And so we are brought to Part 5 of Assault on the Castle, where our heroes have just fought off a Skard attack and are seeking some answers.
"Right." Said Merov. They were all back in the meeting room, having had a good wash. Six pairs of eyes were on Merov, at the head of the long table. Dexley sat in a corner and was watching the three. "Skard attacking our home on Merrimoor can only mean one thing: We have underestimated the Dark General's power." Merov stood up and continued "We must take the fight to them, before this gets out of hand. He cannot be allowed to disturb the balance any further!"
"Wait a minute..." Joe and Shuyke called out, simultaneously. "Dark General?" Enquired Shuyke.
"You were brought here for one reason, and one reason only. To help us bring down the Dark General on Phalentir. We had no idea he would have such an influence on the Skard at this point - your training was designed to focus on the basics and we'd ease you into the rest."
"Let's skip the details, old man." Shuyke stood up herself, impatient. "Tell us what this Dreamwalking is all about, or we'll..."
"You'll what, young lady? In case you haven't noticed, you're not on Earth right now. Do you have any idea how to get back? No! So sit down, shut the hell up and let Merov finish." Dexley growled. His voice was low, but it carried undertones that cut through Shuyke's outburst. Shuyke sat down.
"You have a point, Shuyke." Agreed Merov, ignoring his friend. "There's no time for details. We have to take the fight to them, otherwise their next attack will be on Starbree and they're simply not equipped to handle this kind of thing.
"Dreamwalking is the name given to the technique of interacting with the dreams and thoughts of others. A Dreamwalker can enter the void between Earth and the dream worlds and... feel the dreams and sometimes even the thoughts of everyone across all worlds. The more powerful and experienced the Dreamwalker, the more useful this interaction can become. Some weak Dreamwalkers can use this talent for mind-reading. They are called psychics, and may not even realise the potential of the skill they have.
"Consider the fact that the dream world you're sitting in was built on the dreams and thoughts of people from Earth..." Merov continued talking for a while...
Shuyke and Joe sat, listening carefully. Kendrick let his mind wander. This was not news to him; not being from Earth, he is well aware of the Dreamwalkers, but knows he can never have the power they have - Dreamwalking is a skill only people from Earth can acquire. Even then, it's a rare talent that only manifests itself in a few people out of the six billion or so Earth inhabitants. His new companions are not exactly what he had expected from Dreamwalkers. But then, what had he been expecting? He'd realised in the last couple of days that Earth was so disconnected from the dream worlds - how could people from Earth not know about Dreamwalking? Not even know about the dream worlds themselves?
And yet the answer came to him even as he thought the question - Earth feeds the dream worlds, not the other way around. Without Earth, there would be no dream worlds... but without one or more of the dream worlds... What? Earth may slip into chaos, or become a merry haven, but it would remain. Yes, the dream worlds affected Earth. But, it seemed, only as a side thought...
"... So you see, each thread is the thought of a single person. Out of the trillions of thoughts across all worlds, you just need to focus and you can almost guarantee that someone will be thinking of the thing you are looking for..." Merov was saying.
"I don't get it." Stated Joe, sullenly. "So if I want a beer, I just need to search the void for someone thinking about beer, and then use that thought to bring the beer into existence?"
"That's exactly what I'm trying to say." Grinned Merov. "Although I was hoping you might see the potential a little further than your next beer."
"You can take the bear to the woods, Merov, but you can't make it shit." Grunted Dexley. He seemed to be impatiently waiting for something.
"So... If each thread is someone's thought..." Began Shuyke, uncertainly. "Does that mean everyone's thoughts are available for any Dreamwalker to see?"
"Yes and no..." Answered Merov. "As a Dreamwalker, there are certain techniques you can employ to mask your thoughts, or to make them appear as other thoughts. Once you learn how to interact with the void, there are many possibilities open to you. In general terms, though, yes - everyone's thoughts are wide open to anyone, or anything, that can use them. It's certainly considered a blessing that there are so few Dreamwalkers."
"Last question." Said Joe. "Is it possible to... affect someone else's thoughts via the void?"
Merov hesitated for a moment before answering Joe. "Theoretically, yes. However, only the most powerful Dreamwalkers would attempt something like that. To affect someone's thought is to join with it, in the void. Your thoughts then become theirs and theirs become yours - You must assert your thoughts on them and make them accept your thoughts... If you fail, you run a very strong risk of losing your own thought and therefore being unable to break away from their mind once you have finished..."
"Right..." Joe continued. "Are there any other ways we can lose our mind whilst in this Dreamwalking malarkey?"
"Haha! Thousands, dear boy." Exclaimed Dexley, with a grimace that spoke of an internal pain. "So many Dreamwalkers have succumbed to temptation in the void - the power available to Dreamwalkers is almost without bounds... Many Dreamwalkers don't even survive their first spell in the sea of minds."
"Now, now, Edmond, there's no need to worry our new recruits needlessly." Merov said.
"But Merovallier, training usually takes weeks, not hours!"
"We don't have weeks!" Roared Merov. "This situation is a test for us all!"
"Hey!" Shuyke jumped in, not one to be left out of an argument. "Don't we get a say in this? I haven't signed up to some suicide mission in the middle of a strange world for a bunch of freaks I don't know for reasons I wouldn't care to look into any further!"
"None of us asked for this, Shuyke. But in answer to your question: No. I'm afraid we cannot afford to send you home. The future of all the dream worlds and Earth itself rests on your and Mr. Finch's co-operation in taking down the Dark General." Merov stood, eyes locked with Shuyke. They glared at each other for a good minute or two, then Shuyke sat down.
"Fine. In all honesty, I'm intrigued. Let's get this started then."
Dexley got up in disgust. "I can't watch this, Merov. You're leading these poor souls to their doom and... I just can't watch." With that, he left the room.
"What do you want from me, Merov?" Asked Kendrick. "This Dreamwalking business doesn't concern me - is there something I can be getting on with?" It was clear that he didn't think much of Joe and Shuyke's chances either and was hoping for a ticket out of the room for a while.
"My dear Kendrick." Replied Merov, with a sad smile. "'This Dreamwalking business', as you put it, concerns you as much as it concerns Joe and Shuyke."
"You were raised on Merrimoor and have made quite a name for yourself as a thief. But you weren't always from the dream world - Your mind wandered here many years ago from Earth."
"How is that possible? How did I not know?"
"You came here as a child." Said Merov, gently. "You inadvertently triggered a technique that only the most powerful Dreamwalkers have ever accomplished successfully - you manifested yourself in Merrimoor, creating a new body for yourself, then moved your mind into the new body."
"What happened to his body on Earth?" Asked Shuyke. She was listening to Merov more intently than he had thought.
"It's not easy to be sure, but without a mind it probably died."
Kendrick took all this in with shock. "So I'm originally from Earth? And I somehow moved my mind to Merrimoor, as a child?"
Merov nodded. "I'm sorry you had to find out like this, Kendrick."
"How long have you known?"
"Oh, since the moment it happened, my friend. Your transition caused a massive disturbance in the void - I'm confident that anyone with a modicum of talent with Dreamwalking will have noticed."
The four of them sat in silence for a few moments. Kendrick's face, a mask of shock; Shuyke's oddly compassionate; Joe Finch had an attitude of mild confusion, but he seemed aware enough to look solemn; Merov was unreadable.
(... our Dreamwalkers will return shortly...)