Part 1 of a seven part journal story called Sidereal Days.
Spent the whole morning fighting Neverghasts in the Shriveled Gardens of Nightmare. According to Metablade, some dumb horror movie opened this weekend to a really huge box office, and that weakened the border between life and dream. There’ve been rumors for awhile that the Neverghasts are under new leadership. Some wannabe oneiromancer or unfathomably alien lifeform who’s mind bled into human dreams, probably. The upshot is that the Ghasts took advantage of the weakness to try to break through.
It was a tough fight. It’s been a long time since I went up against a Neverghast. I forgot how hideous they are. All pointy-bits and dripping orifices. Two hours into the fight, one of them caught me off guard. It came at me with its scream-colored claws when I wasn’t concentrating. In these projection-realms your defenses are only as strong as your will. Usually that’s not a problem, but Doug and I went out last night and didn’t get back until late. We splurged on a good bottle of wine and I drank most of it. So I wasn’t concentrating, and the Neverghast’s claws penetrated my golden armor and sank into my shoulder. Do me a favor: if I’m taken out by a petty dream beast because I didn’t drink enough tomato juice to cancel out my wine hangover, don’t put it in my biography. Okay?
The wound hurt, but the worst of it was I knew Metablade would bitch me out afterwards.
He didn’t disappoint.
“You let your guard down,” he scolded me as he felled the last Ghast with his hypothetical scimitar.
“There were 67 of them!” I protested. “And one got through. Just barely. I’d hardly call that letting my guard down.”
“It violated the integrity of your armor,” he said.
I shrugged. “I’m still alive, aren’t?”
He scowled at me, and walked off to scan the bodies for evidence as to who or what is behind all of this. I knew he didn’t really mean it. He just thought it was job to criticize me. I can’t really blame him. The guy’s been doing this for I don’t know how many hundreds of years. At least, part of him has. Compared to that, my nearly-a-decade wielding my Sidereal Fire must make it seem like I just started yesterday.
After we finished with the scene Metablade took me out to lunch. A rare treat. I barely need any extra appendages to count the number of times I’ve seen him without his mask. I don’t know if I actually think he’s good looking, or if I’m attracted to him because he trained me and he’s Metablade. Daddy issues, maybe. I’d tell my therapist, if I could actually find a decent therapist.
We went to this great little bistro in a small village on the Orne river in Northeastern France. The food was good and the view over the water was beautiful, but damn if my shoulder didn’t hurt. I had hoped the dream-wound wouldn’t translate into my physical body. Sometimes they don’t. No such luck this time.
“I’m thinking of going to see Beverly this afternoon,” I said as we nibbled on cheese after the meal. “To get this wound healed.”
“The Raven of the Stream has priorities that go beyond curing your incidental battle wounds,” said Metablade. “It will heal. Perhaps it will scar, and teach you not to compromise your defenses.”
“She said ‘come by whenever you need to,’” I said. “And if Doug sees my shoulder all torn up like this he’ll freak.”
“It is frivolous,” said Metablade. “And there is another solution to the problem with your husband.”
“I do not want to talk about that.” I let my knife drop to my plate. “You know that. We’ve already discussed this.”
“A solution does not cease to be viable simply because it is ignored.”
“Can we talk about something else, please? Have you seen the latest Eastenders?”
“Of course I have.”
Metablade has this bizarre affection for British soap operas. Even though he can’t step foot on British soil because of some old contract with some being or other. So I keep up with them, just so I can distract him whenever I need to. It almost always worked.
But his comments about Doug left a bad taste in my mouth that the local pinot blanc couldn’t wash down.
I took a bottle when I went to see Beverly. Like I expected, she didn’t mind healing my shoulder one bit. Metablade thinks all of the Ascendent Guardians don’t have seconds in their day to do anything other than ascendantly guard things. Never mind that when I met him he was an Ascendent Guardian and he still had time to teach me to not die and all that.
Bev and I drank the wine and gossiped about other Warriors and had an embarrassingly girly time of it. I think most people just think of her as the Raven of the Stream, so she almost never gets to cut relax and have fun. It makes sense, I suppose. Her job is really important. She invited me to stay for dinner, but I told her Doug was cooking tonight and I really couldn’t miss that. So we hugged and said goodbye and I left.
I got home to find that Doug had not started dinner. Instead he was parked in front of the X-box in nothing but his ratty old Dalek t-shirt, a half eaten bag of Sunchips on the floor next to him. Not a good sign.
“Oh Doug,” I said as I walked into the bedroom. “What’s wrong?”
“I got a response on the manuscript,” he said without turning away from the screen. Something clenched in my chest.
“And?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
“What do you think?” he said. “It was rejected.”
I ran up to him and threw my arms around him. “I’m so sorry.”
“Of course it was rejected,” he said. “It’s crap.”
“No it isn’t,” I said. “It’s amazing. You shut the hell up about that.”
“I’m not saying anything that isn’t true, Samantha,” he scoffed.
“The manuscript is amazing. You know that. You’re just wallowing.”
“It’s not amazing. Otherwise it would be…”
“I said to shut the hell up about that!” I said.
“Are you going to shut the hell up about that?” I said. “Or am I going to have to get the riding crop out?”
The corner of his lips quirked.
“That’s not an answer,” I said. I pulled away from him. “I’m getting the crop.”
He threw his hands up in the air. “Fine, fine! You win! Don’t whip me; I can’t stand another thrashing.”
I laughed. “I’m going to go order a pizza,” I said.
He turned and looked into my eyes. “You’re amazing, you know that?”
“Yes,” I said. “Now put some pants on. You look like the elephant man.”
“I’m pretty sure the elephant man wore pants.”
“I know. I just couldn’t think of another insult.”
The pizza was lousy, but Doug and I sat in bed and scarfed it down like it was pate de foie gras. He promised to make dinner tomorrow, and slipped that he’d acquired some wagyu beef he was going to surprise me with. We talked about video games for almost an hour, and caught up on the last few episodes of Mythbusters. Then he put on some music by a new jazz pianist he’d just discovered, and we just lay there, entwined, until he fell asleep in my arms.
Metablade is right. As usual. I’m going to have to tell my husband that I spend my days fighting on the fraying edges of reality. I’m going to have to tell him that I have starlight in my veins instead of blood, and how desperately important that manuscript of his actually is.
But not today. Definitely not today.