There is a city called Midnight, nestled on the coast of a deeply forested country. Surrounded by mountains on all its borders, this city provides the only easy way in and out of the country.
In Midnight, they whisper, your dreams come true.
A man named Pendervall moved to Midnight, carried by some boring job at some boring company doing something boring with money to keep some other boring company from stopping it’s even more boring business. Pendervall was not a bad man, but he was not a good one, either. He went to work, nodded to his co-workers, went home. He had no close friends and few acquaintances.
Pendervall dreamed of killing. His subconscious was filled with visions of gore and guts, of wild hunts and debauched executions. These half-remembered dreams were a source of some consternation for him, for he would never commit any such acts in waking. He wondered at times if he should talk to an alienist, but he feared being ridiculed or worse still, ignored. Despite the intense violence of his dreams, he woke up refreshed and bright every single morning.
And so, Pendervall came to Midnight.
Pendervall, for his first few nights, dreamt of mundanity. He dreamt he was in the living room of his dingy boarding house, entertaining an endless stream of ever-so-slightly-off visitors desperate for mundane conversation. A man wearing an antler mask would ask for his mother's maiden name, a woman in a dress made of sackcloth would demand to know his favorite shade of blue, and so on and so forth.
In the mornings, Pendervall awoke feeling as tired as if he had never slept at all. He would wander to work through Midnights twisting streets, avoiding the raving lunatics that haunted its alleyways, and he would muse on his dreams.
By his second week, Pendervall was a shell of what he had once been. He was sitting in his fourteenth variation of his dingy living room, listening to an impeccably dressed three eyed man lecture him on the importance of the sea air, when he gave up.
He glanced down to the table between him and his guest, picked up a crab fork, and stabbed his visitor to death.
He awoke feeling refreshed again, for the first time since coming to midnight, and went his way to work with a jaunty swagger.
The next night, no more visitors came. Pendervall paced through his living room, waiting for someone to come, but the room remained empty and silent. Once more, he awoke tired and frustrated.
The night after that, Pendervall realized there was nothing keeping him in the room. He left the dingy living room, venturing into the twisted mirror of Midnight that awaited him outside. For the next three nights he simply explored, noting the impossible architecture, the twisted inhabitants, and the bubbles of unreality. He saw a beggar king dance with a devil, he heard a dead man give testimony to an august dream judge, he bought an apple of gold from a merchant dressed in rags. He witnessed a thousand miracles, a million spells, an infinite number of dreams.
He was unimpressed.
On the fourth night, he killed again. He broke into one of the dream houses on Cordon Way, armed with a kitchen knife. Within was a corpulent man at the head of an endless banquet, shoveling food and drink into his massive maw like he’d never eaten a day in his life. Pendervall cut his throat and watched the blood stain the silken tablecloths.
The morning papers reported a starving old man found dead in his sleep on Cordon Way.
Pendervall began to kill in his dreams, again and again. He would break into houses, attack unsuspecting pedestrians, kidnap isolated citizens. His dream body began to shift, growing tremendous fangs to tear his prey, another set of eyes to track them, more arms to catch them. He had never slept better.
One day, The Beast That Was Pendervall came to a house in Vicars Alley. He had had a bad night of hunting- the citizens had learned his patterns, and most now fled when they saw his monstrous form coming. He decided to return to form, and broke the window of black glass.
He slid through the house, silent. He could smell two victims, conversing quietly in the other room. Young. Children.
Something else he could smell.
Webs. Stones. Sticks. Deep earth. The smell of bones, bleached white by the sun. He began to back away, but found he could not move. His body had been bound by gossamer strands, almost invisible, yet stronger than even his abominable form.
He heard a voice like glass chimes.
“Hello, little Nightmare.”
He growled in response. He had long ago forgotten how to speak the dream tongue.
“You have been haunting the city long, I can see. Your appetite is certainly voracious.”
There was a sound like a sigh.
“Tonight, you will cease your predations. This house is under protection.”
The Beast That Was Pendervall howlled, and began to thrash, fruitlessly, against the strands that bound it.
“You will never again trouble this fair city. You will never again feast upon the false flesh of dreams.”
The Beast began to feel the strands moving, tightening. They seemed to grow, covering him, binding him more and more.
“I am a Dreamcatcher. I keep these children safe, against all that would trouble them. And you, little dream, have been caught.”
Pendervall woke with a start.
He never slept again.