Dreams – Counterparts, Part I
Kiran Aldrich opened his eyes and looked around. The place he saw looked like home, but he knew it wasn’t. There wasn’t enough light. Everything was overcast, and shadows licked the buildings near where he stood. He took a hesitant step forward and then glanced down at his hands.
They weren’t his hands. They should have been, but no. These hands were narrower and with longer, thinner fingers. One of them bore a ring with the Aldrich family crest on it. That much was still the same.
A girl came running toward him, and Kiran stepped out of the way. The girl gave him a confused look and muttered something that sounded like an apology. Then she sketched a curtsy.
That part was familiar too. People had always bowed and curtsied around him, ever since he was a child. It came with the title of Prince.
Kiran didn’t feel much like a prince now, though. He felt surreal. This was normal, though. He’d had this dream every night for at least a month now. The dream where he was someone else. Someone shorter than he was, with longer fingers, and a lighter step.
He had never tried talking to someone before, so he knelt down now, and asked, “Who are you?”
The girl looked at him with that same confusion. “I’m Ariel. You know that. We’ve met before.”
“Have we?” Kiran asked.
He realized what was so different now. He wasn’t speaking in his own voice, but that of a woman.
His eyes flew open once more, his real eyes this time, and he sat up straight in bed. He was drenched in sweat. He looked around, as though expecting to see the same darkness that had plagued his dream, but everything was right.
His chambers were a mess. Clothes littered the floor and there was a half-eaten meal sitting on his desk. A desk that he hadn’t used other than a table since it arrived. It had been a gift from his brother, Kenley, but he had never once sat down to draft up a letter of thanks.
Kiran realized he should probably do that. Kings didn’t like their gifts ignored, even by their brothers. Kiran groaned at the thought, realizing his own voice had returned to him.
It was too late now to go back to sleep. He got out of bed and wandered over to his clothing bureau. He selected a shirt — a finely made shirt — and tugged it over his body. He was tall and muscular, and things sometimes didn’t fit well. This shirt did, though. It had been tailored just for him. He couldn’t remember who had done the work.
Once he had added trousers, a belt, and boots to his ensemble, he left his chambers and went to the dining hall. His home was a rather large estate with more guest rooms than he could ever use. He often thought of this with amusement. There was nobody to invite to stay.
“Prince Kiran,” a servant greeted. “It’s rather early for you to be starting your day.”
Kiran looked at the man, who was old and graying, and shrugged a shoulder. “I had another dream.”
Thomas, the man, frowned. “Another, my lord? The same as before?”
Kiran had no friends that he could entrust with his secret dreaming, so he shared them with Thomas. They weren’t particularly close, but he was someone to talk to.
“Yes. It was the same. I was a woman, for God’s sake. There was a girl who seemed to know me, and the entire village was covered in shadows.”
“Well, I can assure you that Sammer is not covered in shadows,” Thomas said with a chuckle. “In fact, it’s a bright, lovely day. I’ve been to the market already.”
“The sun is barely out, and you went to the market?”
“I needed to,” Thomas said. “We were out of boar.”
“I see,” Kiran said. “Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s sunny outside. I’ve been dreading another tournament in the rain.”
Thomas nodded. “Will you be off to it soon?”
“After I eat,” Kiran said. “I hear we have fresh boar meat! Do you think I could get some of that, perhaps with some eggs?”
“I’ll see to it right away,” Thomas said.
Kiran went into the dining hall and seated himself at the head of the longest of the tables. His home had also been a gift from his brother. Kenley knew how much Kiran detested staying in the castle, and purchased the large, spacious estate for Kiran’s sixteenth birthday. The day he’d become a man.
That was four years ago, and Kiran had not gone once to court to see his brother since. He knew it was rude, bordering on criminal, really, but they had never been close.
Kenley was twelve years older than Kiran. He had become king when their father died when Kiran was a boy. His brother was a good ruler, kind and just, and governing had taken most of his free time. Besides, the age difference between the two made bonding difficult. Kiran had simply grown up with the servants and their children.
He didn’t hold this against his brother, but there was no reason to pretend there was closeness when none existed. Kiran liked his life, though. He spent most of his days training with his sword, and his weekends participating in tournaments that Sammer so regularly enjoyed.
If he was a bit spoiled, and he was, well, that wasn’t exactly his fault. He’d never had to work for anything. His brother had provided all for him. Sometimes it bothered him when he laid down to sleep at night. He felt pretentious when people bowed to him, or called him my lord. To him, it felt like he was an impostor. But if he was, he was living a damned fine life.
The only black marks to it were the dreams that had begun more than a month past. The dreams of him, as the woman, and the surrounding shadows. He didn’t know what to make of it.
He was contemplating this still when the boar meat and eggs were brought to him. He ate with a gusto. He was going to participate in a tournament later in the day and wanted his full strength. It wouldn’t do for a prince to lose on the first round simply because he hadn’t eaten a proper breakfast.
“Thank you,” Kiran said when he was finished.
He handed the empty plate back to Thomas and went to collect his horse from the stables. Mary was a beauty; all black except for a single white stripe that crossed over her back. Kiran had fallen in love with her at first sight when she was just a foal. He paid plenty of coin for her, and trained her himself.
He mounted her and rode toward the center of the village. It was like Thomas had said after all; it was a beautiful day. Once the wind caught his long, brown hair, he forgot all about his dreams and what they might mean.