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Bad Dreams (French: Les Mauvais Rêves) is the zeroth album in the French comic book science-fiction series Valerian and Laureline created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. It was serialized in Pilote magazine from 9 November 1967 until 15 February 1968. It is followed by The City of Shifting Waters.

Summary

Earth, the 28th century - the alarm is raised when a spatio-temporal transport is stolen from Galaxity astroport. The Chief of the spatio-temporal service orders spatio-temporal agent Valerian to return from his holidays in Arcturus to investigate. Arriving at Galaxity, he is informed of serious disturbances to the Dream Service. Traveling to the Dream Chambers, he discovers that all of the dreams have been corrupted somehow such that they turn into nightmares – a dream of the countryside is ruined by carnivorous plants, a dream of the crystal caves of Aldebaran becomes a torment when the caves melt. The man responsible is Xombul, the head of the Dream Service and one of the technocrats of the First Circle who govern Galaxity. He is the one who has stolen the spatio-temporal transport. A search of Xombul's home uncovers a book of sorcery written by Alberic the Old, a wizard from the 11th century. A report from the temporal relay in that time period confirms that that is where Xombul has gone.

Following Xombul, Valérian arrives at the spatio-temporal relay station in 11th century France. He finds Galaxity's contact, Geoffrey, an innkeeper, nursing a sore head. Xombul had surprised him before heading for the Forest of Arelaune. Following on a horse borrowed from Geoffrey, he arrives at the forest but loses the trail in the fading light as the sun sets. He chooses to make his bed on one of the giant leaves that litter the forest floor.

Waking up the next morning, he discovers he is trapped – the giant leaf has wrapped itself around him. A young peasant girl finds him and, taking his sword, climbs up to the roof of the forest to clear the branches above Valérian. The sun, now able to penetrate beneath the canopy of the trees, causes the leaf to shrivel and Valérian is free. The young girl introduces herself as Laureline and offers to act as his guide. Valérian explains that he has lost the trail and Laureline suggest he visit the powerful wizard, Alberic the Old.

Valerian and Laureline's first meeting

Traveling across a barren landscape, they come to a poisonous marsh. In the centre lies Alberic's castle. Using reeds to enable them to breathe the clear air above the marsh, they cross on a raft. But, a dead branch bursts one of the poisonous bubbles as they land and they are knocked unconscious.

Regaining consciousness a week later, they slip inside the castle but soon become lost in a labyrinth of passages. Attacked by guards, they become separated and Valérian comes to a chamber where he finds Xombul. Xombul tells Valérian that he is fed up with how weak humanity has become and he has decided to break the people out of their apathy – first by introducing nightmares into the dream programmes and now by bringing back an army of beasts, created by transforming people using a magical spell, to terrorise the people of Galaxity into making him their emperor so that he can wage a war of conquest across the galaxy.

Taking Valérian to the dungeons he shows him the people he has transformed into beasts – Alberic The Old, his servant and the various peasants who live in the forest. Also languishing in a cell is Laureline. Casting his transformation spell, she is turned into a unicorn. Locking Valérian in a cage in a workshop, Xombul leaves for Galaxity with his menagerie of monsters. Using an underground passage to avoid the marsh, Xombul's plans are interrupted when one of the monsters gets stuck. When freeing the creature causes the marsh water to leak into the passage, Laureline, still a unicorn, uses the confusion to escape. Valérian, meanwhile, has also managed to escape and is reunited with Laureline, who has retained the ability to talk.

Pursuing Xombul, Valérian and Laureline find him and his entourage encamped in the forest. When Xombul's party continue their journey the next morning, they are trapped by Valérian and Laureline in spider's webs. Xombul admits defeat and agrees to transform everyone back to human form. However, in the confusion following everyone's return to their normal appearance, Xombul changes himself into a falcon and escapes. Valérian moves to follow and says goodbye to Laureline, who he is forbidden to take with him to the 28th century. Laureline reveals that, as a unicorn, she was able to read minds and that she knows Valérian's secret and that Valérian is required to take her with him to prevent contamination of the time-line. Valérian sighs, but does not seem too unhappy about it. Before they leave, Alberic gives Valérian a ring that acts as a protective charm against his spells.

Arriving at the spatio-temporal relay, Valérian finds that Xombul has sabotaged his spatio-temporal transport. While Valérian makes repairs, he connects Laureline to the station's mnemotechnical equipment to prepare her for her voyage to the future. Completing the repairs, they make the space-time jump but arrive too late – Xombul is wreaking havoc with his monsters. Meeting Jirad, the assistant to the Chief of the Spatio-Temporal Service, they travel to the Dream Chambers where Xombul has erected two dream projectors to spread his nightmare. Entering the building, they find Xombul sitting on a donkey about to be crowned Emperor of the Galaxy. Xombul casts a spell but Valérian's protective charm reflects it back onto the donkey which returns to its normal state – that of the Chief of the Spatio-Temporal Service! At the same time, Jirad manages to switch off the dream projectors and everything returns to normal. Taking the spell book from Xombul, the Chief casts a spell and Xombul is changed into a bird and put into a cage. As the sun sets, the Chief welcomes Laureline to Galaxity.

Main Characters

  • Valérian, a 28th-century spatio-temporal agent from Galaxity
  • Laureline, an 11th-century French peasant girl
  • The Chief of the Spatio-Temporal Service, a technocrat of the First Circle of Galaxity
  • Xombul, the Chief of the Dream Service, a technocrat of the First Circle of Galaxity
  • Jirad, assistant to the Chief of the Spatio-Temporal Service, a technocrat of the Second Circle of Galaxity
  • Alberic the Old, an 11th-century French wizard
  • Geoffrey, an 11th-century French innkeeper who serves as Galaxity's contact in the Middle Ages

Settings

  • Earth, 2720
    • Galaxity, capital of the Terran Galactic Empire
      • The discovery of space-time travel in the year 2314 transformed life for people on Earth. Since the abolition of work, most people live in a leisurely state within virtual reality programs provided by the Dream Service. Galaxity is governed by scientific administrators, the Technocrats of the First Circle. Security is provided by the agents of the Spatio-Temporal Service who protect Galaxity and Earth's timeline from malicious influences and who explore the cosmos to seek new sources of resources for Galaxity.
  • Arcturus, time unknown
    • 11th planet
      • A small, barren planet where Valérian likes to spend his holidays working on mathematical sculptures.
  • Earth, 11th Century
    • France
      • Valérian meets Laureline in the Forest of Arelaune, which is now known as the Forest of Brotonne, and is located in Seine-Maritime, Upper Normandy. All of the action in this album takes place within a day's ride of the forest.

Trivia

  • Although this is the first Valérian adventure to be published, it was not collected into album format until 1983 under the title Mézières et Christin Avec Les Mauvais Rêves (Special Valérian), mainly due to its unusual length (30 pages) compared with the other albums (usually 46 pages). It was reprinted in 2000 under the titles Les Mauvais Rêves and incorporated into the main Valérian series. Because the next album, The City of Shifting Waters, had already been numbered as album one, this album was designated number zero in the range.
  • To make up the page count, this album also includes a timeline of all the Valérian adventures up to Orphan of the Stars as well as concept drawings and a plot outline for an unmade animated adventure, The Asteroids of Shimballil.\
  • The art style is somewhat at odds with the other albums in the series; it is closer to the comic-dynamic style of Valérian's stablemates in Pilote magazine (such as Asterix and Lucky Luke) than the realistic style of the rest of the albums.
  • In this album Valérian travels through time in the two-seater spatio-temporal transport XB27.