Compendium:Dream 668

A fragment of the Garden of Remembering

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You dream of Darkness, pressing, cloying, an almost solid presence bearing down all around you. You huddle to your campfire, to its tiny light as the pitiful flames lick out from glowing embers, and ever so slightly, it warms you against the vast coldness of the darkness around.
It isn't enough, though. It's never enough.
The darkness ebbs and flows, relents, returns. As it gives way around you, as your fire pushes it back, you realise you're atop some kind of stone platform, fire in the middle, steep edges giving way to nothing all around, only black below, black beyond.
Your fire grows, you grow warmer. The darkness ebbs. You're not alone. In the distance you make out other fires, atop other pillars, so tall, so deep the depths between them. Figures are huddled around these, too, some with several, some with one, like yours. A few fires are unattended, as they flicker, sputter, against a wind you cannot feel.
As you watch, one of the untended fires goes out, and the darkness is suddenly a little bit deeper, the cold a little stronger, as it flows back a little more, obscuring yet again a little more.
You realise it isn't the fire keeping you warm. It is you keeping the fire warm, steady, bright against the black.
Someone joins you, sits down across from you. You... know her. You know you know her. Her name is Vardaman. She has other names, too. You know this, you know you know this, they're far bigger, far more important, but you just know her as Vardaman.
You try to remember. You can't. It doesn't matter.
Wordlessly, she reaches out to the fire, and it grows a little stronger, a little brighter. Her tattered rags are both right at home in this place, and yet utterly alien. You look down at your own clothes. They're not tattered. They're covered in dust, the dust of Everything, of the dark, of the light. Hers are... too clean.
"Idreaya," Vardaman says, her voice low and clear. "How long has it been?"
You shake your head. You don't know, don't remember. An eternity, perhaps. An eternity still?
"Do you know why you're here?"
Again, you shake your head.
"Look up," she tells you.
You look. You see only darkness. Maybe shapes beyond, vast and incomprehensible, but only darkness, really, waves and depths of almost solid darkness, obscuring all.
"Look," she says again. This time there's a power to the command. Her voice is everywhere, reverberating between the pillars, cutting through the darkness like a sledgehammer.
The fire roars to life, pushing back the black, washing over you in welcome warmth. All of the fires come to life, becoming brilliant bonfires atop their respective pillars, all around, stretching off into impossible distance, fading together to a glowing sea, horizon to horizon. Between them, suddenly visible, is a great tower, of the same dusty stone as the pillars, but so much more, wider, taller, spearing upwards, up, up, up. You trace its vastness into the...
As you look up once more, you know what it is. You know what you are, what you're doing, why you're here. You sense the commonality as all the others, at all the fires all around, also look up, for they know it too. You sense that you all see this now, you all remember...
It doesn't quite register what you see, just what you're looking at. It's everything. All that matters in all the worlds. You reason for being, your purpose, your...
"You see?" Vardaman murmurs.
"I see," you whisper. Your voice comes out dry and harsh, unused almost as if forever.
"Will you fight for this?" she asks.
Somehow, you look away, back down, and it is the most difficult, heart-wrenching thing you have ever had to do. You look back to her, as she still stares up into the vastness of existence. Her features are so familiar, and yet so distant. There's a weariness to her, too. A hurt you know hadn't been there previously.
"Will you stay with me?" you ask her.
She closes her eyes. Shakes her head sadly. "I can't," she says. "I have to go back. I'm not done."
As she settles her gaze once more on you, the fire settles between you. But it's still brighter than it was, stronger, warmer.
"You must stand alone," she goes on. "Will you fight for all of us?"
You open your mouth, try to answer, try to tell her, you have to tell her, but the dream fades around you, and in an instant, it's gone.