Quest to Mind’s Spires
Part 58 of Quest
Part 25 of A Quest Special Event:
& Part 11 of Istan’s Solo Quest: Chasing the Cross
(Previously in Quest —
A dream god kidnapped Istan’s consciousness and asked him to track down the Nightmares. Meanwhile, the Nightmares hijacked Istan’s body and started feeding off his companions. Istan agreed to corral the Nightmares but the dream god had trouble returning his consciousness to his body until Daenara, a dream goddess, lent a hand.)
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The dreamer’s magic
spells create a waterspout
sucks in a godling.
Cold darkness wound around Istan encasing him in a liquid gyre of magic and water. It spun faster, its cone rising higher and higher until it breached the Dream Realm’s outer layer. Then it bent doubling in on itself as it dove through atmosphere into the Mortal Realm where his physical body waited for reunification. At least he hoped it waited.
Istan gathered his will; he’d have one shot before he lost the element of surprise. One chance to take back his body without a fight. The water whipped faster and faster, its gyre becoming a blinding smear of blue light. Then he fell, crashed through some kind of barrier and flopped onto familiar mental terrain. The fight was on…
Every mind had its own landscape. Constructed in childhood, adulthood didn’t alter it much.
Icy spires rose up, towering like his home of old. They sprouted from his subconscious and his earliest memories formed their foundation. Snow sifted down in fat flakes that spiraled slow enough to allow each to catch the watery sunlight spearing down through a cleft in the puffy clouds.
Murmurs of relatives long dead underscored the scene. Shadows, blue-cast in this arctic realm, flitted fast as messengers flew. The Winter Court had not looked like this in centuries, maybe even a millennium. Who knew? He didn’t keep track of time’s passage. He was immortal; time meant nothing to him.
He scanned the canyon between two towers that glittered in the sun. Hoof prints interrupted the pristine white. The Nightmares were here, inside his mind just as he’d feared. Their impressions pressed on his mental architecture warping it the longer they stayed. Time to roust them out.
Will hardened to steel
necessity whet its edge
fight Nightmares’ control.
In his hands a sword took shape, hammered from his will. He started walking towards the frosted city’s center, where he’d find the interlopers. Ghosts of people he’d known flashed past, running from one tower door to another repeating in his memory the errands they had once run in life. Gods had perfect recall and all of his memories, from however many thousands of years he had lived thus far, became the bricks that built this city.
A straight run would leave him visible to the city’s central spire long before he reached it, robbing him of the element of surprise. If he still maintained that after his arrival here. Let him still have that advantage. One against a dozen was poor odds, even if that one was a god. Better he be smart about this and not take any risks.
He turned and entered a tower. He’d walk through its atrium, out another door and take a more roundabout route to the center. One that would keep him from standing out until it was time for the confrontation. Steeling himself, he crossed the threshold into a storehouse of memory.
More recent memories crowded the edges of his mental city. That explained her presence. Counterclockwise it went with the present at true north and round it went back to where he stood now, just a little left of true north.
In the spire’s hollow center, a tree spread silver leaves. Each one a separate snatch of remembered time. Under its boughs stood Irene, a potent sorcerer and his ex-wife. She wore the same dusty dress she’d worn the last time he’d seen her. When had that been? Not that long ago–just before he’d stepped through a portal in search of answers.
Looking at her stabbed him through the chest; she had left him for reasons that made no logical sense–some bullshit about true names and their power. So what if she knew his true name? If someone knocked on his mental door, he’d destroy them. Problem solved.
“You left me.”
This wasn’t the time nor the place to rehash this, but the words escaped before he could stop them. They tasted bitter on his tongue, like unrippened lemons and their breakup.
She didn’t say anything at first; how could she? She wasn’t really here. She was just a recent memory with a scripted dialogue. She was not Irene, just…
forever caught in mem’ry,
He peeled his eyes from her person and set them on the Tree of Memory behind her. Answers had led him into that portal, away from her–yes, answer about that vision. That thought triggered a chain reaction. An image sparkled on one of the Tree of Memory’s leaves, unfurling it like a screen ready to take projection. In it a cross crowned a snow capped mountain like some kind of herald and he felt again that pull to decipher the vision. That’s what had sent him on this quest and landed him in this predicament, no closer to answers yet not farther from them either.
“You have to go,” the memory of Irene said. “It’s not safe here.”
He laughed. “Safety’s an illusion.” Even for the god-born that held true. He shuddered at the memory of the maelstrom; its shadow filled this spire since it too made up a recent recollection.
Irene touched his arm. “I didn’t free you from the Maelstrom’s ice box just so you could get yourself killed by a bunch of Nightmares.”
Istan’s whipped around and his gaze settled on her. Irene melted into another woman, one with the blue-on-blue eyes that marked her as one of the Dreamer’s daughters. What was her angle? All the god-born had one. They gave no aid for free with no strings attached. What was her price?
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Istan’s Quest continues in Mine to Possess.
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