Thursday, 16 March 2017

Dreamweaver (part 3)

Tempus and the Lucky Cat galloped across the landscape, their donkeys' hoofbeats crushing the grass it didn’t manage to part. The suns had begun to sink behind the far horizon, which was composed entirely of bushy tree tops. Orange light oozed through the trees, an amber shine permeating the thick scattering of the forest.
They didn’t talk as they rode. It made Lucky Cat think of a school trip the two of them had been on a few years earlier. A five hour drive there and then back again yet they didn’t talk once. Arguably because Sophie had been asleep for most of it, but that was neither here nor there. There was a frostiness in the air and Sophie didn’t much like it.
Eventually, the donkeys came to a stop. They were at the very nearest fringes of the woods, where a cabin of cobbled stone was slowly sinking into the shadow combed ground. A lantern hung from the left of the door, an orange flame alight, flickering against the glass surrounding it. 
“How do you want to do this?” Freya asked, clambering off her donkey. 
“I don’t mind. Whatever’s best for you.” Sophie replied.
“Sophie, please, I really don’t mind.”
“Me neither.”
They both paused, stuck in the ultimate battle of politeness versus complete lack of self confidence. Sophie let out a brief laugh. “This is why we need Stephen. Even if he doesn’t think things through, at least he’s willing to put his ideas forward.” She paused and frowned. “Don’t tell him that I just complimented him. I couldn’t bare him to be that smug.”
Freya let a smile cross her face. “You and Steven are good friends aren’t you?”
“We all are. All four of us.” She paused for a second. “Is this why you’re not your usual chirpy self? Do you feel left out?”
“I don’t feel left out. And, more importantly, I’m fine. Just as chirpy as ever.”
“You can tell me if you’re not.”
“I’m fine, Sophie. I’m fine.”
“Good. Let’s go kick some English teacher ass.” Sophie said and gestured to the house.
They wandered over to the hut, leaving the donkeys to graze. Sophie splayed a hand and changed the probability of the door opening of its own accord. The sound it made as it did made the whole experience just a little bit spookier. Great, Freya thought.
She tensed herself as Sophie led them in. Unlike back at the Dungeons and Dragons club, she would be ready this time. If she needed to be.
There was a sudden explosion from their side. Freya through up her hands, trying to pause time. It was like trying to click Lego bricks together. Metaphorically, she had two on top of each other, between her thumb and index finger, the studs on top leaving their circular indentations in her skin. Except, as much as she might squeeze, she couldn’t get them to click together and hold. What was wrong with her? Why was it so difficult?
Luckily for them, the explosion had come from a cauldron. Hunched over it, half muttering, half cackling Macbeth quotations, was the wizened, crooked figure of their English teacher. She looked up in terror as she saw them, a green cloud parting around her head.
“Celia Carpenter?” Sophie asked, frowning.
The old woman stared at them for a moment and then her eyes widened. “Sophie? Sophie Khan? Freya Carter? What, what on Earth are you doing here?”
Mrs Carpenter stepped around the cauldron and inspected them. Under the light of the setting suns, they could make out their teacher, if not twenty years older than they'd known her. It was unnerving to see her so different yet so similar. For Sophie, who had developed a pathological hatred of English, it was unnerving to see her at all.
“How did you escape jail?” Freya asked, regretting her bluntness the instance she processed it.
“Jail? What are you on about?” She frowned. “God, how many years has it been since you were in my class? I’m afraid my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but you don’t look a day older. Miss envies your youth, she does.”
“Miss, how did you get here? Are you working with Mr Coin?”
“Mr Coin, dear? As in Jon Coin? I haven’t seen him in years.”
“How did you get here?” Sophie insisted, becoming almost irritated by her avoidance of the question.
“You’d think me ridiculous if I told you! I don’t think you’d believe me one bit, even you, Freya, with your wonderful creative writing.”
Freya frowned. She was, although too modest to admit it, brilliant at all aspects of English, except from creative writing. Something was afoot.
“Miss, we are desperate for information.” Sophie said. “Please tell us.”
She sighed. “I promise Miss isn’t going crazy, but, well, I was talking to Mr Taylor- we still meet up for coffee sometimes, even after all these years- about a couple of the funny stories from my other set. Then, all of a sudden, the door of the cafe explodes open and a gentlemen in 3D glasses and a purple cloak comes running in with one of those guns from the First World War. What are they called?”
“Gatling guns.” Freya said, who’d watched an anime set in the First World War and was an avid History student but knew the name of the gun because she was just generally aware of popular culture.
“Yes, exactly. This man came running in and shot me. The next thing, I woke up here. I haven’t seen Mr Taylor.” She paused for a second and then said, “You don’t reckon this is Heaven, do you?”
“It’s one possible interpretation.” Sophie said. “Can’t you build some Antithetic Gear? You made the staple gun and the ninja cue cards, right?”
“What are you on about, Sophie?” Mrs Carpenter frowned. “Ninja cue cards? What?”
“She doesn’t know about the Antithetic.” Sophie hissed to Freya.
“I noticed.” Freya hissed back, then turned to their teacher. “Miss, did this man in purple give you a name?”
“He called himself Dreamweaver. He said that he’s working on something miraculous in his castle but that, as soon as the doors were aligned, he would return me to my destiny.”
“His castle? Where’s that?” Sophie asked, not knowing if she really wanted an answer at all.

Back in the centre of Fanderling, Chris and Steven had been shown to a church and asked to wait for the girls to return. Steven reckoned their plan was to ransom Steven and Chris to Dreamweaver, should Sophie and Freya turn out to be working for them. Steven didn’t mind; the church was surprisingly comfortable for its gothic stylings. 
Steven got up from his pew and observed the Stained Glass windows. They appeared to show some sort of tree, a big one with various branches coming off it. It looked almost familiar. He decided it’d come to mind soon enough.
“When the girls get back, are we going to get Ali from Dreamweaver, wherever he is?” Chris asked, his eyes concentrated on the hands pursed across his knees.
“You tell me, Cap.” Steven shrugged. “You make the big decisions.”
“Cap.” He let out a slightly amused humph. “I’m not the Captain.”
“What do you mean you’re not the Captain?” Steven frowned. “That’s your thing; Captain Jaffa Cake. Like I’m the Summoner.”
“You’re the Summoner, but I’m not Captain Jaffa Cake.” Chris sighed. His face was wrinkled up in a scowl. It was the type of scowl that often graced Graphics and Computer Science lessons, when a net or a programming task was a little too much. “For God’s sake, just end me.”
Steven frowned. “Chris? What's wrong?”
“It doesn’t matter.” He said and gestured up at the tree. If there was one way he knew of getting Steven off his case, it was to let Steven talk about something that interested him. “What do you reckon it is?”
“The only thing I can think of is this thing from Thor.”
“Yeah. You know the one with the Hammer?”
“Oh. I thought you meant the number.”
Steven sighed. His mispronunciation of the ‘Th’ sound was an ongoing problem. “Anyway, in that, there’s this thing about like a universal tree or something. It has some weird ass Norse name.”
“Which you could tell me, right?”
“No, of course not.” Steven lied, knowing he could bloody well spell Yggdrasil, never mind say it. “The point is that every branch is the pathway to another dimension or something. There’s Midgard and Asgard and Niflheim and Muspelheim and Alfheim and some other ones too. I don’t see why it’s in a church window, though. And, more importantly, why is it in a church window in a forest in the middle of nowhere?”
Chris sighed. “And why’s Mrs Carpenter here? And why’s Mr Coin trying to be a mage?”
“Why are the people being so primitive to think a mage is possible? It’s like we’re in Dungeons and Dragons.” He stopped, frowning. “Oh my god. What if we are?”
“What if we’re in a game of Dungeons and Dragons?”
“But, that doesn’t make any sense.” Chris frowned. “I mean, surely that’s impossible.”
“Says Captain Jaffa Cake.”
I’m not Captain bloody Jaffa Cake, he thought, and I never will be. “You know what I mean.”
The doors swung open and Sophie and Freya came running through. “Guys!” Freya cried. “We’ve got a theory.”
“It’s brilliant. Amazing even, and you know my feelings about the differences between those words.” Sophie said, a vocal announcer of her feelings between those two words. “Freya came up with it and it totally blew my mind!”
“That is the most Clickbaity exclamation I’ve ever heard.” Chris said.
“What’s the theory?” Steven asked.
Freya grinned. “This Mrs Carpenter seems pretty much the same as our Mrs Carpenter except for two major differences. One, she’s a lot older. Two, she never became the Antithetic and doesn’t seem to be aware that there was ever an explosion to hand out powers.”
“Like a generous Stan Lee.” Sophie added.
“So what are you thinking?” Chris asked.
“We’re thinking, what if this is a bubble universe?” Freya hypothesised. “Mrs Carpenter is plucked out of an parallel universe, we’re plucked out of ours and put here.”
“And here is what?” Chris asked, frowning.
“A fictional realm.” Steven whispered. “Coin’s going by the name Dreamweaver and he’s a Dungeon Master in DnD.”
“Who did his degree thesis on Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation.” Sophie said.
“We reckon he has the power to create new dimensions, or at least step between them.” Freya said. “And if he can do that, it gives him the ability to carry out multiversal domination. We have to stop him.”
“Let’s go, team.” Steven said. “Sounds like we need to save the world. Well, worlds. Well, universe. Well, universes. Universi? Multiverses?”
"Multiverse." Sophie said, rolling her eyes.
"Let's save the multiverse." Steven grinned.
The four of them ran towards the door of the church, ready to do just that. If any of them had turned around, they might have noticed the last of the light glinting through the window, revealing an image that hadn’t been visible up until then. It was of the true master, the puller of all the strings, the two humped, four legged deity that held all their fates in its jaw. It was an image of the Camel God and the door of its cage was beginning to be unlocked.

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