This time, he becomes aware already at the blur. At the time Arvid arrives in the stone circle, he is wide awake - and still dreaming. The young woman is there, but she is no longer alone. Behind her stands an older man. He could be her father - at least Arvid hopes this is not her husband. He must be nearly 40 years older than her. The gold is turned fully to silver in his hair, and his face has deep lines. But there is still no hint of beard, his face is as clean as a woman's, if not more so. He is clad in a drab gray genderless tunic which Arvid hates at first sight. But what really catches the eye is the red wooden staff he carries. It is so thick that he can barely close his fingers around it, and almost as high as the man himself, slightly lower than Arvid.
The young woman turns to the man with a triumphant expression, like 'What did I say?' on her face. Oh yes, obviously father and daughter! The old man shoots her a glance of surprise and grudging respect. She turns again to Arvid. "Salami dude!" He shakes his head. Not again! "Stop it! I don't understand a word."
Then the man acts. Lifting his staff with both hands, he starts to sing the stupidest doggerel in the history of mankind's worst morons, and to a tune that is worse than nothing.
O, no me la egg
og da og da
O, du og den vegg
og ja og ja
O, me ga da legg
og na og na
But as Arvid already winces at the sheer inanity, something strange happens. A voice starts to whisper in his head, drowning out the words (if words they are) of the horrible poetry. The voice whispers words that make no sense, but they are real words: Serpent, ancient friendship, tongue. And then, just as it all starts to make sense, the chant stops.
"Greetings, genius." It is the woman who speaks again, and his ears can still faintly hear the salami thing. But the voice in his head drowns out the actual sound. It must be somehow translating. How can that possibly happen? But then he reminds himself: He is in a dream. Anything can happen in a dream. He draws himself up: Just because he is dreaming does not mean he can't be civil. "Greetings, too" he says. It sounds more stupid than he wanted it to.
This time she practically beams with pride. But she is not the only one shining. Something catches Arvid's eye: The blood red staff is glowing! It is a faint glow, barely visible when you see right at it. If the sun had been shining, there is no way he could have seen it at all. But in the heavy overcast, he can make out a weak glow, as if the staff was lit from within.
Suddenly, the man speaks. His voice sounds strained. "Are you the genius?"
Just like that. Out of the blue. No explanation, no niceties. And his eyes on Arvid, staring, as if trying to make out a hidden weapon under his clothes. If not distrusting, then certainly cautious. Guarded. Tense.
"Technically yes". Arvid isn't used to being asked about this, but that doesn't mean he hasn't thought about it, and often. "I am the best in my class by far, and have always been. None of my friends and none of my relatives can match me in games of intelligence. And in some studies, I already surpass my teachers. So yes, I think you can call me 'the genius'."
Is that a glimmer of hope in the old man's eyes? But at once he is again guarded, severe. "You look young to be a magic wielder." "I am 18. And I am no magic wielder. I do not even believe in magic." "So. Then please pardon this summoning." What did he say, he does not even believe in magic? Well, he doesn't, but this is a dream. Obviously magic works inside this dream. And then the girl whirls around, turning to her father. "No! He is the one! I know it in my bones! The casting was right, the summoning complete! Twice has he answered the call for the Genius!" She turns to Arvid again. "Why do you say that you do not believe in magic?"
Arvid ponders. "I do not believe that magic works in the real world, where I live. This is a dream, so magic may work here. But I know nothing of that. Also, the dream will end, and then I will return to my world without magic." "We will summon you again." "You might at that, if you still existed when the dream ends. But to the best of my knowledge, you don't." "I did it once before!" "You assume that I believe you are real. That your world exists outside my dream. I am not willing to accept that after two dreams." "Then I will summon you two times a thousand times! Whatever it takes. Our land, maybe our world itself, is in danger!"
When she says "our world", Arvid also hears the ridiculous word from the first dream - Gwalawala. That must be their name for their world, then. It doesn't exactly make it easier to take her seriously. On the other hand, the intensity in her voice and the desperation in her face makes it very hard to laugh it off.
"She speaks the truth, Genius, if that is who you are. A terrible curse has fallen on our land, a curse too heavy for any of us to lift. It will take a genius such as our land has not seen in centuries, to learn the lore of the Blue Cache, and wield it to heal the lands." "Well, I know nothing about that. I may not even be able to perform magic. I certainly never have before." "We will teach you" says the young woman confidently. "If you are indeed the Genius, then you will be able to learn the lore. And with the lore, the magic is yours to command. I only pray that we have the time."
"But what if magic doesn't work for me when I'm just here in a dream?" "The fact that we understand each other shows that magic works for you when you are here. My father's Bloodwood staff cast this magic of translation." "She speaks the truth. Last night as she came home and told of her summoning, I was inclined to disbelieve her. But she told me how you did not understand our language. All people here speak the same language, save only the serpents, so she would not know that there were other languages. But if you really are from another world, then you would not know our tongue, and you may be a genuine summoning. I song the spell of Speaking with Serpents, and it seems to work. Though why you speak the tongue of the serpents, I know not."
Arvid glares right back at him. "I do not speak like a snake! Snakes can't speak. And if you're saying that I'm evil like a snake, then you certainly have no reason to summon me." "The serpents were not always evil, young man. Once they were our most loyal allies, our best friends and our wisest advisors." "Well, just don't call me a snake again, OK?" "It shall be as you say, Genius. Though you seem to speak hastily in this matter."
"I do have a name, actually. If you don't want to go around calling me Genius all the time, that is. Arvid Olsen, at your service. Sort of." "Greetings Arovid Olsen the Genius. My name is Marisfar." "I suppose your daughter's name is Mari, then." "I do not understand why you would think so, Arovid. My name is Avdyra." "Trust me, that is not an improvement. But I guess it doesn't matter." "A name always matters. We do not give our name to strangers, in troubled times like these. But as you have given your name, so must we." "I'll try to remember that, if I ever dream of you again." "You will."
The older man puts a hand on Avdyra's shoulder. She starts to chant another incomprehensible song, while he speaks. "Now that we know you to be the one, we shall work on the clearstone lore, so that you can leave the circle and walk with us in our world." "Sure, anytime." "Until then, farewell, Arovid Genius." "Arvid. The name is ..."
But the circle is already smearing around him. Turning into a blur. And then into a haze. And then it is gone.
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