| THE DREAM DIMENSION| Present Day
The boy wound his way through the wild grass, passing out from underneath the shadow of the great castle and into a pastoral valley. Down the dusty trail, over the hill, through the trees, he arrived at a river.
The idyllic setting invoked memories of the River Usk near Isca Augusta, the seat of the Roman amphitheater that had caused the soldiers of Camelot to be known as the Knights of the Round Table. Several horses trotted along the way, as the stable boy guided them over toward the shores of the river bank.
The sun was warm as it shone overhead. The old caretaker was right that this was the perfect weather for a washing day. Reaching down to his waist, the youth started to untie the length of soft rope that he used as a belt when something made him pause.
It was an odor
. An acrid sensation lingering on the breeze.
He knew it well, his luminous eyes scanning upward for the tell-tale column of smoke. He found it, somewhere over on the other side of the river. Near where the houses were.
A whistle echoed over the river, prompting the horses to raise their heads up at the stable boy's call. Jumping up onto the back of one of the colts, settling comfortable atop the bareback of the animal as the youth demonstrated equestrian skill in turning and guiding the powerful form of the animal into a trot.
Once they were emerging from out of the thicket, he pushed the colt onward into a full gallop. Before long, the distant column of smoke was no longer over the horizon.
It was the House of Mystery.
Throwing his legs over to one side, the young squire dismounted while the colt was still moving. The boy's hands were aglow with eldritch energies, which swirled around his small form as he held them aloft and began weaving a series of arcane sigils. The cloudless sky suddenly became muted, as clouds begin to take shape at an accelerated pace. The child was muttering in Gaelic as the components of the incantation started to come together, the sky turned dark as the spell was completed and the boy gave the command, "Niar!
That was when the sky opened up, unleashing a torrential downpour that seemed isolated to just over the one residence.
Standing in the rain, the child took a moment in which to catch his breath before he looked back down. Splashing in the mud that had already begun to form puddles on the ground, the boy ran over to the door to the house.
It was open, part of it no longer resting on its hinges. Smoke filled the interior of the fortified hall house. "Gwynt yn chwythu
" the child uttered softly, causing another surge of energy around his small frame. At the same time, the windows came open on their own, as a strange wind seemed to pass straight through the home.
Taking several steps further, the boy looked for signs of the caretaker. His head turned left and right as he scanned the blackened, soot-covered furnishings for signs of one of the usual residents.
There was a strange silhouette there. A figure as though with the body of a man, the legs of a satyr, and the head of a demon. From beneath wicked horns, a pair of glowing red
eyes stared back at the youth from out of the smoke and shadows. It was standing by one of the bookshelves, pulling something free even as it turned the shelf on its side and sent it crashing toward Mordred.
Tucking into a roll to one side, the young squire moved out of the way of the crashing furniture. Except when he had found his footing again, the demonic figure was no longer standing there.
A flash of movement caught the edge of the boy's vision, his head moving just in time to see a large shadow moving for the back of the Great Hall. Before he could be about it, the figure had already arrived at the entry at the other side of the house and was gone.
Even as he started to move, the boy's advance was halted by the realization that there was a man's arm sticking out from beneath an overturned cabinet. With an ascending motion of his hand, an eldritch glow seemed to illuminate the frame of the cabinet, before lifting it away to reveal the caretaker underneath.
Bending down, the squire stooped to aid the fallen man when a sudden plume of smoke seemed to erupt in the center of the room. "That damned Springheeled Jack,
" Morpheus barked, his voice rolling like thunder as the elder god spoke.
"He's taken the book.