Part 41 of Quest
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At first light they’ll go
into day’s promise to walk–
outpace evil’s flight.
~ ~ ~
Night lays heavy upon the world weighing
it down, troubling minds with nightmares’ frown.
Impenetrable eyes, black, unyielding–
porc’lain face, scarlet lips ne’er kissed turned down,
orange scarf hides necklace of thorns, long fall
of white tresses unbrushed, crowned by spotted fur–
the coiled remains of a beast fore’er balled.
Gowned in fur that drips from arms rife with burrs,
a humanoid creature slouches forward.
Nightmares, like nettles, tangle in its hair.
It crosses the underground town whose wards
can’t touch the thing made of dreams that walks there.
It mists through walls, kisses brows, elicits
groans as it leaves bad dreams then mists…
The Nightmare moved cottage to cottage searching the sleeping subterranean town for those who’d escape the Undeem. An odd assortment to be certain, one man, plain but carrying an artifact of power, a human child and two Anandarwen guides. Strange that they should escape the Undeem.
Overhead, a lumir crystal blazed in its cage, its cold light no threat to a creature of dream, conjured here by request. Each mind the Nightmares touched gave them shape and color but not substance. Each time they crossed underneath the pendulum swinging uselessly from its silver chain above, they tipped their heads back and smirked at the hanging guardian, its wrath no threat to them.
Their savior in chains,
prisoned in a swinging cage–
spilling light that saves.
Snug in a cottage near the underground lake, Eloaysa, the Groundling equivalent of a wise woman, sheltered the very folk the Nightmares sought. A human baby grunted and struggled against his wrappings. On a pallet nearby, Henneth slept but beside him, his Guardian blade blazed; its white crystal sent out searching beams that stabbed into darkness. Chero lay nestled in a nest of blankets on a low table to keep him and his equally tiny companion, Anasril, from being accidentally trampled. Anasril had her own pallet on the same table; her blue lashes lay soft against her pale skin.
A shadow roiled
disgorged an Undeem woman,
Undreal sagged against the cottage wall and almost phased through it. Hunger racked her thinning frame but she focused on the baby smiling at her and firmed her resolve. Henneth’s Guardian blade backed off on the lightshow, which while impressive, wouldn’t hamper the creatures Undreal sensed. Perhaps she would feed after all…
the last cottage bearing gifts–
As if it knew her mind, the Guardian blade’s light receded allowing comforting shadows to fall and veil her new friends. She wrapped the baby in deepest darkness, fashioning a shelter to cocoon him in safety. Not what the baby wanted at all. His dark eyes implored her to hold him and rock him back to sleep. She smiled; she would do that once she dispatched the threat heading for them.
After sealing off the baby’s hiding spot, she drifted to the table, pulled by something dark. A mark revealed itself to her eyes; one of her kind had peered into the Anandarwen boy and left its mark. The Guardian blade ignited again blinding her and causing the edges of her being to fray and steam. She bit back a cry; the Nightmares had acute hearing but not the sharpest eyesight since they kept their gaze on two worlds at all times–that of dream and that of reality. A migraine inducing existence if ever there was one but that explained their disposition.
Lifting him and the girl, she laid their small pallets by the Guardian blade and it threw a bubble of white radiance over them the instant she backed away. The mark burn away in that pure light. Let there be no lingering effect. She’d check later.
Mental bells rang; her time was up. She’d done enough to protect them from her kind, just in case the Nightmares were a distraction. All wards had vulnerabilities. Even ones as old and finely crafted as the ones she’d had Henneth activate upon their arrival. It would take time for that horde to break the wards even with help from their demonic queen. No time to worry about that now, not with the Nightmares converging…
Unreal slipped between the shadows, becoming one with them as the first Nightmare poked its head through the wall to her right. Ripping the mask away, she dug psychic needles that extruded from her fingertips into the rough hide of neck holding up the horsey face she’d revealed. Her body shuddered as what it craved coursed through her hands.
She drew the Nightmare through the wall; its eyes were half-closed in the ecstasy of the drain. Strength rushed through her filling out her form, swelling her until she no longer looked skeletal. The Nightmare shivered in her grasp and then misted away; it would drift on the aether back to the Dreamer’s Hall where it would respawn. Sheathing her needles, Undreal reached into her abdomen and wrenched free a rib. It shook in her grip, liquified and then reformed into a matte black scimitar as long as her arm. The balance wasn’t quite right but she wasn’t going to throw it.
Spinning, she drove the blade into the wall and it passed like a shadow through tapestry and masonry into the center of mass of a Nightmare. It dissolved on the night wind blowing in from the oculus in the center of the cavern’s ceiling.
Another Nightmare materialized steps
from her friends and she ran, slicing her blade
through the air and the hovering hands; step
repeat, slash a torso, crack a mask, trade
blows that knocked her backwards, exposing friends
to danger; jump, spin, get her blade between
Nightmare and dreams; sever one, leave her friends
in peace well earned; six down, they’ve gone between.
Still a group to go ‘fore waking rings
their bell and ends their threat; they’re closing in,
identical painted masks all smirking;
she willed her blade to divide, swung both in
figure eights of cross-cutting protection.
She advanced; they retreated; battle won.
~ ~ ~
Undeem now redeemed–
saved lives instead of taking;
friendship transformed her.
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The Quest Undreal’s battle with the Nightmares continues in Nightmares’ Quest Part 2.
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Nightmares’ Quest employed the following prompts: Color Your World: Olive; Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie: Photo Challenge #102 (which provided the image of the masked figure) & The Sunday Whirl #240; Daily Post: Inevitable & The Daily Post: “Fight.”