Chapter 1:

Sweet Dreams (Are Hit-or-Miss)

Alma's Dreams are Default

Alma found herself soaring high above the world, unable to catch even a glimpse of her own shadow below her. Unafraid, she flew through uncanny skies of some unknown dream realm, beyond where she could no longer gaze upon land or sea. She swam an endless expanse of blushing clouds, where just beyond the limitless horizon, there stood enormous ethereal castles and silent ziggurats with impossible architecture stretching far outside the boundaries of her peripheral vision. Surrounding these structures were countless crystalline spires, the summits of which could not be spied by human eyes for they stretched infinitely into a living cosmos home to millions of stars. A boundless empyrean kissed by the radiant moonbeams of a crumbling lunar body more massive than anything Alma had ever beheld in her meager existence.

It was clear this was no longer the planet Sarracas where she made her home.

Abstract sights blinded her understanding of whatever sphere it was she suddenly found herself in. A myriad of questions floated through her mind:

What assemblage of divine denizens have made this place their home? How long must it have taken them to simply traverse from the end of one great chamber to another? Has the possibility of other worlds and realms like mine ever crossed the threshold of their unconscious dreams? How long had they dwelt there? Or have they just always been?

As she pondered over these philosophical thoughts, she soon came to the realization that not only was she bereft of her clothes, but of her body as well—and yet somehow, she understood that a contradiction such as this must have been the compromise to gain entry into these esoteric lands.

A wind had been blowing—A breeze so clean and pure, it had never been felt by a living soul. It was controlling every bit of her movements, moving her like a boat on a vast sea of nothingness.

As she drifted helplessly through the uncanny ocean, her mind began to pick up the sound of foreign vibrations coming from all directions. A vibrant echo that evolved into distorted and unrecognizable whispers she thought could only be uttered by alien tongues. The growing cacophony of surrounding voices gave her a tense feeling of unease as she looked around, but could find no source.

Perhaps they were fellow consciousnesses also being carried along the waves of cool zephyrs, all gathering toward a singular destination that was host to a festive soiree, celebrating a freedom of never longer having to be immutable sacks of flesh, chained to a planet where they led short, dull lives that were inevitably forgotten.

The girl realized it then—beyond the dissonance of words being spoken—that the entire time she had been there, a voice had been calling her name.



The girl awoke with a start—a fleeting dream on the precipice of her memory. The mechanical humming of a heater permeated the room while a small, square box on her dresser was reciting the events of the previous day. Next to it, a round, glowing pedestal was providing energy to a small, metallic bracelet that had been playing an eccentric tune until she picked it up and shut it off. Sitting up and letting out a large yawn, the girl peered out of her window—only to glimpse the usual ashen skies that raced endlessly towards the horizon. Seamless blankets of snow stretched between and atop the many homes that littered the landscape. It was a city where the clouds never seemed to part. A vision of the world she had always known.

As she admired the bleak and familiar early-morning landscape, a pocket-sized blur zoomed past her window. Another not-so-unusual sight in her daily life, Alma wondered just how long it had been since she first began seeing these inexplicable apparitions—rare though they were. No one ever seemed to believe her when she claimed she could perceive these curious, otherworldly anomalies that would fly haphazardly through the skies or shift in mechanical and unnatural movements along the ground. Things that could infiltrate houses by phasing through their walls or floors without a care for any known universal law. On even rarer occasions, they would simply appear as strange distortions in reality; A mirage only visible to her mind. For a time, she figured them for ghosts, but even that line of reasoning she eventually deemed ludicrous because of the nature in which they behaved. Ultimately, she had chosen to simply ignore the affronts to her sanity, and hopefully before her family was given the chance to question her odd behavior. Or worse: assume it's a gift from their goddess.

Throwing her head back into her pillow, she hazily tried to recall a dream that may never have been.


Up until recently, she had found it increasingly difficult to gather the energy to get out of bed, even after having the foresight to set multiple alarms. That was soon to change, however, as the daze and grogginess of the morning began to clear and the significance of the day soon began to dawn on her. It was the day she officially joined the ranks of Malachias's Royal Crusaders and, Macha willing, be given the special recognition zealously sought by many. To be chosen as an inductee into the princess's elite guard.

The Sacred Seven

The thought that she would be able to serve her country, her princess and her Goddess had meant the world to her. She dreamed of this day ever since she was a young girl. When she first witnessed one of the royal processions almost a decade prior, held to honor the brave soldiers coming home from war. Great lines of men and women, some astride horses, all garbed in their alabaster, militaristic tabards. At the back of this procession was the glittering ivory carriage carrying Princess June of Malachias as she waved and smiled to her crowd. And marching alongside her were seven holy knights, distinct from all the rest. Their faces completely hidden away behind silken veils that covered their entire head. The scarlet-tinged armor they donned was broad and threatening. Each one, specially trained, carried a unique weapon at their side.

June, a girl of only 16 at the time, was perhaps the youngest princess to rule over the war-torn country of Malachias. A principality small in size, it continued to be well-respected among neighboring nations for being known as a formidable fighting force. What they lacked in size, they made up for with brutal, militaristic strategies. Crucial areas to secure, the right dissidents to make dealings with, and which countries to ally and gain favor with.

What set this small principality apart from the rest most of all, however—and what it was most famous for—was the unwavering belief that they had in their sovereign goddess Macha. So deeply ingrained was their faith in this holy figure, it could be said that the true decision makers of the country were in actuality the heads of the princedom’s monolithic Scarlet Church; and the princess who was meant to be at the forefront of it all, was in actuality simply used as a figurehead.

According to these church heads, Princess June's family line was said to be direct descendants of Macha herself. Therefore, no one has ever truly been in doubt of the princess's rule, for to question the princess would mean to question the church—and by extension—the goddess Macha herself.

For the briefest moment during the royal procession, when the princess's smiling face finally fell on the area of spectators where young Alma had been watching from, the young princess's eyes had finally met with hers, or rather, they would have, had June's vision not been stolen from her and her now obsolete eyes sealed away by an ivory, silken blindfold. A blinder patterned with golden, runic symbols whose meaning were known only to June and the church. And just as all princesses who came before her, the light of June's eyes needed to be cast out before she took the throne, A surefire yet dour method in order for her to be able to understand the madness of her heritage.

Although Alma did nothing to stand out from the rest of the crowd, seeing the princess's grace up close was all it took to change the small child's life indefinitely. The beautiful majesty of her homeland encompassed into a girl barely older than herself stirred some strong feelings from deep within Alma—an awareness made manifest when the young woman swore a patriotic oath to herself from that day forward. Bringing a small hand to her chest, she promised herself that she would do whatever it took to dutifully honor her princess.

Now, after having spent several grueling weeks in basic and advanced training, the day had finally come for her and a few other off-hand recruits to partake in her very first mission. Of course, this first mission had to be an easy one—defending an outpost already guarded by a checkpoint on both sides. And because of that, most action, if any, was usually only seen in the first couple of stations. Still, Alma continued to cling to the delusion that she would be killing at least one vagrant this day.

Her small principality was currently at war with the small neighboring country of Kuranes. Their ruler—the so-called Yellow King—was known to be a neurotic, driven by mad prophecy, who would make arbitrary strategic decisions based on some cultish belief in a faceless being called Kaddath. A ghoulish entity that was said to visit him nightly in his dreams.

She smirked as her mind dwelled on the rumors and reports of a fool madly proclaiming his god's latest promises. She caught herself reciting her grandmother's usual boast: "Like some dubious oneiromancy can be practiced by anyone but the Albion elfwin.” Further emphasized by her sister’s follow-up: “A pathetic man who dreams of false gods are no match for our deranged Macha!" There was a hint of derision there by Alma, as her own zealotry wasn’t as up to par as theirs. Their words thus prompted a breath of haughty laughter. Because what’s so special about a King who in the end can die to a small bullet like any other man? She wished deeply for the enemy to give her cause to empty her rifle.


She stared at the reflection in her bedroom mirror, mentally preparing herself for the day to come. Before her stood a half-naked girl in black, breezy sweatpants. She was of impish stature with a very pale complexion and a toned, athletic build. A shut-in for many years, she was able to stay fit thanks to the rigorous military training she undertook and her seldom backcountry hunting excursions whenever she heard of the newest drunken rumor of roaming cryptids. An odd hobby she became enamored with after attempting to explain away her bothersome apparitions.

Alma liked to keep her mop short. The raven hair she wore was styled in a bob that reached past her chin with long bangs flowing freely over brown eyes. Under those eyes, bags had long set from the countless nights she would go with almost no sleep—having to keep an eye out for any strange apparition that decided to float through her room.

Following her daily ritual of tying up her bangs into a top knot and concealing her dark bags with a touch of makeup, she rushed to grab the All-Strap that was charging on her nightstand and cuffed it to her wrist. The All-Strap was the brand name for a handy communications watch that most people are hardly seen without these days. Most nights, she’d find herself fiddling with all of its interesting features, which had left the aging keyboard of her once beloved computer to begin accumulating a fine layer of dust.

The All-Strap was just the newest form for one of the world’s most marketable device—this particular brand being known for its quirky slogan: The world you missed at the flick of a wrist!

Alma grabbed her slick, leather gloves and wrapped herself in a long, woolen black coat—the hood of which was lined with thick, dark fur. The coat was a gorgeous gift from her sister, given to her on the day she was accepted into the Royal Crusaders. Heading for the front door, she reached for the large black canvas case containing her standard issue rifle. Slinging it gracelessly over her shoulder, she whispered into it as a mother would its babe: "Can't forget you, Esme."

Looking back on her days in training, she recalled how even though she attained barely passing marks in her hand-to-hand combat training, her commanding officer had ecstatically praised the "peerless" aim she had with firearms and quickly selected the girl to be her unit's designated markswoman. Alma was unsure if giving the shortest woman a weapon more than half her size was a typical form of hazing in the army.