Trapped in a thirsty desert, Tristamil is about to surrender.
A smile settled on burnt lips and he closed his eyes. He visualised himself as a sapling oak sprung from the health and vitality of a perfect acorn, growing steadily in fertile soil under a benign sun and showered with blessed rain.
With infinite care, he saw himself reach for maturity, bright emerald leaves unfurling from tight green buds after a long cold winter, raising up to the beginning of a new spring, and felt in that visualisation in perfect sync with the pattern of the universe. It was not a hallucination or an imagining borne of desperate hope; it was an awakening of his true self.
This is life.
He extended his tongue to catch the coolness of raindrops.
His eyes snapped open. He licked his lips. Chapped, burnt, swollen … and wet.
The awesome imaginings of a sane mind could drive one to crazy acts, but the frightening delusions of a feverish mind could drive one entirely insane, sometimes beyond redemption.
Is my need so dire I am delusional?
Yet, there it was again.
Tristamil rose, afraid to dislodge the delusion. Glad of the delusion. Even if it ended now, as hard as disappointment would be, it was satisfying.
When he stepped into a puddle of fresh rainwater, the blessed cool bringing instant relief to a hot, blistered foot, he laughed aloud and put his other foot in. It was worth the pain after, to feel cool and refreshed in his mind, no matter how short-lived. He sank to his knees in the puddle and drank, slurping greedily like one of the Keep’s kitchen mongrels, enjoying each dunking of the tongue.
I am an oak tree, young yet, reaching for the stars, and I shall grow strong and mighty. He rocked back to drink more sedately, more in keeping with how he envisioned himself.
It was real. While he believed in the purity of his oaken self, it would be there for him. If he lost faith the desert of his previous pretence would return.