That night the Emperor gasped wide-eyed from an eerie dream he’d had for four consecutive nights. The dream felt more vivid than ever before. Gulping for air, he yelled for his Court Magician. “It is just a nightmare, sir,” consoled the trusty Magician, who rushed into the Emperor’s chambers disheveled since it was the middle of the night.

“The same nightmare,” he screeched to the Magician, “where I am in rags, a soot-faced girl born into hopeless poverty. It is real, I tell you! Look at the mud on my wrists!”

As the Magician peered at the Emperor’s arms, he could see the muddy sleeves. There was no explanation for that. “There is also a strange old woman who stands behind me as if she will hurt me. Her menacing presence appears in all of my nightmares.” Just then, a scorpion jumped from his bed and scampered out the window so quickly that there was not a moment for reaction. The Magician brushed aside the vision of the venomous insect although the sense of foreboding stayed with him.

“There’s been physical proof after every one of the nightmares,” the Emperor moaned. “You see the mud tonight. The night before… here look at these seashells with fine sand, what do you make of that?”  He rushed to a small table, “And, what about this!” he screeched, producing  willow leaves he had ripped from the tree in his dream. The Magician could say nothing. He knew that the Emperor had managed somehow to bring these tokens from the land of dreams.

“How is it that I can be reborn into such poverty, so vulnerable, so wretched!” Soaked in sweat in his pale silk robes, the Emperor shuddered with dread as he buried his face in a large satin pillow. The Magician cradled the Emperor’s head in his hands, gently stroking his damp forehead.

“It is just an interesting dream,” continued the Magician.

“But, it is real. It is real!” the Emperor cried.

“I don’t think you should worry about something that is out of your hands,” said the Magician, “after all, we don’t know if this is truly a fate that will befall you.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” barked the Emperor.

“Now, now,” said the Magician cajoling him as a doting mother would a child who had fallen and hurt himself. “This is just a dream, only a fantastic dream. Don’t fret any further about it.”

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