Arvid doesn't know what he expected until he doesn't see it.
They walk for about a quarter of an hour through the leafy forest. The wizard, Marisfar, walks first, while the young woman, Avdyra, walks last. This is not quite how Arvid would have preferred it. He would have liked to keep an eye on those hips. Her belt does help to make those stand out, as it were. But of course that isn't really important. And for all he knows, there can be all kind of dangers lurking in the forests, which the two of them will guard him against. They walk in complete silence, which he dares not disturb.
Along the way, he notices a few unfamiliar scents. The first is the spicy one which had been carried by the wind across the clearing. But there are others, earthlike, saplike, but not quite familiar. As if he truly is in another place. And the trees ... they are only vaguely familiar. He can't say for sure what kind they are. Is that an oak? It sure has the robust trunk, but the leaves seem wrong.
And then they come to the village, and it isn't at all what he had expected. His eyes were prepared to meet small log cabins with thatched roofs, perhaps ordered in a rough circle. Instead, these houses. While not as large as most houses in the suburb back home, they seem quite spaceous. The strange thing however is that they are made of stone. And not just made of stone. No, they seem to be made of one stone each. Not bricks, not hewn stones: The surface is seamless, the pattern of the stone unbroken. Each house is roughly rectangular, though the actual dimensions vary somewhat. All corners are rounded, there are no sharp angles, no abrupt changes. The stone seems to flow from one wall to the next, including the roof. It looks impossibly advanced, futuristic rather than medieval. It looks like a work of art.
And all of a sudden, Arvid starts to doubt. Is it really just a dream? Would he make up something like this? Can a dream surprise you when you are wide awake in the middle of it? Yet, he remembers falling asleep. He knows that he will wake up in his own bed. But he also knows that he will wake up with these doubts. Are there really other worlds out there, Dreamworlds as the wizard called them?
"This" says Avdyra behind him, "is our village. Our house is the large one closest to the path." The large one, indeed. It is double the size of some of the others, larger than most houses back home. Back in his world. Back in the real world, he corrects himself. Even so, he is impressed. The stone seems to flow around the windows, which are fairly narrow. The door is almost invisible, grown from the same stone, the pattern unbroken until they are close enough to see it clearly.
"How are these houses built? I mean, they are really impressive." "Thank you. My ancestors made them: Most were raised by Omari who was called Stonefriend. He was deep in the Stonelore and lived for three hundred and fifty years. This village was named Omareim ever after, but he also raised houses in many neighboring villages. This large house he made for the love of his life, Anlei the Ugly, and it has been called Anleistone to this day." "Anlei the Ugly?" "They say that there was not so ugly a woman in our village before and have not been one since. One ear was large and another small, one eye was lower and the other higher, and half her teeth stuck out. Or so they say. This was nigh on a thousand years ago. Tales may grow over time, though I have heard it from many." "I have heard the same tales as my daughter, when I was a boy. And they even said that her left hand had six fingers."
"But ..." Arvid shakes his head. "If she was so ugly, why did this wizard guy love her so much?" Marisfar turns toward him, a hint of sadness on his face. "He was a grown man" he replies simply. "He loved her for who she was." Turning away again, he puts his hand on the door and it swings open, allowing them into a large hall.
The room must fill most of the house. And after the chilly forest air, warmth envelops them at once. Stone tables are arranged in the middle of the room, and on them are various foods arrayed. A reddish light from several torches mixes with yellow from some kind of lamps that are scattered along the tables, on top of small tripods. And all around stands men, women and children. They all have the same golden hair - or silver for the old - and the same slight yellow tan. They wear dresses and tunics in various simple colors, and the women wear broad belts and most of them wear some kind of soft hat. Clearly this is the people of the village, and Arvid can guess why they are packed together here. An excited muttering dies off into a hush.
Marisfar starts to chant another song, quite loudly. It makes no more sense than the other, but as he sings, the torches flare up, shining twice as bright and then again, filling the whole large room with radiance. Then he steps forward.
"My people! My family, and my father's family, my cousins, friends and helpers! You who have suffered for my neglect in these long moons, and who have walked in fear since the shadowing of the serpents! Behold! Behold the workings of my only begotten daughter, she who was favored by the First Parents with gifts of wit and song. On this day I tell you that her workings have borne fruit: Behold amongst us he who has come out of the Worlds of Dream, to save us all from the Shadow and to heal the land. In all the world and the Dreamworlds themselves there is no one his equal. Behold, the Genius!"
Suddenly, like a dam breaking, there is a din of voices shouting, and hands clapping, feet stomping. Arvid has opened his mouth, but closes it again. There is no way anyone could hear him now, and far less get his name right. How did he get himself caught up in this? Behold the Genius, indeed.
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