Feather brought a salver dish filled with a thick amber colored fluid, and bent down carefully beside a sick gnome lying in the flowers. Thistle helped to prop the creature up, holding him as he limped closer. The tiny hedgehog man moved his fingers over the liquid in arcane gestures, until a thin golden bubble rose into the air. Feather took the bubble gently in her palm.
Nervous, Theodore eyed the enchanted bubble and thought about the duke’s warning. He remembered how school children were always warned to beware the enchantments of the fey, how their gifts always came with a cost. If they were deceiving him, he could wind up in the university medical ward himself. Theodore swallowed this anxiety. The creatures here deserved more than the suspicion he’d seen. They needed help.
“A word of warning,” Feather said, stepping nearer to him. “A fairy dream is different than one a human has naturally. It is wild magic touching your mind. The sower can give it shape, but it will still act of its own will. The magic will look inside you, searching for cross roads in your life, and it will try to nudge you in a direction.”
Theodore knew of fairy dreams, though not in this detail. Most of his books considered them a harmless nuisance, but he’d also read about humans falling ill from being exposed to too many of them. “You make it sound benign,” he said.
She tilted her head. “Normally, it is. But we have many sick fairies. If you will bear it, I need to ask you to take several dreams into your mind at once. Each one will latch on to a purpose or buried desire, and will fight to influence you. They cannot harm you …But it will not be pleasant.”
“What do you think, Oboe?” Theodore said, needing reassurance. It unnerved him that she had been so quiet.
Oboe popped back to her full size, looking uncomfortable to have any attention directed at her. “I can’t do dreams,” she said. “But a dream can hurt. Not like your body, but your head and your heart. It could be scary, ’cause you won’t have all your memories, and maybe it will be a nightmare that pushes you really hard. The worst that can happen is you get trapped in the dream, but that won’t happen unless the fairy that makes the dream is wicked.”
The gnome wheezed, seized with a coughing fit. It was enough to firm Theodore’s resolve. They had far more at stake than he did.
“If it helps, I’ll do it.”
Oboe made a soft happy noise. Everyone looked at her, which seemed to make her nervous. “Th-thank you for doing this, Theo. You’re wonderful!”
Feather made a place for him to lie down among the flowers. It was more comfortable than it looked. She took the bubble between her fingers and pressed it against his forehead. It burst, and his vision filled with a blinding white.