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Philip’s gaze sharpened upon Nimeda. “Don’t presume that I am capable of forgiveness,” he corrected. The sternness in his voice was sharp as the ice blue of his eyes, which turned settled upon Mara. The little thing had peeled herself from Nimeda’s arms by then, and seemed more a child than a huntress of dreams and prophetess of nightmares. Children occupied one of the rare soft spots in Philip’s heart, and he found himself unable to scold her further. Such prohibitions explained his exaggerated retort to Nimeda. Because he knew she could handle his ire. Forgiveness was a virtue, and Philip claimed few virtues to his name. He was God’s representative on earth, but they were not on earth. They were in this collective head in which they all dreamed, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit were far from this rancid place.

He decided to elaborate. Though when he did, it was with his hands folded neatly together. The posture was one of showmanship, a habit that he created to design the image he wished to portray. As he spoke, ornate vestments of gold and green flickered around his shoulders, draping him with long yards of fabric like a shield barricading anyone from coming too close. If he gave any awareness of their presence, he was seemingly ignorant. “When I awakened upon this place, I found myself in a cavern. It was damp and dark, and I wandered through a maze of tunnels that splintered like branches of a tree. I came upon a pool and in that pool gleamed something that I have been seeking. A key. So I dived into the pool to retrieve it, and as I plunged deeper, something caught hold of my limbs. Then more clamped down, pulling and tugging. Remembering that I was submerged, the bubbles splayed from my lips like pleas that I be released. I was caught in a trap,” he concluded. By the end of the story, he was Noctua again, and ended up squat before Mara to peer deep into her eyes.

“One I did not appreciate,” he concluded.

When the lecture was ended, Philip stood tall once more. When they found the first key, it was when Nimeda’s assistance. An epiphany cleared his face of previous ire, and he blinked with newfound revelation.

“Do you think you can help me locate the next key?” he asked of Nimeda.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
For once Noctua’s snap hit deep enough to chip against bone. When Mara peeled from her arms, Nimeda drew up her legs and plopped her chin upon her folded arms. Her sister’s giggling soothed some of the turbulence inside, and rather than dwell on her own hurt she considered the moniker dream eater. Protection banded her chest, but she knew the measure of her own powerlessness. Nimeda did not choose to wear Thalia’s bruises but she was vastly aware of how vulnerable she was. She floated in the currents of this world, but she did not control them.

Noctua shimmered as he paced, a swirl of gold and green. Nimeda had seen such vestments cloak his shoulders before, though this time they brought to mind the echoing halls of his home. She glanced at Mara, curious to see what the other girl made of it. It occurred to her that she might actually know more of who or what Noctua was when his eyes opened in the Other world.

“Of course I will try to help. Always, Noctua.” She blinked, surprised when the admonishment of his lecture ended with such an open question. Nimeda found his rejection painful, but she was not burdened by any self-defensive desire to reciprocate. She had shared things with Noctua she had not shared with anyone. She was unlikely to ever deny him anything he asked of her.

A bloom that looked much like those that swayed in Tuuru’s garden still habitually nestled amongst the other fauna wound into her hair. She kept it for the same reason she kept Grim’s warning on the skin of her palm. To remember. Her posture relaxed like she were a flower herself peeking rays from a sun, though with the curls wild about her guileless expression, perhaps she was naught more than an errant dandelion. “If the key is what you Need most, you will find it. But seeking and Needing are different things. Only the dream can answer that question.”

His seeking brought the attention of Mara’s pets, but their stalking had begun before that; she’d seen them scuttling like shadows in the periphery before now. Fear was a diversionary path, but Nimeda trusted the journey. She pushed herself to her feet, scrunching her toes against the cold rock underfoot. “Beware of your desires. What you value most must be denied. That is what you told me. But it will only hinder you here, Noctua. We found Tuuru and the garden because you surrendered your Need.” She held both palms open but did not move closer. The decision ought to be his. The beckon included both. Nimeda was too aware of her own loneliness to willingly exclude. If fears still nipped Noctua’s unconscious thoughts, the Lady of Nightmares might be no unwelcome traveller. Or at least, Nimeda trusted she would offer protections to someone considered a friend, if she were able.
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: ages-banner-thal-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Mara ended up sitting cross-legged on the ground. She thought about patting her knee to coax her pets back, but she knew that even if she tried, they would not come. They were too frightened of the Dream Eater to prowl closeby. They had scattered, and Mara was content to let them have their time. The humans would probably sleep soundly this night around the world. It was fine.

So she was sitting when the man all in white squat before her. She looked down under the heat of his lecture. She felt like a daughter being chastised by an irate father, one she was ashamed to disappoint.

“I understand that now,” she explained. Her pets were always hungry for walkers of the dream. “I will do better,” she added. It was disrespectful to let them latch upon other dreamers. Mortals though? Well, they were fair prey.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
Now that was done, Philip backed away Mara and the beflowered Nimeda. He recognized the bloom in her hair of course. Fantastical as it was, it quite was beautiful, though he would not linger upon the way her face was all the more flattered for it. He turned away and considered the difference between needing and seeking.

He hated to admit it, but he did anyway. “You are wise, Nimeda. That’s why I am unsuccessful. I don’t need the next key. I want it.”

The Key of Cunning was his to discover. He found it. Recovered it. Coveted it.

At present it was locked in an ornate box in a hotel room in Norway. The same room in which he slept at the moment. There were other keys, but they weren’t his to discover. He wanted them for himself, but it was up to the others to reconnect with the object that was a part of them as surely as Cunning was threaded in himself.

He scratched his chin absently. Here, he never needed a shave. In the waking world, he took great pride in the task. The nicks of bloody razors did not mix well with white, after all. The thoughtfulness settled, and he was left without direction again. Frustrating.

He turned back, considering her open-palmed invitation. Something inside wanted to grasp that connection, but for all the desire to take it, he denied that impulse. “Never mind. It won’t work,” and tucked his hands in his pockets.

His frown settled deep rivers around his mouth. He disliked feeling stuck, so he closed his eyes and drank a deep breath in an attempt to dislodge himself from the quagmire.

Maybe he should just drift. Ponder the meaning of the demon that confronted them and let himself go.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
“Wise?” Nimeda laughed a little; she found it an incongruous title. Her smile softened. “I am just old.”

Her empty palms floated for a while longer before they drifted down again to her side. Hurt flashed behind her eyes, but it settled into the reflection of an unusual quietude. Even Mara stayed in her place, chastened by Noctua and the Dream Eater both. It was the span of a few steps but Nimeda felt a thousand miles away, and quite alone for it.

“Your head is overstuffed with thoughts, Noctua. They pull you down like rocks.” She recognised the defensiveness of his position; hands in pockets, eyes closed. With anyone else she would have reached to cup their cheeks in comfort. Her fingers itched, but the memory of his patient and firm rejection, while forgiven, was not so distant as to not give her pause. It would not stay her affection forever, but for now she was just gratified to see he had not woken.

“You are afraid of what the dream will show you, so you will not even try. Caution is commendable! I am told that often. You should know I would never try to force you to do something you didn’t want to do. But you are standing in a place of possibility.”

After a moment, she added. “I went to your home, like you said.”
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: ages-banner-thal-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |

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