Nightmares’ Quest Part 2
Part 43 of Quest
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Swords slice figure eights–
scatter nightmares with each swing–
cleave retreating night.
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Undreal whirled, her blades cut retreating backs.
She plunged one scimitar into her belly
dissolved it, then chased them through alleys black.
She ran two fingers down from blade’s spiny
hilt to hooked tip, elongating to a whip.
She flicked her wrist, let the whip fly, catching
a Nightmare ’bout its chest; its fur coat’s ripped.
Its brethren dropped to all fours, and grunting,
they shifted from porcelain masked horrors
to black steeds, manes tangled with thorns, eyes flat
and blank, driven by another horror.
The Nightmares pivoted and misted, their flat
stare lingering long after they had fled
leaving the one she’d caught to stare ahead.
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Undreal tightened her grip on the whip expecting resistance but none came. Her knees tried to buckle but she stood firm. The Undeem’s Queen was a canny bitch but even she couldn’t control a herd of Nightmares. Nor did she have contacts enough in the Dreamer’s Court to acquire that kind of a favor from that fickle goddess. Then how had the Nightmares known to come here and to zero in on her friends? A lone Nightmare wandering she could believe but this felt like a coordinated attack.
Coiling the whip around her forearm, Undreal reeled in her catch. The creature shuffled as the whip yanked on it. It tried to mist away but her whip was extension of herself and she checked that impulse with her magic.
“I’m also of the dark,” she said looking into its flat, black eyes. Were those the mask’s eyes or the creatures? Was that how her eyes looked to humans? “So long as I hold you, you’re going nowhere.”
Groans and moans harkened her. She whirled, sensing magic on the move. Pinpointing it in this cave so washed with wards and spells was impossible. The pendulum above flared and she cried out, covering her eyes as she sought covering darkness in the lee of a cottage. Pressing herself against window boxes fragrant with night blooming flowers, she rested.The lumir globe’s light had no effect on the Nightmare dragged along in her wake; it was not a creature of flesh nor a terrible mimicry of life like she was.
“Damn you, I’m trying to help! Would you stop blinding me? We’re on the same side.” She shook her fist at the pendulum and its glow reduced. Shadows crowded in swathing her in cooling darkness.
Sleepers tossed and turned
as nightmares burned their mind’s eye–
smote hope with sorrow.
Undreal dragged her quarry into the house, walking through walls to the bedroom where a graying Groundling writhed from bad dreams. She faced her captive, who towered over her. It fed off the fear its influence produced.
“Take away fell dreams
leave peaceful sleep in its stead,
Would it heed her demand? How could she know if it did? She gazed into eyes that gave nothing. This Nightmare’s eyes weren’t blank though. Some intelligence lingered behind that mask and she’d touched it with her words.
Twisting the whip around her torso, she tied it off, thus freeing one hand. Extruding psychic needles that shined pinkish, she drove them into the Nightmare’s skull. Fear flooded her–not her own, but a whole village’s worth–and this thing sat the center of that psychic web feeding off it. Not for long…
Digging deeper, she struck a nerve and the creature extended a claw. It touched the sleeping Groundling’s brow and reabsorbed the dark seed it had planted deep in the female Groundling’s mind.
She sighed, lines smoothed out,
peaceful slumber in bright dreams wrapped–
the enemy’s gift.
The Nightmare removed a hand that looked less like a monster’s claw and more like a human hand. They moved to the next house, a two bedroom walkup with a circular door. First to the children, snug in beds but twisted in sheets, whose relieved fears caused the Nightmare’s mask to crack. Next to the parents, and on and on until the only house left housed her friends.
Each ripple smoothed, each dream brightened, restored the being Undreal had caught to her former self. Undreal had removed her psychic needles five houses previous when she caught no hint of disobedience in the mind of the demigoddess. She wanted to restore what she’d tainted.
Not even a thought had passed through the blue eyed demigoddess’ mind of breaking the whip, which she could have. Undreal was no match for a godling even one weakened by whatever had influenced it. What could overthrow a mind that powerful and wed it to such a terrible purpose? Undreal shivered. Whatever it was, let her friends never encounter it. Let it stalk the planes of existence where the truly powerful played. Let it leave the mortal plane alone.
They stood by Eloaysa’s home; its gingerbread decor invited them inside. The baby cried for her and she turned towards his hiding place, then stopped. Not safe yet to take him out, but soon.
“Release me,” the demigoddess cast one blue-on-blue eye down at the whip connecting them. “You restored me. I am no danger to you or your friends.” A long fingered hand, olive with perfect fingernails, grasped the whip. “I don’t want to break it. That would hurt you.”
She didn’t say that she owed Undreal a debt nor would she admit it but in her eyes, Undreal read awareness of that debt. Undreal nodded and with a flick of her wrist, and her will, released the demigoddess. The whip sprang back to its maker, coiling itself in around her waist until needed again. Her torso absorbed the whip’s matter and flowed back into her.
“How are you called?” Undreal asked but the demigoddess didn’t answer. A blue glow swallowed her and she was gone in the blink of an eye.
The baby’s cries grew shrill enough to hurt even her ears. Rushing inside, she removed the child from the darkness where she’d hid him. He smiled through tears at her; tiny fingers grasped her raiment and twinned in shadowy veils. Dropping into a rocking chair cushioned by a crocheted afghan, she held him and rocked him, as promised.
Thumb in mouth, the babe snuggled close to her heart.
Rocking, she waited for morning to come.
Her friends slept; she hoped one’d wake ‘fore her part
ended with dawn’s first light falling down from
sun through oculus to fill the cavern.
Hoped she could give counsel about Nightmares
and warn them to take safe paths from cavern
to wilderness, to city and beware
of night’s covering dark, where the Undeem’s
Queen could send her hordes–a fight Undreal’d lose.
The baby shook his head; to him she seemed
invincible; she hoped that fate wouldn’t choose
such a fight but if it did, she would draw
her sword and fight for friends, that was her flaw.
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In peace unbroken,
she rocked an innocent babe,
safe in demon arms…
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The main Quest continues in Nightmares’ Quest Part 3.
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