At Lantern’s Light: Chapter 2

At Lantern’s Light: Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Dream’s Awakening

Dreams come only when called upon. That was a trick every child in the clan was taught. For Laska it was no different. He had mastered the four stages of meditative sleep. Trancing into the spirit world was as easy to him as breathing. Some said he had a knack for it, but all he knew was hard work and dedication. This night he chose to dream, and thus dreams came to him. He found himself in an endless field of tall grass, reaching up to his waist. Yet he could not feel them. He wandered aimlessly, never feeling the grass around him or the ground beneath his feet, until the dream diminished and was replaced by a new one. He flew over cities he had visited. Shared food with people he had lost. Ran with wild bears. Dreams came and went, and he enjoyed them all. Then suddenly he heard someone call his name. Not in words – there were no words within dreams – but instead the image of someone drawing his attention crawled into his head. He released the dreams and awoke, opening his eyes.

Across from him Wirelun stood arms folded. She looked to be impatient and serious, but that was her normal state of being. Laska sat up straight, removing the thin cotton blanket from his body. She looked down at him. “Laska. The Elders are having trouble with the Threshold,” she spoke in a dire tone. That was something that happened more often as of late, Laska thought, even those who had been entering the spirit world for more years that I have lived seemed to have issues crossing the Threshold that separated mind from body. The Elders knew Laska was somehow unaffected, a fact Wirelun was not informed of. “They sent me to collect you,” she continued. “Follow me. We leave instantly.” In Laska’s eyes Wirelun had always been matter-of-fact, to the point of being blunt, yet this time she spoke as if to imply that he needn’t dawdle. It was a habbit she habit she had picked up dealing with the Adopted – people that were not born within the clan, but instead came to them to follow. The clan let anyone enter, no matter their past. Once they went through the ceremony, they were considered full members. However, they did have their past behaviors to rid of before they could do so. One of which, if Wirelun was to be believed, was the habit of wasting time.

He stood up promptly and put on a shirt as she stared at him. Wirelun was a few years younger than him, with a copper skin marked by training scars. Her dark grey hair matched that of his. He had heard people call her pretty, but his eyes were not trained for such things. He took a step towards her. “Don’t you need any tools?” She asked, half raising one eyebrow. Most men did. But in truth, he did needed neither tools nor herbs to enter the Veil. No need to make myself seem special, he told himself. “Not this time,” he said in decisive words. He had to wait for her to approve. That was the rule. Luckily she did, with a slight nod of her head. He walked passed her to the tent opening, knowing she would follow close behind.

The cold mountain air flowed passed his bare feet. The rocky path beneath his feet somewhat smoothened by the presence of the clan on this summit. Making his way north he was careful not to step on the small flowers growing from the dirt patches between the rough boulders. Though he did not hear her, Laska knew Wirelun was behind him. That, too, was the rule. She had been sent to command, and the commander had to see his orders through. Wirelun was Elder-daughter, given her the right to command – as long as she held up her training of course. But besides from the moments she was bossing people around, all Laska saw her do was train. She has more scars than I have, he thought dishearteningly. Absentmindedly he fingered the thick scar across his shoulder, reaching up to his ear. Wirelun was there we he received that wound. That day he had commanded, as he was expected to do during times of battle. Afterwards, neither him nor Wirelun has any right to command, as they both ended up in the malady tent. Explaining our customs to a child is like explaining that snow is cold, Laska mused, yet when I talk to any of the Adopted, they look at me as if I’m talking in Simarian.

The tent of Elders was at the highest peak of their encampment. Every time the clan traveled, people had to re-familiarise themselves with its formation. The clan’s current location had been their home since three moons back, thus finding your way was like finding your own hand. Left and right they passed tents of various sizes and shapes. Some reminded him of the weighted chests he hauled during his training when he was younger, others seemed to look more like oversized red dragon fruits. Eventually they reached the commune tents, a series of tents surrounding the tent of Elders. Guards were posted between each tent, though they stepped aside at the sight of Wirelun. On this minor peak, the cold wind seemed tenfold in strength – luckily he had been trained to ignore it. Two additional guards at the entrance of the tent of Elders lifted up a single large flap, granting the Laska and Wirelun access.

Inside the the temperature was pleasant. Within the centre of the tent was a camp fire. Softly smoldering ashes set white smoke upwards towards a small hole in the top. Three Elders sat around it, while one was standing to the side, filling his wooden cup with steaming hot water, flowing from a heavy stone teapot. From where he stood, Laska could smell the thick honey that was stirred into the tea. One Elder was missing, Elder Kaymear, the clan’s battle chief. A relatively new title, relative only to the age of the clan. Kaymear was the seventh battle chief, and only the third to lead clansmen into actual battle. The old man taught Laska many things about warfare: battle maneuvers and tactics, historical battles – both in this world and that of the spirits – as well as smithing and other skills that still needed to be mastered by the clan as a whole. Combat was a new chapter within the clan’s history, but it was one many embraced – especially after the Awakening, when the cry for help came roaring from the Veil.

Laska sat down on the floor with his legs folded and his arms resting at his side. Some of the Elders looked him up and down, whilst two of them continued their conversation as if his presence changed nothing. It was a show though; the Elders would not discuss anything of importance where someone could be listening in. A few moments passed until all eyes were fixed on him. “I have come to serve, my Elders.” He said formally. Too often have I come here to help, yet remained helpless to aid, Laska though with a heavy heart, this time I will make them see my worth. The most aged among them spoke up, with a ragged voice heavy of long life and hardship. “Good. Good. You know well why we have called you here. However, this time we will ask more of you than we have long since asked of any other.” The voice grew heavy, and Elder Grega exhaled deeply before coughing into a kerchief he hid up his sleeve. Being the oldest amongst the clan made Elder Grega the lore chief – a title that brought as much respect as it did importance. It was his task to see the culture and traditions of the clan passed down to future generations. A task made harder each year, with wars brewing the every country, famine and illness being spread from all major cities, and the seemingly growing need from humankind to rid the world of all things good and spiritual. But the lore chief always had help. Every single clansman stood up to protect that which needed saving, and every able clansman would stand and fight those who sought to do the world wrong.

“We will ask you to complete a hard task,” the ragged voice continued. “And once completed, we will ask more of you still.” The last words were followed by silence, maybe they expected Laska to protest, but he only knew one thing. I was born into this clan for a purpose. Full determinations Laska spoke aloud, “I am ready. Let me pass the Threshold, and enter the Veil before you, my Elders.” The other Elders slowly nodded their heads in agreement, as one of them passed the cup of honeyed tea to Laska. The scent was overwhelming. He took the cup with both hands, and brought it to his mouth. Elder Grega continued, “Your connection to the Veil is well known, though even you must have noticed the growing difficulty with which we enter it.” Plainly he had not, though he trusted each individual in his clan, and they all spoke of the strengthening of the Threshold. The tea tasted of pure sweetness, as the thick honey flowed down his throat. “We will ask of you to pass the Threshold,” Another sip, just as sweet as before. “And enter the spirit world. Once you do, you will have a vision.” The cup was almost empty, but Laska now knew what is was for. His sight started to become blurry. Strange colours seemed to flow from the Elders’ bodies, and Wirelun’s as well. They wanted him to be their Oracle. To be stuck between the this world and the other, having visions of both. Visions of the future, present, and past. He felt ready. It was a dangerous task, one that had cost the lives of most that tried. I must succeed. His senses left him. I will succeed.

All Laska could see was the billowing smoke clouds rise up into the air, seemingly going on forever. Strange sights and sounds creeped into his head. He found himself inside an iron cage, with bars wide enough apart that he could walk through them, yet somehow he was still trapped. A shape appeared out of thin air, glowing white radiant light. He could feel the warmth from the other side of the bar, which became even stronger when it walked straight towards him. His body was not his, yet he made it blink. The bars were gone and he could only feel the warmth behind him. He turned around, but saw nothing. The warmth was still behind him. He spun on his feet, and saw before him a field of dead yellow grass. He could still feel the warmth behind him, following him, protecting him. The ground shifted under his feet, and he was moving at a pace faster than horses could carry him. The dead soil continued, until he reached another figure. A shapeless man holding a massive iron ball stood on the edge of the dead grass, beyond him the lush forest with spirits soaring from tree to tree, and bush to bush. The shapeless figure took a step, and both forest and spirit disappeared, replaced by lifeless dirt. Laska ran forward and tried to grab the figure, to stop it somehow. Suddenly he felt himself grabbing hold of an arm. The figure took shape into a young man, still black shadows all over. Black enough to suck up all light around them. The ball in his hand was carried by a handle, and emanated a dim light. It had bars on the side, like the prison he was in, yet this time it was the radiant warmth from before that was trapped. He felt a chill crawl across his entire body. Grasping for the small prison he was easily pushed aside by the black figure. Launched of the ground he could feel himself floating away. There was no gravity pulling him down, as he saw the figure become smaller and smaller, until nothing but a speck of light remained.

He blinked, and darkness was replaced by the dancing shadows on the inside of a tent. A thin streak of smoke danced through a hole, and the sounds of talking faintly buzzed in the distance. He still tasted honey on his lips. He knew where he was. Trying to lift himself up, he rolled over on one side. Wirelun came to him and pushed Laska up against her body. “You should be dead!” She explained. “After you did not return for so long… we all thought…” The words came out in as much of a shock, as a relieve that he was indeed alive. The words came to him, yet most of what he heard was his own heavy hoarse breathing. With trouble he opened his eyes. Shapes moved around the room, one of which was drawing closer. Soft sounds of footsteps. The touch of a hand on his forehead. “I was hoping you’d be one of the lucky ones,” A kind old voice said. “Your visions have done us great service.” Laska forced his eyes open further, to find Elder Grega leaning over him. With a faint smile on his face, he continued, “I said we had an ever harder task for you still.” The old man kneeled down in-front of him and was handed a bowl by one of the Elders. “And with your visions comes responsibilities,” Dipping two of his fingers into the bowl, they came out covered in a thick red paste. “Responsibilities we know you will see through to the end.” The fingers streaked across Laska’s face, under his left eye, downwards. “Your next burden will be that of battle. See this clan to victory in the conflicts to come. Be our battle chief.”