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Oskar and I traverse through the woods, avoiding the festival entirely. I must admit, it is quite nice…steadily my heart returns to its normal pace, my mind reaches a pleasing stillness. I think few thoughts as we continue along through the autumn woods; I am at last able to enjoy, even if only a little, how lovely they truly are.
Once we return to Bydlin, it too has been overcome with a peaceful quiet. All those who wished to enjoy themselves at the festival have gone to do so, and those who do not have returned to their homes, as there is little else to do. At the present moment, Oskar and I are the only ones who walk about at all.
Soon enough, we reach the little tavern that sits upon the edge of town, its warm, gray exterior lightly differentiating itself from the deep reds and yellows that now surround it. We walk up and enter without a word. While Oskar goes around the tavern alighting all the oil lamps, I merely seat myself at one of the small tables which lies in the corner.
“So,” Oskar says once all is alit, “What’d you like?”
For a moment, I cannot help but gaze around the empty room, rather than answer…it is an odd feeling being here almost entirely alone. There are usually at least one or two other patrons…
“Oh, nothing in particular,” I reply softly. “Whatever you think I may enjoy, perhaps…”
Oskar puts his hands on his hips, gazing over the rows upon rows of alcohol aligned on the wall—and then swiftly goes to work making some sort of concoction. As for myself, I merely gaze to nowhere, breathing in the quiet of the empty bar, pierced only by the sounds of his steps, the clinking of bottles, the light sound of liquid being poured.
Soon he comes to sit across from myself, bringing two large glasses. His appears to be filled with beer, while mine is something with a sweet, fruity scent.
“Mâzjer né,” I say as he hands the drink to me, and I have a sip—and my eyes cannot help but grow large at the taste; vanilla, strawberry, cherry, all with a delightfully smooth consistency…
“Oh, this is lovely!” I say, unable to help but beam.
“Guess I know you after all,” he grins, leaning back and taking a large swig of his own drink. ‘Thought y’might like somethin’ a bit more desserty.”
‘I suppose I am predictable,” I chuckle lightly, and set the drink down…yet I cannot help but sigh as I do so, my mind fluttering to last night’s vision.
Yes, of course, as foretold…I have once more failed again.
“What’s that?” Oskar says, interrupting my thoughts.
“You mumbled somethin’ under your breath.”
“It is merely… I begin, yet the word dies on my lip. My first instinct is to reply “nothing” and forever keep my thoughts and my dreams buried within my heart, shared neither with my beloved, my family, nor friends—yet…
“Yeah?” he says, clearly attempting to continue me along.
Now I gaze to him, his confused, freckled face looking almost unfamiliar in the lamplight of the dim tavern.
“I…merely feel like a fool,” I reply gently, vaguely so that he may not catch on. “In spite of my best efforts to overcome myself, it is as though fate shall always weave a certain outcome for me regardless…is everyone truly so helpless to stop it?”
“I think you’s a bit too hard on yourself,” he frowns, and takes a large drink. It mildly concerns me how swiftly he has proceeded through the glass. “You’s just gettin’ back to seein’ me and Florence again, the festival’s a pretty big jump from that.”
“Yes, yet…” I shake my head and gaze away.
I bite my lips and gaze to the floor, my chest increasingly pounding as I consider answering his question.
“I do not even know where to begin,” I answer truthfully.
“Well, it ain’t like we don’t have all day. It’s still early.”
Slowly, I take a long, deep breath.
“I…have had some rather strange dreams, as of late,” I begin quietly, gazing past him so I need not see his reaction as my tale grows ever more ridiculous.
“Some of them,” I go on, “Seemed little more than strange nightmares; yet as of late, they are awfully…prescient.
“In this morning’s dream, I was at a large festival with someone I presume was a friend—yet in the dream I felt so terrible, so self conscious, that I ran away… He attempted to stop me, yet I would have none of it. The dream ended there.”
“Hmm…” Oskar hums as he folds his arms, “How many dreams have you had like this, exactly?”
“Well…the very relevant ones are a rather recent phenomenon. Yet, the dreams themselves, they are…”
At last I gaze into his eyes, attempting to measure his reaction—he appears mildly more interested than usual, not terribly so—yet he does not appear to be incredulous or judgemental, at least.
My mind swirls as I contemplate whether to give greater context for why I am so troubled; to share the knowledge that I have only ever shared with one other, who himself had the same such visions along with myself…
“May I…tell you something a little—absurd?”
“Yeah, go for it,” he shrugs with the same muteness he appears to go about everything. Yet, I swear I hear a hint of true interest in his voice; so I will proceed to hope that it is true.
“These dreams, the feeling they give to me, they remind me of dreams I had long ago…
“Do you know of Florêt Folwêkhdin?”
“Like in all them faerie tales? The forest full of faeries?”
“Yes. When—when I was traveling with Hikaru, we had decided to pass through the forest—”
“…What?” he interrupts with a raise of his eyebrow. “How?”
“Well, we simply walked over the fence, and—”
“It’s real?” His face scrunches up in abject confusion. “It ain’t meant to resemble any old forest?”
I blink a little.
Is…is that the only part so far which he finds difficult to believe—?
“…No, erm—yes? It is real, in southern Soléiâ—”
“Well damn,” he says blinking, and his eyes growing quite wide. “This is the farthest south I’ve ever gone, so…I just thought it symbolized all the woods, y’know?”
“Even with the fae?”
“Well ain’t there faeries everywhere?”
Now I am the one whose eyes widen as I gaze away.
“My…” I say softly, “It seems our base assumptions are…rather different.”
“Florêt Flowêkhdin seems odd to you, but faeries do not?”
“Are they…s’pposed to?”
“W-Well,” I stutter while putting my hand to my chin, “As a child, I knew no adults who believed in faeries, so I presumed it was…relatively uncommon. Yet I suppose that was a foolish assumption…”
“A little, yeah,” he chuckles. “I don’t know what them nobles think, but…no, I wouldn’t call that very strange.”
“Y-Yes,” I agree; yet, I cannot help but feel my face grow hot, embarrassment swell within me at this. I…loathe to discover all the things I still do not know that I surely should.
Yes, I know he comes from a rather small village on the outskirts of civilization; yet living here, I thought—
—Ah, what did I think? Yet, I suppose this is not precisely the point…
“Well…regardless,” I attempt to continue on, before my mind begins its assault once more, “Hikaru and I encountered faeries in the forest.”
“What did they do?” Now, his eyes grow ever larger and stare at me with great intrigue. “Do they sing you to sleep like in them stories? Or is it somethin’ else?”
“The former,” I mutter, looking away—though he does not appear to believe I sound like a fool, I cannot help but feel I do regardless. “That night, I—I dreamt of my death. My previous death… And Hikaru…he dreamt of that very same morning.”
Now Oskar stares at me as though he cannot gaze upon anything else.
“Y’knew him before?”
“When we were young—o-or, perhaps simply when he was young—we were lovers…
“That summer, the one in which we stayed here for a time, when I met you—both he and I were having dreams of our life together. So…” I trail off and look into nowhere, “I know…what such visions are like. How they feel. The subtle familiarity that accompanies them, no matter how otherwise foreign it may be…
“Yet…how can that be so, if these dreams are so clearly fantasies? The degree to which they align with my life, not including the fanciful elements that are merely the domain of dreams—”
“Well,” Oskar says, “Maybe that’s what all magic dreams feel like?”
“Hmm…” I think it over, tracing my finger in little circles upon the tabletop. “I suppose that could be so…I do not understand why it would be as such, yet—well, clearly I do not understand any of it.”
“Yeah,” he says. “Or maybe it’s the Old World?”
“The Old World?” I shoot my gaze up to him, positively puzzled. “Did you not hear what I had said about the fanciful elements—”
“That’s why I assume the Old World, rather than here,” he says quite matter-of-factly. “They was closer to the gods back then, yeah? Maybe those ‘fanciful’ things were stuff that was around back then?
“I mean…” he continues, “I guess I don’t know just how unrealistic they was, but…”
“That…is perhaps not the wildest theory,” I say, looking upon his face which truly appears to look as ponderous as I imagine my own does. “The elements were fanciful, but perhaps they could exist in a world where the gods are still not so distant…
“Still, they appear quite differently from our own depictions of the Old World…”
“How good are those?”
At this, my eyes widen to an old memory—a tapestry of Lady Sun looking positively frightening, despite never being said to have ever been viewed as such; the journal entry of “Lord Moon,” as I suppose at one point, Maiden Moon was viewed as a man…
And these were “merely” just over a thousand years ago, not the thousands upon thousands of years ago when humanity inhabited the Old World…
“Well,” Oskar continues on before I can say a sentence more, “If that is the case, I think you got nothin’ to worry about.”
“And why is that?”
“If it’s the past, that don’t really say what your future’s goin’ to be like, does it? Maybe your brain’s just pickin’ out the similarities.”
I fixate upon the thought…
“Then…perhaps my fate is not set to stone?”
Oskar grins, and takes a sip of what little is left of his drink.
“Of course it ain’t, that shit’s just nonsense.”
At this I chuckle, and take another sip of the sweet drink.
“I hope you are correct, then…” I sigh. “That is a comforting thought—perhaps I need not be so ashamed of these failures…”
Now Oskar is the one who sighs at this.
“Stop bein’ so hard on yourself, seriously,” he says. “Ain’t that what you’ve been so upset at Hikaru about?”
“Well…” I frown, thinking over my own hypocrisy. “I shall try, then…”
For some moments he and I say nothing. Even in the silence, I find myself relieving some tension…
“Mâzjêr né, Oskar,” I say at last. “Perhaps…” I begin, gazing into my drink, attempting to find the words. Yet they once more fade away.
“I wished to say, ‘perhaps all shall grow better after all,’ but…”
“Why d’you seem to think that’s so hopeless? What’s so crazy ’bout that?”
“Nothing at all,” I mutter, and simply stare into the drink once more.
Perhaps he is correct—perhaps those dreams are merely old memories plucked from the aether, and the future has yet to be woven after all…yet how may it go differently when I am myself? When regardless of my best efforts, they are always too short; when it seems as though there is positively nothing I may do to belong in society…
And yet…I suppose this, too, is something Hikaru may say that I wish he would not, that I desperately wish he would stop taking to heart, and let it destroy our future.
I simply take another, deep sip of my drink, and say little more.