dream interpreter – Part 1 : 78-79

78.

They all followed her, mesmerised,
to the sooty innards of the kasbah
slanting up the side of the hill
as if fleeing an ancestral tsunami.

Confronting the steppe, its echo,
towering above it, the city was
doubly castled, with slit avenues
breaking free of the older town.

79.

Apple-tree covers along the walls,
mountains holding on the roots
of the seemingly endless steppe,
it was a shape-shifting, eerie place.

Then the voice of the beggar called.
Now soft, now commandeering, with
chanted words and many tones, it
drew them underground to a catacomb.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 75-77

75.

The city of snow leopards welcomed them,
its huge door grinning wide as they were
robbed at the gates by friendly guards
who were quick to recognize foreigners

and suggest that there might be a way
to skip ahead of the queue. Marco’s
small jewels were taken, and so their
weapons, as well as their good humour.

76.

At night, thanks to the charity of a
clear sky, they found refuge in a moon
illuminated cemetery. Setting their
fears aside, they slept on hard stone.

Twice robbed, they lost clarity at dawn,
once finding out that all that they had owned
had been taken from them while they rested.
Looking at the mountains, they stood alone.

77.

As they felt a great sadness, they were
approached by a street beggar. Her eyes
were sharp with lunacy, a mirror where
one might find measure to one’s misery.

She spoke with guttural tones, a series of
half-digested words, in a strange idiom.
Even if they could not always tell if she
was talking to them, they froze gorgonized.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 71-74

71.

On the darkening forest floor, rising,
falling, a path emerged from lichen,
rock and moss. Dusk caught them by
surprise, as the tree canopy shielded

them from the hard rain coming down
on the forest trench. Mountains were
straight ahead, a sheer wall bringing
the run of the steppe to a sudden halt.

72.

Their forest fears projected ill feeling
onto the gaps in light and shade among
the trees. Bright rapid-fire lightning
clawed its way through the foliage.

In the empty space, each of the four seekers
found known patterns, a shape of shadows,
voices rising from their forgotten traumas;
the adventures of the mind are never still.

73.

The sky was low, thundering with gloom.
In their desperation, they all started to
talk loudly about every sort of nonsense,
they forged a lasting bond on shared fears.

The sister pronounced herself an artist,
the warrior told his companions about his
father’s sexual exploits. Dream-eater told a
dull joke, Marco remembered his best friend.

74.

The next day, a vast sea of poppies and tulips
greeted them ahead of the city. Apple-tree orchards
lay in neat array before the huge gates. As they
approached, Marco marvelled at the beauty

of a city with snow-capped mountains as
back-drop, with apple-tree orchards slanting
down the side of tame hills, an ocean of
scarlet flower waves lapping at their feet.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 65-70

65.

Suddenly a small white leopard appeared
looking directly at them with curiousity.
Dream-eater took her sister’s hand;
they all just stood there for a while.

Marco resolved to do the right thing,
and his response to the stand-off was
to walk directly towards the creature
shouting and screaming, waving his arms.

66.

Then a second leopard joined in on the
right, a fierce roar came from behind.
They were almost surrounded. Marco
continued to intimidate the small white

big cat, and the second leopard moved in
with circumspection, yet his eyes were
hunters, and his paws had claws as ends.
A third large leopard rose up behind them.

67.

She was white as snow, furious at the threat
levelled at her younglings, hissing, roaring,
circling the four adventurers in the forest.
Marco was frightened, what else was in store?

What monsters did the night hold for them?
Dream-eater was not afraid, and she spoke up.
With level voice she let Marco know he was
overstepping, and she would take care of it.

68.

And she did. She struck the leopard-mother
with a retracting blow; then wounded her
with her dagger. A small trickle of blood
stained her snowy fur, and she withdrew.

The young warrior just stood there in awe.
That was her leader, and she was amazing.
The sister was looking elsewhere, up above
toward the woodland canopy, seeking light.

69.

It was getting dark in the forest, as a storm
was approaching. The leopards were still about,
around them, yet slowly moving off. A yellow light
was bathing them with fear, a sunset gone wrong.

Dream-eater stood there staring at the leopards,
angry with herself about her failings as a leader.
She was reminded of the people she had abandoned.
A whole tribe was now under the command of fools.

70.

She was furious at her dead father, furious at
Marco, furious at her sister, angry with the
foolish young man following her… why so much
anger? Why the sudden burst of feeling? Stop.

Her heart was racing, and her mind was gone,
the whole world was spinning, and yet every
other muscle in her body was completely still.
Had it been a mistake to leave? Was she doomed?

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 60-64

60.

The young Saka warrior was on the alert,
he had the impression that they were being
followed. The trees were completely still,
and somewhere not far, the sky thundered.

The sister walked ahead, barefoot. She
was a creature of crystal-clear pools,
of steep mountain-side ravines: a heart
of marble, and eyes of an eagle, piercing.

61.

Marco was massively intimidated by her,
and yet, she seemed to be completely
indifferent to him now. The young man was
instead mildly competitive, while there was

no progress in winning Dream-eater’s true
favour, which was what he was after, mostly.
His dreams in the expanse of the grey steppe
were confused, and he was tormented by guilt.

62.

The sister seemed to be all-seeing, and yet
somehow all-forgiving, much like a cloud
that comes from afar, hovers about, and
moves on, pushed by nothing but a puff of wind.

Her eyes were chrysoprase butterfly wings,
never resting on anything, always quick
and condescending, climbing on higher,
and higher, and down to the depths of his soul.

63.

Through the thick forest paved with green-blue
light, monumental formations of lichens seemed
to rise stalagmite-like, which was very apt,
for the wood-land seemed like the interior of

a cave. Dream-eater was feeling as she was
suspended in time, and everything leading to
that moment, every wish, every pain she ever
experienced seemed to somehow make sense.

64.

And she felt that she was due something good,
the favour of the gods will soon descend upon
her, and her fingers would brush the bright sky,
like the quivering wind, and her soul would soar,

for she was free now, and her dead father would
not haunt her, and the world was at her command,
and she had companions she loved, and they loved
her, even the strange Venetian was a trusted friend.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 51-59

51.

Then the summer came, and time went by,
carelessly they drifted across the steppe
riding past large assemblies of flamingos,
toward the mountains and the rising sun.

Marco found the time to soothe his pain,
his guilt was gnawing at him: he could
relate to Dream-eater, and he became her
friend. The sister kept a watchful eye.

52.

They left the horde – and for the young
horseback riders that was a rite of passage.
Dream-eater had no interest in power,
since she had killed her father – well –

for other reasons. Leaving the tribe
was the easiest thing in the world,
as the age had dared them to leap,
so the three Saka youngsters leapt.

53.

They flew off as a young sparrow
finally leaving the nest after having
been nursed by an unwilling and sour
old man, yet somehow loving of the

small bird. Off, into the summer air,
off – presumably to finding love,
and death, and casualty, leaving
dead and broken siblings behind.

54.

Animals get one chance to fly away,
just at the cusp of meaningful age,
that one opportunity often fails to
reveal itself, and the moment passes,

the small creature in the cage is never
freed, its soul dies at last on a winter
day, no longer pining for dreams that
never existed, accepting a dead life.

55.

The young warrior followed the two
sisters on their journey, and Marco
could not believe his luck, the power
dynamic having changed, and him assuming

the role of guide in this wide world away
from the horse riding tribes, and into
the unknown, where was wont to find fortune
and favour, for a demon was on his side.

56.

Or so he thought. As a child in Venice
he had met a fortune-teller, and she had
been shocked and horrified by his demeanor,
she said: “How can you be so carelessly calm

walking around with a demon on your back,
how can you be so innocent, and so sweet,
yet having a monster whispering in your
ear? One day you might fall prey to sin.”

57.

That distant memory was a long-lost bourdon
note, and Venice felt as if it never existed; now
the mountains were rising ahead, snow capped,
a large forest loomed in between, and Marco

felt an emotion he had forgotten, though
he could not place it. He badly wanted to
share his story with these his fellow
adventurers, and yet he hated himself.

58.

He could not bear to change their favourable
opinion, though clearly the witch sister
was ever watching him; he felt her magic
touching ever tendril of his soul, and the

song that defined who he was kept beating
the drum in his head, and his head hurt from
too much lyric-munching, the same words
kept spinning inside his soul, surely that

59.

was the demon’s work. On occasion he remembered
everything; he could almost touch Dream-eater’s
own pain, and the sister’s heavenly mind, or
the young warrior’s purity: he felt great shame.

As they entered the forest ahead, they went in on
foot, leading the horses into a strange darkness,
a great all-encompassing stillness. It felt like time
had inched on; a tiny, imperceptible tick forward.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 45-50

45.

Then the next dream sequence popped in:
a wedding was taking place. Dream-eater
scoffed, there were more crafty half-men
trying and failing to catch her on horseback.

But they were on foot, while the assembly
was burdened by the knowledge of a plague
that had been known to spread in the land,
and yet the festivities continued unheeding.

46.

The next thing she knew, she was carrying
her sister who had taken ill down a country
lane, the time of the apocalypse had come,
the gods had been angered and they had sent

a deadly malady throughout the world, now
all pretence of human life had been wiped,
survivors sought random escape, Dream-eater
anxiously inching on toward the last pier.

47.

Her sister pleaded, then cursed, then pleaded
again. What makes vampires of us all, we
wonder. Dream-eater tried to avoid her bite,
all bitterness instilled in the madly burning

red eyes, hallmark of spiritual possession,
the much-loved sister no longer herself but
now a sub-human growling creature, scarred
over her body with pustules, bleeding wounds.

48.

Dream-eater abandoned her family, she left her
friend. She ran for her life toward the harbour,
wondering whether she had been infected, if
she would see the light of another day, at last

reaching the final bend along the road,
high oak-trees hiding the ship leaving west.
As she boarded the vessel fearing the sea,
for she had never sailed, the waves roared.

49.

Then the ship groaned and cracked in half,
and the curse of her loved one once again
echoed in the maddening dusk, and the waters
rushed in; one half of the ship floated away

to liberation and such. But Dream-eater was
on the half that sunk, hopelessly watching
all the sins of her existence that had led to
that cursed moment. A huge mouth of water

50.

yawned, soared high, then closed. Drowning,
the last thing she saw was her sister’s face,
eyes glowing, sore with hatred. She woke up.
Dream-eater had now been lying, her eyes

close for quite some time, dreading
that this might not have been a dream,
her sister’s eyes might still burn on,
aching, wondering if the curse was on.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 40-44

40.

A dream never starts – just clicks on – being
in medias res. Dream-eater first saw a wall,
a mouldy grey barrier which was below ground.
A sense came upon her that all would die out soon.

Great excitement, a feeling of fear and hope.
An awareness that the world was reaching
an end, and yet infused with a sense of camaraderie,
she was not alone in the underground maze.

41.

‘Twas a narrow maze, or a sewer, nay an aqueduct.
Not sure, but clearly under a great city. How would
she know, never having seen a city in her life!
It was very much real, with crystalline clarity.

The room she was in (or they were in: friends,
companions still unknown to her, except for
being some people she loved deeply) the room
was very small, and breathing was difficult.

42.

The narrow passages of this underground lair
were endlessly going on; then occasionally
a large room with a water tank would appear,
a passage would rise up from the ceiling

shooting up into the above ground space,
she guessed that only a very small person
would be able to climb up and down. Pain,
she felt, trapped in a deadly world below.

43.

And yet she was not alone, and as they wandered
through the underground city in the great blind
she felt more alive then than many a day on the
endless steppe, the horizon forever expanding

to the Altai mountains, forever moving further
apart, escaping her freedom. For an instant she
thought she saw her father; she noticed a mark
on the wall, a double-axe, and then the dark.

44.

A large breathing creature, an entirely oily
mass of grease was blocking the passage. She
panicked, her companions felt a needle touch,
and from the corner of her eye she could see

some ungodly liquid seeping from this large
blob of rot, a grim fat-berg growing below,
a menace to the city, some karmic remnant of
human hubris: a living thing, most horrible.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 38-39

38.

The next day Dream-eater woke up in a sickly haze,
cast back into the steppe, out of breath after drifting
through a very disturbing dream. She slowly came to,
feeling a hurtful fall into consciousness from on high.

She shuddered, cold with vertigo and a piercing
headache. Her body was both tense and loose.
She opened her eyes and allowed the residual
sense of fear to settle. A powerful premonition.

39.

This was not just another nightmare. Of late she had been
restless and numb, as if a strange electric current had been
switched on by a malicious imp, weakening her nerves.
Slowly, she looked through all the stages of the dream.

In a painful wake through darkness and light, she sought
out the images that had been crowding her dream,
determined as a starved vulture picking scraps of carrion
with voracious hunger through a long summer day.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 29-37

29.

“Your majesty”, began the prisoner softly.
“Don’t kiss ass”, interrupted the sister curtly.
This abrupt warning brought a stillness
to the room, then the traveller began anew.

“Beg pardon. Where I come from, we honour
the rulers of the land. My name is Marco
Querini, of one of the great families of
Venice, a serene city far beyond this land.”

30.

He flashed his white teeth, and smiled.
There came no response, or change in
expression. Miffed, he continued. “I
have travelled with my relations to the

far East, on several journeys to Xanadu.
My family has a personal relationship
with the supreme Khan of Hangzhou, which
goes back for many golden generations.”

31.

The two women were looking at him in
silence; the young man smiled. Marco
could not read his hosts, though he
felt less like prisoner, and more like

a tourist. “We Querini are Venetian
nobles with a great history, and land
to attest it. We have many possessions,
islands at sea to the East of Venice.”

32.

“The most beautiful of which, and the
most famous, is wonderful Stampalia,
or Astiphalea, as the local fishermen
call it. Venetians are skilled traders.”

“We bring the best deals to your door.”
As he spoke, the smaller woman rose to
her feet. She was barefoot, and her green
garment was bright, which seemed to glow.

33.

He broke off, and as there was no response
from the others in the Yurt, he just sat
stupidly, waiting for acknowledgement.
But he sat a long time without speaking.

At last the small sister came close to him,
and she took his wrist, and seemed to check
his pulse, then she went out without a word.
Dream-eater just sat there cross-legged.

34.

Marco tried in vain to ingratiate himself
with her with fantastical tales of Xanadu,
and Venice, and the journeys he had been
on. She sat there listening effortlessly,

he kept on talking, encouraged by her
half-smile. The young man was drawn in,
increasingly wide-eyed to his ‘slightly’
embellished tales of East and West.

35.

Dream-eater was young with a shapely
round face, and a very nimble body.
She did not seem entirely at ease
with herself, and she seemed angry.

Her face was covered with pimples,
and her hair was short. She dressed in
tight clothing, which showed her form.
Marco soon began to lust after her.

36.

He was a stocky young man, with
thick hairy arms, and a face like
a fox. He talked softly, with a deep
voice which used to make some people

in Venice pay attention to his lies.
He was an expert bullshitter, rising
to every occasion with the right deal,
though he had yet to make his mark.

37.

He was a business-man all in all,
complete with sweet tongue, with an
inexaustible source of confidence,
expertly weaving the art of deceit.

It was hard to get a read on them,
though. And the sister was an utter
mystery! He was exhausted. This
place was the middle of nowhere.