Friend Nightmare (Quest)
Part 64 of Quest
Part 27 of A Quest Special Event:
& Part 14 of Istan’s Solo Quest: Chasing the Cross
(Preceded by: Mine to Possess)
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“You should have been destroyed at birth.” Daenara glared at him from the cage he had fashioned for her.
Istan laughed at her sally. The so-called All Father, the true Storm King, who’d been so ashamed that his dalliance with the dark side had begotten a son–a divine mutt, a hybrid with psychic gifts no other god possessed. Dangerous powers, the kind forbidden by old covenants. Oh he had his father’s elemental powers too but not as much as the dark gifts.
“Sticks and stones,” he told the imprisoned goddess as he turned his attention outwards. He looked through her eyes seeking what he had glimpsed in her thoughts. Then he saw it, confirmation of the Nightmares’ work. By the dying fire, two men lay staring at the spangled sky with sightless eyes–Zallev, the Painted Man and the Hierophant. Their bodies thrashed and sweat ran in hot beads down their faces.
Istan seized Daenara, ripping her free of the cage he had made for her consciousness and held her completely immobile. His will ground hard against hers, bending hers until it reached a breaking point.
Dark seeds birth planted
began to sprout in his soul
releasing its taint.
He was born for this–to possess and control. What were minds but playthings for him? They were so easily bent and broken…
“Free them now.”
Daenara had never known fear; she wore it like a hair shirt. Her gibbering thoughts froze. Survival became paramount. She could not throw off his grip on her mind; he was too powerful. He smiled enjoying her discomfiture.
“The Nightmares–they’ll know…”
Laughter’s manic edge
clawed at her mind ’til she bled
terror and cowered.
Istan laughed and its manic edge clawed at her mind, until she bled terror. He should not enjoy this. Yet it had been such a long time since anyone had recognized him for what he was. Longer still since he’d flexed his true powers thanks to his craven father who had fashioned the Winter Mantle to curb it. A mantle his ex-wife had disposed off leaving his mind magic unfettered for the first time in centuries, maybe even a millennium.Who knew?
“Free them or I’ll crush your mind into dust and leave you witless and wondering.”
“Release me and I will. I can’t do it while imprisoned. I need my power unchecked.”
He searched her mind to the lie but found no hint of subterfuge. He let go but stayed in her mind to watch.
“Fine. Do it now.”
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Daenara stepped back to the fore of her mind and blinked as her vision centered on the field stretching away to the distant horizon. What had possessed her to come here? She should have left things alone. Too late now for recriminations. She’d unleashed a monster thanks to her greed. She’d get no boon for helping him, just her sanity if she was lucky.
“What are you waiting for?” he growled; he became more and more demonic the longer he lingered inside her mind.
Who the hell birthed this monster? Clearly not the Ice Queen who whelped his deceased siblings. If not her then who? The question made her shudder.
She reached into the dreams of the Painted Man. His made up face twisted with agony as she slipped into the Dreaming. Istan followed, piggybacking on her power. He should not be able to do that. This was her mother’s realm. He should have no power here, yet he did. She put that chilling thought out of mind as she swam through the liquid world of dreams.
Reflections roiled, disturbed by the current and her passage. Daenara kicked towards a knot of darkness and plunged her hand in.
Suspended in dreams,
all’s real and death is final,
where the Nightmares feast.
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Zallev ran chased by many headed toads drooling black ichor. The ground bunched up under his feet, tripping him. Flat on his face he fell, then rolled. A spear point grazed his shoulder. A foot connected with his side when he didn’t scramble forwards on his belly fast enough. Then a cool hand touched his fevered arm and everything spun into a winnowing darkness.
Opening his eyes, he heard his ancestors soft chanting, welcoming him back to the world of the wakeful. He blinked to clear his sight and then blinked some more when the blue-on-blue eyes of the Goddess bending over him didn’t vanish. She wasn’t a dream.
The Hierophant sat up a few feet away and rubbed his temples. “What the hell just happened?”
Zallev opened his mouth to speak but stopped when he saw two Istans–one misty and outlined in vague light, the other in the flesh with vacant eyes. His ancestors started a new song, one rife with warning as he drew his bone knife. The blade didn’t leave its scabbard but the inch of bone revealed a rune burning blue on its flat–a water drop, indicating the presence of water magic. Istan didn’t possess water magic but the unknown goddess did.
He pulled the blade free and turned the move into a slash at her. She fell back a step and brought both arms up in defence.
“The Nightmares overtook his mind. It’s not my doing!” she shouted, her eyes wide with shock at the nerve of a mere mortal attempting to strike at her.
The Nightmare’s puppet,
a possessed god on their string,
dances to their beat.
Istan’s body jerked around like a marionette on strings until it faced them. A cruel smile tugged his lips. Then he rocked back on his heels as the mist-shrouded Istan slammed into his body, seeking to get control back.
The blue-eyed Goddess faded into the night leaving Zallev and the Hierophant alone with a possessed god and more questions than answers. They exchanged an uneasy glance.
The Hierophant heaved his massive shoulders in a shrug that said he had no idea what to do now either. Zallev listened for his ancestors’ chant but the problem had stumped them too and they had fallen silent. Zallev looked at the Storm God tottering with vacant eyes and fear gripped his heart. What could a mortal man do against a being like that? Istan had to regain control of his body somehow.
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Istan’s Quest continues in Scheming Goddesses.
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Quest is now mobile!