Monday, May 6, 2013

Interesting dreams of late

I've mentioned before that I'm prone to fascinating, story-like dreams. Lately I've had another to toss onto the fire:

The Lord of the Forest

The villagers warned me not to enter the forest. "The Lord of the Forest will kill you," they said.

"He only kills the people who break the law," I argued, and went into the forest. A dark, scary place, I entered it in the evening, right before sunset. Why not? Criminals all die, so it must be perfectly safe. The trail is well-marked, at least.

But the rustling branches heralded not wind but the arrival of a figure cloaked in black, a scythe upright in his hand. Straight-backed, riding a pure black stallion, I could see nothing of the man's face. His voice was low, so factual and emotionless as to be a perfect threat: "Halt. All smugglers will be prosecuted."

"But I'm not smuggling anything," I said, and opened my knapsack. "See? All legally-obtained goods, for honest sale. Here's my receipts." Spices lined the bag, sewn into small pockets, and my own possessions (a change of clothes, a wallet, a red leather-bound journal, ink and quill) sat at the bottom.

He stared into the sack for a few seconds, scythe low, and a scene flashed through my mind:

A man with a bag of goods slunk through the forest, well off the path. "Can't find me here," the man muttered, and grinned, pulling a handful of something illegal out of his belt.

The Lord of the Forest appeared on his black horse, raised his scythe, and pronounced the sentence: "All smugglers will be terminated." The scythe flashed, and the smuggler disappeared into a wisp of smoke, the echo of a scream hanging over the clearing.

"You are innocent of crime. You may continue." The scythe raised, and a breeze blew a branch between the Lord of the Forest and me. When the leaves stopped rattling and the thin branch fell back, he was gone.

There was another village on the other side of the forest to which I wanted to sell my spices. If I hurried, I could get there by morning. With a cheerful whistle, I stepped off at a merry pace.


The Lord of the Forest rode towards the edge of his demesne, where the trees fell off. The woman had come this way earlier, cheerful and confident, innocent.

Completely innocent of law-breaking. Taxes paid, laws obeyed, no major infractions in life. Not a thief, not a murderer, one who generally supported the law. He saw all crimes, and punished any criminal who entered his forest, but the innocent were to pass. The black beast between his knees snorted and bobbed its head, without pulling on the reins of its bitless bridle. Dismounting, he allowed the reins to fall where they would--the mount wouldn't get in trouble.

The road forked, and he felt a stirring in the opposite direction from the way the woman had gone--someone entering. A thought and a breeze took him to the spot. A goblin. Creature of chaos. Law-breaker. "Criminals will be punished," he judged, and with a whisk of his scythe it disintegrated into dust, ignoring the lingering shriek of fear. Continuing to the edge, he saw it: an army.

Armies would disturb the peace of his forest. They would break the laws of those on the other sides.

But the goblins in camp had not broken the law yet, and were not within his jurisdiction anyway. They recognized him, of course, and screamed and dodged out of his path as he descended into camp. Ignoring the creatures, he approached the leader. "You will not enter my forest."

"Lord of the Forest. You are only one." The hobgoblin waved a hand. "We will conquer. Stay out of way, and I'll leave your forest be."

"No criminals may enter my forest," the Lord of the Forest warned.

The hobgoblin shrugged, unconcerned.

It was right, after all. He was only one; even he could not stop an entire army. And his forest would be trampled if they passed through.

He'd need help.

(This was not actually in the dream, but must have occurred, so I included it for continuity.)

The villagers were delighted to receive my spices, and I'd done a merry business with them--being certain not to cheat anyone, of course. I was sleeping off the long night of travel when a commotion woke me.

"What's up?" I asked someone in the common room.

"The Lord of the Forest says an army is coming. He's commanded us to help stop them, us and the villagers on the other side." The man chewed his finger--no nail left to chew--and paced. "We'll all die."

"Don't be silly. Aren't you guys trappers? Make traps."

"But the Lord of the Forest--"

"Did he not just invite you?" Hands on my hips, I shook my head and walked out the inn's common room. The Lord of the Forest stood at the edge. No one else approached, not even the cowering mayor. "Are you going to kill anyone who isn't perfect if they're coming to help stop the army?"

"An army is a greater crime. The criminals must be punished."

A look at the white-faced mayor told me that wasn't enough. "Let's make that a little more clear. Do you promise not to kill any villagers from either village, as long as they set up traps to stop the army, fight the army, and don't try to murder each other? At least until the army has been turned back and all the villagers have left the forest again?"

"Pardons will be temporarily granted."

(End of non-dream scene)

Goblins fell into pit holes, were ambushed by villagers with pitchforks, smashed by logs, and crushed by rockfalls. Soldiers, those who had arrived from the capital in time, danced war with the invaders that managed to get past the traps and reach the edge of the forest (but soldiers were too destructive to be allowed deep, unlike villagers who knew how to walk without terribly disturbing the woods. Fortunately, the Lord of the Forest knew his land well, and had directed the villagers into all the best and most efficient trap-making places, and instructed them on what he wanted).

Then the battle was over, and the army turned back, to seek an easier way in, a way not guarded by the Lord of the Forest. The villagers began to return home, knowing they would now be safe with their backs to the woods, and the soldiers declared they'd track the decimated army along the borders, chasing it off.

I was walking back, alone, having fallen behind and gotten lost before finding the path again. A green hand shot out from under a bush, grabbing my ankle, yanking, and I fell with a cry. Another jumped out, and another, and they were all yowling to rip apart the human. One of them, a large one, raised both hands and brought them down, hard, and I screamed, knowing my leg was broken.

The smaller goblins cheered, and claws raised.

Metal flashed in moonlight, and I collapsed, surrounded by whirls of dust.

He sat on his black horse, scythe gleaming in the moonlight. I could feel him watching me, but there tears in my eyes and I knew my leg must be hurting terribly. He dismounted and pushed back his hood.

The Lord of the Forest, in case you were wondering, was gorgeous. Rich brown hair, tall and broad-shouldered, high cheekbones, roman nose and a regal bearing. And black eyes.

Not black irises. Black eyes. Solid black, with no whites at all.

He touched my leg, and pronounced, "Broken." And I knew it didn't hurt anymore, although it was still broken. A breeze picked up some dust and I blinked.

When I opened my eyes, we were in a cave, a very homey cave with a large bed and a stove and rich tapestries on the wall, with rugs on the floor and a thick door. I was sitting on the bed, padded by moss and blanketed with furs and quilts alike. A fire burned to ward off the natural chill.

The Lord of the Forest began to splint my leg, and as he worked, his eyes became more human, until they were a clear brown. When he was finished, he said, "You will stay until the forest is safe, and you are healed." And for once his voice sounded human, and normal--not announcing or proclaiming or judging, just human, just conversational.

And then I woke up.


I think I want to make a story from this one. The Lord of the Forest... very mysterious. How did the forest come to have a guardian? Is it just me, or does that horse seem like it's more than a horse? Why does the Lord of the Forest judge, and why is he sometimes human? I think I could get at least a very interesting romance novella from this. Hmmm...

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