and yet if you had a dozen children, you would love them all as you love the one. There is no limit to the heart’s capacity.  I do not threaten your relationship with Lidya. I love her as well.”

“Okay fine, but do me a favor and don’t tell Lidya that you’re female.”

“You wish that I not let the cat out of the bag?”

“Ahhhh… funny. Yes, I wish it. Gnome women can be remarkably stubborn when it comes to whom they consider to be competition.”

The Mother marked you, here on your beard.

“Yes I know. I don’t suppose she told you what she wants from me?”

Of course. I will be a part of this, a necessary part.

“I don’t understand. Why does she require anything from you to grant me a bit of her power?”

Do you know of those of your craft called ‘melders’?

“Synthesists? Summoners who fuse themselves with their eidolon’s?”

Yes. These are the ones of whom I speak. This is something like what you and I must do.”

“No. I will not subsume you. It would be like killing you permanently.”

It does not work that way. Even melders lose their eidolon when they sleep. But what I am describing to you is much more profound. The binding will take place in stages, and I will be assumed, not subsumed. But the process will be permanent.”

“I don’t understand this! Why is any of this necessary?”

Your mind is too flawed to act as a vessel for The Mother’s essence. By melding, bit by bit, I prepare your flesh for her presence. You will eventually learn faith in The Mother, or we will all of us face our doom. But I have faith in you, Lewarrin. You are a good man, and too honest to deny that which is obvious in front of your face.

“I cannot bear to lose you! I cannot imagine living my life without you.”

I will always be there in your thoughts, even after binding. We will speak with each other just as we always have. If you wish, I can exclude a shard of my essence from the binding to maintain a physical presence. The Mother thought you might need such an artifice.

“I’m torn… Avanada. Since the day I first summoned you, I have never imagined that my life would ever be anything other than you and me, together, dealing with whatever life throws at us. I know you say this will be just as good, but how can you know? What if it’s nothing like it was?”

I know because The Mother tells me.

“What if she’s wrong?”

I have faith that what she says is so.”

“What if I die?”

Then we both die.”

“You don’t understand. I cannot ask you to make such a terrible sacrifice. It is unfair.”

It is you who do not understand. When I accepted your summons, I bound myself to you for good or ill. If you were to die this day, I would not survive past the next. Nor would I wish to.

“Well you’re wrong about that.”

I am wrong about what?”

“I understand perfectly. I could no more go on without you than could go on without me. If this is your wish—not hers; yours—then I will accept it.”

It is Her wish and mine. Thank you for agreeing. She was not certain and you would. It was no surprise to me. I have the faith in you that She lacks, just as I have the faith in Her that you lack.

 

A bump in the road…

Lew was so lost in thought that he completely forgot to be a mediocre rider and sat the great, white cat like he was born to the saddle. Those who looked to see what was wrong with the usually chatty gnome quickly recognized his over-the-mountain stare at nothing in particular and left him alone to his contemplation. Even Barb, known for never missing an opportunity to say or do the wrong thing, honored the bearded gnome’s unspoken desire for solitude and drifted off on a remembrance of his own—one involving a large yet not-completely-unattractive woman back at the Oakenwood Inn.

Is it not a glorious morning for a ride, Lewarrin Grimmer?

Lew twisted in his saddle toward the voice. A gnome woman of unsurpassed beauty with large, white-feathered wing and riding upon a cat much like Kitteh other than the fact it was wreathed in merrily burning flame rode beside him and slightly behind. She smiled.

The gnome fell from the white cat, making no attempt to roll or break his fall. He lay there stunned for a minute while Kitteh looked down at him quizzically. Suddenly, a large hand grabbed him by the coat and hauled him to his feat.

“Less drink and more sleep will keep you from falling out of the saddle Lew,” the warrior Nash said with a chuckle. Lew shook his head and beat the dust off himself. The burning cat and beautiful gnome woman sat on the side of the road, waiting for him. Nobody else in the group so much as looked at her.

Lew remounted Kitteh with as much dignity as he could scrounge and resumed his riding. The burning cat fell into an easy lope next to him.

Am I so repulsive, Lewarrin Grimmer?” the voice asked playfully. Her lips moved to the words, but the sound wasn’t coming from her mouth. It was forming in his head.

“I wasn’t expected you, Dawnflower,” he thought at her, “Your form is absolutely perfect, as you must know, but it’s only a trick.”

I find it amusing how such ‘tricks’ can often accomplish things that an army could not.

“A very Gnomish philosophy, m’lady. Have you studied among the small-folk?”

You Gnomes are not predisposed to worship. Neither are you predisposed to infamy. As a people, you are better and safely left alone.

“Not worth the trouble?”

Rather, a poor investment of my time, for the most part. There are exceptions of course.

“Me? Even among Gnomes, I am considered remarkably irreligious.”

It is not you opinions, but your spirit and kindness that make you suitable, Lewarrin Grimmer.

“Has Avanada kept no confidence from you?”

There is little she could tell me that I cannot surmise simply by looking at you, or looking at her. You are the sum of your experiences, young one, and I miss nothing.

“Doesn’t that cat get hot?”

You need not hide your discomfort behind humor with me Lewarrin Grimmer. You have no secrets from me. I know you from your most depraved moment to your most enlightened, and yet I believe that you can serve me well in spite of your many failings.

“Well I’m baffled why you would spend time on such a fixer-upper like me who doesn’t believe you are more than just very skilled in magic.”

I cannot teach you to understand that in a short time, Lewarrin Grimmer. Such a lesson is learned from within, and with the passing of time.

“Do you get a lot of converts by alluding to the mysteries of life?”

Her face turned to the front. Each new angle was more achingly beautiful than the last. Lew felt a wave of profound sadness sweep over him. It made him feel harsh and cruel.

“Look, I’m sorry for being an ass. I may not believe you’re a goddess, but it is plain that you are the closest thing to one. Avanada loves you without reservation, and I would lay down my life for her a thousand times.”

This thing that she has chosen to do cannot be undone. She will be bound to you unto death. When you pass through the veil, she passes with you.

“She said as much.”

Did she tell you that unbound she would almost certainly live as long as five Gnomes could hope to?

Lew stiffened in the saddle and set his jaw fiercely. “I will not permit it. I will not be a party to it.”

Who are you to command what she may or may not do? She is counted as wise among a wise people. She understands the stakes. She knows something of what will happen if you fail. She knows the cost, even if you succeed. But she is not afraid. She has made a courageous and selfless decision, but you, who say you love her, would take her choice from her and bend her to your will.

“It isn’t like that at all. She is doing what she thinks you want her to do.”

Of course she is. Have you never sacrificed for someone you loved?

“Yes, but I do not put my loved ones in a position to sacrifice for me if I can help it.”

No life is diminished by self-sacrifice. Are you the only one competent to make decisions, Lewarrin Grimmer, or do you trust those you love to decide for themselves?

“You have a talent for arguing me into a corner with nowhere left to go.”

The truth is a narrow path, Lewarrin Grimmer. Close your eyes but a moment and you will stray. Yet if you keep your eyes open, it is a simple matter to stay upon it.

“You know that people are more willing to listen to your words when you don’t wallop them about the head and shoulders with them right?”

I find it best if you resist with all your strength. Then when you break, you will be truly broken.

“So I’m just a beast to be tamed to the bridle?”

More a spoiled child, best handled by turning your own tiresome insolence back against you.

“Ah-ha, I see what you did there.”

As you were intended to.

“And again!”

You are too clever for me Lewarrin Grimmer. I will have to resort to more subtle methods to get you to recognize the truth.

“Such as?”

Such as letting you figure things out on your own.

“Now where’s the fun in that?”

She slowed and then stopped, the reach out and grasped Lew by the shoulder. This close, she was infinitely more lovely than before, but her face was grim.

I do not begrudge you your humor Lewarrin Grimmer, but understand that this business you are about is no game. There is no turning back from this path. It will be hard to make yourself worthy of Avanada’s sacrifice, but you must be no less than that.

Lew’s gaze turned inward for a time. After a moment, he put his hand upon hers and looked into her eyes. “It is always easier to die for someone that to live for them, isn’t it Dawnflower?”

She studied him for a moment, then pulled his curly haired head toward her and kissed him on the forehead. “You are a good man, Lewarrin Grimmer, and not nearly as dense as you seem.

He smiled as they began riding again. “I get that a lot.”

They rode for a bit, catching up to the others. Wart looked back at Lew with concern clearly on his face. The boy worried every time anyone behaved at all oddly, and Lew expected his behavior today seemed exceedingly odd. He smiled at the lad reassuringly. Wart did not seem reassured.

I will take my leave now, Lewarrin Grimmer. The road ahead is treacherous. I need not tell you this but I will, for you must never forget. Too much depends upon you and your companions.

“I hear you, Dawnflower, but don’t you need to zap me or something?”

You’ve already been zapped young man. Do you think Goddesses bandy about kisses like a common tavern skirt?

She smiled warmly one last time, then faded away like a morning mist, along with her burning cat.

He suddenly became aware of Kitteh’s thoughts, though he hadn’t realized they’d been silent.

She was here, wasn’t She?

“Yes my Avanada, she was very much here.”

She has that effect on me as well. Tell me, is it done?”

“It is. Any regrets?”

Never. I don’t feel any different though.

“I would say you don’t look any different, but you change appearance the way most people change their clothes.”

She says I will diminish steadily until I’m just a puffball.

“You will be a well-cared-for puffball.”

I’m not bothered by the idea of being small. But I’m going to miss ripping the limbs off of orcs.

Lew reached down and scratched the large cat behind the ear. “That’s my girl.”

  1. Torgash Said,

    Very interesting Mr. Holmes and well written as always.  Seems to me that if this had happened in Ron's world you would suffer some great penalty (Verbally jousting with a goddess and all)…lol.  So the non-believer has had a personal experience he cannot deny.  Very cool.

    I see the sense of humor has remained intact which is a relief.  Doesn’t that cat get hot?  Very funny and Soooo Lew.  I hope this Dawnflower teaches you how to heal your friends we could use more of that.

  2. Immolate Said,

    Lew's position hasn't changed on this. She, and those who are worshipped as deities are, at best, simply very powerful beings who permit their followers the vanity of referring to them as divine. Can a man who has spent decades flatly denying the existence of the Gods ever accept their existence given anything but perfect evidence? I don't know, and this is a subject I've given quite a lot of thought to. Anyhow, being an unrepentant atheist gets you special dispensation for blaspheming, and what better way to try to demonstrate a being's normality than pushing their buttons and watching them react in a "human" fashion? Well, that didn't really work with "Dawnflower", but I'm sure Lew has a few more tricks up his sleeves.

  3. Firelord Said,

    “It must have taken a master scribe a full week to paint your title on the shingle outside your shop. Does it pay well, this radiating thing?”

    LOL, A Gnome after my own D&D persona heart.

     

    Great the Gnome is hearing voices in his head,   which bodes well for the rest of our group. I hope the voice doesn’t start telling the Gnome that rat poison would make the nightly stew taste better.

    Wow what detail on the Gnomes sprit lover “formerly known as Kitta” didn't they use to call those Succubuses?

     

    All in all what a grand story Mr.Holmes, but what does it truly mean.  Favored Soul or is it something new?

  4. Firelord Said,

    “It must have taken a master scribe a full week to paint your title on the shingle outside your shop. Does it pay well, this radiating thing?”

    LO L, A Gnome after my own D&D persona heart.

     

    Great the Gnome is hearing voices in his head,   which bodes well for the rest of our group. I hope the voice doesn’t start telling the Gnome that rat poison would make the nightly stew taste better.

    Wow what detail on the Gnomes sprit lover “formerly known as Kitta” did they use to call those Succubuses?

     

    All in all what a grand story Mr.Holmes, but what does it truly mean.  Favored Soul or is it something new?

  5. Immolate Said,

    It means what it means. "Dawnflower" wants to use Lew as a "vessel" to aid the party. There will be consequences to Lew personally, and not all of them desireable.

  6. Immolate Said,

    Oh, and also, don't make your text black, it's hard to read. I had to select your text to see it.

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