By Willow Taylor



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She was fighting, helplessly, to rescue someone that she couldn't recognize, for a cause she couldn't remember. Then out of a corner of her eye, she saw Him.

"Not my dream!" she suddenly realized and managed to jerk free of the battle. The dreamer she'd been protecting woke up in his own bed with a feeling of bewilderment. She turned to face Him.

"Hello," He said.

"What am I doing in someone else's dream?" she inquired as politely as possible, as the scene was started to be broken down around them.

"You seemed so distressed you didn't have a purpose, last time we spoke. So I gave you one."

"I'm not dead!" she declared sharply. "I can't work in the dreaming."

"Perhaps," He said, and moved to walk away.

"Don't you walk away from me, you eccentric egomaniac!" she spat, scuttling after Him. "That's not an explanation!"

He turned and looked down at her raising one elegant eyebrow. "Do I owe you an explanation?"

She quailed briefly. This wasn't the edges of the dreaming, where she could shape things sometimes. This was the dreaming proper, and He held sway, firmly. She blinked and turned away from endless eyes.

"No, but it'd be nice."


She winced, and drew her cape around her, towards her face. It was off-white towards gray at first glance, but second glance said it was white, covered with crawling letters. It was her cloak of stories and it was how she could tell this was a true dream. He was laughing at her, without making a single sound.

"Very well."

She looked up again, shocked.

"You said you envied us in a way, having a purpose. Each of us, from the first brothers to I, have a purpose, carefully defined by stories. So I gave you one."

"Which is?" she asked, still confused and bewildered by the battle that had ended only moments before.

"You will now play roles in dreams. You have done this before for your friends. They call for you sometimes to fight their battles. And sometimes you hear and come."

"So now I'm to dance on other people's pleasure?" she demanded, lips drawn into a thin line.

"Unless you'd prefer to forget?"

Her jaw trembled in impotent rage at the dream king, and she clutched her cape closer, as the edges fledged out into white feathers.

"I'll come again if you do, Dream King. I'll beat your walls down with my fists, night after night!"

He gave her that laugh without laughing again, and she felt like a moth before an inferno.

"But I don't want to fight," she said quietly, as the background drained away from her again. she pressed her cloak over her face. When she let if fall again, she stood on a windy road, alone. Tendrils of blonde hair whipped around her face. She stamped her foot and glared at the cloudy mountain sky above her.

"Damn you! You're supposed to be dead you know! I went to your funeral! Gave you a pretty damn good eulogy too!" She stomped her foot again, and reached up to unfasten her cloak and leave the deep dreaming.

"Surely you know that in this place time is meaningless," came His voice. She looked around, but didn't see Him. Then she looked up and saw His face formed in the clouds - white clouds. "You wouldn't be the first to meet with me as I was or was to be, out of all time."

"But my dreams!"

"You fight because it is what you do, wanderer. Perhaps someday you'll know peace, but perhaps not. But for now... fly." He stretched out a hand of cloud then the winds whipped it away, making the face of the dream king shapeless clouds. She released her cloak of stories and spread wide white wings to the wind, tattered battlegarb swirling until it reformed to a tunic just tight enough not to interfere with flight. Then she swirled in place and let the wind take her away into the sky. Maybe tomorrow she'd fight for herself, or to save a tree like the night before, or a child with diamond teeth, or just to stop a creature, or to save a man whose face she'd never see again - but right now, she'd fly.


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The Wanderer Returns © 2000 by Willow Taylor

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