It was very late that night before Vikram slept. The carriage had brought him and Eeesekee back to House Víkpe, and they’d been served a late dinner, but he found it hard to relax. Of course he knew that this was purely a by-product of his relief at having successfully banished his first demon. There had been much at stake, and the stresses of the past two days could not be easily set aside. But he had done it!
His room had not been touched, except for a minimal cleaning, completely non-invasive. He approved. His lame foot pained him somewhat, so he decided to relax with some light bedtime reading — perhaps he would finally have time to examine one of the volumes of local statutes, which the judge in his case had had the courtesy to have delivered on the evening of his “trial.” He snorted. More like a farce. Still, the judge had been quite amenable to reason, as he had expected.
He chose a volume and began to read. It was all quite fascinating, but after a chime or so he was overcome with weariness and barely had time to put the heavy book aside before tucking his head under one wing and dropping off into a dreamless sleep.
At least at first. Later in the night, as the moons wheeled overhead and the jugánu worms slept, he found himself on a featureless plain, Gopa hovering beside him in the shape of a kelléndu, as she often did. The moons shone here, too, but they danced more quickly, rising and setting with the swiftness of a makdi in flight against the backdrop of mountains in the distance. Three moons, two moons, three again, then one, then two, then… none.
Tiny lights shone in the sky, which seemed to press down on him, and a cold wind blew. Gopa shrank against him, making a soft keening. In the distance there was a chittering sound, and a hint of movement. Strange. It was so dark that he cast no shadow — but he could see the blackness of another shadow far out on the plain. It was… odd. There were too many legs.
It was colder now, and he seemed frozen to the spot. The chittering sound got louder, and blackness swam toward him. He could not tear his eyes away, and he began to shake.
There was a sharp pain in his lame foot. Startled, he looked down. Gopa had pinched him! With a start he bent down and scooped her up. Deliberately turning his back on the blackness, he took control of the Dream once more and flew, not quickly, but with determination, towards the distant mountains. They faded into mist, and his wings carried him out of sleep and into the stillness of his room. The welcome warmth of the banked fire did nothing to stop his shaking.
Much later that night, after he had finally allowed himself to be coaxed into the carriage from House Víkpe and brought back to his room there, now made unfamiliar by the introduction of several flowering plants and a pot of smoldering incense; after he had been served a late-night meal of fruit, fruit, and more fruit (including a liberal helping of mangos); after he had talked the ear off the little squirrel who had done her best to keep from falling asleep on her feet — he had, with some difficulty, fluttered up to the perch that had been installed for him when he first arrived. It was odd to be so tired, but — he slipped almost instantly into Dream before he was able to finish the thought.
But it was a strange Dream, without the usual trappings of infinite distance and limitless space. He was in a small room, crowded with cabinets that towered over him, the dark wood absorbing the light that shone from everywhere and nowhere. Another Klin was here, one of smaller nocturnal Klin that predominately made up the ruling class. He had large ears and a long slit running down the middle of his face, ending at his leaf-shaped nose. His fur was brownish-red.
He was searching for something, opening drawer after drawer, examining scraps of parchment, scrolls, even small crystals that Eeesekee could see had writing on them. He glanced at Eeesekee, and went back to rummaging through the cabinets. “It’s got to be here somewhere,” he said in the true language of the Klin. Eeesekee felt a surge of pleasure at hearing the high-pitched tones. It had been months since he’d last spoken to anyone capable of producing those sounds.
Eeesekee started to speak, but the Other turned and interrupted him. “What is my name?” he demanded.
Eeesekee blinked, and began again, but the Other turned back to the drawers and began searching more frantically. “It must be here! It can’t be lost!” He turned and screamed at Eeesekee. “WHAT IS MY NAME?”
He woke then to an intense smell of mangos, and vomited onto the floor. Recovering, he felt a dim pain in his right hand, which was clutching a small bag so tightly that he had to pry the claws open. It was the small bag of crystals he’d noticed earlier that day. Confused and still feeling slightly ill, he willed himself back into the Dream, looking for the little room filled with cabinets and the strange Klin — but it was gone.