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Fiction, Short Fiction, Science Fiction
The Weave of Dreams
by: Kat Jones
"…Happy birthday to you!"
Cheers erupted around the crowded bar. Glass clinked. Well wishers shouted their congratulations over the clamour of a hundred voices battling a thudding baseline. Friends, family and people he was sure he'd never seen before in his life raised their drinks in a muted salute to the birthday boy. Passing from room to room through a volley of slaps on the back, friendly kisses and a beer or two he did the rounds, drinking with friends and hiding from his family. Ducking into the bar's smallest lounge he slumped into the nearest comfortable chair and allowed himself a small satisfied smile. Draining his glass he leaned back closing his eyes. A few moments wouldn't hurt. Listening to the music he shifted drowsily, the steady rhythm of it, the bubbling chatter, and the alcohol all flowing, melting, and moving through him until he drifted off to sleep. The voices dimmed, the music faded and changed. Dice click-clacked across a hard surface.
The young man's eyes flickered open, his vision hazy. Forcing himself to focus on the surrounding tents he blinked in confusion.
How much have I had to drink?
Turning slowly he took in the blazing campfires, the heavyset men arrayed in a mix of furs and armour carousing and fighting amidst the camp.
It must be a trick.
Cruel daggers manipulated the firelight, twisting fearsome battle hardened faces with a menacing glow as men sported with their brutal craft.
The lads are having a joke and I'm it.
Spears leaned lazily in the grips of drunken warriors.
What is that smell?
Swords hung from the thick leather belts of those without spears, shields littering the camp.
They are going to jump out, laugh at the idiot and take a few pictures to hand around at work.
"Attila! Attila! Attila!"
Spears, swords, shields, fists beat against thick muscled chests as one warrior vanquished another in the name of his warlord.
There's one, hiding in the bushes, laughing at me.
An arrow hurtled past his left ear.
That wasn't funny! I must be dreaming. That's it; I've dreamt myself into the middle of the bloody Mongol Horde! And someone is shooting at me.
Before the hidden archer could take aim once more, he turned and fled as fast as he could manage in the heavy breastplate. Breastplate? His hand went to his normally clean shaven face and felt along the length of two wiry moustaches. He grinned in the darkness, slowing his pace. He was one of the bloody Mongol Horde.
A strained cry reached out to him from somewhere behind.
"Help!" It was a woman's voice and she was clearly frightened. The archer must have found her.
Playing the hero might be fun. This is my dream after all and anyway I'm a Mongol warrior, I could always swap her for some good ale or something.
Whirling around, hands on hips, he peered into the night for his damsel in distress. A tall slender woman wrapped in a gown of shimmering purple emerged from the shadows. Eyes that sparkled with all the mystery and magic of the dream lit up a face of breathtaking beauty.
"C-can I help you?" he stammered. Idiot!
"I lost my way Lord Attila," she said in a voice like silken clouds, "and I became frightened."
"I can take you back to…Attila?" He choked on the word as she swayed towards him, his composure shattered. "No, you…I…you've got the wrong…"
Her sweet smile faded to a satisfied smirk as her knee slammed into his groin. One swift punch to his temple brought fireworks exploding across his vision, blurring her image into a thousand shimmering stars.
She's bloody strong for a delicate damsel.
Dull clanging filtered through his senses, metal grinding on metal, the smell of burning flesh. His eyes opened once more to strange surroundings.
A gruff voice at his shoulder startled him. "She's ready for you now." The voice belonged to a sweaty, dishevelled soldier that looked desperately in need of a bath. Keeping as much distance between him and the unidentifiable stench of the soldier as possible, he followed the foul man's lead. Moving through what proved to be a well used dungeon the young man felt weighted down, every step he took accompanied by a slight jingling. Spurs! He was wearing spurs and armoured boots, a chain mail hauberk under a richly coloured tunic. He was a knight. A faint tinge of recognition trickled through his mind.
"'Ere we are" the gruff man said, opening a cell door and shuffling inside.
There on the far wall stood a woman, chained with rusting manacles, her long pale honey curls hanging limp over her face. The gruff man handed him a whip and a light torch. The woman raised her head wearily to her captors.
My damsel in distress!
His eyes flicked between the woman and the whip and he remembered those last few moments outside the Hun camp.
I think I'm going to like this dream.
He stepped forward and his prisoner shifted slightly. That vague twinkling in the depths of those intriguing eyes halted him. She moved again and her manacles fell away, a thick needle dropping to the dank stone floor. Everything flickered like a candle flame touched by a light breeze. The cell rippled and her image began to spin through the cell in a gruesome dance. Her laughter faded with the cell, his whole world moving, merging, and shifting.
Laser fire streaked across his vision, explosions wracking the ship. Pirates! Ship? Looking down at his leather clad self he took in the small arsenal living in his belt, the laser pistol in one hand and smashed communication device in the other. Space pirates? Oh come on!
"We have to move captain!" The woman backing towards him yelled over the din. Short black hair and a slim line leather uniform that matched his own, lasers blazing, this woman was stunning.
That voice…oh god not her again!
Those sparkling eyes lit up with amusement as they alighted on him cowering behind some containers.
"It's an ambush captain. We have a traitor among us" she said ducking down beside him.
"What do they want?"
"One of us."
"What the hell for?"
"Torture, information." Shrugging she turned the laser on him with that infuriating smile of hers. "At least that's what the impression I got from the offer they sent before boarding. Quite a hefty bounty for any old corporation officer."
"What rank are you?"
"Lieutenant Commander. What…?" Her question was cut short as he delivered one decisive blow to her cheek, the jolt sending her lasers clattering across the floor, and pulled her upright, arms pinned behind her back.
"Here's your officer lads!
"What? No! Captain, it was all just a silly joke! You know I've always loved you."
"What?" He wasn't sure whether he should laugh or run for the nearest shuttle.
"Let's give them Commander Radner. We could split the bounty, escape together."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"We could be together…forever."
"Are you insane?" A shudder ran through him at the thought.
"Yes my darling, mad with love for you. I…"
"Oh shut up you harpy!"
Her protests were smothered by a cry of pain as a laser burned into her shoulder. The ship whirled into a dizzying mix of colours, sounds and shapes, their surroundings shifting and blurring once more.
The dice rolled across the polished granite table. Two small, finely carved statuettes stood in the centre of the table. One, a young man looked to be carved from a dark red wood of some kind; the other, female, seemed to be shaped out of a smooth piece of ivory. Two men sat facing each other at either side of the table as the dice fell into their final resting place. One of the men rose, his dark cloak wrapping itself around him as if it sought his warmth in the surrounding gloom. White hair flecked with silver fell about his shoulders, dark piercing eyes smiling out from a face touched by agelessness incongruous to the silvery beard at his chin.
"Time I was getting back Odin my friend." The deep base of his voice rumbled, echoing through the dim chamber.
"As you wish Zeus," the other man replied, a light glimmering in the depths of his one good eye.
"Until we play again."
Grinning broadly Zeus stepped into the shadows, his parting words lingering as he faded from view. "It looks as though I have won this one. Never mind, you did your best."
Odin's lips curved in unspoken mischief as his gaze touched the nothingness.
"Perhaps my best is yet to come," he murmured looking down at his last throw.
The young man woke with a start. The music seemed louder than he remembered. People had started to crowd into the small lounge, latecomers and gatecrashers piling into the bar.
How long have I been asleep?
Making his way out of the room he pushed through to the bar itself. Catching the bartender's eye he motioned for a beer and took an empty chair at the far end. A young woman two seats down toyed with her cocktail. Pale golden curls laced with glitter bounced lightly as she raised her head to look at him. His breath stilled. That unmistakeable twinkle lit her eyes, a slight smile hovering at her lips. His damsel in distress. Here. It was all just a dream.
Sliding off the bar stool she held out her hand and whispered, "Shall we dance?"
Shaking himself he reached out and took her hand, letting her lead him towards the dance floor.
It was all just a dream wasn't it? Foolish to think…But still…
"Have we met before?"
A slow steady smile crept over the bartender's features, fuelling the glitter in his one good eye as he ran a cloth over the bar. Adjusting his eye patch he watched the couple's retreat and a chuckle escaped his lips.
"Perhaps my best is yet to come."