The Child Dreamer
A Dead Dreamer Prequel
“Where are you going?” Catori asked.
She stood on the edge of the forest as I was beginning to make my way to the village. Although it was probably not the smartest idea, the blue eyes that pierced my soul haunted my every thought. He saw me while I was in the Land of the Dead. That made him unique. I had only met a few who could see me in such a state. And only one of them was from one of the villages. The rest were here, in the tribe that adopted me years ago.
My fingers tugged at my ill-fitted linen shirt. “I wanted to go to the village nearby. To gather supplies for the coming winter.”
Her eyes narrowed. The one that had been blinded made me shiver for only a moment. It was almost as though she was using it to see through my falsehood. But whether or not she suspected me of lying, she smiled. “Very well. Be sure to return before dark.”
I nodded, turning to continue my trek. On foot, it took more time than I preferred. No matter the reason for going to the village, I had to remember to bring back some supplies. Otherwise, my lie would be known right away. Along the way, I made a list of items to purchase while there to continue the facade.
The forest appeared different during the daytime. It was alive. With small creatures running through my path and deer huffing as I approached; it all felt strange. While I was awake, I spent my days doing chores. The tribe was still too frightened of me to let me join in the ᚺhunt, so I was forced to cook for the most part. It wasn’t a difficult job, only tedious. I lived for the nights. I lived for the Land of the Dead.
By the time I reached the village, the humans were still running around, attempting to clean up after the fire. At first, no one noticed my approach. Compared to the rest of the children my age, it was obvious I did not belong. My clothes had been purchased a year ago from a traveling caravan. Catori thought it would be smart to give them to me so I could gather supplies easily. The local villages rarely asked questions when I arrived.
But now the clothes were tight and barely fit. The sleeves barely reached down to my wrists. Nervously, I tugged at them before brushing the strands of blonde hair away from hanging over my face. Reaching down, my hands pulled the waist of my slacks down ever so slightly so the bottoms wouldn’t be so far above my ankles.
As I reached the church, some of the villagers began to notice me. One who I recognized from a trade a few months back recognized me. Jeremiah grinned his toothy smile at me before waving me over. He was larger than most of the humans in town. With his broad shoulders and large stomach, I sometimes forgot he worked in the fields all day. The drink made his belly bigger, countering the muscles in his arms and back.
His large, rough hand reached for mine before shaking it violently. “Morning George. What brings you to civilization? Poor day to trade if that’s why you’re here.”
My head tilted toward the cottage I had burned down. “What happened over there?”
Jeremiah sighed as he placed his thumbs into to waistline of his slacks that were already stretched. “Priest’s cottage caught fire early this morning. He died after it started.”
“What will you do without your priest?” I asked, harsher than I intended thanks to the memory of the demon.
Instead of being offended, he chuckled. “Ah don’t worry my boy. There’s still a way to save your soul. A new priest was already here when it happened. He’s come from up north. I hear he studied in good ‘ol England before coming back home to spread the word.”
On multiple occasions, various villagers had tried to get me to join in their services on Sunday. I hadn’t been to a church service since before my father died. The memory of it left me empty. I remembered some of the stories, and those I didn’t remember, the villagers would occasionally remind me. But combined with what I knew about the Land of the Dead and the tribe, it was a bitter pill. They didn’t know the whole picture, or that the Bible was missing crucial information. I wasn’t sure what the truth was. All I knew was what I had experienced.
“Where is he? The new priest, I mean,” I asked.
Jeremiah grinned before slapping me on the back. “Good on you, lad! He’s in the church, preparing for the priest’s funeral. Go pop your head in and say hello.”
As I turned to leave, Jeremiah called after me. “Don’t forget to stop by my house before you leave for your wild men. I’ll still trade with you!”
I waved my thanks before making my way to the church. A few of the villagers kept their distance as I passed, wanting nothing to do with me. One young girl pointed and asked her mother a question, only to have her mother smack her hand and drag her away. I was the wild boy living with the wild men. It didn’t matter. After having spent years in both scenarios, I always chose the tribe first.
The doors to the church opened silently as I stepped inside. The large room was lit by sunlight, creating a slight haze around the pews and the podium where the dead priest had once stood. There were voices coming from the staircase to my left leading down to the basement.
Quietly, I made my way down the stairs, trying not to make a sound. The hallway was lit with candles along the wall, all leading to smaller rooms. One in the back seemed particularly bright. It also seemed to host the voices which I was hearing. Almost holding my breath, I crept closer, attempting to sneak into the room to see what was going on.
“Good Morning, George. You may come in,” one of the voices said.
Instantly, my body stiffened. The voices was the same. It was the same man with the ice eyes who had spotted me earlier. Against my instincts, my feet carried me into the room. There were two men inside, along with a third, lying on the table. The men standing were both wearing long, brown coats. The man with the ice eyes had his linen shirt slightly unbuttoned, while the other closest to the door has his tied up to his neck. Behind Ice Eyes was a boy, only about ten, with dirty brown hair that nearly matched my own. He didn’t seem phased by the dead body or me interrupting them.
“I’m glad you came. Please, come in,” Ice Eyes said, extending his arm to show welcome.
The other man only grunted before turning to leave. His shoulder hit mine as he went through the door. “Savage,” he mumbled as he passed.
“Don’t mind him,” Ice Eyes said reassuringly. “He is angry with me.”
“Why?” I asked.
He pointed toward me. “Because I wanted to meet you, of course. Although, he doesn’t know why. I’m sure if he did, he’d think otherwise.”
My eyes narrowed. “Why did you want to meet me?”
He walked around the body of the priest to stand before me. The child followed in his shade. “First things first. My name is Lorcan. I know your name is George, but not much else.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise. “Lorcan?”
“Yes, although I may not look it, my mother was Irish. She thought the name would allow me to be strong as I grew up. She wasn’t wrong,” he chuckled.
Instinctively, I took a step back before answering. “How do you know my name?”
Jeremiah flashed across my mind, but his answer was not what I expected. “My shadow told me. He has a special gift like you. Quite a few, actually.”
My head twitched back as I blinked in disbelief. “What?”
Lorcan placed his hand behind the child’s back before lightly pushing him forward. The child looked up at his master, confused. When Lorcan only nodded, he nodded back before looking back up at me. “I’m like you.”
His accent was foreign to me. For having only said three words, it was distinct and thick. Instead of commenting on it, I bent down to his level. He flinched when my eyes met his chocolate brown ones.
“How are you like me?” I asked with a soft voice, not wanting to frighten him.
The child held his head up to my face. “I walk in the Fade. I create fire. I see everything. My name is Kieran.”
Lorcan pat the boy’s head. “My apologies, he only recently joined me. I took him in when his mother abandoned him back in Ireland. His first language was Gaelic, so his English is a little broken. We’re working on it.
What he is trying to tell you, is he is a Dreamer like you. He can visit the Fade. But Kieran here is very unique. He has two very special gifts. We know about your affinity for fire and wondered if you had another gift as well?”
In the pit of my stomach, it felt like a rock had fallen. This boy was like me. He was a Spirit Walker or a Dreamer as Lorcan said. But he was more powerful. He had two gifts, while I still only had one. My nose twitched at the thought, but I kept my composure as I stood up.
“What is his other gift?”
“Kieran can touch another person while in the Fade and get a flash of the history of that person. Only flashes and some names. Nothing entirely concrete. That is how we discovered your name, though nothing more than that,” he explained.
My nose twitched again. “I can only start fires.”
“Don’t say it like it’s nothing special. I witness what you did to that demon. I was very impressed,” he said as he grinned.
“I thought you said it was foolish,” my voice was dark, and leaking the jealousy I was feeling towards Kieran.
“It – ” Kieran began before Lorcan glared down at him to silence him.
When Kieran backed up to hide in his shadow again, Lorcan returned his earlier smile as he met my gaze. “I only thought it was foolish because by sparking the fire the way you did, it caused our priest, here, to have a heart attack. But you were serving a greater purpose, which is why I don’t fault you for it entirely.”
I glanced at Kieran who was now looking at the ground while biting his lip. “It was a demon. I wasn’t about to let it get away. If a human died in the process, that’s not my fault.”
Lorcan’s lips pursed as he listened. I was waiting for him to scold me for allowing a human to get hurt in the process. Instead, he smiled. “You have done very well on your own. How long have you been this way?”
My hand lifted to point at the boy. “A little younger than him.”
“Who did it?” he asked.
He nodded, not seeming surprised by my admission. “Unfortunately, it’s not a story I haven’t heard before. The same thing happened to Kieran until his mother revived him, and then abandoned him to the church. It was only a year ago. Poor boy. But we’ve taken him in to give him a greater purpose. I hope to offer you this same purpose.”
My eyes narrowed again. Although I pitied the boy for our similar circumstances, the fact that he had only been like me for a year and was already so power enraged me. If I were in the Land of the Dead, that anger would have been lit.
“I’m not looking for help from a priest,” I grumbled.
Lorcan only smiled before taking my shoulder and guiding me into the hallway. We walked slowly side by side as he explained. “Son, you are doing God’s work by destroying the demons, and I am intensely proud of this. But at the same time, it was at the cost of human souls. We have a better way of keeping the demons at bay. Safer for you, and for the humans around you.
“I won’t preach to you as every other priest would about your duties to God. You’re different from the rest. More logical. So if you won’t do it for the spiritual blessings you’ll receive, do it for yourself. This could make you more powerful. I truly believe Kieran’s gifts were enhanced because of the work he has done to seal away the demons forever.”
Kieran said nothing to this. The sound of his footsteps trailed behind us. At one point during Lorcan’s speech, his breath had caught, but after a few seconds, he resumed breathing normally. No matter what was said, however, he remained silent.
“What do you do?” I asked.
Although I didn’t want to admit it, I was curious. If whatever they did truly increased Kieran’s powers, then I wanted to find out what it was. The boy was clearly afraid to do anything out of turn, but it was probably only because he was a child. I felt for him. But it wasn’t enough for me to offer him anything. He was taken care of, and that was more than I had until the tribe found me.
Lorcan guided me outside of the church, his arm still wrapped around my shoulder. Outside, Jeremiah was in front of his house, chopping away at the pig he had slaughtered earlier. It would be some of the meat I would be trading for before I head back home. As he glanced across the square he saw me and waved his knife into the air as he grinned.
“Would you like us to show you?” Lorcan asked, his eyes following mine to Jeremiah.
“When?” I asked.
He glanced at the cottage next to the church, now nothing more than smoldering ash with the skeleton of what used to be. His lips lifted to a grin before he turned to look at me again.
To be continued…
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