This is the second part to a new project/obsession of mine…so don’t read this until you’ve read ‘Lovely Treasure’, the post right before this one. 🙂
For an impressive amount of time, the prisoner of the crying castle tried with all his might, one more, to remember.
A God? A God? How could he possibly be a God? He furrowed his brows, desperate in his attempts to recall some meaningful insight from his previous life…
He was just considering doing something he had never done before, had never wanted to do before—calling for the dragon to come back—when the drowsiness washed over him.
Definitely magic, he thought sourly, as the unnatural wave of fatigue made it difficult to remain standing, let alone think properly…though he did try. He trudged towards the window, sluggish in his movements as he looked up towards it, one arm raised…
“Come…back…” His voice was feeble and shaky. The exhaustion pulled at him, like slumber was an actual, cognizant being, and it was physically dragging him down beneath its currents whether he liked it or not.
It was no use. The captive’s knees buckled, and he fell to the cold, stone floor. Despite his best efforts, his eyelids, which now felt as though they were made of iron, fell shut. Unconsciousness rose up to claim him, and he was swept away into dreams…the sound of rumbling laughter echoing in the back of his mind.
His dreams were the antithesis of his reality.
In the waking world, the prisoner knew nothing but disturbing, bleeding walls and a desirous monster.
But in his dreams… His dream world was vibrant and full of life, landscapes of impossible colors and brilliant skies.
Currently, he was by the sea.
The captive wandered along on a beach of pristine, white sand next to an endless expanse of glistening waves. It felt familiar to him, but only vaguely. Maybe he had visited this place before.
That would hardly be surprising, he mused. It was absolutely stunning, a literal paradise. He smiled as he relished the feel of the sand beneath his bare feet, the soft, grainy texture between his toes. The sun was still high in the sky, warming his skin in a way that he deeply missed in reality.
He continued at a leisurely pace for a long time. Hours maybe, perhaps longer. Dreams were strange. Sometimes they felt as though they lasted only minutes before shifting to a different vision, and he would have multiple dreams before he woke up again. Other times, he would dream of being in a single place for a much longer stretch of time. Occasionally, it would feel like he had been asleep for mere seconds—only for him to blink his eyes open and see that it was autumn when he awoke…though it had been summer when he’d fallen asleep.
And so he never knew quite what to expect when he drifted off into his enchanted slumbers. Only that his dreams would be stunning, and that he wanted them to be real so desperately that it made his heart ache with yearning.
Especially in a place like this, on the beach. The prisoner focused on keeping it there, on remaining in this paradise. Maybe he could learn to control his dreams, he thought. Maybe he could decide on where and how he would spend his time while asleep…
He sighed, exhaling a long, low breath as he did. The sun was beginning to set. It was an exquisite sight, the way the light scattered across the gently rolling waves. The colors of the sky were impossibly brilliant, and he couldn’t help but wonder if the real world had actually been this lovely, or if it was simply his own mind which invented such deeply saturated hues. He watched the transition from day into night with rapt fascination… The way in which the blue became gold until it was touched by a blush of bright pink, the subtle shift of crimson into violet and then indigo, when pinpricks of light eventually proclaimed the presence of the first stars…
Feeling bold, he decided to walk out into the water. The captive had been tempted to do it earlier. But he was wary that it may be cold, and he was feeling an aversion to all things chilly, at the moment. It had been winter when he’d fallen asleep, after all.
But his anxiety was for naught. The water was surprisingly warm, like a freshly drawn bath. Grinning, he looked down at his own feet through the crystal-clear water. He pulled off his shirt and tossed it behind him onto the beach, willing this dream to last long enough for him to swim in this temperate sea.
Just as he was about to lunge forward, a sharp gasp sounded from behind him. He turned, confused, to find himself looking at…someone else.
Never before had he dreamt of another person. It was always just beautiful places and exotic creatures…never people. He was therefore quite surprised to see a young man standing before him, with brown, windswept hair and tan skin…and he was holding his shirt. Evidently, the dreaming captive had thrown his discarded shirt right at this stranger, and he’d caught it.
When they made eye contact, the brown-haired man’s eyes went wide with shock, looking quite like he was staring at a ghost rather than another person.
“Hello,” the prisoner said cautiously. The unknown man didn’t answer, though his mouth formed into a tiny, perfect ‘o’ in surprise, and he dropped the shirt. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to toss that at you. I didn’t see you.”
The brunette continued to look thunderstruck, either unable or unwilling to speak. The captive smiled in what he hoped was an encouraging manner. “The water is lovely, if you feel like swimming,” he offered up. He turned to glance back towards the sunset. “And you can’t beat the view. So—”
But when he turned back around, the man was gone.
Strange, the prisoner thought forlornly. The tide swept up towards the sand, catching the sleeve of his shirt and pulling it back with it into the water. He didn’t bother trying to catch it or fish it out. For as excited as he had been just moments before, to dive into the sea, he now felt a bit melancholy about it all.
It would have been nice, to have company.
When he awoke, it was to find that it was still winter.
The air was chilly against the exposed skin of his face, but the rest of his body was covered in thick, soft blankets. When his eyes fluttered open, he saw that he was somehow, inexplicably, under the covers on his giant bed. Hadn’t he passed out on the floor, before?
Groggily, he sat up. Winter. The odorless, viscous substance on the walls confirmed it…which meant that he had not been asleep very long this time. Or, he thought with a thrill of terror, he had been asleep much longer than usual, and an entire year had passed.
He shuddered at the thought. What if he had family or friends out there that he could not currently recall? How long had he been away from them? Were there people searching for him, worrying about him?
He didn’t know. He tried not to linger on those fears, lest he unintentionally magic himself right back to sleep again.
Forcing himself to be brave, the captive stood. He gathered one of the blankets around his shoulders like a cape for warmth. He then approached the window, wishing not for the first time that it was both lower and larger.
Down below, he could see his monstrous captor, its long tail curled around the base of the tower protectively. It was difficult to tell, from so high up, whether it was asleep or not. Did dragons sleep? He pondered that, biting his lower lip as he did. No, he didn’t think so. Dragons were immortal, after all, all magical creatures were. They only died if they were slain, and that was no easy feat, to slay a dragon. They did not age, nor did they eat…so it was also unlikely that they slept.
Then again, he’d also thought that dragons were incredibly intelligent. If that was the case, this one had yet to prove it. It had hardly said anything to him at all thus far, other than croon at him like he was some pretty little trinket. Which he supposed he was, to the dragon.
But there was no denying that it was a very powerful being, the weeping walls surrounding him made that clear. This was complex magic being cast on him, deeply complicated enchantments which kept his mind numb and forced him into slumber.
What else did he know about dragons? He willed his hazy mind to focus. Powerful beings, yes, and very smart… Proud, too. They took great pride in their treasures. That was, perhaps, why this dragon had finally given him the one, meagre scrap of information that it had.
Well, that seemed far-fetched, but maybe he could get the creature to elaborate. If it really believed that it had kidnapped a God, than it was probably itching to show off, to talk about how devious and cunning it was, to have coveted such a rare person…
Maybe it would let slip something pertinent that would help him escape. Or, at the very least, learn who he was.
The captive cleared his throat, apprehension crawling across his skin. And then, before he could over think it and change his mind, he leaned towards the window and shouted down to his imprisoner.
“Dragon,” he called, his voice surprisingly steady. The obsidian entity lifted its head, fixing him with those scarlet eyes that glowed like embers. He tried to focus on its body instead, not wanting to get trapped in that mesmeric gaze.
“…Come talk with me.”
For a long moment, the monster did nothing, only peered up at him with its terrifying yet lovely face tilted to one side as though considering him. He waited on baited breath, fully expecting it to ignore him and go back to its obsessive monitoring of the landscape.
But then it shifted its weight, pushing itself to its feet and curling its body around the tower. The captive’s heart leapt in his throat at his unexpected success. He backed away from the window and pulled the blanket more tightly around his shoulders, like a thick, fabric shield.
It had listened, it was actually going to come talk to him… He swallowed thickly, hoping that he hadn’t just made a very regrettable mistake. But there was no taking back his invitation, now. He could hear it scaling the weeping walls, its talons clicking against the stones…
And so he steeled himself to have a conversation with a monster.