Through a Dream, Darkly
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the lord my soul to take.
Chapter 1.) Prologue
One thousand years ago
Two golden eyes burned in the darkness with an eerie incandescence, before he made the shadows themselves unfurl like stage curtains as he winked into existence. He looked around the room in disgust—a dark, dripping crypt. These creatures have no imagination, he thought. Torches burst into flame as he walked down the hallway that widened into a large, marble room. Gold flashed hotly in the firelight. Most of the furniture had gold designs; random, abstract patterns that flickered uncertainly when he got too close. The mortal was a peasant girl, and she had never seen real gold up close. She didn't know its texture, its softness.
But he did.
He concentrated on one of the chairs, and the uneasy pattern became a delicate gold filigree with the intricate loops and knots favored by the Celts. He smiled, that of a creature pleased, and the whole room brightened, welcoming his presence as he transformed the child's tentative daydream into a magnificent realm befitting a god. Which, he thought, is not entirely inappropriate given the nature of my circumstances. Here, he had all the powers of the world. But without proper sustenance, he was banished to the position of an onlooker. Creating, but unable to interact.
Silently, he walked to the center of the room. The bed was the obvious focus of the room, which caused him to smile. She remembered. But then again, how could she forget? Tonight, he was wearing loose black pants that clung lovingly to his hips. Shirts annoyed him, so he had opted to go without in that department, except for a heavy medallion that the mortals loved to play with. It was made of a lightweight metal shimmered with rainbows in certain light, and crafted by an ancient race that, like him, the mortals had by and large forgotten.
Fingering the irridescent chain, he glanced down at the sleeping girl. Her face was youthful, caught between the girl she had been and the woman she had become, giving her the appearance of timeless beauty that many aspired to but few could achieve. He leaned over her and whispered the incantation: "Give me power over your dreams and I will bring you unprecedented pleasure." As if responding to his words, the human in his arms opened her eyes slowly, like a newborn, resplendent in gem-toned fabrics much finer than anything she had ever owned on the mortal plane. Her eyes widened when she saw him and she ducked her face, making the sign of the cross.
The smile on his face blossomed into a wicked grin.
He had first seen her playing in the river with her sister and cousins, the fabric of her dress molding to her lithe frame, her long hair undulating in its captured braid as she chased the younger children around. He ran his hands down her arms and the fabric of her dress rippled, melting away where he touched it, exposing skin the color of polished rosewood. She was like a beautiful, but humble crow, that had suddenly found herself with the train of a peacock.
"You should wear your hair down," he whispered, running his hand up her neck, to tilt up her chin.
She jerked at that, and tried to pull away. Mother says that's improprietous.
"What a big word for such a small girl." With a wave of his hand, her hair was free, and it fell to her shoulders in a dark cloud. He cut off her protest, molding his lips against hers, dipping his tongue into her hot mouth, as his long, slender fingers tangled in her hair. Her curves belied her age. She was fifteen and marriageable.
He knew her family had plans to marry her off to a local farmer twice his age on one of the adjacent properties. He also knew that he wasn't about to let her go without having the first taste.
So naturally that it seemed almost absent-minded, he ran his hands up and down her sides, causing the clingy velvet to burn away. For the first time, he realized what she was wearing and laughed. "Purple? You are an insolent child tonight."
She looked like she was going to cry.
He felt her fingers curl against his cold, lifeless chest and she made a sign he knew well; the sign for demon.
"Look at my face. Do I look like a messenger from hell?"
She looked at him obliquely and shook her head. No.
"And besides, it is not your soul I am after." He ran his finger down her neck, toying with the gold crucifix between her breasts, before looking down at her with golden eyes that burned as intensely as the torches around them. "You should know that by now."
The most delicious-looking blush tinged her lovely skin.
He traced the archaic symbol of his name on the left side of her breast, directly over her heart, watching as the fabric disappeared obligingly. His name—his true name—had not been spoken aloud in two thousand years, not in pleasure, but in hate. His countenance darkened and he burned the rest of her bodice away, wishing time could be dealt with in the same manner.
What is the matter?
"Nothing," he said, more sharply than he would have liked. Immediately, he said, soothingly, "Nothing, precious. Only … how sad it is that this is our last evening together." He lifted his pale arm and it flickered, growing transparent in the center. "Dreams are not easily created. It takes a lot out of me."
She tried to take his hand. They both watched as her fingers passed through his flesh.
I wish I could touch you.
"I know." He traced a line down her body and then ghosted the path his fingers had taken with his mouth. "Are you ready to give me your dreams?"
I don't know.
"They're such silly little things," he wheedled, "You will hardly miss them when they are gone."
I don't know.
A flash of impatience sparked through him. She was so simple. He swallowed down his ire. Two thousand years had given him the patience of a saint.
"Once you enter into a contract with me, I can grant you anything. I will be," he paused, his voice dropping to a low, confiding murmur, "Your humble, willing servant." A parchment appeared in his hands with a single snap of his fingers. "And all you have to do is give me your dreams. A minor pittance, for what use does a pretty girl like you have for such a petty bauble when I can give you so much more?" He smiled, and his fangs pierced the glamor. Shit. He smoothed over the snarl in his magic, pleased she hadn't noticed. "More than you ever could have imagined, sweet one."
If I sign, will you be free?
"Yes," he purred, "Free to make you feel … everything."
He had told her that he was a lonely djinn-like creature. Once he had been mortal, but now he was cursed to live out the remainder of his days granting wishes to cruel masters. Only when people willingly surrendered their dreams, did he receive any of his former powers. "I am so very weak," he told her gravely, that first time they had met, lowering his eyes, knowing how the candlelight played the charcoal sweep of his lashes to his full advantage. She could not bear his suffering. She, in her limited understanding of the world, thought him a fallen angel.
If only she knew.
Soon she would.
She signed her name in the space provided. Then she screamed. The pamphlet flashed, turning a blinding yellow, and a ribbon of magic spun out from the ancient pages, like thread from a spinning wheel, locking around the mortal's slender wrist. "Perfect," he said, running his thumb across the golden words embedded into her skin. "We have an agreement; one that is not broken easily."
It was an ancient language, one that predated human speech and did not translate well, but roughly translated it said, "Thine until death."
With a smile, he turned back to the girl. She flickered, becoming as transparent as his arm had been moments ago, before regaining her tangibility. He smiled. "So, my beauty. What is your first wish?"
Make love to me.
His smile widened. "With pleasure."