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Hoffman's Healing Dream

(Group project)

Hoffman tries to relax for what is expected to be his best night of sleep. It is not that he does not trust Branwyn, he still has memories of his last magic sleep and the visions that came up even after he woke. He rolls over as if to turn away and is pleasantly surprised to see his Miranda, in her original body wearing only a smile as she slides, takes his arm, wraps it around her and presses tight to her standard spooning position. “Boy I miss this” she says as if nothing has changed.

“I do too.” Hoffman says without question. “I am just so glad you came back.”

“Oh, are you having one of my famous crisis of Faith without me now? I am here now, tell me all about it. “ Miranda says, hugging herself tighter with his arm.

“No, well maybe.”Hoffman said as matter of fact. “I did it, well we did it, but I killed Red, I mean Black Cloak.” he trailed off for a moment thinking there would be more of a response but then continued. “Sure it came at a price, but Branwyn is safe, her soul is clear, no killing out of hate.”

“Did you really think there would not be a cost?” she asked for clarification. “Or did you think my big strong Hoffman was too good to miss.” she says with an elbow to his stomach.

“I thought I was going to die. I thought about you and was wondering if this is what you felt and then, I was not dead. I lost something, almost like losing you. I lost a part of me I don’t know if I can get back.”

She let his words sit there for a moment, in reverence for the loss, but then twisted around to face him, looking him in the eye and speaking bluntly.”I told you before I left, you will always have that hole, that desire for more. Think of this as more time to plan and prepare. Think about what you want to build within yourself. What do you want to be when you grow up?” She kissed him on the lips briefly to little response, she rolled away and out of bed, walking away as she faded into her new body and out the door once again.

Hoffman closed his eyes and rolled to his back before feeling a presence and opened his eyes to see Kel standing at the end of the bed, luckily fully clothed and overly cheerful. “What’s up Hoffman, how have you been?”

"Well, if it isn't my second favorite elf. " Hoffman said before receiving a slap to his feet.

"Hey, it's close. But you heard what happened. She died, just like Shi but then Shi helped her come back, just not quite the same."

Kel responded with a strange look and another slap. "You are lucky I know what you know and understand what you are trying to say. Yes both Miranda and Shi came back to life but not back to us. But remember, elves have long lives and there is no telling what might happen. Humans are not so lucky. You need to decide sooner than later what you want to do, in any decision you are considering."

"But even with such long lives, some things will never be the same. All the time in the world cannot fix what has been broken," said a voice nearby. Hoffman glanced over to see Shi, as gloomy as she'd been before she left for Loosend, clear space between her and Kel, and sending Kel a very wary glimpse before giving Hoffman her full attention. "Can you accept that? Not all of us can. Or will," continued Shi with another sad glance at Kel.

"It is so good to see you Shi. I was not sure you would come back to this place of evil." Hoffman says smiling as Shi.

I guess the good news I did not die, but am I broken? Does this change anything with Miranda? I would have thought a couple like you a shared experience would bring you closer, but I think this does not give me much hope." He says gesturing to each of the elves before him.

For his part, Kel looks on forlorn but with big puppy dog eyes.

"Is that not what friends are for? To help in times of need? Or do humans see friendship differently?" asked Shi, confused. She glanced around at the church, shivering slightly in discomfort. "But I certainly do not like this place. I hope you fill it with better memories. Fill it with birds and song and dance."

After another look around, Shi shook her head, her attention back on Hoffman, saying, "Why would it change anything with Miranda if you do not want it to change? A broken pot can still be repaired, molded into something more beautiful than the original piece. Or… perhaps it'll be shattered beyond repair. Simple dust to be swept away. But you don't look like dust to me."

Shi'Nynze glanced down at her own hands as little flecks started to fall off. She frowned at them, bewildered, as Kel reached to catch those pieces, each one simply falling through his hands. A jumble of words were whispered behind her catching her attention. Elvish? When the words stopped, Shi'Nynze glanced back at her hands, whole once again, with barely any scars to show for it.

As she ran her hand along the scars, she said, "A good potter can be hard to find. Sometimes it's best to go back to those who molded us from the start, who made us into who we are today."

Kel, a step closer to Shi hopes this is an opening. "Are we talking about Hoffman and Miranda? Or just Hoffman. Maybe he just got pruned a little, cutting off the low lying branches to make a stronger when he grows back. He has strong roots, he will be fine. You will be fine, Hoffman." He finishes with a strong handshake and a bro hug for Hoffman before glancing at Shi and walking away, just out of range and sits on a stool as if waiting to see what Shi does.

Meanwhile, Hoffman waves then looks back to Shi. "I work with wood and the broken and scrap pieces becomes fire wood. Useful but I am not sure that is quite the same thing. If I need to rebuild something I keep what still works and replace the damaged pieces with something new." He pauses thinking about what he just said.

"A potter and a carpenter, both artists, both capable of creating beauty from something broken," replied Shi'Nynze, giving him a slight smile. She gave a small nod in the direction of Kel, as she continued, "Trimming branches to strengthen the roots or kneading the clay to create a stronger bind. They are one in the same. It's not the material that matters. It's what you do with it."

Shi'Nynze took a step back, away from Kel, her eyes on Hoffman, and her direction the same as the one Miranda took. It was hard to tell, with all the shadows, if that was Miranda behind her or simply shadows. Still, Shi'Nynze slowly slipped away into them, her words carrying even when she disappeared from view.

"The question is, and will always be: are you willing to make those repairs? Or will you let us slip away? Broken, unfinished, in need of healing, looking for someone else to help put us back together, as you both opt to sit there, waiting and waiting and waiting as we slip farther and farther away for you…"

There was a pause, a silence, and emptiness. Just as Hoffman was beginning to think Shi'Nynze was gone, he heard a whisper, with clear laughter in her voice, "At least I am your favorite elf."

Hoffman's thoughts fade as does Shi, so he decides to stretch his legs waiting for the dream to start. He finds himself walking the hallway under Skull Church, there are no flowers but it does feel brighter before he comes to a point where the passage splits left and right. He stops just a moment to look back to see how he got here, not remembering all the details but pretty sure there was not two paths last time he was here. He looks down each path and decides one looks more filled with shadows and the other he hears the clanking of armor but still not sure which way he is supposed to go.

“Hello, Hoffman,” a familiar voice quietly echoes from the shadowy tunnel. “Hye not sure what t’is s’posed to symbolize, but you gots to choose one tunnel.”

Hoffman turns and smiles. “Hey, Ilero I certainly never thought to see you in these tunnels. Did you hear what happened? I found something worse than death. I am half the man I used to be”

Another voice comes from the well-lit tunnel, “Are you? Or have you merely suffered a temporary setback?”

Hoffman turns around again “Set back? Who are you to call this a set back?”

“Hmmm..perhaps someone who’s gone through the same thing,” the voice says, moving forward in the tunnel accompanied by the sound of solid armor plates clinking together.

“Oh, well you should know, I know this other guy a bit and I trust him, even when I can’t see him. I was thinking that is a good way to live, by not being seen. Anyone can hear you coming before I even see who you are. Right Ilero?” Hoffman gesturing to the voice behind him.

“Not seen, not heard, not noticed,” echoes Ilero’s voice from the shadows.

“Not known, not remembered. Is that what you want?” retorts the voice of Brer Necholas from the light.

“Oh, I hope to be remembered by a few at least, certainly more than just one brother, but quite a few know the man in the shadows. A great man, in his own way. I think I want to be more like him than you. Is that wrong?”

“Nope,” Ilero says from his side. “Hye accomplish much. Can you do same?”

“But can you do what you want from the shadows, or must you be in the eye of the world?” replies Brer Necholas.

Hoffman faces the wall and turns his head back and forth between the voices and the paths. “I am sure Brer has done enough, but he is not well known as an individual. Maybe it’s just me. This is certainly a set back to equaling Ilero’s skill or notoriety. I was thinking more about the path but maybe I need to know the goal. “ He thinks for a moment “No, the goal is unchanged, ever forward. Can I choose both?” he asks the voices on either side.

Ilero says, “Live in t’e light...”

“..but work in the shadows?” finishes Brer.

Hoffman sighs deeply. “Something like that. I can’t hope to be either of you at this point. But I appreciate your support, your guidance and your encouragement. I think I have to find my own path.“

He raises his hand to the wall in front and presses a panel and a section of the wall falls into the floor revealing a passageway. He nods to his friend and then to his newer companion before stepping though.

“Maybe if I run?” Hoffman says out loud to himself as he picks up the pace. Not quite a sprint, but enough to feel the wind, he finds himself going cross country along a path into some fairly thick woods and comes to a clearing where he stops and smiles at an old friend. Sitting on a large rock in the middle is Qui Fon, casually eating a rock like an apple.

“I knew it!” says Hoffman with a heavy exhale. “I knew you were keeping something from me. Enough people say it, must be true. So good to see you, Qui Fon.”

For his part, Qui Fon smiled, spit out a handful of pebbles and a tooth or two. “I am always here for you dear friend, especially at times of great need. I think you're lost.” he said feigning concern as he stands to accept the upcoming hug.

Hoffman more than obliged with bear hug and then tossed the dwarf 20 feet in the air before catching him and holding him up as if to block the sun. “How can I be lost if I found you? You always kept me on the path, things were going so well when you were with me. You never let me down” he says as he sets Qui Fon on solid ground and sits on the rock himself. “But if you're here, then I am not going forward,” he says somewhat forlorn.

“Now, Now” Qui Fon starts patting the knee of his human friend, “You are allowed to look back to see where you have been. It is part of making sure you are going forward, staying on the path. Look around you now, what do you see?”

Hoffman stands on the rock for a better view and realizes he is surrounded by a wall of trees, with no clear path of where he came from and no indication on which way to go. “I guess I am at the end,” he says with a sigh.

Qui Fon jumps up and slaps Hoffman’s aryse. “THAT’S RIGHT, but it sounds like you still don’t understand. You are at the FRONT end. You can go any way you choose, even if you don’t see it.” he says as he lifts the rock exposing a set of stairs going down and sending Hoffman tumbling literally as well as figuratively. “And don’t tell me doing down is bad, some of the greatest adventures are to be found under the surface.” he says as he tumbles down the stairs as the rock hatches closes behind him.

Hoffman chuckles as he picks himself off. “Always keeping me on my toes, I do miss ..…” he trails off noticing he is alone again. Shaking his head, he attempts to lift the rock only to find it is much heavier than he thought. Grabbing another angle, he tries again and again with no success. Finally he grabs it around the circumference and lifts straight up, revealing only ground. With a full laugh he sets the rock back down and sits against it for a moment, smiling as he contemplates the meaning for a moment. Looking up at the blue sky, he smiles as he notices a rope ladder he had not noticed before, hanging from the sky. “I would rather fly” he muses and he jumps to the rope and starts climb into his next thought

Hoffman finds himself back in Skull Church, with his hands chained above his head and his clothes mostly eaten by black pudding. He relaxes, knowing there is nothing he can do but wait, but as it turns out he does not have to wait long as Mara the Blessed walks in.

“You seem to be in a bit of a spot Hoffman. Anything I can do to help?” Mara says with just a little flirtation in her voice while wearing Miranda’s nightgown

Hoffman shrugs “I really don’t like these chains on me, if you can help?”

Before Mara can answer Emerald strides in, dressed in Miranda’s nightgown, and gets close to Hoffman. “You know I can help you. I can knock off these chains or make you stronger, or bigger, whatever you want.” Emerald smiles and winks at Hoffman.

 Mara gets equally close. “But can she heal you when you’re hurt. I can fix you up in ways she can’t”

Hoffman watches helpless but amused and the two start to push and shove each other before grappling one another until they turn into a blurry ball rolling on the ground and then fall through a hole in the ground, apparently releasing Hoffman’s chains. Hoffman rubs his wrist as he walks over and looks down the hole. “You let me know when you decide, I’ll be right here.” and he goes back to his pacing waiting for the dream to start.

Hoffman’s hair stands up on end as he spins around and sees a man in a Red cloak approach from the shadows. Instinctively, Hoffman raises his ax and goes to throw it at him only to be stopped as Red Cloak raises his hand and freezes Hoffman. “You can’t kill me Hoffman” he says in a taunting tone.

“No, he killed me instead” said a new voice as a faceless man in a black cloak emerged from within the Red Cloak to stand in front of Hoffman. “Did you really have to kill me?” he said with his voice dripping with disdain.

“With all the death and destruction you cause, your total lack of respect and decency for life and for the dead, you bet I did. I could not let you get away, besides, we can bring you back, I figure you deserve that too.” Hoffman said, unable to move but free to speak his mind. “If it was up to me, I’d kill you again, this time for me."

"Oh oh oh!" said a voice followed by the sound of running. Suddenly a small presence could be felt next to Hoffman. "Can I help? I'll kill him! He's the bad guy, right? We kill bad guys! Umm, I think, at least. That's the bad guy, right?"

“Well they are both bad, but we can only kill one, or we only did kill one. We were allowed to kill him right?” Hoffman says looking over to see who the voice really is. “NO! Not you Thistle. You're not killing him, you are too young to understand what this does to you. Please listen to me at least this one time.”

"Why? I'm helpful! Is it because you don't think I'm helpful?" asked Thistle, annoyed. She pulled a dagger from her sleeve and closed an eye to aim. "I can show you! Watch!"

Hoffman suddenly finds he can move and yells as he slaps Thistle into the wall. “Noooo!” He then stops suddenly as the other men fade away. He kneels down to Thistle “Are you ok? I didn't mean to hurt you, only stop you.”

"Um, yeah? You can't hurt me here," said Thistle as she stood up and dusted herself off. She looked over, noticed the two cloaks were gone, and frowned. "But why'd you take away my fun? I was gonna go all, slash slash stab WHOOSH! and make them disappear! I was gonna save you! Ugh, now what am I supposed to do? I'm getting bored."

Thistle stood there thinking, ignoring any confusion she might have caused Hoffman, until she clapped her hands together with an idea. "Oh! I know! You like flying, right? If you like the same game I like, then you can't ruin my fun!"

With another clap of her hands and an added stomp of her foot, they suddenly found themselves sitting on mounts zipping through the air. Thistle gave a delighted squeal before she leaned forward to hug the flying unicorn she was riding. Yelling to be heard, she said, "I don't care what Finny says. I think having a unicorn would be fun! Can we have flying unicorns instead of hippogriffs for the church? I think Shi would like that! Hey, wait, what's that you're riding?"

“You haven’t seen one of these close up? Lucky you.” Hoffman said, really starting to have a good time. “This is a Wyvern. Figure if I am going to be in charge of the Goblins, I need to get used to riding this over top of them. They take a little longer to turn, but then again, so do I. Are you trying to get away from something or just distract me?” he asks as he starts a big arching turn and looks down at his goblin horde below.

"Why does everyone think I always have a motive? Maybe sometimes I just want to have fun," said Thistle, annoyed. It did not last long before she was suddenly grinning again as she swung her legs to sit on the same side as the unicorn. "Maybe you're the one looking for a distraction. If you really, really want to be distracted, I can help you with that!"

Without pause or hesitation, Thistle leaned backwards to fall off the unicorn, flipping, somersaulting, and laughing as she fell through the sky.

With no time to complain, Hoffman dives off his ride and heads for the falling teenager. “I should have known you would be the death of me.” as he passes her and turns to catch her. She wiggles and pushes off, flying on her own as Hoffman continues to fall back, looking up at the three different flying creatures and wishes he was one of them. He closes his eyes just before going splat and reopens them to find himself sitting on a pew in skull church, across from Uncle Foto.

“She did not come Foto, “Hoffman says to his gnomish friend “Why did she not come?”

“You know why,“ Foto replied plain and clear, waiting for it to sink in. “She is not your mother, she is not your equal, she is not your compliment and you are not hers. You don’t complete her and she does not need you, not in the way you need to be needed. “ he took a deep breath to prepare himself and Hoffman for the harsh truth. “For better or worse, for whatever reason you want to believe, now more than ever you are a footnote in her life. Your path has ALWAYS been different from hers” he says as his body turns into Qui Fon. “Your paths crossed for a reason, but you cannot leave your path and follow hers, certainly not now.”

Hoffman just sat there and nodded as his friends split, half dwarf and half gnome. He smiled weary as they spoke in unison. “Be at peace with who you are and who you want to be, those that respect you will be happy for you. That includes yourself.”