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It was into a steady sleep that he drifted. Soon, he found himself walking the planks of empty docks flanking a river. He didn’t recognize his location, but the general cityscape may have been anywhere. He thrust his hands in the pockets of a white tracksuit and paused to look over the edge. That was when he saw two boys nearby balancing dangerously along the dock wall. He decided to walk their direction out of concern for their safety. However, suddenly a surge of water lifted the river out of its banks. The boys and Philip were caught in the flood. He tried to get to them, but they disappeared beneath the churning surface. The river roared angrily and carried him away.

The city scape rolled into nature as he was hurled toward a precipice beyond which fell a huge waterfall. He gasped for air and flung himself as best he could, but he wasn’t a strong swimmer. He grabbed at the bier of a bridge as the wall of water tried to pull him over the edge. Then as suddenly as the surge arose, it fell back to normal. He made it to the riverbank, and scrambled up to solid ground. The forest surrounding the bank was limp with the flood. Grasses were folded flat. Branches and debris cluttered along the trees. Some were upended, their roots exposed in gnarled twists.

Breathing heavy, Philip pulled himself out of the flood zone, seeking shelter and expecting to wake any moment.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
Panic followed her, nipping at her ankles like a swarm of Mara’s pets. Often she came to consciousness at a desperate run, tears prickling in the corner of her eyes, and such a deluge of misery in her chest that she fell to her knees in sobs. Nimeda had made no sense of the Grey Lady’s green leafy shoot, when she remembered it at all, but increasingly the world around her shaped itself beyond her control. She did not see golden eyed Vánagandr. She did not see the night’s daughter.

Upon this awakening water burned her chest and images burned her eyes; seen and quickly forgotten as she kicked for the surface of the bursting river. It carried her like a leaf in its current until she pulled herself free. Perhaps she had been caught in another’s dream. Concern for her waking self dulled her attention, flighty at the best of times. She took a great lungful of air and massaged the strange marking on her palm, feeling wilted as the drowned grass at her feet. Water dripped from her nose. Soaked petals scattered from her hair.

Her heart calmed, but with it came the urge to hide. From what eluded her though.

Bare feet padded. Grey eyes frowned curiously at her surroundings, and she turned around in place, skirts tangling sodden against her legs. A figure in white strode ahead, soaked in the same river water. Curiosity eased some of her fears and it seemed like permission enough to call out, “Hello?”
What became of the boys, he wondered. No bodies were deposited in the aftermath, though he had the sense that a multitude of invisible ones surrounded him. The swarm and recession of the river was disturbingly sudden. Though clearly the river bubbled on normally now, oblivious to its own ferocious awakening. Maybe the memories it carried were already downstream, far from conscious recollection. He shook off the fallacy of personification with a dismissive grumble despite the tightness that continued to grip his heart. He contemplated prayer out of sheer uncertainty of what to do next, but instead, a voice called out to him.

He turned careful not to slip in the mud. His feet were already muddied by it, an irritating splatter of what was previously pristine, white Asics.

He pondered whether the spectral figure before him was the ghost of the drowned boys. Rational thought took over momentarily, despite the strange acceptance of what was surely a dream from which he was not quite ready to wake. Not a boy, but the figure of a girl whom likewise climbed from the same flood out of which spat Philip.

“Hello,” he said in return. He curiously studied her. Who would speak next? In the awkward silence that followed, he rubbed his hands on his chest. The zipper was cold against the skin beneath. The cloth otherwise stuck with wet suction. ”Do you happen to have a towel?” he asked. Rhetoric mingled with dry humor as obviously neither possessed anything of the sort.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
He did not seem perturbed at the discovery of her, as most were, and he studied her quite openly. For a curious moment she paused to look down at herself, as if wondering what he saw, but her gaze snapped back up again when she caught sight of her hand. She closed her palm and placed it beyond sight behind her back, and with that her thoughts shored up before they could trickle too far to that end. She was unbothered by the lingering silence, and brightly captured by the oddity of not being odd. It brought a smile to her lips, and for once muddied waters felt clear of darker thought. She laughed lightly, amused by the serious cast of his pretty face. He did not flicker like most dreamers, but it was what she suspected he was. One of the unknowing ones.

“Why do you need one?” Her head tilted like he had made a joke. He need not feel the discomfort of the water’s kiss, though she supposed he did not know. Her own dress was soaked through, an habitual affliction given her usual activities, but she didn't feel it. In fact it rarely occurred to her to change it. Her attention flitted to the zip he patted. Usually the visiting ones were beholden to their own whims, and she expected comfort would inform his sodden state soon enough. For a moment she considered the courtesy of instruction, but presently shrugged instead. Her mind was pooling questions too quickly to order but she doubted he would stay long. “Where are you going? The water is dangerous even here, you know.”
Her question laced brief confusion across his expression, but mere glance downward discovered dry cloth. He smoothed it out across his chest, smirking at himself. Did she do that? Or did I? Dreams floated on strange currents, and to that end, the landscape corrected itself as though the river slumbered undisturbed this whole time. There was no sign of the boys that perished in the dangerous waters she described.

”Did you see them?” he asked, traversing the restored grass to survey the water. It was then that a figure crawled out of the water on the opposite bank. The boy coughed and heaved, and Philip stood at tense attention as silent witness. The figure looked around as though surprised by his own survival before calling out as though attempting to summon his brother. No such resurrection followed. He ran into the trees then, disappearing before their eyes.

The meaning was lost to Philip, but neither was he seeking answers. Deep breath should have steadied the fluttering of the heart in this strange place, but rather than submissive focus, he schooled his hair carefully smooth once more. He intended to wander in anticipation of the next revelation, or maybe follow the flight of the child, but so accustomed to witnessing these dreams as they unfolded, he forgot he wasn’t alone. Maybe he should drift awake. The body was weary. He was fighting the lull to deeper slumber, but there was something he was meant to be shown.

Then he considered a possibility. Was she supposed to show him something? There were others in past dreams. Maybe she was one such messenger?  Despite a youth that exuded impish presence, she issued warnings like a good Samaritan for ignorant, wayward journeymen. She was a part of this place, perhaps more so than the fickle rivers and landscape.

He lingered either way, thrusting his hands deep in the pockets of the now dry jacket. His posture was poised with the composure of one steady in any storm. ”I was walking, and the thrill of dangerous waters is not something I seek to enjoy a second time. To where do you suggest we seek safer ground?” he asked. Truly swept up in the tides of this dream, Philip would not resist their flow. It was a strange dichotomy of faith and pride that pulled at the duality within him not unlike the balance between consciousness and somnolence. What it was he was meant to be shown, he would see it through until released from the burden of comprehending.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
Her gaze followed the line his took, but she didn’t answer the question. The world reordered and Nimeda did nothing to stop it, nor much noticed its reconstruction to something more orderly. He flickered a little as he moved away, but beyond that the stranger showed no signs of dissipating back to his own dream. Usually they did by now. Her head tilted, openly curious in her inspection. He was not like Jon, assuming her a child beyond her depths and eager to protect her from a world more hers than his anyway. Nor like Mara, a dear sister, akin to another vein in the artery of the same hand -- and somehow intrinsic to this world. He was not of the wolves and he was neither an old thing, but new and shiny as his white clothes.

She blinked.

Something of his droll, forthright nature reminded her a little of… her expression crinkled, palms clenching and unfolding, but she never allowed herself to finish the thought. Instead she plodded after him. He had something of a soothing manner, she decided, even if he sounded marginally irritated every time he spoke. “You sound like a king,” she observed abruptly. A bright smile would accompany if he happened to look in her direction, but otherwise she was only watching him like a child might watch an insect crawling along the tip of her finger.

Safer? “Dangerous because of you, not because of them,” she said, amused. Tristan’s ignorance amused her in the same way, and at the trickle of that thought eagerness eclipsed what remained of her lingering fears. She had promised to show the wolf brother all her favourite places in this world, but she had not seen him since; unsurprising given the great creature that watched over him and warned her away. Nim always sought connection. Perhaps if this one was going to disappear he would have done so already.

His hands were thrust in his pockets, and somewhere like a heavy stone resting at the bottom of a pool she recalled Grim’s rejection of her uninvited touch. Rather than tug his hands into hers like an excited child she held her own palms out to him, forgetting the brand upon one. Her features were open and eager. But where to take him?
As predicted, he looked in her direction. A gleaming smile beamed with adoration, but from Philip a wry one was returned. “I know,” he agreed. “Try not to let it distract you too much,” he said with coy amusement. She might have added that he was also exceedingly handsome, a truth also intrinsically known.

Stillness settled his skin like a statue while she approached, a willing accomplice to whatever nefarious plan spun behind those glittering eyes. Rejection was not in Philip’s soul unless the offer tempted sin. Until the messenger of the dream suddenly beckoned with curling fingers toward forbidden fruit, acceptance awaited.

He was accustomed to the reach of hands. Like the faithful woman desiring only to brush the hem of holy cloaks, he would be devoured by the same multitudinous conviction if he allowed it. In such times, he clasped their eagerness and stretched them toward the robes of Christ instead.

This was different, and interpretation was a mystery. The skin of one palm was mangled by scars, through which he could barely discern a shape. It seemed disjointed from the rest of her pale figure as if the hand belonged to some other being.

“Dangerous because of me and yet you are not afraid?”

As his hands slipped into hers, the world slipped away.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
It was oddly invigorating to meet someone truly a visitor. Sometimes when she looked upon Grim a resonance stole her attentions; divided them like a fork in a river, muddying up her thoughts and memories until she was not fully sure of where or when she was. Mara and Tristan incited the same, to various degrees; the former moreso, though the experience there was one of unyielding kinship and thus far more pleasant to withstand. She did not think Mara truly saw through the same eyes, but there was an equanimity between them that either did not need words, or simply did not become caught on the jagged rocks of misunderstanding.

So when the stranger, who stood quite firmly in the now, instructed her with wry patience not to become distracted by the kingliness of his presence, she laughed with true and unabashed merriment.

He displayed no hesitation, which also delighted her. After the wolf’s vicious mistrust, digging up all those buried bodies in her long, long past, it was quite comforting to discover acceptance. Not quite an absolution, but it pleased her all the same. She had promised Jon’s friend she would not hurt him, and given the object of that promise’s absence, her resolute nature made do with the ingredients she had instead. She would look after those denizens placed into her care. He was right to trust her!

She laughed, a mite confused, as the grip of her palms closed. “But why would I be afraid?”

The world rushed into a blur of colour, mixing like spilled paints into a dizzying array of confusion. It need not have been experienced like that, but perhaps she was trying to impress. When the detail resolved it was into dappled sunlight and the shade of an arching tree. Water churned somewhere nearby of course, but remained unseen through the forest that folded its vast arms around them. The trees themselves were huge, wide bellied, and spread great fingers to the sky. A secret place, or this spot of it at least.

Tristan might have liked it, at least if he could have shared it with better company, but it was not the sort of place she could share with Mara. The grimnir had little interest in such excursions without suitable motivation either, and she would never bring him here now anyway. Nim spent much of her existence lonely, and expectation lit up her expression for a reaction. When he said safe, this was the place she thought of. Not a memory of her waking self but something far more long-lived, with roots as old as she was.

[[Fanal, Madeira]]
Safety was an illusion in this life, fleeting, fallen, and flimsy as it was. For the mere mortals they were, fear and faith were entwined, one the conduit of eternity while the other was a siphon of it. Only once or twice in his long memory, did Philip actually feel the embrace of invulnerability. As he opened his eyes, he found they were suddenly plopped into a sanctuary unlike any he imagined existed. A serenity that eclipsed those mortal moments settled into the soul such that he knew he was meant to behold a presence denied to all others. Wide eyes drank of its glory like the dying for a sip of water. It was incredible, and it was old. And it was his.

He drifted from one beam of light to the next, cheek angling into the kiss of the light’s warmth where it could. A peace settled despite the eerie tranquility. He grazed his palms along the bark of the nearest trunk. The strings of time vibed incomprehensible flutters through his thoughts, but the omen was neither ill nor blessed. He put an ear to the tree as though it may speak aloud. Something stirred deep within. If only he could hear…

His feet gave way. Mosses sank like quicksand, and he gasped. A pit opened up, the tree roots were moving like hair lifting in the wind. He grabbed at the roots, gripping tight to the edge. In the dark cavern that opened beneath, he beheld a cage wrought of gnarled roots. Within was a fire that flickered pale as a sole candle flame. When a wind rose, it caught the flame and snuffed it out, and the smoke that curled from its extinguished death filled the cavern with a fog that rolled upward, billowing out of the hole from which he dangled. He thought he may choke on its fumes.

He closed his eyes and pulled with what meager strength he possessed, and the next moment, he was solidly perched on sure ground, leaning against the great tree that waved as though the winds that rustled its mighty branches were all in his mind. Studying his feet, he realized it had been a vision, as they were steady and safe as they ever were.

Had the girl brought him here to share the vision? Did she know it awaited him? Its meaning remained elusive as the flash flood and resurrected boy.

He faced her, blinking and pensive. “Memories of the foundations of time live in these woods. I think if I stayed, I would become part of them forever. Their tranquility defies logic, and I admit, it is alluring.” His gaze wandered through the fairy tale that may entomb them.

He wondered how she knew of this place. For a moment, she flickered old and wise as these woods, but while the façade was transient, he would not judge. He himself was an old soul that wore a handsome face. “Where do you come from, child?” he asked, returning to her side and reaching for the palm that was branded with truths she may not wish to speak for herself. Most didn’t, but most found they trusted Philip by a mere glance of his princely gaze.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
Nimeda almost clapped for the charm of his reaction, for he appeared enthralled by the secret she shared with him. Her eyes rose to drink it in herself, cheeks raised to the dappled sunlight. Fresh flowers wove themselves back into her hair, dried now in frizzy ringlets on whim, or perhaps in reaction to this place and his venerable conduct. He stepped among the trees; treated them like dear brothers, and for some reason that pleased her immeasurably.

Anendingcomesanendingcomesanendingcomes. She closed her eyes to that spark, but he was already turning away and back to her. Curiosity lit her wide gaze. Did he hear them whispering too? That was not unique, but it was new.

While she was still processing it he was speaking, the lilt of his words like the flow of the river. So much she could explain, if she could only find words, but the poignancy on the tip of her tongue danced back beneath the waves. Such strange kinship. He recognised something visitors rarely did, which meant he could not be only a simple visitor.

Nim didn’t stop him reaching for her hand; she was rarely inclined to reject kind touch despite unfamiliarity. She blinked at the forgotten scar and tried to parse some sense from the question. Though she was aware of her own oddness to some degree, she rarely attempted to order herself for others. Jon elicited it sometimes (Jon was gone) in an effort to please. There was some distant memory of one for whom she had also felt the same way, but perhaps of an older time. She felt it now though. Her brow knit. “Where? When? I don’t know.” She shrugged, truthful, but not distressed. It was too difficult to answer, or contain. “But my name is Nimeda.”

Names were inconsequential to her, a frilly dressing on a timeless soul, but they often pleased others -- and she did want to please him. “What did you see?”

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