[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]
Caught on the oddness of the question, Lucien hesitates. “Dreams? I think they could have meaning, certainly. It’s hard to say where in the mind they come from. Dreams are often a mirror, I think—a distorted reflection of the things you’re living through. Stresses, or fears, or anxiety. Hopes. Even just a—a bit of undigested food not sitting right.”
That earns him one of those rough, cawing laughs. “So just a reflection of your own life, you think?”
“No. Maybe? Everything has meaning; why shouldn’t dreams? Sometimes they only have meaning to you. After all, we can only see the world through our own eyes—or humans can, at any rate,” Lucien hastens to add. “But perhaps a dream can reflect more than our perceptions. Perhaps it can reflect the world itself. I have no way to know.”
For a second, there is a silence that seems almost human in its disappointment, broken only by his footsteps and the clacking of Lord Crow’s cane on the cobbles. Lucien draws a breath in a strange resistance to that moment, wanting to see it become odd again. “Why do you ask? I had a strange dream yesterday, so it’s been on my mind a little.”
“Oho? Tell me about it.” Lord Crow seems to cock his head.
There isn’t enough of the dream in Lucien’s memory to tell. He describes the sensations instead, the cracked dryness of it, the way it denied so many things their reality.
Lord Crow has stopped walking, a swarm of birds flying around his head and obscuring what little of his expression Lucien can perceive. It’s all pounding wings and flying feathers and harsh cries, and Lucien catches his breath. “Lord Crow?”
And the birds swirl off into the sky. Lucien gets the sense that Lord Crow smiles at him, though he has far too many beaks for that to be possible. “It’s nothing. That’s just interesting. I’ll have to talk to you another night to see if you have the dream again. And your hobbies?”
Lucien can’t help but think those are far less interesting. “Well, I don’t have time for a lot of hobbies, being in theatre,” he says apologetically. “It’s all rehearsal and studies. I like a good story, whether or not it’s performed, but I can’t help but thinking how it’ll look on the stage. I suppose I do like puzzles and challenges, though.” He laughs. “I also like meat, since you pointed that one out. I can’t always afford a good steak, but I can’t argue with the taste of flesh.”
“Can’t you?” Lord Crow says. He seems fired up somehow, excited, the sound of rustling feathers louder. “Why don’t we spend some time on a shared hobby together, then?”
He points with his cane toward the river and—
—Lucien comes back to himself when he staggers into a wall and catches himself on the rough red brick. He finds himself exhausted and halfway home, the sun already risen and spreading golden pools of daylight around him.
He doesn’t remember much of what happened; it’s all a drunken, drugged blur. He thinks there was a body in the river, though he couldn’t say if it were animal or human. There is a copper taste in his mouth and he should be revolted, but he finds himself laughing, scrubbing at his face to try to recover a bit more of himself.
Perhaps it wasn’t even real, perhaps it was just something that happened from being around the Carrion Eater too long. But regardless, the pounding of his heart feels like wings in his chest.
He draws deep breaths and squints at the sky. The bars are already closed; he won’t catch Katarin or Shuni there tonight, though he could go and knock on one of their doors and see if they would let him in, apologize and babble about the events of the night.
Or, perhaps, he could just go home and sleep it off, see what dreams he has to reflect this.
[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]