Everything was very hastily set up in the room around me. Special reclined seats were brought, one for each master. Each was specially designed for their respective owners. For me, additional benches were drawn together and cushioned material laid on top. Between me and the Masters was set a low, small table upon which was placed a large smokey white crystal, the largest of its kind, and far superior to my own Dream Crystal. This was a Master Crystal.
While unimaginative in its name, it conveyed the right sense of power a Dream Walker could feel in its presence. Even as I sat there, I could sense the energy it contained. The sensation was both daunting and humbling. This would be the first time I would ever experience it, and possibly the only time.
All too quickly, the masters returned, and I was ushered into a reclined position onto the benches by numerous aids, and Billtak. The Toas took their respective seats, and the rest, including Billtak withdraw, except for one masked and hooded aid, who stood to one side with a large fan. At a signal from Toa Lars, the aid approached the crystal, and ignited the oil-bath beneath the crystal with a fire stick, then stood back to slowly wave the forming scent around the room.
I quickly fell to its power and went into a relaxed slumber.
I distantly heard Toa Lars voice as he guided me back through events, from the first reports of disappearing villagers, through to the arrival of the young girl that forced me into the maelstrom of events that followed. Cassinda stood there again, pleading me to walk her dreams, and I both saw and was myself as I took her to the cot and began the reading.
To read a dream within a dream was not new to me, as it was something we once did to each other as students. Even going so far to walk another’s dreams while they were actually asleep, as a practical joke. To read someone else’s dream within a dream was something unreal and disorienting. The line between my thoughts and Cassinda’s was fuzzy and I could feel myself struggling with discomfort. Toa Lars spoke softly, guiding me through and soothing my unease.
Cassinda was watching the mysterious man from the crowd, and then they were speaking. The strange flicker of light that had occurred before was now a jarring visual twitch. I had not been mistaken. The features of the man were suddenly changed. A sudden inhalation suggested the masters had seen it as well. Toa Lars softly urged me on wards.
I recalled the following meetings between Cassinda and the mysterious man, with the same twitching of vision. Then I observed and felt the trauma of being wrenched from a reading as Cassinda fled my home. I both watched and ran, desperate catch her, until I climbed the wall to see her in the distance with the man in black.
At a murmured word from Toa Lars, a word I had never heard before, the dream went still, frozen around me. I was able to move of myself and look around, but all else was motionless.
“Master Juth. We see through your eyes. Please approach the couple.”
Toa Lars voice seemed sharp in the utter silence and startled me for a moment. I started to climb back down the wall noting that it felt different.
“You will not fall. You are in a dream Master Juth.”
I took an instant to realise what I was doing, and after a moment of embarrassment, I let go of the wall and floated away from it. Gaining control of one’s dream was taught to all who studied the arts of Dream Walking and Reading. I allowed myself to float up and over the wall, and then drifted toward Cassinda and her companion.
I landed a few feet away from them and was then aware of the presence of the three Toa Masters who now stepped as if from me and walked alongside.
The man’s face was shrouded in shadow from his broad rimmed hat which meant I would need to get closer to see his face. I stepped up to Cassinda as she knelt before him, his hand on her head looking down on her. I knelt down next to Cassinda and peered up in to the man’s face, and saw nothing.
Toa Freyah exclaimed in shock.
Where there should have been a face, there was a swirling void. Deep, endless, inviting. I felt a strange desire to look closer. Voices called for me to come back, to step away, but I paid them no heed. I edged closer to the strange vision as the voices grew distant and unintelligible. I reached out to touch the calling void, and suddenly felt cold and damp.
I sat up abruptly, back on the bench, with the Masters standing around me. Toa Lars held a bucket in his hands. The fire under the crystal was out, the table drenched, as was I. Water dripped from my hair as the water spilled down over me. Toa Freyah grabbed my face and looked deep into my eyes.
“What is your name?”
“Ma… Master Juth.” Water sprayed as I spoke.
“It seems the rumours are true then.” Toa Lars put the bucket down and looked to the other Toas. “A Dream Maker has returned.”