As a traveller and explorer, Billobi had seen more than anyone usually do in one's lifetime; from the brightest shining gemstones, to the darkest slimy creatures, he had seen it all. But even as he grew older, things still seemed to pop up from nowhere and surprise him. If he was lucky, he had his pen ready and could add it to his journal. If he was unlucky, he had to run for his life, pen or no pen.
The only person Billobi knew of that had seen as much strange things as himself was his old friend Thomas Althorp, owner of the only antique shop in the town of Horsehead. Visiting his shop was a sure way of experience new, weird things.
"A branch?" asked Billobi and looked at the twig at the table. He and Thomas stood by the counter, opposite sides, observing the dead piece of wood.
"Yep", said Thomas. "Not very exciting, eh?"
"Not the least... What does it do?"
"Well..." - Thomas scratched his chin - "The gentleman who sold it to me said it could be used as a dowsing rod."
"A dowsing rod? Surely you know those never works, dear friend?"
"That's what I told him, but he assured it wasn't meant to be used here, and certainly not for water."
Billobi picked up the y-shaped branch and studied it up close, without noticing any kind of interesting features. "What do you mean 'not here', as in not in Horsehead? Soo...he sold you a dowsing rod that doesn't work in this town, or not at all for that matter? Maybe retailing isn't your cup of tea..."
"Hey! Maybe I'll make you buy it!" They stood quiet for while, inspecting the gnarled thing, when Thomas all of a sudden said: "Oh, I almost forgot! He was in a hurry so he had prepared a pamphlet for the rod. Let me just fetch it."
He disappeared into the backroom, and Billobi could hear him going through - possibly - piles of papers, cursing and mumbling. Some minutes later, he came back with a small grey piece of paper.
"Here it is! Let me read it for you", Thomas said and unfolded it. "'Dear new owner of this dowsing rod, know what you hold in your very possession, because it is the Key in your dreams. Owner, if you have pursued this item as I have, we both know what you are going through. For six days or less, you've been having nightmares, impossible to escape from, in which you're being hunted by the projection of your curse. Owner, you may have been beaten senseless and scared half to death in your dreams, but know that with the Key on your nightstand, it will guide you in your darkest dreams, to the safehaven where the projection may do you no harm. Treat it well, and keep it with you always, as you will never know when you will sleep the next time! But know this, owner, after the sixth day, no Key will help you, as the projection will take..."
Thomas stopped, obviously shaken by the words.
"What does it say, dear friend?" Billobi asked, almost whispering.
Thomas continued: "'...as the projection will take the step into our world, where you have to face it alone. Owner, know this, I too dreaded for the seventh day, but I stood tall and defeated my projection. I am now free, and pass this rod on to guide your through your six nightmares. Owner, I wish you the best of luck.'"
"Well..." Billobi said and wiped his fingers against the counter. "Whatever vile curse it is that cause that kind of nightmares, I sure hope it isn't contagious..."
These kinds of dowsing rods only works in dreams of a cursed person, where it will look and feel as in the real world. It is employed in the same way as ordinary dowsing rods, with the difference that it will find a spot (or "safehaven") in the dream where the projection that haunts the dreamer cannot harm him or her (as long as the dreamer stays put till he wakes).
Nobody knows for sure what the cause of these curses are, but they all seem to progress in the same way. Since the cause is unknown, so is the incubation period, but when the disease breaks out the affected person will have nightmares, six nights in a row. In theses nightmares (which will vary greatly, probably depending on things such as origin of the infection, the person infected, etc.), a terrible projection of evil will hunt the dreamer and hurt him until they wake up. The projection may change from night to night, but will almost always have some personal meaning to the affected person.
On the seventh night, the projection will take on a real life form and approach the person. If defeated, the curse is defeated and the person free. The projection must be killed by the affected person, otherwise the projection will go back into the dream plane where it will hunt for another six nights.
There have been reports of people unaffected by the curse being able to use these rods in ordinary dreams, finding wondrous places and peoples, and strange, magical things - or even themselves.
The 2016 Cartographic Review!
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