It’s been a rather long day. The fishing boats have gone out and come in. Malie usually accompanies them. Auren being a growing dragon often sleeps in but he usually comes out to do whatever it is exactly that he does sometime in the mid morning. By mid afternoon he’s usually sunning on a rock. He hasn’t come out. At all. That’s… that’s very very unlike him.
And the warehouse is dead silent. That is ALSO very unlike him. He snores a bit.
Malie does usually accompany the fishing boats and then spends some time on the docks when they come in. When she realises that Auren hasn’t shown himself, she heads to the warehouse, sure she’ll find him there.
“Auren?” she calls out as she enters the building, frowning when there’s no sound. Slowly she pads through the building, checking for him. “Auren? Are you around?” Where could he be if he’s not here?
The air is cold and stale when Malie opens the door to the warehouse. Not at all like it usually is. Well, it’s often cold this time of year unless someone is running the heat or Auren has been sunning himself but stale? It smells old, and dusty. Like no one has been here for years.
Near the center of the floor there’s a green shape. It may take Malie a moment to realize what it is… it’s a lifesized jade statue of Auren. Or…
It couldn’t be. IS that Auren? Has he… tured to Jade? The statue is sitting upright, forelegs planted squarely in front of it, wings folded in, tail curled up around it. It isn’t moving. AT all.
“Auren…” Malie’s nose twitches at the dusty smell. It hadn’t smelt like this when she left. It hadn’t smelt great, the warehouse never does if she’s honest, but it hadn’t smelt like //this//. “… Auren?” she says tentatively as she finds the lifesized jade statue.
She moves to the statue to touch it and lets her mind reach towards it //Auren? Is it you?//
//Malie…// A mind whispers back at her. When she reaches out to touch the jade starts to warp just a bit and Malie can feel that energy, the energy of the Deplorable Words, connect with her arm. There’s an ever so brief flicker of the crystal skin beneath the jade. He might not have turned solid. Is he sleeping though? Is he dreaming?
Whatever it is, the words are reaching out. Somehow…
//Auren … you need to wake up … come back to me …// Malie sends to the statue, convinced now more than ever that is Auren and the Words have infected his dream. //… I need you …//
She pulls her hand back as the energy starts to creep up her arm, shaking her hand like she’s trying to remove something distasteful from it. It’s going to take a lot to keep the words from pushing at her and she’s not sure how much help Auren will need …. yet.
//Malie?// There’s another shifting, a writhing really, of the jade coating auren. It’s not entirely clear if it’s Jade or just jade colored energy. Either way it’s keeping him trapped or seems to be though Malie well knows the real trap might bei n his mind.
//What… just five more minutes…// He clearly is still asleep. Or still thinks he’s asleep but the ground below him begins to turn green as the power of the Words starts to leach into the floor.
//I need you to wake up, Auren.// Malie frowns as the words hit her mind. And frowns even more as the coating shimmers. //Wake up and tell me what you’re dreaming up.// She risks touching him again, this time to try and shake him, and also trying avoid the green that is leaching onto the floor.
She pushes, psychically, a little against his mind, ascertaining just how much of a hold the words actually have.
//I need you, Auren, come back to me …//
The green coating Auren shimmers as she pushes at him to shake him but contact with the crystal – or stone – dragon exposes her arm to that power again and again it tries to crawl up her. For a moment it seems to flicker like an illusion spell in the process of being broken and then it shatters into a thousand tiny shards and the dragon pitches forward and flops down onto the floor, almost boneless.
“Malie… wha… ow…….”
Malie hisses as the power connects with her again, steeling her mind for a battle. It will be a losing one this time, she’s almost sure – each time this happens, the Words gain a bit more of a foothold.
“Auren!” she cries out as the green hue shatters about them and the dragon topples, wincing hoping he hasn’t cracked anything. He’s Crystal, that can happen can’t it?
“Auren, are you ok?” She drops to her knees beside the … boneless crystal dragon, putting a hand on his head as she does. “You … were dreaming …”
“Was I?” Auren turns his head and neck so that he’s laying on his cheek and looking up at Malie with one eye. He’s not moving otherwise but he’s clearly awake if a bit fuzzy.
“Was… cold. Couldn’t get warm.” That makes sense even if it is, ahem, kind of chilling. “I could hear whispers. But I couldn’t make out what they were saying. It seemed… important but…”
“Are you cold now?” Malie shifts so he can put his in her lap if he wants and runs a hand down to his body to feel how warm he might be. “You were surrounded by … jade energy, I think. I thought you had turned to jade, honestly, when I came in.” Her head hurts a little after the encounter and she knows that can’t be a good thing.
Her nose twitches a bit, taking in the scent of the warehouse “And smelt … old in here. Like the place hadn’t been opened in years…” does it still smell that way?
“Were you searching for the whispers?” Were they important, she wonders, or were they enticing him to follow.
The air does seem to be clearing now though it’s still a bit unnaturally musty in here. Auren lets his head get moved and doesn’t say anything for a couple of minutes. He feels cool. Not cold but not his usual state of warm enough to not need a blanket. He feels… like a rock. Left out in the winter chill. A bit… lifeless.
“I… don’t remember. I was looking for them, I think. It seemed important that I find out what they were saying. But not matter how far I went I couldn’t… Just… kept going deeper and deeper.”
The smell alone causes Malie concern. What the hell had happened here.
“You’re cool, but not cold. When you’re feeling a little better, we should go to your rock, let you bask in the sun for a bit.” She … pats him.
The frown just grows deeper as he tells her what happened but she holds her own counsel for the moment. “Deeper and deeper, where, Auren? I think you were hearing the Words or echoes of them.” And they were using that to … possess him?
“How … do you feel? Not hot or cold, but vitality wise?”
“I’m not sure. Underground.” Auren frowns and the one eye Malie can see half closes. “Underground… toward a light of some kind. A warmth. Red glow. Only way to get warm. Was so cold. Wanted to hear what the whispers were saying.”
The dream of course doesn’t have to make sense but it seems likely it’s related to what Auren just experienced.
“Are… are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I’m cold… okay I’m not fine. I’m hungry.”
“Me? I’ll … be fine…” Malie doesn’t tell him what she experienced, at least not yet. She’s sure the dream was making him more receptive to the Words or something like that.
She’s quiet for a long while, sitting there with his crystalline head in her lap, stroking his shoulder as he thinks. “I’m … scared. For you.” she finally says quietly, looking down at the eye that she can see. “I … do you want me to see if I can find anything in your mind?” That’s dangerous for them and it’s incredibly, incredibly, intimate.
She snorts a bit at his last admission “Well, that’s a good sign, I should think. We can get you something to eat on the way to your rock.” She really is fond of the hatchling.
“I…” Auren opens his eye fully again to look at Malie carefully. Psychic intrusion even done with consent is a tangled affair. It exposes the innermost being of a person to another and… well yes. It’s especially dangerous for the both of them considering what’s living in their heads.
“Yes. If you hadn’t come I don’t know what would…” He might have frozen. Permanently.
It’s not the first time they’ve done this either and the Words push at Malie constantly. “I’ll be as discrete as I can, Auren. It shouldn’t hurt either but with The Words, I’m not sure. You’ll need to tell me if it does, alright?”
Still stroking his shoulder he can feel her steady herself, feel her breathing even out into something like a meditation. Then he feels it, her mind touching his and entering it. It won’t be comfortable but her touch is skilled and the discomfit, at least the for the moment, is minimal.
//Alright, let’s see what we can find.// He’ll see everything she does as she delves.
Dreams are difficult to hunt for. The mind doens’t keep them in the same place and while most telepaths know little of neural biology they DO know the effect it has on their searches.
It starts with a cold wind. Howling. Chilling. Blowing forever. Like the coldest blast from the frozen north. It bites and freezes. The only way to go is down. So down Malie goes and that’s when she hears the whispers. They’re distorted and distant but insistant. Ahead somewhere is warmth. A red glow. Like fire. Or perhaps Lava. Soon it becomes the only light in the darkness. Descent into endless tunnels following the glow and the whispers. Never ending. Going deeper and deeper into the earth.
//Are you with me …// Malie nudges Auren’s consciousnes slightly as she finds what she’s looking for and follows it. Back in the warehouse, her body shivers with the cold, goosebumps appearing as her mind experiences everything Auren did.
//Where were you born, Auren? Or should I say hatched? Was it somewhere warm?// she can see the glow, just as he described, and angles towards to it, though she’s really trying to work out where those whispers are coming from. She’ll … ahem … weather the cold if she can find them.
Right now though, she’s thankful the Words haven’t started pushing at either of them.
//I hatched on a glacier, why?// That might explain the cold at least. This might be a memory except if it is Auren would have surely have mentioned that. Would he not?
There’s something in the whispers that stands out. A song. A woman singing. The words are impossible to pick out but the melody seems to lead away from the rest of the noise. It ALSO leads away from the warmth of wherever these twisting caves are going.
//Do you hear that? I don’t think I remember that in my dream.//
Would Auren have mentioned it? It’s possible he hasn’t connected the memory to his hatching, he might have been too focussed on the whispers.
//A glacier? No wonder you love the sun so much …// Malie smiles to herself even as her physical body shivers again. It really is cold here and that warmth seems so far far away.
//I can hear it, yes.// The dolphin changer frowns a little. //It’s possible that’s what you were following without realising it, I was trying to get what they saying.// That or there’s something very strange going on here. //Do you recognise the melody, at all?//
With a last longing look towards the warm glow, Malie turns them and starts to follow the song. In her experience, these types of things are something the person she’s delving recalls from younger years.
It’s a good thing that dragons aren’t actually cold blooded or Auren might not have ever made it OFF that glacier. Auren doesn’t have a physical presence in the dream right now, neither does Malie for that matter. This is more memory delving.
“That melody sounds familiar.” That’s Auren’s voice but it’s not talking TO Malie. It’s like remembering himself saying it the way it echoes. The shadows of the cave gives way to an endless expanse of white clouds. The Astral Realm. Malie, as a psychic, should know of it, if not know it personally.
//How familiar?// Malie prompts as they follow the sound. She knows he’s remembering or something akin to that and the prompts are designed to guide them further.
As the shadows give way, Malie stops their movement and looks around. She’d frown if she had a physical presence here. //Auren, do you know how to Astral Project?// she asks of the hatchling. It’s not unheard to find this in someones one, just very, very, very, uncommon to come so deep. //And can you hear the melody, still?//
//No. Well, not yet. My kind often develop that kind of power. I’ve been to the Astral Plane though.// There’s ways to get there beyond Astral projecting they’re just involved and… dangerous. Astral beings are very very powerful. The clouds break and Malie can see a grand river and verdant plains, wreathed with white stretching before her. An Astral Realm. Created by a being powerful enough to shape the stuff of this plane into a stable form. The singing is coming from there.
//I know this song, I think. I heard it when I was very young…//
//You have, have you? Want to tell me about it?// Malie sounds dry as they watch the clouds swirl and finally part. //Oh. It’s beautiful.// And it is. //I don’t walk the plains myself but I’ve been there as well.// It’s possible for someone to take you but yes, dangerous. //Becareful, Auren. Whoever made this is powerful.//
And Malie can’t get sense for the power at the moment.
She moves them forward with a thought, out towards to the river and the plains, following the melody. It’s almost like the melody is drawing them forward. //Who sung it Auren?// Normally, Malie would say a parent or a sibling but Dragons are solitary creatures and the family unit doesn’t exist like she knows it.
//Over there I think.// There’s a tall tree just on the bank of the river, with limbs that sag toward the water. It’s towards this the dolphin changer directs them.
//We’re still in my head, right?// Auren remarks back. How dangerous could it be- don’t answer that.
The view opens up around that tree and Malie can see a dragon, like Auren but the size of Kailastia. A Zaayr. Auren ahd said he was among the last and if this really is in his head… he’s met this dragon. But surely if he recognized the song he’d have told her who sung it.
The dragon is half in the water, washing herself clearly, in dragon form.
//Dragons are solitary… but Zaayr can’t really afford to be. There aren’t many of us left and there’s safety in numbers. I know this dragon…// There’s a pause. //I’m too young to be forgetting things like this…//
Why can’t he remember who she is?
//We are but this is the Astral Plain and something affected you …// Malie sends quietly to Auren. How dangerous? The Words are dangerous and they’re in his head. //You should know her, Auren yes. Either the memory of her was taken from you or you don’t know her but she knows you.//
Stopping them again not far from the lake where the dragon is washing, Malie watches in silence for a long moment. //Hello?// she sends out. If this is Auren’s memory it might not respond. But she’s not sure this really is a memory.
The dragon doesn’t respond, not verbally. She keeps singing. But when Malie greets her she turns to look right at the dolphin changer. That is unlikely to be a coincidence and that means it’s highly likely that this is something more than a simple dream.
//I… can’t recall. I was young though. Well… younger. I remember the water. It was cool. I’d been on a burning world. I heard the singing. I don’t even recall how I got here…//
THAT’s unusual. The entire thing is sounding odd. Was he drawn here and the memories suppressed or altered? Or was the memory… constructed somehow.
Either way the song makes the whispers fade away.
//We’ll work it out, Auren … // Malie reassures the hatchling. For all that he’s older than her, he’s still so very, very young. //Tell me what happened on the burning world… what was happening when you found yourself here…//
As the dragon looks at her, or her telepathic form, Malie bows slightly to it //Greetings, venerable one. I am Malie, but I suspect you know that.// That the song keeps the whispers away, is interesting. //And this Auren. Might we know your name and your purpose here?// The dolphin changer isn’t sure if this male or female. She’d say female, but wouldn’t want to upset anyone if she was wrong.
There is again, no response. Just the singing. Perhaps this is more like a recording. Something placed here as a message or… possibly an aid? The dragon continues to watch Malie carefully. The singing stops for a moment and then the dragon starts again. Slower and from the beginning.
//That world. I come there a year after Charn. It was a desert world. I got there by accident. It had… little magic and very hostile locals. I think the only reason they didn’t hound me relentlessly was they couldn’t figure out if I had any water in me. I managed to find another rift and get through it. I didn’t want to spend longer there than I had to. Anywhere was better.//
//How did you find yourself here from that world?// Had he come through the Rift or was it something else. Malie frowns at the dragon, and listens intently to the singing when it starts again.
Starting to hum along with it, learning it … committing it to memory. An aid might be right. It has quieted the whispers after all.
//Does the song seem anymore familiar to you know?//
//I don’t… remember. Maybe through that rift.// Auren looks up at the dragon and starts to hum the song. It is so damn familiar. Soothing to. It’s got a nice flow to it. Like water through a stream. It seems natural, a counterpoint to the ominous nature of those whispers.
The dragon finally turns away from Malie and the memory fades to blackness. The sense of the whispers has stopped as well. And the cold. There’s just the vague sense of her actual body. Which still has Auren’s somewhat heavy head in her lap.
//No… but… I know I knew it well once.//
//Well. Maybe you’ll remember in time …// Malie isn’t inclined to try and delve that. She feels they’ve found what they need. It doesn’t answer why he was surrounded in green when she found him today. She’s still humming though as the scene fades and leave them there.
//Have you noticed when you hum what happens?// she ask, starting to lead them back to that hot spot. That or back to their bodies.
“Perhaps…” Auren murmurs. As she guides them back toward the dream he had there’s a sudden wall of noise. The words. She’s hit the point where they are in his mind, or did they move, seeking the psychic intrusion. She can almost feel the chill agian but this time it’s the chill of cold, lifeless stone.
//Malie!// She can also feel Auren growing cold against her lap. Again. If she opens her eyes, is he turning to Jade once more?
//Remember the song, Auren. I think it wi—// Malies words cut off as the chill hits them and the noise becomes deafening. She winces and her body shivers in sympathy.
//Auren. Hum… // She doesn’t open her eyes, just stays with him where he is and starts to sing. She knows how to sing, she’s a Whale Singer. //Sing the song, Auren.// It’s difficult keeping the focus on the song and keeping the pressure off her mind. If she needs to, she’ll try to block the influence on Auren.
That’s likely to cost her. Again.
Auren starts to hum the song with Malie and it’s… so very hard to hear. For a moment it seems like it might do nothing at all but then the roar of the Words just fades away and soon it recedes all together.
Auren opens his eyes, panting. If he did sweat he’d be sweating buckets right now. “A-a-are you okay, Malie?”
It is hard to hear. It’s hard to focus on keeping the tempo and melody going but they manage. His voice adding an interesting counterpoint to hers.
As the cacophony subsides, Malie swallows and opens her eyes, gazing down into Aurens. “Auren …” she’s a little hoarse, and she’s very cold. “… I’m I’m ok. Are you? That was … intense…”
“I think I’m okay.” There’s a great deal of the floor around Auren that seems to have become Jade. He winces. This is the fourth or fifth jade patch on this floor. At this rate it’ll be all jade within a year.
Not only does Malie sound hoarse, she sounds a bit dry. “It was… do you need to get into the water?” She doesn’t take well to long periods of exertion on land, he’s discovered.
“Think ….” Malie runs a hand down the crystalline dragon, reassuring herself that he’s there. The jade gets a look. She’s concerned but there’s nothing that will change that now. At least they seem to have some protection from the words. She’s still wondering who that dragon was.
Dry. Right. The cold would dehydrate her just as easily as the heat. “I … do. I’m dehydrating and … ” that’s bad. “Let’s get you something to eat and me rehydrated and find your rock, so you can sun…”
Auren pushes himself up and shrinks down into his human form. He’s a bit unsteady on his feet for a moment but rights himself and reaches down for Malie.
“Come on then. Can’t let you dry out. Or me go hungry. The world might end.”
The world might indeed end if he goes hungry. He’d eat it and go somewhere else. Or so the fishmongers of the dockyards would say. Auren’s got something of a reputation there.