Caught in Mind (Quest)
Part 70 of Quest
& Part 17 of Istan’s Solo Quest: Chasing the Cross
(Preceded by: Falling for You)
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Irene blinked. Ice spires rose out of a canyon rimmed with layers of permafrost to pierce the blinding blue of the sky. She blinked again but they didn’t disappear. They stayed steady, proving that they were no mirage. The arctic cold didn’t bite her skin and no wind stole her warmth. In fact, she felt nothing at all–not even the numbness that ought to accompany a total loss of sensation.
So either this was some kind of dream or she now inhabited another plane of existence sans her body. Not the best state to wake up to an unknown situation in, but nothing had been ideal since she’d woken up from her long sleep.
Where the hell was she? Where had that bitch dream goddess sent her? Irene sat up but that didn’t improve her view. Hands grasped her arms and pulled her up, spinning her so she faced a stained shirt that hung off muscular shoulders.
“Are you alright?”
She tilted her head back; her gaze traced the column of a pale throat to a face she had missed–Istan’s. So that goddess had kept her word. Did she now owe her a favor? Please no, she’d had enough of scheming goddesses to last a lifetime. Yet here she was standing mere inches from a god she’d bargained to see face to face again. She must have been mad to ask for such a thing.
“Irene? Answer me.” He shook her.
She blinked at him. What was the rush? Why was he so worried? She opened her mouth to ask those very questions but she never got the words out. His expression altered–the skin around his glowing silver eyes tightened and a flicker of annoyance passed across his ageless face. The glow entranced her, drew her into white depths tinged with a gray that faded to black at the edges.
Images flashed and danced in his coruscating irises–scenes from her recent run-ins with Prince Death, the Battlecrow, that damn dream goddess and Fay, the goddess of Fate. All accompanied by a queer soundtrack that replayed her thoughts verbatim. His hands squeezed her upper arms until they smarted from the pressure. Ice pierced her with the chilling edge of fear. She was not far to the north in his City of Ice; oh no, she was inside his mind and at his mercy.
Ice spires rise high,
frozen memories inside,
records of loves lost.
“Istan…you’re hurting me!”
She tore her arms from his grasp. He turned his back on her and paced a few feet away, shaking his head. He needed a haircut and a shave and to put a lid on those psychic powers of his. She never should have removed the Winter Mantle. Without it to dampen that sharp mind of his, he could stab it into places it didn’t belong, like her most recent memories. Not that she had anything to hide but a woman likes to speak her mind on her own terms, not have her thoughts ripped out of her.
He didn’t apologize. She waited but he stayed quiet. What was he thinking?
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Istan gave Irene his back while he reeled from what he’d gleaned from her mind. All his bitterness at her leaving him long years ago choked him. She still cared. She regretted leaving him all those years ago. His hand drifted to the small bulge under his tunic and he squeezed it. Metal clicked as two wedding rings tapped against each other; they hung on a platinum chain–two symbols of a broken marriage.
Love lost now returned,
falls into his mind safe hid
from Nightmares’ grasp.
A shadow fell over him, reminding him of the interlopers inside his head. He should go evict them before he dealt with his ex-wife who, if what he’d read was correct, had bargained with Daenara to reach him. He shook such thoughts away but they kindled a small fire of hope in his cold heart. He let his hand drop and the intertwined rings settled back over his heart, where they’d lain for two centuries.
Behind him loomed a herd of half-horse, half divine monsters–the Nightmares. They’d finally noticed his presence and they’d come out to meet him in force, all dozen of them. They loomed over his mental landscape pawing the ice, ready to charge. Time he evicted those head-stealing creatures.
“What are those things?” Irene asked, her voice betrayed a hint of fear.
He seized Irene’s arm and half dragged her to the nearest ice spire. Each one housed a portion of the memories his multi-millennium lifespan had wracked up. He wrenched open a door and shoved her inside without giving its interior a glance. Her safety mattered more than what she might find in there. Besides, he’d never had any secrets from her before she’d left him and he didn’t intend to start now. Not when things just might be fixable.
Once his ex-wife was stashed away in relative safety, he turned to confront a dozen super-sized horses with demonic eyes, through which cruel intelligence shined.
“You want me? Come and get me.”
Then he threw wide the floodgates and out poured magic so dark, it gave off no light at all because it had no visible component. It was neither elemental nor godly. It was pure force and he coiled it tight, compressing it into a dark ball that crackled with psychic energy. Aiming at the center most Nightmare, in whose black mane twisted psychedelic faces contorted with fear, he loosed it and started running towards his foes.
His attack knocked them down like bottles on a bar. He seized the first Nightmare and it shrank down until it fit in the palm of his hand. Slapping it down on the ice, he forced it out of his head and away from the mortal plane where his two companions and Irene’s untenanted body lay. The Nightmares would not have her; she belonged to him.
One down, eleven to go… He rolled his shoulders and smiled as he spotted another opening.
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Irene & Istan’s story continues next week.
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Quest is now mobile!
No it’s not a dream.