Eric, a young boy, had enough of nightmares ruining his dreams. Determined to grow stronger, he tackles magical disciplines one at atime - be it flying, blade magic, or telepathy - and stares down his fears. But, will he survive the trials of nightmare mastery? And at what cost?
Thankfully, he makes friends to travel the road with, and listens to the advice of mentors. As Eric trains to grow more powerful, he sees even greater dangers looming ahead...
"Dream Magic: Awakenings" is a hard-fantasy novel, meaning the focus is on how magic works and why.
Eric was running. Not this nightmare again, he thought.
He was gazing ahead, his eyes seeing only the path where his next two or three steps would land. The surroundings were nothing but a colorless blur he was running through. His mind worked frenetically to see not what was ahead, but what was behind: two goblins half his height trying to catch up to him. Eric could very clearly see in his mind the dark green skin and the multitude of those pointy, crooked teeth. They were swinging small clubs made from hard wood, the smoothness of which was most likely forged by a lot of clobbering action. Eric could not stop envisioning the jagged teeth and burnished weapons, since he was constantly hearing a grinding and munching "rawbrawrawrblr" sound coming from behind - a sound similar to that of a hungry dog attacking a bare bone.
I hate this nightmare. I hate it hate it hate it! This is the sixth time already.
Eric tried to increase his pace, reasoning that short goblin legs should be no match for an energetic, young boy. When he sprinted ahead, the ground became muddy and his rapid steps sluggish. The rambling sound became more distant just for a moment, then returned with the same intensity. With a feeling of resignation, Eric resumed his normal pace and the ground was solid again.
This is my dream! I should be able to dream whatever I want, not these stupid nightmares...
Still running forward, Eric tried to push the thoughts of failure out of his mind. There was a kind of calming rhythm to making one step after the other, but the grinding sound intruded each time he tried to let the pace soothe his feelings. The dread he was hearing was also the dread he was feeling. His whole body was tense, but the knot in his stomach was the worst.
Why can't I do something?!
A new feeling was growing alongside the fear: anger. Eric was angry not at the goblins, but at himself. I'm weak, I'm pitiful. He felt the anger stir up inside him, displacing some of the fear. He instinctively knew that this is something he could use, and tried to intensify it.
He let out his anger in what seemed to be part shout, part scream, and part battle cry. His anger propelled him forward; he didn't even feel his steps but seemed to float ahead with haste. He kept going in this half-conscious state as long as he could.
The moment the cloud of anger receded from his mind, the fear came back more powerful than before: his stomach tightened and he bent over as if a powerful force punched him. Eric misplaced a step and fell.
Get up get up get up, they're going to get you, faster faster faster-
What little sense of balance he had, abandoned him. His mind was in a state of panic; his heart raced arrhythmically and cold sweat was all he could sense. Trapped in the nightmare, he continued to stumble forward.
Running seemingly forever with the smell of sweat and fear in one's nose would weary anyone, and it was getting to Eric too. He was tired of running and tired of being in a state of fear. The path he was following led across a shallow riverbed, where he absent-mindedly hopped through the stepping stones.
Not long after passing the river, exhaustion finally overpowered the fear: Eric stumbled a few more steps and put his hands on his knees to prevent himself from collapsing. His lungs burned with each struggling breath, and when he noticed this particular pain, he became aware of all the aching muscles in his body. He kept breathing: in-out-in-out-in-out, until his breathing settled into a more relaxed rhythm. He rolled down and stretched out on his back.
Abruptly, he remembered the reason he was running all night and lifted his head to see where the goblins are. He saw two small shapes in the distance, jumping up and down on the riverbank. Haha, they don't like water. He closed his eyes, let his head slump back down and succumbed to fatigue. The grass feels so nice...
* * *
It felt good to just lie there, body and mind thoroughly exhausted. It was the kind of rest that invigorated from deep within one's soul. Memories of the nightmare faded away into the distance.
When Eric opened his eyes, he noticed how warm the sunshine felt on his face. He grabbed a chunk of grassy earth just to experience the sensation of touch. The leaves of the trees around him never seemed more vivid and full of life - he could see the hue and motion of every single leaf. Now this is what a dream should be like! It felt as if the sun shined happiness to earth and nature responded in kind, with Eric in the middle of this magical motion. He quietly enjoyed being part of this experience for a small eternity.
Eric turned his head, and saw a young woman with an open smile and long blond hair. He got to his feet and said "Hi."
"I'm Annie. What's your name?"
"My name is Eric. Nice to meet you," he said formally.
"Very nice to meet you too, Eric. Is this your first time here?"
"I guess so... Where are we?"
"Wonderful, welcome to Dream Camp! Well, technically, these are the training grounds of Dream Camp. I see you have already attuned to some of the deep magic here - nicely done! Anytime you fall asleep, just remember the feeling of magic and you'll be able to dream here."
"Thank you." Eric looked around, but he didn't see a camp anywhere. He wasn't feeling particularly magical, either. A thought hit him, and he said it out loud: "Hey! How do you know I'm dreaming? Isn't this supposed to be my dream?"
Annie smiled warmly at him. She pointed down the path and offered Eric her hand. "Come, everyone is at the Playground. We can talk along the way."
Eric pondered for a moment, and took her hand. She was taller than him; her scent reminded him of a big sister he never had. A feeling of loneliness passed over him at the thought, but that moment went away as quickly as it came. "Okay, let's go."
"Dreams would be boring if we were the only ones dreaming them," Annie explained as they went. "Sometimes we want to dream our own dreams, but sometimes we wish to share them with others. Dream Camp is a place where we can master the magic of dreams together. When I was your age, I spent most of my dreamtime here with friends, playing and learning. Now that I'm grown up, I realized I like it here the most, so I came back to play and learn some more," Annie grinned. "I also try to help out youngsters such as yourself."
Annie paused for a moment. "Let me show you something. Ready?"
Eric shrugged, then nodded. The next step they took seemed like a hundred, and he felt a bit dizzy. "What was that?"
"It's called teleportation magic. The fastest way to get someplace is to just be there! Don't you agree?" Annie laughed heartily. "Walking is better only if you want to enjoy the scenery."