The Dream of a Dream: An Autobiography
The image is indelible from my mind. Inaa hovering above a windswept ocean, speaking to a small woman with blue skin clad in a white robe. I’d seen her kind before, a dark elf. Standing on a cliff, an icy rock thrust up from the deep, she speaks. I cannot make out any words over the roar of wind. Inaa’s reply, I hear clear as a bell, “What have you done with my husband?” The elf speaks again, then Inaa, “Where is he?” “Take me to him.” “Show me my husband!” She becomes ever more angry, cheeks flushing crimson, but I can never hear the dark elf’s answer. Suddenly the scene changes, I see Inaa in the Mountains of Heaven’s Fire, looking as though she herself set them blazing by her beauty. I notice she’s not carrying her sword and shield. I must go meet her.
The first time I had this dream, I was wandering the southern reaches of the Great Desert, one of the world’s few safe places to experiment with artifacts and songs. Some will tell you I was practicing magic, I deny the charge. I have written only one song in my entire life containing any magic, and it proved so dangerous to its singer that I have never since tried to twist magic into my songs. If someone offers to teach you “Ra’s Raucous Romp” I strongly recommend that you decline. Waking from my dream, I knew what I must do, for I had recognized the place in the Mountains of Heaven’s Fire, near the ruined druid ring.
There is a song with a lyric, “Sleep on the left side, keep your sword hand free.” Good advice, though I sleep with my spear in my right hand. I awake always with a block, drawing my sword with my left hand. No one expects a block first from an awakening opponent. Many years of wandering have taught me this; awake with block five overhead, moving quickly to block four high and outside, as I draw my sword and flash it to the same position on my left, then stab, hoping to see the sword coming out of the back of my enemy. This all takes long to describe, but hardly a beat to act.
I slung my spear and drew the fighting hammer from my belt. I knew those who had called it cursed were wrong, this dream was proof. I must find a worthy adversary. Unlikely in these lonely parts, not even the sand giants came this far south. I’d have to head back to Portland, my home, at the north edge of the Great Desert. Inaa has always said she doesn’t like it, for all the same reasons that I love it. All the riff-raff in the world comes through this small scruffy port. Where better to learn new stories and songs? to learn the lore of artifacts? to find those who might help you acquire said artifacts NQA, as they say? (That’s market-speak for No Questions Asked) I wouldn’t have to go all that way, the sand giants were a good bet to find an opponent my hammer could match. The only thing I was likely to find around these parts was a gator, where the Great desert meets the Eastern Ocean. I’d crush it before my hammer had recognized the heat of battle, indeed, there likely would be no battle with so simple a beast. The Mountains of Heaven’s Fire, and there I was on the Eastern Ocean’s wrong shore. Ocean crossings are perilous affairs, even if the one to the Continent of Fire has been called Flat Water Crossing, I get seasick. My hammer could solve both problems with one stroke (pardon the pun). The heat of a desert mid-day makes journeying impossible, even by song or by magic, I’d have to wait for twilight. I put the hammer back in my belt and took the lute from my pack. Might as well strum a few dissonant chords to ward off the desert tarantulas, the only effective deterrence to them that I know.
Four long years since I’d seen Inaa, and now she was haunting this dream. I should have thought it an ill omen when the cleric wedding us needed to delay the ceremony a day. All came right in the end, or had seemed to until this dream.
[I, Ur, Scribe for the king whose name is Unknown, swear on pain of death by being thrown to the lions, that the scroll becomes here unreadable due to fading, until the following.]
As I approached the sand giant village, I drew my hammer and tried to recall my song of alacrity. Hand to hand combat is not what bards are made for. I wanted this over with as quickly as possible, and I was holding a weapon with which I’d never fought. I lifted my fighting hammer above my head, shouting, “Any dwarf strong enough to fight, I challenge!” The best way to get a giant’s attention is with an insult. I repeated my challenge as the road passed between two enormous houses, and again as I came to a square. Dusty and tired of holding my hammer so high, I was answered, “Dwarf? Throk will avenge this insult!” A giant, fifteen feet tall, rotund, his tunic caked in sand, appeared from a building on the other side of the square. Luckily, he was unarmed. Not that my Enchanted Dragon Armour couldn’t bear a few blows from a weapon, but I was relieved all the same. I charged toward the giant, flailing wildly, he punched, his whole fist slamming me to the ground. I scrambled back to my feet, that blow would leave a bruise over my entire chest, and swung at the giant again, this time making solid connection with his shin. I’m not sure how to explain what happened next, like being translocated by magic, or by that art of the druids which they claim is not magic.
I was swept away to the hammer’s home, where it had been “cursed” to return if used in battle. It has been suggested that I lend this hammer to an enemy, confusing him and removing him from my presence. I value my ability to escape far too much to do this. Once, there had been a bustling outpost here, on the Eastern Shore of the Eastern Ocean, on the Continent of Fire. It had long been abandoned by the look of things. A single lonely barrel and some wrecked wood behind a thick stone wall. I took a moment to check my pack and gear, all seemed in place, teleported with myself and the hammer. Armor? Still wearing it. Food? Still there, but I could always scrounge up more of that. Weapons? I could feel their weight. Artifacts? I rummaged through my pack, all there. Not far from the outpost was a shrine, a great columned place that lead into the Mountains of Heaven’s Fire. I should have been able to see it glowing at night, but there was only darkness broken by a few stars. I looked across the plain leading to the foothills as well as the light would allow, but I couldn’t make anything out, the light from my Helm of Mid-day would not reach that far, even though it was one of the more useful artifacts I owned. I couldn’t bear this, and threw the helmet to the ground, not a smart thing to do with an invisible item that ceases to shine when removed from one’s head. I returned the hammer to my belt, once more drawing my Werewolf’s Sword, resuming the illusion. Inaa didn’t like to see me carrying it, she always said, “What if the illusion was too powerful for my Earring of Truesight and one day I mistook a real werewolf for you and so let down my guard?” A silly argument, I know. I had to pay a substantial number of platinum coins and turn in not a few favors and to buy her that earring. Only a dragon could cast an illusion it would not pierce, and why would a dragon want to be disguised as a werewolf? I, however, had need. If there was still life lingering here, the people could not have forgotten how I tricked them into giving me the hammer. They’d be frightened of a werewolf, perhaps enough to attack it, but they would certainly try to kill me if they once saw me without the illusion. The dragoons used to chase me away from this place, even with my "Song of Time" they could catch me if I wasn’t on my guard.
I could still make out the groove of the old road and began to follow it toward the mountains. As I crossed the plain, even the stars hid. After several twelves of beats, I noticed there was absolutely no noise, a strange condition for an area roamed by much nocturnal life. Rain began falling in big drops and I reflected for the thousandth time how ironic it should be that the lowlands of the eternal rain were on the Continent of Fire. Inaa had explained to me once that the gods set it there to keep the world from burning down, “Else the Mountains of Heaven’s Fire would reach right to the sea, turn it to mist and the fire would cross to other lands, maybe even light the sky.” Yet people accuse me of telling tales.
[I, Ur, Scribe for the king whose name is Unknown, swear on pain of death by being thrown to the lions, that the scroll still to be translated includes: the journey into the Mountains of Heaven’s Fire; the extinct Mountains; meeting Inaa; further adventures on the Continent of Fire; adventures on the Continent of Ice; and the encounter with the dark elf]
Other works by this author include the scrolls: