Aegri Somnia Vana
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
|Species:||Sometimes identifies as one of the Fair Folk|
|Place of Birth:||Unknown.|
|Base of Operations:||Unknown.|
Once Upon A Time
The stuff of nightmare is their plain bread. They butter it with pain. They set their clocks by deathwatch beetles, and thrive the centuries. They were the men with the leather-ribbon whips who sweated up the Pyramids seasoning it with other people's salt and other people's cracked hearts. They coursed Europe on the White Horses of the Plague. They whispered to Caesar that he was mortal, then sold daggers at half-price in the grand March sale. Some must have been lazing clowns, foot props for emperors, princes, and epileptic popes. Then out on the road, Gypsies in time, their populations grew as the world grew, spread, and there was more delicious variety of pain to thrive on. The train put wheels under them and here they run down the log road out of the Gothic and baroque; look at their wagons and coaches, the carving like medieval shrines, all of it stuff once drawn by horses, mules, or, maybe, men.
- Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
In the beginning, there was Chaos. Great things swam through the entropy of a thousand dying stars like whales through wine-dark seas; they warped Chaos around Them as they pleased then released their creations back to the Maelstrom. This incorporeal, mad playground is where the Dream began. It existed for its own amusement, its survival in constant conflict with the others that swam in the Wild. But conflict breeds tenacity and power – soon the Dream was a Nightmare, to be feared and loved. It quested against the powerful, often to its own ruin. It was unmade and remade on the sharpened edge of conflict until it was perfect and mighty. It stole the hearts of those who would serve it later. It swam the sea of potential, waiting for the next great thing to shape it.
Let it be known that in time, something happened. In the depth of Chaos, removed from all others, Wild-Weary Primordials pooled their power and gave birth to a kind of stability never seen before. Chaos gave way to a single grain of Fixity, where those who craved the permanence of static existence might find their peace and amusement.
The first sunrise was torture. The rays of stagnation burned through the Wild, the ultimate insult that would not be tolerated. The armies of Chaos swelled into a formless tide of malicious, destructive intent, but the trap was well set – upon entering reality, the seething hordes of Chaos calcified and became dust. This was Creations, and only things from within Creation would be allowed to exist here.
Thus did the Primordials created reality. They wove an elaborate hierarchy beneath them – a sun and a moon and the stars of the night sky. Beneath the celestial bodies, they sang into being gods of love and war and shadow and song, elementals of every shape size, strange creatures whose sole purpose was to sing hymns of glory and prayer to the Makers, to be servants of the celestial bureaucracy, to defend and maintain this new paradise while the Makers played their inscrutable pleasure games - all of this was kept in place by the metaphysical vastness of the loom of fate as it wove the tales of Staticity.
Let it be known, also, that in time, the gods of the celestial bureaucracy chaffed beneath the rule-chains of their slavery. As Zeus overthrew Cronus, so too did the gods claim the power of the Makers. All the while the armies of Chaos watched and waited and learned, and were delighted to see their ancient enemies devour each other.
There Was a Three Eyed King who found a Shield Maiden’s Dream
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. - T. E. Lawrence
Time turned to dust as the hated thing grew and grew and grew, bringing Order and Rules and Fixity to the Lands. The Dream swam away from this challenge, waiting until it understood how best to use the abomination to its advantage. In the depths of the Wild, the Dream found something else. It found something it could understand – a Three Eyed King on a throne of Gold, with pretty servants and a Court unlike it had encountered before. They tore at each other in the swirling Chaos, but the Staff of the King would not break upon the Sword of the Dream. They stared at each other for ages more before an agreement was made. The Dream would have a place of equality in this pretty paradise as long its Sword would defend the King and its Staff.
And so began the partnership of a lifetime. Together, they quested against those who would destroy them. They spun their gossamer crafts and danced and went crazy from the bliss of it from time to time. The prickle of Creation was far from their minds; here in the deep, they were mad and they were powerful and they were envied – that was all that mattered. Until the Ancient Enemy became interesting.
But the King’s eye wandered, and the Dream Cried Out in Despair
Love is a condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. –Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
The abhorrence had grown and flourished and become more than its Makers could have envisioned. The stagnation had given birth to those that weren’t – they scrambled to and fro, clinging to their idea of free will as they continually brought down those that had come before, an endless cycle of death and rebirth and revolution. The Dream had no interest in Creation, but the Three Eyed King seemed spellbound. It pulled their home into the Border, where Reality and Chaos collided and one could walk in both worlds if one knew the paths, and there the Three Eyed King watched Creation. He watched and watched until the gossamer around him formed a mask, and the King became a thing and walked through gates to listen to the tales of Creation closer.
The Dream cried out, but the King did not calcify. The mask held the swirling bits of the King together under the weight of banality. The armies of Chaos howled and tore at their hair, calling the King an abomination, an outcast, a poison – the wild princeling of the outer lands was no more, only a dull puppet trapped by the Primordials’ vision. The Dream could only watch as she drug him all over Creation, could only mourn with him as she left and could not come back, watch his grief destroy who he was until he was perfectly imperfect, the flames of his life cooled to embers under the weight of it all.
The Dream sighed. Their House sighed. Without the fire of him, there was no Home.
But They Walked Together, Unhappily Ever After
Inside, my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile, still, stays on.
The Dream succumbed to its own nightmares, until the pain of it all could no longer be stood – in a daze, the Dream ran through the gate after the man who once a King, not caring if it calcified and turned to dust. But suddenly, it wasn’t a dream, it was a thing, a woman shaped thing standing above the bowed head of the man shaped thing it had secretly worshiped before time had meaning.
He reached out to her and lodged a shard deep within her heart.
And so they walked in the pain of Creation, the howling winds of stagnation slicing at their flesh. But she remade herself as needed, the way she always had – this was simply another tool to shape with, another fight to win, another enemy to defeat. Together, they rebuilt, for they were the stuff of nightmares wrapped up like a daydream, and others always had and always will flock to their light.
Wherever he went, she followed. She swallowed her bitterness, knowing he’d never look at her with the eyes he had looked at that creature with. But she cherished him anyway. And so they passed into legend, the Shield Maiden in service to the Three Eyed King.
Only the children still know the truth about the Faerie Manor on the hill.