Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey.
Time is Running Out.
The steady and unfaltering rhythm of well-used muscles flexing and contracting is strangely hypnotic and comforting to me. If you could keep up with me, and had the breath to ask me why I was running, I would be silent for a long time before giving my answer, thus:
Truth be told, the reasons that I started this never-ending flight are almost lost to me. I still know them… I just can’t articulate them, which is frustrating to say the least.
Today I am running down a long, winding road that I have never been down before but I recognise somehow. I can’t see more than ten horse lengths ahead of me, because of the curve of the road, but I still feel safe.
The road is made of hard-packed grey dust that is scattered with clods of brown earth towards the verges on either side. There is little dust and I guess that there must have been rain overnight, to damp down the road so. On either side of the road is a gently sloping and curving bank, covered with nothing but short grass to my left, culminating in a stand of thickly grown together bushes with dark green, shiny leaves. Some of the branches of the bushes have small white flowers on them.
My feet hit the ground, one after the other, creating a dull thudding rhythm in counter to my heartbeat.
The verge on the right is also clad in emerald green grass, but this side is currently interspersed with bright stabs of spring colour as the wildflowers push their way up towards the sun. At the top of the verge on my right are the slender forms of silver birch saplings, against the background of an intensely blue sky.
The air is fresh and clean and I take in great, chest filling breaths of it.
I like running.
I sleep wherever I fancy, when I tire of my running. Sometimes I sleep on the ground, in a nest made of leaf litter and bracken, and other times I’ll climb up a tree and lose myself to dreams, safe in the knowledge that the stars— my stars— are watching out for me.
My dreams are strange things. Mostly I dream of the great forest that I sometimes find myself running through. The trees are titanic in their size and you could easily live your whole life up one. Underneath the trees, far below the canopy on the floor of the woods, is a thick layer of spicy-green smelling leaf litter and loam that feels soft and spongy in places, and is packed into harder game trails in others.
Not many plants grow down here in the dim, earth scented gloom and those that do are usually dark-leaved vines and other climbing plants and mosses, that cling to the rutted vertical majesty of the tree trunks.
Sometimes I think the forest is like a giant outdoor temple.
I’m not running there today, however, today I’m on the road. My feet are still hitting the ground with regular beats as I run as a person— something that I’ve not done for a long time.
You see, I have a special talent— whatever I want my body to be, it becomes. Running as a horse is good— the pounding of hooves echoing behind me as I race against the wind is very exhilarating, as is the feeling of the air dragging incorporeal fingers through my mane and tail and tangling them together in many layered knots.
When I was a horse I was black and white, unless it was a day when I was being grey, with spangles and dapples of colours down my flanks and legs. Sometimes I was a chestnut with two white socks and a blaze of white that went from the middle of my nose to just around and above my left eye.
I think I once spent an entire month as a horse.
I also love the shape of the wolf. Wolves have amazing bodies and muscles, when I’m a wolf I feel like I can keep up the effortless, ground devouring lope that I use forever and ever.
When I’m a wolf I have golden brown eyes that see the world with monochrome brilliance and I have thick, warm fur peppered with black and grey and a bushy, beautiful tail that can keep me warm at night and be used as a rudder to turn quickly. I have strong legs and paws that dig into the soft ground or beat on the hard road and push me along as I run.
Despite the limitations of my two-legged form, I’ve managed to get up to such a speed that it almost feels like I am flying…
Well, why not?
I concentrate and the change ripples through my body, clouding my vision momentarily and making my arms and legs tingle and my back twinge in an odd fashion. I wobble slightly, but before I topple over I jump high in the air.
My vision is obscured by varicoloured sparkles but they clear as my four feet hit the road and I run once more.
My tail lashes at the air and my sharp bird-eyes flick over my surroundings. Everything is ten times sharper and outlined in clean lines and edges, even the edges of my brown beak visible out of the corners of my new eyes.
The air tumbles around me in swirling eddies, stirring loose dust from my feathers and fur as my four clawed feet rhythmically bite into the ground and propel me onwards. Muscles along my back twitch and strain and I gleefully allow a shout of joy to reverberate from my throat.
Gryphon wings with malaar striped falcon feathers unfurl from my shoulders and beat against the air and I lurch forwards as first my front feet, and then my hind feet leave the ground.
I fly, surging higher with each powerful downwards wing beat. My body knows what to do, after all this is my place, my life and it is unthinkable that I should not be able to soar upwards. I leave the ground and the road far behind as I dance amongst the wispy white clouds against the azure sky. On the horizon I can see a dark smudge covering the ground, the golden light of the sun catching highlights of green amongst it and adding textures to an otherwise flat scene.
I know that it’s my forest and I wheel and twine my way towards it, effortlessly sky dancing with the clouds and the sunlight in the clearer than crystal high up air.
Is there a place where dreamers go to dream? I wonder this often. My dreams are so vivid and convincing that they do make me wonder if there is such a place as a land of dreams— a place where those that dream go to weave their imaginings about reality. I imagine that it must be a place inside their heads, but not. A place where anything that a dreamer wants can happen, if they believe enough.
I don’t think I believe enough, as things in my dream rarely seem to be under my control—to be honest I barely understand them sometimes…
The sun is setting and purple and indigo dusk is chasing mist through the trees of my forest as I pad silently through my forest. Flying takes more energy than I imagined and I abandoned my gryphon self when I reached my towering, ancient trees, now I am wolf-that-is-me, drifting sinuously across the leaf litter, the last glimmer of day and the first glimmers of foxfire dancing around my silhouette.
I make my way to the old tree. It is a short way into the forest and I believe it to be the oldest thing living here. At the base of it, on one side, there is a hollow in the ground that dips between thick and gnarled roots and has a mossy floor and walls. This is where I sleep and I slip in quietly, turning myself round and round to trample the moss to my liking, before settling in a comfortable ball, my peppered black tail curled warmly around me and over my nose.
My breathing slows and I slowly relax my limbs and close my eyes. One breath, then another and then—
My dreams have a common theme; they are always centred on a version of my forest, and the majority of the time is on a settlement in the forest. This place in the dream forest is a strange one— almost like a natural valley or vale, filled with strange and fantastic houses that are balanced improbably in the gentle embrace of outspread tree branches.
The trees are the same as the huge ones that are in my forest.
Other houses and buildings are on the ground, but these are domed affairs that are half-buried under artistic drifts of leaves and twining ground creepers.
There is a crystal brook that bubbles around rocks and stones and arcs around the length of this vale, dancing and woven around a series of bark strewn paths that criss-cross the area.
And there are people. The people in this place, this vale are humans with silver hair and blue eyes, or kyree with peppered wolf-fur, or hertasi with clever and quick fingers and sharp noses. There is also a small herd of the deer-like dyheli, with their pale cream and fawn markings and their spiral-but-straight horns.
Recently, some gryphons arrived. In my dream they said they were a detachment of Silvers from the last Kaled’a’in Clan of k’Leshya. There are six of them— two look like the falcon-form of me-as-gryphon, and they are both grey and dun coloured. The other four are hawk-type in build. One of them, the leader of them in my dream, has bright yellow fore claws and beak, like a goshawk, and dark brown feathers and fur.
As of the dream gryphons in this dream-vale have the tips of their primaries bleached and dyed with a silvery grey dye.
I don’t know why.
Some part of me thinks that I should recognise this place and I try to rationalise that I do, because it is my dream. That doesn’t feel quite right though, and I don’t know why that is either.
In my dream tonight, it is winter outside the vale, but not inside. There is a shimmering curtain of something that keeps the cold weather out and the warmth in.
I’m confused for a moment, because I only dreamt of this place last night and the outside dream forest was in the full glories of autumn then, with drifts and branches full of brightly coloured leaves in a riot of reds and oranges. Outside in the dream forest now there is just the white expanse of snow, with the tree trunks looking like dull bars of cold metal shoved into the ground by a giant.
My forest, in the place where I’m awake, never has winter. I don’t like the cold or the snow. I let it have an autumn sometimes, as it’s such pretty colours, but never winter; everything’s all dead and colourless and it’s not enjoyable at all.
The plants inside the dream vale are still luxuriant with growth and heavy with fruit and scented flowers, but the cold, wet dullness outside the edges worry me and distract me and I find myself unable to concentrate on any other aspect of my dream.
With a sigh of frustration I cease my invisible drifting and wake up.
Today I am being a dyheli. Like some deer, dyheli have massively elastic bodies and with very little effort I can spring over all manner of things as I leap and bound my way back to the edges of the forest.
Bushes and rocks and small brooks with dancing water flash beneath my clover hooves before I clatter gracefully on the road. This part of the road skirts around the edge of the forest and I blur along it with my long neck stretched out and the early morning air whistling around my horns.
To my left are the trees that make up the outskirts of the forest and as I dash past I catch snatches of forest sounds: Bees and insects droning around the late summer flowers and canopy birds trilling to one another in the safety of the highest branches.
It looks like being another marvellous day.
Out of the protective magic barrier of the dream vale it is spring now and I approve of this a lot more than when I dreamt of here last night. I can concentrate on other aspects of my dream now.
As ever, when I dream of this place, I find myself slowly drawn to one of the half-buried looking dome buildings. This one has skylights that are surrounded by flowering plants and the majority of it is covered by variegated ivy and holly.
I drift towards the building and slowly insinuate myself around the door. There are three people in the room, all of them have silver hair and blue eyes. The one who is a woman and who is sitting blank and silent in a chair used to be me. The others in the room, two men both with their silver hair masked by mottled brown and grey and green dye except for at the starkly white roots, can’t see the real me.
They can only see the dream me that sits in the chair. I’ve tried and tried but apart from a vague sense of once knowing that body, I can’t get into the dream me or make it do anything at all.
That is why I think I am not a good dreamer; that I don’t believe enough to make my dream work properly.
I recognise both the men as well. The shorter of the two, dressed in the well worn clothes of a day scout, with raven feathers braided in his hair looks upset, they both do, but he looks worse off. I think he might be on the verge of tears.
Now he’s speaking. “Dawnrunner?” He asks, looking at the dream me. “Are you there? Can you here me?”
Of course, the dream me is an empty shell… I’m all over here by the window, but they don’t know that, so there is no reply.
I remember that he is called Icerain and I think I might have known him once. The other man, also clad in scout gear— although his looks much cleaner— is called… Leafspear? Yes, he is.
Icerain is still looking at the dream me, sitting there with it’s hands neatly folded in it’s lap, clad in a simple tunic and trews of pale green and blue. The dream me has harsh silver hair that is cut short and it has an utterly, utterly blank face. The pale blue eyes of the dream me, the empty me, are unfocused and staring at the wall.
Occasionally it blinks.
He speaks again, this time directed at Leafspear. “I… after the accident, I used to think that she would come back when her body healed… but…”
“That was over a year ago,” Leafspear’s voice is unspeakably sad.
What accident? If I concentrate then… there’s a memory of a fire and magic… maybe? I think… a storm… of… magic…? But then the feeling passes.
“Yes I… I don’t think she’s coming back.” Icerain dashes one hand against both of his cheeks in quick succession. My attention is briefly caught by the daylight from the window making his now damp hand shine.
Leafspear puts a comforting hand on Icerain’s shoulder and he turns to leave. “Kaylen will be along soon to take her for a walk, he hates her just to sit.”
I once knew a hertasi called Kaylen. He used to do… something for me. For some reason the thought that a dream Kaylen is looking after the empty dream me comforts me.
Leafspear ducks out of the door and Icerain follows him, pausing for a moment to stare back at the dream me. He swallows and mouths some words.
I raise one invisible arm and for a reason beyond my grasp I whisper a reply. “Goodbye…” But he has already gone.
I close my eyes and will myself to wake up. Suddenly I’m uncomfortable and disorientated and I want nothing more to be back in the real world, in my forest in summer.
Time to run again. Back in reality, my reality, it is morning again. The sun is weakly lancing through gaps in the green, green canopy and there are birds singing overhead. This is much better and I emerge from my wolf den and stretch in the crisp air.
Daylight is the time to run and I shake myself thoroughly and begin to lope further into the forest, my paws digging into the cool and damp loam of the ground. The ground gently undulates on for what seems like forever, covered with massive trees and I let out a yip of happiness and pick up my pace.
As long as there’s time I’ll run.
I’ll run…Back to Scribbles