Worldbuilding Prompt #446 - A Dream of Power

This post is inspired by a prompt in the Worldbuilding community - Worldbuilding Prompt #446 - Dreams

This tale is (very loosely) based on an incident in a recent D&D game - enjoy !!

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Waking begins with a scent or smell. Sage, moss, ashes, human sweat and goat dung. The earthy smells of the Mugaddi Plains.

Second comes sound. The smacking of raindrops striking leather. It rained incessantly on the plains. Made for healthy grass, good grazing for his ponies and goats.

Next comes sensation and memory. Peipur recalled his name, and became aware that his scar was itching again.

He didn't want to wake, but the itch became an irritant, then a flame. His eyes snapped open. He was lying on a sheepskin rug in his tent. Two faces peered down at him.

He recalled who they were. Plump, female, worried-expression, attractive but puffy; Marivan, his number two wife. Sharp, predatory, a beak-like nose with far too much nasal hair looming from cavernous nostrils; Janos Corvus, his shaman.

"You're awake, my husband. I feared we had lost you !" That was Marivan, always worried about everything. If the rain stopped and the sun came out, she'd still worry about it.

"Be quiet, woman ! If the spirits wished to take our chief, they would. Every day they leave him with us is another day when he has their favour. Tell me, my chief, of your dreams."

Peipur rubbed at his scar. He knew his men nicknamed him "Scarneck". They didn't say it to his face, but he knew they believed that the wound should have killed him. To his warriors, his survival demonstrated powerfully that he had the spirit's favour, and by extension, that favour extended to cover the fortunes of the whole Gorogdinnye tribe.

He sat up, pulling the sheepskin over his shoulders. It was cold at this time of year, even in the leather tent, despite the two layers of goat hide back to back, one layer of fur outside to wick the rain away, the other facing inward to provide warmth.

The shaman had to be told his dreams before they faded into the day. If they weren't spoken aloud to a shaman, their prophecies would be forgotten and would fail to come true. Perhaps after he had spoken them, the headache he was becoming aware of would fade as well. It was the part he hated about dream-day; he could see the remains of the mushroom and herb paste congealing in the bowl next to his sleeping skins. They always gave him a headache.

Pulling his thoughts together, he started to speak. Janos Corvus wouldn't write the dreams down. He couldn't. No-one in the tribe was literate; that was one of the soft curses of the dwellers in stone. But the shaman had a phenomenal memory, and remembered everything he had ever seen or heard as if it were yesterday.

"I dreamed I was buried up to my neck in the earth, like that Siazi tribesman we caught who tried to steal my daughter. But when the tunnelling horror emerged, instead of ripping me apart and eating me, an eagle swooped down and the monster fled."

He paused for a few seconds, to allow himself to recall the next sequence, which felt rapid and confusing although he appreciated that dreams happened at their own pace. "Then I dreamed the eagle flew up and landed on my head, gripping it with sharp talons. It flew into the sky, so that I could see my headless body far below, and all the land spread out beneath me."

Closing his eyes, he pictured the dream once more in his mind's eye. It had been so vivid. "But the eagle gripped too hard with it's claws, and my head was a watermelon which exploded under it's grip. I saw the pieces rain back down to the fertile plain, and where each fragment landed, a vine grew. Each vine grew and grew, sprouting watermelons and covering the land. But when each melon was full-grown, it split open and inside each was a bronze skull. Then I woke up."

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Janos sat for long moments, considering the dream his chief had told him. He pulled a long, thin pipe from a pouch at his belt, stuffed some green herbs of some kind into it, and lit the thing. The tent filled with aromatic smoke, leaving Peipur light headed.

"Your dream, " announced the shaman in a pompous voice, "is a great prophesy. Being carried up to survey the land tells that you will become Khan of all the Mugaddi tribes, ruler of all you survey. The vines are your might and warriors, covering the land. The bronze skulls.... they tell that none will dare challenge your power.

The shaman sat back, a righteous expression on his face, mirroring Peipur's expression. The chief clearly believed such an auspicious prophecy. It was exactly what he had wanted to hear as he considered raiding his neighbours to force them into submission.

The atmosphere was broken by a harsh snort from behind him. Inwardly, he stifled a mental groan. Trust Elza, his number one wife, to break the charm. She might be number one, but she was the oldest and ugliest of the three. He'd have divorced her long ago, but that would have been politically unwise.

Her sharp voice rang out accusingly, scolding both himself and the shaman.

"You think that is what your dream means ? You think that is the message the spirits are giving you ? You believe what this charlatan of a hedge-shaman tells you ? You men are all the same, conjuring up dreams of power, interpreting your mushroom-induced nonsense to fit your desires."

As one, Janos and Peipur turned and chorused. "Silence, woman !"

"Or what ?" she retorted immediately. "Your dream is nothing but a guilt-inspired drug fantasy. You think you'll rule this land ? Who do you think really rules here ? You wed me for status. One click of my fingers and one hundred thousand of my father's warriors will cross the Stanvel Mountains and sweep your little band away."

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Elza looked at her husband and his shamanic side-kick with disgust and contempt.

"Now get up, you lazy good-for-nothing. The goats need milking, and I'll be damned if I'll go out in the rain again to do it."

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