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Time moves slowly in this place fueled by dream fragments, existing between light and dark, where grace and terror come and bleed together. We have existed largely undetected. Most assume that we are the stuff of tales told to terrorize children, ethereal and safely beyond reach. They are wrong on both accounts.

We are called by some Raeli, scavenger, because we craft our world from the shreds left behind by dreamers suddenly waking. This harsh shift of consciousness leaves behind trace images bled of color and not fully formed, but tangible and malleable.  We have over stretches of centuries learned to take this material and build with it, shaping our world.

They call us worse things than Raeli, they call us Maelrin, bastard children, unwanted, unloved, worthy only of contempt. Those that call us such don’t feel the tragedy that we endure and we seek them out to exact revenge by showing them what we know, where we live, what we do.

From the dream shards we craft roads and groves, castles and clothes but above all cages to keep the nighleers in, beasts conceived in fear and abandoned when the dreamers flee the horror of their nightmares. We Maelrin have long tried to tame the nighleer, to teach them they are safe and more than just what they were born for.  But most of these creatures are too twisted from being created fully formed in the fear of shadows. Rarely, oh so rarely, we calm one, teaching it, raising it anew and those become companions, cherished and loved above all else. It is said of us in children’s tales:

The Maelrin only smile when nightmares are vile.

But really: The Maelrin smile at nighleers, for the length of a tear.

What we craft from the ghostly images requires constant fueling, forcing us closer to the dreamers and their worlds than we want to be. But every once in a while buried in the offal scent of nightmares lingers something of the beautiful other. Though it stays no longer than the sweetness of petrichor, it inflames our senses becoming a drug making some desperate addicts. Many have been driven to madness and worse, seeking what is denied us by the very nature of what we are. This causes them to traverse the silver boundary mists pushing their way into dreams, ripping through them desperate for the elusive comfort of beauty.

We have reached the point where we cannot keep up with the demand for dream material and though we know the consequences of what we must do, we will not sacrifice our world and soon must release back into your care all the nighleers that you left behind. For you know what you humans like to say:

Do onto others as you would have them do to you.

***

Inspired by Write at the Merge’s weekly prompt.

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