Tale 1 - The Breach
Many years were to pass until the inevitable catastrophe. Generations of men would rise and fall before the first signs of the coming storm. In that sliver of time the world was calm and the mankind worked its way towards a great future at full speed, sooner or later they would be holding the strength drawn from the unshakable laws of logic of their world grasped in one hand, the chaotic power harnessed from its shadowy part in the other. Fearless, tireless, witless. But what they couldn't see was seen by different eyes. By those who lay hidden, observing, studying, planning, waiting for the time they ought to present themselves to these mortals and guide them in their hour of need – the hour they knew would come.
On that day, however, their concern was not the doomed future of humans. They gathered – in their own unique fashion – to discuss one of their own. All four of the Draic Kin had bent their minds to look into the plane of the reality that could not be accessed by anyone else in this world, at least not by choice. The layer of the Dreaming which was less tightly bound with the material world in which they now resided was, like many times before, their courier, bringing their thoughts and emotions to one another. They would all appear to each other, as whispers in the wind, ghostly shimmers seen from the corner of an eye – each one of them – though more real and substantial to one another than any flash and blood mortal being.
But they would not settle for a simple message or two this time. When the eldest one called for them, they each drew as much of themselves into the Dreaming as was possible without completely detaching themselves from their temporary home world.
And so they appeared one by one. First the Red one - curiosity and wonder of a newborn, and wit and mischief worthy of the oldest malignant minds – slowly bloomed into existence. Soon the Green of the Kin joined in – immense passion and dedication, hidden beneath cold, uncaring arrogance – his was the most measured pace. The White was the last one – generosity and gentleness, with mercilessness and fiery fierceness to match – her light grew slowly, drawing certain amount of attention from the first two. The three regarded the one who had summoned them, the Blue of the Draic Kin, the eldest sibling – The deepest, ancient, all consuming mind, yet uninterested, distracted, sleepy.
Now that they were all present, The Blue turned to the White and the other two gladly followed the suite.
"I am relieved to know you are not harmed… and you're back with us… Finally!..", his voice echoed in their minds like a low rumble of distant thunder.
"I'm glad to be reunited with you all!" She answered, he felt the warmth of her smile and sincerity of her words.
"Why did you shroud yourself, hiding in mists and darkness... thief like?" The Red one asked with no small amount of surprise. The eldest Kin observed her covertly from beneath the sleepiness he had spread over himself to cover his own consciousness, dull the sharpness of it, at least for others' perception. She didn't reply right away, but her presence radiated something new – for a moment she was hesitant, measuring words and he felt a sizable amount of protectiveness. The Blue of the Kin knew, of course, what she was protecting, although he wasn't sure why and what from, and the subtle changes she had gone through piqued his interest like little else could. He would discuss these things with her later, when others had satisfied their own curiosity, or rather, given up trying.
"Why haven't we been joined by your Dream lately? We got worried." The green one inquired, more stern than the others. They obviously suspected her of keeping secrets from them and rightfully so. Even if they didn't have the sight and hearing of the Blue one, they were bound to feel something.
"I donned a human body and walked among them for several moons as humans measure time", she offered. They fell silent, expectant, but she said no more.
"What for?" The Green one asked, scornful and arrogant.
"I observed, and experienced, and learned." was the simple answer.
Their disbelief was palpable. The Red and the Green ones were quiet, the pause stretched on. One waited, the other searched for a different, more thorough answer, the sort they could easily accept, or at least comprehend. None came. She was as calm and serene as ever. In fact, he noted to himself, as confident in the secrecy of his thoughts as he alone could be, she's a little more serene than she usually is.
"What could you possibly have needed to learn from them?" The Green one asked, indignant as always when it came to the matters that concerned humans.
"Not from them, brother," she corrected him, seeming almost uncharacteristically condescending (he felt the Green one bristle encountering such attitude towards himself) "about them."
"We have been studying them since before they knew the meaning of studying," The Red one interjected, his pride smaller than his puzzlement, "Why was such a thing necessary?"
"And why not tell us?" The Green Kin continued, unwilling to let his suspicions drop.
"I have told you," She retorted, "Just now." They were stunned. Now she was filled with what was unmistakably mischievous playfulness expected of a human child, but certainly unfitting for a Draic Kin. Even the Blue of the Kin, who had been prepared for certain oddities - better informed as he was - was somewhat perplexed to witness her behave this way.
"Besides," she continued in a more serious tone "it may not have been necessary, but that doesn't mean it was not advisable. I found the experience invaluable, considering the fact that we are almost certainly going to be their guides in times yet to come."
"So?" The Green demanded, more stubborn still. "I don't see why you couldn't have told us what you were planning."
"Now how is this fair, brother?" She asked, unperturbed, "We all lay in silence and isolation for years and years."
"That's not what you did!", The Green Draic kin objected and finally the Blue felt him give way to anger, the Red one alarmed, the White stronger in her defiance. He let out a low growl vibrating through their senses to remind them all that they must behave, not let petty annoyance get the best out of them.
"We could feel your existence", the Red one started carefully, "but it was hard to even be sure it was you. A lot of the times I... We... lost confidence in our recognition." A small pause, "You were shrouded." He repeated, his insatiable curiosity more and more prominent.
"I am sorry to have disturbed you in such a way," she answered, calm and gentle once again, "but I've done what I've done and I see no harm in it."
It didn't get much different from there on. Every question, every demand to explain herself was treated by her as though a joke. She pretended (surely) as if she gave no importance to their concerns and that they were, in fact, out of proportion and unnecessary. Different emotions rose from the other two as well. The Green grew colder as it had been expected, while the Red one became something of a mystery - there was a hint of excitement in his presence now and, surprisingly enough, he seemed somewhat amused.
After a while, as he was the eldest, the Blue Dragon urged them to finish what in his opinion was a useless conflict of minds, and granted The White of the Kin her right to do with her time as she pleased, as long as she did not break the laws that bound each one of them. He also expressed his belief that she would take their concerns into account in the future. Reluctantly the two brothers ceased what had become an interrogation of sorts, the gathering had ended.
He lay there and waited for the whispers to die down. His siblings withdrew their presence slowly, gradually, in the same sequence they'd come. When the White of the Draic Kin prepared to leave, however, he latched unto her mind and wordlessly, without any explanation started his descent into the bottommost parts of the Dreaming, turning inwards and dragging her down with him. Not all had been said, but what he had to say he would say to her only. An invitation would've been accepted, he believed, but he would not voice a thought anymore, not until they were out of reach, away from the other two's hearing range. The white seemed to have understood, as she simply followed him down into the depths of the endless tunnel, on and on until they entered that layer which not one of them was fit to enter, but he - the first herald of the Great Dream, the ancient Dragon could. So he guided her there - safe from the others' inquisitive minds and piqued ears. She took it in, the feel of it, the dream so ancient she felt like a newborn, humbled in face of the great age that lay there, dormant yet watchful.
The Blue of the Draic Kin took in her mood. Good, she didn't stir trouble, perhaps she realized that The Talk would happen one way or another, and she was glad to have been offered a chance at a private conversation rather than have her secrets discussed with the others.
"I know what you've done." He told her, calm and decisive. "A spark rose off the flame… I felt it… I heard it. I know what you've brought… into existence." She didn't argue, instead her inner smile flowered in his mind, sweet and warm. "Yes, she said. I expected you would." her excitement grew tenfolds now that she allowed it to, "What do you think?"
"It's strange… and weak," he said slowly, "and hard to place… "
"She's wonderful." She answered simply. "With time she will be much stronger."
"Your thoughts and feelings towards this being… are shaped like those of mortals." Not quite like mortals, of course, for that was virtually impossible, yet alarmingly similar.
"Yes," she agreed, "and so it should be."
"I fail to see..." he remarked thoughtfully, "why you've hidden this... from us."
"I knew I could never hide her from you," The White answered and became more concerned and guarded, "but I will beg you not to reveal my secret to the others."
The urgency of this request confused him, he studied her for a while before finally deciding to ask, "Do you... distrust our siblings?" The question was almost an accusation, and she might have felt so, but her will was unyielding.
"This one thing alone is too precious for me to rely on trust."
This too he met with studious silence, "It won't be a secret for long... you ought to know... that. Fire can't be hidden... in a haystack." He answered reasonably.
"And yet I'd prefer to keep her secret for as long as possible." and before The Blue of the Draic Kin could wonder at it, or enquire any further, she added, almost pleadingly, "please!"
He felt her despair, but couldn't understand it. Though perhaps he ought to have, since he alone had had the reason to call anyone or anything his child. But the nature of this relationship seemed different to the core and he could not grasp it. For some time he was deep in thought. He regarded his sister, perceiving all that she was, the youngest and brightest to stand facing the oldest and darkest, and now she had tied herself to this world the way none of them had, to counter his own detachment. He had brought so many into this world yet spared them so little thought. She had brought just one and it had become the single most important thing. He saw how they stood on two ends of a single thread, not clashing against each other, but in perfect equilibrium. And wasn't it so fitting? Had she been guided, after all, by that impeccable Balance, the Balance of All? Perhaps… it should be like this… his thought echoed in both their minds and she gave him that warm smile again. He could see no fault in her actions or decisions, only peculiarity. Oh well, he decided, I have no doubt in her intentions… I'll let her decide how this… strange business continues.
When the White left his abode - slowly rising up layer by layer, diverting her attention this way and that, awed - he remained there, gazing at her light gradually becoming smaller and flickering out of existence in his personal reality.
She has changed, he thought dreamily. It was astonishing, how much this most basic of mortals' experience could influence their kind. Perhaps it should have been alarming too, but there were other things that distracted him from such an emotion - curiosity, a bit of reluctant fascination, and, of course, sleep... There was always the sleep. He pulled it over himself, like a blanket, knitted with the finest yarn made of time and space, adorned with countless galaxies. He could hear the distant sound of the lullaby, still echoing from the far away cradle he had left such a long time ago, carried over unceasingly for those who could and wished to listen. He had to sleep, it was important to sleep.
He was far from the only one yearning to do so at that moment - somewhere on the intricate tapestry of The All he could still distinguish it, the solitary spark, a new life among countless others, but unique, undefined, bound to him and his kind with the thinnest yet firmest of threads. Barely noticeable, but unbreakable. Why not? He turned his attention to it, just this once, careful not to disturb, and gently guided it into its own dream, wondrous and soothing for the tiny being who was just starting its very long journey.