A Quest on the Run
Part 34 of Quest
Run from vile Undeem,
escape their life-draining touch,
run, hold life precious…
~ ~ ~
Undreal held the baby against her heart,
which raced as her feet sped through the night scape.
Checking her impulse to drain the child’s heart,
she hurried as the hunger rose and scraped
at her control; she would not drain this child.
Stealing her will, she pushed on shoving night’s
veils aside, sliding through cracks in the wild.
The Undeem pursued; they jockeyed for sight,
leaped o’er each other, scuffled and tumbled–
but still behind, like a relentless wave,
hunger and insanity all jumbled
together, prodding them towards what they crave–
life, whose light they long to drink ’till sated;
’till all life’s gone and the hunger abates.
~ ~ ~
Undreal turned her thoughts away from her former brethren; without life to steal, there would just be hunger–a hunger with no end or satisfaction, but those mindless revenants pursuing them couldn’t understand that.
An Undeem collided with her shoulder and phased right through it doing her no harm. Though it surprised the creature of shadow and hunger that flailed as it fell. It couldn’t hurt her because she was Undeem. The baby in her arms shook his head negating that claim. Had she reclaimed reclaimed more than her identity when she’d broken free of the Queen’s control not once but thrice now?
“Left at the next thousand footer,” called a dim light that dropped down to fly even with her eyes.
She nodded, setting aside all thought of her nature; she could work that out later when she wasn’t being chased. A tree with a hundred foot circumference loomed before her and she rounded it, taking the left as directed. Several Undeem flashed past on her original trajectory as she peeled off. Without their Queen’s guidance, their urges drove them and their quasi-incorporeal state left them bereft of most of their senses further diminishing their ravaged minds.
She caught flashes of a silhouette with a glowing object and a small blue glow guiding him on a parallel course that intersected with hers.
She was not alone–
allies threaded the forest;
Part of her that had long ago turned to ice warmed at the sight. That part had been thawing since she found the baby in that cold field. Maybe that was the change she felt within herself. Behind them the Undeem rolled in a rippling tide towards them.
Up a ridge they ran, dodging giant trees planted in their path. Those enchanted monoliths just stood there, mute witnesses to the race. The magic within them slept; it didn’t rouse at the unnatural things giving chase. They were gaining ground as the incline grew steeper.
Crest cleaved through forest
mountains kissed where a veil fell
moon silvered water
“Down there!” the Anandarwen fellow pointed to a cave mouth half hid by that delicate cascade.
“The Groundlings’ cave!” the blue glow, a female Anandarwen added as she bounced with relief.
Undreal’s sight pierced shadow to reveal bones carven with the old runes–protection, keep out spells and yes, there amid the rubble, primitive earth wards that still held power.
They ran to it, the old man using his glowing sword as a walking stick to keep from falling on the uneven stones.
Above clouds parted,
moonlight washed the valley white
burning demons wail…
Undreal screamed as a shaft of moonlight stabbed through her; it didn’t destroy her. She pressed on, her mist-made garments steaming. Half the valley to go and then those wards–if she could just trigger them somehow.
Clouds passed puffy arms across the moon, hiding its shining face, giving her some relief as she crossed the open space. No enchanted trees sprouted from this valley’s floor. What trees grew here were deciduous and hadn’t decided to bud yet. Their naked limbs offered no comforting shadows.
Starlight pricked her skin.
Cold needles stabbed from within.
She was shadow’s kin…
She’d hoped that fight had remade her into something more than Undeem, but it hadn’t. One good act could not undo all the vile things her un-life’s servitude had wrought. Night, her friend and comforter, crushed her soul. She who walked half in the mortal world and half out of it stumbled and fell. The child in her arms caught her gaze and his trusting brown eyes pushed her to her feet and back into a run.
The Undem horde had stalled on the valley rim; held at bay by the moon’s glow, which now hidden, held them away no longer. They charged down the slope.
“Run!” she screamed.
The old man splashed into the pool at the bridal fall’s base; Undreal glided across its rippling face, surfing its deep shadows, picking up her pace. The cave loomed ahead, so close but not close enough.
“Take the child when I tell you,” she freed an arm and shoved the old man into the cave.
“What are you doing?” Henneth stared at a shadow, a negative image of a woman with determined eyes.
“Strike that with your sword when I tell you.” She pointed to a skull with runes etched into its bone dome.
Then the Undeem rose in a knot of hungry mouths and reaching hands. The time for words had passed. She backed up the rocky slope, sliding from shadow to shadow as the clouds above seamed together withholding all light.
“Now!” she handed him the baby and he struck the rune marked skull; the sword’s point jabbed into its empty eye socket. The baby squealed, kicked his little feet and clapped his hands as he drooled on Hen. Chero landed on his shoulder staring at a web of light descending to cover the cave’s mouth.
The Undeem woman who had aided them
liquified, becoming a stain on stone,
a shadow that stitched itself to the hem
of Henneth’s shadow as he watched the stones
that held the cave’s roof aloft now ignite
revealing more runes and spells he couldn’t name.
Outside the Undeem howled at the light.
They threw themselves at the wards that couldn’t maim,
but could keep them out ’till dawn when the sun
would chase them back to their dark dwelling place
‘tween the planes to a sunken palace, one
that housed their Queen, the mistress of death’s place.
A queen wounded in the fight, licking wounds
and nursing grudges with hate that subsumes…
~ ~ ~
In a cave safe hid,
an old man, a child warded,
two winged ones stay hid.
~ ~ ~
The Quest continues tomorrow…
~ ~ ~
For my sister:
I’ve turned a corner
the grief is not so near now
life beckons me on
~ ~ ~