He woke up and she was there with him. He didn’t open his eyes, for fear of shattering the moment, but he knew it was her. She smelt of bonfires, of last night’s perfume and of happier times. She smelt of fragrant sweat, of last night’s passion and of life. He lay there, in lidded darkness, terrified of what might happen if he were to look. At last, after what seemed an age, he opened his eyes a crack. And it was her. She was, to his eyes, a picture of perfection; glowing pale skin and tousled blonde hair, all curled up like a dormouse on the bed beside him. He reached out with a tentative hand and traced the curve of her body from shoulder to hip, his fingertips tingling with the thrill of contact. She stirred, murmuring softly, and rolled over to face him. She opened her eyes and smiled at him with those emerald pools he had drowned in a hundred times before. She took his hand in hers and kissed him... and he was lost. She tasted of honeyed wine and spiced apples. He clung to her like ivy to a crumbling wall, her breasts pressed against his chest. He put his mouth to her ear and, in a voice softer than spider's silk, whispered to her...
...and then he woke up.
Callum Grave sat up, alone. There were tears in his eyes. The room was dimly lit and thick with the smell of incense. He groped through cloying smoke for a glass of water on the table, to wash the memory of her out of his mouth.
Callum gave a start, remembering that he was not alone. The acolyte was stood over him, in robes of dark green and purple. Though his eyes were closed, the purple eyes tattooed on his lids seemed to glare down at Callum. "I... sorry?"
"What did we say before we started Callum?"
"I..." Callum struggled to recall. "I can't..."
"No talking." The acolyte opened his eyes and the purple irises were replaced with grey. "Any attempt at vocal contact will shatter the illusion."
"I'm sorry." Callum choked back a sob. "I just... forgot."
"Understandable. When we dream, the dream becomes our only reality. Most everything else is forgotten in that time." The acolyte turned towards his desk, where an open notebook and pen lay waiting for him to record his results. "How was she?"
"She was..." The tears were running freely down Callum's cheeks now. "She was perfect."
"It was her. The spitting image. Every hair, every freckle. Even her eyes were right!"
The acolyte was scribbling in his notebook, never once looking up at Callum. "Did she say anything to you?"
"No. She murmured a little as she woke up, but other than that..."
"And what did you say to her?"
Callum tensed. "I don't... I don't want to say."
The acolyte looked up, staring into Callum with his grey eyes. "Please Callum. All the details matter. What were your exact words to her?"
Callum trembled. "'I love you Leah'. I said 'I love you Leah.'"
"Very good." The acolyte turned back to his notes.
"I could smell her." Callum's voice was quavering, his whole body shaking. "Oh Gods, I could actually smell her!"
The acolyte smiled down at his notes as grey eyes became purple once more. "There are no gods here Callum. Only Mancia."
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