Chapter 1 – Wake

Aléi and Ashling finds themselves in a thrashed room. There has obviously been a fight going on; the furniture is smashed, books and smaller objects lie scattered all across the room, and on the floor in a puddle of blood is a mangled body lying face-down. Aléi puts her hand over her mouth in shock. Ashling on the other hand is scanning the room, not paying attention to the body.

“Is… is she-?” Aléi whispers.
“Yep,” Ashling replies stoically as if he’s seen it before. He opens the door out of the room and looks down the hallway, more broken decorations and claw marks, but otherwise empty. Only partially good news.

“No sign of the gate, but it doesn’t look as bad as we initially thought. Let’s hurry,” Ashling says, gesturing Aléi to follow as he heads out the door, not even waiting for a reply.

“What about her?” Aléi asks, wondering about the body. It has a lot of claw marks and has even been pierced by a sharp object straight through her shoulder.
“Don’t worry about her,” Ashling answers from outside the room, his voice cold and focused.

Aléi heads to the door, giving the dead body of Sharon one last look before leaving the room.

*

Life for Aléi has not been good for the past few weeks. Not only is she targeted by THE big bad of her own world, Lord Appello, but they were stuck with the orb he wanted for another week, an orb they just couldn’t hide somewhere. The paranoia had also taken over, with every person she meets potentially being a spy for Appello. On top of it all, she’s feeling bad as she’s supposed to be the leader of her group while she’s a nerve wreck.

Back at the Meeting Place, she rarely interacted with anyone but Gidel, and spent most of the time there in her room. She felt bad for leaving her party behind, but she needed relief, even if it would mean nothing once she returns.

After spending a few hours lying in her bed, hugging her kiet-doll she finally falls asleep. Her dream is a jumble of everything, starting out with her friend turning into a dragon spewing out books instead of fire, going to an endless field of wasteland that has two suns and a moon lighting it up, and finally her running away from a horde of Shadow monsters.

She wakes up, breathing heavily, and with panicked eyes looking around the room. Realising it was nothing but a bad dream, she resists the urge to cry and decides to get something to eat.

When she reaches the stairs to the first floor, she walks into Ashling.

“Hello, Aléi,” Ashling greets her. She responds with a weak “hi”.
“Is anything the matter?” he wonders, the friendly smile now replaced with worry.
“Just… nightmares.”
“Anything I could help with? Nightmares is kind of my speciality, you see.”

Aléi looks at Ashling. It’s hard to tell he’s actually a guy, with his thin build and red ponytail. In fact, if it weren’t for everyone calling him a ‘he’, she would be completely fooled.

“I guess it’s worth a shot?” Aléi says after a moment, the uncertainty obvious in her tone. “I just need something to eat first.”

As if on queue, her stomach lets out a growl, causing Ashling to let out a chuckle.

*

The lounge lies quiet. Except for Rodney making noise in the kitchen there’s no one else there. Either the other residents are sleeping, or off visiting other worlds. On their way to the kitchen, they hear the main door open, and Sharon enters. She walks fast and doesn’t pay attention to Ashling and Aléi.
“Hey, Sharon!” Ashling greets, but she just walks past, heading for the corridor.
“Not now. Busy,” she simply says in a rather dull tone and soon disappears around the corner.

“Well, you don’t see that every day,” Ashling says after a moment of silence, then goes back to his original task: getting Aléi food.

Ashling knocks on the kitchen doors, and then invites himself in with Aléi in tow. Rodney doesn’t even turn around to see who entered, but rushes back and forth going from chopping up vegetables to checking one of the pots on the stove in one swift, skilful motion.

“What?” he casually asks after a few seconds. There is a hint of annoyance in the voice, but pretty much everyone at The Meeting Place has gotten used to Rodney’s mood.

“We were just thinking of getting some food. What’s cooking?” Ashling says. He sticks by the door, knowing it’s wise not to anger the lion by entering its lair, so to speak.

“Pasta with chicken and vegetables,” Rodney says and drains the pasta. “Gimme a few seconds.”

And indeed, a few seconds later, plates and utensils has been procured and the food has been served. Shorty afterwards, the three has taken a table and eats their food.

“Wow, this is really good,” Aléi’s eyes shine, this being the first time she has had any of Rodney’s cooking.
“Yeah, Rodney’s food is the best,” Ashling adds.
“I try,” Rodney casually replies.

Ashling is the first to finish his meal.
“Hey Rodney, I’ll be showing Aléi some dreams later. Could we by any chance visit y-”
“No,” Rodney bluntly replies. He finishes his food, takes his and Ashling’s plate and walks to the kitchen.

“Okay, what did I just miss?” the voice of The Superhero says. Turning around, they see the hero standing behind them. He most likely just came through the doors.

“We were just asking Rodney if we could enter his dreams, I’m going to show Aléi, you see,” Ashling says. Aléi finishes her meal, and walks the plate to the kitchen.
“You should know better than asking Rodney things like that. Is he still mad about the previous time?” The Superhero responds. Ashling shakes his head lightly.
“Nah, it seemed like general Rodney grumpiness to me. But wait, how about you? Can we check out your dreams?”

The Superhero thinks for a moment. Although, his version of thinking doesn’t look like thinking at all, but more of a stare. A stare that analysed every single way he could break your face. He swears it’s just a bad habit.

“How far are you going?” he finally says.
“All the way down to the core, if possible,” Ashling responds.
“I’d rather not, sorry,” The Superhero says.

Ashling nods understandingly. “Okay. We’ll just head into my dream then.”

*

And so, a while later, Aléi finds herself back in her bed trying to sleep. The Superhero had given them sleeping pills. With how time worked here, using those pills really helped syncing up sleep schedules.

Aléi feels how the body slowly gets drowsier and drowsier. The Superhero said the effects would be pretty much instant, but Aléi speculates that her inner Lifeforce is resisting the pill’s effect, much like how it resists damage and curses in her own world.

Eventually the pill wins and she passes out. The kiet-doll falls off the bed as the unconscious arm cannot hold on to it.

Next chapter

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