✋ CHEER UP, SLEEPY JEAN, OH WHAT CAN IT MEAN TO A DAYDREAM BELIEVER: in which a lost teen confides in a wandering monk

“I’m still alive.” I reassured myself as the bagpipes jerked me to consciousness, reminding me that the pain and injuries from our experience in the Guara, paled in comparison to an early morning headache. Zeno’s morning tune was tinged with sadness this morning after his grand failure to secure the attention of the town’s women last night, but that didn’t dampen the volume and vigor with which he played his morning tune.

“Plans for the day? Mermaids? Breakfast? Mermaids? Biddies?” Zeno enthusiastically rattled his list of priorities at us as we gathered around our growing morning flame.

“I need to head into town for some supplies,” Felegum stated plainly.

“But breakfast?” Set reworked the list of priorities to something more reasonable.

“But we have no rations left, and I don’t think it is time to raid the cart yet?” I glumly added, finally catching up with the wakefulness of the party. We had spent the last two days eating what we could forage and catch, but after a hell of a battle and some light travel, now we had a cart full of goods we still needed to sort out and understand— oh and Awk was still unconscious. I was sure he was okay; he was at least still breathing and Set kept giving him liquids, but I believed that the only one with expertise in how to recover from shifting into a building crushing, red-eyed-evil-doer-smiting elder dragon was lying unconscious near our campfire.

“…Well, let’s split up, some of you can stay here with the cart and Awk, the rest of us will head into town.” Felegum was directing as I returned to the present. “I’ll head to town with Zeno and Helli; Set and Harry, are you okay to stay here? We’ll bring you back food from whatever we find.”

I nodded my approval of the plan and settled in for a good moment of meditating on our current situation, it wasn’t like Awk was going anywhere and Set still had some morning brooding to do

or so I thought.

“Uh, Harry, about my morning on the island after we left the mermaids…” Set approached me after the others left for town. He stopped just out of arms reach, studying my still form. I risked one eye opening as the brooding storm approached me, and I found myself with a rare glimpse as Set’s unusually colored eyes.

“Mmmmm, I thought I was the only one who sparred with the lake,” I murmured, careful not to raise my voice as I once again closed my eyes but gave my full attention to the approaching rogue. The kid was spooked, and dragonborn are seldom known for their calming presence. But after risking the lives of our little war band with some unwise provocation of a kobold matriarch, I’ve been trying harder to be more patient, to listen to those around me. So far I counted an obsession with amphibians from our sorcerer, a sticky fingered gnome who had a policy on stealing from friends, a whispering pair of pipes on our bard, a brooding winged teen who couldn’t fly, and god knows what our druid just did. I’ve also managed to beat down a smarmy druid and turn myself into a pincushion after an ill-advised display of skills with a ranger, so I still had a lot of progress to be made in the pursuit of patience and listening. Luckily, Set was offering me a lesson that need not be earned in blood.

He spoke of a dream he kept having of a woman’s voice he didn’t know but he felt he recognized. It kept repeating. A night here, a night there, haunting him, but the meaning, the warning, the memory constantly eluded him, showing him only flashes of what he thought was a greater story. The repeated taunting from his subconscious was eating at Set’s need for direction, but I could not ascribe any more meaning to his dreams than he could. I listened as he rambled himself into a shrinking silence, letting the pain of the frustration and silence grow as he slowed to a stop. His gradual silence sent me tumbling back to my own childhood.

I mentally re-walked the halls of my old home, a monastery of the Open Hand. The masters at the monastery could wait for what seemed like days for you to break a silence, to answer your own questions, to learn your own lessons before they offered a guiding hand. I now scoured those guiding hands, remembering the ringing blows, the wizened words, and the wandering allegories. In the end, it all led to the nature of an open hand. I have always thought myself a stiffened hand: unyielding and relentlessly striking. Now, to this frustrated teen, I needed to be an upturned hand, offered out to steady a fellow traveler.

Once the student, always the student. I broke the silence first. “… I’m sorry I can’t offer you any meaning to your dream. Life’s path is seldom clear, and sometimes all we can do is wait to see where it takes us…” I spoke plainly and slowly, eyes still closed, listening to the steadying breathing of the rogue. I was sure it sounded much better when it came from a bearded teacher steadied by a gnarled staff, wielding his well-earned wisdom like a balanced blade, striking at the vulnerable heart of your issues and questions. Instead, Set had a headstrong young monk striking wildly at the raging waters of frustration. I hoped I struck a clean blow, or at least didn’t ruin Set’s mood beyond which a solid breakfast couldn’t cure.

Thankfully, Felegum came to the rescue, coming back into camp with food in hand and Helli practically rolling behind him. I reopened my eyes, seeing Set leave his thoughtful brooding to the seemingly only cure for what ailed our brooding youngster: new and innovative breakfast foods. As we stood to greet our returning party members, I added this morning events to my mental list: a brooding winged teen who couldn’t fly, loves breakfast, and just needs someone to talk to.

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