Monday 19 November 2012

Tales of the Dreamscape - Woman of his dreams - Part 1


   Her beauty was, of course, legendary. Even in the Palace of Dreams itself, tales of Aurore’s golden curls and entrancing smile were whispered over the endless feasts. Talk of her beauty was the joy of every young man who dreamt of romance, and the envy of every young woman who dreamt of the same. But hand in hand with the tales of her beauty came stories of her father, Noxus, and his unreasonable and overwhelming attachment to his only child - for he would not allow anyone to court her who had not passed a series of gruelling tasks. What exactly these tasks were, none could say for certain. Some described ferocious battles with seven knights dressed in black. Others said that whoever would marry Aurore must best her in a chariot race or bring her a black diamond. But all one could say for certain was that many had sought her hand and so far, none had succeeded and, having been bound to secrecy, none would describe the challenges they had faced. But suitors kept on trying and kept on dreaming.
    Jack Numbskull had just turned sixteen years old, and felt ready to strike out on his own. His mother, not being an especially adventurous dreamer, had raised him on a small farm. Jack had helped to plough the fields, sow the seeds and bake the bread of dreams. At night, they had sat by the fire and Jack listened to his mother tell him all about the noble deeds of the Duke of Dreams, the Dusk Warrior and Sir Gallant, grandmaster of the mouse. Jack did not remember his father - his mother would say nothing about him when asked but shake her head sadly - so Jack used to imagine that his father had also been a brave hero, riding to the rescue of those in distress.
    Now Jack was no longer a child and he longed to have his own adventures, go on quests that his father would be proud of. So naturally, when his mother told him the story of Aurore, he resolved to make his way to her house immediately.
    “Jack, my son, no one has yet passed the tests of Aurore’s father, Noxus. How can you hope to succeed where so many have failed?”
    “Mother, I must go to seek my fortune wherever it lies. The Unreal gods will guide me.”
    “Jack, Jack. Must you go? Will you not stay here and mind the farm. Who will help me when the harvest comes?”
    Jack smiled. “Dream up a donkey mother, for I must be off to see the Dreamscape and win my bride. It’s what my father would have wanted.”
    His mother smiled a little at that, and nodded absently. Jack Numbskull gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek and set out on his way, whistling tunelessly as he went.

    It wasn’t a distant journey on the the dreamscape, as these things are measured, and Jack had only two wakings before he arrived at the black fortress of Noxus.
    It was an imposing sight. The fabled black fortress seemed as if it had sprouted from the land itself, bursting from the rocks to an enormous height. Jack stared at the colossal gates. The whole structure seemed to still be growing, slowly but perceptibly.
    In his wildest dreams, Jack had never imagined such a place and he was at a loss as to how to proceed. He found a large stone, sat down and wove himself a simple lunch of black bread and cheese. He ate it slowly as he mulled over the situation.
    It was while he was chewing the last mouthful that Jack heard the most beautiful sound. Wafting over the warm breeze came a gentle melody, a voice like a nightingale, flowing majestically - it reached into Jack’s heart and took root there. He had to know who the singer was. Surely, she must be beautiful.
    He drifted across the plain on the sound of her voice until he reached its source. And as soon as he saw her, her knew who this woman must be.
    “Aurore!” he cried.
    The maiden turned and smiled at him, a smile that lit up her golden face from end to end, spilled over her long hair and poured down her satin dress. Aurore paused in her singing.
    “Yes? Who are you?”
    “I am Jack Numbskull, son of a mighty hero, and I have pledged to seek your hand in marriage.”
    Aurore sighed. “I fear you should turn around and go him, brave Jack, for my father sets the most dreadful challenges and surely no one can complete them, not even someone as noble and courageous as you.”
    “Fear not, my love. For I am also cunning and strong. Surely I can succeed where all others have failed.”
    “I hope so, Jack. You have a kind look about you - I think I should like to be your wife.”
    “Anyway, this is the Dreamscape, Aurore, where everything is possible if one can only dream big enough. With an imagination like mine, how can I fail?”
    Aurore did not reply, though perhaps she sighed again.
    “Well, Jack, I hope you’re right. You should go and speak with my father. Knock on the castle gates three times and ask to speak with Lord Noxus. Once you have been set your challenges, I shall help you if I can.”
    “You are as gracious as you are beautiful, my love,” said Jack, “now I shall go to the castle straight away.”
    Aurore watched him go and began to sing once more.

    “So my boy, you want to marry my daughter, do you?” Lord Noxus demanded.
    “Yes, sir... I mean, yes, my lord,” Jack stammered. Noxus was bigger and fiercer than he had imagined - his enormous bulk filled his steel throne, and his beard seemed to bristle with contempt.
    Noxus laughed a big belly laugh.
    “You? A little farm boy?”
    “Yes, my lord.”
    “Ha! Very well, let us see if you shall succeed where so many great lords and heroes have failed. Do you swear that you shall never reveal any of the challenges you shall face or forsake the Dreamscape forever?”
    “I do so swear.”
    “Then here are my challenges. If you wish to marry my daughter Aurore, you must pluck the only hair from the king of the giants. He will not give it willingly, nor will you be able to compel him.
    “As my second challenge, you must bring me the four golden rings that are five. You will not be able to find such things, nor will you be able to dream them.
    “For my third challenge, you must bring me that which is both beautiful and ugly. You will not find such a thing in the Dreamscape, nor will you be able to dream it.
    “Finally, you must bring me that which is real and yet unreal.”
    Jack’s brow furrowed. What was he talking about?
    “Not so confident now, are you?” leered Noxus.
    “I’ll do it, just give my time.”
    “You have one month. If you do not complete each of these challenges within that time then you forfeit your claim on my daughter and one life within the dreamscape.”
    “My lord,” said Jack, falling to one knee, “I accept your tasks.”
    “Good,” said Noxus. “Now get out of my sight.”

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