He is dreaming tonight...
Sometimes, the only way to escape a doomed existence is to dream yourself into a world where salvation is possible. It is such a dream that leads a commoner named Maladrid into the heart of Dominhydor: an uncommon world fraught with war, magick, and a destiny he never expected. "Maladrid" is the first book in "Tales of Dominhydor": an epic series certain to capivate hearts, minds, and inspire anyone who dares to dream.
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He is dreaming tonight.
Maladrid, a young man brimming with the verve fantastic, is dreaming a new life tonight. His body has fallen numb to the world that surrounds him, but the nightís sweet reverie has opened his grateful mind unto a new world. With a renaissance of hope inspiring, he feels the kiss of the dream wind, hears the purr of the urging ocean, and revels in the prospects of the eveningís offerings. With his head upon the pillow and his body upon the bed, Maladrid, asleep and yet finally awake, sets sail to face the future through the portentous waters of the Syr Sea.
"If there is adventure to be met, I will be the one to meet it face to face," he declared against the slap of the wind.
He raised the sail of his small ship and watched it balloon in the anger of the seaís breath. The vessel pushed against the gale as the waves splashed high and threw salty water into his eyes, and as the sea pounded his boat with its watery fists, Maladrid heard his foundation begin to split. The boat became heavy as water spilled over the sides and poured through cracks in the frame, and the Syr tossed him carelessly until finally forcing him down to the sopping planks. His stomach turned with the waves, but his face remained one of fierce resolve as he struggled to hold onto the bucking boat. He flipped over onto his back and closed his eyes; the sun broke past the clouds, and when it flooded his cheeks, the warmth stirred him to smile. The simple and sudden sun burnt away his sickness, and his fear became nothing more than tiny liquid beads on his forehead. But the sun also touched the pegs and bolts of the deck, and when his fingers grazed the scalding iron bits, he yelped and though he tried to jump to his feet, the intense motion of the waves held him down. The helm spun wildly out of control, and Maladrid scrambled to reach it, but the water that flooded over the sides of the ship knocked his feet out from under him. The encroaching sea carried him across the deck and slammed him into the mast, but with defiant resolve ablaze, Maladrid ground his teeth, dug his nails into the drenched wood, and pulled himself up to challenge the rebellious waters.
"You are no match for me, little one," hissed the sea. "I tear the mountains. I kiss the skies. I am the destruction and the rebirth. Make no mistake, Maladrid: I will be your destroyer."
The water surged around his shins and tugged at him incessantly, but with his feet steadfast, he grinned at his victory over the waterís strength, and to prove his own, he began pushing through the sloshing ocean that had formed upon the deck. But when he was no more than three feet from the madly spinning helm, the sopping planks beneath him gave way. Maladridís leg plunged down through the warped wood and became trapped between two of the jagged floorboards, and no matter how he pulled or twisted himself, he only succeeded in slicing his leg from ankle to knee. He stretched to reach the helm with his fingers splayed and wriggling, and though he was only inches away, centimeters perhaps, his proximity did him little good. But as he stared at the wheel and marveled at how the ceaseless spinning caused the wood to lose its solidity, he became mesmerized by the whirring and the strange tune hidden beneath the drone. The soft song enraptured his mind and took hold of his voice, causing him to hum along, and though he knew he had to break free of the melodious spell, his wounded leg throbbed with the rhythm of the music and he found himself too enthralled by it to move. But then Maladrid realized that the music was not some strange manufacture of his mind; in fact, it was coming from the cliffs that lay before him. His body began shifting back and forth of its own volition, swaying to the swell of the music and the haunting voice of the cliffs.
"Do not wander, here or yonder," the voice sang, "unless you have some time to ponder."
He became lulled into the center of the singing until he felt so at one with it that he could see the music dipping and swirling around him. Above and below, the musical notes skipped past his eyes and ears and chuckled melodiously. They shimmered in pastel hues as they danced past and encircled his body, but when he reached out to touch them, they giggled and bounced away with a sparkling trail left behind.
Suddenly the ship jerked, the wheel stopped spinning, and as the ship plowed itself into sandy shores, the boards around Maladridís leg snapped completely; he was launched over the port side and landed on the beach like a sack of rocks. Darkness briefly took him, but the burning salt water in his wounds quickly brought him around again.
"Neglectful boy!" bellowed the sea. "Man your ship; if you are a man, that is. You are far from home and have passed borders that your people very rarely dare to cross."
"Where am I?" he asked dozily.
"Foolish boy! You are in Ladyndal: the westmost land in Dominhydor. Perhaps I was wrong to assume that you had some device inside your head in which knowledge is stored and processed."
"If itís a brain, then itís a brain. And if it is, use it."
With that, the sea flipped a wave at Maladrid and crashed away from the shore. Maladrid looked his devastated ship up and down in desperation, but the collision with land had utterly destroyed the vessel. Water poured from gaping holes on the port side, the mainmast was broken beyond repair, and the tattered sail flipped defeated in the wind. For what seemed like hours, he sat silently and stared out across the calm water that had recently been so violent and thought that perhaps the storm was meant for him alone. It had been far too confined within its destruction to be just some passing tempest. As he pondered, the sun started to fade and dusk rose with colors that streaked the sky. But as comforting as the colors of dusk were, they were not enough to quell Maladridís rising fear. He felt doomed in his isolation and because the land was completely new to him, he was extremely disoriented by every unrecognizable detail. He had no reason to move on and no reason to turn back, and, in truth, he had no conceivable way of doing either. Alone in the strange wilderness, he felt like some pebble to be kicked around by a cruel wind, pulled and tossed without choice in the matter. His hair was still damp from the sea and when he shook away the excess water, his disheveled sandy locks dangled over his cobalt eyes. He bowed his head, and as a tear slowly rolled down his cheek, cool air kissed his skin and set chills throughout his body. But as the wind whistled around him, it carried another song from the cliffs that put his heart at rest.
"Sleep yourself up to us.
The new day will bring you to us.
Find us in your sleep.
We will bring the night so deep."
The music swelled in its dulcet beauty, and as he gazed upon the rocky masses towering above him and singing him into relaxation, he saw the clouds sailing high and white above them. They flew like billowy birds through the dusky sky and reminded Maladrid of stories heíd heard about the Colł: large ivory creatures that changed their shapes as they sailed the firmament looking like snakes or ships or even simple clouds. One never knew for sure whether they were looking at some creation of nature or the Colł just pretending to be one.
By the time the music finally faded, Maladrid felt quite at ease, although every muscle was sore and every inch of flesh ached. He ran his fingernails over his scalp and sighed at the painful pleasure, and when he stretched his arms and back, he let out a growling yawn that would have made a lion sheepish. He walked despondently back to his boat, propped his foot on a plank of wood that had bowed out from the port side, and pushed himself up and over the ledge, and when he tumbled onto the deck, he found it still pooled with sloshing water. His clothes were strewn about the berth, torn to shreds, and as he searched through his battered belongings, he found them all oddly foreign. It was then that he thought back on the harbor of his homeland and found its name and image absent from his memory, but wherever it was, he was sure that it was warm and soft, and that it cradled him in times of darkness. He retrieved his satchel and canteen from the wreckage and hurled himself back onto the soggy shore, but when he withdrew his map, he found it ruined and the world upon it destroyed. He sat mystified, squinting at the sopping bits of canvas that continued to disintegrate as he moved it through his fingers until he ultimately threw it aside in frustration. He took a swig from his canteen, and the crisp, fresh water of home tasted glorious as it ran down his throat and washed away the salt of the Syr.
What was left of the sun had fled from the sky, and soon the land was dark and whispering. Strange songs danced from the sea and from the cliffs above as Maladrid stared up at the army of fiery stars in the inky sky. The sudden night sat heavy upon him and forced him down into the sand, and once his eyelids drooped and his cheek melted into the beach, sleep came like a thankful gust that coursed his body and swept him away to safe and familiar places.
When day first struck, it shone as a mere splinter of light across Maladridís face. The stripe of heat stirred him but did not open his stubborn eyes, and as if in disapproval, large rays of sunlight burst across his body and completely disconnected him from sleep. He groaned and buried his face in his arm to shield his eyes from the light, but he just couldnít conquer the sun. Dried sand clung to his face and eyelashes, but when he brushed it away, the back of his hand grazed against a surprising texture. He gasped in amazement at the verdant plain of downy grass that surrounded him and thought himself still dreaming. But when he walked toward the sound of the sea and reached the edge of the earth, he looked down upon the beach where heíd fallen asleep and knew that it was no dream. He saw his broken boat, he saw the ocean kicking around it, and he saw scraps of his map still fluttering across the shore. Somehow heíd climbed the cliffs during the night, but he had no recollection of the climb and no concept of how he could have achieved it. Bewildered, he stood and stared at his dilapidated vessel, wondering how such a marvel of progression had befallen him.
"I hope this isnít a pattern in this place," Maladrid said. "I donít wish to awaken in the clouds come tomorrow morning."
Maladrid gazed into the stretching distance and saw nothing but terrifying unfamiliarity. He sat down on the edge of the cliff and sipped from his canteen as he watched the dreadful sea crash against his battered ship. His leg seared as he wetted his fingers and wiped away the excess blood that had caked upon his calf, but as bolts of pain shot up his leg, he knew that he would not last long without treatment. He had to keep going; he had to find help.
When Maladrid began to walk, he proceeded in a disoriented fashion, but since he had no idea in which direction to head, he saw no other way to go about his travels. He had no experience in such matters: he was no soldier; he was no tracker. He had never even passed the borders of his small world and was more than a little intimidated by the happenstance of his arrival in Ladyndal. But as he progressed over the field of green, he caught the strange tune again: the luring, sweeping music that took hold of his body and drew him forward as if in thrall. He smiled as the colors billowed around him in melodic cadence, but he fell back from the musical hues in fear when they began shifting into a structure and acquired a shape similar to Maladridís own. There were no facial features to the creature composed of twisting colors, but the convergence of shades in its skin that occurred at the peaks in the music was enough to draw Maladridís eye, and though it wore no raiment, a crown of shimmering, rainbow-colored stars sat majestically upon its head.
"Who are you?" Maladrid asked in both fear and wonder.
"Dyngyli," it sang in reply.
"What do you want?"
"Why do think that I want something?"
"Why else would you be here?" Maladrid replied.
The creature laughed melodically and the color within its belly bounced with each lovely chuckle.
"Welcome to Ladyndal, soldier. Youíd best to get used to such appearances. Youíll see far stranger things than I," it said, and abruptly vanished.
The vibrant being had left no trace of its presence or to where it had fled, and though heíd been slightly unnerved by the creature, he had enjoyed the company, brief though it was. Heíd enjoyed speaking aloud to someone besides himself, but once again, he stood alone in Ladyndal, and his solitude made him shiver for the things to come.
Unfortunately for Maladrid, the sudden and mysterious journey to the top of the cliffs had separated him from the few supplies heíd salvaged from his ship. His satchel only contained three slices of bread and his canteen was only about half full. He had no weapon, something he feared he would need, and without a map, he had no idea where he was heading and no clue of how to get there. But somehow he managed to maintain his composure in spite of his fear. The weather was mild and the cool wind that rushed his face every few minutes calmed him as it whipped through his humble garments. They were his only garments as well, but though the gray tunic and baggy olive pants were adequate at present, he constantly feared another tempest.
For hours, Maladrid marched without the slightest change in his surroundings or anyone crossing his path. Never having to submit to rationing before, Maladrid quickly polished off his bread, but as the sun climbed the sky and his heat and exhaustion increased, Maladrid found himself with less than a quarter of his canteen remaining, and he really started to worry. His belly growled with such demanding ferocity that, at first, he thought the sound had come from a wild beast. But as dusk eased down upon him, Maladrid squinted toward the distance and saw what looked to be the blurry outline of an orchard. He began to salivate madly as he sped toward it, praying that it wasnít just a hallucination, but when he neared, he saw the sparkle of the sun upon the purple fruit yielded by the trees and joyfully screamed at the serendipity. He grasped and pulled at one of the fruits, but the stem did not snap free. He tugged again, but still it remained attached to the branch, so he rubbed his hands together, licked his lips, and wrapped his fingers around the fruit one more time. Leaning back, he pulled with all of his strength, and when he heard the sound of the stem breaking, he tumbled backwards with the fruit in hand. He opened his mouth wide in watery anticipation, but as soon as his teeth touched the purple skin, Maladrid heard a small voice.
"I wouldnít do that if I were you."
He looked around wildly, searching for the statementís source, but seeing no one around, he decided that it was simply his hunger causing him to hear things, shrugged his shoulders, and started to bite again.
"Stop that immediately!"
Maladrid swung around and peered in every possible direction. He even looked under his feet, but there was nothing to be found; at least, nothing that could have spoken. Sighing, slightly upset that he was hallucinating voices, he breathed twice on the apple and rubbed it on his shirt.
"What are you doing? You just knocked over the table!"
His jaw dropped as a small vermicular creature poked out of a hole in the purple fruit and slid two transparent eyelids over each glassy orb as it blinked slowly. Its long thick body was covered with white matted hair that spiked across its back as it inched forward onto Maladridís open palm, but the wiry bristles tickled Maladridís hand and caused him to flinch and drop the fruit.
"Now look what youíve done," the creature said. "Youíve completely destroyed my home!"
"Iím sorry. I was just looking for something to eat," Maladrid explained calmly.
"That makes absolutely no sense. Why would you try to eat my home?"
"Well, I didnít know it was your home."
"What did the boy say?" a different wormy creature asked as it inched out of another fruit.
"Doesnít matter what he said, but what he tried to do," yet another replied, popping into the conversation.
Before Maladrid knew it, the entire orchard was abuzz with annelids, furiously and simultaneously questioning him as to his stupidity.
"Do you eat Mosecora homes?"
"Well, of course not, no, but-"
"You certainly wouldnít eat Shadaran homes, would you?"
"No, but I-"
"Exactly. So why would you eat my home?" the first creature asked in frustration.
Maladrid had become quite flustered by the muddled conversation, and he still hadnít eaten. But being a stranger in Ladyndal, he didnít want to upset its denizens, so he set the creature down on a high branch and retrieved its bruised house.
"I really didnít mean to cause you any trouble," Maladrid started. "Itís just that Iíve been traveling for so long. I suppose my hunger got the best of me."
"Itís understandable. Just, please, put me back where I belong," it replied.
Maladrid matched up the broken stem of the fruit to the broken stem on the branch, and much to his surprise, when they touched, they fused together flawlessly. The vermicular creature inched down the tree swiftly and squeezed through the hole in its house.
"What a mess! What a mess indeed! Oh, surely that canít be replaced! Oh! This was a wedding present!" it shouted in outrage.
"Excuse me, but what is beyond this orchard?" Maladrid asked cautiously.
The creature popped its head out of the hole and smiled condescendingly.
"You really arenít very smart, are you?" it asked, and Maladrid shrugged his shoulders and kicked his feet through the grass in embarrassment.
"Well, I assume that youíre the owner of the ship making residence on the shores of Dominhydor, so you could always hop back aboard and go back to where you came from," the creature said stiffly.
"I hear the Balenta Glen is quite lovely to visit, but itís probably too tough a journey for someone like you," another remarked.
"Beyond the Glen, I do not wholly know," the first worm said. "The orchard is my home, and Iíve grown tired of your presence in it. You can go to Lochydor for all I care."
"Thatís far too dangerous for a simple creature like him," one commented.
"I could make the journey if I wanted," Maladrid murmured.
"No, you couldnít. Youíre just a child."
"No, Iím not. Besides, age does not dictate courage or ability."
"Youíre dreaming and, most likely, a fool. Creatures like us donít belong outside of our homelands. The world is too big for those as small as us," the first replied.
"Do you even know where I come from?"
"No, and I donít much care," it replied. "Oh dear, I have so much cleaning to do."
And with that, the creatures disappeared into their houses and left Maladrid alone once again. The purple skin of the orchardís generated community bounced the fading sunlight into oblivion, and when he turned away and peered into the distance, Maladrid saw a glimmer of hope in the form of the Balenta Glen. The sight of it was enticing enough, but the sound emanating from it was even more so. A song drifted on the air from the Glen, and though it was different from the one the colorful being at the cliffs had used to lure him, it was just as entrancing. He felt it sweep around him and pull at his arms and legs with each pounding beat, and torrents of music raged through his ears and burrowed into his brain. As he marched toward the Glen, it felt to Maladrid as though a rope had been attached to each knee and the music played the puppeteer that bade him follow an invisible path of uncertainty. But as he continued to walk, Maladrid noticed that the soft short grass was increasing in height and growing coarser with each step. Before long, the grass had reached his knees, then his waist; eventually, the grass was as tall as he was, and Maladrid was truly walking blind. There was nothing to see but spiny stalks of grass everywhere, and though unnerved by the development, he was not daunted enough to turn back. Thirst, hunger, and pure curiosity drove him on, but part of him knew that, in time, he would wish he had turned. He stretched his arms out in front of him to push the stalks aside, and when he had a clear path again, he began his cautious hike. Caution did little to prevent injury, however. A bristly stalk slipped in front of Maladridís arm and slapped him across the cheek, and in complete shock, he dropped both arms to clutch his throbbing face. Consequently, two armfuls of coarse grass struck the bare parts of his face and backs of his hands. He knew that his face was marked with shallow gashes because of the windís mocking course over his face, and his hands were covered in weeping lacerations. He clenched his fingers into fists until he started to tremble and his knuckles turned white; as the dark blood trickled over his pale skin he shook in shock and pain.
"Like a red river in the snow," he whispered as he beheld his frightening hands dripping with blood.
Maladrid shut his eyes, and when color painted the darkness, he saw a snow-enveloped river in his mind; in the middle of the river, there was a strange blockage causing the water flowing over and around it to turn red. With his eyes closed, he tried to peer at the obstruction to see what it was, but when he squinted, his eyes opened slightly and holes of light broke through the trees and the river in his mind. He sighed sadly as he opened his eyes, but despite the throbbing pain throughout his body, the hope of rest and nourishment lying beyond the stalks pressed him on. He pushed through the high barbed grass until, finally, the stalks started to diminish and he could at last see distant scenery between the shoots. It was still a good length away, but he saw the great trees in the distance, beautiful and shining with golden leaves and silver bellflowers. With all remaining strength, he pushed himself through to the end of the spiny field and collapsed onto the soft pasture before him. He clutched at the grass in desperation and ripped out large handfuls as his chest expanded and contracted against the earth.
"Give up!" the cruel wind screeched as it rushed past his ears.
Maladrid was exhausted. He was starving and his throat burned from dehydration. He was bruised and battered from head to toe, and to add insult to injury, the wind was mocking him. Face down on the ground, his fists began to tremble and his chin began to quiver. His entire body shook with rage as he lifted his head slowly toward the sky, and he gnashed his teeth as he pushed himself up from the ground with his body tense and shuddering. He stood rigidly and stared into the clouds as he tried to nail down the exact location of the wind, but the clever breeze became still and the ceased to blow as he stood motionless with his eyes circling the pasture. Suddenly, there was a rustle in the grass, and Maladrid dove toward it, falling emphatically on a patch of seemingly empty green.
"Now I have you!" he cried with the wind trapped under his hands. "Now weíll see who gives up!"
When Maladrid began drawing his cupped hands together, he felt the cold sting of the windís fierce tongue slicing his palms, but he found it more exhilarating than painful, and with a brutal scream he declared, "I have you! This is the end now!"