What has come before: Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

~~~ The Sleeper ~~~

All dreams consist of truths, facts, and reality. This solid kernel of normality is often warped and distorted, twisted and disfigured until it more closely resembles a fantastic misadventure than an introspective view of what is known. Why the mind does this is unknown: perhaps it is to protect us from obtaining a stark roadmap of our soul, or perhaps our consciousnesses cannot bear to understand the cosmic truths that our dreams reveal. Whatever the case, once in a very rare while, the intricately chaotic veil is lifted and a lucid dream emerges, startling in its clarity.

Dreams of Truth

Tereil walked along the well-traveled road, clad in nothing save a loose sash, sheathed sword hanging from the silken cord heavily. The gold scrollwork glimmered hotly on the scabbard as it swung at the angel’s hip with his every step, intricate runes reflecting the red-orange rays of the setting sun. The chirping of birds and chattering of squirrels ushered him forward, their tiny voices lifting his spirits and adding to the jubilant feeling that filled his chest. He was going to visit Isonia, his Goddess, to collect his just reward for faithful service to the Order of Angels.

A soft breeze filled the air, caressing his skin and rustling gently through his argent feathers. The war against Foret’s faithful had been progressing well, the misguided dogs were on the run at all fronts, and massive gains had been made in the name of the All Mother. As victory after victory was won, each of the angel-generals in turn had been invited to Isonia’s palace, and treated to an evening in her divine presence. Her hospitality was legendary, and as each of his peers told him of their night with the Goddess, Tereil grew steadily more anxious.

He sighed dreamily as he thought of the visage of Isonia; perfection seemed dull compared to the exquisite beauty of her ever-shifting features. His heart nearly faltered at the notion of an entire evening alone in her company. As the palace drew into sight he quickened his pace, his wings unfurling to either side. Short, powerful pumps drove him forward, his feet skimming the ground, barely touching the hard packed dirt of the path. The rush of air washed across him, his black hair streaming back wildly.

As he reached the gates to the palace, Tereil allowed himself to touch down, wings once more folding behind his back, twin ivory plumes unruffled and serene. A pair of naked maiden knights stood, spears crossed, before the gate, stern expressions etched onto their faces. Eight other women stood flanking the gate, four on either side, their silver shields facing forward, spears buried in the ground before them.

“Lord Tereil, you may not pass,” the first two said in perfect unison, their voices glacial. “By the command of Isonia you may not enter her domain until you have expunged your soul of impurity. Begone.” The eight flanking warriors remained motionless, as if statuettes. He stood gaping as the guardians delivered their decree, a cold burn lancing through his stomach. His mind reeled at their pronouncement, for it made no sense.

“There must be some mistake,” he replied, the strength of his voice belying his bewilderment. “I am Tereil of the Order of Angels, defender of Isonia’s Kingdoms, and I have been summoned here.” His hand drifted down to his sword hilt reflexively, a habit ingrained over lifetimes of parlaying with treacherous heathen lords on the fields of battle.

“Lord Tereil, begone,” the warrior women again intoned, their naked bodies remaining perfectly still. Spears caught the dying light of day; barbed silver tips gleaming softly like flickering candles.

“I will not. Isonia has summoned me, and I mean to fulfill her request.” Stepping to within a sword-length of the pair of guardians, he continued. “I feel nothing but love for my Goddess, my soul is as pure as any.”

“Begone Lord Teriel, your soul is tainted by misplaced feelings,” came the reply, ten spear points lowering to point at him menacingly, twenty impassive eyes boring into him as if to judge his very existence. The joy that had filled him on the journey was completely gone, replaced now by confused anger.

“Damn you!” he cried, his hand closing about the hilt of his sword, pulling the blade free of the scabbard with a soft hiss. “Let me in!” he demanded, golden eyes flashing angrily. In reply the maiden knights thrust towards him, seeking to impale him in a vice of spears.

And then it was on, a bloody dance where one misstep could be fatal. His sword flashed, white gold blade humming angrily as he slashed and parried and dodged the deadly teamwork of Isonia’s guardians. Powerful beats of his wings propelled him out of harm’s way, allowing him to dodge blows that would have impaled any normal foe, and then lunge forward quickly, a spray of crimson his reward. A tempest raged through his veins, love for his Goddess driving him onwards, lending him strength.

The dance lasted only a few short minutes, and at the end of it Tereil was left standing, coated in the vitae of holy guardians, breathing heavily. Sheathing his sword, the angel faced the heavy gate to the palace, blood-splattered and exhausted. “Isonia, I have come to answer your invitation, grant me entrance to your palace,” his crystalline voice rang out.

Warmth filled the air, first warming him, and then growing uncomfortable, the heat not abating. As he stood, bearing the discomfort the best he could, a female voice sounded from all around him.

“You are unpure, Lord Tereil, filthier than the lowest mongrel and unfit for my Order. You have blasphemed my image with your thoughts of love and lust and devotion. I seek obedience, and no more, duty without attachment. You have failed me, and I have no need for a failure in my service.”

As he sank to his knees, despair filling him to over-flowing, the world went black……

A tear slowly slid from one closed eyelid of the sleeping figure, tracing its way down his cheek to his chin, a glistening trail left behind. Beneath him the last of the now blacked feathers shriveled up and fell to the ground, swirling in an eddy created by the breeze from the bedchamber window.

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