NEW CHAPTER WHOO
I apologize again for the time between updates. I can't really comprehend how much time has gone by between chapters? All I know is that I wait and wait and procrastinate and manage a few sentences at a time and then all of a sudden the time feels right and I finish the whole thing in two days. It's a weird system.
Also, NO FOOD IN THIS ONE. Instead there's a mountain of awful, awful exposition dumping and bad dialogue, and I apologize for that, too. But hey, the wait is over, and you'll know what it is that's wrong by the time you've finished this chapter! (although if you've been keeping up with my stuff and Elfy's teasing drabbles on Tumblr, you pretty much kind of know what's going on anyway, heh.)
Also also, although it kind of looks like it, this does not lead into a flashback chapter. The next chapter will continue this story as usual without any interruptions, although I do plan to eventually write the story Ganscotter starts to tell.
And I named Lorie's Mum. So there. I'll shut up now.
I dream, therefore I exist. –August Strindberg
The sound of the door hitting the wall as it burst open startled Gawain from his nap. He jerked, his eyes watering in his weariness and alarm, reaching for the dagger he kept under his pillow. This was Terence's bed, not his own, and his groping hand met with empty air and a fistful of sheet. He cursed and kicked off the blanket, letting it pool in the floor as he bolted to his feet to face the intruder. He froze when he saw his father-in-law, slipping to his knees in the doorframe with a stricken look on his face.
"S-sir?" he said, gaping. He edged toward the Enchanter now staring into space, his shoulders shaking.
"H-how did it—" Ganscotter broke off, swallowing heavily, curling closer in on himself. He scooted back against the doorframe. "When did he—"
Gawain held up his hands as though he were calming a frightened horse. "If this is about Terence, I was going to send word, I swear," he said, inching forward. "Morgan wanted to wait for Parsifal, didn't want to leave him, but if he didn't come back tomorrow, I was going to go to you myself."
The Enchanter nodded and briefly closed his eyes, drawing a steadying breath. "What h-happened?"
"We still don't know. Morgan's been running tests, but she can't find anything. We put him in my room. Bed's comfier. Thought it might help, but so far he's still awake."
Ganscotter's head shot up, his bright eyes focusing despite unshed tears. "He's—he's still alive?"
Fear twisted Gawain's stomach into a knot. "He was as of a few hours ago, when I came in here to take a nap—" A very loud thud and muffled groan sounded from Gawain's room, and the knight rolled his eyes. "And still is according to that, the twit." He jogged past Ganscotter and crossed the living chamber, jumping over the small step that lead into his room.
He paused at the entrance to room, clicking his tongue at the sight of his squire collapsed on the floor and blinking owlishly at the ceiling. The anger of the few hours ago returned, though it was not as strong as before. "What are you doing?"
"Th-think I fainted," Terence slurred, still blinking. "Or w-would have, but st-till awake. G-guess getting y-you to punch me unc-conscious w-won't work, then."
The knight snorted. "I wouldn't agree to punching you, anyway."
"N-not even 'cause you wanted to?"
He crossed his arms, frowning at the amount of guilt the tired man managed to put into that question. "What are you even doing out of bed to begin with?"
"H-heard a bang."
"That's what you get for over-oiling your door hinges."
Terence smirked, or tried to, but the hollow look in his bruised eyes ruined the effect. He shifted around on the floor, trying to lever himself up onto his elbows, but fell back again. He looked back to Gawian. "Help?" he asked, his voice quiet and cautious.
Gawain sighed, hesitated, then stepped forward and reached for Terence's armpits. He heaved the squire up onto his feet with a grunt of exertion, then wrapped a steadying arm around his waist when Terence stumbled and reached out. "Where're Morgan and Eileen?"
"M-morgan went to d-dinner. Eileen went to her r-room. Thought g-giving me space m-might—Father? Oof!"
Ganscotter had finally recovered enough to climb to his feet and was now hovering at the doorway, staring at Terence as if he didn't dare to believe his eyes. When Terence addressed him, he darted forward and snatched the squire from his master, wrapping him in the tightest, most desperate hug Terence had ever received. He froze as one of Ganscotter's hands began working its way through his hair, then relaxed into the embrace and clutched at the back of his father's shirt. Ganscotter pressed his face into Terence's shoulder, feeling the boy shaking almost as badly as he was. "I thought you were dead," he muttered into the cloth, tears of relief flowing past his closed eyes.
Terence heard the muffled phrase and frowned, the comfort of his father's arms around him diminishing. "Why?" he asked, reluctantly attempting to pull away from the hug.
"Put him to bed before answering any questions, I think," Gawain said pointedly, as Ganscotter was clearly holding Terence up more than Terence was standing on his own. The knight had backed off as Ganscotter entered the room, retreating to a far corner and crossing his arms. He was worried about his brother, yes, but was still angry with him, and also now keenly aware that Terence didn't trust him. Or, not in the way Gawain trusted him.
Ganscotter seemed more than capable of tucking his son in, anyway. He helped Terence stagger back to the bed and turned back the blankets, then propped him up with pillows against the headboard. He kept one hand on Terence's arm as he did so, reluctant to release solid proof that his fears had been unfounded. He also seemed to have forgotten Terence's question in favor of more of his own. "Where have you been, Terence? What have you been doing? What's wrong? Are you ill?"
Terence shrugged, fiddling with the hem of the blanket. "Maybe?"
"He can't sleep," Gawain informed from the other side of the room. "He's not been sleeping at all for, oh, almost a week now, but the trouble started a month ago."
All the tension ran out of Ganscotter. He released a breath no one realized he'd been holding and smiled, closing his eyes and sagging his shoulders. "Is that all?"
"Isn't that enough?"
"F-father, why are y-you here?"
"Next time, I need you to tell me if this happens. I can't help you if I don't know."
Terence cast a guilty look at Gawain, who ignored him. "Why are you here, anyway? Did Parsifal contact you?"
"No," Ganscotter said, and he looked at Gawain as if he'd just realized the knight was there. He straightened up again. "Gawain, sit down."
Gawain started to reach for the chair at his desk, then stopped. "Why?"
"Just do it, my boy." The knight slowly pulled the chair out from under his desk and sat down. "And don't be alarmed when I say this. The twins were attacked."
Gawain's heart jumped into his throat as he leapt from the chair, his eyes alight. "Wh-what?" Terence asked, trying to sit up further. Ganscotter pushed him down and held up his free hand as Gawain stared for the door.
"Settle. They're fine, they're perfectly fine. They weren't touched, though Bridgette will be a little shaken up. I manage to wake them in time, and there's no reason to sprint off home just yet. Terence will need you here more than they will." Gawain didn't sit down, but he did manage to relax a fraction. Ganscotter nodded and gave him a reassuring smile. "I assumed the only reason Terence would not be defending his beloved nieces to his last breath is if he'd already done so, and with the other reports—"
"H-how could I? I'm here," Terence said. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear the black spots at the corners of his vision.
Ganscotter turned back to him. "In sleep. They were attacked in their dreams."
"Come again?" Gawain asked, tight-lipped.
"I've never needed to place any sort of sigil or rune of protection in dreams around the twins because Terence has always been there. If you'd just told me you'd split yourself, I'd have already fixed this by now—"
"What are you talking about—" Gawain asked, but before Ganscotter could explain, the door to the knight's bedroom opened. In walked Morgan, accompanied by Arthur.
Morgan went white and wide-eyed when she saw Ganscotter looking their way, and Gawain came to attention and gaped at the sight of the king. "S-sire!" Gawain said at the same time Morgan stammered "Your Excellency!"
No one moved, save Terence, who was squirming beneath the blankets as if they could hide him from view entirely. Arthur smiled confusedly at the stranger, who with his exaggerated eyes and odd cut of clothing was obviously elfin. Ganscotter rose from the edge of Terence's bed to his impressive full height and smiled back.
"Hello," the king said mildly, inclining his head, and Ganscotter returned the motion. "I don't believe we've met before."
"No, your majesty, we have not. And it is a pleasure to introduce myself properly. I am Ganscotter the Enchanter."
Morgan relaxed slightly, but Terence did not. Ganscotter had instructed them both on several different occasions that Arthur was never to be lied to—they were to keep their secrets and try to keep Arthur as ignorant as possible if they had to, but never to lie to his face. Ganscotter was clearly holding to that rule himself now, and if sticky questions were asked about why it was, exactly, he was in Camelot, Arthur may learn more than Terence was ready for. Arthur blinked and raised his head an inch higher, the only indicators of his surprise. "Then the pleasure is all mine, my—Sir. I have heard of you in stories Merlin told me, but never expected to see you in person. You are some kind of king in the faery world, am I correct?"
"Some kind," Ganscotter said, his eyes twinkling.
"What are you doing here?" Morgan burst, irritated.
Arthur looked at her with scolding in her eyes, but the Enchanter merely chuckled. "There was a…disturbance in my household," he said, glancing at Gawain. "I knew at once there was…some reason a certain someone was not fulfilling his usual duties." Terence and Gawain looked at each other, utterly confused, while Ganscotter nodded to Morgan. "And thank you, my lady, for caring for this young man."
"It was nothing," she said, frowning at him. "In fact, I must apologize for not finding the cause of his ailment."
"You found nothing because there is no ailment. Terence is a Morphead."
"A—what?" Gawain asked as Terence started coughing and clutching a well-used rag to his once-again bleeding nose. Arthur just looked confused. The Enchanter slowly lowered himself and perched at the edge of Terence's bed once more, gesturing for Arthur to take one of the chairs Morgan and Eileen had brought in earlier.
As Arthur sat down, he noticed the odd distance between Gawain and his squire—as well as the clarity dawning on Morgan's face. Her brows quickly furrowed again. "But that's impossible. The last family of Morpheads died out three hundred years ago. It's a dead magic."
Ganscotter shook his head and waved his hand with a chuckle. "Not every member of every family, but enough of them that the skill went dormant. Dormant, note, not dead. And I—" he blushed faintly, a sheepish smile tugging at his lips. "—May have accidentally awakened the Gift throughout the world, in my wild youth." He grinned apologetically at Terence, the smile slipping from his face at his son's blank and bloody expression.
"How many families are there now?" Morgan asked, a gleam in her eye.
"Three. But Terence is the first to be born into the Gift since Marca Antonia Persephali, back in the days of the proper Roman Empire."
"Forgive the intrusion," Arthur said, holding up a hand. "I seem to have lost the conversation. What is Terence exactly?"
"Yes, please do explain," Gawain said, crossing his arms. He hadn't relaxed a single second since he found out his daughters were in danger. Not that Ganscotter could blame him, having just dropped everything to go to his son.
He drew a breath. "There are many names for what he is. Morphead, Hypnid, Sleepwalker, Dreamwalker, Son of Night. He bears the Gift of the Oneiroi, the Curse of Nyx."
"Dreamwalker?" Arthur's gaze sharpened.
Terence breathed out a frustrated little sigh. "But—b-but I—"
"I'm the one who sleepwalks," Gawain cut in. "And Terence doesn't dream."
The Enchanter blinked and looked back at his son. "Never? Not once, not even as a small child?" Terence shook his head. Ganscotter leaned back, rubbing his face. "Lords, but I've been a fool. I never realized—of course, I knew there were reasons why it's called a curse as well as a gift, but I never…"
"Perhaps you can explain to us what it is one does with this gift," Arthur asked. "I'm assuming it has something to do with Terence's presence in—and absence from—my dreams of late…"
Ganscotter nodded. "The Gift is Greek in origin, although I doubt there are any Morpheads left in Greece. It was a Gift bestowed on mortals by the Oneiroi, or dream-spirits, children of the gods of night and sleep. It was passed down through families, in varying degrees, and only through those families originally given the Gift; it isn't something that can be taught. Do you understand the difference between the conscious mind and the subconscious?"
"Good. You know the conscious mind is active when you are awake and rests during sleep, and while the subconscious mind is always present, it is the subconscious that dreams while the conscious sleeps. Dreamwalkers have the ability to control their subconscious minds while their conscious minds rest."
Arthur drew a deep breath, sucking on the inside of one cheek as he processed everything. "…So they can control their dreams?"
Morgan made an indecisive noise. "Well, dream control is lucid dreaming, and almost anyone can do that with a spell or enough training. According to legend, it was something more with a dreamwalker. They could leave their own minds while they slept and walk into the minds of others, provided all were asleep. They had control over not their own dreams, but the dreams of others. Full-fledged Morpheads could visit, influence, guard, or even control the dreams of those close to them, by distance or by blood or affection."
"Do dreams often need guarding?" Gawain asked.
"There are several types of Unseelie creatures who…specialize in attacking enemies through their dreams," Ganscotter said, casting him a warning look. The knight tensed up even more, if such a thing were possible. "And such creatures—and actions—are extremely dangerous."
Arthur was smiling now. "But could a dreamwalker also simply put a stop to someone's nightmare?"
Morgan nodded. "According to legend."
"There's not a single nightmare I've had since Terence arrived at court that he hasn't been in, defending me. Are you saying when he appeared there, I wasn't just dreaming about him? That he was actually there, in my head?"
Ganscotter chuckled and resisted the urge to run a fond hand through his son's too-long hair. "Defending you from your own inner demons, yes."
Terence sighed, drawing the rag from his nose. "B-but I d-didn't. I d-don't control it. I d-don't do any of th-that."
"That's because you're untrained. I thought you'd just know how to use the Gift. It never occurred to me you'd be waltzing around in other people's dreams as soon as you could walk. It's no wonder you haven't had any of your own." The Enchanter bowed his head. "It's my fault. I should have known you'd need assistance with the ability, but I didn't even know you had it until recently. It's been so long since a natural dreamwalker has been born, we're completely dependent on old stories and journals on how you work. I still should have told you everything the moment I knew."
Gawain leaned against his desk, almost but not quite sitting on it. "So would Terence's dreamwalking be the reason my sleep habits have changed so much?"
Morgan nodded. "I was wondering about that when Eileen told me. You never used to be so unsettled in sleep. You are always closest to Terence when he sleeps; you're probably getting caught in some kind of magical backlash. He'll be in your head most often, too—"
"But he's not." The knight made a face. "He's not in my head, I'm sure of it."
"You wouldn't really be able to tell, Gawain—"
"No, he isn't. Terence isn't always in my dreams, and when he is, he's not defending me from anything. I have nightmares all the time, and when he's in them, he never acts like he does in real life. It's always like a nightmare." He didn't look at Terence as he spoke, but kept his gaze leveled at Ganscotter.
The Enchanter hummed. "If Terence is physically present in your dreams, he may look odd, have some feature exaggerated, or he may talk strangely—"
"No, none of that. He looks exactly as he does when I'm awake. If I dream and he's there, it's not because he's in my head."
"That is strange. I would have thought for sure he'd been in yours more than anyone else's." Ganscotter looked from Terence to Gawain and noted, for the first time, the unusual tension between the two. "In any case, your problem at the moment, Terence, is that you had no control over where you went or whose head you went into. I wondered about your priorities when I saw you in a normal nightmare of mine last month—"
Morgan tilted her head toward Terence. "…and I recall a month ago, Terence fought off a nightmare of mine, as well. I thought it was odd."
Arthur frowned. "That was one of the last times I saw him—properly—in my dreams as well."
"And from what I've heard from a few others, you were in the heads of at least six others besides the three of us," Ganscotter said, casting a teasing look at Terence. The squire was hazy-eyed and squinting in concentration, struggling to understand all he was being told despite his exhaustion. "With nothing to ground you or tie you back to your own body, your subconscious split in nine different directions—you haven't slept properly since that day because you ripped your sleeping self to pieces, my boy."
"I ripped…" Terence closed his eyes. "So I'm…n-not all here?"
Ganscotter chuckled. "No, you're not. Only half of…well, of your soul, since that's the best way to describe it…is in your body presently. Your body has been forcing you to stay awake the last week because if you slept now you may never wake up again. Did you feel some sort of…unnatural sleep passing over you, before you stopped entirely?" Terence nodded. "Then that's definitely what's wrong with you."
"Where is the other half?" Arthur asked, confused. "If Terence is only half in his body, where's the rest of him?"
"Well, there's a piece in your head, your majesty, and a piece in mine, and a piece in Lady Morgan's—"
"I'm wh-where?" Terence squeaked, then began coughing again.
Morgan's face wrinkled as if she'd tasted something sour. "In our heads. I do recall one story saying that without direction or control, a dreamwalker could become lost in other people's subconscious."
"There likely isn't a piece large enough in any one of our heads to have control over itself," Ganscotter said, then laughed at Terence's shocked face. His heart was light, and he had a feeling he'd be laughing at his son, partly out of relief, for a long time to come. "Do not look so worried, Terence. The problem is easily fixed with the aid of another dreamwalker and a few spells."
Gawain grunted. "But if Terence is the only one—"
"Only natural born, Gawain," Morgan said, glancing at the Enchanter. "How exactly did you manage to awaken the Gift, your excellency?"
Ganscotter grinned. "Traced my family history when I was very young, because I was bored. Came across a branch that linked me to one of the larger Morphead families and became curious. I went to Greece—ran away to Greece, in fact, and my parents were livid about it—to look for someone, anyone, to give me information on the Gift. It took time, but…" He cleared his throat. "It's a very long story…and not entirely appropriate in mixed company. But I did awaken the Gift, though I had no idea I was doing so universally. I simply wanted access to the magic I knew was dormant in my blood."
"You're a dreamwalker?" Gawain asked.
"I'm not nearly as skilled or capable as Terence will be, with a bit of training, but yes, I do possess a small part of the Gift. Enough to put Terence back together with relative ease, anyway." He grew serious and businesslike, rising from Terence's bed. "But first, we'll need to find him. Lady Morgan, do you know how to induce lucid dreaming in another?"
"Yes," Morgan said, standing as Ganscotter rose.
"Excellent. I need you to return to Avalon and explain everything to my daughter, if it's not too much trouble. You'll need to perform the spell on her and her daughters, and on yourself as well. You'll have to search for him in your dream. I'll be there as well, waiting, and when you find him, you'll have to bring him to me."
"I understand," she said, and before anyone else knew she was leaving, she had left the room.
Arthur rose as well, giving Terence a hopeful pat on the arm. "Thank you, your…excellency, for doing this for Terence."
Ganscotter smiled softly. "It is I who should be thanking you for giving him a righteous king to serve," he said with a small bow. "It'll be your turn to go digging through your head for him, perhaps tomorrow. I cannot enter more than a few minds at once, and it will take time."
"And this will make him well again?"
"Without a doubt."
The king returned Ganscotter's bow. "I do hope the next time we meet, it is under happier circumstances." He accepted Gawain's bow with a nod as he was leaving. "I will see you soon, nephew," he said to Gawain. "Look after your squire."
Gawain waited until he heard the door to his main chambers swing closed before springing for the wardrobe. "I need to get to Avalon."
"Gawain," Ganscotter said gently, walking to him and laying a hand on his shoulder. "The girls are in good hands. They were not harmed, and Terence will need you."
He shook his head. "You're here with him, now, and Eileen's here as well. He doesn't need me."
"I think you'll find he will," the Enchanter insisted, lowering his voice so Terence couldn't hear. "After I get him put back together, we're going to begin training immediately. It'll be hard on 'll have dreams, and dreams for a dreamwalker are much more vivid than for anyone else. He'll be vulnerable sensitive, sick, and afraid, and he'll want you, because he trusts you more than anyone. I can't stay here forever. Lottie and Bridgette have their mother with them, and they are well protected. And I swear you can come to Avalon for an extended visit as soon as Terence is well enough to travel. But now, I need you to be a brother rather than a father. Please."
Gawain hesitated. "He won't want me," he grunted. "He doesn't trust me the way you think he does."
"Nonsense, of course he does. Tell me you'll stay."
"…I'll stay," he said, although he had to fight every instinct telling him to go. "…I'd better go get dinner, though. Terence has been ravenous all week, and it's been some time since lunch."
Ganscotter squeezed his shoulder and let him go. He turned back to face his son, tucked into bed—and felt his heart breaking all over again. Terence, overwhelmed by the new information and growing ever more exhausted, had turned on his side and was crying silently, tears slowly coursing down his cheeks. Ganscotter walked back to his son's side, hating himself for not realizing what was happening and for keeping Gawain in Camelot when he had children elsewhere as well. He sat by Terence's beside, then swiped one of the pillows the boy was no longer using to prop himself up against the headboard, stretching his legs out alongside Terence's. "…I had to take two trips to Greece," he said softly, nudging Terence's back. "I did all the heavy work on my first trip, but I was too young and impatient then to learn how to use my new gift. After Marine died, I was too busy looking after Lorie to worry about it, but the older I got, the better the idea of learning to use it seemed to be. And I needed a change of pace from constant ruling." He nudged Terence again. "It was returning from my second trip to Greece that I first ran across your mother."
Terence sniffled and tilted his head toward Ganscotter. He looked terrible, and seemed to get worse and worse by the minute. Ganscotter lifted his arm, a little more shyly than he had a right to. The squire curled in toward his father at once, feeling clingy in a way he'd never had a chance to feel as a child. The Enchanter wrapped his arm around Terence's shoulders and kissed the top of his head. "I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell the story…"