Fall of a Prince
Dreamed 2006/11/17 by Chris Wayan
It's another discussion discussion day in my Late Roman History course--my classmates are afraid to speak up... as usual. Waste of time! So after class I go up to Megan the teacher and talk about this participation problem. She's brilliant but a bit autistic, so I really can help by explaining why her style intimidates so many students, how small structural changes could draw out my classmates. Fun to explore it after my initial shyness. We chatter on for an hour! Two geeks sharing a passion.
I bike home and start reading Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, set in an alternate New Zealand, one reeling from the discovery of a physical dreamworld that a small minority called dreamhunters can enter and explore, bringing back dreams that affect those who can't travel there. Not just move people, but heal them! And yet dreams with so much power can be exploited. Is the Dream Bureau honest? A many-layered allegory...
I'm with a tour group visiting an old mansion or boarding school whose ground floor is now an art gallery. I've been here once before and met the owner. The exhibits haven't changed, but now I slip away from my group to explore methodically, trying to make a mental map. Hidden rooms and nooks all over. Go way in the back, though I don't violate doors marked PRIVATE or STAFF ONLY. Feel like I'm hiding my true intent--but from myself as well the owner and my friends. For I sense the house is the nerve center for a powerful organization. Is this the Dream Bureau? And why so secret?
The dream shifts to follow two men and a woman who have reputations as prophetic dreamers. They're not, though they set themselves up this way--as cover jobs. They're really historians wandering space and time. Their "prophetic dreams" are just predictions based on the history of their home timebranch. Since history as written is never the whole truth, they can be wrong, of course--and who says time is fixed? At they study an era, they subtly change it; and each change pushes them further off their native branch of time, so their expertise grows less applicable in detail. So they're always small-time prophets--good, but not so good they'll draw attention. It's a perfect cover job! Every era has self-appointed prophets...
I meet them in late Roman times, studying three regional courts. One ruling prince is doomed to die in a fall soon. An accident, or so it's recorded--he was alone and fell out his own palace window. But who can be sure he wasn't pushed? History lies.
This prince believes in predictive dreams, and asks his new court psychic if he's in danger and what he can do. And suddenly she's in conflict--struck with a crisis of conscience. For her job may be a cover, but she took his real gold and swore this real man a real oath of fealty. Not to warn him seems an active betrayal, as much interference as warning him.
She's not sure if a warning could change his fate. Is the time-stream fixed, or a branching multiverse? Even if it's theoretically possible, in practice he may be doomed if he's facing a determined plot. Fighting the force of fate is one thing, but human malice seems almost as formidable. If she warns him, they may just kill him another way. Along with her.
But maybe not.
So after some soul-searching she tells him "I dreamt you met with an... accident." And tells him what she can recall of his death on her home timebranch. "I can't be sure, sire. Accident? Plot? Just my fears talking? But keep your eyes open." She's done what she can.
And even if changing history strands her on a time-branch far from home, I think she made the only moral choice.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
I reread Dreamhunter and its sequel Dreamquake, now that it's out. It turns out the whole dream-world hinges on a time-loop; central to the book is whether the future is fated or branched, whether we can avert dystopia, even in theory.
But this theme emerges long after the part of the tale I'd read when I dreamed this. So "Fall of a Prince," a dream addressing the moral dilemmas arising from predictive dreams, may be such a dream itself. A self-flagging dream so to speak.
Accident? ESP? Synchronicity? I don't know. But keep your eyes open.
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