To Sleep, Perchance to Dream & Lemon Sails Part 1 - Dreamlands
CoC 1-6e Dreamlands Jazz Age
Monday, April 10, 2017
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenarios “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream” by Jeff Okamoto and “Lemon Sails” by Phil Frances from H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Ashton LeBlanc, Katelyn Hogan, Ambralyn Tucker, Kyle Matheson, Ben Abbott, and James Brown.)
Ellen Fairfield had waited in the basement of her boarding house as instructed on the night of May 24, 1928. She was only slightly surprised when a hole was broken in the wall. Nothing emerged.
“I’m here to meet someone,” the choking, horse voice croaked from the hole.
It didn’t sound like Gabriel.
“Probably me …” she said.
“Who are you?” the voice croaked again.
“You’re the one. Gabriel sent me.”
“Oh. I was expecting Gabriel.”
The thing in the hole just grunted.
Over the next week, she learned the spell to contact ghouls and summon them to her. The ghoul introduced itself as Clancy Bottom and told her the spell took some 30 seconds to a minute to cast and the essence of the caster. It summoned one or more ghouls and he suggested she have something to feed them when they arrived. They would owe her nothing but she could bargain with them for information or help. He told her it was best to cast the spell alone or with a small, non-threatening group and noted ghouls could be found wherever there were large concentrations of humans but near a graveyard or crypt was best, especially places more than a century old. Moonlit nights were best.
It also agreed to teach her something of its language. She declined his invitation to join them underground.
A week or so later, Mrs. Wickes, owner and landlady at Wickes’ Boarding House came to her room after supper and told her she had a visitor.
“A very handsome young gentleman,” Mrs. Wickes said.
“Is the parlor empty?” Miss Fairfield asked
“He’s in there right now.”
“I’ll tell him.”
The landlady left the room. Mrs. Wickes had been trying to get Miss Fairfield married ever since she had moved in. She had mentioned her nephew on more than one occasion.
The man in the parlor proved to be tall and handsome with dark hair. He was clean-shaven and smiled broadly upon seeing Miss Fairfield.
“Ah, Miss Fairfield?” he said.
“Mm-hmm,” she replied.
“Glad to meet you! Mr. Bee. How nice to meet you.”
He sat down when she did.
“I want to tell you that my associates, my employers, have been very happy with you,” he said.
“Mm-hm,” she said carefully.
“We have somebody that’s watching you. You know. Keeping an eye on things. But they just wanted to warn you, to make sure that you don’t say anything more about them. Or Brown Mountain. And that, if you don’t, we won’t bother you.”
“But you’re welcome to come with us!”
“To Brown Mountain?”
“Well, wherever you want to go! There are things that you can learn. Amazing things. And there are some amazing things that they have taught me. We could use someone like you in the organization if you ever want to join up. It’s amazing. It is amazing!”
“So, are you the one that’s going in my room?”
“Oh yes! Well, that wasn’t me. That was some of my associates and employees. Of course. We have to make sure … secrets have to be kept. If you don’t keep the secrets, you’ll have to be kept.”
“That’s kind of clever, isn’t it!”
“Well, I mean, this is a boarding house so just make sure you don’t get caught,” she said.
“Oh, we won’t,” he replied. “But don’t worry. You’ve been keeping your mouth shut. If you continue to do so … we might actually have work for you someday. But it was great to meet you. So nice to meet you. I love meeting new people. It just makes me so happy!”
He grinned at her.
“So, thank you very much!” he said.
“Mm-hm,” she said.
He left her.
* * *
The ghoul, Clancy Bottom, had, in addition to teaching Miss Suzanna Edington how to cast the spell to summon his kind, offered to teach her the language of the ghouls. It would be a long, drawn-out process, but she was willing to try. Clancy Bottom was also willing to teach Milo James his tongue and the young man agreed.
* * *
William Avery Rockefeller was in France with Felix, trying to deal with the strange changes brought upon both of them by their terrible ordeal under Brown Mountain. Felix had been despondent ever since the change of his body and for nearly the last year Rockefeller had been travelling with the man through Europe, trying to raise his spirits somehow.
He was in France in mid-June, alone on his fifth glass of wine at a little café on the street, when a dark-haired, good-looking man in a nice white suit approached him.
“Mr. Rockefeller?” the man said to him. “Mr. Rockefeller?”
Rockefeller was already three sheets to the wind.
“Uh … what?” he said.
“Oh, Mr. Rockefeller, I’m sorry to see you in such a condition,” he said.
“I’m Mr. Bee. Mr. Alan Bee.”
He held out his hand.
“Another glass of wine!” Rockefeller called.
“Mr. Rockefeller?” Mr. Bee said. “Mr. Bee.”
Rockefeller shakily shook the man’s hand.
“I’ve just been sent … my associates sent me,” Mr. Bee said. “We found you through your family. They were very happy to give us the information.”
“Was it my … f … brother?” Rockefeller said.
“It was actually your father who told us where you were.”
“Yes, well, anyway … perhaps this is a bad time. Perhaps I should come at another time. My associates are from Brown Mountain. I don’t know if you remember them?”
“Fair enough. We appreciate that you have been discrete about your connections with them.”
“Oh, I’m going to continue being discrete.”
“Very good. Very good.”
“I don’t want to think about it.”
“That’s the best way to be. That’s the best way to be. Now, you’re always welcome to come with us, too, if you ever want. You came very close. And … you kind of owe them.”
“I don’t owe them nothing.”
“I don’t know.”
“Take it up with my brother!”
“Yes, we know that your brother had nothing to do with it.”
“Well … uh …”
“It’s his fault.”
“This is just a little … I just wanted to introduce myself. You’ll be seeing me Providence when you come back. You probably should come back sooner than later. We’ll find you if we need you.”
The waiter brought another glass of wine and bread.
“All right,” Mr. Bee said. “Well, thank you very much. I just wanted to let you know that … we’re watching you.”
“I’m watching you …”
He left the man to drunkenly drink a sixth glass of wine.
* * *
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
* * *
Robert Ramsden was the one who started it all. He was the one whom they all knew in some capacity or another. He was the one who had befriended them all at some point in his 55 long years of life though none of them knew the others had met the man. It was Robert Ramsden who had sent them each a box of chocolates on Friday, June 29, 1928, bidding them to try them after dinner as they would help each of them sleep. It was Robert Ramsden who had laced the chocolates with a strange, esoteric drug …
Suzanna Edington had met Robert Ramsden at one of the social functions she often attended in Providence. He was an older man but very nice, polite, and extremely kind, though he seemed somewhat sad. Not long after he had met her, he sent her a small present of chocolates. She also received a small Christmas present from the man that year.
Milo James met Robert Ramsden randomly on the street some six months before. He had recognized the man from a newspaper story about the stock market and approached him. The two ended up having coffee and a fine conversation together. James later received a small gift from the man, who seemed quite genuinely glad to know him.
Joell Johnson had met Robert Ramsden when volunteering at a soup kitchen for one of the local churches in 1925. Ramsden was working at the charity organization the same night Johnson was and the two struck up a conversation while they handed out soup to the poor vagrants who had come that night. He had also received Christmas presents and little gifts from time to time from the man.
Evelyn Fairfield knew Robert Ramsden and had used the man in his capacity as a stock broker. The two had hit it off and become friends of sorts. The $20 she had invested in the stock market a year before had doubled. Ramsden predicted it would probably double again in the next year the way the stock market was going. He sent her small, considerate gifts for various holidays and special day. She had gotten a pen and he had sent her a magazine with information about photography as well as chocolates and the like.
Captain Willie “Skinny Leg” Ferguson had actually gone to school with Robert Ramsden and had known the man for years. Ramsden had kept in touch with him though they had not been close since school. Captain Ferguson had sent the man some fish on occasion. Ramsden even came out on Captain Ferguson’s boat once in a while.
Captain Ferguson was a charter boat captain. He had a full white beard and was bald but very tan as he spent most of his time out in the sun. He was 55 years old, stood about 5’3” tall, and owned his own fishing boat, which he rented out to people more than he used to fish from himself. His first mate and only crew was 12-year-old Billy Brown, a negro runaway whom Captain Ferguson had unofficially adopted as his own son when he’d found the child and learned he was completely alone in the world. Captain Ferguson intended for Billy to have his boat once he passed away. They both slept on the boat and it was pretty much their home.
Frank Fontaine had met Robert Ramsden at one of the nicer speakeasies run by the mob some two months before. The two had fallen into an interesting conversation wherein Ramsden told the man of some of his vivid dreams of faraway and fantastic lands.
Frank Fontaine worked for the Italian mob in Providence as a doctor. He had black hair, was clean-shaven, and was 40 years old. He was very tall and slim.
He was originally a faith healer, drawing upon mind to actually heal wounds. The funny thing was, it actually worked. A sensitive who had always been able to see things other people couldn’t, he had long ago learned to shield himself from the strange images and often ghostly appearances that seemed too common in his life. He had used his strange healing powers on a mob boss once and was chosen to be a doctor for the mob. The criminals didn’t realize he could somehow magically heal wounds as he pretended to do the actual work. Some of his pay was in the form of strange books the mob occasionally found though none of them had been terribly interesting.
Captain Ferguson knew Fontaine as the mob used him as their go-between on those rare occasions they needed something smuggled via his fishing boat.
Ramsden had always seemed somewhat sad to all of them. He was very nice and obviously fond of them all though he always seemed to have a far off look in his eyes and never seemed quite satisfied with his life. He was the common denominator for them, though none of them knew the others had met and befriended the man.
On Friday, June 29, 1928, each of them received a gift from him and a note saying he hoped that they enjoyed the chocolates and suggesting they try them that evening after their dinners. The rum-filled dark chocolates with a drizzle of white chocolate on top were both beautiful and delicious. Captain Ferguson even let Billy have some.
* * *
Joell Johnson was actually able to sleep that night, something that had eluded him, for the most part, since his terrible foray under the dark carnival a month before. He dreamt for what felt like the first time. In his dreams, he was with his family at his home before he was estranged from them, as if he was young again. Then he was back and a failure after seeing the terrible conditions of the factories of New York. His parents didn’t love him anymore and he had to leave once again, never to return, his parents closing the door on him for the last time as he walked away in the rain with just his jacket and his hat, several motorcars parked on the front lawn for some reason. He saw a huge, highly ornate, almost baroque marble staircase leading downward. He didn’t recognize the Seventy Steps of Light Slumber, but went down them anyway.
* * *
Evelyn Fairfield dreamt of taking photographs. She was traveling through Europe, taking pictures of all the things she ever wanted to photograph. She took photos of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of London, the sphinx in Paris, the floating ships over Afghanistan. None of it made sense but all of it made sense in the dream she was having. All of the perfect pictures in the perfect sunsets. She pulled the photographs right out of her camera.
She saw the highly ornate, almost baroque marble staircase leading downward and photographed it, following it down to see more wonders which she hoped to capture with her marvelous camera.
* * *
Captain Willie Ferguson dreamt he was on a pirate ship. Billy Brown was there as well, but he was a parrot who recited Shakespeare while Captain Ferguson was a small little black boy working on the ship. The ocean was gravy and some sailors dipped long ladles down to get gravy for their mashed potatoes. Right in the middle of the ship, he saw the highly ornate, almost baroque marble staircase leading downward and didn’t recognize is as the Seventy Steps of Light Slumber. But Billy cried out “Let’s go!” and flew down so he followed.
* * *
Frank Fontaine dreamt of his own past, of lighting a house on fire and then walking away. Then he was reading some of the fantastically strange books he had read, and seeing the things he had only imagined. His hands were on fire next and he was able to burn the things around him that he wanted to burn. He also didn’t recognize the Seventy Steps of Light Slumber when they appeared before him in all their majesty, but followed them down.
* * *
Milo James dreamt of running naked through a forest of deep purple trees that were tall and strange. They morphed in and out of each other constantly, the entire forest seemingly on the move all around him like some insane kaleidoscope. The ground suddenly moved underneath him and he felt himself falling and falling and falling. He crashed through a door at the bottom where he found the unrecognized but beautiful Seventy Steps of Light Slumber and went down them.
* * *
Suzanna Edington was in the front yard of her house in Providence, though she was somehow also in Atlanta. It made sense to her. There were cats and rabbits in the yard, hopping about and pouncing as those animals are wont to do. She found herself trying to decide which one she would keep as her pet when she saw a tiny black kitten pouncing and bouncing away. She followed it, calling out to it “Where are you going?” as it stopped and looked back and mewled before leaping down an ornate staircase of marble. She didn’t recognize the Seventy Steps of Light Slumber and followed the kitten down.
* * *
Each of them found themselves alone and naked as they entered the Cavern of Flame in which burned a great pillar of fire that reached from floor to ceiling. Standing within were two hoary sages dressed in robes and crowns that looked like they belonged on Egyptian priests. Behind the two, a passageway beckoned.
“Enter and be welcome,” said the first old man. “I am Nasht.”
“I am Kaman-Thah,” the other said. “We congratulate you …”
Here, the priest called each of them by their respective names.
“… on finding the way.”
“The way to dreams,” Nasht said.
“But, before you may pass the Gates of Deeper Slumber …” Kaman-Thah said.
The two priests approached each of them and stared deeply into their eyes.
“… You are worthy,” Nasht said.
The two priests retreated and bowed.
Many of them asked about trivialities. Miss Fairfield wanted a camera while Johnson asked about his coat. Miss Edington wanted a robe to cover herself. The priests merely gestured towards the other opening in the wall.
Eventually each of them went through the now-open passageway, the priests following. They gestured towards an ornate malachite table upon which sat three loaves of bread, a jug of water, a length of shiny, somewhat crystalline wool, and clothing, exactly what each of them wished to wear though homespun and simple. A small knife or dagger lay by the bread. When some of them asked about the wool, Kaman-Thah said “It is manna … and edible.” The priests encouraged each dreamer to take any or all of the gifts. Those who tasted the manna found it delicious and tasted like whatever they most loved to eat. It was also very filling.
The passageway ahead led to a long, spiraling set of stairs winding downward. These were the 700 steps to the Gate of Deeper Slumber. As they descended, each still alone, the surrounding tunnel began to resemble wood which some of them recognized as oak. At the bottom of the stairs, an elaborate arch had been cut into the wood, closed by a gate. Beyond it was a deep forest.
Eventually, each of them exited through the gate into the Enchanted Wood. The gate they had each passed through had been cut into the side of an enormous oak tree, far smaller than the passageway and staircase they had each descended, however. The oak trees all around were massive with prodigious boughs that intertwined to form tunnels beneath their leafy canopy. It seemed to be perpetually twilight and very little sunlight reached the forest floor. It was lit, however, by a strange, phosphorescent glow.
As they passed through the gate, they were suddenly aware of the other five standing around them in the clearing. Though everything felt real, they all knew they were in a dream. Fontaine was feeling things and the texture was there. It was real.
“What are you doing here?” Fontaine asked Captain Ferguson.
The other man poked him. He was real.
“Willie, how did you get here?” Fontaine asked.
“What’re you doing in my dream?” Captain Ferguson said.
“Fairfield!” Miss Edington said.
An envelope was at the base of the tree. It was addressed to “My Friends.” Miss Fairfield picked it up and looked at it, opening it up as James walked over to her. Miss Edington read over her shoulder.
The letter within read:
I know you are probably very confused. Try not to be. You are in the Enchanted Wood,
a somewhat dangerous place. Go straight ahead from the gate, do not turn left or right,
and do not listen to the whispers and chirps you’ll hear. Soon you’ll be in the open lands
of dream. You’ll soon find a road or a cottage, and be able to ask directions to the town
of Ulthar, where I await you.
Miss Fairfield started to read the note but the handwriting was too much for her. Fontaine reached for the note but then Miss Edington snatched it out of Miss Fairfield’s hand. Captain Ferguson took out his little knife. He looked around and then started to walk down the path. Miss Edington handed off the letter to James who was able to decipher the second part of it.
“Well, that explains everything,” Fontaine said. “It was the chocolates. Did Robert give you chocolates as well?”
He held out his hand towards Miss Edington.
“Frank Fontaine,” he said. “Who are you?”
“Suzanna Edington,” she replied.
He recognized the name as a woman from Providence who was on the social pages fairly commonly. He also remembered her from a story a year or so ago about something in North Carolina.
“Y’all might want to start coming down this path,” Captain Ferguson said from a little ways away. “I heard some whispers in the forest. I think it’s bad. We should go down the path. Can you … can you not hear the whispers?”
“I believe it said not to focus on them,” Fontaine said.
“I don’t think we should be in one place for too long,” Captain Ferguson said.
“I don’t think we should either!” a little black boy who came through the gate laden with bread and manna and a jug said. “Hey cap’n!”
“Billy!” Captain Ferguson said.
“Did he eat chocolates too?” Fontaine said.
“Who, Billy?” Captain Ferguson said. “We ate some chocolates last night.”
“I wonder why Robert wanted us all here,” Fontaine said.
“Here Billy, why don’t you carry my bread for me?” Captain Ferguson said.
“Okay Cap’n,” Billy said.
The fisherman took the boy’s water jug and handed over his bread and manna.
“Did you get a knife?” Captain Ferguson asked.
“Yes,” Billy said.
“Pull it on out.”
The boy’s arms will filled with bread.
“That’s a good point, Billy, you just hold onto that knife,” Captain Ferguson said.
“Who’re these people, Cap’n Ferguson?” Billy asked.
“Well, that’s Frank. I don’t know these people though. Frank, who’re these people?”
“Ah, this is Miss Edington from the newspaper,” Fontaine said.
“She works for the newspaper?” Billy asked.
“No, she was in the newspaper,” Fontaine said.
“Is this another one of them … mob jobs again?” Captain Ferguson asked.
Fontaine stared at the man.
“They gonna find out soon enough,” Captain Ferguson said.
“Since when was Robert hanging out with mob connections?” Johnson said.
“No, not Robert,” Captain Ferguson said. “Robert’s a good man. This is all just … this is all just strange.”
“It’s a dream!” Billy piped up with a grin.
“Either way, it’s probably easier to talk without all this … business going on,” Fontaine said, looking at the trees. “Could we get out of these woods?”
“Yeah, we need to start going down this path,” Captain Ferguson said. “We need to go right now. All right, c’mon Billy.”
“Who’re the rest of these people?” Billy asked. “I haven’t met Miss Edington. You’re supposed to introduce people, right?”
“Hi, I’m-I’m Milo,” James said. “I’m a friend of …everyone.”
“Hi! I’m Billy!”
“Hi. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“And you are?” Fontaine asked.
“Miss Fairfield,” the woman replied.
“Hi, Miss Fairfield, Frank Fontaine.”
“That’s Cap’n Ferguson,” Billy said, pointing. “That’s Cap’n Ferguson. He’s a captain.”
“Are you actually?” James asked.
“Just of a fishing boat,” Captain Ferguson said. “Ain’t nothing special.”
They started moving through the woods.
“Who’s this fellow?” Billy asked.
“I’m Joell,” Johnson said.
“Hi! I’m Billy!”
“I ain’t never had a dream like this before. This is great.”
“Don’t you eat none of that food, now, Billy,” Captain Ferguson said.
“I won’t!” Billy said. “You always worry about me eating all the food.”
“You always eat all the food when I tell you to hold onto the food. You always eat the food.”
“I only take a bite. You gotta taste it.”
“You took a bite? What’d you take a bite of?”
“Not now. That other time. That stew you told me to wait and eat it.”
Captain Ferguson growled.
“He’s a big ol’ grumpy bear!” Billy said.
“I want my boat,” Captain Ferguson said.
The entire forest seemed to be made of colossal twisted trees. Daylight had difficulty penetrating the interwoven branches overhead. Glowing fungus growth provided most of the light. As they walked from the gate, they occasionally heard fluttering, flute-like noises or insistent faint gibbering. Rustling sounds made it obviously they were being followed.
“Do you hear that noise?” James asked.
“Don’t pay it any mind, Milo,” Miss Edington said. “Just keep going. Don’t pay any attention to it.”
“So, Milo, what do you do?” Fontaine asked.
“I’m an … alienist,” James said, looking around nervously.
“An alienist?” Billy said. “What is that?”
“I told you, they’re not real,” Captain Ferguson said.
“They feel real,” Billy said. “Are you real? Am I real? Is anything really real?”
“He’s real,” Captain Ferguson said, pointing to Fontaine.
“Calm down existential-crisis-boy,” James said.
“What’s existential?” Billy asked.
“You know, this reminds a lot of that time we went and saved that man,” Miss Edington said.
“Actually, that’s a good question,” Captain Ferguson said. “What is existential?”
“It doesn’t feel the same but it does feel kind of like that,” Miss Edington went on.
James didn’t reply.
“That was kind of scary,” Miss Fairfield said.
“No, not scary,” Miss Edington said. “A little scary.”
“I guess a couple boat boys like us just ain’t gonna know what existential means,” Captain Ferguson said.
“We could go to the library,” Billy said.
“So, what do you do for a living, Fairfield?” Fontaine asked.
“I’m a secretary at the Providence Journal,” she replied.
“Cap’n read me a couple articles from that paper!” he said.
“Yeah, I─” she said.
“There was one about the carnival,” Billy went on. “It’s gonna be closed.”
“He didn’t sleep for days,” Captain Ferguson said.
“It was scary,” Billy said.
“Well, that’s taken care of now, so …” James said.
“I bet you sleeping good wherever your body is right now,” Captain Ferguson said.
“I’m in the boat,” Billy said.
“Aw, that’s right.”
“Remember? That’s where we live!”
“I heard some strange things happened─” Fontaine said.
“Where did I fall asleep?” Captain Ferguson said.
“It was after you drank all that stuff,” Billy said.
“Did we put the anchor out?”
“Well, thank God for that.”
“We’re at the dock!”
“Well, sometimes we go out. I don’t know. You might’ve forgot. You forgot that one time and we woke up in the middle of the damned sea.”
“I forgot one time and he will never ever … one time!” Billy said to Miss Edington
“It only takes one time to wake up and be ‘Where the hell am I at?’”
“You forgot twice!”
“Well, I’m old.”
“He is old.”
“I am old.”
Billy had obviously taken a shine to Miss Edington and talked to her mostly. She patted his head and he didn’t seem to mind at all.
“I heard about the incident at the carnival,” Fontaine said. “What happened over there?”
“I mean, can’t you read?” Captain Ferguson said. “It was in the paper.”
“He can read!” Billy said.
“You can just read the paper,” Miss Edington said nervously.
“I can read,” Captain Ferguson said. “I don’t know what existential means.”
“Or alienist!” Billy piped up. “I remember that word too.”
“I told you, they ain’t real!” Captain Ferguson said.
“I basically study the … supernatural and things beyond our realms of understanding,” James said.
“Oh, well, fantastic,” Captain Ferguson said. “Wake us all up right now.”
“Wow!” he said, impressed.
“Well, can you though?” Captain Ferguson pressed. “Can you just wake us all up? This is supernatural, ain’t it?”
“I have no idea what this is,” James said. “I just - I just ate some chocolate and …”
“The chocolate’s good,” Billy said.
“We ain’t eatin’ no more,” Captain Ferguson said.
“I’m throwin’ it out!”
“Or you could give it to me,” Miss Fairfield said.
Billy was pouting.
“You come on by the dock and you can have that chocolate,” Captain Ferguson said to her.
“So, what do you do?” Fontaine asked Johnson.
“I work with the union,” the other man replied.
“Are these real people?” Billy asked.
“Of course they’re real,” Captain Ferguson said. “That’s Frank. You met Frank.”
“Where are you from?” Billy asked.
“Bill, you don’t remember me?” Fontaine said.
“Providence,” Miss Fairfield said.
“You’re from Providence?” Billy said to Fontaine. Then to Fontaine: “I remember you! Gosh!”
“You call him Mr. Frank now, all right?” Captain Ferguson said.
“Mr. Frank,” Billy said. “Yessir.”
“I work with the union,” Johnson said again. “And the struggling people.”
“There are a lot of those,” Fontaine said.
“Where are you from?” Billy asked James.
“I live in Providence,” James said. “But I grew up in Canada.”
“That’s a long ways away,” Billy said.
“Yeah, it’s a bit of a ways.”
“So, everybody’s … we can find them in the day?”
“Why would we want to do that?” Captain Ferguson said.
Billy looked shyly at Miss Edington and then away.
“I dunno,” he said.
“So, how do you all know each other?” Fontaine asked.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Miss Edington said.
“I second that,” James said.
“It seems like … uh … is this abnormal for you?” Fontaine asked.
“We’ve been in a guy’s dream before,” Miss Fairfield said. “Not our own though.”
“Wait, what now?” Captain Ferguson said. “You’ve done this before and you’re doing it again?”
“Not on purpose this time, though,” Miss Edington said.
“You’ve been in this … Dreamland before … on purpose?” James said.
He remembered Johnson telling him something about some strange occurrence that had happened back in November. They reminded him and he remembered, somewhat, about it. Miss Fairfield pointed out that before it had been tea but this time it was chocolate.
It was actually fairly pleasant in the ancient forest, aside from the strange noises coming from the bushes and the sound of things following them.
“Billy, from now on we ain’t eatin’ nothing we’re given, all right?” Captain Ferguson said. “We only eat what we make and what we get out of the sea.”
“What about this?” Billy asked.
He held up the bread and manna.
“Well, we’re going to eat that too,” Captain Ferguson said. “That’s just ‘cause I ain’t seen no sea ‘round here yet. If there’s a sea, we’re going to make us a boat and go on out on the sea.”
“The old men said this is manna,” Billy said. “It tastes like bubble gum.”
“Did you eat some already?”
“I tasted it! I didn’t believe ‘em. You didn’t? You didn’t try it?”
“No, I didn’t try it.”
“Try it! Here, take some! It’s right there.”
“Hey, before you ate that, what’s the last thing you had? The chocolate? And look where that got us!”
“I had the chocolate and then I had supper before that. We had supper before that.”
“The supper was good.”
“Yeah. You always cook good stuff. You’re a good cook.”
“I still can’t believe you ate that though. You gotta stop eatin’ things.”
Miss Edington, curious, tried the manna. Though it had a strange consistency that melted in her mouth; it tasted like fried chicken to her. James had tried some earlier and it had tasted like macaroni and cheese to him.
“This don’t taste like no bubble gum,” Miss Edington said.
“What?” Billy said.
“Why’s everybody eating it now?” Captain Ferguson said.
“What’s yours taste like?” Billy asked. “I want to taste yours.”
“I swear if you two go into a dream inside a dream, I ain’t comin’ after you,” Captain Ferguson said.
“I don’t expect you to, sir,” Miss Edington said. “I don’t even know you.”
As they reached the edge of the woods after an hour or so of walking, the strange noises faded. Open fertile fields rolled towards a blue river ahead. Smoke rose from the chimneys of scattered cottages. Hedges and roads were evident, running along the side of the river, which was blue-green, wide, and swift.
“It said we were supposed to go ask for directions to Ulthar,” Miss Edington said.
She remembered hearing about the village, which lay on the River Skai, where no man may kill a cat. She told the others what little she knew. Captain Ferguson suggested they talk to someone and get directions to the village. They headed down towards the river where they spotted men and women working in the fields wearing homespun and simple clothing more akin to that worn 500 years ago than present day. They was a little smaller than the dreamers and of darker complexion.
“Yah,” the farmer they approached said in a strange accent. “Can I help you?”
“We are looking for Ulthar?” Fontaine said.
“No, we’re not,” Captain Ferguson said. “We’re looking for Robert.”
“I don’t know a Robert,” the man said.
“So, we’re looking for Ulthar,” Miss Edington said.
“Ulthar,” Fontaine echoed.
“Ulthar’s a town,” the farmer said. “If you follow the road, you’ll pass through Nir.”
He pointed the way they were traveling.
“There’s a bridge,” the farmer went on. “If you cross the bridge, the road will take you to the village of Ulthar.”
“Where’s the river go?” Captain Ferguson said.
“The river goes to the sea!” the farmer replied. “I believe. I couldn’t tell you the name of it, though, my friend. I’ve never left these lands. I’ve gone as far at the village of Nir. It’s not very far.”
“Some might say it’s near,” Fontaine quipped.
“It is near,” the farmer said. “Nir is near. Oh!”
He laughed heartily at the terrible joke as if he’d never heard its like before.
“I understand your pun,” he said. “Oh! Oh! Bravo! Bravo!”
“You have a nice day sir,” Miss Edington said to the man as Fontaine turned and walked away.
“Have a great day,” the farmer said.
Miss Fairfield offered him a little piece of the manna.
“Oh, thank you,” the man said graciously. “Thank you.”
He gobbled it down.
“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you! I am Billian. If you ever find your way by, stop at my cottage.”
He pointed to the nearby quaint little cottage.
All of them except for Captain Ferguson continued on down the road.
“So, how did you get here?” he asked.
“I’ve always lived here, sir,” Billian replied. “I was born here. I was born in that cottage. My mother is still there, alive.”
“How did your ancestors get here?”
“As far as I know, they were always here.”
“Forever and ever?”
“I don’t remember that far back.”
“Hey, Willie, you coming?” Fontaine called back where the others had headed down the road.
“You know where I could find a boat?” Captain Ferguson said.
“I know that there’s a port at Dylath-Leen,” Billian said. “I believe it’s past Ulthar. If you follow the road it goes all the way, but it’s over a week’s journey.”
“Fine,” Captain Ferguson said. “We’ll go to Ulthar then. C’mon Billy.”
“Okay!” Billy said.
“Say good-bye to Billian.”
The farmer nodded to them both.
“Should’ve just named him Billy,” Captain Ferguson muttered to himself. “I don’t know what kind of name Billian is.”
They followed the rough road by the river. They could see the many fish swimming in the clear water. After an hour, they came to a tiny village that was little more than a single path with a few buildings on either side. The sleepy little hamlet lay in the shadow of a mountain that stood across the River Skai. They crossed through the village of friendly people. They could smell a bakery in the village but it mostly consisted of homes.
As they left the village, they saw a massive stone bridge over the River Skai with a wider road heading off in the opposite direction. The bridge itself was stone, solid, and permanent. It had several archways holding up its bulk and was a good 10 feet above the water of the river. It was lovely, actually. Some short distance on the other side lay another village.
Captain Ferguson went down to the river, poured out the water in the jug and got fresh water from the river itself. The water was cold and he splashed some on his face, drinking some of the cold, clear, sweet-tasting water.