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I know how. Without a face to aim his glare, the correction was thrown like a spray of sharp knives. Yet even the immensity of his ire was diminished by the vast expanse of the Gap stretched endlessly in all directions. Here, it was difficult to hold the heat of emotion, and he allowed himself to drift among the celestial tapestry of stars. And then, amidst the cosmic abyss, he beheld it—a stairway that transcended the darkness. The steps seemed to be imbued with a crimson hue, as if blood dripped down like ethereal mist, defying all reason and possibility. Among the flow formed shapes that he almost took for flower petals until they morphed back into the mist. There were no railings, and its path disappeared far ahead, beyond the boundaries of Adrian's perception, leaving him in wonder of its destination for he had certainly never beheld its like before now.

In this part of the dream realm, Adrian lacked a tangible form, yet an undeniable sense of self guided him. He knew, instinctively, that he stood at the foot of the stairs, though it defied logic. Against all his inner questions, he focused his will upon the staircase, and to his astonishment, his legs manifested, carrying him to rest upon the first step. As he gazed at his own hands, he bore no surprise to find flesh and bone, accepting this surreal metamorphosis with the ease of one born to the journey.

However, when he turned his attention back to the Gap from whence he had emerged, he witnessed the full splendor of billions of stars, each embodying a soul drifting in blissful oblivion. The allure of these innumerable souls, almost within arm's reach, tempted him to cradle their radiant light within his grasp. The vista was one he knew well, as was the strength of their allure, but he was about to cross into a realm beyond which he’d never explored previously. And so, with focused determination, he made a decision—to turn away from the Gap of Infinity and ascend the stairs. He wondered if Nimeda’s shape would suddenly manifest as his had, and he held the passage open for her to do so if she desired.

As Adrian ascended, leaving behind the engulfing abyss of the Gap, his surroundings transformed. Gradually, the darkness waned, replaced by a subtle luminescence that swathed the stairway. The crimson hue of the steps transmuted into a soft, radiant glow, guiding him further into another realm.

With each step he took, the cosmic vista above expanded, as though the very fabric of the universe unfurled before him. The stars that once twinkled in the distant expanse now seemed to draw nearer and larger, swirling and dancing with celestial splendor. He felt as though he were walking amidst galaxies, their grandeur almost beyond mortal comprehension.

The once intangible void around him metamorphosed into a breathtaking astral landscape. Waves of cosmic light cascaded like ethereal waterfalls, creating an otherworldly sky that resonated through every fiber of his being. Nebulas and constellations painted the dome of this realm with their vibrant hues, and he was utterly transfixed upon them.

As Adrian reached the zenith of the stairs, he found himself standing before an enormous gate. It was an unimaginable size, whose highest peaks blended into the celestial dome above. The structure seemed to be forged from an impossible blend of stardust and precious metals unknown to mortal man but what might only be imagined. The gate was sealed and he could not see what lay beyond, but he sensed the archway to be a portal to another plane of the dream. He could feel the power beyond, and it called to him so strongly it may as well have been singing his name.

Adrian's chest tightened with anticipation, knowing that crossing this threshold would forever alter the course of his existence. Yet as he approached, he realized that the gate was locked. He frowned and pressed his will upon the gate that it should open, which was when at that moment, a column lifted up out of the floor between himself and the gate. Upon the column was perched a squat little statue that Adrian took for some sort of hairy gargoyle. It seemed utterly frozen in time, but the material out of which it was made looked so real, it seemed as if it was designed that way.  Despite the initial aversion the statue invoked, an inexplicable curiosity tugged, compelling him to draw near. He reached out to touch it.

“You’re an ugly bastard,” he said then immediately retracted his hand when it suddenly opened its eyes. The statue was suddenly animated into some sort of creature. It was squat and thick. It had a human-shaped head but for large, pointy ears with a button nose and a mouth lined with perpetual frown lines. Its body was covered completely in a layer of long fur that waved as it unfurled itself. It looked like the result if Yoda and the Grinch had a baby, and it really was an ugly little beast.

[Image: Gorinthian.jpg]

“What the hell are you?” Adrian asked, slightly concerned and slightly disturbed.
Its voice was raspy and dry.
“My name is Gorinthian.” It stated the parameter as quickly as Adrian had with Nimeda, like sharing that fact was important to establish early.
Adrian blinked like he might be hallucinating if it weren’t for this being a dream, “You speak?”
“Of course I speak,” and it grumbled like it was offended.
“Gor-inth-ian?” Adrian repeated the name. It crossed its little arms and nodded in the affirmative. How are you alive?” he added.
“I’m not sure ‘alive’ is the right word. I sleep until you have need of me. Until then, I am as I am now.”
“Where did you come from?”
“I am as I have always been.”
“Since when?”
“Since you made me.”
“I do not remember making you.”
“That does not mean it did not happen.”

Adrian ran his eyes up and down the creature. It was about three feet tall while fully standing. It moved like its joints needed oil, but after it shook out its head and fluffed up its fur which came to long tufts at the tip of its ears, it hopped rather nimbly from its pedestal and looked up at him expectantly. The column sank back into the ground out of which it arose once Gorinthian vacated the spot. Adrian remained unmoving, so it harrumphed and moved toward the gate ahead.

Adrian was confused and called out after it: “Were you a mistake?”

It glanced back over its shoulder, looking him up and down, “Aren’t you a rude one this time. Humph. Well, come on then. Don’t suppose you have your key with you? No, I wager not. I’ll open the gate.”

Gorinthian wobbled up to the middle, put his palm against the surface and after a moment, the doors parted as if pulled open from the inside. Adrian was drawn through the opening as though he was walking home. On the other side, his mouth dropped with utter speechlessness. 

At his feet, Gorinthian peered upon the realm without any sense of wonder, though he looked up at his master to witness this time-untold moment of rediscovery.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

His response had all the bite of an irritated dismissal. Had she eyes, she might have rolled them. Instead, surplus to whatever he was looking for, Nimeda let her consciousness drift out into the blackness and dispersed herself amongst the stars. Slipping into the fabric of the world was not so difficult, and she felt no call to return to the physical. She came to the Gap often enough on her own, mostly to watch or fall into the dreams of others, which was not something she felt any inclination to admit to someone who sometimes manifested as Mara’s dream eater. It wasn’t a polite thing to do, the spying; just a lonely one.

Her attention eventually returned because of a feeling rather than anything she observed as she roamed. She’d never witnessed a tear like it before; or, at least, not in the shallows of her surface memories, and she did not plunge deeper. Answers were not important things, soon forgotten anyway, and she preferred floating in the novelty of the experience. It wasn’t often that anything felt new. So she watched as the impossible staircase unfurled and Adrian’s body returned to him, though it was his reaction she watched more than anything. It seemed he did know other expressions after all.

She did not follow immediately, presuming the vision would fade as he did. It was the kind of thing Nimeda would have enjoyed sharing in, but Adrian seemed a solitary creature, and she did not choose to intrude upon something she thought he would guard jealously for himself. But curiosity always lured where a wise heart said it was foolish to follow. In the realm that followed she found herself thinking of how the dream had once warped under the blows of the Vanagandr’s axe. In fear and fascination she’d been unable to pull her gaze free, yet she remembered dulling all her senses away from understanding what was happening. Afterwards she’d reached over his head to touch where the rift had been; ran her fingers down the invisible seam. This wasn’t quite the same thing. But it was something like it.

After a time of simple and unashamed wonder for the kaleidoscope sky, she remembered to return herself to a body.

“Only this time?” She laughed a little. Vestiges of earlier melancholy smoothed away, easily distracted by the revels of the moment. Adrian hadn’t chosen to shut the door in her face, which she accepted in the same spirit as the returned poppy still in her hair. She smiled at him, not that he noticed, and continued her meandering exploration by twisting around on the spot. Her senses were sweeping in and out like the tide. The creature summoned was not a dreamer, for all that he professed to sleeping. When the skirts about her legs stilled their swishing, she bent to peer at him with bright-eyed inquisitiveness, hands braced on her knees.

“I do not think you are ugly,” she told him sincerely. Seemed she had a soft spot for grumpy things, now that she thought about it. Watching these two speak had been a little like watching Adrian converse with a mirror, which had amused her for the deep frown lines carved into the creature’s muzzle and his waddly harumph up to the gate. But whatever he was, intelligence gleamed in his wide eyes. Life was never a mistake. “In fact you have magnificent ear tufts. It makes you look very wise, Gorinthian. Thank you for opening the gate.” On a whim she plopped a kiss on the top of his head, and gave a soft squish to the pouch of his cheek. The wavy fronds of his hair tickled, and made her laugh.

When she straightened she folded her hands behind her back like she didn't trust to their discretion. Instinct warred in her chest, an unusual affliction. Usually she would have pulled Adrian by the hand in tumbling haste for exploration of what lay beyond. She often offered to share the things she loved, but rarely were such things reciprocated, in part because few walked here as she did or knew quite so many of its secrets. Curiosity bubbled like a geyser, yet there were colder currents of fear too. Not for the pierce of his glare. That, as most things, did little to quash her nature. She anticipated that he would be flatly unamused at her excitement, and it didn't bother her. Nimeda could see he was not unaffected by the landscape unfurled before their eyes. “Well aren’t you going to show me around? You made this place didn’t you?" She grinned a little tease, glanced at Gorinthian, and added, "It’s not an excuse just because you don’t remember.”
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
As the gate swung open, Adrian stepped through, immediately drawn to the dark expanse above. The sky was a canvas of infinite depth, glittered with celestial wonders—galaxies twirling in vibrant colors, planets that shimmered like jewels, and nebulae that pulsed with life. He felt as though he were gazing into the heart of creation itself, and the enormity of such a world quickened his breath. He knew exactly where he was, yet it was as if he’d glimpsed it for the first time.

Beneath this cosmos, a palace stood in stark contrast—a manifestation of dreams sculpted into reality. Its spires twisted skyward, crafted from a dark substance that shimmered like onyx while reflecting the universe's myriad hues. A path to the palace unfurled from the gate like a ribbon of dreams, winding through a landscape that defied logic and reason. Ethereal sculptures, born from the stuff of pure imagination, were posed alongside the path, forms shaped like half-remembered dreams.

As they approached the palace, the air thrummed with an energy that resonated with the core of his being. The structure was both magnificent and surreal, its walls and towers bending and flowing as if alive. Infused through the dark material were flower motifs, abstract and fluid that danced across the surfaces. The plants, deep crimson and vivid, pulsed with life as he approached, their petals unfurling as if they recognized the life-giver of a sun walking among them once more.

Inside, the palace was a labyrinth of impossible wonder. Gorinthian hung back, following Adrian through corridors and halls that twisted and turned so that he might rediscover the chambers on his own. The walls were adorned with tapestries that captured the essence of a million dreams, their threads shimmering in hues he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen before. Their scenes shifted right in front of them as they passed, like windows into minds beyond.

Finally, they entered what was obviously a throne room. It was a vast chamber, its ceiling a replica of the dark universe outside, or perhaps there was no ceiling at all, he couldn’t tell — complete with gleaming stars and swirling galaxies. The throne itself was a masterpiece, carved from a radiant, translucent material that seemed to hold the essence of the dream-realm within it. Surrounding the throne, abstract sculptures of poppies reached towards the ceiling, their petals unfolding in a perpetual state of blooming, each one posed like guardians, sentries immemorial.

Adrian studied the scene as if he was on the cusp of understanding all he beheld. The throne room was not just a physical space, but a place of refuge and power, where the boundaries of existence were rewritten according to the whim of its master.

He addressed Gorinthian.

“Who am I?”

“You are the light that parts the darkness. You are the dread darkness that swallows the light,” he began. “You are a god and you are a servant. You are an angel and you are a demon. You are a man and -“

“If you say I am a man and a woman I will unmake you this instant.”

“I do not think so.”

“Nevermind” He muttered. “Alright Gorinthian. What is this place?”

“This is your kingdom, sire.”

“A kingdom? A kingdom over what subjects? You?”

“Yes and your creation.”

“My creation?” A brow rose, suspicious. “Show me.”

Gorinthian bid him and Nimeda to follow.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +


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