35. A Dream of Stars

“The dream came from her,” Till says. “From the Guardian. I think it did, anyway. When I was back at the table, I couldn’t remember any of it.”

Brother Frithil puts the white cloth away. “Back at the table?”

“Yes!” Till is glad to be able to talk to someone about what happened, even though he can’t remember much, or anything, really, of what did happen. “Because it was like I was someplace else.”

“And this other place you saw,” Brother Frithil says, whispering for some reason. “What was it like?”

Till thinks hard. He wants very badly to tell Brother Frithil what happened, because perhaps it has something to do with why the Guardian wants to take him with her. But trying to recall the dream is like tugging at a rope tied to an oak tree. No memory comes to him, nothing, nothing at—

An image flashes before his eyes.

“Stars,” he bursts out. “It was full of stars! Thousands and thousands of them!”

“Stars?” Brother Frithil’s eyes widen. Is he frightened? “Stars, you say?”

“They were everywhere, all around me! And they moved, like big swarms of birds!”

“Wondrous, indeed,” Brother Frithil mutters. “Do you remember anything else?”

Again Till thinks hard. The one glimpse that came to him remains all he can see. He tries to hold it fast in his thought, but already it grows faint, as if the image wants to slip away from his grasping mind.

“I think maybe that was all I saw. I woke up after that, and she said that I’d fallen asleep, because I must be tired from all the traveling.”

Brother Frithil nods, but it seems to Till that he is already thinking about something else. “Perhaps it was as she said.”

“But I wasn’t tired,” Till protests. “I’d slept all night, and I was all awake. How could I fall asleep during breakfast? I think it was she who made me sleep, and have that dream.”

“Listen to me, my dear boy…”

But Till doesn’t want to listen. He can only think about how strange it felt, and how frightening, to be told that he had fallen asleep when he really had not, and then to remember this bewildering dream of stars. Who knows what other strange and frightening things the Guardian might do to him?

“I think she did it with the Shard.”

“What Shard?”

“She gave it to me, after I woke up.” Till reaches into his shirt and pulls out the silver chain with the pendant holding the crystal. “She said I must keep it now.”

“How very odd.” Brother Frithil inspects the Shard closely, balancing it gingerly on the tip of a finger. It no longer shines brightly from within, but only reflects what light comes from the window. “It does indeed appear to be a Shard. Why would she give this to you?”

“I don’t know,” Till says. “And I don’t care. I don’t want to go with her.” He comes close to sobbing again. “I’m scared of her.”

Brother Frithil places his hands on Till’s shoulders. His long face is very earnest, and he takes a deep breath.

“Listen to me, my boy. Dreams are the domain of the Shaper, and come to us in accordance with His designs alone. Her Holiness possesses wisdom beyond that of all other men and women, yet even she cannot do such a thing as give anyone dreams. Surely you were more tired from your travels than you knew, even having slept through the night, and got drowsy after a rich morning meal. Do you wish to give offense to Her Holiness, by claiming otherwise when she says that it was so?” He presses Till’s shoulders as he says this. “You are in her care now, and must believe that she does not wish you ill. Have faith, and have no fear.”

Till is disappointed. He thought Brother Frithil might understand, that he could talk to him about what happened and find out what it might mean. But he’s a grownup like any other. He doesn’t really listen, and he doesn’t really understand, except in the ways that make sense to him. Besides, even if Brother Frithil believed him, what could he do to help? And he is right about one thing: calling the Guardian a liar would certainly be a bad thing to do.

“Well, I did eat an awful lot at breakfast,” Till mumbles. “Perhaps I fell asleep because I was so full?”

“No doubt you did.” Brother Frithil looks relieved. “Do not worry yourself. Whatever Her Holiness has in mind for you, I am sure that you need not be afraid.”

He gives Till’s shoulder a pat, and gets up, grimacing and rubbing the knee on which he knelt. “Now, let’s have a look at you. Yes, I think you are quite ready to travel.”

They walk down the long shadowy hallways together. The gaunt friar is quieter than before, and his forehead is creased with a deep frown. When Till looks at him, he smiles.

But Brother Frithil’s eyes are elsewhere, as though it is he who has slipped into a dream, and is unaware of everything around him.

NEXT: On the Road With the Guardian


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