Lost in a Dream from Which I Can’t Awaken

Kyaira tied her hair up into its usual pigtails and then settled her dress over the crisp white blouse she’d chosen for the day. She had about enough time to glance at the clock before she raced out the door. Martel was a bit of a stickler for time and wouldn’t let her forget it all morning if she was even one minute late.

She only slowed her pace as she entered the main building of the keep. “Morning,” she called to her partner.

“You’re almost late,” Martel said. His voice was taut with emotion but Kyaira chalked that up to his high-strung personality as she poured herself a cup of tea and settled into her usual seat at the communications table.

“But I’m not late,” she pointed out. Not really expecting an affirmative answer, she asked, “So, any change in the gate?”

“Yes,” Martel said. He stepped over to her side as she stared at him, open-mouthed. She took the printouts that he held out and shook her head in shock. “As you can plainly see, the energy level in and around the gate has been fluctuating all night and it’s only gotten worse.”

“When did it start? Everything was fine when we left last night,” Kyaira said. Her tea forgotten, she stood and walked over to the view screen that showed the gate itself – or rather the location of the gate since when dormant the gate was invisible. She was relieved to find that nothing could be seen on the monitor.

“Late last night, during Nico and Cheila’s watch. It got worse all night until now. Needless to say, Tifferin and Aeriella are probably awake.” Martel frowned and shook his head. “We’ll have to risk sending a probe through. You do that. I’ll wake the others and tell them. They might have to move in a hurry if this goes south.”

Kyaira nodded and walked over to the summoning stone. It normally functioned as a long-range communications device but it could also be used to send energy over a distance. Since a probe was nothing more than a bundle of energy, the summoning stone could be used to send one into the gate. However the very act of sending such energy could draw the demons the probe was meant to sense out.

Martel frowned and shook his head. He could sense Kyaira’s hesitance, her reluctance. “It’s our job,” he said shortly before he left the room.

Kyaira nodded and focused a small amount of light energy into the summoning stone. The device glowed briefly and then a soft beeping sound behind her told her that the probe was through the gate.

She looked up at a previously darkened screen to see an image of a black sky streaked with red. The rocky landscape was crawling with demons of every imaginable description. It was like a scene from her worst nightmares. Crocodillians, blood pumpkins, tentacle masses all vied for access to the small opening that led to their world.

Then the scene was blocked by a scaly hand as it closed around the probe. “Have we been noticed?” Nicolau’s voice called from the doorway.

“I think so,” Kyaira said, a tremor in her voice.

“I’ll set up the distress beacon,” Tifferin said softly. “You guys get going. Move quickly as far away from the gate as you can. The beacon will let everyone know that an incursion is inevitable and that we’ll need help. It’s best if we don’t try and confront them though.”

“What about you?” Nicolau asked in a voice that hardly carried, even in the still room.

“Go,” Tifferin repeated. “I’ll catch up.”

**
And May Tomorrow be Wonderful Too

When he woke, he was in a cavern. It was strangely well lit; not at all as dark as the caverns he was used to. His wing felt strangely stiff. He couldn’t get it to move at all but the pain in his abdomen was completely gone.

“Tifferin?” a familiar voice called hesitantly.

He opened his eyes to find Kyaira seated on a window ledge in front of him. “Hey,” he greeted in a tired voice. “Did everyone get away safely?”

“Besides you, yes,” she replied. “The elders are going to hold a convocation, I guess. They need to discuss what the next steps will be. It’s still not certain if this was an isolated incident or if the seal has failed completely now. Nico and Cheila are supposed to go back to the keep with a team of warriors to see if they can figure that out.”

“It seemed very opportunistic,” he said softly. “They didn’t seem to know what they should be doing.”

“The warriors that fought them said they seemed to be just the lower ranking demons,” Martel said from the doorway. He came in and leaned against the wall near Kyaira as he continued, “If that’s the case, then we might still be alright for a while. They just followed the probe to where it originated from and attacked there to feed on the energy.”

“Good to see that you’re finally awake,” a new voice said. “My name is Dien and I’m the healer who is assigned to your case, Master Tifferin. Shall I tell you my assessment of your injuries now or would you prefer to wait until we’re alone?”

He was, as most healers Tifferin had met were, a water dragen. His fin ears were a soft red-brown color that complemented his hair and eyes well. He wore, as most of his people did, only a simple wrap that was bound at the waist.

“You can speak freely in front of my friends,” Tifferin said. He settled back in the nest to listen.

“Your left wing is broken in three places,” Dien said seriously. “At present that’s the most complicated injury. I am, however, hopeful that it will heal completely. That will take time, of course. To keep the bones stable during the healing process, I have immobilized the wing itself, which you most likely noticed. It’s best if you don’t try to move it until it has healed more completely. If the break does not heal correctly, we may have to amputate. But I am hopeful.”

Tifferin nodded and glanced at his wing. The healer had obviously used magic to immobilize it since there was nothing to be seen covering the wing.

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