“Surrender… Or your people will suffer,” a distant voice said.
Like a muffled echo, Rina heard the sounds of battle. Metal striking metal. Explosive bursts of energy as spells clashed with each other. It filled her ears, growing in intensity. The dream changed around her, just long enough to afford a hazy glimpse of a Jiru’s throne room. And then it was gone, as quickly as it had come.
“What was that?” Rina said, a frown furrowing her brow as she glanced around. Everything was back to normal. She was standing under a tree, by a peaceful lake.
The man standing in front of her smiled gently, but seemed a little sad to her. “It’s fading,” he answered vaguely. Dark green eyes studied her face, before looking away. The sunlight made his shaggy brown hair shine with shades of red. “My time is almost up.” He sighed, returned his gaze to her, and moved closer. Lifting a hand, he tucked a stray wisp of her long blonde hair behind her ear, then reached for her hand. “Distract me, naori. I am not ready to leave yet.”
Rina smiled. “This is my dream,” she said, entwining their fingers. “I say when you go.”
He laughed then, looking more at ease. She was relieved. She hadn’t seen that sadness in him since the first time she dreamed about him on some dark battlefield she didn’t recognize. She couldn’t remember when it had started and had long since stopped caring why she continued to dream of him. Or that he wasn’t real. She had come to look forward to seeing this closed, peaceful dream world. To seeing this nameless man.
“Why won’t you tell me your name?” She could guess nothing about him from the way he was dressed. No mark of station or insignia of profession. Stitched leather pants, boots, white linen shirt, and a black cloak. It said as little about him as her plain white dress said about her.
“This is your dream, isn’t it?” He smiled, tilting his head. “You decide.”
“That doesn’t seem right.” She shook her head, unsure. There was a familiar feeling, somewhere in the pit of her stomach. A flutter of unexplainable nervousness. She studied his expression, feeling like she was missing something. “I think you already have one.”
The dream world shifted again, and she heard a faraway explosion.
“The tricks my mind plays on me… I know it isn’t possible,” he said, his voice soft. “But I want you to remember me anyway. A selfish last request.” He pulled her closer, his arms sliding around her, the warmth of his body enveloping her.
Their surroundings began to waver, fading at the edges of her vision like mist dissipating. She heard more explosions, a little louder than before. She moved her hands up his arms to grasp his shoulders. Apprehension was settling in her gut and her heart pounded in her chest.
“What’s happening?” she demanded, glancing around to see entire patches of her dream world disappearing, glimpses of that throne room bleeding through.
“Look at me,” he said, his voice even despite what was happening around them. “Only at me. Just a little longer.”
Her gaze met his again, and it felt like a hand was crushing her heart. He smiled at her the way a dying man smiled at those he was leaving behind. Trying to comfort them. Serene. Accepting his fate.
“I don’t understand.” She couldn’t help clutching his shoulders, clinging to him to keep him close.
“It doesn’t matter,” he whispered, lowering his head. “I’ll hold this dream with me.”
Swallowing past the dryness in her throat, she leaned into him, tilting her face up to his. She wound her arms around his neck as the explosions grew louder. Closer.
“Isaro,” he murmured, his breath warm against her mouth. The words were almost drowned out by the noise surrounding them in the dark throne room. “My name is Isaro Kanas.” Then his lips found hers.
Gasping for breath, Rina shot up in bed. The sound of someone pounding on her door had torn her away from her dream. The feel of Isaro’s kiss lingered. Raising a hand, she felt the wetness on her cheeks and marveled at what a fool she was. A feeling of loss welled up inside of her.
How pathetic can I be? I’m crying for a man who doesn’t even exist.
“Commander Deyan!” a voice yelled through the door.
Getting up, she quickly grabbed her robe and pulled it on. In front of her mirror, she wiped away the last traces of her tears. Gray eyes stared back at her, reflecting a sadness she had no business feeling. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes briefly to center herself, and moved towards the door.
As soon as she opened it, the man on the other side brought a fist to his heart and bowed. “I bring a message from the Junak.”
“Go ahead,” she said impatiently, taking note of the warriors flooding the hall, many of them strapping weapons to their belts or into sheaths across their backs. People rushed up and down the corridors, carrying instructions and supplies. She could hear another Commander shouting orders to his own band of warriors. As the council that enforced the laws throughout the realm, the Junak was always ready for battle if necessary.
“Amvitum, to the east, has been attacked. Reports say it looks like they have been at war for weeks.”
Rina scowled. “And we’re only receiving word now?” Frustrated, she held up a hand to stem the messenger’s sputtering, panicked attempts to explain. “Never mind. Wait for me here. You can fill me in on my way out,” she said before closing the door.
She quickly pulled on light-weight armor and gathered her weapons. Strapping twin swords on her back, she stepped out into the hall and headed towards the courtyard where she knew her own warriors would be waiting for her. The messenger hurried behind her, rattling off information about the battle so far.
“…and there has been no sign of Jiru Kanas.”
Rina stopped dead in her tracks, the messenger nearly crashing into her. She felt that nervous fluttering in her stomach again and slowly turned to face him. “The Jiru of Amvitum is Kanas?” She narrowed her eyes at him, her hands clenching at her sides. “Isaro Kanas?”
The messenger hastily nodded, looking a little confused. “He only recently inherited the throne. The Junak is going crazy. Everyone thinks Amvitum may have already fallen.”
Memories of that dark throne room in her dream flitted through her mind. The feeling of Isaro’s warmth. His presence. And she knew, with unshakable certainty, that Isaro was waiting for her. That she would see him again.
“No, it hasn’t,” she said with complete conviction, turning away and continuing towards the courtyard, a new purpose fueling her steps. “And it won’t. I’ll make sure of it.”
…Isaro… I’m coming for you…
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of The Dreamer! This is one of three short stories contained in Tales of Ejoma.
To read more, you can grab the book ~ Here!
Stay tuned for updates on future books, and don’t forget to check out the Bonus Materials for more on the history, language, magic, and people of Ejoma!
Until next time, Take Care and Happy Reading!