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.