“You must go to the other side of the world to the King’s Quarters, the place Ptolemy conquered, and the place of wonder carved into the cliffs.”
“How helpful,” he said sardonically.
Stratha began to speak again, but Barnabus had already turned to the leave. Her words trailed off as the door closed on them.
The bear crossed the town to a portal he knew, and entered a dreamworld, setting off to find the mind that could help him. Traveling from dream to dream, he found the one that he sought. The person was sleeping soundly, and dreamed of a warm, pleasant place. The dreaming version was sitting idly beside a tranquil pond. She looked up without surprise and greeted her visitor.
“Hullo, old bear. It’s been too long since we have met.” Her face was blissful, a great difference from when Barnabus first encountered the woman.
“I apologize for being absent so long.”
“You are a busy bear,” she said fondly. “Please, join me.”
The bear sat next to her and they leaned into one another, sitting in silence for some time.
“What brings you here tonight, old friend?”
“A bear is in danger and I was told to go somewhere for answers. I don’t know what the directions mean. I hope you can assist me as time is critical.”
She smiled wanly.
“Give me the details.”
Barnabus related the conversation to her. When he finished, the woman furrowed her brow in concentration. It was some time before she spoke again.
“You came to the right person, of course. Although the subject isn’t among my specialty, but I do have some knowledge of your destination. The place you must go is Amman in Jordan.”
“This will be quite the journey. It has been some time since having a need to travel so far.”
She smiled and his words.
“I enjoy that you are so trusting that there was no question about how I arrived at the answer. Have you really been to the other side of the world?”
“I have never met a historian so knowledgeable in my life. That’s why I came to you. I have been to various corners of the world during my existence, but never to Jordan. I am not certain what I am looking for, though. Most likely that will resolve itself. The hag seemed certain.”
The woman reached out a bony, aged hand and gently scratched behind Barnabus’ ear. Few people could attempt such an intimate touch with any safety.
The woman had appeared youthful at first, but now her true age was apparent. Reality began to exert itself on her.
“I’m waking up, old bear. Being trapped in my mind is so tiresome.”
“You wake? I thought you were unable to do so?”
“It’s not apparent to those outside and the machines barely show anything, but I do wake after a fashion.”
Barnabus sighed. He had known the woman since she was a child. Knowing that her time was limited left him in sorrow.
“I will return again soon.”
“You skip from crisis to crisis. I understand if you are incapable.”
The bear did something that would have shocked everyone who knew him: He climbed into her lap and snuggled up to the old woman. Tears trickled down her cheeks and held him close for a while.
“You saved me from death, dear one. Go and save others with my eternal love. I can pass secure in the knowledge that I have helped you one last time.
Tears dampened Barnabus’ eyes as he stood up, and reached out a soft hand to brush her tears. He hung his head and left the fading dream.