In Dreams

In Dreams

They came to her in dreams. Names and voices, images and events. Without context, they flooded the quiet hours of the night, leaving her to sort through them in the morning. To find meaning and act upon it.

Just last night, a young man with hazy features attending her court spoke the title ‘mother’ in her presence, and she believed he meant to address her. Not her mother, the current queen. Not one of her many court attendants. But she, who was not yet of marrying age and who dreaded to think of the suitors that would be paraded before her in the coming years.

It was best not to think too deeply of the visions which came in the night. Most would not make sense until the moment they became relevant. That was the unfortunate nature of Foresight.

If only they didn’t swim before her eyes during waking hours. Each new greeting brought a flash of Foresight with it. A memory of the stranger’s past. A measure of their current persona. Or, on the rarest of occasions, a flash of something yet to come.

Thank goodness the visions only accompanied proper introductions. She didn’t receive Insight on every passerby, or court would have long since become a nightmare. Not that royalty were ever able to stride through busy market places, but if she ever did venture out in public, she didn’t wish to become a fawning duck.

By the time she assumed the throne, she would be acquainted with everyone likely to attend her court on a regular basis. That left only the visitors, foreign ambassadors and traders to awaken her abilities. It had already proven useful, more than once, to catch a foreign minister in lies even as they flowed from his lips. If nothing else, it would give her a powerful reputation while she ruled.

But those days were a long way off; even her Foresight seemed to agree. And she remained, for now, her mother’s silent shadow as they flitted through the hallways of the palace, attending meetings and reviewing important documents. The best way to learn to run a country, or so her mother believed, was to be immersed in it from the time she was old enough to understand. She even understood the contents of the documents now, and the changes her mother wanted to make. Sometimes, the queen would quiz her, asking her to explain what she would do in any situation, gently correcting anything she overlooked.

She was distracted today, more interested in honing the image of the young man who called her ‘mother’ than in the contents of today’s law amendments. Before her mother had a chance to scold her, there came an unexpected knock at the door.

“Please do pardon the interruption, your Majesty, but Commander Hilcron and his group have returned with news from the border.”

“Very good,” the queen replied as she rose from her seat. “Rose, come with me. And I want you to pay attention now, this is important.”

Everything about running a country was important, but Rose understood what her mother meant; the events about to take place were of particular importance. The kind that would probably affect future events.

Commander Hilcron and two other men waited in a small room at the end of the long, ornate hallway. All three stood and all three bowed when the two women entered. Rose recognized one of the other men as Captain Varun, leader of the royal guard. The third she had only ever seen in passing. He had dusky skin and midnight hair, but his eyes were blue like the sky just before the clouds closed in for rain. A scar marked the left side of his face, faded with age. A fading brown slash ran across it, a wound fast becoming a scar.

“This is Commander Lorcasf, your Majesty, your Highness,” Hilcron nodded to each of them in turn. “He commanded the unit you dispatched to the border. I thought you would want to hear what he had to say in person.”

The queen nodded. “I would, indeed. Commander Lorcasf, if you would?” The queen motioned to a chair, but all three men insisted on standing. The queen lowered herself into a comfortable armchair on one side of a small desk and Rose stood beside her, too intrigued to find a seat for herself.

Her eyes remained riveted on the commander while he spoke. Most people found it disconcerting to be the focus of her gaze for any longer than a few seconds. Something about the lack of pupils and the flicker of distant starlight set them on edge. But he barely seemed to notice, not once faltering as he offered his report.

The words grew slippery and Rose released them as the images began to form. She had seen this man on the news, she realized. He had been announced a local celebrity more than once for his work with the Queen’s Division. Though such fame was fleeting, of course, and his deeds were often forgotten by the next week.

But it wasn’t a sense of his present self that formed in her mind. That would not have distracted her from his words. Instead she saw a narrow brick room with a packed earthen floor. There were no windows save a small slit cut into the heavy wooden door. It was dank and damp, the smell of must permeating the air as water dripped and dribbled down the outer wall.

A shiver shot up Rose’s spine, accompanied by an overwhelming sense of dread. The fear and certainty that the dungeon’s occupants would never escape it.

The heavy door scraped open and several men tromped into the room, taunting, though she never caught their words. They approached the smallest member of the group, a young man with a shock of blond hair and eyes that looked as if they’d been cut from jade. He was a mercenary, an outsider and unwelcome member of the group. Rose knew this with the same certainty that a dreamer knows they are in their house while dreaming even if it looks completely different.

And yet, the commander who stood before her now roused himself from the hard-packed floor. Stiff from the chill and aching with the pain of the wounds already inflicted by their tormentors, he none-the-less moved with the agility of a trained and practiced fighter. Leaping between the knife and its intended target, probably sparing the mercenary an eye.

Few men would leap in front of a knife intended for a friend. Fewer still for a stranger, and less yet when that stranger belonged to such a loathed profession.

That made Commander Lorcasf a special man indeed, especially considering he would wear the mark of his bravery the rest of his life. The kind of man she was likely to need when she sat on the throne. It behooved a queen to know who tended the needs of her people, and protected her life when it came down to it.

By the time the images faded, the commander had finished speaking. The queen had several questions for him and Rose filled in what she had missed from the context of his answers. She was ready when her mother turned an expectant expression in her direction. She nodded, expecting the quiz to come later, while they were in private.

The queen dismissed all three men with a wave of her hand, but Rose spoke before they could leave.

“Commander Lorcasf, the cut on your face…”

“Is more than three days old, Highness,” he replied when she did not finish the statement, bowing his head as he did so. “I was tended by the Healers upon completion of my mission.”

“Of course, but I am a fair bit more talented than most Healers.” The wound was old, but not beyond her range of ability to coax the stubborn flesh into its old position. Her mother looked at her strangely, but held her tongue as she continued. “Would you like to see it healed?”

Tension filled the air as the other two men held their breath. But the commander only smiled, genuine good humor in his dark blue eyes. “It is such a small thing, your Highness. Hardly worth your energy.”

“But it will scar.”

Commander Lorcasf bowed his head again. “It will. But why should one more scar bother me? I feel no shame to be marked by my duty.”

A special man indeed. One she would have to remember. There would come a day when she had need of men like this.

“Then come,” she commanded, “and receive my blessing instead.”

I’ve written about this scene several times from Domerin’s perspective, it was fun to see it from a different angle.

Please check out what my writing partner did with this prompt!

And if you’d like to participate, share a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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