Following the Dreams

On a chilly fall day of the year 676 after the Coming of Estarra, Makali Ganth set out for the pilgrim camp at the foot of Avechna’s Peak in search of a friend. The Fellowship of the Roots, of which he was a member, had not heard from Naesan Sweetfur in a while and were concerned for his safety. At the camp, he was quickly joined by Cheliyi Lunarose, Wyrden Haruspex Esei Shee-Slaugh, Everiine Silvermoon, and Regent Xiran Stormcrow, who all offered their help in tracking down the missing tae’dae.

Naesan, as they quickly learnt, was the artist and dreamweaver behind sketchbooks that had found their way into people’s hands a while back. The sketchbooks presented a challenge to find the places sketched therein. Little did they know at the time, however, was that both the sketches and the notes were an account of troubling observations about the state of the Dreaming. Makali sought to bring Naesan to the Fellowship to share these thoughts but the tae’dae was set on tracking them down to the source first. And so they parted ways, but not before Makali pressed an amber coin into Naesan’s hand, beseeching him to mark his camps in the Fellowship fashion for safety.

They knew nothing of his whereabouts until earlier that day, when the amber coin abruptly manifested outside the Fellowship outpost in the Grey Moors. Luckily, Makali knew a little of Naesan’s early plans so they would be able to hone in on the trail easily. Joined by Eiselle Mes’ard, the group set out to follow the coin under Esei’s leadership, heading towards the Tosha Monastery first. Once they arrived at a field of bee hives beside the monastery, they spotted dreamy motes drifting through the air and felt their eyelids grow heavy and their minds weary.

Concerned about a ploy, they were fighting the temptation just as Huskii and Valinea arrived to lend a hand. But before Huskii could assess the danger with their dreamweaving prowess, Everiine dove headfirst into slumber, falling still and lifeless at once. Concerned, Esei, Valinea, and Huskii chased after the Landspeaker into the dream only to find themselves in a very similar place – except full of anger, danger, and dripping with both honey and blood alike. There, by Everiine, they found a dream-distorted sketchbook, much like the one Makali showed them earlier. Within it was a note and though it said the exact same thing as the first note in the widely-distributed sketchbooks, finding it pocketed away here was promising.

As Huskii slipped in and out of the dreaming world to keep those on guard in the waking world informed, Everiine pried further, exploring the boundaries of the dreamscape. In the waking world, the Regent struggled to shake him awake but in there, he saw the walls of the monastery grow and loom over him, the bees buzz angrily in search of a target, and the beehives overturned. He flew above the field and beheld the terror encroaching upon the land. At last, he awoke safely just as Mani joined the expedition.

Knowing what it is that they are looking for, and what to expect, they set off for the next camp in the Tolborolla Valley. As they meandered through an orchard among the oaks, they spotted the telltale dreamy motes, but again no Naesan. Wasting no time, Everiine drifted off to sleep, followed by Huskii Myeras, Valinea, and Esei while the others stood guard over their vulnerable forms. Once more they found themselves within a dreamscape that reflected the place where they fell asleep, and once more it was a dark reflection full of crumbling apples and sickly trees. A disturbed place, where they constantly lost their memories with each whipping of the wind. The note they found was the second entry in the sketchbook, a note they already possessed, but their path was now even clearer.

And so they came to and set off for the next camp, known to have been in the Scorpion Caverns. At the hall of stingers, they promptly drifted off to sleep and beheld troubling dreams in which a darkened figure with seared lips dashed by while holding onto mysterious crystals. Then, a swarm of dead scorpions moved beneath them like the tide, transporting something underfoot. They did not overstay their welcome this time and left with the note promptly.

Their next stop was to be Verasavir Valley but the dreamweaver was not within the abandoned lodge when they got there. The dreamscape and a new note, however, was. In the dream, they found themselves in the very same lodge but vastly more ruined and licked by brown flames. Whispers reached their ears from darkened corners – two voices plotting – but no faces. Only when one lit a tinderbox did they spot seared lips in the brief illumination but all of that crumbled with the lodge. They left the dreamscape concerned for the new note spoke of worry that none will heed the warnings despite finding the sketchbooks, as indeed happened. Before they set off again, they considered the likelihood of Summer Heat’s involvement, for the brown seared lips reminded them of him but, as Esei pointed out, he was dead. While they were true, Huskii reminded them that he was but one of many.

Their next stop was to be a glacier high in Avechna’s Teeth and beyond this camp, were Naesan was not to be there, they were on their own with but the coin to guide them as Makali knew of only those five camps. Naesan was indeed not there and in the dreamscape, they found themselves upon a melting glacier polluted with brown sludge. Smelling of sweat and anxiety, it was cascading down the mountainside, its force unstoppable and ushered forth by an oppressive presence. Terrified of the nightmare, they left with the new note outlining Naesan joining the Fellowship. In the waking world, they set off in search of the next camp which they eventually located by the Shallach River. In the dreamscape which they accessed there, they found themselves upon a scorched battlefield, full of dark figures controlled like puppets from on high. The note they found was no less disturbing, telling of Naesan’s restlessness while awake and exhaustion while asleep where he is hounded by nightmares.

Refusing to succumb to this darkness, they continued on, picking Ayisdra Ysav’rai up along the way, until they came across a camp in the Balach Swamp. While they pried the dreamscape left behind there, Everiine and Huskii separated from the group to visit Gromagh the Hag of Hifarae Hills so that Everiine may see firsthand a being with lips seared brown. And indeed, Gromagh was still marked from whatever pact she entered in years past, but her power waned at last when the two attacked her after a heated exchange. Meanwhile, the dreamers found themselves in a surprisingly calm dreamscape given the locale, one reflecting the muddy trail they were on almost flawlessly. The note was lengthy, speaking of the Soulless Muud’s oppressive presence easily felt here, and frequent dreams of fields of grain that seemed different from past ones. Before heading back on the trail, they probed at the entrance to the Emerald Enclave but found it sealed shut with no explanation.

Wasting no time they set off once more, still hoping to find Naesan safe. Having figured out that he seemed to be tracking recent catastrophes and disturbances in the Basin of Life, they followed the path of destruction to the Grey Moors, where once a cloier broke loose upon Paavik. They did not find Naesan, but as they fell asleep they found themselves in a lifeless clearing where an invisible behemoth roamed the landscape. They saw a cloier collapse and be devoured from within even before it was slain, and gagged at the stench of sweat and something foul. The note they found spoke of dreaming of the grains again and being sure the dream is different. Knowing Naesan would be seeking out a field of grain to dream in, they set off once more and eventually found the camp in Oleanvir Valley. Once more Naesan was not there and the dreamscape was an endless field under scorching summer heat and with darkness on the horizon. But now Naesan was sure, the dreams had changed markedly – small details at first but they were mounting, and even those dreams that brought joy were now nightmares.

Certain they are right on Naesan’s heels, they set off once again and found another camp in the Balach Swamps but this time no dreamscape, only something buried in the muck – a sketchbook with all the notes in one place. The very last one outlined Naesan’s final goal – the closed-off Emerald Enclave. Finding nothing to go on elsewhere, the dreamweaver resolved to see if the disturbances come from the Great Muud. And so they followed, resolved and certain they were in the right place now. Once outside the Enclave, they made their presence known loud and clear, and demanded to be let inside. An illusion faded over the promontory just then and they were able to pass through the airlock into the dark hallways.

The moment they made it inside, they were assaulted by cestodes that are normally only found within the Great Muud and so they ventured further with caution, fighting off danger right and left. With the Enclave under attack, Eluisa Starfall, Veldrin D’Cente, and Khnemu Dahyu joined to protect the Sleeping Child. The Keepers of Dreams sought out the dreamweavers, Huskii and Veldrin, and beckoned them to protect the tae’dae as they cannot do that while protecting the Sleeping Child as well, and so all hurried further until they found a note stained with blood. It was filled with Naesan’s neat handwriting, noting the high alert and war the Keepers were engaged in but that the veil over the Dreaming that he felt elsewhere was surprisingly not present there. Heedlessly, Huskii settled down to sleep but this time, their body was gone in the blink of an eye too. While others panicked, Huskii was shaken awake within a burning tower surrounded by a nightmarish landscape – their protector the tae’dae dreamweaver himself. Fires surrounded them and nightmares roamed just beyond the perimeter of the dream tower Naesan had retreated to in this peculiar place between the waking world and the Dreaming. Not wanting to leave Huskii on their own, the others followed into the dream and soon the tower was full to the brim with eager protectors.

Naesan, though drained and exhausted beyond measure, was relieved to see so many rally to his defence but warned them not to leave the tower for he was barely holding it together against outside pressures and it was only Great Muud’s interest in the Sleeping Child, and not him, that has allowed him to survive so long. They would have awoken among the nightmares had he not jacked them into the safety of the tower as they arrived. But before they had time to speak much, the dreamweavers among them could sense the tower about to fail and rallied everyone to ready for the onslaught, their numbers bolstered by Romaan D’Varden and Tridemon Regalis.

And then the tower fell and the nightmares came.

One by one, they dispatched the tendrils and monstrosities of the Soulless, cleaving a path through the darkness towards an escape back into the Emerald Enclave. Taking Naesan and Makali with them, they left the nightmares behind and regrouped at the Enclave where they were safe enough, for the moment, to query the tae’dae about his experiences. But he had his own questions first, chief among them the circumstances of his rescue. He was moved to know that his effort to send the amber coin to the Fellowship not only worked, but was enough for such a rescue effort to be mounted. While he was hydrated, fed, and assessed for injuries by Mani, Naesan told them the Dreaming is worsening slowly but surely and something appears to be encroaching upon it. He also told them of his visit to the Citadel of Nirvana, within the Dreaming, where he found nothing overtly amiss, but the False Gods distant and preoccupied.

He explained the dreams he had, which felt manipulated and twisted, something the Fellowship had already been studying. The only thing Naesan knew for sure now was that even though Great Muud was emboldened, He was not the source of the change. The Sleeping Child’s dreams were disturbed by whatever the culprit, and that weakness is what empowered Great Muud to pursue all the more eagerly. Everywhere Naesan dreamed, he dreamed of darkness. Except in Balach Swamps, where only regular nightmares awaited him. Khnemu suggested whatever it was, could well be afraid of Muud, and on that troubling note, the expedition parted ways, each finding their way home with more questions than answers.