Seekers of Lore
Masters of Nightmares
I have discovered something which may shake our understanding of the dream-world to its very foundations.
While en route to the Mountains of Tein very recently, I had occasion to pass through a small village named Inkelvale. The villagers seemed in a celebratory mood, so naturally I enquired as the source of their merriment. They claimed to have just been liberated from the unwelcome ministrations of a fear-spirit, supposedly driven off by the blessings of an itinerant druid. Having never heard of such spirits, I nevertheless kept an open mind and inquired further.
The people of Inkelvale have an incredible wealth of legends I have never before encountered, and it is my regret that certain prior appointments kept me from staying longer. They told me of the Masters of Nightmares; three lesser gods whose meagre effect on the physical world is balanced by their awful power in the land of dreams. The villagers are quite certain that the Dream-world is a real place, and that spirits can pass from it to our own. They showed me certain passages in a document they called the Record of Sorocles which gave real credence to this position.
I shall document here what I have learned of these three Masters of Nightmares.
First comes Athda, the Black Messenger. This is the god of the beginning of nightmares, who rules over the Cradle of Athda, a shadowy jungle of looming trees wherein nightmares are first born. At his Obsidian Ziggurat in the darkest part of the jungle, Athda sits upon a throne of smouldering coals. To here he gathers the spawn of this terrible jungle, and releases them into the dreams of mortals to grow fat and strong.
The jungle’s location was not told, but I gathered that it is accessible in the physical plane. I am uncertain whether the Cradle of Athda proper lies also in the physical, or if perhaps this is some cross-planar access to the Dream-world. If the latter, it sounds like an exciting prospect of exploration, if perhaps a dangerous one.
Next comes Tra’ao, the Judge of Fear. When a nightmare is fully-grown, it must depart to the wooden throne of Tra’ao to pay its respects; the villagers tell that this throne can be found upon the summit of a hill, in front of a skeletal square frame of fragrant wood. Depending from this frame on either side of Tra’ao hang two great masks named Dih and Onh.
The nature of these masks is not clear to me: the villagers were remarkably close-mouthed on the topic, and seemed reluctant to mention them even in the context of the above discussion. I was able to determine from the Record of Sorocles that the masks are more ancient than Tra’ao himself, which makes me wonder.
Those nightmares found wanting by Tra’ao vanish like mist with the rising sun. Those judged fit become terrible spirits of fear like the one which troubled Inkelvale until recently.
Finally, I was told of Wuimai, the Lord of Nightmares. According to the legends, he rules over all of the fear-spirits from his Crimson Palace deep in the heart of the Frozen Wastes. The village elder showed me a picture of Lord Wuimai’s Rosy Throne, but averted his eyes so as not to look upon it himself; a disturbing creation woven from living branches of thorns, decorated with seals and patterns cast in priceless orichalcum.
In the Crimson Palace are said to lie rooms containing every sort of horror, deliberately collected and exhibited by Wuimai. I am reminded of the visions suffered by King Yothellus the First of Thindar, when he described a “castle with walls like blood, where terror finds lodging”. Perhaps the King’s visions merit a close re-examination.
I think all will agree that this is a fascinating discovery of legends which have perhaps been lost to our modern age, and what appears to be a whole category of spirit beings of which we are unaware. The village elder informed me that other dark spirits — perhaps even some of the gods! — know fear in the presence of these dread Masters and their loyal subjects. Despite the obvious importance of the topic, I was regrettably only able to gather these few scattered notes in the time allotted to me.
Sadly, I must also report my worry that soon the knowledge held by these villagers may pass beyond the reach of scholars. On our first night encamped in the field after leaving Inkelvale, I slept restlessly and decided to stretch my legs in the small hours of the morning. Under the light of the moon I beheld a structure on a hill some ways distant, back the way we had come, where I was sure no structure lay the day before (and for certain there was nothing come morning). Although it was quite far, it seemed to me that the structure was some large framework, with perhaps a throne and what could be two enormous masks. And I am fairly certain that the dark being who sat upon that throne was facing towards Inkelvale.