Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Drama

This piece is a Jim and Blair bad dream -- okay, it's a nightmare -- written to follow the events of Sentinel Too. I loved Shiloh's story Dragon Slayer so much, and when my muse was incredibly intrigued by it, she graciously gave me permission to borrow her concept of Jim as a dragon slayer in my own piece. Thank you, Shiloh! Inspiration is also heavily drawn from the movie, The Princess Bride, with some of the dialogue in this story adapted from it to fit Jim and Blair. The Princess Bride was written by S. Morganstern and William Goldman.

This story contains lots of angst at the beginning and shameless smarm at the end, and deals with Jim and Blair remembering the most painful events of Sentinel Too.

And when things get dark, remember, it's only a dream...

Spoilers for Sentinel Too, parts 1 and 2

Disclaimer: No Princeless Guides were permanently harmed by dragon breath in the making of this story. Also, the phrases "he's only mostly dead!" and "My name is Jim Ellison. You killed my shaman -- prepare to die!" fortunately do *not* appear in this piece.

A Dream within a Dream
a Sentinel Too allegory
by Robyn
February 1999

Once upon a time, there lived a handsome, gifted dragon slayer named Prince Ellison, and his guide named Blair Sandburg. Together they fearlessly protected the people of their land from many evil dragons. But one day, a particularly dangerous dragon came to their land. Her name was Alex. She was the most dangerous dragon they had ever fought, because she succeeded in separating them by making them doubt their friendship. And alone, the dragon slayer had no power to defeat her.

Although they triumphed over her in the end, for many days, months, and even years afterwards, both the dragon slayer and the guide would dream dreams of their battle with Alex...

****************************

Filmy white curtains fluttered slightly in a gentle breeze as the warm morning sun filtered through the large glass-paned windows, awakening Prince Ellison. For a moment, he remained still, lying in his soft, large bed, his mouth upturned in a slight smile as he remembered the dream he had dreamt. He had been walking with his best friend next to the sparkling fountain in the palace courtyard. The water in that fountain was as blue as the sky above, pure and clean. They were talking and laughing, reveling in their friendship and just being in each other's presence.

The prince smiled again, knowing they would meet again early this morning to eat together and take their walk by that fountain. Together, they would devise unique new strategies to defeat whatever new evil dragons had arrived in the land, perhaps plan where they would go hiking or fishing next. They would enjoy each other.

The tall prince arose from his bed, yawning and stretching a little, then proceeded to pull on his princely tights, tunic, short cape, and leather boots -- the black outfit of a master dragon slayer. Just as he strapped on his wide leather belt from which his silver sword and jeweled scabbard hung, the prince heard loud voices coming from outside his windows. Troubled, he pushed aside the curtains and looked out, but he could only see a crowd of people -- peasants and nobles alike -- gathered in the courtyard. There were many of them, but he couldn't see anything which would explain why they had gathered there. Being the investigative person he was, the prince determined to find out.

As he burst out of the palace doors and ran down the stairs to the courtyard, the large crowd turned slowly to gaze silently and soberly at him. The prince noticed that many of his friends -- Lord Simon, Lady Megan, Dukes Rafe and Brown and Joel -- were among those in the crowd, as were many young people -- students at the royal academy, he surmised. The prince felt their eyes upon him as his subjects parted for him to walk past, but they spoke not a word to him.

Unexpectedly, an old crone emerged from the crowd, dressed in the plain, tattered old clothes of a peasant. A brown shawl only partially covered the unruly white hair framing her wrinkled face and crooked nose, and she extended a shaky hand from beneath it, pointing a long bony finger at the prince. "Boo! Booooo! Booooooo!" she screamed in a gravelly voice.

"Why do you do this?" asked the prince, confused.

"Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up!" she answered accusatorially, her eyes piercingly indicting as they met his own. Turning to the crowd, she continued her rant, gesturing with her gnarled hands at the prince who stood in front of the imposing gray stone walls of the royal castle. "True friendship saved him in the fire swamp, at the cliffs of insanity, in the dungeon of despair, in the forest of darkness, but he treated it like garbage, and that's what he is! The prince of refuse! So bow down to him if you want. Bow down to the prince of slime, the prince of filth, the prince of pu-trescence! Boooo! Boooo! Rubbish! Filth! Slime! Muck! Boooo...."

The throng murmured to itself as her words died away. Startled and uncertain how to respond, the prince continued to make his way to the front. When he finally reached the low gray stone walls of the fountain, he gasped in horror, fear filling him at the ghastly sight which rose up before him. There, in the center of the sparkling, clear fountain he and his guide had walked beside so many times, was a dais covered with a white sheet and a generous number of flowers, positioned between the watery arches spraying forth from the fountain. A body dressed in a white robe lay peacefully on the dais, and he knew instantly, without asking, that the very still young man with limp curly brown hair was his beloved friend.

At first, the prince simply stood there, frozen at the dreadful sight. Awful feelings washed over him in a frightful deja vu, though he didn't understand why. After all, he had spoken with the vibrant young man just yesterday.

Behind him, an old, white-haired priest raised his hand and began to speak to the people in a quavery old voice with a severe lisp. "Be-twayal. Be-twayal is what bwings us togetha, today. Betwayal...."

"No!" cried the prince, not caring that he had rudely interrupted the frail bishop. "Noooo! This can't be happening!" He leaped into the fountain, crashing and splashing his way to the dais where his friend's body lay. The prince hauled himself up onto the narrow platform beside Blair, water pouring from his dark clothing as he emerged. He listened for a heartbeat.

He couldn't hear one.

"Sandburg!" he screamed, leaning down to press his ear against the younger man's chest in a desperate attempt to hear some sort of breathing, even though he knew the act was useless. He had always been able to hear his friend's heartbeat, and now it was gone. He had known fear before, but everything was nothing compared to the terror which seized him now. "C'mon, Chief! Somebody, get help!" he yelled. "Sandburg!"

The priest shook his head. "I'm sorry."

"What do you mean 'sorry'? This isn't over!" the prince cried angrily at the solemn old man, aggravated at the finality in his words, unwilling to accept them.

Lord Simon spoke sadly from the crowd. "He's gone. Let him go."

Lady Megan bowed her head. "Sandy..." she whispered.

The prince shook his head, infuriated at how everyone else had given up so easily. He turned his attention back to his friend's motionless body, shaking him. "Sandburg! Don't you die on me! I -- I can't go through this again!"

A beautiful blonde woman dressed in a black, ornate golden-embroidered gown of a princess stepped to the front of the crowd, her hair glinting reddish highlights in the sun. "He died well," she said simply. "No bribe attempts or blubbering. He only said, 'Please. Please, I need to live.' Twas the 'please' that caught my memory. I asked what was so important to him. True friendship, he replied."

A tear fell from the prince's blue eyes as he gathered Blair's white-robed body up into his arms, rocking him slightly back and forth, feeling his friend's cold skin and too-still form against his own dark wet tunic. The prince reached up with one hand, touching Blair's face with the utmost gentleness, then pressing his cheek tenderly against his friend's. "No. No," he repeated brokenly, his voice trailing off into a sob.

The priest turned back to the crowd, picking up his funeral sermon where he'd left off. "Be-twayal. That dweam with-in a dweam..."

<flash>

****************************

Dressed in a simple brown tunic, his shoulders hunched forward in emotional and physical exhaustion, the young guide stood on a wide plateau and looked out toward the city of the prince which spread out in the distance. The turrets and spires of the magnificent palace glinted in the sunlight, sparkling magically in the cool, lucid air. The fortified city, visible from hundreds of miles away, had always represented the promise of safety to the inhabitants of the land. But today, its image evoked only pain and loneliness in the young man as he gazed sadly toward his former home. Blair chose not to look down, for he knew if he glanced at the small pile of his earthly belongings sitting on the ground next to him, he would no longer be able to hold back his tears.

How could things have gone so wrong? he wondered, aching as he never had before. The anguish he felt when he remembered their last conversation was almost more than he could bear. Over and over, he tried to think what he could have said differently, but so far he had come up empty-handed. If only he could change what he had done, he would give anything.

A feeling deep inside nudged him, and he reached down and pulled a large, ancient book from his plain peasant's sack as he blinked back his tears. The title on the cover was embossed in gold, and he ran his fingers over the lettering before slowly opening it, resting the book against his arm. The pages fell open to a faded drawing of a man -- an primeval sentry, holding a spear in his strong arms, eyes looking straight ahead, jaw set hard in determination. However, the warrior's image was not what held his attention.

Instead, he stared at a smaller picture, about the size of his hand, which rested loose between the pages. With trembling fingers, he touched it lightly with his free hand. The thick smooth paper felt strange to him, and the glossy finish was unlike anything he'd seen in his lifetime, reflecting the sunlight as strongly as a mirror. The likenesses of the two men on the paper surpassed the perfection of a great painter. They sat outdoors on a log, the remnants of a campfire in front of them, dressed in bizarre clothing -- the taller man had short brown hair and wore a dark blue, long-sleeved shirt with buttons running down the front and a curious pointed collar, and other man had long, loose hair and wore a deep red shirt of similar style. Both of them wore odd, rather loose blue pants. Although the picture's setting and clothing were strange, Blair knew without a doubt that it depicted himself and the prince. The way his arm is wrapped around my shoulder, pulling me close to himself... the way I'm leaning into him.... the way I'm smiling up at him and the way he's smiling back at me... It's us.

It used to be us.

He could no longer hold back his tears, and one rolled down his face, quietly dropping onto the picture and distorting the image where it fell. He couldn't bear it any longer, and the young man looked away.

I was only thinking about myself, about my work, and somewhere along the line, I lost track of my friend, he mourned. The prince's words had been colder than drowning in the castle moat's dark icy water during a winter storm. I don't know if I can get past this ... I've gotta have a partner I can trust... The guide swallowed, knowing the tightness in his throat would never leave him. He recalled his parting words to the prince before he had turned to leave the castle forever. I know I made a mistake, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get past this. But if you've gotta hang on to it... you know where to find me.

The dragon slayer's response -- silence -- had hurt as much as the man's words had.

A small breeze tossed a few locks of hair over his eyes as the young guide exhaled a deep, painful sigh. Another tear escaped as he whispered three words aloud. "As you wish."

He stood there for a long time, the pain in his heart his only companion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Blair Sandburg, guide of dragon slayers." A woman's alto voice spoke behind him.

The young man turned toward the voice, not certain how much time had passed since he'd paused to reflect upon the city, his future, his broken heart. Although he had thought he was alone, the beautiful blonde woman's sudden appearance did not startle him. He wasn't sure why, but it was as if he had subconsciously been expecting her. "Alex," he said.

The golden embroidery on her black dress caught the rays of sun, the threads glistening like tiny flames. Her sword was drawn, and she held the glinting silver point to his neck. "If it hadn't been for you, I never would have understood who I really am. I owe you that. It wasn't until I met you that I realized what I'd become," she said, her eyes flashing at him. "This is the one thing I really didn't want to do. But I can't leave you alive."

Roughly, she seized his arm and dragged him up the hill to a clearing in the forest. There she bound him to an old burnt tree stump, tying the ropes so tightly around him that they cut cruelly into his arms, his chest, and his legs. He thought he would suffocate.

"I should have told him about you," said the young man regretfully. For the rest of his life -- and it looked like it would be short -- he would never forgive himself for that mistake. He winced as he watched her cinch the rope's final knot tautly against his body. "Look how you use this gift. What a waste."

"I would not say such things if I were you!" she warned. The woman stepped back a few feet from her victim, magically transforming into an enormous golden spotted dragon with gigantic wings, sharp claws, and vivid blue eyes.

The young guide struggled against the ropes, but never took his eyes off the beast before him. Mentally, he reached down inside himself and grasped hold of the last bit of faith he harbored in his heart -- the faith he had in his friendship with the prince. They might have fallen apart, but he still wanted to believe they were joined on a level deeper than the evil dragon realized. This faith gave him the courage to look his executioner in the face and speak boldly to her. "My sentinel will come for me," he said.

The dragon snorted in amusement, smoke arising from her nostrils as she did so. She spoke in the same dark, dangerous voice as the woman had. "Really? I hate to disappoint you, but he will not come for you. You will die, Blair. Alone." With a sweeping motion of her wings, the air glimmered and a scene spread before the young man's eyes. He saw a great crowd of people standing in the palace courtyard around the fountain. He saw himself laying very still on a narrow raised platform in the middle of the water, dressed in white, surrounded by flowers. He was dead, and the prince was nowhere to be seen.

The old priest was speaking. "Death. Death is what bwings us togetha, today... That dweam with-in a dweam..."

The dragon laughed haughtily, then took a deep breath, exhaling fiery vapors upon her victim as the scene faded from the air.

"No!" Blair cried as the dark waves of death surrounded him, caressing him, suffocating him again. He felt his last bit of faith shriveling up like a leaf thrown into the fire. His faith would die with him -- if it didn't die within him first. I will never love again.

Perhaps his friend would not come for him after all.

<flash>

****************************

"No, no, no. I'm sorry, Blair. Please..." sobbed the prince as he cradled his friend's limp body close to his heart, shutting out the murmurs of the crowd and trickling of water spraying into the fountain pool. "I love you..."

"....a dweam with-in a dweam..." intoned the old priest again.

<flash>

****************************

Eyes wide and darting around him, the prince struggled to recover from the disconcertingly abrupt change of scenery. Blair's body had vanished from his arms, and the dragon slayer now stood in the center of a forest clearing on a high hill overlooking the city. The roar of a dragon filled his ears, and he whirled around in time to see his friend, still alive, tied to an old tree stump -- in time to see the dragon preparing to kill his guide.

"Stop!" he yelled, running toward the dragon with his sword drawn. He had killed larger, scarier-looking beasts than this one, and he determined Blair would not die again if he had anything to say about it.

The prince's words caused the dragon to pause and look toward him. The air around the dragon glistened, and the beast morphed back into the beautiful woman.

"Ellison," she said in a pleased tone, smiling as she walked gracefully toward the prince. "I knew you would come. You and I are unlike any other human beings. Don't tell me you haven't thought about us -- what we could be together." Seductively, she touched his face, pressing her lips to his in a kiss. His sword fell from his hand, hitting the ground with a sickening thud.

Blair couldn't help but watch in horror as the familiar scene played itself out again. Every time he had gone with the prince to defeat this dragon, she had turned into a woman and proceeded to kiss him, rendering him quite harmless to her so she could proceed with her evil crimes against the people of their land. "Jim! Jim, stop!" he called out to his friend, though he doubted his words would have any effect.

After all, they hadn't before.

The young guide didn't know what was more painful -- seeing his prince go against everything he had learned and stood for as a dragon slayer, everything he knew to be right, everything he believed in -- or watching his best friend ignore his entreaties and simply stand by while the dragon killed him.

The young man had just turned his head away from the awful sight when he heard a shout.

"No!" the prince said.

Jerking his gaze back to the two people, Blair's eyes grew wide as he saw his friend push the woman away -- something the prince had never been able to do before.

"I let him die," cried the prince. "I betrayed him. Never again!"

The woman screamed, angry that her ploys had somehow failed her this last time. Immediately, she transformed again into the intimidating golden dragon, which roared and blew out flames toward the prince. But the prince jumped back expertly and easily, just out of the way of the flames.

Blair watched with astonishment and pride as the prince retrieved his sword from the ground where it had fallen and charged the dragon before she could strike again, plunging the blade into the beast's heart. The dragon roared once more, then vanished in a fantastic cloud of smoke.

Not bothering to sheath his sword, the prince ran to his friend and cut the ropes free with a few strokes of the blade. Blair stumbled forward as his bonds were released, shakily reaching out with a numb arm to clutch weakly at the prince's tunic. The prince caught up his guide's hand in his own larger one, bringing the younger man's hand to rest close against his chest, drawing Blair to himself as he reached around with his other arm to complete the embrace. The prince held him tightly, burying his face in Blair's hair as if he never intended to let go. "You're alive, you're alive," he murmured.

"You came," Blair whispered into his friend's chest.

"Death cannot stop true friendship," the prince said, rubbing his friend's back. "I just didn't get it before."

"I will never doubt again," declared the younger man softly, leaning into his friend's warm, strong arms.

"There will never be a need," answered the prince. He looked down at Blair, and the younger man lifted his eyes to look up at him. "Hear this now. I will always come for you."

"How can you be sure?" questioned the guide quietly.

The prince smiled brilliantly, his eyes sparkling with emotion. "This is true friendship. You think this happens every day?"

Giving his friend's hand an extra squeeze, Jim slowly moved his arm from Blair's shoulder to his head, feeling his friend's soft curls between his fingers as he held him gently. He leaned down and kissed Blair's forehead tenderly, sealing his promise. Both friends let their eyes fall closed, wanting to experience nothing but the mingled warmth of each other, and the dreamy reality surrounding them whirled away...

****************************

Jim awoke from the dream with a gasp, sitting straight up in bed. Blair. I need to see him, know he's okay. The detective pushed back the thick comforter and sheets, swinging his legs out from underneath the covers. He was about to get up when he saw Blair standing quietly at the top of the stairs, gazing at him. Their eyes met, and instantly both men knew they had shared the dream of the dragon slayer and his guide.

Jim smiled quietly and moved back onto his bed, patting the spot beside him and motioning for Blair to come sit with him. The taller man held out his hand and the younger man complied without hesitation, reaching out to take his partner's offered hand and letting himself be pulled up onto the bed. Jim drew Blair to himself, tucking his friend's hand closely against his heart, reaching around the younger man's shoulder and hugging him, encouraging him to snuggle closely.

Blair leaned his head against his partner's shoulder and neck, curling up more intimately to his friend's warmth as Jim pulled the covers up around both of them. For a few moments, they sat in comfortable silence, eyes closed.

A rustling movement prompted Jim to open his eyes, and he felt his partner reach out toward the lamp table beside the bed, grasping something from it. Still holding it in his hand, Blair rested the object down on the comforter cover, gazing at it.

The wide navy blue wooden frame held a 4 x 6 inch glossy photograph of himself and Jim sitting on a log, taken by Simon on one of their camping trips last year. Jim was wearing a dark blue, long-sleeved corduroy shirt and jeans and had his arm around Blair's shoulder. Blair wore a deep red, long-sleeved flannel shirt and jeans and was leaning against Jim. They were looking at each other, laughing at some joke. Jim smiled to himself, remembering how Simon's camera had caught them completely off-guard and how indignantly they had protested.

Silently, Jim watched as Blair slowly ran a finger along the edge of the frame, as though he were seeing the photo for the first time and contemplating its significance. Then, a tear fell from the younger man's deep blue eyes, splashing softly onto the glass.

"Chief?" His partner's low voice sounded worried, but Blair only shook his head, smiling through his tears as he continued to stare at the picture. His voice was soft when he finally spoke. "It's us," he whispered.

"Yes," said Jim softly. He felt the younger man sigh in relief, then lean back against him, relaxing his grip on the frame. Intuitively sensing Blair's need, the taller man rubbed his friend's shoulder and pulled him close again, murmuring reassuring sounds closely into his ear.

"Jim?" Blair said, somewhat sleepily, the secure, close warmth from Jim's body and the thick blankets casting a wonderfully calming spell upon his tired but now-peaceful mind.

"Yeah, Chief?"

"Thanks for being my dragon slayer."

Jim laughed softly, his voice low as he leaned down to speak closely into Blair's ear. "No problem, Chief. You know I would never be who I am without you."

Blair chuckled softly in return. He turned slightly toward his friend, their t-shirts brushing together as he reached his arms fully around Jim in a hug. "One more thing."

"What's that, Chief?"

Blair managed to yawn and grin at the same time. "Next time you go out to slay dragons, you don't have to wear tights."

Chuckling, Jim gave his sleepy friend another squeeze as he felt Blair nodding off to sleep beside him. Slowly and trying to move as little as possible, Jim reached for the frame which now lay alone on the covers, Blair having withdrawn his hand back underneath the warm blankets. Jim held the picture for a moment, noting the residual wetness on the glass. He was about to wipe it dry with the edge of the sheet, but he shook his head mentally. Reaching over, he set the picture down in its place on the night stand, watching as the tear rolled down and settled on the bottom edge of the frame.

Leaning back against the bed and adjusting his arm slightly so Blair slept against him more comfortably, Jim lightly touched his partner's wayward curls which fell across his chest. Bending down, he pressed his lips to Blair's forehead again, lingering there a moment longer as he remembered his friend's sleepy statement about his dragon slayer outfit.

"As you wish," he whispered.

****************************

And so the dragon slayer and his guide returned to the city, having triumphed over the most evil of dragons...

The courtyard was deserted in the early morning as the prince and his guide walked together. They came to stand in front of the fountain. The two friends paused to look at it and remember silently the things that had happened. They took each other's hands, vowing to one another that they would never let themselves be separated again.

Forever, the fountain would be a symbol of the greatest trial they had ever passed, and a reminder of how precious their friendship was. As white petals from the blossoming trees in the courtyard floated down upon them, the old priest's voice drifted to them from afar...

"Friendship. Friendship is what bwings us togetha, today. Friendship, that bwessed awange-ment, that dweam with-in a dweam .... Love, twue love, will follow you, fo-evah and evah ..."

~ The End ~