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My hapless wanderer (I believe we agreed to call her Alice) won the struggle at the Morrow Castle. This next challenge will test her abilities (and ours, as worldbuilders) like never before.

The creature she is to face next is not of this world. It lives on the edge of consciousness and dream. The Maere Wolf is a hypnagogic beast, a monster of the dream-world, inducing a troubled sleep-like state into its victims and stealing their most valuable memories, their deepest secrets and replacing them with frightening and horrible images of its victims' greatest fears.

Alice needs to recover a particular stolen memory (it was stolen from someone else, if this matters). Ideally, she would prefer not to lose any of her own memories in the process, but if it can't be helped, it can't be helped.

How can you help? Luckily, Alice has had a few months to prepare for her mission, and the thought that a foreign entity might attempt to invade her sleeping or near-sleeping mind either occurred to her (smart cookie) or perhaps it was right there in the young female adventurer training manual, page 23. So, we need to know what techniques Alice can and will use to:

  • maintain awareness while nearing sleep;
  • take control of the nightmare dream-like state;
  • probe the depths of her dream to find the stolen memories;
  • preserve the memory when awakened.
  • Possible Hint: Yoga Nidra.

Here are some optional extra details if you want them. You may investigate the area:

The physical manifestation of the monster is a small but pleasant-looking cottage along a highway deep in the wilderness. A couple of tired-looking teenage girls, with deep bags under their eyes maintain the place, either refusing or perhaps unable to speak. They indicate that she is to sleep in a comfy looking bedroom inside the cottage, lit by a dancing wood-fire in a terracotta stove, while they retire to the barn for the evening.
Alice is not stupid, she's heard the warnings of peasants and travelers along the road, so she knows about the Wolf. Unfortunately for her, Alice needs to recover a secret that was stolen by the Maere Wolf. Her trinkets indicate that something's definitely going on here, and her compass seems to point anywhere but North, but none of Alice's fancy toys can locate the source. She's going to have to do this the hard way.

Perhaps you have some lore about the Hypnagogic trap:

The Maere Wolf is either conscious, or more likely, a very craftily constructed rule-based probing program. Whatever physical object exists that triggers the trap, the Wolf only subjectively exists in people's minds, and such can be seen as a remarkably powerful induced nightmare. It is known that memories are changed by reliving them, so the nightmare somehow causes near-unconscious minds to relive important memories, associate them with the nightmare. Thus the Wolf extracts the information, and finally overwrites it during the continued dreamlike sequence. This means the subject cannot retrieve it correctly anymore, while the Wolf has the objective content of the memory and can write a heavily encrypted form to whatever physical substrate is available to it. However, every time the Wolf is activated, all its stolen memories are, in some form, potentially available to the dreamer's mind.

Please let me know if you need more information! The more unusual and unorthodox the answer, the better!

LATE EDIT: I am very grateful for all the answers and Aaru's in particular for the thought-out in-depth answer. Alice has indeed had over a decade of martial arts training, it makes perfect sense she would be trained in combat meditation techniques. Wish I could upvote it more than once. The Wolf's servants unfortunately cannot be saved, as Alice is in a terrible rush.

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    $\begingroup$ I want to read this story when you are finished. $\endgroup$ – IchabodE Mar 4 '15 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ I try to sleep, they're wide awake, they won't let me alone. They don't get paid or take vacations or let me alone... 'cause they're waiting for me, they're looking for me, every single night. They're driving me insane, these men inside my brain! $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 6 '15 at 21:44
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Decided to take you up on the Yoga Nidra hint:

Alice has had decades of martial art training, to reach her 6-dan black belt status you mentioned in the previous chapter. Part of her training involved yoga meditation, to still and steel her mind.

After a few minutes prep time staring at the burning embers in the fireplace, Alice will enter a state of deep relaxation where her brain emits the delta wave characteristic of sleep, while retaining conscious awareness.

The trap will detect the delta wave activity (I'm assuming it's monitoring the brainwaves of whomever is in the cottage), assume the person has no conscious capacity to resist, and therefore trigger.

Since the Dream Wolf (I like the term) only really exists in her mind, all of its stolen memories from other people will have to be temporarily instantiated using partial memories from Alice's mind.

Alice will have to literally let the induced nightmare imagery build to full strength (full instantiation), and then proceed to ignore the attempted induced nightmare, denying it the nourishing emotional reaction, which will cause it to wither away and fade from her attention.

Similarly, she will have to resist the urge to think about her secrets, to prevent the dream wolf from accessing them. Perhaps she will use sets of decoys, useless memories repackaged as terrible secrets for the wolf to churn through - watching grass grow, paint dry, all of them temporarily holding cosmic significance for Alice, etc.

Finally, the biggest challenge will be extracting the stolen memories. You never specified how many the wolf has, and how Alice can identify the particular one she's looking for. So I'll make up a way instead. Alice, or the organization that sent her, has interrogated the previous holder of the memory and extracted relevant memory correlates, which Alice will herself have memorize and is ready activate when the dream wolf is fully instantiated in her mind.

Doing so will activate the memory fragments associated with the sought-after secret. Alice will have to put the puzzle pieces together. The way to do so is to find each piece and add it to a dream, and when all the pieces are found and the dream is fully fleshed out, the dream will be the quasi-correct memory with all the information Alice needs. All she needs to do is stabilize the dream as a full-memory and once that is achieved she can exit the meditation state.

I wish I had a way to also help the girl victims you mentioned, but you didn't give us enough information to do so. I'm sure Alice will find a way, though.

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    $\begingroup$ This deserves far far more upvotes than it has. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Mar 4 '15 at 16:09
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Sounds like you're looking for Lucid Dreaming. Then Alice can navigate through the Wolf's Nightmare-memories and try to fight the nightmare on a conscious basis.

Note: I don't believe Lucid Dreaming is currently "scientific" - it's not proven and techniques are very debatable. Thankfully for you, if you go this route it gives you a lot of flexibility - you can pick almost anything reasonable and be ok because no one knows what the right answer is. I would probably do some sort of specialized meditation, leading to sleep.

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    $\begingroup$ Lucid dreaming has been scientifically demonstrated. It is quantifiably different from being awake or being in REM sleep. Note that this means the wolf might be able to tell if Alice is actually in REM or in a lucid dream state. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 3 '15 at 4:34
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While Dan's idea is correct, his belief is a little off.

Lucid dreams make you practically omnipotent. You can just will any change. Some elements are more resistant, but with enough focus you can do anything. Your only two risks are waking up (very common problem, especially if you get excited about reaching lucidity) and 'losing lucidity' - forgetting it; if you are distracted, lose focus on staying lucid - controlling your dream with your awareness, you may simply forget about being able to control the dream. While you are omnipotent, you are not omniscient, far from it - your brain still works in dream state, your logical thinking suffers, elements that would normally appear wrong or illogical, or inconsistent often don't, and things that are difficult in dream (e.g. verbalizing words instead of just expressing ideas) are still difficult.

Lucid dreaming is definitely a fact, and not even very exotic (yours truly experienced it a couple times). It can be achieved more or less reliably; while it largely depends on individuality of the dreamer, more difficult for some, easier for others, there are various techniques that aid in achieving it.

One rudimentary technique is 'Reality Check'. There are some activities that simply don't work in your sleep right, universally - common dream elements which nobody is capable of. One most frequently used example is reading the same text twice. While you can read book in your dream, and it may even make some kind of sense, if you return to the beginning of the page, or even a sentence back, it will never read the same. That's an uncanny signal that you are dreaming.

So, if you perform a Reality Check in your waking world frequently enough (several times a day; and of course the read text will say the same thing when you read it twice), chances are good that you will dream of performing a Reality Check in your dream, and... oh, it failed! That means you're dreaming, and you just went lucid!

(it can be any arbitrary text, maybe a sentence from a book you carry, maybe an SMS message on your phone, maybe a commercial within your field of view. If you lack a text, you can always write one.)

The most tricky element is to achieve lucidity on demand. If you don't perform the reality check, there won't be any lucidity. So, you need a trigger. It may be a characteristic sound, or rapidly blinking light. For example, you can set a (specific sound) timer alarm to remind you of performing RC every hour or so. Then you can set it before going to sleep - if it's just the right volume, you won't wake up but you will still hear it, and it will be the obvious reminder.

Alice would be best off employing external aid. First, find a trigger for lucid dreaming, and develop disciplined rigor of performing reality checks. Next, preferably reinforce the strength of the trigger through employing aid of a hypnotizer. While the flashy scenic hypnosis is all a scam, the truth thoroughly analyzed by psychologists is that entering a certain state of mind can allow to immensely modify certain associations, compulsion, reactions. In particular, associating given signal, like sound, or flashing light, with strong awareness of situation requiring lucid dreaming, can be made very strong and reliable - while before you'd rely on blind luck and randomness of your brain finding given situation, now you practically force it.

And then, Alice would be best off coming with a friend, who would watch her sleep and trigger the signal if external reactions of her body - eyeballs moving under eyelids, breath speeding up, twitching - suggest she is "in trouble" in the dream world.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have a few reality checks, but when I do them in a dream, I usually think "huh, this usually only works in a dream. Oh well." $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Mar 3 '15 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh: One of risks of failing. In my case it's trivial, it's enough for me to even think of lucid dreaming and I realize the world is 'off' and I'm dreaming; less than a second between thinking about lucid dreaming and me reaching lucidity. ...then usually fifteen seconds later I'm awake. $\endgroup$ – SF. Mar 4 '15 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ If the dream machine is guarded by creepy teenage girls, they probably would not allow Alice to bring a friend, or they would find a way to subject the friend to the dream wolf as well. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Mar 6 '15 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed. Lucid dreaming can (maybe it depends on who is doing it) more potent than any adversary, if you will it. (Might take a lot of willpower, but I've not yet had a lucid dream where I was "bested".) $\endgroup$ – Rex Kerr Mar 30 '15 at 2:09
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She ties loud bells to her hands, so that if she starts thrashing around in her sleep the sound will wake her up. When the wolf attacks her she grabs hold of it in her dreams, in the struggle she thrashes around and the bells awaken her.

As she transitions from dream state to waking state while grasping the dream wolf, that pulls the dream through into the non-dream with her. Trapped in the real world the wolf is much weaker, so she can then grab it before it escapes and subject it to whatever process she likes to extract the information she needs.

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Lysergic acid diethylamide

And a small group of friends (read: victims).

I like all of the ideas of previous answers, particularly by Aaru, as well as mentions of lucid dreaming. I don't mean to replace any of the other answers, but I would like to take it one step further.

In preparation for this task, Alice should not only face her greatest fears, but do it while tripping on LSD...which would probably increase the terror. As she becomes hardened to her fears, the nightmare state induced by the Wolf will have little effect on her while in dream land. This will give her an extra layer of defense as she attempts to subvert the program.

Another idea is to bring along a cadre of willing (paid) participants. If there are multiple dreamers in the trap, the Dream Wolf can only work on one at a time (assuming it's not multi-threaded), thus giving Alice more of a chance to work her Yoga Fu and recover the memories. Even if the Wolf can work on them all at the same time, this would presumably tax its energy, giving Alice a slight advantage in its weakened state.

The hosts at the cottage might be unwilling to allow more than one weary traveler in to stay because of this potential weakness. But I'm sure Alice can find a way to sneak in a few more people when they retire to their barn.

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