Friday, 27 December 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013 -

Eater of Dreams

by John Benson
Published: Oct 19, 2013
Words: 23,920
Category: fantasy
Orientation: M/F
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Eater of Dreams

The bowl was unglazed pottery, the knife of meteoric iron, its handle wrapped in sinew from an animal long extinct. The water was from a mountain stream, still chill with the memory of last year's snow. The moon was full. Puffs of an unwelcome breeze raised goose bumps. Nina drew the blade across her palm.

It was always a bright little painful shock. Her body longed to heal, but she needed to stay vulnerable to the ritual or it would not work. A little blood. Three drops, down into the still water. She stirred it with the knife. The water stilled once more and its surface captured moonlight. Moonlight made liquid shimmered, threatening to reveal secrets. It was a time for visions. Nina watched water tainted with her essence and the essence of the moon.

Eyes. Red eyes, filled with malice. They were the Eater's eyes. The water steamed and began to boil. Nina cried out and struck the bowl and it cracked and spilled its contents out on the ground and an unwelcome breeze made steam. Her heart pounded in her throat and she could barely breathe.

The Eater conquered by exploiting weakness. But it could not be the lack of skill. Nina had called visions before when the old witch was still alive and had succeeded without supervision. The figure of the Eater of Dreams had always been there, on the periphery, malign but not actively threatening. But it was an active menace now, and anywhere she went in the safety of these hills it could find her.

The safety of solitude was danger now, for here she was the only person, the only witch. She must hide in a herd of her own kind, down in the valleys with the farmers and their horses and cattle and oats and barley and their new ways and their new God.

She had needed the luxury of silence so she could listen to herself, and hear the quiet song of magic. But now the quiet meant the Eater could hear her too. She must hide her clarity amidst the dark mutterings of other minds. At least until she found out her weakness and overcame it.

But she didn't remember very much about being an ordinary person. Not very much at all.

It was a good farm with well-kept fences. Contented cows stood in green pastures, re-chewing half processed grass. Tame nature, not like the real thing. But not completely unlike. Not near as hard on her as a town would have been, or a city. Too orderly a place, perhaps, but people liked that. It let them feel they were in charge, while the truth was more that sometimes they were, and sometimes they were not. Nina was loathe to choose, but where better? Ah well. Three men sat outside the main hall drinking a small beer. In an outbuilding a woman was cooking. Nina let herself be seen.

"Hello," she said.