Previous: Chapter 6, “Numbers and Nightmares”
“Sleep well?” Val eyed Sand over a cup of coffee at breakfast the next morning.
“Well enough,” Sand shrugged. His attention was on the large raven pecking at a piece of stale bread.
“Don’t mind Vorinn.” Val said. “He’s pretty well behaved—for one of my sister’s pets.”
Vorinn squawked and glared at Val.
“Your sister has unusual tastes,” Sand observed.
Val laughed aloud at that.
“Oh, you have no idea,” he said. He laughed again, causing Vorinn to hop uneasily from one foot to the other.
The laughter faded and the two men sat quietly at the table. The only sound was the occasional clink of beak against plate as Vorinn attacked the bread.
“So, what brings you to the cities?” Val asked, too casually. “I don’t think you mentioned yesterday.”
“Truthfully?” Sand smiled wryly. “I’m not entirely certain. I just woke up here, yesterday, out of the blue.”
“But you suspect the Dreamlords have some purpose for you here.”
Sand looked at him sharply.
“You are remarkably well informed.”
“My sister’s a busybody.” Val shrugged. “She thinks you’re dangerous.”
“And what do you think?” Sand asked carefully.
“I think my sister is a bit overly cautious, when it comes to me.” Val ran a finger around the rim of his teacup. “Though, to be frank, it depends on just what you’re capable of.”
Sand drummed his fingers on the table.
“Tell you what,” he said slowly, “I’ll trade you. Question for question and answer for answer. Truth on both sides, either of us can call an end to the deal after any round of questioning has been answered. Whaddaya think?”
“I’ll take that deal,” Val said. “And the first question, if you don’t mind.”
Sand motioned for Val to go ahead.
“How is it that you’re able to see me? The real me, that is. I know it wasn’t the Second Sight. The schtress of your regard was unlike any I’d felt before.”
“You know, that feeling you get when you’re being watched? Schtress is somewhere between that and a shock of recognition, and—” Val shrugs. “It’s somewhat hard to explain, but different ways of being looked at feel different.”
“I know the feeling you’re describing.” Sand nodded slowly. “I’ve just never heard it called that before.”
“So?” Val prompted.
“I suppose the easiest way to explain it is that I wasn’t seeing you so much as I was seeing how you subconsciously think of yourself. And you think of yourself as…you, rather than as a human barista.” Sand took a sip of his tea. “It’s a dream sorcery thing. Whenever I close my eyes I can see echoes of people’s dreams around them.”
“Fair enough. I suppose that answers that.” Val lifted his cup. “Your turn.”