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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 102: Brown 86
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Derek awoke in the darkness. He had been dreaming; the dream had driven him from his sleep.
He immediately wondered how much had been dream, whether only now he was awakening to find that he was Derek, traveling from universe to universe, a human boy, never the sprite Theian Toreinu Morach. It took another moment before his mind went back before that, to being Derek Jacob Brown, awakening perhaps from that coma he had once imagined had taken him, now in that hospital bed somewhere perhaps at Valley Hospital, or even home, with his parents. Yet he realized that it was not totally dark; there was a light from somewhere, and the light was he, glowing softly as sprites did when they slept. It had been a dream, but not so long a dream as he might have hoped, unless it was a dream within a dream and there was still some hope.
It had been a strange dream. At first it was very pleasant. There was a beautiful girl who was Borellen Terria Condira. In the dream, she was sometimes seven and sometimes seventeen, but she was always lovely. She was dressed in a bridal robe, and she took him by the hand and led him upward, into the clouds. They were together.
Then her hand had slipped from his, and he was alone in the clouds. He tried to find her, but could see nothing but the mists around him. He started to panic, with that foreboding that comes in dreams when you know something bad is about to happen but do not yet know what it will be.
The clouds then parted, and he could see the world below. He could see the trees, but in a way that could not be explained he could also see below the trees. The bodies of sprites littered the land, and from his height he could see that there were hundreds of them scattered about the forest, all killed by the guns of humans. At the same time, there were so many that he could see clearly, as if he were standing beside them, whom he knew. There were the children with whom he'd attended school, the older kids who played at the same waterhole, his teachers, the elders of the sprites, his parents, and then, most clearly of all as the mist faded, there was Dearie, still in her bridal robe, torn apart by a bullet.
It was a nightmare, he told himself. That's all. Go back to sleep.
Yet, was it just a nightmare? In holy writ, Narakketh had seen in a dream what he had to do, and had obeyed the message the King had sent through the dream, and so delivered the sprites from the storm that was coming, the storm which destroyed their homes and their forests and all the places they knew, but which did not destroy them, for Narakketh had led them into caves where they were safe and protected, and had instructed them to bring seeds and animals with them to replenish the forests when the storm had passed. This dream could be a message. It could be a vision of things to come. After all, Derek already had powers to see things others could not. Could he have seen the future, or an image of what the future held? Was this a warning that he should not marry Dearie, because if he forgot his purpose here the sprites would die? Was it a warning that the sprites were going to die anyway, and if he married Dearie it would only bring pain to both of them?
Of course, maybe it was just a dream. Maybe it was no more than his nervousness about getting married crashing in the back of his mind with his fears of the actions of men. The future was a place to fear because it held the unknown, even the unknowable. He feared the future. He had not realized it before now. He did not fear for his own life; he had lived and died before, and was familiar enough with death that it would not frighten him even if it were (as he was certain it was not) the end. He was afraid for others. There were now people in his life who were dear to him, in ways he'd not recognized. Certainly he had been friends with Qualick and Dorelle and Starson Coombrick, when they worked together at the school; but it had not been the same. They had been colleagues, acquaintances, but not people with whom he had shared his life. He dearly loved Lauren, and it hurt when she died; but as she had predicted, they met again in another world, and he was certain he would meet her yet again. These people, though, could die, could die horribly, and never live again. Perhaps that was Joe talking in his head. He didn't know whether sprites lived in another world, some kind of heaven. He did know that they treasured life in the forest as a precious thing, and that it would be a grief for them to lose it. His fears had manifested in his dreams. It was, perhaps, all psychology, emotions and subconscious thoughts rising to the surface, and not some sort of prophetic vision.
Then again, did it matter?
That is, whether this was a message from the King warning him against what would happen were he to choose his own happiness over saving the sprites, or his own fear clarifying itself in images of what he hoped to avoid, this was something that might happen. People could die. Humans could invade the forests with their weapons, bringing war upon the sprites, and killing hundreds mercilessly. Derek might not be able to stop it; but if he didn't try to stop it, he would have failed and never known whether he might have succeeded. He had to travel to the human lands and speak to their ruler. It was a great risk he was taking; it was a greater risk if he did not take it.
He rose from his bed and looked at the sky. Dawn was still some time to come; he would not wait for dawn. He dressed, gathered what he needed, equipped himself with plenty of treated arrows, and packed food for the journey. When all was in readiness, he hesitated, wondering what to do next. There was something he had to do; it was not easy, but it was necessary.
He woke his father.
Quietly, in the darkness, trying not to awaken his mother, he spoke. "Dad, I've got to go now."
His somewhat dazed father replied, "Go? Where are you going at this time of night?"
"I had a dream, Dad. It was a terrible dream, in which hundreds of sprites were killed by human guns. In the dream, it happened because I let myself forget what I had come to do. Maybe I'll be back to marry Condira; I would very much like that. But before I make a life for myself, I have to make a future for all sprites everywhere. I have to go speak to the humans, to let them know that we do not want war but will defend ourselves if they attack us. They need to understand that this is not about mice or cockroaches or vermin in their forests, but about people who have the right to live and will defend that right. They need to know that they aren't cleaning the woods but committing a crime, genocide, against a people who were here before them. And I've got to be the one who goes to them to tell them. I'm the one the King sent here to do this."
Morach was becoming more coherent now. "You're sure of this?"
"Then I guess you have to go. How do I help? Should I get dressed?"
"No," Derek said, "I'll go alone. I'm probably more likely to get there safely by myself. I need you to stay here. I need you to tell Mom how much I love her, and you, and Landi. I need you to tell Dearie I'm sorry, if I never get back. I have to go; I can't put this off." Then, remembering his telepathy, he mentally added, I will try to let you know what happens.
He turned to his mother, and gently placed a kiss on her cheek. She stirred slightly in her sleep, and a smile crossed her face. He would miss her, her especially, who had been so much to him. She would not live forever, though, and eventually a time of parting would have come. It was better if that time of parting saved the sprites than if it was nothing more than the end of another life.
He rose out of the clearing and headed toward the cities of men.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #202: Verser Confrontations. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: