In this alternate version of A Bright Dream, the main character was a young angel searching for his mentor, who had gotten himself trapped in a painting familiar to In Nomine readers. Tariel, who made the change to the story's final incarnation, and the young angel had persuaded the main character from A Dark Dream and his friend, the Calabite named Charlie, that it was in both of their best interests to track down the human who could trap celestial souls at his whim. Of course, the demons turn on the angels as soon as the angels take care of the human sorceror. The game mechanic of the celestial form used to be much more powerful – an angel, assuming his true form on the Earth, could shake a building. Since the building the characters were in was still under construction, it's no wonder our young protaganist shook the whole building down. (In fact, an angel (or demon, for that matter) assuming his true form might not recorporate – this became too much of a problem, and rather than keep a good plot device, the game was changed.)
When the time came to rework the opening of the book, I decided to ditch the previous Bright Dream, which just never worked for me, and tell the story from a human's perspective, both making the angels as mysterious as they should be and giving me a better excuse to include so much exposition.
You can see how this evolved into the fiction as it exists today; I only hope I'm not embarassing myself too much by showing it to you. It also marks the first time I used the phrase "cool, measured tones," which I continued to over use and now edit out whenever I see it.
Anyway, here's an unedited snippet of the original Bright Dream. I hope you like it.
– Derek Pearcy
"Excuse me," I said quickly, my voice shaking, "but I believe the enemy has regained the ability to move small metal projectiles at a high rate of speed."
"What?" said Tariel, trying to fix electrician's tape over our captive's mouth.
"A gun!" I blurted, pointing frantically at the slowly lumbering demon behind him. "He's got a goddamn gun!"
The silhouette of the large demon raised its hand, then stopped, snagged on loose coils of its own intestines. Confused, it took a step back and tried to shake its hand loose. With a tired sigh, Tariel turned around and lunged at the creature. They both fell to the floor in a wrestling, tangled mess of arms, legs and guts.
"Hey, good lookin'," said our captive, who had pulled off his gag in the confusion and tried to stagger to his feet. I've had enough, I thought. I mustered up my Essence, took in a deep breath and got ready to let loose a Song that would shut him up once and for all.
But he was faster than me. Before I could blink, he jumped forward, made a loud snapping noise with his mouth and jumped back out of reach, smiling like a cat.
Pain throbbed slowly from my arm, and I completely forgot about my Song when I looked down at my hand and noticed that the little bastard had bitten my thumb off. The demon just stood there and smiled hugely, one of those, "I just bit your thumb off – isn't that funny?" smirks. My good hand closed over the spout of blood and – I admit it – tears welled up in my eyes.
"My . . . you, you bit my . . . my . . . "
"Thumb!" shouted the demon, straightening his tie. "Say it! Thumb, thumb, thumb, thumb, thumb!" He pulled a cigarette out of his jacket. Behind him, Tariel and the demon slowly rolled around on the blood-covered floor. I couldn't tell who was winning.
"Don't mess with me, you know?" said the demon. I don't remember him lighting the cigarette, but he must have because then he blew smoke in my face. "You're a little weak for an angel, aren'cha? Guy bites your thumb off you fall completely to pieces." He took the cigarette out of his mouth and mulled over a thought for a moment.
"Actually," the demon said with a grin, "you taste pretty good. Think you can spare a pinky?" Slowly, he reached out for me.
That was when I lost it. I admit it, I lost it. But it'd been the longest day of my life, and I wasn't about to let another demon intimidate me, much less eat any more of my fingers. It was rash, it was dangerous, it was a mistake, but I had all that Essence and I was well beyond fed up, so I assumed my True Form.
Instantly, the room filled with white light as my forces swept across the place. The corporeal plane was not made for such displays of pure celestial divinity. Our four souls, two angels and two demons, were lain bare and clean to each other – and for the rest of my life I will remember the peace I felt at that moment. It was a bright dream, a passing vision of what lies beyond even the celestial realm, a greater goodness than I could ever concieve, and try as I might to stay at that moment of clear divinity, my mind spiralled away – back to Earth and further, into blackness.
When I woke up I couldn't see anything, but except for my aching hand I felt intact. I tried to sit up and succeeded only in bumping my head soundly against a rock.
"You're awake," came Tariel's voice from the darkness. "Well, that's one good thing. You know when you assume your True Form on the corporeal plane, there's an even chance you won't ever recorporealize."
"I know," I said, rubbing my head. "It was foolish. I let that demon get to me."
"Well, don't worry too much, the other one was about to get to me." Tariel chucked quietly. "First time I've ever had a demon try to strangle me with his own entrails. Funny thing, that."
"So, where are we?"
"I was waiting for you to ask that. Right now, my friend, we are buried under more rock than I care to think about. Far as I can tell, after you came back to the real world, the whole side of the building we were in fell apart. The demons took off one way, and I was able to grab your body and use the last of my Essence to shield us from the collapse."
"You didn't just say the last of your Essence, did you?"
We sat in silence for a minute.
"What time is it?" I asked.
"'Bout midnight, I guess," he said. "You were out for almost an hour."
I nodded to myself.
"You did right," Tariel said. "Don't ever think otherwise. I mean, I was about had by the big guy, and the two of those boys would've made meat of you – no offense."
"Didn't think you'd try to take the building out."
"Well," he said, "at least this way only one of us loses. Better than both of us."
I felt I was missing something.
"Only one of us?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "If you hadn't done that, we'd both be dead. Now only one of us will be – and beat up like this, I'm guessing it'd better be me."
"Beat up? Oh, it's dark, I can't see you. Is it bad?"
"Not too bad," Tariel laughed, "but bad enough that I won't be walking out of here. You know what I'm talking about? . . . No, I guess you don't.
"Look, this is the way it is. We're trapped under God-knows how many tons of steel and stone, and even if we wait six or seven hours for the sun to come up, the demons – who I'm pretty sure got away, with the painting – will be long gone."
"I'm with you so far," I said, not much liking where this was going.
"And even with what little Essence sunrise will give us, we won't be able to lift all this rock. It'll be days before the humans dig us out of here – and they'll have a few questions for us to answer. Really, there's only one way out. I'm trusting you to take it 'cause I can't do it myself."
At last, I understood. Getting out of here was beyond the ability of even an angel – a normal angel, that is. Only one way rose to mind to get someone else's attention, without a ton of Essence.
"Well, get on with it," he coughed. "When I have my wits together, I'll tell anyone who'll listen about what's going on. I recover from Trauma quickly; I may not be able to make it back myself, but I'll send reinforcements."
Without another word, I felt around for a rock, larger than one hand could easily get around. Then I crawled over to where I had heard Tariel's voice coming from, and reached out, touching his face with my hands.
"Be quick," he said, and I was.
In the darkness, alone, I scratched words on the rock walls like a celestial primitive, with angelic blood for ink, shaking and humming quietly to myself. I was afraid this had been another foolish endeavor at the end of a long string of them, thatit wouldn't work, but as I wrote the summoning scriptures, the letters began to glow with a life of their own. I could see around the confines of my tiny prison. I could see myself, I could see Tariel's corpse and the damage he'd suffered at the demon's hands – and at mine.
The letters glowed more and more brightly in the dark, hateful night, until I felt lightheaded and giddy under my labor. I slaved on, perfecting the summoning, creating an undeniable pattern in the Symphony which would send out a call that could not be ignored . . .
"You have called, I have answered," murmured a voice in my head.
"Sir," I said, trying to be as calm as possible, under the circumstances. "I have only failure to report to you. I met two other angels, with whom I searched for my mentor, and – "
"I know," spoke the voice, with cool and measured tones. "You have summoned my attention at great cost, and I have taken in the situation." A soft blue glow began to overtake the red shine of the blood.
"I require freedom from my current situation, and the means with which to defeat the Diabolicals who have kidnapped the artifact in which my mentor has been imprisoned."
"And you shall have it. You have not merely failure to report to me, but great victory as well. You have travelled widely, you have found your mentor and learned several valuable lessons."
I swallowed deeply in my chest. "Yes, sir, I have."
"Let one of those lessons be that your superior is not to be summoned frequently or lightly."
"Now, to resolve your predicament." And with the merest whisper of the Song of Location, I could feel clean air on my skin. Looking up, a starry sky stretched out in every direction, infinite in possibilities. I stood outside the wrecked and tangled building, several hundred yards away. Emergency vehicles had pulled up and workers were busily sifting through the rubble.
"Tariel's soul is safe in Heaven," the voice said. "I have removed his corporeal vessel from this plane of existance, as well as the writings which summoned me here. The humans will find no answers to their questions. You should now have enough Essence within you to finish the job you so desperately wish to accomplish, and it would please me greatly to see you victorious."
"Yes, sir, I won't let you down," I said. And like that, my superior, Archangel Michael, was gone.
By Derek Pearcy
The material here is © 1996 Steve Jackson Games, Incorporated. All rights reserved.