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The sun was just beginning to set when I awoke. Wisps of smoke from the smouldering herbs wafted through my chamber, the soft red glow of the setting sun basking the room in an almost mystical light. The time without time, neither day nor night, had broken. It is said that the world of the living, the realm of the dead and the spirit worlds are closer together at dusk than at any other time. It is also said to be the time when Hirin, Messenger of the Gods, collects the souls of the dead and leads them to the other side. Once again, the thundering of hooves accompanied me as my consciousness slipped away and I sank into the depths of my dark dreams.

When I opened my eyes again, I looked out upon a grey land. The sky was dark, full of black clouds, and the light was ashen. No sun, no moon, no stars. Time seemed to stand still in this barren place and the silence was almost ,deafening. This strange grey desert stretched out as far as I could see, and I slowly realised what my eyes beheld I was in the no man’s land between life and death. My heart turned to stone and the sense of desperation was suddenly overwhelming… no hope can exist here.

The only sound to break the silence was the snort of a horse. I turned around, hoping to make out the source of the noise, hoping for a sign, a way out of this horrible nightmare. With feet as heavy as stones I made my way through the gray dust. Each step raised a cloud of dust, dust as fine as ash, dust that left the taste of ground bones on my tongue.

After what seemed to be an eternity, I came to a valley that opened like a wound in the barren plain. From the bottom of the valley I could hear murmurs and whispers, sounds like water flowing, or thousands and thousands of voices, babbling, moaning, calling. This was the Mor Duine, the River of Souls. From the beginning of time to its end, the Mor Duine flows between the worlds, carrying our souls until the end of days. Its surface shimmered like silver, its waters flowing through the dusky light until it disappeared from view. Down by the river bank I saw the source of the noise that had brought me here.

It was Hirin, Messenger of the Gods, an imposing figure atop his black steed. He had ridden his mount to the edge of the river and behind him, on the bank, I could barely make out the shadowy contours of the dead. With a barely perceptable twitch of the reigns, the gigantic horse took a step into the water, which seemed to want to drag horse and rider into its silvery depths. Yet the animal stood firm, and soon the first souls followed, climbing down into the current. Deeper and deeper they waded into the water, passing horse and rider, until they were lost in the depths of the river. As this eerie procession continued, I realised that there was no hall for the dead, no garden of delight for the chosen few, only the river, whence everything that has been taken from it returns. The Mor Duine controls our souls, holding them captive until a new time and a new life is ready for them.

Yet there were a few who stayed back from the water, hiding, fear and hate visible in their shadowed faces as they turned and crawled from their destiny. The mighty horse reared, snorted and stamped impatiently in the water, its rider pointing the way, demanding obediance to the natural order. But these fools kept crawling, fleeing from the river, refusing the deity’s command, full of cowardice, until finally, Hirin gave up and rode off, up the ashen hill, full of contempt for these pitiful souls.

No sooner had the God disappeared when I saw the others… hundreds, thousands, emerging from the shadows along the river banks, where they had hidden from the Messenger and his anger. Now they came to welcome the new arrivals, and as they passed me, I saw the hopelessness in all their distorted, ethereal faces, and the boundless hate for the life that refused to welcome them back, hate for the order they refused to follow. Here, on the banks of the river, they had become outcasts, prisoners of their own fear and desires, captives for all eternity. This is the realm of the dead; here, on the banks of the Mor Duine, where they wallow in self-pity. And then they came for me; like animals they crept closer and closer, their loathing wafting toward me like a poisonous breath. Frozen with fear, I looked into their scornful faces and terror overcame me. No living creature can fathom the depth of their hate, the hate of those destined to stay in this place forever.

With a thundering of hooves, the messenger tore me from their midst, tore me from this dream and back to the twilight of my chamber. Only the rush of the Mor Duine still sounded in my head, the murmuring, whispering of the endless river.

Ishtar Magnus „Seven Dreams“

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