It glided down the dark street, forked staff thrust out before itself like the prow of a ship. Shadows clothed it. They billowed and fluttered round long spindly limbs, knobby knees and bony elbows. The creature was tiny, small as a baby. His skin shimmered pale gold, his hair white. Inhumanly large black eyes made him all the more alien. His bare feet swung limply behind his floating form, talon-like toenails scrapped dully along the sidewalk.
The bright lights of a passing car swept across him, but the light did not illuminate him. Instead it merely threw a strange shadow across the walk no mortal would have thought twice about. And tonight was no exception. The car continued on its late-night errand, the ruby tail-lights wandering off in the distance. The creature's breath hissed between pointed teeth as he tested the air. He breathed in again, longer, more carefully. Mingled with the lingering stench of the car, he could taste a faint flavor. The flavor of what he sought.
“Sweet. So… sweet,” he sighed. He scanned the neighborhood, eyes narrowed critically, and soon located his target on the corner beside the little park.
He faded, and like a dandelion seed drifting on the wind, floated easily through the wood and drywall of the house, passed the wiring, the book shelves, and taped up water color scrawls meant to look like ponies and rainbow-clad skies. He entered the child’s room. Slowly the fae drifted to the head of the bed where the little girl’s black curls lay fanned upon pink flannel. The scent permeated the air here, thick and heady. His mouth watered. His fingers twitched.
Dreams. Intoxicating dreams.
Lowering his forked staff, he reached down and slid it insubstantially through the girl’s head. Her dark, round face pinched slightly in her sleep. She gave a little moan, and he froze. He had been too eager. Wake the dreamer and the dream was spoiled, useless. Catch the dream at just the right moment and…
"Ah! There we are."
The staff came gently from the girl’s head, the fork tangled in the gossamer glow of a perfect dream.
He could hardly contain his glee. Most dreams were mundane, day to day events, work, school, chores. Some were disturbing, confused or angry, others were true nightmares. All were useless. But the sweet dreams, the perfect dreams, they were worth a fortune to the right faeries. A perfect dream could pay off the likes of Turnbow before the gnome got any ideas about slicing off fingers or ears.
"And what a lovely dream you have here, child. Truly perfect," the thief whispered. "You won't miss it will you? Piffel! You'd probably give it to me if you were able to, a sweet little thing like you. No. You'll never miss it. Not at all. You can go back to your ordinary dreams and never know the difference."
He drizzled the glowing threads of the dream into an amethyst phial and then ghosted from the house, leaving the dreamer to her less valuable dreams. The dream thief alighted on the sidewalk again and renewed his slow search, his slitted nostrils flaring as he took in the night air. The sweet scent came again.
"Another? What luck!" He quickened his pace, but then he paused. The scent was getting stronger, impossibly so, coming from every direction at once. The dream thief froze.
“I told you what would happen if I caught you stealing dreams again,” growled a voice deep as the dark.
The thief swallowed and slowly turned. A towering figure of shadow loomed over him. A pale sword, clear as crystal, thin as paper gleamed as it slipped from its shadowed scabbard. The thief shrunk back, his black eyes searching desperately for a rout of escape.
“S-s-sandman, you’re mistaken. I swear—”
“My dreams,” Sandman rumbled, “are not meant for the fae. My dreams are not meant for you.”
The thief tried to run. The sword flicked forward. Black blood splashed on the sidewalk and hissing, evaporated, leaving not even a stain behind. The vial of violet crystal tinkled against the hard ground and shattering into a thousand glittering shards. The dream faded away.
Down the street, beside the little park, sheltered in the wood and plaster, wire and paint of her house, the dreamer sighed, and the stillness of night returned.