Summary: Sometimes dreams tell us wicked truths.
The mountain ranges are, thus, softly picturesque and blush colored instead of cruel and jagged red. He’d never recognize them this way, except that he knows they are his mountains.
Below his feet, the grass on the slopes of their steep foothills is always flawless lavender, always untouched and unwithered, always more lush than it ever was.
It smells twice as good, too; better than it really did when he was young, when he would run and dive into it, rub his face in the dirt beneath the blades just to smell something that wasn’t recycled and carefully formulated for optimally pleasant nothingness. It smells of cinnamon and damp mold, yes, as it always did, but more so; he becomes dizzy at this point in the dream, giddy with the aroma. He tries to suck as much of it into his lungs as he can.
The sky above him is always pale as topaz, as it so rarely was. The suns are blue and beautiful, rather than harsh enough to chase men into darkness. The wind isn’t cold. It wraps around him, welcomes him back like arms drawing him in. He closes his eyes and lets the embrace take away his thoughts, then he opens them again. When the winds pull at him, and they always do at this point, he obeys them, and walks to the city.
It looks like it did when he was a boy, all jewel facets, and awe, and mystery, and pending adventure – nary a glimpse of the grey walls, the checkpoints and guarded gates and narrow windows of the real fortress. No sign, of course, of the featureless interiors, or the unbearably dull decor. Not the least hint of the true smothering reality of the place, which usually served in real life to send him hurrying to his ship, plotting his escape in a barely controlled panic.
He’s wearing whatever he likes when he heads to the dome entrance. In the dream he can always wear what he likes, so he does.
Sometimes he dresses in brocades – smoking jackets, evening frock coat, that sort of thing; sometimes in garish cardigan or baggy trousers or some such. Occasionally he’ll even wear the damned scarf, but he usually unwinds it from around his neck and throws it away. More often, he’ll choose to be comfortable in a tunic and loose trousers, the kind he wore when the day was done, and he was back safe in his room, those rare nights he actually needed sleep.
When the great gates of the city open to him, he walks in with joy.
There are no people inside the city. There never are, and he likes that. He can walk wherever he wants to – high streets or low, narrow byways or broad boulevards. No schedule to keep, no purse-lipped House proctor surprising him in mid-reverie and frog marching him back to the classroom he’d only too recently escaped. No cluster of older students looking at him with that peculiar gaze usually saved for biology specimens, no older relatives glowering at him with affronted disappointment, no servants or elderly Time Ladies looking at him with sympathy or moist eyed sentimentality. There’s not a trace of the Academy, really, nor of his House, except for the library (and occasionally the kitchen) and it’s all just for him.
He always takes a deep breath at this point, one more greedy helping of spice and home. And he always looks all around him at least once, and laughs for the sheer delight of laughing in a place in which he’d always been shushed and tutted into silence.
And, when he can no longer resist consciousness – when it can’t possibly be helped – he wakes up, ashamed at the glorious happiness of a dream in which he is the only one left to experience the mountains, and the grass, and the cinnamon winds, and the blessedly empty city.