I dreamt of you.
I remember saying those words as I looked on your face, a smile on it as you slept, your arms around me. Even in the complete darkness of the room, you glowed with the power that was your birthright, a soft light that reminded me of the illumination I once steered myself with to safety when I was a child and, in a moonless evening, I got lost in the forest of my Clan’s Demesne.
I remember that night clearly because it was the start of my troubles. One born of my Blood cannot get lost so simply because we can always See the Pathways. Clairvoyance and Prophecy are my family’s stock in trade, after all.
Yet, there I was, lost. Powerless. I would have died of fright, freezing or the fiends that stalk the midnight eaves of my own homeland were it not for the light of the band from the center of the galaxy that cast a pale illumination my eyes could see by. It was what I had, that light, since I did not have the Gift of Sight.
Yet, I dreamt of you.
And as I trace a finger down your cheek, savoring the soft feel of your skin that I can never get tired of, I think myself still in a dream. For where else in this cruel universe can someone like you be mine?
I am a soldier of the Bellato, one of its elite mercenaries, an officer of the Royal Foreign Legion, never mind my ancestry to which I am denied any right to hold by my mad uncle and my equally insane family. These arms have held their fair share, and then some, of beauty. It is not only the mariners of the Navy who have the pleasures of the flesh come so easily where their ships dock. Where there is war, and the warriors whose trade it is to fight it, there will be those who seek their companionship, and I speak not of those who sell their bodies for Gold (I would be crass indeed to lump you among them).
Yet even the mightiest of those cannot even hold a candle to you.
Maybe that was why I never took any of them as a longtime lover: the pleasures of the bed are one thing, easily found for those of my stature and profession, but if one seeks for something deeper…
Perhaps that was why I kept seeking. Why I never was content with any of them.
Because I was seeking you.
Because I dreamt of you.
It was a shock to see you, that hot, summer day in Ankaris where your mother had deigned to visit our motley crew in action.
To us in the Foreign Legion, Ankaris was simply a big sandbox in which we tested our mettle against our rivals from the other RBFL Divisions. It was supposed to be another combat exercise, albeit the stakes were higher since we were up against our old rivals, the Mad Dogs of Lupus. And their commander, my old mentor, the Red Maw himself, Leonidas Lupus, Duke and Warmaster of Clan Lupus, was present to show us Solus our supposed lack of manly virtues.
What could I say? At the time Andreas had pulled me from frontline duty to act as his Second – because of my bloodline, he said, and my upbringing and familiarity with the protocols of Royalty – I was understandably upset. I wanted nothing more than to let my hammer speak my anger, my sorrow, my pain. If it were not for the friendship I shared with Andreas’ protégé, my old friend Aldarion, and what I owe the Red Star himself, I would have made an issue of being pulled out of combat duty to “babysit” a bunch of alien Highborn. But I bit my pride, wore my Dress Uniform, and stood at attention as your mother arrived with her entourage to see what the Bellato have to offer the Holy Alliance of Cora.
I had just consoled myself, then, that I would be seeing the ripe bodies of your Race for the first time without wondering whether I was looking at a close cousin; some Bellato might fancy a little incest or so, but not me.
Little did I know that you would be there. But I should have known that, in that sea of strangers, a familiar face would stand out.
For, had I not dreamt of you?
I don’t think I would have approached you if not for that dream.
If I had known who you were then, what you were, I don’t think any agent of prophecy would have made me introduce myself to you. Your mother was a crafty one, and so was the captain of your guard (may the Light – and DECEM – keep his soul, lout that he was to me), to have hidden your true identity to us. But maybe they should have; it would have deterred even me from approaching no less than Kerion Ladenus’ own granddaughter.
You were the Princess of the Cora, the Silver Haired Lady of the Ladenus, the one who would be called Mistress of Angels. One of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of the Holy Alliance. More than your mother, you were a worthy prize for those who had evil designs on Kerion’s throne. Your identity had to be kept secret, so far away from your kingdom you were.
But I had walked up to you, as casual as my wobbly knees could manage, in the corridor just outside of the conference hall where your mother talked with Duchess Keris about how many of us can be hired to die for your people, or if we were worth the bother at all. You had looked with awe over the orb that was Ankaris, as if it were the first time you had seen a planet from orbit. I didn’t know then that it was, but I would always keep that memory fresh in my mind: that childlike wonder on your face. When all is gray and bitter in the world, I would return to that memory of you seeing drab, bloodied Ankaris with such amazement, and everything would be fine.
And as we talked, haltingly at first, you spoke that line that stopped me cold and made me feel as if someone were pouring ice water down my spine:
“You look familiar, Bellato. Where have I seen you before?”
Then, you laughed, answering your own question by saying that it was insane to think that because this was, indeed, the first time you ever left Cora Prime so how could you have met any of my Race? After that, you introduced yourself to me, using the second part of your name – Victoria – and saying you were one of the Bishop Representative’s protégés, come to assist her mission to the Bellato Monarchy.
But I thought then, as I gave you the customary greetings and introduction for a Lady of the Cora, as taught to me by a slew of Elis aunts and uncles, and my Master, Kendrin Aenderil:
Could it be that you dreamt of me, too?
My remembrances of that time has made sleep elusive, so I carefully stood up so as not to wake you. I know you are tired after the Third Holy Guard helped the survivors of the Razing of Zelazny, but you nonetheless stirred as I extricated myself from your arms. I gave you a soft kiss on the forehead and held youfor a while, to lull you once more to sleep you badly needed. Even now as you have grown into your power, bringing to being so many of DECEM’s angels can take so much of you, and war by itself is a greedy tax collector.
Assured you were deeply asleep, I rose from the bed we shared to look out to the night of Planet Novus. In this hidden sanctuary of the followers of your martyred grandmother’s brother, I could let my thoughts run free, away from the cares of a Captain of the Royal Bellato Foreign Legion or a Lord of the Great Clans, and more to concerns of my own.
Although there was joy at finally seeing the realization of my dream, there was also apprehension. I was not as gifted as, say, Elia, in the Sight – not gifted? Hah. Uncle Isidore always said I had no right to the name Lunus if I couldn’t even see to the next morning – but I was trained as much as any Lunus to know when Prophecy hits you in whatever form and medium it takes.
There was that dream, of course. Of the most beautiful Corite I have ever seen or will see, who will hold me and become one with me, make me whole, make me feel so alive. She who would make all the pain of my existence as an outcast go away because, finally, in a way my battle brothers in the RBFL can never make me feel, someone could complete me.
Yes, it is a cliché, I know, and a sappy one at that. I remember telling you that, awkwardly, as we sat on the mesa overlooking the Command Center of RBFL operations on Ankaris, the borrowed airspeeder a ways from us, and you laughed. But without malice or prejudice. You took my hand and simply said there were reasons for clichés, especially the sappy ones, because they happened far often than people would like to admit. You sat closer, put your arm around mine, and leaned your head on my shoulder.
I felt myself happy then. So I tried not to think of the other half of my dream – the part that was a nightmare, really – as we sat there together.
But as the hour before dawn ticked into being, the assault began.
And I realized, as our airspeeder fell to the ground when the triple-A of the Sons of Unity found their mark on our way to help our friends and family under attack at the Command Center, that the nightmare was as real as the dream.
I remembered asking you then, as we fled first from the Hunters of the Sons and then Hybroer’s Hands themselves, whether you believed in Fate and Destiny. You simply replied to me, as we huddled in a cave, a storm raging outside as Balladeer opened a massive rift to the Dark Hall and surrounded us with its fell energies, that part of the catechism of the Holy Numbered involved the Great Equation which led to DECEN, the All Under DECEM, and that the entirety of existence was merely a means to achieve its Final Iteration.
“In the end, Harvey,” you said then, “everything leads to a single outcome. We are but integrals and functions on its long solution. Even if we die here, meaningless or not those deaths be, quick or slow, painless or in extreme agony, if it serves to further the Final Iteration, who are we to argue?”
I remembered responding to you then that I had something to argue with Fate about. If that bitch had seen fit to blind me to her machinations and plans, then maybe she’s scared of me. That eversince that day I walked out on my mad uncle and my equally insane family, no matter how much I loved my own mother and sister, I had done nothing but spit on the face of Fate. Be my own man. Unlike the rest of the Lunus, slaves to the dictates of Fate and Destiny.
I stepped out of that cave, thinking to challenge our Fates, that other half of my dream. I had found my happiness, I had found my other half: I would be damned if I let Fate take her from me, so long have I sought her. If Destiny was going to be its usual masochist-submissive self and not challenge her bitch of a twin, I would show the weakling how its done.
I hefted my mace and faced four of the most powerful beings I would ever fight.
But I didn’t care. I wouldn’t let these sons of bitches take away my happiness. Not while I can wield a hammer and hit them with it.
Even when you came out to help me challenge Lust, Pride, Greed and Wrath, we were hopelessly outmatched. You were still new to your power then, and summoning more than one Animus drained you immensely. We would not have beaten them if it wasn’t for the timely intervention of Trinary Helix. As to how that tin can managed to be there, at that time, at that place, and undetected by the mass of sensors we seeded around our Proving Grounds, I will never know.
But I was happy, even if I owed my happiness and life to a tin can who spoke overly cryptically of his motives. I remained happy even as your brother found us and, as a greeting to me, stabbed me with his spear. Thank the Light he wasn’t Spear of Ladenus then, or Winter’s Sharp Kiss would have been the death of me. But even as he slid the serrated edges of his weapon out of my chest, and I coughed up copious amounts of blood as I lay there in your arms, I smiled.
We had beaten Fate.
The Nightmare came, and we beat it.
All I have left now is the Dream of you, and I thought I could die happy then.
Phaera watched as Harvey looked out of the window to the coming dawn of a new Novus morning. She had lain awake for sometime now, but did not disturb her lover in his reverie. The Princess was used to these sudden moods of Harvey, and knew where they were sourced from. She knew that he was again thinking of that dream, that one time his Elis-Lunus blood had shown him the future. The one with her in it.
She knew how much that dream – and the latter part of it which was the most cryptic, but scared the hell out of him so much that he called it his Nightmare – had both transfixed and tortured him. It spoke to him both of his happiness and salvation… and his breaking. His greatest sorrow. His greatest loss.
So she lets Harvey be when the dream catches hold of him once again, even years after he, she and Trinary Helix had defeated four of the Hands of the Architect. She let him savor his victory over Fate because it made him smile. And she lived for that smile, the most beautiful and purest she’s ever seen, especially because it only blossomed when, as Harvey always said, hers did.
“My happiness comes from making you happy, my Beloved,” he had said that first evening they spent as lovers in truth and name.
Who would have thought that hands such as his, which could so casually swing that gigantic hammer and bring death to all those near him, would be so delicate, so capable in the ways of love? Who would have thought that those lips that shouted invectives at his opponent and screamed rage at those who hurt him and his comrades could whisper such sweet nothings?
Who would have thought that his face, so shadowed by pain and loss and rejection, could blaze so brightly merely at the sight of her?
So Phaera lets Harvey have these moments. She can spare him such bliss. She is also thankful that he did not gain the Elis Gift in large measure.
For Phaera has it, through one strand of the Ladenus or Edian blood in her veins that once was married to the Great House of the Cora famed for their Seers. And even before she had her first Maiden Blood, even before Harvey took his first lessons in the Ways of the Seers that was the lot of House Elis and Clan Lunus, Phaera was already an accomplished Dreamwalker.
She lied that day to Harvey, that hour they first talked. She knew, when she saw him finally in full, who he was.
And she, too, knew Harvey’s Dream. And its Nightmare.
For she, too, had seen it.
His death. On a planet of the Accretia, and not by the hands of the Abominations but by the unholy powers of the ten who do Hybroer’s bidding. They would come for her, to take her to the Architect and his foul masters. And he would fight them. Alone and unaided, Harvey Lunus would challenge the ten most powerful beings outside of Vanderion Ladenus and the Sattva, all to save Phaera from a Fate worse than death.
That was where his dream had ended. Unskilled a Dreamwalker as he was at the time, he could not possibly remember its end. But Phaera did. Just like Eltania Elis, who had to listen as the Endtimes were screamed to her by DECEM, Phaera had to watch as Harvey’s Fate was drawn out:
He would manage to best the ten, drawing on power similar to the one her brother Vanderion kept inside him. But at his moment of triumph, Hybroer would come and turn the tide of battle irrevocably against him. Lust would steal the last of his strength using that foul blade, Soul Stealer. Wrath would shatter his bones. Finally, Pride would tear him asunder, and Gluttony would eat him.
All while Hybroer whispered into his ear how he, the Architect of the Cora’s woes, would enslave Harvey’s soul in a vessel and make him witness the breaking of Phaera.
This must not come to pass, Phaera thought for the umpteenth time as the first rays of Novus’ sun peeked past the mountains and bathed the area of Vafer Shrine in its golden brilliance. There must be a way to challenge Fate, to defeat it.
Harvey noticed then that she was awake. He smiled, and to Phaera it was more radiant than the sun now bathing the planet of the Halostone in its light. He walked over to where she still lay on the bed, knelt beside her, and gave her a kiss, short but full of love and passion.
“Hey. It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my love, it is,” Phaera said, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Because you are here, because I woke to you.”
And I will not let the Shadow of the Herodians take your light away, Harvey Lunus. I will not let them take your smile away.
A plan began to form in Phaera’s mind then. And despite her catechism, the Princess had hope, for the first time, that she can change the outcome of the Great Equation, at least in this little part of it.
I can dream my own dreams, can’t I?