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The dark sea
There was a place located on the edge. This place had a silent shore and dark waters, the gray of night time waters, though the ever-present glow lit the world.

The water licked, but did not lap, upon jagged rocks, jutting from the earth like granite crystals. Cut into the rock was a ledge. And upon the ledge a girl sat, enthroned, peering across the dark sea. She had the face of a porcelain doll, a narrow chin and focused, narrow black eyes. Her hair was a sheet of black silk. Her dress a feminine white chiffon.

In the distance, the water rippled. Rolling black waves of velvet grew in size and velocity as it approached the shore.

The girl bit her lip, eyes lighting with anticipation. She stood, bare feet hurrying to the water, but she was careful to keep her toes dry.

The wave foamed and crashed as it approached the shore. She lifted her hands to greet it like a hug. And as it reached her, the water spouted into the air. The girl squealed with delight, bouncing excitedly.

The water sprayed in sheets toward the gray sky. She thrust her fingertips onto the spray, felt a bony hand grab hold of hers, and yank.

The water was not wet when it pulled her through its curtain. The blackness blebbed from the surface of the dark sea, carrying her inside its shadowy sphere. A sense of movement told her she was speeding through the air, crossing the rocky cliff faces, soaring over forests, and sailing through the prairies. Snarling bears peeked in upon her. Lightning rippled the globe of blackness. Swords jabbed at her legs. Onward it roamed-a terrible storm.

Finally, she came to stillness and the darkness descended. Her toes curled on the grass, crunching leaves that were there one second and gone the next. Then, a man appeared.

He turned, eyes wide with fright and skin pale with terror, and looked at her like she was a part of his nightmare.

She laughed, "My name is Mara!"

She snapped her fingers and he screamed himself awake.

The darkness dissolved.

Mara sighed with contentment and studied her surroundings.

Tall grass. A river. Some trees. It was quite nice here.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
[[A dream whilst Thalia is sleeping, here]]

Nimeda drifted lazily in the river, arms spread wide, hair coiling and twisting lethargically about her form. The water tickled her skin, a soothing embrace, and she was lulled by it, unperturbed by the sheets of water that waved gently from time to time over her face, or the nibbling kisses of fishes come to explore her fingers and toes. She thought of nothing much, content to exist with the current, to be carried wherever it chose to take her.

Time was fluid to Nimeda, and she could not say for sure how long ago she had sought out Calvin's dreams with her plea, but today was the longest she had retained shape and consciousness in a long while. Perhaps he had succeeded, and if so she should thank him for it, or perhaps her Other had found other ways of sleeping. Concerns for another day. The consideration drifted right out of her head along with everything else. She floated. Drifted. Floated.

Until she sat up suddenly, like a dog that had caught an unexpected scent. Though her feet did not touch the bottom she did not tread water to float, but rather hung there like a mermaid, a creature intrinsic to her very environment, wild hair sleek against her face and down her shoulders. Wide grey eyes searched the bank curiously, peering through the tall reeds. Nimeda rested her elbows in the mud when she saw the girl, watching her with interest. Something stirred, a recognition of sorts; similar to the way she understood Jon Little Bird. It encouraged a wide smile to her lips. "Hi!"

"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Thrust from the surface of the river came a human girl, her body dripping with water like jewels. Mara, plopped in the grass, imagined a warm wind and the blades rippled accordingly beneath her fingers. But the wind died as soon as she cared about imagining it.

The girl was pretty, her smile playful. It warned the chilly caverns of Mara's heart, and the feeling snuggled to her chest like one of her pets.


she replied to the dreamy greeting. "You are all wet."

Mara's pets often led her on trails to dreamers, wandering the dream. They would stalk them from the distance, circling and closing in on their prey like wild beasts on the hunt. Mara's mind turned inward, reaching for the call of her pets, but they loitered lazy and disinterested. Mara frowned. They always answered her call. How curious. She needed a closer inspection of the girl, and together craft a story to lure her pets near.

Mara's eyes slid low and she too was suddenly drenched with water. Her black hair pasted to her cheeks, the slip of her dress clung to the skin beneath, rendering it nearly invisible. Uncaring, oblivious, or both, she pushed to her feet and padded a soggy trail to the river.

Mara quirked a brow, the drips trailing off her chin like a watery beard.

She giggled and squat down to kneel on the bank, eventually sinking to her knees and sitting on her heels. "Are you another Mara?"
She asked, the inquisition benign and genuine.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
She had met others here who exuded a sense of control and understanding, but even Jon had imagined winter clothes when they visited the snowy place instead of simply thinking himself warm. Watching the girl drip, black hair spilled like a pot of ink over her shoulders, dress translucent - but drenched for no other logical reason than she chose to be - bubbled up a singular joy in Nimeda. She clapped her hands together, grinning.

This was not a lost wanderer. This was not a wanderer at all!

She couldn't describe the delight she felt as the girl padded closer, nor even untangle for herself why it pleased her so much. But one word rose like a bubble, popping against the surface of her thoughts: Sister!

Elbows in the muddy bank, Nimeda rested her chin in her hands and looked up as the girl sat. Beads of water ran down the girl's face, drip drip dripping from her chin. She looked like something dredged from the very bottom of the river, like something drowned. "I don't think so. Are you a Mara? I am a Nimeda!"
She laughed. "The name was a gift - I didn't have one before. Do you know Jon too?"
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
The drips slowed. The rivulets of water thinned and finally disappeared completely. Mara's attention had shifted from the water as mud pulled her eyes low. As it was rather icky, she had little desire to imagine herself slapped with it. Sand would be much more preferable. Warm sandy mountains as far as the eye could see.

She shifted. Mind tugging at the threads of Nimeda that she come along. Forcing the shift was possible, but unpleasant. And somewhat rude.

She found her knees sinking into yellow sand, grains sticking to her wet skin. All around them, the sand dunes shifted on their own accord - rising and falling. The slope of the one on which she knelt remained firm, held in place by will.

"I am a Mara. You are a Nimeda."

She spoke the words like they were translations from a foreign language into her native tongue. Whatever that may be.

"I do not know a Jon. Are there others here? I know only my pets and the prey they drop at my feet like rats on my doorstep."

She opened her mind then, sharing the image of something warm like a dark blanket mounded on her lap, it's eyes glass marbles, it's mouth a mawing cavern of despair.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
Mara tugged at her, and Nimeda unravelled happily into the shimmer and shift of travel. When her eyes returned, rippling sand unfurled for miles, a ceaseless undulation as tireless as the river she had come from. It scorched the soles of her bare feet until she forgot to notice, shifting and sliding and laughing as her balance wavered and sunk. Wet sand was a hindrance she imagined away, dress bone-dry and hair dried in frizzy ringlets.

"Yes. In the in-between place glitter a thousand thousand stars. Most wander here unknowing, like shadows. Poof! And gone. Fewer understand to whence they come. Those ones are more interesting to speak to. Like Jon and Calvin. But I doubt you will find anyone in the desert!"
She wandered as she spoke, arms outstretched, feet kicking at the shifting sand so that it swirled and eddied. When she spun, it roused and danced with her.

"But Mara! None."
She paused joyously, the dusky haze going still at her dusty feet, and held up a finger, grinning. "None are like us. We belong here."

She plopped herself down a moment, sandy hands on her knees, to accept the sending. Darkness spilled in Mara's lap, sucking in all the light and colour. She saw, not a creature, but a yawning pit, unending blackness. It poked at the holes in her memories, and curiosity peeked before fear as the thing blinked at her. The amusement of something new tilted her head. Or new at least for this life. Her gaze blinked back to the girl's face.

"You are old. Like me,"
she asserted confidently. Something tugged restlessly at the memories churning like tides underneath. A name, maybe, or an intrinsic understanding, the same way she'd acknowledged the wolves. A cage of rules crossed shadowy bars over her thoughts. She had a sense of someone's displeasure; the first inkling that this had once been a friendship fettered with secrecy. The thought never completed, and Nimeda shrugged. "We can find some others, if you want?"
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Mara peered around herself. The yellow, dusty horizon was vast, uncluttered by the silhouette of people. Had she sought solitude? No. She'd sought something with the shift.

"You are right. None would want to be here. None but me."
It seemed a depressing statement, but Mara was not depressed. She swept her fingers through the grains and poured a palm full atop her head. They stuck to her hair, scratched her face. The softness of the sand transformed into something irritating as she rubbed the grains into her cheeks. Maybe the grains of sand weren't miniscule pebbles ground to pulp by the eons of time. Maybe they were bugs, a million or a billion of them, scattering and crawling. The dunes were not piles of sand at all, but mounds of them, crawling and seeking flesh to devour.

Luckily, it was just sand.

She smiled, "You are right, Nimeda. We are old. I would like to meet these others you speak. The Calvin and the Jon. Will you take me?"

She stood and the soles of bare toes dug into the pillowy sand underfoot. Her attire fluffed dry with a thought. Her hair transformed into a silky sheen again. She reached out a hand, offering to grasp Nimeda's for guidance.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
She watched Mara with an amused expression, still grasping at the threads of memory that unravelled with a touch. It didn't matter. Nimeda was as content to simply exist as she was to understand the deepest depths of who she was. And she lived in the moment.

She giggled as the sand poured over Mara's head, but looked slightly puzzled at the way she ground it into her cheeks. But it was quickly forgotten. At Mara's words, Nimeda scrambled to her feet. A bright smile lit her face, and she bounced expectantly on her toes, taking not one but both of Mara's hands, swinging them lightly. She beamed. "I'll try! They are not always here."

She shut her eyes, sucking in her bottom lip. Instinct was easier for her than intentional concentration; she was a creature of whim and surprise, not of calculation. She let herself catch in the current, seeking first the easier of the two resonances to find. It had taken an age to unearth Calvin's dreams, and anyway some small thought wished to spare Mara the scrutiny of the wolves this night. Jon's was the stronger connection by virtue of its more ancient roots anyway. Though before now their encounters had always been by accident or instinct. This was the first time she sought with purpose.

The shift swept them up like grains of sand.

When she opened her eyes they stood in a city. Recognition tickled Nimeda's thoughts, more insistent than her usual remembrances. Or perhaps just more recent. The area around them was flat and wide, edged by buildings. One, ochre red, loomed tall. Another, all twisting colours and domes, like something from a fairy tale. It reminded her of the frosting on a cake. Her gaze roamed curiously, then came to rest of a giant arch, black veined red. "Oh."
She glanced at Mara, for a moment stilled by the sight - if she could not say why. Presently she shrugged, then cupped her hands over her mouth. "Hello?"
The echo bounced back and forth.
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Jon stepped into the Spirit World, leaving his body behind on the aircraft. In a flash he was drifting among that place between worlds, that gap of infinite darkness. Dreams speckled like points of light. They beckoned to him. He itched to go and spy on one in particular. But it was not time yet. There was something he wanted to go see.

He shifted and reality coalesced around him. Old stone beneath him, palaces surrounding him like ghostly sentinels, silent and empty in the effervescent light of this place. There it was. The arch. He shifted to it, and stood at the base. It was huge, towering over the square, black on red, flanked with statues gilded with gold. All done with the Power in an instant. Jon put a hand out and felt it. The base was smooth, all of one piece. What must it have taken to craft such a thing? The Ascendancy was clearly stronger in the power than Jon. He knew there was no way he'd ever be able to hold enough of the Power to accomplish something like this. Not by himself, at least. They were not gods, though, no matter what Brandon claimed. There had to be a way to balance him.

He took his hand from the slab. Something echoed out in this place. It was strange to hear sound. He turned in a circle, and his eyes rested on the source. A familiar face.

he said. "It has been some time. I hope you are well. And the other you, of course."

He'd been hoping to see Nimeda, here. After their last encounter he'd had to flee all too quickly. Then his eyes narrowed. She wasn't alone. Another girl, young, yet... "Who is your companion?"
It took her a moment to spy him at the base of the arch, and her face lit up a bright smile when she did. It had worked! "Jon!"
There was something triumphant in the way she chorused his name. The echo bounced around again, and she liked the way the sound carved up the silence. Something about the enormous arch made her, not afraid exactly, but wary. Like watching eyes crawled all over her skin. It made her feel as though she ought to be on her best behaviour.

She didn't answer at first about the "other her," mostly because there was nothing to tell - and certainly nothing good. Now was the first time in weeks her Other had slept properly enough for Nimeda to slip into the dreamworld, and the sleep was deep; she could barely feel the tugs of her physical body. Jon had been her first thought for help with that problem, but it was to Calvin she had given her plea. Because Jon thought her Other had been afraid of him.

She tilted her head, considering. "Did you see her again? Is that why she's sleeping badly?"
There was no accusation in her tone, just curiosity, and she was soon distracted by his appraisal of Mara. Nimeda's smile warmed, brimmed full with satisfaction at having two of her favourite people together. Predictably, she answered in a round about way - or perhaps just gave the introduction most important to her. Names were such ephemeral things, after all. "This! This is an old friend."
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |

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