I Walk with You 1

Mayumi, wandering the streets of Three Rats. She has told Alma that she wants to get to know the neighborhood in the daytime so she can navigate it more safely, in the dark. But really, she is trying to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the Station, especially of her family home: Alma’s beautiful room, chilled by the goddess’ cold fury at her, at Inspector Sky, all bottled up for days. She knows there will be an explosion. Probably Cherry, or Merri, will set it off – they are already whispering about it, fed up with the silence. Or maybe Sage will set it off, trying to reason with Alma. Mayumi only knows it won’t be her. She is too...tired.

And Sky. Back to being formal now, distant. The charming mask dropped, replaced by another. Withdrawn just as much as Alma, if not more. Mayumi knows what it is. He’s lost a friend. Every time she talks to him in the course of work in the records room, he is far away, hardly looking at her. Walls up. It makes her want to shout at him, or even hit him, hard.

Stupid. She’d been stupid, lying. Stupider, getting him to lie for her, then others getting caught up in it. But she isn’t the only one being stupid…

She stops suddenly, her eye caught by some writing. Japanese? “Dream Walker.” Maybe not Japanese, but she could read the characters. The tent is small but gaudy. In Urbia and the local blend of Portuguese and other languages, a beckoning message: “Having trouble with dreams? Madame Meng can help. Enter, mortal.

Dreams...for more than twenty years she’d lived in dreams, a dream world of her own, ten of those years awake and aware of herself. She’d been raised by a man – she could hardly remember his face now. It was all slipping away, her whole life before just over three weeks ago, when she woke up here, in this...reality. Fading like dreams. But they were not dreams – she refuses to believe that! Not simply dreams. There has to be more to them or...her friends, her career, her...father. It will all be nothing, if she forgets.

On an impulse, she enters the tent. “Hello?” she calls, parting the heavy fabric of the tent’s entrance. “Is anybody here?”

Her first impression of the dark-purple, heavily decorated tent is an overwhelming woody-sweet scent filling her sensitive nose. Several oil lamps spill dim, smoky light over the numerous pillows. Carpets and drapery decorate the decidedly stuffy tent, the embroidery clashing together in a riot of swirls, spirals, patterns, and weird symbols. On second thought… thinks Mayumi, trying to slip back out, this is probably just some charlatan, and I’m just walking into a money trap...

“Hello there.” A young woman, barely outside the reach of adolescence steps into the feeble lighting. “Welcome to my humble abode. I am Meng, a simple seer.” She gestures towards a small, round table. “Please. Make yourself comfortable. I have some minor things to wrap up, but I shall attend to you shortly.”

Unable to escape now, Mayumi sighs and sits on an overstuffed cushion. She absentmindedly fingers a tassel, thinking, This is too much, while watching the young woman moving around the tent. Her ears twitch in irritation at the non-stop twinkling sound that seems to follow the young woman’s every movement, courtesy of all the bangles, beads, and tiny bells adorning her over-the-top outfit.

The numerous tassels that hang off Meng’s bodice do nothing to soften the sound of impact between the baubles that threaten to swallow up her figure, not that there is much of it to be seen in the first place, for her clothing is as layered and as complicated as her tent. The shawls, headdresses, petticoats, sashes, and other pieces of clothing with dress functions unknown to Mayumi wrap up the young woman’s figure with heavy embroidery, patterned in such a wild and nonsensical design that it wouldn’t look out of place from a mad fashion maven’s reject bin. Her makeup doesn’t make sense either. Unnoticeable before in the dim lighting, a slight tilt of the Meng’s head reveals that her skin is heavily caked with powder and greasepaint to May’s sharp, night-sensitive eyes.

The Bunny simply can’t understand itmortal women usually put on makeup to make the years drop away from their complexion, yet the makeup on this young woman was obviously done with the goal of ageing, so thickly applied that it reminds May of a stage-actor’s makeup. If that acting is, in fact, the goal, it pairs up well with the young woman’s slow, deliberate actions that sets off the trinkets’ non-stop twinkling.

Slowly Mayumi realizes the twinkling sound isn’t as nerve-grating anymore. It hasn’t been for a while. Instead, it is now a soft, soothing chime to her ears, lulling her into drowsiness. The Bunny finds herself swaying dangerously on the overstuffed cushion,  in a state of bliss as the young woman comes over, holding a cup of tea. Mayumi looks up sleepily at Meng and immediately dismisses her preconceptions. It must have been the lighting there is no makeup, no ridiculous outfit… Instead here is a wizened gypsy, the seer now completely devoting her attention to Mayumi and Mayumi alone. The thought seems to fill her up with a warm, comfortable sensation, as if she has already taken a sip of the tea.

“You seem much more comfortable now,” says the gypsy, her voice sounding strangely ethereal to Mayumi’s ears. A gentle smile lights up Meng’s face. “Now, how may I be of assistance?”

At these words, May opens her mouth, about to pour out her worries and fears in an intermixed torrent of memories, feelings and words, probably like many others before her. But to her and the gypsy’ssurprise, her lips refuse to speak, her mind blocked.
What are you doing! shouts a voice, making Mayumi blink in surprise. It is her own, but far away and distant. Wake up! her own voice yells at her.

Wake up? asks Mayumi. What am I supposed to wake up fro

Realization dawns upon her, and the hypnotism spell loosens its grip and falls apart. The gypsy’s wizened mask shatters before Mayumi’s eyes to reveal a young woman’s face caked heavily in makeup, looking very unsure of herself as to what happened, now that the dreamy look on May’s face is gone.

“You!” Mayumi springs to her feet and rushes the gypsy, grabbing her by the layers of clothes and shaking her. “Trying to control my mind? Make me talk?? Who are you?” she demands.

The young woman tries to back off hastily in fear, but finds herself held tight in Mayumi’s unrelenting grip.  “I swear, I only wanted to help! That’s all I do!” she insists.


“Would you just sit down for twenty seconds?” asks Meng. “Please? And don’t drink the tea,” she adds. “There’s a sleeping drug in there.”

Mayumi releases Meng, then throws her a dirty look. “Sleeping drug?” she asks.

“It’s how I run my business–”

“What? You drug them, then rob them?” May looks furious, breathing hard.

“Would you listen! To! Me!” demands Meng. “Seriously, if I ran my business that way, I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I have…”

“And how long have you actually done this?” asks May, switching from accusatory to interrogative as she bring her anger under control.

There is a reluctant pause. “Three weeks…” mutters Meng. “But all my customers were satisfied, okay? I’m good at what I do.”

The words ‘Dream Walker’ from the sign outside the tent come forth to Mayumi’s thoughts. “What exactly do you do?”

“Easy,” says Meng, making herself comfortable on a pile of pillows. “I can dream travel.”

Silence falls inside the tent – a long, thick silence so heavy and solid, it practically forms cobwebs in the air as Mayumi looks at Meng, her eyes revealing the full depth of her annoyance at the woman’s foolish notion that mystery means charm.  Almost as if replying to an absolute need to keep the cliché, crickets begin chirping in their cages, hung just above Mayumi’s head.

“And…?” May asks finally, prompting a sheepish look from Meng.

“And...?” Meng repeats awkwardly.

“You can dream travel and…” Mayumi elaborates, her face perfectly blank.

Irritation shows in Meng’s face in a form of a red blush, visible even under the makeup. “And I can take people with me into dreams. Look, that’s what I do, and that’s probably why you’re here. If that’s not the case,” she gestures at the tent exit, “you can take your leave.”

The hard expression on Mayumi’s face melts away when she realises the implications of Meng’s words. “Dreams?”

“Any kind of dream. I do have my limits with nightmares, so if that’s where you’re going, I don’t guarantee a two-way ride.”

Mayumi couldn’t believe her ears. “Any kind?”

“Any kind,” says Meng. “Sit down, would you?”

“Even the ones that were real?” asks Mayumi, ignoring Meng’s request. “To me?”

Meng smiles, knowing she’s finally gotten her customer. “Yes. Most of my customers come to seek some kind of closure. For what I know not, since it’s not my place to ask–”

Without another word, Mayumi folds her legs under her and collapses onto the overstuffed cushion in a sitting position. “How do we begin?”

“Well, I do need to know what you want to do,” says Meng. “Traveling into dreams is pretty dangerous, especially when you have a stranger in tow. It’s essentially traveling through your subconscious mind – and possibly that of others. You have to be certain that you’re fine with letting me know everything related to what you want to do.”

May finds her enthusiasm deflating a little. “Everything? Must I tell it to you?”

“It’s not like you tell me, but I do have to watch over you so I can take you back to this reality. This means I may or may not hear or see things that you may, possibly, want to keep a secret,” Meng explains, her hand moving in a fluttering idle gesture.

“Do I have a choice?” the Bunny asks, her eyebrow raised at Meng’s vagueness.

“Not really, no,” says Meng. “I do try, but it’s not a hundred-percent privacy.”

Mayumi sits in silence, thinking, staring at the elaborate pattern on a cushion. Then she looks into Meng’s eyes. “Go ahead. Do it.”

“Okay,” says Meng, all business. “Relax, drink that tea after all, and make yourself comfortable. You’re going to find yourself drifting away... Don’t try to fight it... Just let yourself go…”

“… with the flow…”



It’s late at night and the stars twinkle brightly over Three Rats, their and the moon’s faint light cloaking the slums in shadows and masking the grit and grime of the street.  In the Copper Pot, Kyri sits at the piano, playing a theme and variations she remembers from a time and place lost to history, the tinkling notes of the piano carrying quietly in the night like a lullaby played for a city.  Singing quietly, she leaves the piano, stopping to check the lock on the newly reinforced door before walking up the quiet staircase to her rooms above the cafe.

“Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman
Ce qui cause mon tourment ?
Papa veut que je raisonne
Comme une grande personne
Moi je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.”
“Oh! Shall I tell you, Mommy
What is tormenting me?
Daddy wants me to reason
Like a grown-up person,
Me, I say that sweets
Are worth more than reasoning.”

As Kyri finishes undressing and climbs into bed she smiles, remembering hearing the same melody sung by children on the street only weeks earlier, an old melody with much newer words.  Lying in bed, she hums drowsily.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.”


In Alma’s room a young male bunny sleeps, curled up on the foot of the massive bed.  Though he is dressed and well fed, he has never fully woken from his dream-like stasis, going through the world as an unspeaking, unseeing somnambulant, only occasionally stirring at music drifting over from the Copper Pot. Like many times before, the music is carried into Alma’s room like motes of dust in the air to his ears only and the bunny stirs, but this time he does not return to his slumber, lying instead with his eyes open though hidden under a thick mane of sandy hair. As the almost silent music washes over the newly awakened youth he thinks and remembers, eventually deciding that he needs to find the source of the music that woke him and remembering a name. Chime.

Creeping from the bed, Chime silently leaves the quiet sanctuary of Alma’s room.  As he stands in the basement of the Guardia station annex he can hear the almost undetectable sounds of the night, the creak of the building settling, and the sounds of the few Guardia officers on duty in the next building. Overlaying it all is the music, a soft, girlish voice which pulls him onwards. Following the music, Chime leaves the station and stalks, almost invisibly through the street before stopping in front of an empty cafe. As he stands in the street the song fades away but the sight of a piano through the window of the locked cafe door tells him that he has found his destination. With a practiced confidence, he traces his way around the building, searching for any opening, eventually finding a small unlocked window high up on a wall.

Having only barely fallen asleep, Kyri is woken by a loud thud followed by a muttered oath. Perplexed, she lies still in bed, knowing that the Dukaines would never bother to be quiet. Suddenly the silence is punctured again, this time by the sounds of the piano as someone clumsily tries to play the nursery rhyme she had been playing and singing before she fell asleep. As she listens the pianist improves, gaining both in confidence and ability, effortlessly replicating the most intricate variation she had played. Gradually, subtle changes develop in the music, and the childlike theme evolves into something more adult, redolent of bourbon and quiet rebellion. Intrigued and faintly concerned by this night time intrusion, Kyri sneaks downstairs, dragging a sleeveless silk robe over her unsubstantial night clothes.

Slipping silently into the cafe, Kyri watches as the pianist continues playing, his back turned toward the door, clearly absorbed in the music. As his large hands move with ease over the keyboard, Kyri notes that his short but muscular frame, while far removed from that of a boy, is not yet that of a man and that a pair of long, rabbit-like ears protrude through his messy hair.  

“Does Sergeant Alma know you’re here?” she asks him, startling the young bunny, causing him to turn fearfully to face her.

“No,” he replies, his face no longer showing any fear, but betraying some frustration as he struggles to speak, “Just...just…want find music!”

“Do you usually sneak into buildings to find music?” Kyri asks, curiously.

“To be honest, I’m not sure,  
Think I’ve snuck into houses before,
But the music? She used to find me.
I think!” he sings in response, shrugging his shoulders at this obviously confusing lack of recollection and the awkwardness of the sung conversation.

“Ah, so singing’s better for you too?…
I think that I have heard ‘bout you.
I remember hearing that some of Alma’s bunnies hadn’t woken up yet.
Is that true?” she enquires gently, half singing, half speaking.

“Yeah, I think so.  
But who are you?
Was that you singing?” he sings back with intense curiosity.

“My name is Kyri,
the song came from me!
And ‘twould be really nice to at least know the name of the person who broke into my home,” she says, a hint of anger suffusing the sweetness of her voice and breaking her out of song.

“I’m Chime,” he sings, the fear and desperation almost stopping him from singing and forcing him to stammer out his last line,
“and I swear, I’ll never break in again!
If you want I’ll never come back here, be gone for all of time
But I’d never hurt you!
Just don’t get angry and please...
please...please don’t tell Alma!”

Hearing the fear in Chime’s voice, Kyri rushes to his side.
“Don’t be scared Little One,
It’s okay.
Just don’t sneak into buildings, Little One,
It’s not safe,” she sings, nearly whispering the final line.

“So I can come back?” he sings, his hope as apparent in his voice as in his face.

“Of course that would be fine,
But use the front door next time?” she trills, laughing.

“Yes Ma’am,” he sings in a contrite cadence.

“Please, just call me Kyri! Now I think you had best head home, you don’t want to get caught, and quite frankly, I’m getting a little bit cold!” she says, no longer trying to fit her words into a melody but laughing ruefully at the goosebumps rising on her arms and chest as she walks over and unlocks the front door.

As he stands to leave Chime realises that despite his small Bunny stature he is almost as tall as the diminutive Kyri and how little clothing she is wearing in the early morning chill.  Startled by his own observation, he splutters, “I-I go!” and darts out the door.

Laughing quietly to herself, Kyri relocks the front door and heads back to bed.


Ch3 Coda

Acolhes o mundo num grito               You welcome the world in a cry
Que nos faz saber que vives              That lets us know you’re alive
Trazes o destino escrito                     You bring your destiny written
Na pele. Nos olhos vêm livres           On your skin. In your eyes you bring free
Mil Fados, em traços de cor,             A thousand fates in lines of color
Gravados em forma de mapa,          Engraved like a map
E quem os lê dá valor                         And those who read them appreciate
À luz que por eles se escapa.             The light that pours out of them
Fizeram-te criatura sem par            They made you a singular creature
Sem par serás toda a vida                 Singular you’ll be your whole life
Única em modos de estar                  Unique in your way of being
Mil vezes moldada e tingida              A thousand times shaped and tinged
Por outros traços e cores                   By other lines and colors
Pintados nas faces estranhas            Painted on the strange faces
De bons e de maus tutores                Of good and of bad mentors

E companheiros de façanhas.            And companions in adventure .


Ch3 Epilogue

“That BITCH!” Nekh hisses wildly at the Dukaine lieutenant standing before him.
The unfortunate messenger, Margrave, a wizard, had stepped into Nekh’s office only moments before to deliver the news of the failed attempt at subjugating Three Rats. While Nekh finished with some other task, scribbling orders on some kind of enchanted parchment which causes the words to vanish upon reading, the lieutenant stood patiently before the ornate desk, a dark mahogany with rich scrolling that matches both the bookshelves behind the Archon and the large meeting table taking up half the office space to the left. Although two visitor chairs sit before the desk, Margrave took neither, knowing well that this news would bring the Archon out of his chair.
He was right.
His vulturine head bobbing up and down on the end of a long, strangely graceful neck, powerful beak locked in a threatening grin, every feather erect with anger, Nekh circles around the desk clutching the one-page report, hissing and grunting his rage. “That Death Clan whore restored the Pearl and revived the Oracle?! How did she overcome the spell? That was a high-mage incantation!”
“We don’t know for sure, Lord,” Margrave responds, fighting not to stammer, his normal composure being stripped by Nekh’s tirade. “We are still investigating.”
“Our plans thwarted, three top agents lost, and that divine...was very special to me. Did she kill them too?” Nekh angrily inquires.
“No, Lord,” the lieutenant responds, now feeling better about being able to answer a question. “There appears to be a mortal mercenary loose, gone rogue. One of a gang we thought we had wiped out before. The information we’ve gathered indicates that she killed our specialists.”
“WHA–! A mortal? A mortal girl killed my divine and two of my best agents?” the Archon exclaims.
“Yes, Lord.”
“I want her dead, Margrave!” Nekh hisses.
“Yes, my Lord. Understood.” Margrave ignores the vulture-god’s mistake as he has for months.
Nekh steps back towards his desk, his head shaking in disbelief. “That bastard, Math.  He put her there to block me. Her! After all I’ve done for her, saved her, protected her after that lover of hers ran away scared to the Void. This is how she repays me…”
Collapsing into his chair, he crumples the report in his feathery fist and pounds it on the desk. “But no more! She will pay for this betrayal. So help me, she will pay…with her children!”
Looking up at the lieutenant, Nekh commands, “Return to Three Rats. Take your best men. Find that rogue mercenary and eliminate her. Come back and report when it is done.”
The lieutenant stands straight in attention. “Yes, Lord. And Sergeant Alma?”
“Leave her to me,” Nekh sighs. “Leave her to me…”


Ch3.62 The Pearl

Saira watches the goddess leave the grotto from a vantage point on a boulder half-hidden by the rushing waterfall. There is no doubt that the Dei have pulled a good save with the Pearl. People are recovering and the neighborhood seems to be getting back to its usual self. With one tiny difference…
Something new walks the streets of Three Rats, riding the hearts of its people, hiding in unsuspecting eyes. A new light. A new feel to the place. A different taste in the air.
Hope. Exotic and embryonic, it hides in the mind, awaiting nourishment. And what a terrible little thing it is to the minds of the poor and to the hearts of these people who have long learned not to expect better days.
Still, what if…? What if they could hope? What if they could believe in these newcomers? What if the Dei really could care about Three Rats?
As if listening to her thoughts, the pale, eerily beautiful goddess that even now, in the early lights of dawn, looks like little more than a ghost made solid, freezes in her steps and looks straight up at Saira, locking the intensely blue pools of her eyes on the woman’s light-brown gaze. Nodding a small, solemn greeting, she seems almost to reply to Saira’s internal musings, her silent stare saying only, I remember.
Saira nods in return and then watches the goddess as she resumes her march and leaves her field of vision. Shaking her head slowly, the woman struggles with her thoughts, visions of old friends and memories of long-learnt truths pushing Hope’s vain promises away from her hardened heart.
…Give the poor no hope, lest they dare to dream.
Allow them no dreams, lest they choose to act.
Let them not act, lest they manage to rise.
May they not rise, lest they strive and conquer…
Remembering those old words, wishing… No, hoping for the first time in years that they can bear a different meaning, Saira sighs quietly and turns to leave. Disappearing into the night, she whispers quietly.
“Let us see just how good your memory is, goddess.”