Sunday April 16th, 2017

The exercise:

We return to The Dream Kingdom today.

Because Sunday is still part of this week, at least from what I meant when I was thinking about when I'd get to this.

Hope you all had a happy Easter. Max and Miles and their cousins seemed to enjoy themselves, that's for sure.

Trying to make a dent in the comment backlog. It gets a bit intimidating when I fall over a month behind, but I'll get there eventually.


Apologies for the length of mine. I find it difficult not to get carried away with each installment of the yearlong prompt.


"What's really going on here?" Nystor repeated. His tone was still friendly, but his demeanor had changed slightly. Dylan thought he seemed... more authoritative, somehow. "Well I suppose now that the gang's all here, as it were, we can get to the nitty gritty, yes?"

"Yes." Dylan, Josh, and Olivia said in unison.

"Excellent. Watch closely, then - I won't be doing this again."

"Watch what closely...?" Olivia began but then fell silent as Nystor began his work.

The old man turned to face the nearest wall of the audience chamber, some twenty feet away. It was covered with portraits and tapestries and sculptures tucked into spacious alcoves until... it was not.

"This," Nystor said as the colors of the wall swirled and transformed and rearranged until they became a topographical map viewed from above, "is The Dream Kingdom."

"How did you do that?" Josh asked, his previous confidence having vanished from his voice and his eyes wide with wonder.

"With the strength of my imagination," Nystor replied, almost dismissively. "To our left you can see King Brekstan's domain, where we are now. To our right, the archipelago territory of The Islanders. The mountains and desert and waters that separate our kingdoms have done little to prevent disputes and sabotage and even the occasional war."

"That's where your king is now?" Dylan asked, pointing to the largest of the islands.

"Yes, if their ransom note is to be believed," Nystor said, his tone conveying his doubts on the matter.

"What happened?" Olivia asked. "How were they able to take him?"

"I can only share my own view of the events, as well as what I have been able to piece together from... other survivors," Nystor said as the wall map shifted to bring the northern kingdom into central focus. "I urge you not to look away. You must know who we will be coming up against."

Dylan opened his mouth to protest the man's presumptuousness but then his teeth clicked together as the wall changed again. This time it felt like they were falling into the map, the ground rushing closer and closer. It was difficult not to step back or reach for something to brace himself against. Just as impact began to seem inevitable, the viewpoint leveled off and they were soaring above the landscape, like an eagle shot out of a cannon.

"Jesus," Josh muttered.

The speed of their approach slowed slightly as a castle came into view, then the small town surrounding it. A moment later they could see the invading force swarming through the streets, clad in fish scale armor and wielding silver harpoons and large barbwire nets. The towering men and women were not shy about putting either to use on the townsfolk.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Dylan whispered.

"Watch." Was all that Nystor said in reply.

They view rose higher, sending them over the castle walls and through an open window. Down twisting hallways they flew, passing running soldiers and servants, until they arrived in the room in which they now stood. The viewpoint switched to first person, and it didn't take long to understand that they were now seeing with Nystor's eyes.

The Islanders had forced their way through a heavy door which now hung on broken hinges. Nystor on the wall raised his hands before him and bolts of electricity shot from his fingers, sending men twice his size sailing across the room. He turned his head in time to see his king fall to the floor under the weight of one of the invaders' jagged nets and more bolts flew out to send his liege's attackers thudding into the wall behind them.

Nystor on the wall turned again, to be confronted with three soldiers protected by glimmer shields. More jagged flashes of light flew from his fingers, but these were absorbed by the shields. His focus shifted and a final bolt struck an attacker on the foot, sending him crashing face first onto the stone floor. Nystor on the wall aimed his fingers at the other men's feet but then a harpoon was brought down across his wrists with enough force to break bone.

"Damn it," Josh said, getting caught up in the scene despite himself. Unseen, Nystor contemplated him for a moment before returning his focus to his memories.

On the wall, Nystor looked up at his attacker just as a fist crashed into his face, sprawling him across the floor. From there he had a sideways view of King Brekstan being dragged from the room. Nystor struggled to his feet, only to be struck down again. He turned his head one final time and watched the approach of two silvery fish scale boots. The wearer was casual, in no apparent rush to reach his target. Then one boot disappeared from view as it was lifted up.

And then the wall went black.


Greg said...

I felt this needed not to be part of the poetry month, so I've waited a little to come to this, helped by the fact that we only return to it monthly :) I don't think you need to apologise for length given that it's both your blog and it's an exciting story! Plus the back-story would probably never get given if you tried to organise the three of us to tell it between us.
The invaders are interesting; I like their armour and weapons especially, and the professional way they use them. It throws up some questions too that I'll try and answer below. Nystor has grown as a character, as does Dylan too slightly. I can see that we're going to have to keep an eye on Josh as he might slip into the background otherwise. I also like the way you transport them into the back-story scene; very cinematic!

Josh had turned the colour of soured milk and was staring at the floor, swallowing hard. Dylan put a reassuring hand on his shoulders. Olivia, however, was staring hard at Nestor.
"I don't understand," she said.
"What?" Nystor's face turned puzzled. "I would have thought that my memo-"
"Not that." She waved an impatient hand at the tapestry. "You. You said that we're limited only by the power of our imaginations."
"Yes, that ri-"
"And then as soon as someone breaks your wrist you stop imagining zapping them."
"And why were you zapping them in the first place? This isn't Call of Duty, why didn't you just imagine big holes underneath them? Drop them back into the ocean where they came from?"
"And what's the ransom note for? That bit I really don't understand. They killed anyone they felt like, and you all just there and imagined you were enjoying it, so what could they possibly want from you that they couldn't just take?"
"ENOUGH!" roared Nystor. His face had reddened, though there were still icy-white blotches at his hairline and jaw, and he was visibly shaking. "Enough, I say!"
"ANSWERS!" shouted Olivia back at him, staring still.
"Liv," said Dylan quietly, reaching for her elbow.
"Don't Liv me," she said, not taking her eyes off Nystor. "He's got some answering to do, because from where I'm standing right now he's a traitor and up to no good."
"Traitor?" said Josh, looking up. He was shaking as much as Nystor, and looked like he wanted to be sat down.
"How dare you!" Nystor's voice had turned gravelly with rage.
"He's kidnapped us, he's showed us a scene that makes his claims about power lies, he's asking kids to help him, an adult-"
There was an odd sensation, like a spring breeze surprising picnickers, and Olivia's hand flew to her face. Where her mouth had been was smooth, unmarked flesh.

Greg said...

"I am not a traitor." Nystor's words were as stiff as his body, which still trembled like an ancient oak resisting a hurricane. "You don't understand anything, you silly little girl, and you never will if you don't learn to listen.
"Imagination used as a weapon needs training. You think you're clever because you arrived here and got dressed faster than Dylan, but that's still only the first hour of the first lesson when we train young mages here, and we start them at the age of six. Pain breaks concentration, breaks imagination. We don't have time, but believe me," his face contorted, "I would dearly love to put you to the test of Duress where we see how much pain you can tolerate and still affect the world around you. When my wrist was broken it wasn't just the pain of the bone: those harpoons the invaders carry are coated with an acid they extract from the stomachs and bones of fish. The gloves they wear protect them; on my skin it burned so badly I'd have happily torn my skin off to end the pain.
"Why electricity? Because it is easy to imagine and doesn't require any effort to keep imagining once you release it. Fire, water, rocks, they all work the same way. Fire and forget, as I think your military would put it." He sneered, and for a moment Dylan wondered if they were seeing the real Nystor. "Why not just holes in the world? Because if you tried to do what you're suggesting you'd understand: you need to imagine a tunnel from here to there and sustain it. Over, and over again. It's exhausting. Much like explaining things to you."
Olivia's eyes narrowed. For a moment there was silence, and then her voice echoed around the room, loud enough that Josh winced and Dylan ducked.
"That still doesn't explain why King Breakfast is being held to ransom. Those invaders could have killed you all. What is the ransom for?"
Nystor crooked an eyebrow. "That was fast," he said. He nodded very slightly. "Realising that you don't need your physical body for things; very fast. And his name is King Brekstan. You're not getting your mouth back until you remember that."
"Whatevs. Ransom."
"Yes, the ransom. The Dream Kingdom will persist for as long as anyone born here is still alive, and the invaders know that we have sent Prince Reimar away from this world. The ransom is the return of the Prince, at which point they can destroy the Kingdom entirely."

Marc said...

Greg - woo hoo, managed to get to this post. Now I can bring us to May's installment! Victory!

Relatively speaking.

Fantastic continuation of our tale. Great development of characters and I really like the explanations you provided.

And that ending! Definitely gives me something to work with in May.

So, like, in the next week sometime.