As the time draws closer to the next great Reckoning, more and more people across the world wake with vivid memories of long, involved conversations with a man whom they instinctively think of as “This Man.” Who he is and what they spoke about remains unclear to those who dream of him. They only remember his lack of a name and the urgency with which he spoke.
This Man’s tale, say those who know it, began long ago and in another country, in Hod, the dream kingdom of Morpheus. Then and there, he served Rex Oneiros in his White Tower in the city of Dilmun. He rose in influence and estimation, coming closer to family and confidante to Morpheus than the dream lord allowed ever before. One day, however, something happened; This Man committed some terrible sin in the eyes of his liege. No two tellers of the story agree on how or what. The eighty-seventh oracle at Delphi said he betrayed Morpheus for the love of a garden nymph. The carvings of Machu Picchu relate how This Man loaned a forbidden book from the library of unwritten works. Or maybe he told Morpheus what he really thought, as Mad Hetty insists.
Whatever the reason, the dream king cast his former servant from the highest reaches of the White Tower. And as he fell out and away, towards the Periphery of Hod, the man’s name burned from him, flaring and fading like a shooting star, momentarily turning the twilight of that dreamland to noon. While the ashes of his name scattered on the wind, This Man continued on, no longer on the rolls of any of the dark lords of Geburah, sephiroth of the dead.
Now This Man, he of the forgotten face, wanders the back roads of the collective unconscious. His motivations are unclear. He contacts denizens of Malkuth from every class and walk of life. People who encounter him in their Panorama recall little of his message, only that change is coming and they must choose sides.
Morpheus stripping This Man of his name and past had the unintended consequence of shrouding him from the dream lord’s gaze. While he cannot return to Malkuth, his home all the tales suppose, as his very Essence would unravel without the metaphysical structure a name provides, his lack of identity allows him to move with relative impunity through the marches of Hod. Occasionally sightings of an unidentified man wandering the hills of a far off dream realm pass from citizen to citizen, winding their way up the hills of Dilmun to Morpheus’ ear. Rex Oneiros shows no outward reaction.
While the frequency of This Man’s contact with mortal dreamers increases, and arcane scholars of the mortal world take increasing note of the phenomenon, the reasons for his conversations remain obscure. Any number of theories have been put forth, based on the fading memories of those he contacts.
Who is This Man?
As his history was struck from living and written memory, This Man has any number of possible origins, a few of them collected here:
- This Man is Morpheus’ excised conscience. Without his guiding inner voice, the dream lord’s darkest thoughts and impulses hold sway over the city, turning its gleaming ivory walls to ossified ash.
- The first dreamer, This Man was born in the earliest days of humanity’s origins. Hypnos raised him up into Hod, where he served countless years before Morpheus took his father’s throne, inheriting This Man as a lieutenant. In this case, This Man may have been cast out on suspicion of trying to resurrect Hypnos.
- Rather than an individual, This Man is an office or universal function, passed from holder to holder. The lord of dreams has always had a counterpart, sometimes a nemesis, other times a complementary element. Part of the rite of succession is the sacrifice of name and memory. Now the current holder seeks an heir to the role, interviewing every person in Malkuth via dream as part of the process.
The War in Dreams
This Man visits dreamers to recruit them for his army. Every dreamer he brings to his side is a member of a fifth column spanning the entire material world. With even a significant fraction of the world’s people under his sway, thinking it’s all a dream, This Man could wield prodigious influence over the Periphery of Hod, enough to attract Morpheus’ attention.
The goal of this army of sleepers is less clear. This Man, painfully aware of the growing gash in reality that is the Sammael Gate, may be preparing for the arrival of Leviathan, or even thinking to head the Mad God off, blocking the gate up with the millions of dreamselves under his control. It would decimate the waking world, for millions to die in their sleep, but potentially protect all the nine sephiroth from the ravages of the beast.
More prosaically, This Man could want to storm the White Tower. Simple revenge drives him, to overthrow Morpheus the same as the dream king did to his own father, Hypnos. So long as there is a lord in the highest tower in Dilmun, it hardly matters who that might be.
Making a Name for Himself
In his quest to heal his wounds and move on, This Man visits dreamers to create a new history for himself. The more people who remember him, and the more vividly, the better his odds of eventually finding or receiving a new name for himself. The drawback is that, dissatisfied with the lack of results mere conversation yields, This Man experiments with more extreme methods.
In the waking world, a seeming plague of nightmares spreads across the population. Support groups, mundane and mystical, spring up as people deal with their memories of a dark, nameless figure inflicting terrors and atrocities on them without rhyme or reason. Covenants organize hunting parties to foray into Hod and track down the perpetrator, while others appeal to Morpheus, who is even more enigmatic than usual on this issue.
The Olive Branch
This Man’s activities maximize disruption to the normal state of affairs in Hod – dreamers entering and departing their Panorama undisturbed and at ease – without generating undue damage. His goal is to draw Morpheus out of Dilmun, from which This Man is barred, to the marches, where he hopes to petition the dream king for the restoration of his name.
This sort of plot can only end badly, unless This Man has a cast of characters on his side intent on demonstrating to Morpheus the importance of forgiveness, or This Man’s place by his liege’s side or the damage done by a realm divided between potent controlling forces.
Note: I first heard of This Man on an episode of Mysterious Universe. The website has since been discovered to be part of a viral marketing campaign — the domain belongs to an Italian person with an email domain of “guerrigliamarketing,” but the notion of an anonymous dream traveler or deep-seated archetypal entity everyone shares in common did get me thinking about its possibilities as a non-player character in a roleplaying game, someone to chase after or be chased by.