Transcript – The Dreamtide

[The Pensive Tower theme plays]

Scroll & Dagger presents
The Pensive Tower
Episode Four: The Dreamtide

[A click, and the strange whirring of the venoscribe begins]

This is the memory of Talara Siddle. Taurox, aged thirty-one, identified as female. Memory regards the dreams of her daughter, Lethra Siddle, and was donated on the first of the month of Stillsky, in the year 714. Inscribed by Paxton Ferox on the twenty third of Thresherstine, 729.

We Begin.

Can’t say I ever thought I’d be here. Living out on the Far Wind islands, most people have heard of this place but it was always one of those places everyone’s heard of but no one’s ever seen. I suppose that’s because nothing ever really happens out there that’s worth travelling all the way over here to talk about and certainly not worth what those steam ferries cost these days.

But I thought I should do this. I can’t explain why but something told me that this would be important, that I shouldn’t just shrug it all off as just dreams. I’m sorry that it’s me doing this, I know you would prefer to hear it from Lethra herself, but she is still very young and still upset by it all. I made sure I knew as much as I could before coming here and I was there to see it all as it happened.

Went, the island where I live, is a small, quiet sort of place. It’s mostly fishing villages and a few crofts and goat farms. We don’t even have any lawkeepers there, just a local marshal who keeps things in order. If real lawkeepers are ever needed, he has to send off to Westrock.

But, even though Went is so small, it’s a real melting pot of different people. Not just those who live in the Federation, mind, we get all sorts. Pencori from out beyond the Wind Sea, a few turshen families from down south and even a drakarian. You might think so many different people living together in such a small place would be a recipe for trouble, but there’s a real sense of community on that island and the mixing of so many different cultures has made something that you can only really find on Went now.

I think it’s because everyone there knows that we’re all there for much the same reason. The Wind Islands might be part of the Federation but there’s very little federal presence out there which is a draw for many people who, for one reason or another, don’t want to deal with what you have to live with here in the heartlands. And when everyone’s feeling that way in a place, that creates a bond.

It’s certainly why I moved out there. I don’t know how much you know about tauroxen but our sex ratio is not as… equal as it is for humans. For them it’s about a one-to-one ratio? Give or take. For us, there’s generally one male for every twenty or so females. And only a male and a female taurox can make a new one.

That’s why you don’t see many male tauroxen outside of Sangland. They’re too important to risk losing, so they’re given important jobs in the hierarchy and live in luxury with their own personal harems which any female taurox of breeding age is expected to volunteer for.

Well, I had no interest in that, thank you very much, so I moved out to the Wind Islands, as far from Sangland as possible. I met a good man, a human, named Luther Siddle and we settled down to a quiet life, raising goats on his farm.

In time, we were blessed with two children, two girls, both human, as I said it takes both a male and female taurox to make a new one. Our oldest, Tamla, is a good, hard working girl, helps her dad out in the fields and me in the home. It’s our youngest, Lethra, that I’m here to talk to you about.

She is four, so still a bit young to help out around the farm just yet but she does help how she can around the house. She’s a good girl but a bit more wild than Tamla. She likes wandering off, exploring the hedges and the woods near where our house is. She’s not stupid, she never goes that far, but she’s certainly the bolder of the two.

But about a month ago, in the middle of the night, she comes into our bedroom, screaming and crying about a nightmare that she’d had.

Now, I wasn’t too concerned at first. People have nightmares sometimes, that’s just a fact of life, and I’ve heard several of the other mothers I know talking about the bad dreams their children have had.

So I sat down with Lethra, gave her some warm goats milk and listened to her as she told me what she had dreamed, though I must confess it was the middle of the night and I was still half asleep so I don’t think I took any of it in. I just did my best to calm her down and then sent her back to bed.

I think I’d forgotten all about it by the next morning and Lethra didn’t bring it up again so it fell from my mind.

But when the same thing happened again three nights later, the exact same thing, mind you, it all came back and I paid a bit more attention that time. But even then, I thought it was just a recurring nightmare, I know they’re not uncommon, I think I had one myself when I was Lethra’s age; about a giant bull trying to catch me and take me away. I think the memory of that nightmare iss one of the reasons I was so keen to get out of Sangland.

Anyway, I sat down with her again and tried to take in what she was telling me this time. I didn’t get it all, but it’s happened a few times since so over time I was able to memorise it.

It has changed a couple of times, some of the details are different with each dreaming, but it always starts the same way.

Lethra is alone, walking along a narrow, winding road that runs through a shallow valley between two hills. She thinks she recognises it as the road that runs from our village to the Went docks. In the dream, it’s a bright sunny day but she still gets afraid because she’s alone without me, my husband or her sister, so she tries to turn around and go back the way she came.

And then she’s suddenly somewhere else. She’s on another road but this time she’s somewhere she doesn’t recognise. She’s deep in some mountains, there are some trees dotted around but it’s hard and cold. The sky is bright but it’s a pale, empty brightness that gives no warmth. She looks around and sees a signpost, with two signs pointing in opposite directions. On one, she can see the name Little Wen, our village. On the other is a name she doesn’t recognise, though that’s one of the things that changes between dreams. But it’s always a place she doesn’t recognise and she knows that she doesn’t want to go there.

So, she tries to follow the other path, the one that leads back home to Little Wen. But as she takes those first few steps, the land around her shifts and changes. She looks back and sees that the signpost no longer points towards Little Wen. Or rather, it does, but it’s as if the two signs have switched places. Little Wen is now in the other direction.

She tries to turn, to go back the way she came, to follow the right sign. All she wants to do is go home. But she can’t. Even though she sees herself stepping towards the signposts, each step she takes carries her backwards, away from the signposts, along the path that leads away from home, until she can’t see the signposts anymore.

She’s out in the wilderness, still in the mountains, but a wild, dark forest is all around her, seeming to press in on her, as if it’s trying to eat her. She feels like she has no choice but to move forward, even though all she wants to do is lie down and cry. She thinks that if she can get out of the woods, then she can find a way back home.

She carries on but now she feels like she’s being watched. She walks faster, trying to get away. She looks around and sees that she is being watched. There are eyes in the dark wood, yellow eyes that glow in the dark with slits for pupils. And there are red eyes, bright red eyes, that burn like fire. Lethra always says how she runs at this point. Sprinting, trying desperately to get away from the eyes, only now they’re not just eyes. Whenever she looks back, she can see monsters chasing after her.

That’s all she’s ever described them as, monsters. She always gets upset at this point of the story so I’ve never tried to get any details about what these monsters look like but, from what she’s said, I think they always have arms and legs because she’s talked about them running after her and reaching out to grab or claw at her. She did once say, I think one of the first few times, that they looked like they were made of smoke and that their heads and bodies would change, growing and shrinking. Sometimes they looked like wolves or birds or snakes. I don’t know, maybe you can make something of that? They don’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard of.

Anyway, eventually she does get out of the forest and she’s back out on the mountain. She knows that the monsters aren’t following her anymore, there’s no one and nothing around her. She’s in a field of yellow grass and the sky is just as cold as it was before, but it’s darker now.

She climbs the mountain, still following the same road, until she finds another signpost. This one only has one sign on it, for Little Wen, and it points back the way she came.

Lethra doesn’t want to go back because she knows she’ll have to go back through the forest with all the monsters. But she turns around anyway because she wants to go home.

But then she’s not on a mountain anymore. She’s in a city.

This is another point where the dream changes. Sometimes she says that she was in a beautiful place with tall houses that have cream coloured walls and red roofs. The sun is shining and it’s warm and she’s surrounded by happy, chatting people. Other times she’s somewhere that’s cold and snowy, in a scary place that has high walls made of grey stone. She’s surrounded by people there too but they’re pale skinned and grim looking, all carrying guns and swords and wearing fur hats and long coats. One time she said that the place was warm but very windy, the ground moved beneath her and all the people had curly hair and the men had small, curved horns. I think that means they were pencori but I can’t say for sure. There was one other place that she mentioned, just the once, and I had no idea about that one either… well… until I came here. She said that she was standing at the top of a high, narrow tower, on an island in the middle of a lake, with a city spread out all around her. Obviously now, I know exactly where that one is.

The place she describes most often is somewhere that has wide, cobblestone streets. She says on one side is a high wall the colour of sand that stretches up so high she needs to lean back to see the top. The sun is shining there but it’s cold, though not as cold as the snowy place. On the other side of the street is a row of flat fronted houses that look like they’ve been made of the same stone as the wall. The people around her here are darker skinned and smile at her. She said that she feels safe in that place. She still wants to go home, but she doesn’t feel scared there.

So, there are three things that are always the same. She’s always in a city, at least she always calls it a city. Living where we do, she’d probably call a decent sized town a city. She’s always surrounded by people and she always says that she hears waves, like she’s near the sea.

In her dream, Lethra thinks if she can get to the sea, she can find a boat, someone can take her home. She takes a step and then she’s on a ship.

The weather is different between the dreams, sometimes it’s raining, sometimes it’s windy and the sea is rough and sometimes it’s sunny and the sea is smooth but she says it’s always the same ship, it always looks the same.

She doesn’t feel safe there. She doesn’t know any of the sailors. They all have blank faces, no eyes or mouths or anything but in the dream that part doesn’t scare her. What does scare her is that she is being left all alone. Nobody on the ship seems to even notice that she’s there. If she tries to talk to one of the sailors, she just gets pushed aside or ignored. She ends up at the edge of the ship, by the rail, looking out but there’s never anything to see. The water stretches out in all directions but there’s never any land. She has no idea where home is which scares her even more. She says the sky starts getting darker and darker. She doesn’t know what to do or where to go. And she starts seeing that some of the sailors do have faces after all. And the ones with faces scare her much more than the ones which don’t have them. I know, I can’t understand that either, I know I’d be much more scared of faceless people but she says that the faceless ones just don’t care about her. The ones with faces… hate her.

I never like hearing this part of the nightmares. I know it’s not real, that they’re not real, but the idea of my daughter surrounded by people who hate her, who want to harm her for a reason neither she or I know… I doubt any mother would feel good hearing that.

Fortunately, the next part is alright. Lethra isn’t on the ship anymore, at least not that ship. She says she’s on a different ship. She doesn’t know what the weather is doing but she feels… not happier but safer. There’s someone with her, a man. She says she feels like he’s her father but she knows that it’s not her father. She says she knows that Dad is still back at home, she wants to go back there because she knows she’ll be safe there. But this man she’s with, she knows that he’ll look after her, protect her until she can get back home. She doesn’t remember anything about this man though, nothing about his age or appearance, just that she knows she’s safe with him.

She remembers that she sword fights with him, but not as if she’s really fighting him, more like he’s teaching her. Like I said, Lethra is more of a wild child than Tamla. I can see the idea of learning how to use a sword would be exciting for her.

She says that the next part is strange. She says that she’s older, she’s an adult. She says she’s actually been a grown up for a long time, she just didn’t realise it, there was so much going on. She still wants to go home but not because she’s afraid and wants safety, but now because she’s scared about us, that we’re not safe. She knows that it’s her turn to protect us now, she’s getting back home as quick as she can.

She’s on another ship but this one is special. It’s not like the last two. She says this one is her ship. She’s the captain and she’s sailing it home. She always enjoys this part. It’s usually about now that she calms down enough to drink some milk. I think the first time I heard all this I thought it wasn’t too bad, a bit scary at points, especially for a child that young, but on the whole not too bad. But you see, this is where it gets worse.

This ship arrives at the Went docks, she’s finally home. She’s running along the path, the same path where she started, the one that goes from Little Wen to the docks. But there are no signposts. Nothing that points towards home. She doesn’t know if she was alone or if she had people with her at this point, she didn’t notice, she was too focussed on getting home.

The next thing she knows, she’s in front of our house. At least, she’s where the house is supposed to be. But it isn’t there. The first time she said she saw the house burning, other times she’s said there were soldiers or more of those monsters from the forest attacking the place, setting the house on fire and… well… killing me and my husband and Tamla. It’s… it’s quite funny, those times she wasn’t as sad, she was too busy assuring me that she had run in and killed all the soldiers or all the monsters with her sword, as if I was going to blame her for her dream.

It’s the other times that really scare her, and unfortunately, they’re the most common. She arrives at the house and finds it just gone, as if it had never been there. There’s no sign of it or me, or Tamla, or her father. She’s just alone, in the middle of this big empty field. And she doesn’t know what to do next.

Personally, I think I’d find the other versions more terrifying but it’s those times when she wakes up at this point, screaming and crying and comes to find us.

But there is another part, but this doesn’t happen as often so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not quite as sure on these details.

On the occasions where she stays sleeping, I don’t hear about these until the morning, but those times, she talks about how she leaves home, or where our home used to be, and she starts walking.

She’s never been able to say where she’s going or why. She says that she just knows in the dream that she has to get away. She says that there’s something that she has to do but she always forgets what that is when she wakes up.

She talks about being back on that ship again, the one that she seems to be the captain of. But it’s not exciting now. She’s going somewhere. She always sounds determined when she says that. She’s going somewhere. And hers isn’t the only ship. There are others. A lot of other ships. She recognises one of them, the closest one. It’s the ship she travelled on with the man from earlier, the one who taught her sword fighting, the one who she could tell would protect her and keep her safe. He’s following her now; a lot of people are. They’re all going somewhere, somewhere important.

Then, they’re somewhere else. Not an important place but Lethra says they have to go there first. They are there to find some people because it’s important for them to go too. No, they have to be there. It can’t happen unless they’re there.

Don’t ask me what can’t happen, I have no idea and Lethra doesn’t seem to either. At least, whenever I ask her about it, she can never answer. She makes this face like it’s something she can’t explain so, either she doesn’t know or she does know and doesn’t want to tell me.

Then they’re back on the ship and she’s aware of some people that she hasn’t seen before there on the ship with her. She’s not sure what they look like, she can never see their faces or anything about them, but she says that she knows they need to be with her. She does remember that one of them is holding what looks like a walking stick, but it’s made of glass. While another is showing them which way to go with… well, she says it was a compass but then she said it was made out of stone which I thought was a bit odd. There were a few more that I’m afraid I can’t remember but the other one I do know, this one really stuck in Lethra’s memory, was a woman. A very strange looking woman from what Lethra said.

She has white skin. I don’t mean pale skin, like the Gells. I know because I asked Lethra if she looked like those grim-faced men she saw earlier in her dreams in the snowy land and she said no, she means white-white, like chalk or paper. Her eyes are dark and her hair is reddish brown. She’s wearing armour, she says, like the knights in her picture books and she’s carrying an odd-looking sword, long and double edged with a hilt long enough to hold it in two hands, that she carries across her back.

She doesn’t know any more about this woman but she always sounds… I don’t know… impressed when she’s describing her. Like she’s in awe of her. To be honest, I’m not surprised, I think if I saw someone like that, I’d be pretty impressed too.

And then they’re there. At the important place, the place that Lethra is sure that they have to go to.

She says that the place is quiet. But not just quiet like nobody’s talking or something like that. She says that it’s completely silent. There’s no wind, no birdsong, no animal noises, she can’t even hear the sound of the sea. It’s as if someone has stuck their fingers in her ears. She doesn’t want to go further into this place, the dead place is what she calls it, but she knows she has to. She knows that unless she does this, she will never be able to go home. Whatever that means now.

And that’s it. That’s as far as her dreams have ever gone. She always wakes up before she goes any further into this dead place.

You know, she’s never as upset on the nights when she gets that far. She’s scared, of course, but I think that last part has a calming effect on her for some reason. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it’s the people she sees? The ones with her? I don’t know. Anyway, that’s it.

Final Notes; There isn’t much that can be done with this one, obviously. I’m not entirely sure why this memory was even chosen for Inscribing. Admittedly it is interesting, I wasn’t aware a child or even an adult could experience such vivid dreaming, but why would anyone need to review all this? It’s not even the true owner of the memory, though I am impressed by the amount of detail Mrs Siddle was able to get down.

I did ask Szelia to ask around the librarians but no one’s been able to give a straight answer, only that it was “of interest”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I might send a message to Edubbarus, see if I can get his input. Memories regarding strange encounters or mysterious artefacts are one thing, at least there are usually real-world facts that can be checked and confirmed. What am I supposed to do with a child’s nightmare?

[Paxton sighs]

Well, I suppose that being said, there are some oddities that are worth noting, mainly the point where she dreams herself in different cities.

I can’t speak to some of them. The place with the cream walls and red roofs doesn’t sound like anywhere I’m familiar with. Perhaps that is the invention of a child’s imagination. What is certainly not, however, is the high tower on an island, in the middle of a lake surrounded by a city. I have admired the view from the top of the Pensive Tower enough times to recognise that description and I’m reasonably certain there are no other places like this in the world. Mrs Siddle certainly seemed convinced that this was where her daughter was describing. So how was the girl able to dream about it without ever actually seeing it?

Another thing that is curious is the presence of what sounds like a Warder of Raak. I know Mrs. Siddle said that Went had a wide range of people living there but I highly doubt a Warder has ever been through their little village. But if one hasn’t, I don’t see how that girl could have known how to describe one.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know. We sent a message to the local marshall’s office in Went, just to follow up for the sake of this Inscription. Lethra Siddle should have been nineteen years old by now, and so legally able to confirm what her mother had put down, if she was able to remember any of it. But, they sent back that roughly four years ago there was a fire on the Siddle farm and the whole family tragically lost their lives.

The cause was never discovered.

Inscription Complete.

[The venoscribe clicks, and the whirring stops.]

Special thanks to Ciel Barrie.

[The end theme plays and the Announcer recites the credits.]