By Dolores J. Nurss

Volume 1: Welcome to the Charadoc!

Chapter 1
An Agent's Debriefing


So here it is—the story that scared me away from Novatierre for eight years, that I dropped mid-sentence to go hide in Tolkien fanfic, somebody else's cleaner universe. But my friends know how that worked out, how I wound up in Mordor anyway. And suppressing my dreams of Novatierre suppressed my dream-recall in general to a slim fraction of its former volume and intensity (seriously, I went from recalling 6-7 dreams a night to half that in a week.) Eventually the compulsion to return became a torment, no matter how much I didn't understand and didn't want to; I had to come back. The muse is a ruthless master.
The first volume isn't all that bad, actually. But be forewarned, it gets darker volume by volume. The Outlaw God scared me enough, exploring someone who deliberately descended into evil. But the exploration of how good people, with only the best of intentions, become evil, hits much closer to home. Then again, perhaps that makes it the story we need the most.
I dreamed of the Port Authority sort of resembling the old police station complex in Old Town, San Diego, except that in my dream it stood in full view of the ocean on one side, and Alonzo Harbor and its bordering beaches on the other. My dreams often morph things that I have glimpsed–even one time–into something else in Novatierre.
One of the strangest cases involved this theater in Til Institute–an enormous thing, with an ornate arch over the entrance topped by a gigantic clamshell fanning out. Many years later I felt the shock and thrill of seeing a miniature (very miniature!) version of the same building. It turned out to be the auditorium of San Diego High School, though I felt certain I had never set foot in the place before. I hadn’t, exactly, as it turned out, but I had been there. Right after my birth, I learned, my mother had carried me there to show me off to friends in school.
(It works the other way, too. I will sometimes visit a place for the first time in waking life and realize with a shock that I have dreamed about it.)
I have never smoked in my life, but when I dream of Deirdre, in her life from the Charadoc on, she often smokes, and when I become her, in that time of her life, so do I.
Smoking is not a common vice in Til Territories; most people who do it acquired the habit elsewhere, the majority of them agents. People look on smoking agents with pity, viewing such addictions as an inevitable hazard of cultural immersion, risked for the welfare of the world. Folks see regular people doing it as just plain stupid, though. Unless, of course, they immigrated from some other land that didn’t know any better.
Sometimes I wake up with actual cravings for tobacco. I can vividly recall the smell and the taste of it, the feel of the smoke in my throat, the brightening of the world, stimulated yet with a sense of peace, too. I know how a cigarette feels in the hand, I know the snap of the match and the hungry puffs. My body seems to remember what it never had.
All the places that Deirdre describes seeing from Hernandez Island I have visited in my dreams, as her or as others. Most of these dreams will never make it into stories, as they involve peaceful times in the life of Fireheart Friendclan, and people don't much want to read about peace.
Tower Island, and the neighborhood behind it on the mainland I have visited many times. Heritage Prado has become one of my favorite places, with its beauty and its museums, its friendly living tourists and its kindly ghosts. I have gone on business, quite often, to the Glass District, mainly to arrange the details of missions in the western hemisphere. But I especially love Shadowdancer Beach, in the distance from this view, a favorite hangout of Fireheart Friendclan, not hard to reach from the Peninsula if you have phenomenal sailors in your gang, but remote to the crowds. Though they doubtless cobble together various influences from my waking life, these places have become distinct destinations in my dreams, and I always view them with a sense of coming home.
(And who can say if my dreams don't borrow, from my mind, the closest equivalents to actual places, somewhere, somewhen, somehow? After all, things in the waking world snag my attention according to whatever triggers my psychological issues, and yet no one would doubt the reality of the motorcycle at the curb or the doll in the window, objects with loaded associations for me.)
It’s fuzzy, now, how much of this I dreamed and how much I invented. I do remember the swab of alcohol, and refusing the injection, admitting, “There was a...problem.” I did not dream much in the way of dialog past that.
Sometimes the same face as Justín’s belongs to Manaan Mac Lir in my non-Tilián dreams. But the body that goes with that fellow is plump, and Justín is anything but. Also Justín has a darker complexion.
I had the clues all along that Deirdre might pick up all sorts of thoughts around her without becoming conscious of it, but I didn't immediately put them together. Multiple-viewpoint dreams, references that other people have made within the dreams to her testing out as having some sort of useless trace-telepathy, weird hunches about things that she shouldn’t be able to know, etc. I never knew what to make of it.
And then I faced the problem of gathering together all of the dreams about her experiences in the Charadoc, the Mountains of Fire–a far more complicated business than any I had previously attempted, for I kept finding all of these first-person viewpoints of different people and wondered how I could possibly weave them all into a single narrative. I'd read Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, though, and his pioneering of the first person plural seemed to offer a solution.
But then, when I actually started writing, a sudden inspiration–and realization of the nature of Deirdre’s other gift, hit me. It was not, after all, a mere trace, but rather dyslectic in some way—she could not consciously read what she absorbed. This took my writing (and my understanding of Deirdre!) to a whole new level. It struck me that in her the first person plural made exquisite sense. Certain aspects of Charadocian folklore also reached a whole new level of reality in her as a result of this odd trait. But I get ahead of myself.
I dreamed of the pleasant cruise with Jonathan, at night, in bed. But being Kiril thrown down onto the broken glass came as a narcoleptic flash dream in church by daylight, and from those two I reconstructed Cook’s quarrel with her.
I first encountered Jonathan in my dream of Deirdre’s initiation in sixth grade (1966) recorded elsewhere and then later integrated into flashbacks in this work, wearing his habitual Charadocian garb. Every dream of him since showed him similarly attired, with minor modifications as fashions changed. I remember what we wore on this day, on the cruise to Sargeddohl. I remember the beauty off the bow, but I don’t remember what we talked about, just that it involved some lessons.
I do remember a little sandy-haired waif coming up on deck with cuts on her hands and forearms, and her sleeves torn off. I might have derived her, in part, from a picture in Jethro Tull's album, “Warchild.”, circa 1974, which merged with earlier, thinner versions of her. She also has larger eyes--hawklike eyes. Wild and fierce and desperate, yet too proud to ask for quarter. A child who has not really known much childhood.
Regarding the telling, I have often felt overwhelmed by all the different threads, viewpoints, folklore, sub-plots and entire interlocking parallel-tales that I needed to weave together for this telling. It will become either my best work or my most magnificent disaster. As of this writing (August 7, 2012) I have not actually finished fictionalizing the entire tale, although I have gotten quite far enough along that it will take years of weekly postings to reach the currently unfinished section of this serial. As someone given to endless revisions (when I have no deadline) even this much feels like pressure, but I'm sure it's good for me.

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