Falling for You (Quest)
Part 67 of Quest
Part 29 of A Quest Special Event
& Part 14 of Irene’s solo Quest: A Game of Death
& Part 15 of Istan’s Solo Quest: Chasing the Cross
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Irene tumbled through darkness shot through with gray spikes. Images accompanied her; they fell in drops of refractive woe. Suspended they hung as she skimmed their reflections for clues. In one droplet, Henneth carried the baby up a mountain path; Chero and Anasril flew at shoulder height talking fast, their little faces pinched in worry. That tableau melted away as the drop splattered between her eyes and ran in lines of regret down her face. Nothing she could do to help them now. She’d made her choice–love over friendship.
Raindrops crystallized as the temperature plummeted and her breath misted in the air. Just before a malformed snowflake landed on her palm, she saw the Undeem Queen in her underwater lair flashing a victor’s smile as she reclined on her throne of bones. The black pearl the Battlecrow had gifted Irene with burned with cold where it rested in her pocket against her thigh, reminding of her promise to unmake that smug, undead hag. The image shattered as the flake melted on her palm.
Then the scene she had dreaded shaped itself inside a spinning icicle and she covered her mouth to stop the scream building in her soul. A blank-eyed Istan tottered around, wearing a smile akin to the Undeem Queen’s. Irene extended a shaking hand towards the apparition and it too broke apart raining shards that the wind slung at her face in a stinging hail.
Her skirts ballooned up around her waist as her momentum increased. Below her the ground rushing up to meet her ripped open to reveal a beast’s serrated maw. A dozen pairs of yellow eyes gazed with naked hunger at her. She screamed then until she had no breath to scream with. That bitch goddess had betrayed her.
Help my love, save me–
folly’s thrown me to the wolves;
death snarls, circles me.
A blast of icy wind tore through her garments freezing her and then hands seized her forearms jerking her body to a stop. Her mind continued to fall, sliding through her body towards the nightmare extending black tendrils towards her.
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Istan watched the dream goddess, every psychic muscle tensed to spring the instant the Nightmares’ attention shifted. So far they hadn’t even twitched even when that blue-eyed witch dove into the Dreaming. Hitching a ride on her consciousness, he rocketed into the liquid world of dreams to just make certain she didn’t reneg on her promise.
Pearlized walls held up a mirrored roof that gave views of a stormy sky. Giant shells cupped pools where the dreams of mortals eddied, casting fragmented, psychedelic images as they swirled past. Daenara reached into one of the pools where a many-headed darkness feasted. Breaking its grip, she freed the mortal, thus waking him in the process. His dreams winked out like fallen stars, smote by imagination’s void, that thing called reality.
Zallev’s mind blazed up free of taint and control. One friend freed, one to go. He readied himself to spring. He kept his third eye turned inwards; its view centered on his own mind where the darkness laired, watching for an opening.
Daenara extended a manicured hand, dipped it into the pool and closed her hand around a serpent strangling the Hierophant’s dreams. For a scintilla of a moment, the Nightmare focused on her prey and the goddess dividing her from it. In that instant, Istan pounced; his consciousness flew at his body and burrowed back into the familiar icy landscape of his mind–the ice spires of home.
In his peripheral awareness, he sensed the Hierophant’s mind throwing off sleep and the fell feeding dreams of the Nightmares. Two friends free, task complete. Now he could reclaim his body from a dozen interlopers.
Surprise froze him as a new mind flared up the exact moment the dream goddess fled.
A mind whose panicked thoughts laid hold of him and shook him like a leaf in a gale. No, it couldn’t be her. She couldn’t be here, but she was and he heard her thoughts loud and clear:
Can you read my mind?
Read it when we’re far apart?
Hear me in your heart?
I hear near or far,
when you call my name, my star;
fall and I’ll catch you.
A dozen Nightmare heads reared up at the city’s center; they were wicked crosses between female and equine features, revealing their dual nature. They reached out for the sorceress falling towards a body they controlled. They loosed power meant to drain and drive insane with fear, the woman who’d just appeared. Darkness, shot through with purple fire, arced out of the center of the ice spires at the heart of his mind’s city. Lances of evil aimed at Irene, his ex-wife, who was supposed to be hundreds of miles distant on her own quest.
He had one shot at this. One chance to save her from insanity and gods knew what else those creatures planned. Pooling all his power around him, he reached for her. Catching hold of her mind, he delved deeper, snagged hold of her consciousness, pulled her out of her mind and into his.
Her body folded like a suit of empty clothes on the grassy plain, her sightless eyes closing on reflex. Without control of his body, he could do nothing to prevent that. Instead, he now had possession of the only part of her that he had never owned–her mind.
Irene & Istan’s story continues next week.
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