Once again, in my dreams, I am Tethra and I am back.
I have long since left the house of Armanth. Gregrich was still recovering and he will not fight another battle (which is really what he wanted). His wife and daughter tend to him and the twin, who is learning to live with the injuries I gave her. I emerged virtually unmarked by the encounter, just three scars – one on my arm, one on my shoulder and one just above my hip.
The hacksaw weighs down my belt. It is still stained with blood, hard as I've tried to get rid of it. I am no longer part of the Bardic Guild. We are forbidden to bear arms, we bards, but I still carry my harp and wear the long robes of the bards.
I am in the mountains now. I have gone far, trying to forget about the twin. But the hacksaw hangs from my hip and reminds me every day. I am far from the sea, I have traveled for a long time, but I still know next to nothing of the world.
I have not been in another house in a long time. I have no money and no food, and don't know enough about keeping myself alive (I can slaughter twelve men at a go, but I can't stay alive) to know where to find any.
I have come to the mountains because news doesn't travel as fast there and I feel that I may be able to find a place to play for a little while. The news of my behavior at Armanth preceded me in a few places and I was unable to live it down. I fled from those places, fled to the mountains. I'm tired – in a dream, I'm tired. I can't be sleeping properly – and have to find some work for a little while.
I start the dream, then, in a mountain fortress. It is carved from the mountain itself, its cellars extending deep within the rock. I know its story; I learned it while I trained to become a bard. I know the story of the fortress, at any rate.
It is the home of the Ulf'ikchen, the family that has always guarded this fortress and pass. Several of the stories I know are related to brave defenses against the man-wolves of the mountains, but those days are long gone.
The statues that graced the corners of the fortress are crumbling and the archway that leads into it is half gone. But the door is opened to me by an old man with an evil smile and traces of dementia in his eyes. He ushers me into the great hall.
There I am introduced to the last remaining members of the Ulf'ikchen family – Emrin and Brekrin, the pale brother and sister who rule over the fortress. They are slender, frail and languid. All their movements seem to take place under water, making their limbs look too long and a little unwieldy. It is occasionally difficult to tell them apart, because they have exactly the same coloring and wear their hair in a similar fashion. Both are frighteningly androgynous and are rarely out of each other's company. Their limbs entwine occasionally, their fingers meshing until it's impossible to tell one hand from the other. Their eyes are supercilious and blank.
I am with them for a few days, but I almost never see them. I am awakened in the night by the howls of the man-wolves, but when I tell the siblings about this, they do nothing. The doorman seems to be the only other person in the fortress, though there is always food.
After nearly three days with them, they finally ask me to play for them. I begin one of the lays I was taught, one of the ones praising their ancestors for their courage against the man-wolves. They smile complacently at me and at each other as I play for them. They seem unable to function outside of each other's presence. They each sip from cups of wine.
When I have finished the first lay, much shortened, Brekrin (the brother) smiles down at me again.
"Tell us the story of Gamgren and Troisen," he says. Emrin nods her agreement.
"Tell it to us," she says.
The story of Gamgren and Troisen is one of the most unpleasant of all the lays taught to me. I can see it in fragments in my dream.
Gamgren and Troisen were the last children of the Progenitrix – the first family in recorded lore. They were lovers, incestuously, and killed most of their family when threatened with retribution. They then ate the remains of their relations. A thoroughly disgusting story.
When I had finished, somehow – this is a dream, remember – I was no longer in the hall. I was in a tower, across the room from a huge, bloody bed. Emrin and Brekrin are laid on it, caressing one another, kissing softly and languorously. I can see, their tongues are longer than they should be, like snakes'. When one of them looks at me, I can see that their pupils have become dilated. There is a heavy fog of incense in the room.
Suddenly, the old servant is behind me and he places his hand over my mouth. He is holding something in it, trying to feed it to me. I gag on it (I can feel it, choking in bed) and Emrin and Brekrin sit up in reaction to the sound. Their teeth are long and white but their mouths are filled with blood.
I act automatically; I am not in control anymore. I grab for the hacksaw and take a swing backwards at the demented servant. I cut at his knees and he falls away.
I leap for the bed, where the incestuous siblings lay. Emrin tries to bite me, but I slash at her shoulder. She screams but, as before, the entirety of the dream seems bizarrely silent. I cut through Brekrin's leg as he tries to stifle me with the blankets. Their clothes are tangled together and I cut towards them, across their faces. Brekrin's mouth begins to bleed and he lashes out at me with his fingernails, grown strangely long. I cut through his wrist and then through Emrin's ankle. They are cowering now, trying to shield themselves with the blankets, mewling like pigeons, but I am not myself; I could not stop if I wished to.
With a massive slash, I bring down the hacksaw on the side of Brekrin's skull. It shatters inwards, blood and brain fluid spilling out over the bed. Emrin pulls back further into the bed, holding out her arms to stop me, but with a hack and a push (there is a strange, squelching, breaking sound) I drive the hacksaw into her sternum, crushing her chest. The weapon is a heavy one. She gasps and tries to breath, but I cut again – across her face, crushing her nose and cheekbones – and she stops, twitching.
I cut through Brekrin's stomach, because he too still tries to breath. I will not allow them to live. I cannot control my actions. I can feel my tears and shouts tearing through my face as I squelch through his innards.
They are both dead. I stand up from the bed, sobs racking my chest.
Then the dream flashes forward in time, just as before. I am crawling, trembling, though the mountain passes. The hacksaw still hangs bloody at my side. I do not know myself. My hands itch with drying blood. My harp is strapped once more across my chest. My fingers are crusted in the thin blood of a dying line…
And I find myself, once again, in bed. Sunlight streams over my face. What have I done to deserve these dreams? Why do I suffer such torment every night? But I also wonder, as I rub my eyes (I am still tired and unrested), who Tethra might be and how she comes to know these things.
It won't be a pleasant day.
Author's Note: This was just a sequel that came out one day. In other words, not an actual dream but an extension of one. Not sure how good these are, but I'm not really sure what to do with them. Enjoy! (I guess.)