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.